The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 343
Bringing the Law to Texas: Crime and Violence in Nineteenth Century Texas. Allen G.
Hatley. (LaGrange, Tex.: Centex Press, 2oo2. Pp. xxvi+198. Illustrations, ac-
knowledgments, introduction, endnotes, index. ISBN-o-9649416-1-9.
Allen Hatley, a freelance writer of note, has tried to analyze crime and vio-
lence in Texas in the nineteenth century. In this endeavor the author covered-
sometimes with success, sometimes not-the contours of Texas history from the
days of Stephen F. Austin's colony and the statehood movement to the develop-
ment of West Texas and the emerging society at the turn of the twentieth centu-
ry. In doing so, Hatley put together a story that was not '"just another look at the
adventures of different cops and robbers" (p. xiv). From research in county
records, the author emphasized the operation of the criminal justice system in
the Lone Star State. Yet Hatley did give vignettes of gunmen, the Reconstruction
State Police, and the Texas Rangers. These accounts of outlaws, lawmen, and
gunfighters will appeal to those attracted to blood-and-thunder western life-
After an overview of the administration of justice and its handling of crime
and violence between 1821 and 1870, the author covered the decade of the
1870s in three chapters. Here he mentioned the rise of the Reconstruction State
Police and the formation of the Frontier Battalion. In a few pages Hatley gave a
well-balanced treatment of the doings of the state policemen, In addition, the
author showed that law officers, state and local, had to deal with racial violence,
feuding Texans, such as the Sutton-Taylor clash and the struggle in Mason
County, the El Paso Salt War, and the events associated with desperadoes like
Sam Bass, John Wesley Hardin, and Bill Longley. Hatley concluded that the first
few years of this decade were more violent than the end of this ten-year period.
Surprisingly, Hatley's study totaled about 200 pages. This encapsulated ap-
proach did not allow the author to delve into subjects in detail or cover the com-
plex picture of Texan crime and violence. In several ways the book can be seen
as sketchy and incomplete. For one thing, the dueling code and its impact on
the careers of Texans in politics and the military service will not be covered and
analyzed. For another, a number of feuds not mentioned in this work, from the
Lee-Peacock bloodshed to the feud at Mitchell's Bend, should be added. Most
important, the author needs to elaborate more on violent events in the 189os
and the turn of the twentieth century. Here acts of violence overlooked, as
culled from the records of just one Texas Ranger company, would include the
San Saba Mob, the lynching of the Humphries clan, and the brutal murders of
the Conditt family. Such evidence would surely confirm the author's position
that Texas was "sometimes a violent, dirty and savage land" (p. xiii).
Hatley should be commended for putting together a workable outline of Tex-
an crime and violence that future researchers can utilize. In developing his in-
terpretive framework the author used a variety of primary and secondary
sources. His research efforts were impressive (although his need to formulate
crime rates from grand jury indictments can lead to statistical anomalies). To
this reviewer's surprise Hatley did not cite the classic essays on crime and vio-
lence in Texas and the West written by Richard Maxwell Brown, W. C. Holden,
and C. C. Rister. The use of Brown's "Western Civil War of Incorporation,"
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page .
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/387/ocr/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.