Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 1, Number 10, September, 1991 Page: 310
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Their fears were stoked by two moreex murders
in April. On the 12th, a black family of five were murdered
in San Antonio. On the 13th, three more blacks were killed
in Hempstead. Two days later, in Smithville, a black boy got
up in the middle of the night to stretch his legs, was mistaken
for the ax-man, and shot by a man guarding his house. A
neighbor rushed to the house to help but lost his nerve and
returned to his own home. Other neighbors saw him rushing
away, mistook him for the ax-man, and shot him. Both,
victims of the hysteria, died on the scene.
Locally, black families abandoned their homes to
seek shelter with their neighbors. Many women who
worked as domestics for white families began steeping in
their employer's kitchens. Men stocked up on guns and
ammunition, and vowed to be ready should the ax-man visit
their home. As an alarm system, many ran fishing lines from
their toes to their doorknobs.
Whites, meanwhile, deplored the effect the
hysteria had on their black employees. Strangely, most felt
the murders were the work of individuals within each
community and unrelated to each other. Some took advan-
tage of the hysteria to play cruel pranks on terrified blacks.
On April 17, to quiet their fears, county blacks were called
to a mass meeting at the courthouse. At the meeting, Mayes,
Gregory, George Best, Joe Dick Wooten, Eagle Lake Mayor
Walter Strickland, County Judge J. J. Mansfield, Oscar
Zumwalt, George Little, and the local black doctor, Sam
Burford, in turn gave their assurances that the ax-man was
a figment of their imaginations, and that they had nothing to
fear. The meeting then drafted a resolution to ask Governor
Oscar B. Colquitt to offer a reward for the capture of the
murderer. After adjournment, the blacks held a private
meeting, and drafted a document which thanked the white
citizens for their concern.
On May 17, 1912, Fields was indicted for each
of the murders. The same day, Chris Grobe and Gus Miller
were appointed to represent him. Fields had been in jail
without counsel since the day the bodies were discovered.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 1, Number 10, September, 1991, periodical, September 1991; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151383/m1/6/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.