Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996 Page: 72
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
not yet have a jail. That year, four men, William B. Dewees, Stephen Townsend, Asa
Townsend, and Colin De Bland, took it upon themselves to provide one. On April 16, they
secured pledges from a number of local men for $355 to help pay for it. Five days later,
Dewees, De Bland, and Stephen Townsend signed a contract to hire William Hudgeons and
Stephen Hicks to build the jail at a cost of $875. Dewees, it seems, anxious to provide his
new town with such a facility, initiated the contract and agreed to pay whatever could not
be raised in the community. By August, Hudgeons, apparently without help from Hicks,
had completed the jail. If it was built according to the terms of the contract, the building
was a simple structure, sixteen by fourteen feet with an eight foot ceiling, one door, and
three barred windows; the walls were of hewn logs, ten inches high and eight inches thick;
and the door and window shutters were three inches thick and the floor was four. When it
came time for Hudgeons to collect his money, however, Dewees balked. Hudgeons
evidently was paid at least the $355, for when he filed suit, against Dewees individually,
he asked for only $500. Dewees countered that not just he, but De Bland and Stephen
Townsend also, had acted as representatives of the county when they signed the contract,
and that the only money that the three men could reasonably be expected to spend on the
public facility was that pledged by the public. The court did not agree. On April 26, 1841,
they ordered Dewees to pay Hudgeons $350. Hudgeons, however, was not happy with the
amount, and, three days later, asked for a new trial. He got it, and on November 30, 1841
was awarded $450. Dewees, citing jury misconduct, took the matter to the state supreme
court, which, on March 1, 1847, nearly ten years after the dispute began, affirmed the
district court's ruling against him."7
The lack of a proper jail undoubtedly contributed to what we now regard as a
savage sentence that was handed down by Judge James W. Robinson, who had rotated to
the circuit first ridden by Williamson. On May 17, 1838, Robinson presided over the trial
of Wilson H. Bibbs. Bibbs, accused of theft, did not contest the charge, but threw himself
on the mercy of the court. The court, however, had little mercy. Robinson sentenced him
to thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, to be branded "in the Right hand with the letter T, "
and to pay the costs of the trial.'"
17 Gammel, ed., The Laws of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 1, p. 1212; Colorado County District Court
Records, Civil Cause File No. 38: William Hudgeons v. William B. Dewees; Minute Book A & B, pp. 91-92,
111, 117; James Webb and Thomas H. Duval, Reports of Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of
the State of Texas [Texas Reports], vol. 1 (Galveston, 1848), pp. 192-198. To be fair to the efficiency of the
supreme court, it should be pointed out that the case actually went to the court twice. They first considered it
in 1844. On June 10 that year, the court requested additional documents from the district court in Colorado
County. By the time the request was honored and the case came up again, it was 1847, and the republic had joined
the United States.
18 Colorado County District Court Records, Minute Book A & B, p. 3. The Colorado County incident
was certainly not unique. The June 22, 1839 edition of The [Houston]Morning Star contains a report of a criminal
who was flogged and branded in Houston.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996, periodical, May 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151397/m1/12/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.