Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999 Page: 27
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
often scoffed at black-supported officials and lawmen. In addition, the county jail itself had
long been inadequate. In October 1866, three freedmen and a white man named John Pickett
who was accused of being a horse thief, escaped from the county jail. On June 16, 1867, an
accused murderer named Davis broke out. Davis was awaiting trial for killing a freedman in
Fort Bend County. Apparently because his alleged crime was of such little consequence to
them, when Sheriff Johann Baptist Leyendecker attempted to raise a posse to recapture
Davis, no white men would participate. Perhaps prompted by a reward offered by Freedmen's
Bureau agent Enon M. Harris, four freedmen captured Davis around midnight of the day of
his escape. He was returned to the jail in Columbus, where Harris ordered that he be chained
to the floor. The latest escape from their obviously porous jail finally pushed the commis-
sioners court to action. On July 1, 1867, they authorized the county judge to advertise for
bids for the construction of a new jail. If any were received, they must have been too high,
for the county decided on a compromise solution. Instead of building a new jail, they adapted
Harris' idea, installing what they referred to as a "bull ring" in the old one and shackling
prisoners to it. The county did not finally stop this practice until January 1870.42
The bull ring did not stop a group of determined men from removing a prisoner
from the jail about two o'clock on the morning of August 29, 1868. Some two months
earlier, Columbus' deputy city marshal, Robert Goode, had been killed in the line of duty,
and a man named John M. Bowen was implicated in the killing. Apparently, Bowen, and
perhaps John Harbert, had been attempting to shoot Frank Turner, and Goode, to his great
misfortune, intervened. By the end of August, Bowen had been arrested and was chained to
the bull ring when some twenty or twenty-five men came to get him. The men, wearing long
robes and black shrouds over their faces, awakened the jailor, James B. Good, calling to
him from outside the fence that they had a horse thief they had arrested in Eagle Lake whom
they wanted to put in jail. Good opened the door to the jail and was immediately seized by
other men who had already come inside the fence. One took Good's keys, another stuck a
revolver in his face. Three more men ran into the jail to grab Good's brother, who had also
been sleeping inside. Finally, another group, carrying a hammer, a cold chisel, and a sledge
hammer, entered the building and went upstairs, where Bowen and two other men were
incarcerated. In a few moments, they had broken the chain which held Bowen to the floor.
As Bowen left the building, he seemed to think that the men who had freed him were his
friends. He soon found out otherwise. The men marched him down Milam Street, the rem-
nants of the chains on his ankles rattling as he walked. Good and his brother were forced to
follow, though some fifty yards behind. Several blocks from the jail, the Goods were halted,
42 Letter of Enon M. Harris, June 17, 1867, Barry A. Crouch Collection (Ms. 41), Archives of the
Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus; Colorado County Police [Commissioners] Court Minutes, Book 1862-
1876, pp. 86, 99, 116, 158.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999, periodical, January 1999; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151405/m1/27/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.