Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 47
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
In 1875, the county was again forced to deal with its longstanding problems in
incarcerating suspected and convicted criminals. The jail, which the county had built of a
locally-created type of concrete, had proven to be among the least secure such facilities in
Texas history. The first of what would be four jail breaks in 1875 came on January 9, when
three prisoners burrowed through the wall. When four more prisoners escaped on April 27,
1875, the Colorado Citizen characterized it as "the semi-annual escape" and lamented that,
though the jail was comfortable enough in the summer, it was a pity that prisoners had to be
confined "in such an airy tenement in winter time." After two escapes in four months, the
county police court finally moved to improve the jail. Since 1873, when the enabling legisla-
tion was passed by the state legislature, the county had raised money by means of a special
tax to construct a new jail. On June 1, 1875, far short of the necessary funds for a new
building, they appropriated the money to improving the existing jail, and hired a contractor to
install two new cells on the second floor. The cells were not installed until late August, by
which time there had been two more jail breaks.61
In the first, the structure itself was not at fault. On July 28, a guard, while
feeding the prisoners, carelessly left the doors to both cells open. The three prisoners knocked
the guard down and, under fire, scrambled out the front door. This time the Citizen wryly
commented, "no announcement is yet made of the next exodus." It came less than a week
later, and was unusual in that both escapees were women. Milly Walker and her daughter,
Fanny Walker, had been arrested in connection with perhaps the most discussed homicide of
the year. The elder Walker, it seems, intended to marry a man named Jim Perry, by whom
she had already had a child. By some means, Perry's brother, Mose, stopped the wedding.
Walker responded by inviting Mose Perry to share her birthday cake. Shortly, he developed
symptoms local physicians associated with strychnine poisoning, and died. Led by Robert
State of Texas v. Matt Woodlief Criminal Cause File No. 1286: State of Texas v. Matt Woodlief et al.,
Criminal Cause File No. 1287: State of Texasv. Matt Woodlief et al., Criminal Cause File No. 1290: State
of Texas v. Matt Woodlief et al., Criminal Cause File No. 1291: State of Texas v. Matt Woodlief et al.,
Minute Book F, p. 304. Woodlief got into trouble less than a year later in San Antonio. There, after a
brief altercation with police, he was arrested and tried for assault. He was again acquitted, this time on
grounds of insanity. Two years after that, on May 15, 1877, his career, and his life, came to an end when
he was killed by a city marshal in Houston (see Colorado Citizen, May 13, 1875, June 3, 1875, May 17,
61 Colorado Citizen, January 14, 1875, April29, 1875, June 3, 1875, August 19, 1875; Gammel,
ed., The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, vol. 7, p. 1309; Colorado County Police [Commissioners] Court
Minutes, Book 1862-1876, pp. 386, 427. The new cells were apparently four-sided, independent struc-
tures that were installed inside the existing building. They were apparently much stronger than the
earlier cells, for the building had to be strengthened to hold their weight. Immediately after installing
the new cells, the commissioners court improved the jail further by adding a kitchen (see Colorado
County Police [Commissioners] Court Minutes, Book 1862-1876, pp. 392, 438-439).
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000, periodical, January 2000; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151408/m1/47/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.