Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 49
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
the fleeing Malsch for more than 100 yards, that his wife's affair was common knowledge,
and that Malsch was unarmed, the jury returned to court on Monday, March 19, with a
conviction. Houillion was sentenced to be hanged on April 20, 1878. In response to a petition
signed by many local citizens, including Sheriff James A. Toliver, Governor Richard Bennett
Hubbard, Jr. granted Houillion a reprieve until May 24. However, on May 22, Hubbard
denied his plea for a commutation. On the night of May 23, Houillion wrote letters to his
wife, to Toliver, and to a woman in Austin County, then retired to his bed. At about three
o'clock in the morning, he called to the jailor, Monroe Harrison, who found him sweating
profusely. Harrison called Toliver, who determined that Houillion had ingested poison. He
was dead before a doctor could arrive. It was quickly determined that the poison had been
wrapped inside a page from a March 27, 1878 edition of a Galveston newspaper, but no one
ever discovered who had delivered it to Houillion. He claimed, in his letter to Toliver, to have
had the poison in his possession for some time. He justified his suicide to his wife, who
evidently had religious convictions against it, arguing "as they are murdering me I have the
right to prevent the same the best way I can." In both letters, he continued to insist he was
By 1877, the citizens had become accustomed to one shocking murder per year.
That year, the victim was Joseph W. Brown, the Columbus physician. Brown was in Hous-
ton attending a fair on May 25, 1877 when he was invited to dinner at the Kennedy Hotel by
a friend. As the men ate at a communal table, an argument broke out between two other
diners. The argument quickly degenerated into a fight, and a third man, William Lafayette
Grissom, pulled one of the men from the room. Tempers were still running high when Grissom
returned. He and Brown briefly exchanged words. Grissom later testified that he saw Brown
reach into his coat, apparently to draw a pistol. Grissom quickly drew his gun and fired two
63 Colorado County District Court Records, Criminal Cause File No. 1472: State of Texas v.
Emile Houillion; Colorado Citizen, March 2, 1876, March 22, 1877, April 18, 1878, May 9, 1878, May
23, 1878, May 30, 1878, June 6, 1878; Galveston Daily News, May 8, 1878; Executive Clemency Papers,
Emile Houillion, Secretary of State Records (RG 307) Archives Division, Texas State Library, Austin.
Malsch had been authorized to practice law by the commissioners court on October 26, 1871 (see
Colorado County Police [Commissioners] Court Minutes, Book 1862-1876, p. 228). Houillion's time in
jail was apparently not in the least pleasant. On June 5, 1877, citing the conditions under which he was
incarcerated, he asked the county to transfer him to another jail. The county refused. On September
14, 1877, his jailor, George Best, was indicted for malfeasance in office because he kept Houillion in "a
loathsome and unhealthy cell" with insufficient drinking water, poor food, and no "means by which he
could keep himself healthy and clean," forcing him "to wallow in filth and inhale the vapors of a filthy
and unhealthy prison cell ... causing dangerous and ill health and great personal and inhumane
suffering" (see Colorado County Police [Commissioners] Court Minutes, Book 1876-1879, p. 230;
Colorado County District Court Records, Criminal Cause File No. 1609: State of Texas v. George Best).
Curiously, shortly after his death, a rumor arose that Houillion had faked his death, and that he had
escaped to Europe. SheriffToliver stated that he had buried the body in the Columbus City Cemetery.
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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/m1/49/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.