Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 53
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
whose herd of cattle had grown to enormous proportions and who no doubt suffered as
much as or more than anybody from the rustling, seized upon the opportunity. He, together
with a number of cowboys who worked for him and a number of men from Eagle Lake,
rallied to the Frazar brothers' defense. As Stafford and his cowboys helped the Frazars
evacuate their store, many of Eagle Lake's terrified women and children fled their homes
for temporary accommodations in Columbus. Over the next several days, in a series of small
shootouts over a wide area, six more black men were killed. Two of them, Bony Cotton and
Lewis Gaskin, were regarded as notorious cattle thieves. Neither any of Stafford's cowboys
or any other white man is known to have been shot. Finally, on August 9, SheriffToliver took
a posse to Eagle Lake to investigate. The same day, he was joined by a posse of men from
Weimar led by Constable Larkin Secrest. Confronting the combatants where he found them,
Toliver ordered everyone to return to their homes. The last skirmish occurred on August 10,
as Stafford and his cowboys were leaving the area. One account has it that they were
ambushed by five black men, another that they encountered two blacks riding near the river.
In any case, the Staffords opened fire, wounding one man and killing a horse. Again, neither
Stafford nor any of his cowboys was wounded. Having successfully separated the warring
parties, Toliver, with twelve men, remained behind to count and identify the dead.68
68 Colorado Citizen, August 3, 1876, August 10, 1876, August 17, 1876, September 7, 1876;
Henry Calhoun Thomas, "A Sketch of My Life," Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, vol. 1, no. 3,
February 1990, pp. 84-86. Thomas, who was one of the Stafford cowboys, stated that the incident was
ever afterward referred to as the Stafford War. Besides Cotton and Gaskin, the sheriff identified Zach
Hughs, Dick Terrell, Isam Devenport, and Reuben Wheeler as the men killed in the war. Thomas
identified the man who was wounded on August 10 as Wiley Balock. The story of the Stafford War
evidently made it as far as New York, though by then it had been expanded to include the deaths of
thirteen blacks and one white man, former union soldier and former Wharton County sheriff Isaac N.
Baughman (who is identified as J. N. Baughman in the article). The New York story had it that one
black man was "shot seven times in the legs and arms, before killed" and that Baughman was "taken
from his sick bed, where he had been confined for weeks, tied up to a tree, for he could not stand by
himself, and eighteen bullets put into his body." Baughman was indeed killed in August 1876, though
not until August 27, some two weeks after the Staffords went home. The Colorado Citizen reported,
"He was shot in the middle of the forehead, through the right temple, one arm torn off, and otherwise
mutilated by fire-arms. As to who did the killing, there are conflicting opinions." Baughman had, for
years, been vilified by some residents of Wharton County, eleven of whom, in 1875, published a
lengthy statement accusing him of cattle theft, incitement to riot, financial impropriety, and "basely
insulting" his partner's wife (see "The Horrible Murders in Texas," New York Times, September 18,
1876 as reproduced inA History ofEagle Lake Texas (Austin: Nortex Press, 1987), p. 27; Colorado
Citizen, March 11, 1875, August 31, 1876; Wharton County District Court Records, Civil Cause File
No. 839: W J. Godsey, etal. v. Isaac N. Baughman andL. L. Lacy). There was one other briefpostscript
to the Stafford War. In March 1877, a notice, signed "Committee of 25 Navidad," arrived at the post
office at Texana (which is now Edna). The notice, which stipulated that the "committee" had been
organized on August 4, 1876, during the height of the Stafford War, and which contained several
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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/m1/53/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.