The Dallas Journal, Volume 44, 1999 Page: 1
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The Yegua Notch-Cutters
By Clifford V. Slagle
There is an area in central Texas where Bastrop, Lee and
Williamson Counties meet called the Yegua (Yea waw)
Knobs. The name is derived from three hills (knobs) which
rise from the prairie along the Middle Yegua Creek, the
major watershed of Lee County. I became interested in the
area and it's history, when I discovered that five of my
ancestors from The Republic of Texas were buried in the
Burns Cemetery at Blue.' I recalled conversations with my
parents, and grand parents, concerning history of the area.
Additionally, I visited with Mr Bemus Turner whose family
has lived in the area since the 1840's. Mr Turner gave me a
tape of an interview with his father, Frank Turner, when
Frank was 94 years old, made by a reporter from The Houston
Post. McDade, in Bastrop County, and Blue Branch (now
Blue), in Lee County, were the centers of activity in the
"Knobs" area, and it was in and around this area that the
Notch-Cutters plied their trade between 1860 and 1884. The
Notch-Cutters (named for the habit of cutting notches in the
handles and stocks of their guns to indicate the number of
people they had killed) had begun to prey on anyone who had
While the men were gone to war during the Civil War,
the number of cattle and horses greatly increased, but there
was no one to claim them. As the first men returned from the
war they began rounding up unmarked live stock and
marking them with their brands. This led to the establishment
of several rather large herds and prospering cattle operations.
With the end of the war, when many destitute men came
home, they found utter confusion - homes in ruin, families
scattered, no money with which to rebuild. Union troops sent
to govern the area were followed by carpetbaggers and
riffraff. The non-soldiers began to come out of the Yegua
thickets to join the riffraff and form the early outlaw gangs.
Then came the wholesale rustling of unbranded or unmarked
In the late 1860's and early 1870's the Texas Central
Railroad began building a line from Austin to Houston. The
company made McDade its railhead in 1871, which turned
the little village into a roaring boom town. The settlement
soon had a full quota of saloons, hotels, gambling houses,
restaurants, blacksmith and wheelwright shops, as well as
corrals for oxen, stables for the stage lines, meat markets,
shipping pens and other stores. The tent towns, tent eating
places, bunk cars, and plenty of good paying jobs in
construction and on the railroad, attracted many men,
including undesirable camp followers. The construction
workers went to McDade on pay-days to gamble and drink
or make necessary purchases. If they were fortunate at the
tables they were very likely to be relieved of their winnings
on their way back to the tent town or bunk cars by the
The price of cattle increased rapidly after the shipping
pens were built and butchering and selling beef to
construction workers became very profitable. Because
animals without hides and heads could not be identified, this
led to rustling branded, as well as unbranded cattle. Not only
were the railroad men being robbed, but citizens who sold
cattle, horses or farm goods were also relieved of their cash.
The Yegua Notch-Cutters by now had increased their
numbers by marriage, and had many relatives. Most citizens
were hesitant to testify against them. Those who did were
ambushed from the side of the road. The terrain and heavy
The Dallas Journal 1999 1
Genealogical lecturers often stress that there is usually a "kernel" of truth
in most family stories and oral history. It is the responsibility of the family
historian to try to confirm these stories, when possible. Former DGS Board
member, Clifford Slagle, relates his research on a group of people in the area
around his childhood home-based only on a "kernel of truth."
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Dallas Genealogical Society. The Dallas Journal, Volume 44, 1999, periodical, June 1999; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth186858/m1/7/: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Genealogical Society.