Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County, Texas. Page: 172 of 1,110
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HISTORY OF DALLAS COUNTY.
Judge I tried only three murder cases; the
other felony cases tried were for horse-stealing.
The high crime of murder increased with
the advent of railroads. They brought a floating
population, adventurers and people of unsettled
habits, and robbery and murder began
to increase. The people who came before the
railroads came with the intention of facing
the dangers of a new country and settling
homes for their children. They were plain,
honest people who were not roving about
over the country, and the old pioneers knew
each other, they shared with each other, they
welcomed the honest toiling stranger and in
social ties they became cemented with a bond
of brotherhood. In the trial of cases these
days there are more continuances and postponements
than we had.
"I remember a remarkable case which I
had to prosecute when I was District Attorney,"
Judge Burford continued as he drew
together the threads of the past. "There
was a promising young mal by the name of
Steelman, a grandson of Judge Underwood
of Georgia. He came to this country at the
age of nineteen early in the '50s and he soon
got to drinking and dissipating. One day at
Palestine he entered a saloon drunk, and another
young man was in there playing a fiddle.
Steelman passed close to the fiddler, whose elbow
struck him, whereupon Steelman turned
upon him and fired in his face with a small
pistol loaded with bird shot, putting his eyes
out. The young man testified that the flash
of the pistol was the last light he ever saw.
Steelman as soon as he had fired turned and
ran out of the saloon and jumped on a horse,
which was standing at the rack near th3 saloon.
The horse ran with him about two
miles and drew up at a house, where Steelman
dismounted and going into the house
got on the bed. It turned out that he had
mounted the horse of the young man whose
eyes he had shot out, and the horse carried
him to the home of the widowed mother of
the young man, where he was found by the
officers! The shooting aroused considerable
prejudice against him, and General Thomas J.
Rusk, the United States Senator, who had
known Steelman's father back in Georgia,
cane from Nacogdoches to defend him when
the case came up for trial. He succeeded in
getting a change of venue to Athens, in Henderson
county. The case was called for trial
there, and when court met Steelman received
a letter from Rusk to the effect that his wife
was sick and could not come. He told Steelman
to try and get the case continued, and if
he could not get a continuance to get Judge
John H. Reagan, now chairman of the Texas
Railroad Commission, to defend him. As
soon as Steelman read the letter he said he
knew that the reason why General Rusk did
not come was because lle could not bear to
see a grandson of Judge Underwood sent to
the penitentiary. Steelman never denied the
shooting. He said that he might have done
it, but if he did he had no recollection of it.
He was forced to go to trial and Judge Reagan
" The jury returned a verdict of guilty and
assessed his punishment at seven years' confinement
in the penitentiary. Judge Bennet
H. Martin was on the bench, and I never
Here’s what’s next.
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Lewis Publishing Company. Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County, Texas., book, 1892; Chicago, Illinois. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth20932/m1/172/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Public Library.