When Those Who Bury the Dead Are Dead (Part 1)

Death comes even to those for whom dying provides a living. “And where,” you ask, “are the eternal resting places of those who escort us to the Undiscovered Country from whose bourn no traveler returns?”

gause comboGlad you asked. George Gause, of course, is the best known of Fort Worth’s early undertakers. He died December 18, 1938 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery not far from John Peter Smith, who donated land for both Oakwood and Emanuel Hebrew Rest cemeteries. (Photo shows the Gause family monument and George Gause’s tombstone.)

gause-with-wilkes-panel-570x768But perhaps the first of our early undertakers to need an undertaker himself was John T. Wilkes, an early partner of Gause. In the second half of the nineteenth century, because livery stables provided horses, hearses, and carriages for funeral processions, livery stables often branched out into undertaking. And so it was with Gause and Wilkes: Both men began as livery stable owners and then partnered in a livery stable-undertaking business. Both men were hard-core horsemen: They raced horses at the driving park and were members (along with Timothy Isaiah “Longhaired Jim” Courtright and future police chief James Maddox) of the fire department’s horse-drawn hook and ladder company No. 1.

wilkes 4-18-87 and 5-31-94 gazIronically, undertaker Wilkes is buried without a headstone. It has disappeared. He is buried in Pioneers Rest next to his brother Richard (himself a fireman), who died in 1887. John T. Wilkes died in 1894. He was living over the funeral home of former partner George Gause. Clips are from the April 18, 1887 and May 31, 1894 Gazette.

shannon grave 3-3-7 teleAnother early partner of George Gause was Samuel David Shannon, who had worked for Gause’s Palace livery stable. In 1906 the two men started North Fort Worth Undertaking Company in Sam Rosen’s Rosen Inn. S. D. Shannon later was a state representative and county judge. His company continues as Shannon funeral homes. S. D. Shannon is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Clip is from the March 3, 1907 Telegram.

shannon meissner 35 cdBy 1935 S. D. Shannon had a funeral home on the North Side and another on the East Side at Nashville Avenue and Avenue B. James Raymond Meissner worked for Shannon on the North Side and then on the East Side. About 1945 Meissner bought Shannon’s East Side location and operated it as Meissner Funeral Home for more than thirty years. Clip are from the 1935 and 1945 city directories.

meissner evans 9-10-76 dmnIn 1976 the funeral home was the festival center for the funeral of Queen Rosa of the Evans gypsy clan. Clip is from the September 10, 1976 Dallas Morning News.

meissner james raymondWhen the end came, James Raymond Meissner gave his business to his former employer: He is buried in Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery.

meissner funeralThe 1937 mission-style building that housed Meissner’s funeral home looks as if its organ should continuously play the hymn “Hotel California.”

ware combo 5-28-55 dmnGeorge Gause’s best-known partner, of course, was John Morton Ware, who married Gause’s daughter Louise and was added to the company name about 1923. Clips are from the 1941 city directory and May 28, 1955 Dallas Morning News.

fakes 78 and 85Just as livery stables branched out into undertaking, so did other businesses that had a natural connection. Carpenters, for example, made coffins and thus branched out. And furniture stores that sold coffins and other funeral trappings sometimes branched out into undertaking. So it was with Fakes & Co. Furniture Company. Brothers William and Bailey Fakes were born in Germany, moved to Texas from Tennessee, opened their furniture store in Fort Worth in 1876. Clips are from the 1878 and 1885 city directories.

fakes obits 10-3-95 gaz 12-20-09 dmnIn the mid-1890s both Fakes brothers moved to Dallas. But when Bailey Fakes died in 1895 he was buried in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery. William Fakes died in 1909 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas. Clips are from the October 3, 1895 Gazette and December 20, 1909 Dallas Morning News.

robertson funeral home UTALLouis P. Robertson worked for the Fakes brothers for nine years. Then in 1881 he bought the brothers’ undertaking department and established L. P. Robertson Undertaker. Photo shows Robertson’s funeral home at Taylor and 10th streets (see tower of 1893 city hall on right edge). This building would receive the bodies of aviators Vernon Castle in 1918 and Ormer Locklear in 1920. Robertson’s funeral home would evolve into today’s Robertson Mueller Harper. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

robertson comboLouis P. Robertson is buried in Greenwood Cemetery across the drive from William J. Bailey. “And who,” you ask, “was William J. Bailey?” Tune in next Cemetery Sunday for

When Those Who Bury the Dead Are Dead (Part 2)

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Wildflower Wednesday: Yet More Bridges

Ready for still another six-pack of bridges and blooms?

white prickly wide eastwhite bridgewhite bridge 2trinity trails 4purple bridgepink paddock

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In the Sweet By-and-By: Death and Divinity

Say the words King and Pangburn to longtime Fort Worth residents, and their sweet tooth might begin to throb.

king 6-7-05 teleJohn Porter King, born in Brenham, opened his candy factory on East 9th Street in 1905. His Southern Cold Storage and Produce Company sold and wholesale produce. Clip is from the June 7, 1905 Telegram.

pangburn 11-13-02 teleHugh T. Pangburn, born in Dallas, operated a drugstore on Houston Street, selling patent medicines such as Herbine. Clip is from the November 13, 1902 Telegram.

pangburn 11-21-15 stIn 1914 Pangburn began manufacturing ice cream. In the kitchen of his drugstore that year he also whipped up the first batch of what would become Pangburn’s Millionaires candies. His recipe included pecans, milk chocolate, caramel, and honey. In 1915 Pangburn added a candy factory to the ice cream factory on West 7th Street. The Pangburn brand is now owned by the Russell Stover company. Clip is from the November 21, 1915 Star-Telegram.

king dead 8-11-48John Porter King, who had also been county clerk and had developed the Oakhurst section of Sylvania, died in 1948. King’s son John Jr. took over the company after King Sr. died. After the company closed the building housed an antiques mall. Clip is from the August 11, 1948 Dallas Morning News.

Hugh T. Pangburn died in 1928.

king pangburn gravesThe two candy kings are buried just a bonbon’s throw apart in Greenwood cemetery.

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Cowtown’s Frontier Centennial Sallys Forth

Fort Worth’s Frontier Centennial was perhaps the grandest wingding that Cowtown had thrown since the Texas Spring Palace exhibition of 1889-1890. In 1936, when Texas celebrated its centennial, Dallas (Fort Worth’s downstream arch rival) was selected to host the official state celebration at the state fairgrounds. So, Fort Worth decided to offer an alternative: a simple pioneer-days celebration arranged by local volunteer women and Boy Scouts. But Fort Worth’s head cheerleader, rich and powerful Amon Carter, had a grander vision. Not content to rely on local volunteers, Carter imported New York nightclub owner and Broadway producer Billy Rose (husband unto Fanny Brice) to be straw boss of the centennial’s entertainment. Rose’s remuneration: one thousand dollars a day for one hundred days. (That’s a per diem of $16,000 in today’s dollars.) Backed by Carter’s hand-shaking, arm-twisting, and check-writing, Fort Worth would out-Dallas Dallas, by Gawd. Fort Worth would host its own centennial celebration on a grand scale: a sprawling complex of buildings and midway built on 162 acres that the city had bought from the estate of Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt. Carter also wrangled government funds for the city to build Will Rogers Auditorium and Coliseum, the foundation of today’s cultural district. The complex was built on the centennial grounds and named for Carter’s late friend Will Rogers, who was killed in 1935.

yoostabe casa postcard 4But the centerpiece of all that Frontier Centennial real estate was Casa Manana, an elegant four-thousand-seat cafe-amphitheater designed by architect Joseph Pelich. (After ballroom dancer-turned-flight instructor Vernon Castle was killed at Carruthers Field in Benbrook in 1918, Pelich replaced him and became chief flying instructor at the three airfields of Camp Taliaferro.)

yoostabe casa postcard 2The front of the Mediterranean-style Casa Manana building was painted blue and white, curved almost three hundred feet, and was perforated by more than thirty arches. The arches were repeated on the other side of a promenade, which followed the contour of the front. Casa Manana’s stage was unique. It revolved, was 130 feet in diameter, and appeared to float in a lagoon that held 600,000 gallons of water.

casa dallas ad 4-27-36 dmnThe Frontier Centennial recruited a lot of Fort Worth performers, such as TCU’s Mary “Punkins” Parker. But Fort Worth wasn’t above recruiting in Dallas, too. Clip is from the April 27, 1936 Dallas Morning News.

casa big ad 7-26 dmnFort Worth also wasn’t above advertising in Dallas. This Morning News ad of July 26 didn’t bother to seduce Dallas readers—it sledgehammered them: “Largest enterprise devoted solely to entertainment on the face of the globe.” “You can’t be a Texan and not love it.” Oh, and the fine print: “500 provocatively pulchritudinous adolescents.” Mercy!

casa fdr 7-19-36 dmnCome July 18, 1936 it was show time. And who better to formally open the Frontier Centennial than the leader of the free world? President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the time was on his schooner off the coast of Nova Scotia. No problem. FDR pressed the key of a wireless transmitter on his schooner and by radio and telegraph cut a lariat stretched across the entrance to the centennial grounds 1,500 miles away. Clip is from the July 19 Dallas Morning News.

Arching over that entrance was the greeting “Howdy Strangers” in huge letters. After those strangers were inside the vast centennial grounds, they saw plenty of displays of Texas history and pioneer handicrafts and a gallery of Western art, all right. But they also saw such spectacles as Rose’s musical circus extravaganza “Jumbo” with lions, elephants, trapeze artists, clowns, and Monkey Mountain. They saw canals, drawbridges, fountains, and pools. They saw a steam locomotive, Ray Bolger, Don Ameche, “King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, a gay nineties revue, and the Big Berthas and Six Tiny Rosebuds (two plus-sized women’s dance troupes). They saw slot machines, marionettes, two women tapping out tunes on suspended liquor bottles, a replica of Will Rogers’s den, and side shows with such titles as “Gone with the Wind,” “Lost Horizon,” and “Boudoir Secrets.”

casa sheetAnd they heard the song “The Night Is Young and You’re So Beautiful,” which was introduced at Casa Manana and became the unofficial theme song of the centennial celebration.

yoostabe casa three womenBut the Frontier Centennial is best remembered for Rose’s “Frontier Follies” show at Casa Manana. The Follies featured exotic dancer Sally “I haven’t been out of work since the day I took my pants off” Rand. Rand and her Nude Ranch girls also performed on the midway, dancing behind big feathers and even bigger translucent bubbles (designed for Rand et al. by Goodyear Rubber Company). (Photo from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

Amon Carter is said to have seen Rand’s show sixty times.

casa wallis 10-24-36 dmnBut Billy Rose wanted more. On October 24, 1936 the Dallas Morning News reported that Rose had offered Wallis Simpson $100,000 ($1.6 million today) to appear at the Frontier Centennial for a month. At the time, of course, American socialite Wallis Simpson was the mistress of England’s newly crowned King Edward VIII, who in December would abdicate the throne to marry her.

To Wallis Simpson is attributed this maxim: “Fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches.”

Rose’s offer apparently did not make Wallis itch. She declined his scratch, and Sally Rand had to keep top billing all to herself.

casa Wallis sallyWallis Simpson and Sally Rand: the show biz pairing that never was.

Wallis Simpson’s no-show notwithstanding, somehow what Amon Carter and Billy Rose wrought worked: What began modestly with plans for Boy Scouts to simulate Indians by wearing feathers had evolved into Sally Rand and her Nude Ranchers wearing feathers. During the summer of 1936 the Frontier Centennial drew almost one million people.

casa ernie garner 8-6&7-36 dmnVisitors included Ernest Hemingway, Vice President John Nance Garner, J. Edgar Hoover, boxer Max Baer, and Major Jimmy Doolittle. Note that the official greeter was pioneer auto racer Barney Oldfield. Clips are from the August 6 and 7, 1936 Dallas Morning News.

casa 2nd season ad 8-29-37 dmnIn 1937 the Frontier Centennial did an encore as the “Frontier Fiesta.” This ad in the August 29 Dallas Morning News promised “200 alluring adolescent aphrodites.” Oh, and by the way, a “male choir of sixty-four.”

And Casa would see even more mananas: It stayed open through the 1939 season. But in 1940 the stage went dark. In 1941 America went to war. In 1942 the grand Casa Manana building was demolished.

casa can can 7-3-58 dmn But on July 3, 1958 the Dallas Morning News announced that on July 5, with a “yes, we ‘Can-Can’” determination, the second Casa Manana would open just a few yards north of its predecessor. Among those attending the opening of the geodesic theater-in-the-round was hometown king of the wild frontier Fess Parker.

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Wildflower Wednesday: Yet More Bloomin’ Bridges

Seen along the Trinity River, a six-pack of bridges ’n’ blooms:

nightshade paddockyellow tilleythistle 7thpointed bloomscone trinity parkblue bridge

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Little East Side Cemetery: RIP (Rest in Poly)

In the early 1850s two brothers and their brother-in-law—Arch and W. D. Hall and Roger Tandy—packed up their families in Kentucky and pointed their covered wagons west. They settled on the Texas prairie about four miles southeast of the frontier town of Fort Worth. Soon a community—homes and shops, schools, even a mill and a post office—grew up around the three men’s farms.

poly cem archIn 1876 the Texas and Pacific railroad laid its tracks through the little community on the T&P’s way to Cowtown and points west. Fast forward to 1891, when the Southern Methodist Conference voted to build a college in Texas. The Hall brothers and Tandy’s son George, by then leaders of their community, gave the conference twenty-five acres on which to lay out the campus at the present intersection of Rosedale and Vaughn streets. They also gave the community three acres on which to establish a cemetery nearby at the present intersection of Bishop Street and Avenue C.

The community and the cemetery soon became known by the name of the new college: Polytechnic.

Polytechnic College became Texas Wesleyan College in 1914. The Polytechnic community became part of Fort Worth in 1922. And little Polytechnic Cemetery in the heart of the original community of the Tandys and the Halls, well, it became mostly forgotten.

Until 1997. That’s when Texas Wesleyan University history teachers and students, at the urging of author/historian Quentin McGown, began researching the little cemetery next door. Mae Bruce (a Poly High graduate) organized Friends of the Poly Cemetery Association. With the help of husband-and-wife historians John and Brenda Matthews, TWU students mapped the cemetery in 2002. Students sold ads for a calendar to pay for a state historical marker.

poly cem plaqueFinally the campaign of these people and others paid off, and on March 25, 2008 the Texas Historical Commission designated Polytechnic Cemetery as its one thousandth historic Texas cemetery.

Among those early Poly residents buried in the cemetery:

poly cem ballard 10-17-95•The cemetery’s oldest marked grave is that of Mrs. T. A. Ballard. Clip is from the October 17 Gazette.

poly cem royal 1-12-05 tele•Royal Columbus Hall (probably no relation to Arch and W. D.) farmed near the Masonic Home located on Wichita Street. He had been a Confederate soldier and prisoner of war. Hall survived war only to fall victim to the bite of a small dog that had been given to him as a pet. Clip is from the January 12 Telegram.

poly cem jenette 10-2-05 tele•Jenette Tandy, age eleven, was the daughter of George Tandy. His home was located just northeast of the cemetery on his father Roger’s homestead near the Tandy Lake stop on the interurban. George Tandy was the grandfather of Bert Tandy, another Poly High graduate. Clip is from the October 2 Telegram.

poly cem mcrae 3-24-12 st•Duncan McRae fought with Confederate General Joe Johnston at the Battle of Atlanta. After moving to Tarrant County from Tennessee, McRae was county superintendent of schools in the 1890s. Clip is from the March 24 Star-Telegram.

school D. McRaeThe East Side elementary school (original building built in 1917) was named for Duncan McRae. According to B. B. Paddock’s 1906 History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas, McRae “takes a most earnest interest in educational affairs in Tarrant County, assisting in county institutes and in other ways lending his influence to maintain a high standard of the schools and promote the intellectual development of the locality.” Mae Bruce is Duncan McRae’s great-granddaughter. (Photo from FWISD Billy W. Sills Center for Archives.)

poly cem masonic 11-8-07 telePolytechnic Cemetery is also known as the “Masonic Home Cemetery” because the fraternal order reserved part of the cemetery to bury women and children who lived or worked at the Masonic Home. Clip is from the November 8, 1907 Telegram.

•Ida and Marlin Hollis were the parents of Paul Hollis, who lived on Avenue D in 1922 when he brewed up Poly Pop, the world’s first powdered soft drink mix.

poly cem clean up 5-14-16 stFor many years the little cemetery received only sporadic maintenance, and time and vandalism took their toll. Chester and Paul Hollis were brothers. Clip is from the May 14, 1916 Star-Telegram.

But the Tarrant County Historical Commission has provided a new fence and a new sign over the entrance. These days volunteers, with donations from descendants of those buried there and a trust fund created by Paul Hollis, maintain the cemetery. And the state historic designation brought new attention to the cemetery.

“These graves tell a story,” Mae Bruce said. “This designation will ensure that the souls of my ancestors will truly rest in peace.”

Posted in Cities of the Dead, Downtown, All Around, East Side, Life in the Past Lane | 2 Comments

In the Acre, Bad Blood and Brass Buttons: “Boys, I’m a Goner”

Was Jim Toots guilty of first-degree murder? Was Jim Toots guilty only of wearing skin of the wrong color and talking to the wrong woman in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or was there some gray zone between black and white?

Fort Worth police officers C. L. Waller and H. C. Townes were partners on the beat in what the Dallas Morning News called “the very lowest and toughest district of the city”: Hell’s Half Acre.

On the night of June 28, 1892 Waller and Townes were patrolling in the Acre when they saw two African Americans—a man and a woman—in an alley on East 12th Street.

toots 1893 tenements sanbornJust as segregated Fort Worth had a white downtown and a black downtown, so was the Acre segregated, with most of the African-American businesses and tenements on the eastern edge of the Acre. This 1893 Sanborn map shows “Negro tenements” along Calhoun Street.

The two African Americans in that alley, officer Townes would testify, were Lou Davis and Jim Burris, alias “Jim Toots.”

toots lou 5-25-91 gazLou Davis, like Jim Toots, was well known to police in the Acre. Clip is from the May 25, 1891 Gazette.

Officer Townes testified: “We were walking along Twelfth and when we got to the alley we saw Toots and Lou Davis, a negro woman, about seven or eight feet from the sidewalk. . . . Lou Davis is a negro prostitute. She was standing with her arms on Toots’s shoulder or around his neck. . . . When Waller saw them he told Lou to come out. Toots said, ‘What’s the matter with you; I’ll be shoving a rock out there after you.’ ‘I’ll be shoving something else back at you,’ Waller replied.”

(The Dallas Morning News would claim that Toots said, “Keep away from me or I’ll blow a hole through you.”)

Freeze frame. Just a typical night in the Acre, right? Just two members of a white police force confronting two African Americans, the woman an Acre prostitute and thief, the man an Acre gambling house owner, right?

Except, local historian Richard Selcer writes in Written in Blood (Volume 1), black prostitute Lou Davis was white police officer C. L. Waller’s “paramour.” So. Was that fact merely an “oh, by the way . . .” irrelevancy, or did it shape the dynamics of that night’s events—events that would cause that Acre alley to stretch all the way to the Capitol steps in Austin?

Officer Townes testified that there in that alley Waller and Toots cursed each other. A scuffle ensued. Waller struck Toots with his nightstick. Townes intervened; Toots retreated down the street.

End of encounter. Or was it?

Jim Toots, Selcer writes, began looking for a gun and some reinforcements among the Acre’s African-American population. Lou Overton, who owned an African-American saloon on Rusk (now Commerce) Street in the Acre, testified: “Toots was out in the street cursing the officers, and making threats that he would kill the brass-buttoned sons of bitches; that they couldn’t walk their beats and live . . . that he didn’t have an even break with them.”

Toots finally procured a pistol from an unlikely donor: Fort Worth police officer Tom Snow, who moonlighted as a bartender in the Acre. Toots also enlisted Horace Bell and Willie Campbell, two black men of the Acre who had reason to resent the way they had been treated by white policemen.

Meanwhile, officers Waller and Townes recruited their own reinforcement—officer Frank Bryant—and began searching the Acre for Toots. Soon, just after midnight, Waller and company were walking south on Rusk; Jim Toots and company were walking north on Rusk. Toots and company shot first, Selcer writes, taking the three officers by surprise near the Southern Livery Stables (about where Commerce Street today curves around the Convention Center).

Amazingly, with two three-man teams firing at each other, only Waller was hit. And he was hit three times. Toots and his men fled. Officer Townes helped Waller walk to the firehouse on Main Street. Waller collapsed from his injuries and exclaimed, the Dallas Morning News said, “Boys, I’m a goner.”

toots 1893 scene sanborn 2This 1893 Sanborn map shows the location of the shootout on Rusk Street between 12th and 13th streets. Lou Overton’s saloon was opposite the Southern Livery Stables. He witnessed the shootout.

toots shooting 6-29 dmnFort Worth’s reaction was immediate and intense. The Dallas Morning News headline on June 29 was “Lynching Probable.” This early account has some inaccuracies.

toots shooting 6-30 dmnThe Dallas Morning News headline on June 30 was “Almost a Lynching.” “Not since the memorable days which marked the course of the railroad riot of 188[6] have the citizens of this city been so thoroughly aroused and excited,” the lead paragraph said. This early account, too, has some inaccuracies.

toots at large 7-1 dmnOfficer C. L. Waller was taken to the Missouri Pacific Infirmary in the care of Dr. William A. Duringer but died on June 30.

While the city mourned and fumed, Jim Toots remained at large. On July 1 the Dallas Morning News continued to report talk of lynching. The newspaper quoted Police Chief Jim Maddox as saying of Toots, “. . . if I capture this man and get started for the jail with him, I hope nobody will attempt to stop me.”

toots caught 7-10-92 dmnBell and Campbell were quickly arrested, jailed, and charged with being accomplices in the killing of Waller. But as Toots remained at large, the next week was full of the predictable angry mobs, wild rumors, and false sightings. But on July 8 the Morning News announced that the sheriff of Howard County (Big Spring) had captured Jim Toots in a boxcar.

The three suspects did not go on trial until 1893. Bell and Campbell were convicted and sentenced to prison—ninety-nine years for Bell, fourteen for Campbell. Both men would die in prison. During Toots’s trial he took the stand to plead self-defense and, predictably, told a different story than that told by the police. Toots said that when officers Waller and Townes confronted him and Lou Davis in that Acre alley, Waller drew a pistol and threatened to shoot Toots. Toots admitted later procuring a gun but only for self-defense against Waller. Toots said that Waller and two other officers came to his boardinghouse on Calhoun Street looking for him, that he hid and heard the officers say, “We will kill the damn son of a bitch.” Toots said he was on his way to a saloon to hide when he saw the three officers coming toward him on Rusk Street. Toot claimed Waller shot first. Toots claimed he shot Waller in self-defense.

(Officer Waller was wearing badge 13. In 1902 officer Andy Grimes would be shot to death while wearing badge 13.)

toots first conviction 3-27-93 dmnOn March 25, 1893 Jim Toots was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang. Clip is from the March 27 Morning News.

At this point Toots, who had been given court-appointed attorneys, was given a self-appointed angel. James Swayne (attorney, city attorney, judge, state senator) had been following the murder case. Swayne took the Toots conviction to the appellate court.

toots lou in dallas 11-30-94 gazMeanwhile, Lou Davis had moved to Dallas, where she was known as “Big Lou.” (Sandow was a German bodybuilder. Peter Jackson was a boxer.) Clip is from the November 30, 1894 Gazette.

toots conviction upheld 10-17-95 gazOn October 16, 1895 the conviction and sentence of Jim Toots were upheld. But James Swayne vowed to seek a commutation. Swayne said: “The hanging of Jim Toots will be nothing less than legalized murder. I am as thoroughly convinced that he acted in self-defense as I am in my own existence.” Swayne said he had found a witness who would swear that he had heard Waller vow to kill Toots. Clip is from the October 17, 1895 Dallas Morning News.

Swayne went to Austin to plead with the pardons board. Among those Fort Worth citizens who wrote letters to the governor on behalf of Toots were K. M. Van Zandt, J. C. Terrell, Martin Bottom Loyd, William Pinckney McLean, the law firm of Capps and Cantey, and, perhaps most interesting, Ephraim Beck “Bud” Daggett, father of Jeff Daggett.

toots death watch 11-15-95 gazThe November 11, 1895 Gazette reported that Toots had hope even as he was placed under a death watch.

toots new testimony 12-7-95 gazSwayne presented to the pardons board a sworn statement of a man who said he had witnessed the first Waller-Toots encounter on the night of June 28 and had heard Waller say that he was going to kill Toots and that “Toots was interfering with his woman.” Clip is from the December 7, 1895 Gazette.

toots commuted 12-22-95 gazOn December 21, 1895, with Toots scheduled to hang before Christmas, Governor Charles Culberson played Santa, commuting Toots’s death sentence to a life sentence.

Swayne ticked off points that had swayed the governor, among them: that Waller had beaten and pulled a gun on Toots, that Waller had threatened to kill Toots, that Toots had been warned of Waller’s threat.

Toots began serving his sentence at Huntsville early in 1896. Clip is from the December 22, 1895 Gazette.

Fast forward to Christmas 1902. Enter Santa II. Governor Joseph Sayers pardoned Jim Toots, citing, Selcer writes, “deep prejudice against defendant as to preclude a fair and impartial trial.” Selcer also writes that Governor Sayers cited the relationship between officer Waller and Lou Davis.

toots dying 8-14-09 stA free man again, Jim Toots returned to Fort Worth but soon sought the safety of obscurity. This August 14, 1909 Star-Telegram brief ends his story: Jim Toots, his health failing, was last heard of in El Paso. But he left behind a story of bad blood and brass buttons in Fort Worth’s “very lowest and toughest district of the city.”

Posted in Crime, Life in the Past Lane | 2 Comments