Once Upon an Alias: Coming Home to Hurst

In the course of his eighty-eight years he would survive the Battle of Gettysburg and Union prison camps, have a city named after him, and become the patriarch of a family of thirteen children and one hundred grandchildren.

But surely January 4, 1912 was among the happiest of all days in the long life of William Letchworth Hurst (1834-1922).

In 1860 Hurst, wife Mary, and children (including two-year-old Nathan) were living in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

After the war, by 1870 Hurst and his family had moved to Tarrant County from Tennessee by covered wagon, a trip of six weeks.

In 1881, when Hurst’s son Nathan was twenty-three, two strangers had paid Nathan $10 to help them drive some horses north to Gainesville and sell them. Unbeknownst to Nathan, the two men had stolen the horses. Soon the law was on the trail of the trio. When confronted, the two men fled, but Nathan, not knowing that the horses were stolen, stood his ground. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to twelve years in prison at Huntsville.

After three months in prison Nathan Hurst escaped—on a mule—and disappeared.

Soon after, a young man calling himself “William Hammond” arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri and began to make a name for himself as a prosperous, honest businessman, family man, and civic leader. He served as deputy sheriff and constable. But members of his household did not know about his past.

Meanwhile, ever since Nathan Hurst had escaped from prison, father William Hurst had worked to secure a pardon for his son. He collected the signatures of the jurors who had convicted Nathan. He applied for a pardon to three successive Texas governors. All refused. “Let the wrongdoer return to prison before he is pardoned” was their stance. (Photo from Tarrant County College NE.)

Finally, in late 1911 William Hurst appealed to newly elected Governor Colquitt, stressing the exemplary life of the man known as “William Hammond” of Missouri. Colquitt was moved. He granted the pardon on Christmas Day 1911.

William Hurst, by then seventy-eight years old, personally delivered the pardon to his son in Missouri on New Year’s Day 1912. And on January 4 father brought son home—home to the family farm south of the town of Hurst, home to resume a life interrupted. (The “Hurst lake” in the clip is Hust Lake, named not for the Hurst family but rather for John A. Hust, the county’s first tax assessor, who lived nearby.)

hurst-mapThe Hurst survey is labeled on this 1895 map near “Hurst” Lake (impounded by John A. Hust and often misspelled) and the water mill of R. A. Randol near the community of Randol.

“William Hammond” soon legally reclaimed his birth name. Nathan Hurst also revealed his past to his wife and children. Wife and children left Missouri and joined Nathan and his father at the Hurst family farm.

hurst nathan obit 5-18-21The reunion of father and son lasted only nine years. Nathan Hurst died in 1921. Clip, from the May 18 Star-Telegram, does not mention his interesting past or list his father as a survivor.

hurst obit 6-27-22William Letchworth “Uncle Billy” Hurst died in 1922. Clip is from the June 27 Star-Telegram.

William Hurst is buried in Bedford Cemetery. His son is buried in Mount Olivet.

Postscript: Why is that city called “Hurst”? In 1903, as the Rock Island railroad was laying track to connect Fort Worth to Dallas, the railroad wanted to lay its track across land that William Letchworth Hurst owned near present-day Highway 10 (including land where Bell Helicopter is). Hurst granted a right-of-way. In return, when the railroad built a depot, the Rock Island named it “Hurst Station.” A town grew up around the depot.

The town, still known as “Hurst Station” into the 1930s, incorporated as “Hurst” in 1950. (The Arwines were early settlers in the Hurst area.)

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13 Responses to Once Upon an Alias: Coming Home to Hurst

  1. christina linn hurst says:

    I wanted to reach out for information on the Hurst family. I trying to track down my family history and believe I may be a direct descendant.

  2. marian parrish watson says:

    I found the answer. Yes, you are right. Jesse Arwine’s first marriage children married into the Hurst family. They still live in Ft. Worth, Handley, and Arlington, Tx.

  3. How are the Arwine’s connected to the Hurst family?

    • hometown says:

      I don’t know that the Arwines and Hursts are connected other than geographically, although I would not be surprised if they intermarried because they lived close at a time when the dating pool was small.

  4. Kristin Anderson says:

    Wow – great information! As a direct descendant of William “Brindle Bill” Hurst, I find all Hurst ancestors very interesting. Do you have any idea where the middle name of Letchworth originated?

    • hometown says:

      Thank you. My guess is that it is a family name, but I have never seen the name elsewhere in research on him.

  5. John Holden says:

    My father moved to Bedford in 1912 and later worked as a telegrapher in the Rock Island depot in hurst

  6. Steve A says:

    Actually, it is Dr Colley. In the same Bedford cemetery as Hurst; there are memorial lists of those that fought for both sides.

  7. Steve A says:

    Hurst was CSA. Colley was USA. Today the two neighboring cities named for them mostly fight over whose district has the best football team.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks for that fact. I did not know about Mr. Colley’s Union affiliation. In fact, I knew/know nothing about the city’s namesake.

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