History

The History of the Mason County Hoodoo War

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Back in 1851, the town of Mason, here in the Texas Hill Country, was originally a fort, known as Fort Mason. Settlers were initially attracted to its safety from Indian raids, and many soldiers would also settle here after discharge from service. For approximately 20 years, Fort Mason remained fairly tame. By 1868, it was converted to a city and life was good but not long after, a violent feud known as the Mason County War erupted between Anglo ranchers and German settlers. Nicknamed the Hoodoo War, the 2.5-year feud began with the accusation of stolen cattle.

The History of the Mason County Hoodoo War

Photo: Facebook/Mike Conaway

What started innocently enough as a few stockmen herding stray cattle while driving them for sale soon turned into a full-blown war of words with German settlers who didn’t agree with the practice. They kept small herds, and the loss of a single calf meant real money to them. Couple this with the fact that a group of nomads with a penchant for cattle rustling had recently come to Texas following the Civil War, and you’ve got a powder keg waiting to blow. In June of 1874, the justice of Mason County wrote to the governor of Texas requesting troops be sent to the countryside to assist in quelling cattle rustling, but the request fell on deaf ears. By February of 1875, German-elected Sheriff John Clark formed a posse in efforts to respond to the issue, and while doing a sweep northwest of Mason, found a large herd that had brands belonging to a variety of owners. Nine men were arrested, but four escaped before trial. Not wanting there to be no one left to pay the price, a vigilante mob of some 40 men kidnapped the remaining prisoners to be hanged. A Texas Ranger accompanied by a small group of

In June of 1874, the justice of Mason County wrote to the governor of Texas requesting troops be sent to the countryside to assist in quelling cattle rustling, but the request fell on deaf ears. By February of 1875, German-elected Sheriff John Clark formed a posse in efforts to respond to the issue, and while doing a sweep northwest of Mason, found a large herd that had brands belonging to a variety of owners. Nine men were arrested, but four escaped before trial. Not wanting there to be no one left to pay the price, a vigilante mob of some 40 men kidnapped the remaining prisoners to be hanged. A Texas Ranger accompanied by a small group of like-mind pursued the mob but arrived too late. The result was that three of the five men were dead – two by hanging and one by gunshot. And of the remaining two, one escaped and one was hanged but did not die. The ensuing investigation was fruitless.

The History of the Mason County Hoodoo War

Photo:

A Texas Ranger accompanied by a small group of like-mind pursued the mob but arrived too late. The result was that three of the five men were dead – two by hanging and one by gunshot. And of the remaining two, one escaped and one was hanged but did not die. The ensuing investigation was fruitless.

The History of the Mason County Hoodoo War

Photo: Facebook/Paul Colt

Shortly thereafter, a fellow by the name of Tim Williamson was arrested for stealing a yearling. He posted bail and was released, however, Sheriff Clark made a visit to his home to collect unpaid taxes, and when he found that the lady of the house was home alone, he took advantage of the situation. When Williamson found out what happened, he challenged the sheriff to settle things man-to-man, but the sheriff refused. On May 13, 1875, the sheriff then sent a deputy sheriff to retrieve Williamson, which he had done without issue, but during the ride back to town, the two were ambushed by a dozen men, resulting in Williamson and his horse being shot and killed, and the deputy sheriff escaping. When no trial was ever held for Williamson’s murder, the Hoodoo War went into full swing.

The History of the Mason County Hoodoo War

Photo:

On May 13, 1875, the sheriff sent a deputy sheriff to retrieve Williamson, which he had done without issue, but during the ride back to town, the two were ambushed by a dozen men, resulting in Williamson and his horse being shot and killed, and the deputy sheriff escaping. When no trial was ever held for Williamson’s murder, the Hoodoo War went into full swing.

The History of the Mason County Hoodoo War

Photo: Facebook/Texas History Today Via Bob Dunn

Williamson’s friend and former Texas Ranger, Scott Cooley, vowed to seek revenge for his death and gathered a mob to ride up on Worley. Cooley not only shot Worley in the back of the head but he also then scalped him. Following that, violence overwhelmed Mason to the point where citizens once again wrote to the governor for protection. His response was to send a group of Texas Rangers in pursuit of Cooley, following which several more men died and many were wounded. Cooley fled and lived in Blanco County under the protection of friends until fell ill and died of “brain fever.”

Peace eventually returned to Mason, and Sheriff Clark was investigated for his part in the Hoodoo War. Although charges were laid, they were later dismissed. Fourteen men died and many were injured. Trials were held with no convictions, and on January 21, 1877, an arsonist burned the Mason County Courthouse down to the ground. All written records of the feud went with it, and Mason citizens stayed silent for the full first generation of survivors. Upon local inquiry about the Hoodoo War, the only response ever received would be “The trouble’s over, let it die.”