By James Pylant. Softbound (2009), 234 pp. + viii, illus., indexed.
When the Civil War ended, many disenchanted Southerners poured into Central Texas, toting guns and grudges. Shots of whiskey loosened tempers and soon bullets were flying. Within a few years, the Lone Star State had become the nation’s murder capitol.
The small town of Stephenville, where 139 people were hauled to prison between crimes 1864 to 1891, dealt with Comanche warriors, restless outlaws, crime rings, and the ruthless vigilante group known as “The Mob.”
Sins of the Pioneers: Crimes & Scandals of a Small Texas Town explores Stephenville’s emergence from wild frontier to bustling village. Studded with shocking tales—sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant—it tells of crooks, bigamists, prostitutes, saloon brawlers, and mysterious murderers.
James Pylant chronicles John Gilbreath, the intimidating, determined sheriff who bent rules to jail criminals—including his own kinfolks; Julia Williamson, Stephenville's hell-raising madam; armless Jack Hollis and his jail escape; accused horse-thief Jennie Sadler; schemer Gordon Bradshaw’s “accidental” shooting of his wealthy bride; lovely teenaged axe murderess May Bruce; and Annie Cooper, who risked exposing her shady past to rescue a troubled girl.
"James Pylant's meticulously researched tales of all the Indian raids, crimes, hangings, scandals and general hell-raising that went on in the small Texas town of Stephenville proves that no harm is done to good history by making it something that someone would enjoy reading. Stephenville might not have been as tough as old Tascosa during its wild and woolly frontier days, but it was tough enoughas Pylant's riveting stories document."
Bill Neal, author of Sex, Murder and the Unwritten Law
$15.95, plus shipping and handling.
Also available from these Texas bookstores:
- Texas Star Trading Co., Abilene
- Hastings, Brownwood
- Comanche Chief, Comanche
- DeLeon Free Press, DeLeon
- Stockyards Museum Gift Shop, Fort Worth
- The Booksatchell, Mineral Wells
- Cactus Book Shop, San Angelo
- Hastings, Stephenville
- The Literary Lion, Stephenville
- Stephenville Museum, Stephenville
- Hastings, Wichita Falls