History of Coryell

Within 24 hours of the robbery Jim Leeper and Ed Powell were behind the rock walls find iron bars of the old rock jail.

An examining trial was had and Ed Powell and Jim Leeper were charged with murder in the first degree. The case was set to he tried February 16, 1890. J. L. Crain, attorney for defense, made a motion for continuance of the case until the next term of court. The motion was overruled and the trial proceeded, in a heavily guarded courtroom, for it was feared that the enraged citizens would resort to mob action. The jury deliberated a short time and returned a verdict of "We the jury, find the defendants guilty of murder in the first degree, and assess the penalty at death."

A motion for a new trial was filed. It was denied. A notice of appeal was given. On May 24, 1890, the Court of Criminal Appeals re-affirmed the decision of the trial court. A motion for arrest of judgment was filed in District Court in July, 1891. It was denied.

On July 23, 1891, Jim Leeper and Ed Powell, stood before Judge C. K. Bell, in open court for the purpose of having sentence passed. Again the Court was under heavy guard to prevent mob action. The spectators were very restless as they waited for Judge Bell to pronounce sentence of death. "Jim Leeper, Ed Powell, is there anything you would say before sentence of death is passed upon you?" There was no response. "I sentence you to he hanged by the neck, at public execution, until you are dead."

Much conniving was done by J. L. Crane [sic] to free his clients, or to stay execution, even thru Governor J. S. Hogg, but to no avail. On September 29, 1891, vast throngs gathered to witness the only official execution Coryell County has ever had. Armed guards were again placed at all Strategic points, to protect the prisoners from mob violence. At 2 o'clock Sheriff John Hammack sprung the trap and the souls of the two men were released to the keeping of eternity. The double scaffold on which the men were hung, was erected at the rear of the jail.

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Old Log Jail Is Moved

Since the preceding account of the Old Log Jail was published the history minded people of Coryell County have placed the old edifice in Raby Park as a memorial to the pioneers who dared carve a new country out of the wilderness nearly a hundred years ago.

Saturday, September 26, 1947, hundreds of people gathered in Raby Park to witness the dedication of the first unit of the Coryell County Museum, which was the old jail moved from the Powell farm to be set up as a place to preserve historical data, and pioneer relics of the long ago. The old edifice is now solidly set on a cement floor and is filled with relics and historical mementoes illustrating the early pioneer period of Coryell County.

In the dedication ceremonies, Horace Jackson served as master of ceremonies of a service which began at 4 o'clock. Ed Davidson, son of the first couple married in Coryell County, delivered the invocation. Mayor Kermit R. Jones spoke an address of welcome; Mrs. Crawford Scott read the Coryell County records pertaining to the erection of the jail. The Gatesville High School Band played several numbers including "The Old Gray Mare."

Judge R. B. Cross delivered the dedicatory address in which he eulogized the early pioneers and declared that the log building would be a "silent symbol thru the years to the determination of our forefathers to make this section of Texas a strong law-abiding country." "These people were ruggedly honest", the judge said. "They were workers whose prime concern was to build and erect a society here that would give their children and their children's children a maximum of liberty and freedom consistent with the law. Liberty and freedom were magic words in those days, serving as a veritable cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide them in transforming this section from near savagery to a civilized community."

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"'May we hold high the torch handed us by our forefathers, and may we preserve the freedom they fought to give us. It is with this spirit that this historic little structure is dedicated as the Coryell County Museum." Judge Cross then presented the keys to the building to Mrs. T. R. Mears, President of the Coryell County Historical Society which manages the Museum.

Mrs. Mears called for the support of the citizens in her organization's efforts to collect historical data and relics. She surprised the audience by saying "the state archives contain less historical information on Coryell County than any other county in the state. She also praised the pioneer mothers of the county saying they were deserving of equal honor with the men.

Mr. Jackson then introduced all descendants of the Coryell County organizers, and recognized other pioneer citizens in the audience.

Ed Elms and his quartet, composed of himself, Troy Jones, William Black. and R. H. Wicker, sang some oldtime songs, after which the program was closed with Mrs. A. W. Ellis singing "The Star Spangled Banner."

Here, let us pay tribute to Bain Allen and Emmett Dickie, whom it was, furnished the finances to remove the Old Jail from the Powell farm to Raby Park. In addition, it was historic relic drawn from Bain Allen's private museum to provide the newly dedicated museum with its first large collection representing pioneer times.

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The dramatic history of Coryell County has been notably punctuated with accounts of military activities... The first land seekers of the Mexican states of Coahuila and Texas, they were united under one government, came under the guidance and protection of tough ranger companies. The first under James Coryell and Andrew Cavitt, in 1835.

Then came the Texas Revolution in 1836, and the Texas Republic was organized as an independent nation.

In the year of 1839 the raiding Comanche Indians committed some savage murders of whites on Pond Creek in Milam County. These raiders were pursued by Texas troops under the command of Capt. Bird. A battle was fought at what is now Bird Creek in Bell County. Capt. Bird was killed and the command fell to Capt. Geo R. Erath, who continued the pursuit as far as Station Creek in what later became Coryell County. Here Capt. Erath maintained a station for some months, or until there seemed no further need of troops in this section. The little stream was called Station Creek because of the military station maintained there, and locally the place is known at the Fort Station site.

After the Erath expedition of 1835), land seekers under the protection of scouting 'Texas Rangers continued to enter the Leon Country until 1846 when war between the United States and Mexico was declared. Then there was a lull in exploration and land seeking until that war ended.

Founding of Fort Gates

When the United States Government, at the close of the Mexican War of 1846-48, took charge of the vast Texas frontier, extending from the Rio Grande River on the southwest to the Red River on the north, that territory was without military protection, save for a few companies of Texas Rangers, scattered at strategic points across the long frontier. Settlement was being retarded

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for want of adequate protection from the raids of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apaches Indians. U. S. troops were sent to establish a line of forts to protect the entire frontier. One of the forts was established on the Leon River, in what was then Milam County, but was later organized as Coryell County. It was very difficult to gather authentic data on the history of Fort Gates; to illustrate we quote from a letter written to the author, March 1935.

"War Department

"The Adjutant General's Office,

"Washington, D. C.

"A complete history of Fort Gates, Texas, has not been compiled by this department. However, the records show that Fort Gates, Texas, was situated on, the north bank of the Leon River above Coryell's Creek, north of Austin, Texas. It was established October 26, 1849. It was named in honor of Major C. R. Gates. 4th United States Infantry. It was evacuated in March 1852. The post was authorized on September 2, 1849 per orders No. 62, 8th Military Department.

"Signed: James F. McKinley,

Major General.

"The Adjutant General."

The foregoing was all the authentic information we could find on Fort Gates. until fortunately we heard of the Historian, Miss Arry Barry of San Angelo, Texas. who had compiled a history of the frontier forts. Miss Barry graciously permitted us to use her entire article on Fort Gates. The information is confirmed by a letter of Acting Adjutant General Lutz Wahl, April 6th, 1925.

"On October 26, 1849, Brewet Colonel W. R. Montgomery, with two companies of the Eighth Infantry, rounded Fort Gates, on the Leon River, at a distance of seventy-five miles from Austin. Troops remained there until March, 1852. The immediate site was on the north bank of the Leon River, a tributary of the Brazos, and on the edge of a post oak grove, which extended from the garrison to the river. Assistant Surgeon Johns said that

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