Speaker Series: Judge Bill Stubblefield & Dan Doss
Williamson County & the Wild, Wild West
The Williamson County Historical Commission sponsored the third event of a series labeled "A Toast to our Past" at the county courthouse in Georgetown on January 25, 2022. The title of this event was Williamson County and the Wild, Wild West. Judge Stubblefield and Dan Doss's talk was the first of three presentations that evening.
Judge Stubblefield was introduced by January Raesz.
Conversation Between Stubble Field & Doss
My mother, who was one of nine sisters and two brothers, grew up on a farm on the North San Gabriel in the early 1900s. In later years, they would get together and talk about those early years. Thus, my knowledge and interest of early Williamson County grew. Cotton was king in those days.
: In fact, Taylor became the largest inland cotton shipping port in the country. It peaked during World War I. Due to war's end and crop devastation by boll weevils, the price rapidly dropped.
I always considered early Williamson County as agriculture, but in truth, it was the wild, wild west. Dan Doss has the 592-page Docket Book for Precinct 1 from roughly 1910-1915. It records what was considered crime at that time. There was a lot of drinking and gambling!
Each page is a court case. Most were settled right then and there. The easy way out was to plead guilty to charges like drunkenness, pay a fine of $3 and maybe a lawyer fee of $5 and walk. Remember, of course, he probably only made $20/month at that time.
The number one arrest was disturbance or causing a scene. Number two was drunkenness and number three was gambling. The total court cost for gambling might be $10 or perhaps $14 if you didn't plea guilty or caused trouble. If you were good at gambling, you came out ahead and kept on gambling. There were all the usual crimes plus such things as toting a gun and unlawfully riding a train (no ticket).
A murder charge would result in a stiff bond of $500-$1500 and reporting to district court. Forgery also resulted in a stiff bond.
Transporting liquor led to a big fine. Georgetown went dry in those days to appease Southwest University, a Methodist school with students from wealthy Dallas and Houston families. An announcement was considered for making the entire county dry, but was unpopular in east Williamson County. Supposedly, Taylor responded that if the entire county was included, there would be an election to move the county seat from Georgetown to Taylor. Combined with Granger, Taylor had the votes to accomplish that. The dry vote was confined to Georgetown.
The eastern end of the county was where the action was. Lots of cattle from South Texas were driven through the county and following the Civil War, serious conflicts were often settled with guns.
The Olive family began bringing up cattle early on and rustler problems developed. They took the law into their own hands purchasing newspaper ads stating rustlers would be killed, and the Olives did just that - cruelly. In the family's fight against desperados, they caused so much trouble, they were asked to leave the county.
I was told that in the 1870s, there were seven saloons on the square. Today, there are once again seven saloons on the square.
Shootouts were common around the square in the early days, not so much today. Another gun-related story in the late 1800s dealt with Sheriff Olive. He was waiting for a train in Bell County and was shot and killed by someone in the brush. The killer was never apprehended. Truly a wild west era.