Today in Texas History – August 3

From the Annals of the Feud – In 1898, the Colorado County Feud began.  The Feud was ignited by the County’ Sheriff’s race and involved a series of gun battles between members of the Townsend family of Columbus. The actual election was between incumbent sheriff Sam Reese and a former deputy Larkin Hope. Former state senator and power broker Mark Townsend dropped his backing of Reese and endorsed Hope. The move indicated victory for Hope since Townsend typically backed the winner.  It was not to be, as Hope was gunned down Columbus.  Hope’s backers suspected Jim Coleman, a close friend of Sam Reese’s sons, Walter and Herbert, was behind the killing. Townsend picked a new candidate, Will Burford, and, with feeling running high against the Reeses, Burford won the election. Less than a year later, on March 16, 1899, Sam Reese was killed in a gun battle on the street near where Hope died. Will Clements, Marion Hope, and Mark Townsend were among those shooting. Stray bullets killed Charles Boehme, a bystander, and wounded a boy named Johnny Williams. Even though the best evidence suggests that Reese had provoked the fight in which he was killed, his sons vowed to get revenge. In five more gunfights five more men were killed and several others wounded. The dead included Reese’s brother Dick, Burford’s son Arthur, Will Clements’s brother Hiram, and Jim Coleman. No one was ever convicted of any of the murders. Those accused included Mark Townsend, Jim Townsend, Step Yates, Will Clements, Walter Reese, Joe Lessing, Frank Burford, and Marion Hope.  Perhaps not so curiously, the Townsends, Reeses, Burfords, Clementses, Hopes, and Lessings were all related to each other.

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