Cattle rustling and general lawlessness prevailed along the entire Texas frontier during and shortly after the Reconstruction period. For a while even the state troops were part of the problem having become a very corrupt organization.
But nowhere on the frontier did the problems reach the proportions that they did in Mason County in 1875.
Rustling on a small scale had been going on for years when a new sheriff, John Clark, intercepted a large group of cattle being driven to Llano, apparently without some of the owner’s permission. Nine men were arrested and taken to the Mason County jail but they were soon out on bail provided by local citizens. The men where ordered to remain in the town of Mason until their hearing took place.
When Clark found that the men were not remaining in Mason as their bond required, he re-arrested the five men that he could find and placed them in jail. These five men were forcibly removed from the jail several nights later by a group of unknown men who held the sheriff, deputy sheriff, and a Ranger Dan Roberts at bay while making off with the prisoners. Three of the alleged rustlers were killed, one was brought back to the jail and the fifth escaped justice completely and was never heard from again.
Other arrests were made the following months on charges of cattle rustling and one man was killed while in the custody of the deputy sheriff by a group of unknown men.
Men from other counties became involved in the local fighting and during the summer of 1875 the number of killings increased dramatically. First, a rancher was shot from ambush, then the deputy sheriff was killed, followed closely by two men from out of the county. Another stockman and gambler were the next victims.
The newly organized Texas Rangers, under their excellent leader, Major John B. Jones, were ordered to send a force of men to Mason County. A small contingent, including Major Jones, arrived at Hedwig’s Hill Community in the southern part of Mason County during the afternoon of September 28, 1875. Hearing rumors of trouble in the Loyal Valley Community, Jones turned south and spent the night there in place of continuing northward to the town of Mason, The next morning, September 29, 1875, a county official was shot and killed from ambush on the street in Mason.
By that time the population of the county had split into three groups. One group was trying to stay neutral and keep the peace, the other two were fighting with one another. Each had large groups of men that came to town or central locations prepared to fight on occasions. The line between the two feuding groups has never been clear nor has the reason for all the bloodshed.
Supposedly, Sheriff Clark was the leader of one of the factions but no distinct leader can be distinguished for the other faction. Many names appear, some famous, however nothing has ever been proven.
The Sheriff and nine men in his “faction” were charged with minor offenses stemming from the initial arrests. All the defendants, except the sheriff were found innocent in October 1876. Clark posted a bond, left Mason and was never seen or heard from again.
The following winter the last victim, a stockman, was killed in his home in Llano County. The last act of the Hoo Doo War was the burning of the Mason County Court House in January 21, 1877, probably to destroy any evidence that was to be used against those involved. By that time, supposedly all the leaders of both factions were either dead, in jail or had left the area. No charges were ever filed concerning the Court House fire.
Come and see where one of the ten famous feuds of Texas took place. Walk the streets that once knew lawmen, outlaws, desperados and un-reconstructed rebels. Longhorn cattle were often driven through the town on their way north to Kansas markets.
Mason is not a reconstructed town. It is a living, working community that has changed little with the passing years….
Note: Given the popularity of the Mason County War, we offer several books covering the subject. Please click on the "Publications" tab to see these and other references covering Mason County.
For General Information
Jan Appleby, Chairperson Mason County Historical Commission POB 1542 Mason, Texas 76856 Phone: 325-347-6583 Email: email@example.com