In conjunction with the current revamping at the Llano County Historical Museum, whereby present exhibits are being updated and rearranged to tell the history of Llano County in a more organized chronological order, the era personally referred to as The Tumultuous Years for the sake of clarity and convenience is under revision. The Indian Era from 1859 to 1873 was discussed in a previous article, so this issue will focus on the other two major events that occurred during this time period: The Civil War, 1861-1865, and The Outlaw Era, which primarily took place in the decade of the 1870’s.
Llano County’s involvement in the Civil War mostly consisted of loyal support for family and friends who still lived in the southern states that found themselves personally affected by the physical fighting during the War. The extreme Texas frontier was a long way from the battle fronts, but most citizens knew persons from their past whose lives were strongly affected. Naturally, loyalties were for the Southern cause. There were a few exceptions from families who had come to Texas from the northern states, but mostly the only local citizens who chose to remain loyal to the United States were the German settlers. They had specifically come to America to be part of the United States, not the Confederate States of America, and they refused to switch loyalties. Their choice was based on matters of nationalism rather than the issues surrounding the institute of slavery.
Most contributions made by Llano County men to the Civil War effort took place within the confines of Central Texas. With the removal of all military troops from the frontier forts when the War erupted, the Confederacy feared Indian uprisings and/or a possible attempt by Mexico to regain control Texas. To keep an eye on the activity of both groups, frontier military units were formed with the express purpose to scout the area for any sign of potential problems. The CSA did not have the time or the capability to deal with additional problems on its western boundary. The first frontier units organized as forms of militia, but by December, 1863, the State of Texas officially created the 3rd Frontier District, 33rd Brigade Texas. Men who participated basically did the same work as Texas Rangers, which later qualified them for full service as a Ranger. Their service also resulted in full Confederate pension, IF they lived long enough to draw the money. (Pension payments did not begin until around 1900, but widows of soldiers also qualified)
Frontier Battalions serving from Llano County included: R.W. Riley’s Llano State Guards; Capt. C.W. Dorsey’s company of Ranger Minute Men; Capt. Franklin Breazeale’s 3rd Frontier District, 33rd Brigade; Capt. James S. Bourland’s Company. The men in these units will be recognized in the museum exhibit to be located in the east room on the upper level.
Also to be specially recognized are the few young men from our county who actually enlisted to serve in full-fledged Confederate military units. The men from Llano County mustered in at Camp Terry near Austin in 1862, along with others from surrounding counties who lived near the Llano County boundaries. All of Llano County’s men were assigned to serve in the 17th Regiment, Texas Infantry, McCulloch’s Brigade, Walker’s Division, in Co. E, under the leadership of Llano County patriot Capt. Seth Mabry. They were to be part of the Trans-Mississippi movement organized to prevent the North from crossing the Mississippi River and penetrating into Arkansas and Texas, an assignment that overall did prove effective. The main problem the men faced during their enlistment was surviving the winter of 1863. Company E was forced to hole up near Little Rock, Arkansas for the duration of a very cold winter, which proved disastrous as scores of soldiers succumbed to diseases that flourished throughout Camp Nelson, where they were stationed. In fact, the only known soldiers from Llano County who died in the Civil War died from disease rather than battle related injuries. A special tribute to honor these fallen young patriots will be included in the museum’s exhibit.
The men from Co. E who survived Camp Nelson went on to fight in several skirmishes along the Mississippi River in other parts of Arkansas and Louisiana. Their biggest contribution in the physical fighting of the war took place at Fort DeRussy Louisiana, where they were part of a unit chosen to defend the fort as long as possible. The intent was to delay the Union Army long enough for the Southern troops to regroup and organize a later counter-attack. Even though the fort did eventually fall, resulting in several Llano County men being taken as POW’s, the amount of time it took for the Yankees to take the fort did successfully enable the South to regroup elsewhere. None of the men were ever placed in POW camps. While they were being transported by boat on the Mississippi River, news came about a prisoner exchange, which resulted in their release back into Confederate hands.
It has already been mentioned that the Llano County men who served in the frontier units in the Civil War qualified for CSA Pensions later on. Their efforts also qualified them as Texas Rangers because they performed ranger-type activities during their time of service. The chronological account of the Indian activity in Llano County will be on the west wall inside the small upper east room in the museum. Llano County’s role in the Civil War is chronologically next in line, although technically, there is an overlap in the time frame involving the Indian Era and the Civil War Years. Except for Co. E’s role in the War, having the two eras overlap in the exhibit works best at this location because the primary purpose of the frontier units was to keep track of Indian activity.
The same is true for the next segment of the Tumultuous Years, which is a tribute to the Texas Rangers and their service in Llano County. The Rangers were a major component in Llano County’s history during the Indian Era, the Civil War, and the resulting Outlaw Era since they were called upon to handle problems involving both the Indian groups and the rustler-outlaw groups. Llano County’s geographical location on the Texas frontier for so many years resulted in the need for more Texas Ranger activity in our area than most other counties in Texas. In recent years, a large number of Texas Ranger markers have been placed on the graves of former Rangers buried within our county. The names of the men in Llano County who served as Texas Rangers will be commemorated on the north wall of the upper east room in the museum, along with a synopsis of their involvement in Llano County history.
The east wall of the upper room will be set aside for the Outlaw Era, which began in the early 1870’s, peaked in 1875, then gradually faded out by the end of the 1870’s, although there were some residual effects of the era as late as 1882. One of the museums the Llano County Historical Society looked at prior to our renovation was the newly opened museum on the north side of the courthouse square in Mason. This museum is small in size, but it has attractively been arranged to give an accurate chronological account of the history of Mason County. One large section in the museum deals with the Mason County Hoo Doo War, which was the impetus for Llano County’s Outlaw Era. The true story of events that took place in the decade of the 1870’s in Llano, Burnet, and Mason Counties cannot be separated. Most of the activity that sparked a wide-scale range war began with conflicts between cattlemen and factions from all three counties. Earliest problems were between cattlemen from Burnet and Mason County, but common sense dictates that any conflict between these two counties could not occur without involving the county located between the two of them, which is Llano County.
Since Mason County bore the brunt of most of the events that took place in the Hoo Doo War, much of what will be included in the Outlaw Era section of the museum will overlap and recount some of the same incidents included in the Mason County Museum. The activities of such prominent figures as Johnny Ringo, Scott Cooley, George W. Gladden, John R. and Moses Baird, and Joseph Olney, Jr. (Joe Hill) were never long-time residents of Llano County, but their story must be told in the Llano exhibit in order to accurately reveal the events of the era. The Hoo Doo War has already been recognized as playing a significant role in events that took place in several Central Texas counties simultaneously, including Llano County. As a result, the Outlaw Era also overlaps in time with the Texas Ranger Era because many of the feuding parties involved in the Hoo Doo War were former Rangers, including Scott Cooley and John R. Baird. Ranger loyalty to involved friends was a major reason the feuding was not resolved sooner than it was because the Rangers refused to go against their pals. It wasn’t until the Rangers reorganized some of their units that Major John B. Jones and a newly formed Ranger regiment intervened and scattered the outlaws, thus bringing the Outlaw Era to a close.
It is hoped it will not be too long before the new exhibits at the Llano County Historical Museum will be completed. When the project is finished, Llano County residents can be proud that the Llano County Historical Society has a dedicated Board of Directors who has willingly given much time and effort to put together a cohesive unfolding of the history of Llano County. Please support the Historical Society and their directorship of the Llano County Museum at all times so an accurate portrayal of our history will be preserved for future generations.
SOURCES: GEM OF THE HILL COUNTY (Oatman, pp. 42-43); CONFEDERATE VETERANS LLANO COUNTY TEXAS (Smith & Tombs, pp. 2-7); EARLY DAYS IN LLANO (Miles Barler); Minutes Llano Co. Historical Society; THE MASON COUNTY HOO DOO WAR (D. Johnson, pp. 4, 5,40,41,120,121); wikipedia.org.