A previous article featured the early sheriffs of Llano County from the creation of the county in 1856 through 1864. Samuel Lockhart, the first sheriff, also became Llano County’s first officer killed in the line of duty when he was murdered by William Taylor over a gambling incident. Lockhart was replaced by Joseph M. Allen in 1858, who served until Thomas C. Billingsley took office at the start of 1861. When the Civil War broke out, Billingsley enlisted with many other young men from Central Texas who chose to fight with the 17th Texas Infantry, Co. E, under Capt. Seth Mabry in the Trans-Mississippi Campaign. Billingsley was replaced in 1862 by F. J. Smith, an early Llano County merchant, who served until Benjamin F. Davis was elected in 1864. Davis’ tenure was shortened by the end of the War, which brought Reconstruction government to Texas, and in some degree, to Llano County.
By 1865, Reconstruction leaders in Austin took charge of all official positions by appointing their preference as to who would best serve their political interests. Choosing local officials by citizen election was no longer an option, at least for major positions. For the most part, the Reconstruction government was not concerned about happenings on the Texas Frontier, which included Llano County, but attempts were still made to govern the affairs of rural areas. Beginning with General Hamilton’s appointment of G.W. Barler as sheriff of Llano County in 1865, the next run of sheriffs to serve our county were part of this post-war quasi-rule. The term “quasi-rule” is used because attempts were overall totally ineffective in implementing policy over Llano County citizens. Besides, the powers controlling State government really didn’t care what went on in the middle of nowhere when more important issues were nearby in Austin and other larger cities. Men of Llano County had been making their own decisions, right or wrong, and handling their own problems since before the creation of the county, and they were not interested in making changes, especially since hostile Indian activity was on the rise. To make matters worse, those men appointed by Reconstruction officials didn’t really want to serve in the first place. G.W. Barler may have been named because he was born in Ohio, a northern state. He lasted only a short time before John M. Smith became sheriff in 1866. It’s not clear why Mr. Smith was chosen, other than later records indicate he did have leadership skills. He also resigned soon afterwards and was replaced by Hugh Leverett in 1867, by State Order 199. Leverett must not have wanted to serve either, as in the same year H.A.R. Bauman was appointed by the State. It was clear to Mr. Bauman and everyone else that he was primarily chosen because most of the German community had remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. Bauman descendants have confirmed that he never wanted the job and couldn’t wait for it to end.
In 1869, Charles Gatliff was appointed by Order 74, but he failed to qualify, so a man named Charles Wagner stepped in. Gatliff was from the San Fernando Creek area of Llano County, and depending on whether or not he was Charles, Sr. or Jr., he was either a local school teacher or physician. At this time, nothing is known about Mr. Wagner, other than his tenure was also short-lived and ended the very same year.
Beginning with the selection of Matthew B. Clendennen in 1869, the slate of sheriffs in Llano County once again returned to the type of law official the county intended to have from the beginning. Mr. Clendennen had brought his wife, Elizabeth Dorsey, and young daughter, Sarah, to Llano County from Williamson County sometime after 1860, settling near the Salt Works at Tow Valley. Ike Maxwell, early Llano County settler from Bluffton and Tow, stated in a personal interview when he was 93 years old that he and M.B. Clendennen’s first job at the Salt Works was to cut fire wood to boil water in the huge salt vats that collected the mineral. Tow Valley would be home to the Clendennens from then on. At the same time, Matthew served as sheriff of Llano County he also served as tax assessor/collector. At one time, he and his son-in-law, Hugh Monroe Tow, also ran one of the main stores at Tow. He and his wife, and many descendants, are buried in the Tow Cemetery.
Records show Clendennen resigned his office as sheriff on April 19, 1872, and William W. Saxon took his place. This is significant because it indicates the onset of a new kind of problem in Llano County that would have far reaching effects on the county for the remainder of that decade. Although the last major Indian battle in the county at Pack Saddle Mountain did not occur until August, 1873, Indian hostilities were about over. However, a new type of trouble was already brewing, one many citizens later considered worse than the Indian days. Weak and incompetent Reconstruction rule had made it easy for adventuresome young men from outside the state to take advantage of the growing herds of wild cattle that now flourished. The accepted practice of taking mavericks, which allowed persons to claim unbranded calves as their own, was a great opportunity to increase personal herds and/or sell for profit. Rustling was rampant, as outlaws and rustlers joined forces to drive stolen cattle from the Red River to Old Mexico to sell. The best travel routes brought many unsavory men to Central Texas, where Llano County was located. The men were mostly young, cocky cowboys, who were extremely bold. They were not afraid to intimidate, even to the point of threatening life, if necessary, to prevent interference from any source that tried to curtail their newly acquired line of trade. To counteract rustler activities, prominent and leading citizens from all the Central Texas counties united to form private vigilante bands intent on ridding the area of all outlaws. Known by choice as The Mob, they operated outside the law the same as the rustlers. Clendennen must have seen this as a “no-win” situation and got out at the start of what he viewed correctly as an impossible task for anyone serving as sheriff at that time.
William W. Saxon was officially elected sheriff in 1872. His intentions were to serve to the best of his ability, executing faithfully the laws he upheld to enforce. His life was at last coming together, for he had been through a rough patch for several years, beginning in 1867. His young wife had unexpectedly died in November at the family home in Jefferson County, Mississippi, leaving William with two small motherless sons. He apparently didn’t handle her death well, as he left the boys with his parents, and struck out for unknown places. No one knows the extent of his travels, but by 1869, he found his way to the Salt Works area of Llano County. Records show he purchased the first store in operation at Tow Valley from Alvis D. Hamlin, who had decided to take his young wife and children and join other Hamlin family members in Pueblo County, Colorado. The 1870 Census lists W.W. Saxon as the only merchant at Tow Valley. It is not known when he purchased this store, but marriage records in Burnet County do confirm in November, 1869, Mr. Saxon wed Miss Melcenia Davis, the oldest daughter of former Llano County Sheriff, Benjamin F. Davis.
Eager to fulfill the obligations of his new office, the Saxons moved into the town of Llano, taking up residence in a type of boarding house south, or southeast of the town square. Unfortunately, he came into office shortly before the activities of what became known as the Hoo Doo War reached its peak in violence and lawlessness. His tenure was nothing but a series of headaches and stress, as in trying to uphold the law the best he could, it was impossible to please both the mob leaders and those who opposed the mob’s actions. The outlaws turned out to be the least of his problems. The sheriff found himself charged with “failure to properly carry out his duties as a law officer,” at least to the likings of one side or the other. It was no wonder he resigned in 1875. Hoping to return to some form of normalcy in his life, he left the county to go “on a trip,” after which he was never seen or heard from again. There was at least talk of his plan to go to Mississippi to pick up his two young sons and bring them to Texas to live with him, but he never arrived there either. Melcenia received no word of his whereabouts, and eventually in 1879, she remarried, and the Saxon sons remained with their grandparents in Mississippi.
The man replacing Saxon in 1875 was William P. Hoskins, a young widower from northeast Llano County, whose wife, Harriet Wolf/e (from the Wolf/e Creek Crossing family), had died leaving him with two young boys. Hoskins inherited the brunt of the most severe part of the Hoo Doo War. He found himself with the same set of problems that had plagued his predecessor, including charges brought against him for failure to perform his duties. Truthfully, he had done the best he could to carry out his duties, which by then included dangerous tasks like riding up to the home of wanted fugitive Joseph Olney, Jr., alias Joe Hill, and finding himself confronted by a large crowd of outlaw friends, which included both John Ringo and Scott Cooley. After shaking Ringo’s hand and speaking to him and others, Hoskins left after twenty minutes with no prisoners. The event was much like the scene in the movie Silverado when John Cleese’s character as a local sheriff uttered the words, “Today my jurisdiction ends here.”
Needless to say, Hoskins also resigned some time in 1876, and Jonathan J. Bozarth became sheriff of Llano County. Hoskins’ problems did not go away, however, as soon afterwards, he came down with tuberculosis, or consumption as it was called then. By the time of the census in1880, he was so near death he and his sons lived in the home of his wife’s half brother, Charles Jackson (Jack) Arant, so someone could tend to him and care for his children. William P. Hoskins died in November, 1880; he was buried beside his wife at Board Branch in Lone Grove. It was now up to Bozarth to deal with the rustlers, mob, and anti-mob groups as best he could. He would prove to be a competent and successful sheriff, credited as one of our finest officials.
SOURCES: THE MASON COUNTY “HOO DOO” WAR (David Johnson, pp. 162, 177, 179-181 ); LLANO COUNTY FAMILY ALBUM, p. 8; Llano County District Court Records; Llano County Census 1860, 1870, 1880; Burnet & Williamson County marriages; Llano County deeds; Bauman, Saxon-Davis, Clendennen, Arant-Wolf/e-Tow family records.