By James Pylant. Softbound (2009), 234 pp. + viii, illus., indexed.
When the Civil War ended, many disenchanted Southerners poured into Central Texas, toting guns and grudges. Shots of whiskey loosened tempers and soon bullets were flying. Within a few years, the Lone Star State had become the nation’s murder capitol.The small town of Stephenville, where 139 people were hauled to prison between crimes 1864 to 1891, dealt with Comanche warriors, restless outlaws, crime rings, and the ruthless vigilante group known as “The Mob.”Sins of the Pioneers: Crimes & Scandals of a Small Texas Town explores Stephenville’s emergence from wild frontier to bustling village. Studded with shocking tales—sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant—it tells of crooks, bigamists, prostitutes, saloon brawlers, and mysterious murderers.James Pylant chronicles John Gilbreath, the intimidating, determined sheriff who bent rules to jail criminals—including his own kinfolks; Julia Williamson, Stephenville's hell-raising madam; armless Jack Hollis and his jail escape; accused horse-thief Jennie Sadler; schemer Gordon Bradshaw’s “accidental” shooting of his wealthy bride; lovely teenaged axe murderess May Bruce; and Annie Cooper, who risked exposing her shady past to rescue a troubled girl.
“Author Pylant creates an enlightening portrait of the routine and not-so-routine criminality and scandals, surgically exposing the underbelly of Stephenville's raunchy and racy and sometimes perilous past.”
—Bob Alexander, author of Riding Lucifer’s Line
"meticulously researched . . . riveting."
—Bill Neal, author of Sex, Murder and the Unwritten Law
"Sins of the Pioneers is every bit as salacious as its title suggests."
—The Midwest Review