A History Mystery: 
Who Shot J.W.?

J. W. Jarrott was a trail-blazing lawyer and a courageous advocate. As a tragic consequence, he became the first person murdered in the recorded history of the South Plains of Texas.1 In the tradition of Stephen F. Austin, Jarrott brought some of the first waves of settlers to a vast wasteland once known as the Great American Desert, becoming a hero to his friends and clients, and then a martyr. Yet his death remains an unsolved mystery, and it is a shame that Jarrott’s name has been all but forgotten.

James William Jarrott was born in 1861, the year Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president of the United States. He was commonly referred to in contemporary documents by his initials, “J. W.,” but he was affectionately called “Jim” by friends and family. A native of Hood County, Texas, he was formally educated at Add-Ran College.2 Jim was described as a man who showed “a commendable degree of cultivation, and is refined in his manners, small in stature, and of light figure; his action is quick, and his speech rather rapid.”

The single existing photograph of a young Jim Jarrott depicts him as rather plain, with odd features, but some historians have written that he was handsome. In 1886, he married 20-year-old Mollie D. Wylie of Thorp Spring, the daughter of a prominent pioneer ranching family in the Hood County area. She was a beautiful young lady, with high cheekbones and dark features. The Jarrotts first lived in Hood County, and then Parker County, where Jim was elected to the Texas Legislature at the age of 24.

But he spent just a short time as a lawmaker, moving on to Stephenville. There, Jim studied law, was admitted to the bar, and became Erath County Attorney. The wandering Jarrott family next made a brief attempt at ranching in Arizona before other opportunities beckoned. Meanwhile, Jim befriended a fellow former county attorney and state legislator named Charles Rogan, the new Texas Land Commissioner.

The Move to Lubbock

With land speculation in mind, the ambitious young attorney made an exploratory journey to the South Plains, and in early 1901 he decided to bring his wife and children to Lubbock, almost 300 miles west of their Hood County roots. The Jarrott family delayed their move until June, when school was out for their four young children, and took up temporary residence in the Nicolette Hotel on the courthouse square, as they began establishing themselves in Lubbock. It was a tiny community with fewer than 300 residents, but the area was booming with real estate deals happening everywhere.

In official documents, J. W. is first mentioned as one of the lawyers who elected H. C. Randolph of Hale County as “special judge” of the 64th District Court on September 1, 1901, along with pioneer Lubbock lawyers John R. McGee, J. J. Dillard, George R. Bean, and others. He also attended a March 31, 1902, Lubbock bar association meeting where a resolution was adopted lamenting the death of 50th District Court Judge S. I. Newton of Baylor County.

In just a few short months, the same association of lawyers would hold a memorial service in remembrance of a younger member of the bar, J. W. Jarrott.3

Opportunity Arises on the Llano Estacado

The flat, treeless plain Jim sought to develop was part of the Llano Estacado, so named by Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado some three centuries earlier. This semi-arid plateau was later described as the Great American Desert, wholly unfit for human habitation or cultivation. Today it is part of a region called the Great Plains, a land offering fertile soil and known as one of the finest agricultural regions anywhere in the world.

Though early settlers found little water in lakes or rivers here, the region sat atop the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground water resources. Here, tall wooden windmills began dotting these windswept plains, drawing water from the earth for cattle and cattlemen. Farmers would soon draw from the same source to irrigate crops of fiber and grain.

At the beginning of the 20th century, this grassland could sell for less than a dollar an acre, and town lots in the village of Lubbock were trading hands for three bucks each. So, the South Plains of Texas was ripe for discovery by opportunists and colonists looking for cheap, abundant land. It was common for lawyers of the era to invest in real estate and to solicit clients for land deals.

But Jim had an angle, and a distinct advantage over others in the business of South Plains real estate speculation. With the encouragement of his friend, Land Commissioner Rogan, he paid to re-survey the area west of the unincorporated hamlet called Lubbock. Much of the land had been previously claimed or leased by nonresident cattle baron corporations from Chicago and elsewhere. Huge, unfenced ranches dominated the landscape, populated by corporate employees with job descriptions like cowboy, wrangler, and foreman.

The new survey revealed there was prairie land to be had from the State of Texas for 50 cents an acre, with four years to pay the debt, in the almost vacant, unorganized Texas counties of Hockley, Terry, and Cochran. Rogan proclaimed that the person who financed the survey, Jarrott, was to be given first claim to the land. This meant the existing ranchers in the area who were required to remove their cattle from the property could easily identify a young Lubbock lawyer, J. W. Jarrott, as an enemy.

Trouble was brewing on the broad West Texas horizon.

The Struggle to Settle the Land

In 1901, the Jarrotts filed for themselves and 24 other families under the 1895 Four-Section Act on a 100-section strip of public land extending from the western boundary of Lubbock County almost to the border of the Territory of New Mexico, a huge expanse of real estate. A hundred sections is roughly equivalent to a hundred square miles of land, an area greater than five times the size of the island of Manhattan. So, the diminutive nickname bestowed on the property, “The Strip,” was a bit of a misnomer.

The Strip did, however, properly describe the shape of the property, which extended some 60 miles in length, and less than two miles to five miles in width. The tent the Jarrott family pitched on their Hockley County claim was the only human habitation within a 30-mile radius, but friends from the east—Parker, Erath, and Hood counties—would soon follow.

The law required settlers to occupy and make improvements to the land. So, with small landowners feverishly stretching canvas and digging dugouts—and certain to soon build fences— the hostile ranching conglomerates became alarmed. Lined up against what they called “The Jarrott Gang” were ranchers from spreads with colorful names: the Mallet, Slaughter, L7, Jumbo, J. Cross, Osxheer, DOV, QIV, YellowHouse, XIT, K, Spade, TFW, Lazy S, Cros C, Flying D, 9R, and Fish.

Ranching interests labeled the newcomers “nesters” and took action. Their attorneys filed lawsuits and complaints against Jim and the other settlers. An Illinois corporation, the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company, spearheaded the ranchers’ litigation.

Jim zealously defended his clients’ rights to The Strip in far-flung South Plains courthouses and in the Texas Capitol at Austin, with Land Commissioner Rogan steadfastly taking the settlers’ side in the bitter litigation. By the summer of 1902, Jim had firmly established all of his clients and their families on the land.

But the controversy was about to get uglier, and bloody.

According to legend, when Jim filed his family claim on land in Hockley County, a man named Painthorse Hamilton complained that he had been cheated. Hamilton threatened Jim more than once, but there was no violence.4

An Ill-Fated Journey

On Wednesday, August 27, 1902,5 Jim departed from Lubbock in a wagon with provisions for John Doyle, an employee who was camping on the proposed site of the Jarrott residence, some 30 miles southwest of Lubbock. Jim had a choice of two roads to his destination. He chose the southern route, which midway through his journey offered a spot with two windmills for watering—known as the “Twin Sisters”—near present-day Ropesville, Texas.6

The journey would take the unarmed lawyer through the L7 Ranch, owned by his chief adversary, the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company.

Doyle expected his grocery delivery by Thursday, but when Jim failed to show, the hungry Doyle traveled by horse to Lubbock, taking the northern route. He arrived Friday night and went directly to the Nicolette Hotel to inform Mrs. Jarrott that his food and her husband were both missing.

She panicked, immediately fearing the worst. “Oh, he has been murdered!” she cried. Mollie Jarrott was right.

Saturday morning, Doyle and Lubbock pioneer merchant J. D. Caldwell traveled the southern road in search of Jim. At the Twin Sisters, the lawyer’s lifeless body was found lying in a stock tank on the L7 Ranch, property of the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company. He had been shot to death, probably on Wednesday, and scavengers had gnawed on the remains.7 Jim’s wagon was nearby, his harness was hanging in a windmill tower, and his horses were found hobbled, grazing on the prairie grass.

Jim Jarrott was only 41 years old.

Investigation and Indictments

Lubbock County Sheriff Barrett Penny’s investigation was hampered because of rain on Thursday. Nevertheless, the lawman made notes in an attempt to reconstruct the crime:

A man standing by the tower shot him with a Winchester rifle. This shot seems to have caused the team to whirl suddenly to the left as shown by wagon tracks. Blood was found on the right rear wheel and Mr. Jarrott was either thrown or jumped out at the first shot. Traces of blood and tracks were found leading to the lake in which he was found. Two empty shells were found near the water tower and two near the lake, indicating that at least four shots were fired, the last and perhaps the fatal one, taking effect in the small of his back. It is believed Mr. Jarrott ran into the lake and was chased by the assassin . . . A reward of $1000 has been offered for the arrest and conviction of the assassin or assassins.

The murder polarized the West Texas community. Townsfolk and farmers in the area blamed the ranchers, accusing them of hiring a professional gunman to kill Jim in order to frighten away The Strip’s settlers. The ranching interests claimed to be appalled at the deed, but rumors were soon spread that Jim’s wife Mollie may have been involved.

The widow was summoned to testify before a grand jury investigating the murder. She hired a lawyer from her Hood County hometown, but she did not stand on any legal privilege, and gave the grand jurors a blistering lecture on her bleak situation and the unfairness of the inquisition. However, the offended Mollie was unable to shed much light on the case. The murder became the South Plains’ major unsolved mystery.

Prime suspect Painthorse Hamilton had an airtight alibi. He was in Portales, New Mexico, on the Wednesday Jim left Lubbock, well beyond traveling distance to have committed the crime within the supposed time frame.

The case went cold for more than a year.

Finally, in late 1903, murder indictments were handed down against four men with ties to Jim’s adversary, the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company: Ben Glaser, Morgan Bellows, B. F. Nix, and William Barrington. Barrington was accused as the shooter and the others as accomplices. In addition, Nix was charged with perjury.8 All were quickly released on bail supplied by prominent area ranchers Frank Wheelock, Van Sanders, W. T. Petty, and M. V. Brownfield.

Bail bondsman Wheelock would later become the first mayor of the City of Lubbock, in 1909,9 and a school in Lubbock was also named in his honor. Bail bondsman Sanders was a cousin of George Wolffarth, who would be the namesake of the misspelled City of Wolfforth, just west of Lubbock. And the City of Brownfield, 35 miles southwest of Lubbock in Terry County, was to be named in honor of bail bondsman M. V. Brownfield. Known as “Pap,” M. V. Brownfield would assume a much larger role in the Jarrott than that of a surety for a poor cowpoke.

During the grand jury investigation, Glaser testified that he had unharnessed Jim’s rig at the Twin Sisters that fateful Wednesday, hung the harness on the windmill, and then watered his horse. But he claimed he did not see the body.10 The four ranch hands indicted for Jim’s murder did not face trial in Lubbock County or elsewhere. Their cases were moved to Floyd County, 55 miles northeast of Lubbock, on a change of venue, and each case was eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.11

Again, the case went cold—this time for decades.

The Settlers, the Widow Jarrott, and Monroe Abernathy

Jim’s assassination failed to scare settlers off The Strip. “We became more intent and closely allied in our fight for survival,” wrote Mary Blankenship, who with her husband had staked a claim. “The name Jim Jarrott became a legend among us, and his martyrdom served to spur us on. We were determined not to pull up stakes and retreat back to the East.”

In years to come, Jim’s settlers and their descendants prospered. Some raised small herds of cattle, and others became farmers. They soon learned to grow valuable crops of cotton on this inhospitable prairie. The South Plains of Texas would become the largest contiguous cotton-growing region in the world.

Burdened with four children less than 15 years of age, Jim’s 36-year-old widow Mollie successfully developed the land that had cost her husband his life. She expanded the original Jarrott claim from 4 to 16 sections, naming the spread the Swastika Ranch,12 where she raised a prime herd of registered Hereford cattle.

In 1905, Mollie was remarried to Monroe G. Abernathy, a local real estate developer. The city of Abernathy was later named in honor of Mollie’s new husband.13 She began investing in business property in the fledgling town of Lubbock, eventually financing the construction of the J. C. Penney building, one of the largest of downtown commercial structures.

The couple led the promotion of the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad into Lubbock. The arrival of the railroad in 1909 immediately began to transform the small village into a thriving city. Mollie’s astute management of ranch and business holdings led to her reputation as Lubbock’s first pioneer businesswoman. In 1960, she died in Lubbock at the age of 94.

Mollie never lost her love for Jim Jarrott, and always honored his memory. Shortly before her death, she said in an interview: “I tell you the way I’ve always felt . . . [No person has] done as much for this country as Mr. Jarrott . . . He did more for the settlement of this country than anybody else who ever came here, and he lost his life for it.”

Deacon Jim Miller and the First Suspicious Confession

In 1909, an infamous outlaw and professional killer named James B. Miller was lynched along with three members of his gang by a mob of perhaps 40 men in Ada, Oklahoma. “Deacon Jim” Miller earned his nickname because he usually dressed the part, wearing a black hat and a long black frock coat. He pretended to be a pious, church-going man.

For 29 years, there seemed to be no connection between the 1909 Miller lynching and the 1902 Jarrott murder. Then in 1931, Lubbock lawyer and writer Max Coleman wrote a colorful yarn that tied Deacon Jim to Lawyer Jim, in the Frontier Times magazine.

In 1909 . . . Jim Miller was hanged by a mob. Just before being swung up he told Gib Abernathy, a cousin of [Monroe Abernathy] that he killed Jarrott, being paid the sum of $500 for so doing. He refused to say who paid him. He stated that in all his killings Jarrott was the only man he ever hated to kill. He said he was hid in the windmill tower when Jarrott drove up. He shot him twice, but not fatally. Jarrott plead with him to spare his life, but he told him that he was paid to do that deed, and that he would not fall down of his employer.

Among the problems with Miller’s supposed confession is that Gib Abernathy somehow forgot to tell anyone about it until 1914, five years after the fact. Coleman wrote that none of the Lubbock oldtimers ever believed the tale about Miller’s confession. There is no evidence that Monroe Abernathy had a relative known as “Gib,” but the Palo Pinto County Sheriff between 1914 and 1931 was named Gib Abernathy.

Another problem with the confession is that no one named Abernathy can be connected to the Miller lynching in news accounts of the era. No contemporary evidence exists that Miller made a confession related to Jim Jarrott or any other individual victim prior to his death, though the supposed confession has spawned much speculation among historians over the years. The story is probably a legend recounted by Max Coleman—or pure fiction invented by Coleman.

Deacon Jim Miller and the Second Suspicious Confession

Seemingly out of the blue, in March of 1933, John “Jack” Abernathy wrote a letter to his cousin Monroe Abernathy, who had married Jim’s widow, Mollie.14 In Jack’s startling message, he informed his family members of the Miller confession.15 Jack Abernathy, a hunting buddy of iconic United States President Theodore Roosevelt, was the U.S. Marshall for Oklahoma at the time of the Miller lynching. He wrote that he had arrested Miller and transported him to Ada shortly before the outlaw was hanged. On the train ride to Ada, Miller discussed his life as a hired gun, and the marshal asked the deacon which of his many victims16 was the hardest to kill.

“I had to shoot Jarrott five times before I ever killed him,” Miller answered. The outlaw confirmed his victim was J. W. Jarrott of Lubbock, and recounted his memory of the attack. Jack’s account of Miller’s confession is similar to Coleman’s published article written two years earlier, though in Coleman’s account it is clear that Miller said he regretted killing Jim, and not just because he was “the hardest to kill.”

On March 27, 1933—four days after Jack’s letter was dated—Monroe Abernathy wrote a letter to a San Antonio judge, and the letter supported his cousin’s account of Miller’s confession. Monroe claimed to have been involved in the discovery of Jim’s body, and wrote that he took part in the 1902 investigation of the original murder scene, which he said matched Miller’s description of the crime, as confessed to Jack Abernathy. Yet there is no evidence that Monroe Abernathy—the 1903 Lubbock County Justice of the Peace—participated in the Jarrott case except to set bail for the four original murder suspects.

Mollie was asked about the Miller connection to her husband’s murder shortly before her death. She said she believed Miller to be the killer, but it seems her allusion to Miller’s involvement originated from Wild West pulp magazines like those featuring Max Coleman’s stories.

Questions Abound

Why would a respected lawman like Jack Abernathy wait 24 years—much less a day, a week, or five years—to tell anyone of Deacon Jim Miller’s blockbuster confession, especially if the murder victim was related to his own family members? Maybe he didn’t need the $1,000 reward for Jim Jarrott’s killer. Maybe he was just lazy or forgetful. Or, could it be that he needed to establish some credibility for his soon-to-be-published autobiography, Catch ’em Alive Jack: the Life and Adventures of an American Pioneer?

Why were the 1902 investigative notes of an obscure Texas sheriff and the 1903 grand jury testimony of a forgotten cowboy transformed into dramatic, colorful accounts in Wild West literature by Max Coleman, known teller of tall tales, almost three decades later? How could Coleman have known about the Miller confession two years before Jack Abernathy first disclosed the confession to Monroe? Are Gib Abernathy, the man Coleman says obtained Miller’s confession, and Jack Abernathy actually the same person?

Was Jack Abernathy’s tale true, or was he just trying to get his book published? Or was he attempting to collect the 1902 reward offered “for the arrest . . . of the assassin”? Did Jack and Monroe create the Miller confession, perhaps with help from Max Coleman, in order to squelch lingering suspicion that Mollie was involved in Jim’s murder?

Jack’s memoirs were finally published in 1936. It seems strange that Abernathy did not mention Miller’s confession of Jim’s murder anywhere in his book. In fact, he wrote only three short paragraphs about his arrest of Deacon Jim, one of the most notorious outlaws of the era. But Abernathy did write: “A reward of one thousand dollars had been offered for the capture of Miller. I never did receive that reward, but I still have hopes.” Jack did not tell his readers that the $1,000 reward related in any way to slain Lubbock lawyer Jim Jarrott, whose name does not appear in his memoirs.

Land Deal Connects Miller to Cattle Barons

The confession stories may have just been a convenient way to wrap up a cold case in a way easily understood by the folks still interested in the case decades later. But the fact that Deacon Jim Miller probably did not confess to the murder of Jim Jarrott does not mean he did not commit the crime. Miller was probably the killer. Circumstantial evidence and direct evidence indicates he was well connected to the ranching interests suspected of paying to assassinate Jarrott.

In 1903, less than six months after the Jarrott murder, one “J. B. Miller”17 participated in a sinister real estate transaction in Terry County, which borders both Hockley and Lubbock counties.18 Four sections of land near The Strip were flipped in just a few months, and a careful look at the complicated deal reveals a suspiciously close relationship between Miller and the enemies of Jim Jarrott.

On January 23, D. J. Howard conveyed 2,560 acres of land to Miller for $3,900, which the outlaw promised to pay in the form of a promissory note secured by land in East Texas. A week later, Miller sold the land to W. H. Fisher for $4,100, which looked like a nice $200 profit. But the notes securing Miller’s debt to Howard turned out to be worthless, so it seems Miller made out like a bandit with the whole $4,100 he received from Fisher. In less than six weeks, Fisher dumped the four sections on A. M. “Dick” Brownfield for $800, apparently incurring a $3,300 loss. Then Dick made a huge profit when he sold the property, creating another layer of intrigue to the Jarrott legend.

The cheated Howard should have looked to Miller to cover the bad debt, it seems, but instead he chose to sue Dick Brownfield. Howard claimed Dick was involved in a conspiracy with Miller and Fisher to swindle him out of his four sections of grassland. Miller testified on behalf of Dick, and Howard lost his lawsuit and his land.

Howard was a settler in the area who early on partnered in cattle deals with Dick Brownfield’s ranching family, but later often feuded with them. W. H. Fisher, another player in the land flip, was a Fort Worth banker. His connection with Miller and Dick Brownfield is not clear, but it is clear Fisher sold the land to Dick for substantially less than fair market value. It is rare indeed to find a banker so unwilling to make a profit. If Howard’s allegation of a conspiracy is true, it would make sense that Miller and Fisher may have divided a profit on the deal, and Dick Brownfield wound up with four sections of land for less than 31 cents per acre, which had sold a few weeks earlier for $1.52 an acre. Then, just three months later, Dick Brownfield sold the property again, this time for $3 an acre.

It is quite interesting that the shady transaction involved Dick, who was the son of M. V. “Pap” Brownfield, a rancher who was connected to the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company, Jim Jarrott’s main enemy. Pap Brownfield, less than a year earlier, had helped post bail for the four L7 Ranch cowboys who were originally accused of conspiracy to murder the Lubbock lawyer.

In a strange twist, the land likely used to compensate Deacon Jim Miller for murdering Jim Jarrott became a town named after one of the ranchers who should have been investigated for arranging the killing.19 Dick sold the four sections to real estate developers, who transformed the open prairie into a town that would be named Brownfield in honor of his father, Pap.

So, there is compelling circumstantial evidence that Deacon Jim Miller was near the scene of the Jarrott murder within five months of the commission of the crime, that he was doing business with ranchers who had been aligned against Jarrott, and that the business he conducted with the ranchers resulted in Miller reaping a windfall profit.

But there is other evidence that directly connects contract killer Miller to M. V. Brownfield, bail bondsman for the Lake-Tomb Cattle Company cowboys.

Miller’s Convenient Witnesses

In 1904, Miller was arrested for killing detective Frank Fore at Fort Worth. One of the witnesses he called in his defense was Pap Brownfield, who claimed that he was in the hotel washroom with Miller and Fore, and that Fore drew his pistol first. Miller was acquitted on the testimony of Pap, the father of Dick Brownfield, who only a year before apparently profited on a crooked land deal brokered by Miller.20 This is further evidence that contract killer Deacon Jim Miller well knew Pap, a prominent rancher connected to cattle barons aligned against Jim Jarrott.

Miller also knew a man by the name of Tom Morrison. As early as 1897, Morrison was called as a character witness for Miller in his Eastland County trial for the murder of Bud Frazier at Pecos. Miller was tried twice, and acquitted. In what seems a bizarre coincidence, the same Tom Morrison appeared on the list of witnesses subpoenaed some six years later for the four L7 Ranch cowboys indicted for conspiring to kill Jim Jarrott. Did Deacon Jim Miller offer up his favorite magic character witness in order to keep the cowboys quiet about Miller’s involvement in Jim Jarrott’s murder?

The answer to this question, and all the others surrounding the Jim Jarrott assassination, will probably be forever lost in the lore of the Llano Estacado.

Jarrott or Brownfield?

The Deacon Jim Miller confession legend is an “O. Henry” type ending to the Jim Jarrott story. It probably created more questions than answers to the mystery.

It is likely that Jarrott was killed at the behest of powerful South Plains ranching interests. Whether the actual shooter was the infamous Miller or some poor ranch hand is interesting, but the real inquiry should always have been, “Who ordered Jim Jarrott’s assassination?” The official investigators of the 1902 crime were unable or unwilling to trace the origins of the killing, and they were probably afraid to probe into the influential ranchers’ affairs. Some of those who should have been prime suspects are now regarded as South Plains pioneer heroes, with towns and schools bearing their names.

Any evidence tending to positively connect anyone to the crime is likely long gone. Over the years, authors and historians intrigued by the case have chosen not to raise many questions about the cattle baron connection to the murder or the unlikely Miller confession. They have concentrated on the colorful and romantic nature of the story—the Twin Sisters, the four cowboys, the poor widow who made good, the contract killer who pretended to be a deacon—instead of posing perhaps a better question.

The better question is this: Shouldn’t the South Plains City of Brownfield be renamed “Jarrott”?

Sources: “Who Killed This Man?” by Max Coleman, Frontier Times magazine, Volume 8, No. 12, September 1931; “Courts of the Panhandle,” by Max Coleman, Frontier Times magazine, Volume 9, No. 8, May 1932; From Mustanger to Lawyer, Part A, by Max Coleman, Carleton Printing Company, 1952; From Mustanger to Lawyer, Part B, by Max Coleman, Carleton Printing Company, 1953; Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas Online; the Southwest Collection of Texas Tech University; Death on the Plains: The Murder of Jim Jarrott, by Yvonne Perkins and Judy Womack, self-published, 2010; Catch ?em Alive Jack: the Life and Adventures of an American Pioneer, by John R. Abernathy, Bison Books, 2006 (originally published in 1936 by the Association Press of New York); Personnel of the Texas State Government, compiled and published by Lewis E. Daniell, Austin: Press of the City Printing Company, 1887; Archives of the Lubbock County District Clerk; Archives of the Floyd County District Clerk; Archives of the Terry County Clerk.

Dan Kim, Texas Tech MBA candidate, assisted in researching this article. Lubbock County Court-at-Law Number 3 Judge Paula Lanehart (retired) contributed to this article, as did Waco historian Ellis Lindsey.


1. An earlier killing in Dickens County resulted in a murder trial. However, the jury ruled that the killing was not a murder, and the defendant was acquitted. Getting Away with Murder on the Texas Frontier, by Bill Neal, Texas Tech University Press, 2006.

2. Add-Ran College, established at Thorp Spring, eventually found its way to Fort Worth, where it is now known as Texas Christian University.

3. This was the first of hundreds of similar memorial services, the most honored and unique tradition of the Lubbock County Bar Association. The Lubbock County Bar Association is believed to be the only organization in the State of Texas that memorializes each local departed attorney with a special meeting of the bar, usually at the courthouse.

4. The Painthorse Hamilton story is based on the writings of Lubbock lawyer Max Coleman, an early chronicler of South Plains legal history. Unfortunately, Coleman admitted he often embellished his memoirs, books, and magazine articles with tall tales, and he rarely provided source references.

5. Max Coleman’s account of the Jarrott case dates the murder “Wednesday, August 7, 1902.” But August 7 of that year was a Thursday. Jarrott was last seen alive on Wednesday, August 27, 1902. His gravestone in the City of Lubbock Cemetery was engraved with his date of death as August 28, 1902.

6. There is no record of a place known as Twin Sisters in Lubbock or Hockley County records, though there is no question that the murder was committed at a windmill. Max Coleman probably invented the name of this colorful setting.

7. Max Coleman wrote that wolves had feasted on Jarrott’s carcass. But the last gray wolf (a “loafer wolf” or ‘buffalo wolf”—canis lupus nubilus) in the area was reported to have been killed before the turn of the century by Lubbock pioneer rancher, farmer, and civic leader George C. Wolffarth (namesake of the town misspelled Wolfforth), so it is unlikely wolves molested Jarrott’s corpse, though other critters may have participated in this dastardly deed.

8. The indictments were handed down by a Lubbock County grand jury, though the murder had taken place in Hockley County, an unorganized Texas county. Only 44 people lived there at the time of the 1900 census. Therefore, Hockley County was attached to Lubbock County for judicial purposes until it was organized in 1921.

9. Wheelock also distinguished himself by being the first person in the history of Lubbock County to be indicted for a felony crime, fence-cutting, and cattle theft, in 1891. The charges were dismissed.

10. There is no existing transcript of Glaser’s grand jury testimony, and there is no reference to this account except in Max Coleman’s writings, so this information is suspicious.

11. Archives of the Floyd County District Clerk, Cause Nos. 250 and 251.

12. The swastika was a popular symbol of luck in Western culture until the German Nazis adopted the swastika as an icon for the repressive regime in the 1930s.

13. Perhaps by coincidence, Abernathy was the Lubbock County Justice of the Peace who arraigned the original four murder suspects in 1903. And his name, along with Mollie’s, appears on a defense subpoena application filed in the perjury case of B. F. Nix, one of the four L7 Ranch men accused of conspiring to kill Jarrott.

14. Just as there is no evidence that Monroe Abernathy was related to Gib Abernathy, there is no verifiable evidence that Monroe Abernathy was related to Jack Abernathy, other than the fact that the men claimed to be cousins.

15. A copy of Jack Abernathy’s letter to Monroe Abernathy is among the papers in the James William Jarrott reference file at the Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University.

16. Some accounts claim Miller killed as many as 51 men, among them Pat Garrett, the lawman who took the life of Billy the Kid. But the story of Miller’s assassination of Garrett is the subject of much historical debate.

17. Terry County deed records indicate the transactions involved “J. B. Miller and wife S. B. Miller.” Tarrant County records show that Deacon Jim Miller, a native of Tarrant County, was married to Sarah B. Miller. So there is little question that Deacon Jim Miller was the same person as the J. B. Miller involved in the Terry County transactions.

18. Terry County deed records, 1903.

19. It is noteworthy that Pap Brownfield “counted little on law enforcement, believing himself fully capable of handling his own problems.” Unpublished paper “Three Major Crises in the Life of Terry County,” by Glen H. Mitchell, 1957, Southwest Collection of Texas Tech University.

20. Miller was represented by Texas lawyer Moman Pruitt. Pruitt was a legend, a dynamic litigator who never had a client executed, winning acquittals in 304 of his 342 murder cases.

Chuck Lanehart is a shareholder in the Lubbock firm of Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl, PC, where he has practiced law since 1977. A 1977 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law, he is board certified in the field of Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Chuck served as director of the State Bar of Texas, District 16, and as president of the Lubbock County Bar Association. He was the founding editor in 1987 of LCBA’s monthly publication, The Lubbock Law Notes. A former director of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Chuck received the President’s Commendation for “Outstanding Service to the Citizen Accused” in 1990 from TCDLA. In 1993, TCDLA honored him with the President’s Award for his service to the TCDLA Strike Force. Chuck is a charter member and former president of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Texas Monthly magazine has named him a “Super Lawyer” in the field of criminal law. He is a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation. In 2008, Chuck was named among the “200 Most Influential People in the History of Lubbock” by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Chuck Lanehart
Chuck Lanehart
Chuck Lanehart is a shareholder in the Lubbock firm of Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl, P.C., where he has practiced law since 1977, and he is a 1977 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law. He is board certified in the field of Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is statewide co-coordinator of the annual TCDLA Declaration readings and serves on TCDLA’s ethics committee and strike force. He previously served as president of the Lubbock Area Bar Association, president of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, director of the State Bar of Texas and director of TCDLA. He is author of the History Press books “Tragedy and Triumph on the Texas Plains” and “Marvels of the Texas Plains.” He is co-author of “Carol of Lights/ Dirge of Darkness,” to be published by Texas Tech Press in 2023. In 2018, the Lubbock Area Bar Association presented Chuck the James G. Denton Distinguished Lawyer Award, the Bar’s highest honor. In 2008, Chuck was named among the “200 Most Influential People in the History of Lubbock” by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He can be reached at or 806-765-7370.

Chuck Lanehart is a shareholder in the Lubbock firm of Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl, P.C., where he has practiced law since 1977, and he is a 1977 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law. He is board certified in the field of Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is statewide co-coordinator of the annual TCDLA Declaration readings and serves on TCDLA’s ethics committee and strike force. He previously served as president of the Lubbock Area Bar Association, president of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, director of the State Bar of Texas and director of TCDLA. He is author of the History Press books “Tragedy and Triumph on the Texas Plains” and “Marvels of the Texas Plains.” He is co-author of “Carol of Lights/ Dirge of Darkness,” to be published by Texas Tech Press in 2023. In 2018, the Lubbock Area Bar Association presented Chuck the James G. Denton Distinguished Lawyer Award, the Bar’s highest honor. In 2008, Chuck was named among the “200 Most Influential People in the History of Lubbock” by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He can be reached at or 806-765-7370.

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