The Civil War was a messy, confusing affair in Texas. For 8 unsuspecting men, it had murderous consequences. In the summer of 1863, 8 men and a boy headed south from Georgetown in Central Texas to Mexico. While we don’t know what their intentions were, others somehow knew they were carrying over $1000 dollars, which was a large amount in 19th-Century Texas. They were apprehended close to the frontier town of Hondo by a patrol of Confederate soldiers stationed at Camp Verde.
After some confused proceedings, the hapless souls were charged with “evading Confederate service” and then led to a tall oak tree to be hanged. Regardless of the justness of the charges, which were doubtful, a patrol had no authority to carry out a summary sentence without a proper trial. Certainly, acquiring the treasure was the motivation behind the shameful event. One man begged to be shot and was rewarded with a musket ramrod driven into his chest. Somehow, the boy escaped the hanging and disappeared from history. The men were buried below a common grave. No one was ever prosecuted for the crime.
150 years later, descendants of people involved in the hanging gathered on the Hanging Tree Ranch to remember the somber affair. Though the story is a sad one, there was a sense of pride, fellowship and community from people who can trace their history across the years in the Lone Star State. Speakers recalled the story, family lineage was remembered, and BBQ was served.
The Bandera Tragedy Tree was the first story in the original Famous Trees of Texas book. The story will certainly grace the opening of Volume 2 of Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas.
History isn’t always pretty, but remembering it is always worthwhile.