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Young Thomas Short confesses to cattle theft

August
25
1849

On this day in 1849, Thomas Short ostensibly admitted his role in a cattle theft operation in a confession printed in the Texas State Gazette. His confession was surprisingly imaginative and vivid given the fact that he was only sixteen at the time. The Short family, headed by patriarch John Short (1790-1847), had settled near La Grange in Fayette County, where they engaged in agriculture, milling, speculation, trading, and controversy. They supported an underground railroad for runaway slaves. By repeatedly reselling the slaves at intervals along the way north and thereafter assisting with their escapes, they profited from their altruism. A similar cattle theft operation and counterfeiting ring with principals in five states, according to the Huntsville Texas Banner, resulted in the public hanging of John's son William Short and the incarceration of John's son-in-law William Greenbury Sansom as the first inmate of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. Other members of the family were implicated but not tried and convicted; young Thomas had been one of these, and was acquitted because of his youth after his confession appeared in print.

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