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Vigilantes hang horse thief in Denison
January 12, 1874

On this day in 1874, responding to an influx of thugs after the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad reached the Red River, vigilantes hanged a horse thief in Denison. In sections of the Texas frontier where courts and jails had not been established or where officials and juries could not be depended upon, vigilance committees were often formed to stamp out lawlessness and rid communities of desperadoes. Sometimes these secret bodies degenerated into mob rule or were used for private vengeance, but usually they were made up of law-abiding, responsible citizens who wanted only to maintain order and to protect lives and property. They operated against murderers, horse thieves, cattle rustlers, and those who held up stagecoaches and trains. As vigilantes usually operated at night and were not inclined to talk, their activities seldom had detailed public notice, but newspaper files and other chronicles indicate that they were active in many parts of Texas, especially in the two decades following the Civil War.

Unionist paper closes down
January 12, 1861

On this day in 1861, Unionist editor John W. Barrett published the Marshall Harrison Flag for the last time. Barret moved to Texas from Indiana in 1838. He bought the Star State Patriot in 1848 and in 1856 renamed it the Harrison Flag. The Flag supported Sam Houston, the American (Know-Nothing) party, and the Constitutional Union party of 1860. Robert W. Loughery, owner and editor of the Marshall Texas Republican and an ardent secessionist, classed Barrett and the Flag as oppositionist and submissionist during the secession crisis. In editorial after editorial during November and December 1860, Barrett opposed secession; he declared on December 15, 1860, that breaking up the United States would be "the most momentous political decision that has ever demanded the attention of mankind." The same winter, ill and confined to his room, he suspended publication of the Flag with the issue of January 12, 1861. Five days later, Loughery called off their long political feud and wrote of Barrett: "He has been sick nine months with little chance of improvement . . . . He has a large family depending on him, with children to educate. He needs every dollar coming to him. Those owing him should not be insensible to his condition." Barrett died of tuberculosis on May 12, 1862.

Ambitious French colonization scheme fizzles
January 12, 1841

On this day in 1841, a short-lived bill authorizing the formation of a French-Texan immigration company was introduced in the Texas Congress. The Franco-Texian Bill, proposed by two Frenchmen, Jean Pierre Hippolyte Basterrèche and Pierre François de Lassaulx, called for the introduction of 8,000 immigrant families to occupy three million acres of the Republic of Texas. The managing company was to establish twenty forts in twenty years. It was also to develop mines within its territory and pay the republic 15 percent of the gross returns. The bill passed the House, but was never presented to the Senate because the sponsors saw that it could not pass over the expected veto by acting president David G. Burnet.

Crusading El Paso newspaper folds
January 12, 1886

On this day in 1886, pugnacious editor Simeon Newman folded the El Paso Lone Star. Newman, born in Kentucky in 1846, went to New Mexico as a schoolteacher in 1866. In 1871 he became an apprentice newspaperman at the Las Vegas (New Mexico) Weekly Mail and bought the paper only six weeks later. Newman, as a twenty-five-year-old editor-in-chief, had to learn the trade by himself. He spent ten turbulent years in New Mexico fighting against the "Santa Fe Ring." In 1881 several El Paso businessmen paid him $1,000 to move his paper and rename it the Lone Star. El Paso already had two other newspapers, the Times and the Herald, but Newman, a staunch Methodist and Democrat, was a reformer, strong-willed, irascible, acerbic, and libel-prone, and he chose "Hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may" for the Lone Star's motto. In his editorials he attacked the tinhorn gamblers, saloon keepers, gunmen, and other undesirables who had flocked to El Paso with the arrival of the Southern Pacific railroad; the editors of the rival newspapers and some of the businessmen who had formerly helped him also suffered attacks from his pen when he discovered their corruption. Many withdrew their support for the Lone Star, forcing him to close the paper six days after his fortieth birthday.