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Vigilantes hang horse thief in Denison


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.

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