Texas Day by Day

On this day in Texas history…


"Murder steer": Fine Gilliland kills Fort Davis cattleman

January 28th, 1891

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On this day in 1891, Fine Gilliland shot and killed Fort Davis cattleman Henry Harrison Powe during a roundup near Leoncita Springs in Brewster County. Gilliland had been sent by the firm of Dubois and Wentworth to make sure none of the local ranchers appropriated any of the company's cattle; he became embroiled in a dispute with Powe over an unbranded brindle yearling steer found without its mother. Powe believed that the steer belonged to a cow with his HHP brand, but Gilliland disagreed and a gunfight ensued. Gilliland killed Powe and fled on horseback, but was himself killed a few days later in a shootout with two Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the cowboys branded "MURDER" on one side of the yearling and "JAN 28 91" on the other. Legend has it that the "murder steer" still appears whenever foul play has occurred; the incident also inspired an episode of the television series Rawhide and a ballad by Canadian folk singer Ian Tyson.

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