By 1859, before and after the state of Texas gave each head of a family who owned no land 160 acres of land if he occupied and improved the same for three successive years and paid surveyors and patent fee, which was ten or twelve dollars.
This induced men to the frontier where they could find plenty of vacant land. They came and they found, and they settled themselves and went to work.
Times were hard and the settlers learned that all their neighbors were different. Some came for reason of taking advantage of the lack of law in these new settlements. Some were hiding from the law and some were just plain horse thieves.
The settlers soon knew there was no law. Outlaws made raids on the property of the law-abiding citizens of the country. They had to deal with the Indians stealing raids. The law-aiding citizens soon had to set the rules. When an Indian was caught with stolen property or caught raiding in the country, everybody said kill him and it was done. And scheming white men engaged in the same business and received the same fare. The citizens were very careful not to punish an innocent man.
There were three brothers, their names I have forgotten, and an old maid sister, and a man named Tucker lived with them and a brother in law who lived with them on the Brazos at what is now known as Hart Crossing, (which is at Rock Creek community and the White Church). They were about eight miles from my cabin. These men were of a very suspicious character. They had but little and did no work and were always flush with money.
It was noticed, that one or two of them would leave and be gone for a week or so and return with plenty of money, which they spent freely. They were going into the country well settled and steal horses, run them off, sell them, and then return to their wilderness home.
How long they had been thieving here I do not know, but in 1860, they were routed here by Tucker being overtaken in Grayson County with stolen horses. Tucker was brought to Big Spring.
Runners were sent out to notify the principal men in the area within 10 or 15 miles that they had Tucker, and that they wanted the men to decide what must be done with him.
The people were called, and Tucker said, “Gentlemen, I stole the horses that I was caught with; they are all I ever did steal. I was raised by an honest Christian mother in Missouri where she still lives. I was led astray by bad men and deceivers for which I am very sorry indeed. If you will let me go home to my mother and take care of her while she lives and be an honest man.”
The people had heard Tucker’s confession, and were divided. So they had a vote. After due deliberation they brought it to a vote whether he should be released or hanged.
There was a large majority in favor of hanging; their reason was, first, a thief for life; second, that if he is caught he will say or do anything whereby he can escape justice, third this man is associated with a clan of thieves who have been engaged, it is generally believed in stealing ever since they have been here. Fourth, the Indian we know steals horses and we kill him on site, and the white man is no better than an Indian, fifth, we will make Mr. Tucker an example warning other men coming to Texas to avoid bad company. There was a lone post oak standing in the Paluxy Valley near the foot of the mountain.
In the evening they took Tucker to the tree; a man climbed the tree, tied a rope to a suitable limb. Tucker was placed on a horse and the rope tied about his neck. And the horse led from under him. He fell breaking his neck. He was buried the next morning near where he died.
To be continued.
Author unknown, written by a pioneer settler.