Historical records matching Deputy Sheriff Will Clements
About Deputy Sheriff Will Clements
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The Reese–Townsend feud, also called the Colorado County Feud (1898 through 1907) was a politically motivated feud taking place in the closing days of the Old West, in Columbus, Texas, and other parts of Colorado County. Legendary Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald was dispatched to Columbus to restore order.
Background and violence
The feud was a culmination of several factors, but mostly resulted due to the local Sheriffs race that placed incumbent Sam Reese against former Deputy Larkin Hope. Former US Senator Mark Townsend, who had been the deciding factor for the past nine sheriffs due to his political connections, had pulled his support away from Sheriff Reese, throwing in behind Hope. This led to tensions between those in support of Reese, and the Townsend faction.
Townsend's support of Hope all but insured his victory. However, on August 3, 1898, Constable Larkin Hope was shot and killed by an unknown assailant in downtown Columbus. Jim Coleman, a close friend to Sheriff Reese's sons Walter and Herbert, was the initial suspect. Townsend immediately chose another candidate, Will Burford, who with Townsend's support won an easy victory, becoming the newly elected Sheriff of Colorado County.
However, the previous tensions were anything but over. On March 16, 1899, Mark Townsend, Will Clements, and Marion Hope, brother of the dead Larkin Hope, engaged Sam Reese and his supporters in a gunfight in downtown Columbus, during which Reese's supporters fled, resulting in Reese being shot and killed. Bystander Charles Boehme was also killed, and a boy named Johnny Williams was wounded. Although evidence and witness statements indicated that Reese provoked the gunfight, his sons vowed they would seek revenge. On May 17, 1899, January 15, 1900, July 31, 1900, June 30, 1906, and May 17, 1907, five more separate gunfights took place in Columbus, resulting in Dick Reese, brother to Sam, Sheriff Burford's son Arthur, Will Clements brother Hiram and Jim Coleman being killed. Dick Gant, another bystander, was also killed during one of the gunfights, and numerous bystanders and participants were wounded.
Feuds end, aftermath
The shooters during all those fights were Mark Townsend, Jim Townsend, Step Yates, Will Clements, Walter Reese, Joe Lessing, Frank Burford, and Marion Hope, which ironically were all related by either blood or marriage, despite their hatred of one another. The citizens appealed to the city council to re-establish the office of Town Marshal, abolished some years earlier. However, the council refused. Texas Rangers were dispatched, to include James Brooks, which effectively ended the violence in 1907.
Despite each being unrelated to the feud itself, two of the main participants did die in later gunbattles. Marion Hope died in a vehicle accident in 1911. That same year, Will Clements was shot from ambush in Matagorda County, Texas by a man with whom he had had an altercation a few days earlier. Jim Townsend was also killed in 1911, in a gun battle with a saloon keeper in Louise, Texas. Herbert Reese was killed in 1912, when a gun he was cleaning in his Columbus home accidentally discharged. Walter Reese died in an automobile accident in El Paso, Texas in 1919.
Will Clements Was Killed
Wharton, Texas, Aug. 19:--A telephone message was received here from Pledger, Matagorda county, that Will Clements had been shot and killed about 10:30 o'clock this morning at Pledger. He is said to have had an altercation with Frank Stelzig, who formerly resided at this place.
Will Clements for the past several months had been living with his brother, Jim Clements, who was engaged in farming at Pledger. Jim Clements was in town this morning when the message was received, secured an automobile and in company with the district attorney, Sam J. Styles, made a hasty departure for the scene.
None of the details of the matter have as yet been obtained, and the only definite information secured is that Clements was shot while en route the field.
Stelzig is said to have left on foot, going toward Bay City, where it is presumed that he will surrender to Sheriff Rugely of Matagorda county.
The above is clipped from the Houston Post. The remains were brouhht(sic) to Weimar and laid to rest in the Odd Fellows' cemetery Sunday, followed by a large concourse of relatives and friends. Weimar Mercury, August 25, 1911, page 1
Will Clements Killed at Pledger
Will Clements, a former resident of Columbus, was shot and killed at Pledger, on the Southern Pacific railroad, at 11 o'clock last Saturday morning. One shot was fired, a shotgun being the weapon used, and the load of buckshot took effect in Clements' head. Deceased was passing a store on horseback when he was shot. Clements was in his shirt sleeves. A pistol was in his saddle pocket. Will Clements for the past several months has been living with his brother, Jim Clements, who is engaged in farming at Pledger. Jim Clements was in Wharton when the message was received, secured an automobile and in company with the district attorney, made a hasty departure for the scene. The shooting is said to have been done by Frank Steslzig, who formerly resided in Wharton. The two men, it is said, had had a previous altercation. Eagle Lake Headlight, August 26, 1911
Will Clements (continued)
Columbus, Texas, June 9. --Considerable feeling is engendered among some eighty-six citizens of Columbus and vicinity, occasioned by the summoning of that number of men as character witnesses to Bay City for June 17 to testify for the defendant in the case wherein Frank Stelzig is charged with killing Will Clements, who formerly lived in this county. In some famalies[sic] all of the male membes are summoned and if they attend those families will be without adequate projection during the absence of the men. Several business concerns will be seriously inconvenienced or closed. Requests to be excused from attendance have been met by refusals by the judge of the court. As the law allows pay for only three character witnessesss, it is argued that the number of eighty-six summoned, especially such a long distance, is unreasonable and unnecessary.
It is deemed expedient to employ one or more guards to patrol the town at night during that time as a precaution against fire and depredation.
Eagle Lake Headlight, June 15, 1912
Frank Stelzig Acquitted
Bay City, June 20.--The jury in the case of Frank Stelzig, charged with killing Will Clements at Pledger August 11, 1911, today acquitted Stelzig after a trial of the case which consumed four days. This case was the hardest fought case Matagorda county has every known. Private prosecution was employed and the court proceedings were the center of interest. A detachment of state rangers was stationed here during the trial to prevent any trouble arisisng.
Eagle Lake Headlight, June 22, 1912
Documentation: Weimar Oddfellows Cemetery records, 1870, 1880, 1900 census records, newspaper account of the murder of William Clements. The Townsend family was involved in a blood feud in Colorado County in the late 1880s that continued until William Clements was shot in the back in 1911. His attacker was acquitted as he was angry over "a business deal that went bad".
1880 United States Federal Census about William D. Clements
Name: William D. Clements
Birth Year: abt 1876
Home in 1880: Oakland, Colorado, Texas
Relation to Head of House: Son
Marital Status: Single
Father's Name: Augustus D. Clements
Father's Birthplace: Texas
Mother's Name: Louisa F. Clements
Mother's Birthplace: Texas
Occupation: At Home
Augustus D. Clements 36
Louisa F. Clements 32
Spincer A. Clements 11
James A. Clements 9
Jennie B Clements 7
William D. Clements 4
Hiram E. Clements 1
Louisa H Townsend 59