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About Hiram E. 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.
1906 MORE TROUBLE AT COLUMBUS
Last Saturday morning, at or near 11 o'clock, after enjoying a period of several months' tranquility from the deadly popping of the six shooter, our neighboring city of Columbus was again brought to the front as the scene of a pitched battle between opposing factions. As near as we could learn, the particulars of the unfortunate tragedy are about as follow: Marion Hope and Herbert Reese had a difficulty at the skating rink, earlier In the morning, and Reese got the worst of it. He went home, and soon returned, this time accompanied by his brother, Walter Reese, both armed. They evidently expected to meet Hope near the Franz saloon, but from statements of those who saw the shooting, Hope was further down the street, at the Zumwalt drugstore. He was expecting the Reeses, and when they neared the Franz saloon, he jumped out from his place of concealment and pulled down upon them with a shotgun. Both of the Reeses were struck by bullets, in the arms and legs, but no serious wounds were inflicted. At this time there was a general discharge of firearms from several points and when the smoke of battle cleared away It was discovered that besides the Reese boys, Hiram Clements of the opposing side was mortally wounded. Clements was standing near the postoffice at the time the battle opened, and it is claimed that he was fired upon from behind. Two bullets from a winchester struck him, one in left shoulder and one through the right lung. He fell upon the steps of the Foard, Thompson & Townsend law office, and was dragged inside. Bullets flew about promiscuously during the engagement, a fine mule being struck by one, and numerous holes in show windows, awnings, and door facings prove that several parties were engaged. Citizens of the town finally rallied, armed themselves and escorted the Reese boys to their home, where their wounds were attended to. During the battle the Reese boys fired several shots, but it is not believed they did any material damage. It is claimed that Hiram Clements did not fire a shot. Sheriff Bridge was absent from the city at the time of the trouble, Constable John Hester being the only peace officer there. We understand that complaints were flied against the two Reese boys for assault to murder Marion Hope, against Hope for assault to murder Herbert Reese, and against Dr. Joe F. Lessing for assault to murder Hiram Clements. Since the complaints were flied, however, young Clements died as a result of his wounds, hence the latter complaint has been changed to the more serious one of murder. The two Reese boys and Dr. Lessing wore arrested and placed In jail by Sheriff BrIdge. Young Clement. was believed to be mortally wounded at the time of the shooting, but he held up bravely until 1:25 Sunday morning, when he succumbed to his injuries. The remains were prepared for burial, and at 2:30 Sunday afternoon were brought to Weimar for interment, the ceremonies being conducted by the Woodmen, of which organlzation he was a member. Hiram was 24 years old. He was born and raised at Oakland, but had been working for the Southern Pacific railroad company at Glidden for some time past. He was married several years ago to a Miss Roberts of San Antonio, and the widow and one child survive him. He was an energetic, hustling young man, of sober habits, and popular among his friends and associates, who deeply and sincerely deplore his tragic death. Dr. Lessing, who is charged with the murder of Clements, is a brother-in-law of the Reese boys, and a half-brother of Marion Hope.
The Columbus correspondent of the Galveston News gives the following summary of the troubles leading up to the latest of these tragedies:
The trouble leading to the battle here today had their beginning in the campaign for sheriff in 1898. Sam H. Reese was then sheriff and Larkin Hope, constable of this precinct, was a candidate against him They were related by marriage and formerly friends. Hope was shot and killed in July of that year, after which W. T. Burford, a brother-in-law of M. H. Townsend, made the race and defeated Reese. James Coleman was indicted for the murder at Hope, but was acquitted upon the trial. In the month of March, I899, Reese was killed in a street fight wIth W. D. Clements, his nephew by marriage. W. D. Clements, M. H. Townsend and Marion Hope were indicted for the killing, charged. with manslaughter, which case was afterwards dismissed. At this shooting Charles Boehm, a farmer, was hit by a stray bullet and instantly killed in his wagon and an infant son of Mayor Williams was wounded in the hip and is yet a cripple. About one month later Dick Reese of Orange, a brother of ex-Sheriff Reese,was shot and killed in his buggy, together with his negro driver, near the east end of the river bridge, and J. G. Townsend and A. L. Yates were indicted. Yates died a short time afterwards and the venue of the case against Townsend was changed to Bastrop. A few months later, while attending the trial at that place, Arthur Burford, son of Sheriff W. T. Burford, was shot and instantly killed on the streets of Bastrop and W. D. Clements was shot through the lungs, but recovered. James Coleman, Walter Reese and Tom Daniels were indicted, but these cases and also the one against J. G. Townsend for killing of Dick Reese were afterwards dismissed at San Antonio, where they went on change of venue. The next fight occurred at Rosenberg, where James Coleman and Walter Reese were wounded in a general fight at the depot with members of the other faction, but the good people of Fort Bend county, not caring to borrow trouble from others, no indictments were returned.
Weimar Mercury, July 7, 1906, page 8