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Pale Horse Revelations #28: The Horrell Brothers

Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations. where we explore significant people, places, and events in Old West history. While I make no promises, don't be surprised if some of these places, people, or events find their way into future Pale Rider adventures. In this week's edition I'm going to introduce you to the little-known, but murderous, Horrell brothers.

There was a total of five Horrell brothers, Mart, Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam. They are most known for the part they played in the Horrell-Higgins feud (the focus of next week's entry), but their penchant for violence and lawlessness became obvious at least a year prior. As a result, they would eventually be known as the lawless Horrell boys.

The trouble began in February 1873 when the Texas Governor issued an order prohibiting the carrying of firearms within the town limits of Lampasas, Texas, where the Horrell family resided. Seven members of the recently formed Texas State Police, under the command of Captain Thomas Williams, were dispatched to enforce the prohibition and keep the peace. On March 14th, 1873, three of the officers arrested a man named Bill Bowen, who just happened to be a brother-in-law to the Horrell brothers, for carrying a firearm within the town limits.

For reasons unknown, the men, along with their Captain, made the fateful decision to enter Jerry Scott's Saloon with their prisoner in tow. There they encountered the five Horrell brothers. After a brief verbal exchange, gunfire erupted. When the gun smoke cleared, four officers, including Captain Williams, lay dead. Before dying, Williams managed to severely wound Mart Horrell. Tom Horrell was also wounded during the exchange.

In the immediate aftermath additional state police officers were dispatched to Lampasas. The new officers quickly arrested Mart Horrell and three of his friends. The prisoners were taken to Georgetown, Texas and placed in the local jail. They did not remain there for very long, however. A group of Horrell's friends that numbered in excess of thirty men soon forced their way into the building and released the prisoners. Upon being freed, Mart and his brothers decided to skin out and ended up in Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Not long after their arrival, the notorious brothers launched an ethnically motivated killing spree that claimed the lives of over a dozen people. Shortly after arriving in Lincoln, Ben Horrell became friends with Sherrif Jack Gylam. On the evening of December 1st, 1873, Ben Horrell and Gylam rode into town and began to make their way from one saloon or brothel to the next. Thoroughly drunk, the two men began recklessly discharging their weapons in the middle of the street.

They were confronted by a Hispanic constable by the name of Juan Martinez. Constable Martinez demanded that the two men surrender their weapons, which they did, but elected not to arrest them. This would prove to be a fatal mistake, for Horrell and Gylam had not learned their lesson. They soon procured additional weapons and began firing them recklessly inside a brothel. Again, it was Constable Martinez who confronted the pair. This time Ben Horrell shot and killed the constable. Horrell and Gylam attempted to flee but a group of lawmen caught up with them before they could make it safely out of town. Both men were shot and killed.

Needless to say, the killing of their brother did not sit well with the remaining Horrell boys. They retaliated by murdering two prominent Mexican ranchers. Newly appointed Sherrif Alexander Hamilton Mills quickly put a posse together and set off to hunt the brothers down. The two parties encountered one another outside of Lincoln where an intense standoff ensued. Eventually the posse retreated, and the brothers escaped.

Shortly thereafter, on December 20th, 1873, the Horrell brothers continued their ethnically motivated bloodletting when they stormed a Hispanic celebration in Lincoln. They killed four Hispanic men and wounded a Hispanic woman. Not long after that a friend of the Horrell brothers shot and killed Lincoln Deputy Sherrif Joseph Haskins for no reason other than having married a Hispanic woman. And still, the Horrell brothers weren't through exacting their vengeance.

Just a few days after Haskin's murder the brothers and a group of friends encountered a convoy of freight wagons just outside Roswell, New Mexico. The wagons were owned by five Hispanic men whom the Horrell brothers murdered on sight. Soon thereafter the brothers decided it was time to return to Lampasas. It was there that the infamous Higgins-Horrell feud soon broke out. Be sure to check back next week to get all the details of that bloody moment in history.

This brings us to the end of another edition of Pale Horse Revelations. I hope you found it to be both interesting and entertaining. As usual, I have tried to provide some interesting historical information while trying not to bog the casual reader down with too much detail. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to dig in and do a little research of their own.

As a reminder, I would love to hear your suggestions for topics to focus on in future editions of Pale Horse Revelations. If there's a particular location, person, or event that you would like to know more about, please let me know. Just fill out the Contact form found near the bottom of my home page ( and indicate your desired topic in the message box at the bottom of the form. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Please be sure to check back next week for the next installment of Pale Horse Revelations and thank you for your continued interest and support.

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