Adventures in Genealogy: Black Sheep
Rednecks, Family Legends and Lynchings
I don’t know how it works in normal families, but here in the South we all got at least one Crazy old Uncle who tells stories about the family. Now I told yall about Uncle Hiram a while back, so I want bore yall with his descriptions. Instead lets talk about family legends and our Black Sheep.
Uncle Hiram told me a funny story about some of our Lunsford Kin from West Texas. Now I didn’t believe him, but I did take notes about the locations figuring if nothing else it was good for some leads.
So a couple of weeks ago I loaded up the truck, grabbed the new Garth Brooks tape and the new Jeff Foxworth tape and headed for Lampasas. I got down to Lampasas and went straight to the newspaper office. When I asked to see their old newspapers, either the lady didn’t understand or she had a vicious streak. She told me to go down the hall and the 2nd door on the left is the Morgue. I got one of those stunned confused looks on my face and said, "OK, I am looking for Dead folks, but that aint quite what I had in mind." She just shook her head and said "2nd door on the left." I don’t know why but I seem to that reaction a lot.
Well anyway I went down the hall and went through the 2nd door. There was a little old man in there and he offered to help me. I explained I was looking for any info on the Lunsford family that lived down near here in the 1880’s. He gave me a strange look and said, "You mean the Lunsford GANG?" Well, I guess so. We have lots of stuff on them, here let me get the Fiche.
I got a big smile on my face and said "Sir, I’m way ahead of ya", I handed him the bag I had picked up at German John’s on the way down, "it’s a family order of fried catfish with Jalapeno breadin." He started laughing and said "I love your sense of humor, I’ll be right back." He came back a few minutes later and said "you’re in luck that time period has already been put on microfilm." We popped the film in and started going through it while munchin on the fish.
After about an hour and almost all the fish, we came across an article about a new gang of rustlers working the Lampasas area. There was also a small article about Wyatt Lunsford the youngest son of "Captain" John Lunsford being arrested for beating up two men in a bar fight over in Nomocotton Texas. The article went on to say "Captain" John Lunsford was rumored to have ridden with "Bloody" Bill Anderson during the War of Northern Aggression. I told the guy this can’t be my Lunsfords, My John was only a private and served in the infantry. He smiled and said that’s "Captain" John, they called him that because he was fast with a gun and he insisted.
As the afternoon wore on we came across newspaper reports of more rustlin and bar brawls. Finally about 3 PM we got to the account of the trial of 3 members of the Lunsford Gang. They were convicted and sentenced to Prison for Cattle rustlin, I figured that was it and told the little ole man helping me that I shure appreciated him helpin me find all this great stuff. He looked at me and "don’t you want the rest of it?" Well yes, you mean there’s more?
He then fast forward to the paper’s account of the gang’s appeal. It was obvious from the tone of the piece that the editor thought the appeal was a miscarriage of Justice. It seems that all 3 were released on appeal because all of the witness’s had "disappeared".
When they were released there was another wave of rustlin in the surrounding counties until sometime in 1889 when Wyatt Lunsford was shot in a bar fight and his brother Jason Casebeer was lynched by an angry mob. The guy helping me explained that there were other accounts of the various members of the Lunsford family in the paper but the gang had been broken.
Another Adventure in Genealogy draws to a close and once more we have learned some lessons. (1) Before you decide to ignore your family "blacksheep" keep in mind they could very well be the easiest member of your family to research. (2) We didn’t all descend from Puritans and Saints. This may strike you as embarrassing but if you stop and think about it; these folks are like Jalapeno’s on your nachos. They keep your family history from being bland and boring.
NOTE: The facts of this story are true, I did stretch a few details to make them funnier. The Lunsfords of East Texas were cattle rustlers and John Lunsford did serve in the CSA.