Sheriff Sam Smith, Remembers Hopkins County, Texas


Sam W. Smith was born in Mason County, Kentucky, on the 17th day of March, 1824. In the year of 1846 he moved with his father, Gilbert Smith, to Hopkins County, Texas, where he remained for a short time, and returned to his native state where he had been engaged in steamboating. While absent from Texas he met Miss Mary Johnson, an Ohioan by birth, with whom he became engaged. Subsequently he returned to Texas and married Miss Minerva Hopkins, daughter of Eldridge Hopkins. By this union eleven children were born to them. There are at this time nine of these children living, Wm. J., Sam G., Mary J., Harvey G., Mary E., Patrick H., Richard R., Callin C., and David R. They are all good and useful citizens and tax payers of the county. In the year of 1853 Sam W. Smith was elected sheriff of Hopkins County. Mr. Smith served his people with such satisfaction that they retained him in office as sheriff for twelve years. He had the misfortune to lose his wife in the year of 1874. Within a few years he learned from information that Miss Johnson was a widow, she having married also, and lived in Ernporia, Kansas. In the year of 1876, he visited Emporia and met Mrs. Mary Orbison, and they were made man and wife. During a trip up Red River with his boat, just after his engagement with Miss Johnson, when he had gone up as far as Fulton the water had fallen to such a low ebb that he, crew, boat and all were detained all summer. This was in the spring and they were to be married in June. By mutual agreement the marriage was postponed indefinitely.

When Mr. Smith was elected sheriff there were only five hundred voters in Hopkins County. This was in 1853. Of the citizens who voted in 1849 there are living to-day in the county, Sam W. Smith, Lodwick Vaden, Dave Hopkins, Perry Hargrave, Henry Barclay, Henry Russell and Frank Pierce.

The first man that was killed in the county after its organization was William Harper, an uncle of Strong Harper. He was killed by Jessie C. Russell. This act was committed in the court house at old Tarrant.

The second man that was killed was Richard Crook, the first county clerk in the county. He was killed by Bushrod Musgrove near White Oak creek. This creek was dry except in a few places which the water had washed into holes. Mr. Crook had enclosed one of these holes of water for the use, benefit and convenience of the people in the immediate neighborhood. Bushrod Musgrove had cattle under herd. He drove this herd of cattle to the hole of water that Mr. Crook had enclosed. Crook was at the hole of water when Musgrove came with his herd of cattle. The difficulty occurred at this hole of water where Crook was killed. The few people in the county were indignant. It spread consternation over the whole county. Farmers left their plows in the middle of the field and all business stopped as suddenly as if the angel of doom had sounded the knell of time. Musgrove escaped punishment, but was afterwards killed at Jefferson. His body was sewed up in a sack and cast into Cypress Bayou, where it was found by some fishermen.

The third killing in Hopkins County was that in which Armstead Payne was killed by Wash. Thomas. Soon after Thomas killed Payne he killed John Hill, and soon after this killing of Payne and Hill, Thomas was killed by one Vansion, a sheep raiser. Vansion was not punished by the laws of his county for the commission of this act, but was left to the God of Heaven to determine the justice or injustice of the deed. The thought is simply horrifying, to appear before the judgment bar of God with our hands stained with the blood of our kind, and strange to say these three men were killed within one quarter of a mile of each other.

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