Now Available!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

While some believed that Tom P Varnell was no longer any where near Hill County, rumors circulated that he was still living in the county surrounded by friends and family willing to shield him from the long arm of the law and more importantly those who would do him harm without the benefit of Judge Blackstone. The following two news articles show the frustration some felt at this turn of events.

Waco Examiner, March 17, 1883 - "Varnell's Refuge in Hill County"

No occurrence of a criminal nature, that has taken place in Texas for years, appears to have caused as intense a led general indignation as the recent outrageous Varnell-Land tragedy, near Hubbard City. Without an exception the state press has denounced Varnell's act in unmeasured terms and the fact that he is still at large, although believed - to be yet in Hill county, near the scene of his horrible crime, is causing no small amount of criticism, not very complimentary to the officials and citizens of that county. . . We are reliably informed that Varnell does not lack money and influential friends and that many citizens are deterred by reason of bodily fear from antagonizing, single-handed, these potent influences. . . Every day Varnell remains there, unapprehended, deepens the taint upon Hill County, as a community. Extraordinary efforts should be made to capture and bring to justice this bad and lawless man, for his crimes are extraordinary. . . If he cannot be captured he should at least be expelled. Hill county should be made too hot to hold him other than as a prisoner or as a corpse in a dishonored grave.

Not to be outdone, Texas Siftings, a statewide newspaper, had to add their two cents about Tom P hiding in Hill County.

Texas Siftings, March 24, 1883:

The conduct of Varnell - beg pardon, Col Varnell's family - is simply inexplicable. Col Varnell's family is wealthy, and can well afford to have a first class lawyer, hence we cannot understand why he hesitates to deliver himself up and be fully vindicated by an intelligent jury of his fellow citizens. As far as we know, there is not a single instance on record in Texas of a murderer of means having been punished by law, no matter how many homicides he committed. The apparent unwillingness of Col Varnell to stand his trial and be vindicated is not only an undeserved slur upon the administration of justice in Texas, but it must grieve his relatives, who feel keenly the stigma that will rest upon them if Col Varnell continues his eccentric course in the matter. The very best Col Varnell can do is to put a card in the local paper asking the public to suspend their opinion until the matter has been passed on by the court. As far as the failure of the officers of Hill county to arrest Varnell is concerned, no blame should be attached to them. Col Varnell has not done anything to them, hence, why should they go out of their way to molest him? Come now, Col Varnell, come in out of the brush, where you must put up with inconvenience distasteful to a gentleman who has done nothing but outrage a poor girl, and murder her father - come up, and stand your trial like a man, and do not cause your friends to blush because you are a fugitive from justice. Remember you have friends. The criminal laws of Texas were made to protect just such men as you, and they have always done it heretofore, hence, we say for the honor of the Lone Star of Texas, come out, and have the stigma removed at once.

What the 'tongue-in-cheek' article does not recognize is the riskiness of turning oneself over to the law when the press has already proclaimed your guilt. Tom P's story spread across the state rapidly with most proclaiming his guilt and what they deemed should happen to him. With the a possibility of a lynching, Tom P chose to stay hidden in the Hill County rural areas, protected by friends and family, waiting for a break.

No comments: