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Sunday, January 11, 2009


Tom P managed to hide out in Hill and McLennan counties for several months with the help of friends who set up a system of signals to let him know if any lawmen came into the area where he was located. This system worked well because Tom P did not dare go openly into any towns where lawmen knew he was a wanted man.

This inability of Sheriff Cox of Hill County to nab Tom P gave an opening to Deputy Sheriff Tom Bell to go forward with his campaign to become the sheriff of Hill County. The following is a quote from the Dallas Morning News who sent a reporter to meet and get to know Tom Bell. It developed into a friendship over a game of marbles. Later this reporter had this to say about Bell:

When he made the race for sheriff in Hill county in 1884 he told the people he would resign and never again ask an office at their hands if he did not during his term, if they would elect him, locate and capture the famous Tom P Varnell, then at large and wanted to answer indictments charging him with murder and criminal assault [rape]. The people took him at his word and elected him. True to his promise, in 1885, after the expenditure of much money, he located Varnell at Magdalena, New Mexico, and with the aid of a deputy arrested him.

Another line from the same article gives some insite into Tom Bell's personality:

If there is an intense brunette in Texas it is Tom Bell.

*"Sheriff Tom Bell." Dallas Morning News. Feb. 11, 1894.


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