A few facts about a man named George Washington Clayton would seem an appropriate place to start this story. G.W. had one particular daughter named Dorintha who will play a major part in the following play-out of a sometimes factual and sometimes purely speculative "read between the lines" story of Noah, R. F., Wilkerson. George Washington Clayton. came to Texas with his family in 1868 with a better education than most, having had schoolingback in Mississippi that prepared him for a very successful life in many different business ventures. He had married at age 18, to Amanda Redding also of Mississippi, in 1852. To them were born seven children: Jerome, Finis, G.W. Jr., Laura, Loveday, Dorintha and Ollie. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he entered the Confederate Army, enlisting in Company C of the Fourth Mississippi Cavalry commanded by Colonel James Gordon. Soon after the war, Mrs. Clayton died leaving the seven young children, the oldest, Jerome being barely big enough to plow. Mr. Clayton remarried, this time to Mrs. Esther Pruitt, also presumably from Mississippi. To them were born two more children, Abner and Mollie. He first settled in Lamar County. Eight years later he moved to Coleman County and in 1877 to Runnels County. There he turned his attention from farming to sheep raising and bought 5,000 acres of land at $1.00 per acre, held it a few months and sold it for $2.25 per acre. In 1883, after six years of ranching in Runnels County, he moved to Abilene. His home, in Coleman County, east of the community of Glen Cove, was a rock house. An interesting statement relating to that location is that, today, the old rock house that he lived in still stands. As his business ventures flourished, especially in Abilene, he became very well loved and respected. In mid to late 1880 Taylor and many surrounding counties, if not the whole of west Texas, suffered from severe drought that lasted a number of years. Many folks had absolutely nothing to live on or with as the economy most likely was at a complete standstill. To quote from a genealogical bulletin published by West Texas Genealogical Society in Abilene, Texas and written in April, 1959 by none other than a descendant of old G.W., Madge Morrison Ganey. Dry spells were not uncommon in the area, but the drought of 1886 reached panic proportions. Families packed what little belongings they had left into their wagons and headed east, destination often-times unknown. They were not going to any specific place. They were leaving West Texas. The creeks had dried up. The Wells were dry. For twenty-three months the skies had been cloudless. Prayer meetings for rain were held. Some families, too proud "to accept charity", ate jackrabbits which were plentiful on the prairies. Individuals who had, shared with those who had not. There were unsung heroes of the drought. One was George Washington Clayton, who, after opening his livery stable on the northwest corner of Chestnut and Second Streets in 1883, closed out his livery business and erected a brick building on the site, one of the first brick buildings in Abilene and later occupied by Harry Goltz Men’s Store.
He then purchased a stock of merchandise at sheriff’s sale and opened a general merchandise store in his new building, meanwhile using the second floor as his family’s living quarters. From time to time he enlarged his stock and soon serviced families throughout the trade area of 30 counties. It is said that Mr. Clayton collected and sold for profit buffalo bones that had become plentiful on the prairies from all the slaughter of previous years. This supposedly was also a means of supplying his business ventures. The story goes that G.W. Clayton surely had a monstrous heart for the downtrodden for it is said that he extended approximately $115,000.00 in credit, probably based on a handshake that it would be repaid. Mr. Clayton felt honor bound to continue to supply his friends and former customers despite the fact that they had no cash, no collateral, no fore-seeable means of ever repaying him. In those days the farmer and the rancher came to town twice a year for supplies. He hauled back in his wagon sugar by the barrel, bacon by the 500 pounds, beans by the 50 pounds, flour by one to two thousand pounds and dress materials by the bolt. Mr. Clayton began to worry. How could he ever pay his creditors in St. Louis? He walked the floor at night instead of sleeping. Finally, he decided to write his creditors. He explained the situation to each of them and promised that as he received payment, he would send it to them. He warned that it would be slow. To a man, they replied saying they had faith in their western customers. The wonderful part of the story, the ending, works hard to override the beginning but that choice is left to those reading the story over 100 years later. Speculatively, in our present day culture those type debts would never have been repaid, nor would the credit have been extended in like manner. The truth be told only $5,000.00 of the original amount was never repaid!! That does speak well of mankind in the era and time frame now being written about. There has always been and will always be the rich, the poor and there will always be the deceitful. We of today would find it very difficult to comprehend how some of the folks of this same era could possibly have survived, but survive they did, and they suffered, and they failed, and they became victims of circumstance, a lifestyle that more than 100 years ago would have been very hard, and while recognizing that most farm and ranching families were very large in numbers of children, we say "how did they feed them"? Well, ask yourself why they had so many children? To help with the work, of course, and to help with increasing the population of the New Western Frontier as it continued to expand! Mr. Clayton’s business grew and he became very prosperous. He erected another brick building north of the first one and maintained a cotton yard on the two lots directly across the street on the east side. He was one of Abilene’s earliest cotton buyers. The late Senator W. J. Bryan referred to him as "Colonel Clayton, that colorful character who always banked in his own jeans when buying cotton, paid for it with money on the head of the barrel." Mistrusting banks, he buried his money in fruit jars under the chicken house until one day the chicken house burned. After the fire wagon had left, he suddenly remembered with a shock that his money was under all the water and mud. He spent the next few days separating the molded bills and trying to dry them. Finally, he had to send them in and thereby gained such respect for banks that when the Citizens National Bank organized in the early 1900’s, he even became a director and its first depositor. He served in a multitude of ways to promote the growth of Abilene, a town he had great faith in, helping to bring it from the tent town he found when he came there to a wonderfully productive city. He died in July 1914. This short story of old G.W. was spun to set a stage that will show that his goodness and mercy towards his fellow man also extended to one particular member of his family a good number of years further into this story of Noah!
This will start an attempt to relate to this text, stories that have either been related by family, friends or documented instruments i.e. census records, court trial transcripts as have come to hand, recounts of research data compiled by family members of Ruebin, Ruben, Rubin Flanoah Wilkerson aka Noah R.F. or just Noah, also facts that are documented by instruments obtained from state archives of both Wyoming and Texas. The beginning curiosity to know more regarding the Noah Wilkerson family, with hope of the possibility of writing it all down, so to speak, so that all concerned could at least sort of look at the whole picture and dispute those parts as to their own individual choices, was given birth about a year ago, however the remembrances are keen, still, of hearing those of the families connected, but not by blood, to him, speak of Noah as the "black sheep" of the Clayton family, he being related to that large family by marriage only! Noah married Dorinthia, Dorintha, Salone Clayton, a daughter of George Washington Clayton of Abilene, Taylor co, Texas. This proposed union was very much against the wishes of Mr. Clayton.That historic event pretty much begins, and is one of the few recorded instruments showing that it happened, the story of Noah Wilkerson: Noah married Dorintha January 17, 1881, they having eloped and were married, it is told, and spent their first night together in a hotel in Runnels City, the original county seat of Runnels county prior to it's being moved lock, stock and barrel to Ballinger, and they did move everything, buildings and all, I'm told.. The first factual knowledge known of Noah, thus far, that can be documented, is the above information. It's been said that Noah came to Coleman county in 1877 and later to the Crews community in Runnels county but no documented information is presently at hand to confirm the statement that relates to his residing in Coleman county, there is knowledge of Noah's whereabouts, with respect to his trial for the alleged “assault with intent to murder” in 1886, then none until the time he began to purchase land east of Crews, Texas, some of which, it is told, straddled the Coleman/Runnels county line.. During a search of land records in Runnels County it was found that Noah bought 640 acres, survey #17 on 6/11/1889 from Rebecca Carpenter for $1600.00, $800.00 paid, cash in hand, with a promissory note for $800.00 due and payable in one year, that amount was paid in full as agreed!! He bought 320 acres in September, 1891 from J.Z.H. Scott. He obtained 47 acres on a patented land grant carrying the number #10 1/2. A sale was conducted of 160 acres owned by Thomas Jefferson Wilkerson that joined Noah's land on the east side and was adjacent to, and possibly straddled the Runnels/Coleman county line. Not having completed a total land record search at present, it can only be surmised from rumor that Noah bought the 160 acres, it was sold April 25, 1891 and undocumented records show that T. J. Wilkerson died in 1885 (no death records have been found)..it's been said that a daughter of T.J., Minnie May, continued to live on the property for a number of years which could account for the six years before it was sold, the remaining members of his (T.J. Wilkerson’s) family migrated to Brown county, (as did Minnie May) settling in the community of Holder, north of Brownwood. They were found there in 1900 on the Brown county census and on subsequent years census’s also. Noah is said to have been a very successful and prosperous rancher, raising race horses and children, he sired a total of 9 children by Dorintha, 6 boys and 3 girls, it appears Dorintha pretty much stayed "barefoot" and pregnant through to early 1901! Elaborating early on regarding how difficult it has been thus far to uncover factual information about Noah, he's only been found on one (1) U.S. Census! It is said, not documented by this writing, that Noah was born February 13/14, 1861 in Fairburn, Fulton county Georgia. Again, no record has been found by this writing. 1861 was the year the Civil War started and many records were either burned, or simply destroyed which has hampered many more than this singular research attempt. Upon making an inquiry of the county clerk’s office of Fulton county, Georgia regarding a possible birth record for Noah it was said, ”Did Sherman burn Atlanta”?? Heavens yes, Sherman did burn Atlanta”!! From that revelation it was determined that most probably all early information was derived from close kept family records and/or a Family Bible with most of the information remaining in Georgia. As a persistent interest to know more about this family and/or the man, Noah Wilkerson continued, not many in Runnels county had a lot of good to say of him, that could stem from the fact that he was successful and prosperous (regardless of how he became that way) it's been said that he was very aggressive and let no man "run over him", he was a little man, wiry of build, and from the few pictures of him available today he was a very handsome, well dressed man weighing in the neighborhood of 135 to 150 lbs. (a fact established much later in this story). The story as it has come to be known seems to show that his small stature may have contributed to the fact that he seemed to try for the "first lick"!! His brother, Zan, also was known to be of equal nature, didn’t let anyone walk on him either. In attempts at compiling information about Noah there have naturally been the normal innuendos about his being a womanizer. Or, just maybe, with his looks he was more easy on the eyes of women than the normal selection of men of that time period. It is said that his wife, Dorintha was purported to care for him immensely. Stories that have been related, added to, taken away from and again many times not documented, refer to the first years of Noah's marriage and ranching activities. Arthur being the oldest child, born in 1881, was used for many chores, it having been told, that Noah would tie the toddler to the back of a horse and let him drag a wash pot around a horse track to smooth it for racing, or just to exercise horses. Arthur was also used to carry or receive payment for horses, it would seem he was well versed in the lay of the land and knew where he was going and must have been a very brave little man.
Apparently Noah’s first recorded indictment for criminal trial occurred as a “True Bill” indictment no. 123 with the State of Texas vs Noah Wilkerson: Offense: Assault with intent to murder with J. W. Powell, attorney. Filed the 1st day of October 1886 with names of witnesses:
George Wilson Ben. R. Wilson
IN THE NAME AND BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF TEXAS.
THE GRAND JURORS, good and lawful men of the State of Texas, County of RUNNELS, duly tried on oath by the Judge of the District Court of said County, touching their legal qualifications as Grand Jurors, elected, empanelled, sworn and charged at the SEPTEMBER Term, A.D. 1886, of the District Court of RUNNELS County, Texas, to inquire into and true presentment make of all offenses against the penal laws of said State, committed within the body of the County aforesaid, upon their oath present, in the District Court of said County: That NOAH WILKERSON late of the County of RUNNELS on the 1st day of MAY in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty SIX with force and arms, in the County of RUNNELS and State of Texas, did then and there IN AND UPON GEORGE WILSON WITH THE MALICE AFORETHOUGHT DID MAKE AN ASSAULT WITH THE INTENT THEN AND THERE TO MURDER THE SAID GEORGE WILSON.
The charges brought against Noah in the above named case resulted from an altercation between he and two brothers Wilson as so named. The issue was over two cows with calves that were penned at Noah Wilkerson’s place for the purpose of milking. The Wilson brothers came to remove them from Noah’s penning to be driven to their (Wilson’s) place for apparently the same reasons, i.e., need of milk and they (Wilson brothers) did so after having encountered Mrs. Dorintha Wilkerson, Noah’s wife, telling her of their intentions. She said she guessed it was o.k. and knew of their removing the cattle to their place. Later in the day Noah became apprised of the incident and went to the Wilson’s place and demanded by what authority the Wilsons had done what they did. It would appear, from the testimony given in court, that Noah was unsatisfied with the reasoning and/or authority to justify the removal of said cattle and proceeded to draw a Winchester, load it in the presence of the Wilsons and state to them that if they did not stop their interference in his removal of the cattle back to his place that he would shoot him (George Wilson).
According to continuing testimony it was determined that the two brothers gained written authority on 18th day of May 1886 to handle and milk those cows in question and claimed they also had a verbal authority to handle and milk said cows before that day from the owner, Jim Lewis and Mr. J. H. Paramour, a witness to the same.
During the fall term of Criminal Court in Runnels county, on October 22, 1888 the jury returned a verdict of NOT GUILTY for this trial . Just for information purposes, the Sheriff in residence for Runnels County during this cause was John W. Formwalt.
Interestingly the above trial and jury verdict shows to have taken two years to be decided. It would be reasonable to assume though that the two years that ensued was before Ballinger became the county seat and there may have been two years worth of recording to catch up on.
There does not seem to be evidence of any more unlawful altercations that were charged against Noah until the below following records of trials, so stated, even though it’s been said that Noah drew guns on numerous folks and threatened them for whatever reason, maybe just to get their total undivided attention.
It’s believed that the second documented, but not necessarily knowledge of, his being crosswise with the law was probably in early 1898 for the following alleged offense.
That court trial, taking place almost a year later in February, 1899, documents the verdict and sentencing but not the actual filing of charges, nor trial transcript, for an occasion where Noah advised a neighbor, Will Gray, to refrain from watering his stock on Wilkerson land. As the incident was related Will Gray chose not to adhere to the warning and continued with his trespassing, later filed charges against Noah in Coleman county for pistol-whipping him. The response from Noah was that he didn’t have a pistol, that he had whipped the man, Will Gray, with a trace chain! Apparently someone manipulated that statement to be perjury since Noah was known to own a pistol. Its a pretty sure thing that few men did ‘not’ own a gun of some sort during those days and times!!
A story of Noah, at some point in time, burning a house down belonging to an "old man Pendleton", again, is not a documented fact, but interesting for ponderance.
This will bring out a point that needs to be decided as how best to make. READING BETWEEN THE LINES!! There seems to be a strongly felt desire by those of us writing this story, the very first time a court transcript is read, to do just that read that “unsaid” statement Noah is trying to make to those who would listen with an unbiased ear. 'I didn’t have a pistol because if I had I probably would have shot the old fool, that's why I took a trace chain to get his proper attention’.
MINUTES OF DISTRICT COURT, CRIMINAL, COLEMAN COUNTY TEXAS
THE STATE OF TEXAS vs NOAH WILKERSON: February 14th AD 1899.
This day came on to be heard, defendants motion for an continuance of this cause until next term, and the court after hearing and considering the same is of the opinion that said motion should be overruled. It is ordered, adjudged and decreed by this court that said motion be and the same is hereby overruled and defendant except to same ruling of the court. (This is from Criminal Minutes District Court, book 2, 1894-1913 Coleman County, file 1306
February 17th AD 1899.
This day this cause came on to be heard the motion of the Defendant to Quash the indictment in this cause and the court after considering the same is of the opinion the law is with the State on said motion. It is therefore considered and ordered by the court that said motion to Quash be and the same hereby overruled in all things to which action of the court the Defendant in open court then and there excepted.
February 17th AD 1899.
This day this cause was called for trial and the State appeared by her District Attorney. And the defendant Noah Wilkerson appeared in person, his counsel also being present, and both parties announced ready for trial and the defendant Noah Wilkerson in open court pleaded not guilty to the charge contained in the indictment herein. Thereupon a Jury to wit: Welton Winn and eleven others was duly selected, impaneled and sworn, who having heard the indictment read, and the defendant’s plea of not guilty, thereto, and having heard the evidence submitted and having been thus charged by the court, retired in charge of the proper officer to consider of their verdict. And afterward on Feb. 20th, 1899 were brought into open court by the proper officer. The defendant and his counsel being present and in due form of law returned into open court the following verdict which was received by the court, and where now entered upon the minutes of the court to wit: “We the Jury find defendant guilty as charged in the indictment and assess his punishment at imprisonment in the Penitentiary for a term of Two Years.
Welton Winn, Foreman
It is therefore considered and adjudged by the court that the defendant Noah Wilkerson is guilty of the offense of Perjury as found by the Jury and that he be punished as has been determined by the Jury by confinement in the penitentiary for Two years and that the State of Texas do have and recover of the said defendant Noah Wilkerson all costs in this prosecution expended for which execution will issue: And that the said defendant be remanded to jail to await the further order of this court herein.
March 4th AD, 1899
On this day this cause again being called.
The State appeared by her District Attorney and the defendant Noah Wilkerson was brought into open court in person and in charge of the Sheriff for the purpose of having the sentence of the law pronounced in accordance with the verdict and judgement herein rendered and entered against him on a former day of this term to wit: February 20th AD, 1899 and after the defendants motion for a new trial had been overruled. And thereupon the defendant Noah Wilkerson was asked by the court whether he had anything to say why said sentence should not be pronounced against him and he answered nothing in fact thereof. Whereupon the court proceeded in the presence of the said defendant Noah Wilkerson to pronounce sentence against him as follows: It is the order of the court that the defendant Noah Wilkerson, who has been adjudged to be guilty of Perjury and whose punishment has been assessed by the verdict of the Jury at confinement in the penitentiary for two years be delivered by the Sheriff of Coleman County, Texas, immediately to the Superintendent of the Penitentiary of the State of Texas, and the said Noah Wilkerson shall be confined in said Penitentiary for two years in accordance with the provision of the law governing the penitentiary of said State. And that said Noah Wilkerson be remanded to Jail until said Sheriff can obey the directions of this sentence.
The above and foregoing minutes of the District Court of Coleman County, Texas, the same being the minutes of the February term 1899 having been read over in open court and approved, and on this the 4th day of March 1899, this day adjourned until the next regular Term.
J. O. Woodward
This incident, as stated above, quite likely took place in early 1898 and Noah had been 'in country' so to speak for 15 to 20 years, however criminal court records are limited in Coleman County prior to 1894.
Either people really did not like him or respect him or disliked extremely what he represented, be it jealousy of his success, prosperity and/or style of living, only the people of those times know the real truth!
Needless to say, this netted Noah a sentence of 2 years in prison, but the incident itself seems to have become a precursor to his conflicts with the law both in Coleman and Runnels county.
To some it might seem a mite harsh to receive 2 years in the pen for allegedly lying to a court of law, but then those times were known to be harsh and sometimes downright cruel!
Apparently, with the limited source for court transcripts in Coleman county, Noah’s three trials, i.e. number two is the Perjury trial in Coleman county in February of 1899 after having been arrested, charged with murder and incarcerated in Ballinger, Runnels county in early September of 1898 to await trial for that cause tends to show that the court docket must have been full for the October term of court in Runnels county for 1898 and he was held over to stand trial on the assault charge and consequential charge of Perjury and sentence of two years in prison for same during the February term of 1899 in Coleman county, then number three is the murder trial in October, 1899 in Runnels county, both trials and verdicts were appealed in the order in which they took place.
It is hoped that records in either county courthouses have not been either lost, destroyed or simply, for whatever reason, become unavailable to allow present day research to be able to look more closely at those “lines in between.” It certainly seems that a lot of pertinent data is not available.
What follows next is not the whole story, of course, but all that’s been found at present.
Not having any idea what was taking place in Noah’s life at that time, it seems the world was trying to fall down around him, as the following sequence of events will attempt to tell. In August of 1898, a full 7 months prior to the above perjury trial, a man was murdered in his sleep 3 ½ miles north and east of Ballinger, in Runnels County! This murder became the eventual downfall of Noah, R.F., Wilkerson. Every attempt possible will be made from this point forward in relating the truth from the only source available, the court transcripts and a whole lot more of that "reading between the lines” There are no children of Noah’s left alive, very few grandchildren, who only have family lore handed down by others, which makes this story one that can easily become highly debatable. This writing is only meant to establish just several opinions of what “could” or “might” have happened!!
AUGUST 24, 1898, 3 ½ MILES NORTH OF BALLINGER, RUNNELS CO. TEXAS. BEN SLATE MURDERED..SHOT IN THE HEAD WHILE ASLEEP FOR THE NIGHT, ON A TRIP WITH A LOAD OF WOOD.
AUGUST 25, 1898. CRIMINAL DOCKET NO. 235. SUBJECT: INQUEST UPON THE DEAD BODY OF BEN SLATE.
On this 25th day of Aug. 1898 having examined the dead body of Ben Slate into the cause, time, manner and place of the death of the deceased to wit:
First: Said deceased was a male person about 22 years of age at the time of his death.
Second: That deceased came to his death by a gunshot wound likely a 44 caliber pistol (six shooter) at the hands of party or parties unknown at this time. The deceased was shot, the bullet penetrating the head of the deceased above the right eye, passing down in and through the brain and out just below the left ear.
W. M. Weeks J.P.
CRIMINAL DOCKET NO. 232. THE STATE OF TEXAS vs TUMP ELDRED. C. O. HARRIS, STATE’S ATTORNEY.
Complaint filed the 25th day of August 1898. Made by R.P. Kirk. Against Tump Eldred. Charged with MURDER.
Warrant issued the 25th day of August, 1898.
Placed in the hands of Constable R.P. Kirk
CRIMINAL DOCKET NO. 234. THE STATE OF TEXAS vs Noah Wilkerson.
C. O Harris, State’s attorney. Truly V. Spencer, defendant’s attorney.
Complaint filed the 2nd day of Sept., 1898.
Made by: R.P. Kirk
Against: Noah Wilkerson
Charged with: Murder
On this 7th day of September 1898 came on this cause to be heard and the State of Texas by C. O. Harris and the defendant in person and by counsel and the court having fully completed the examination in this cause, it is considered that the proof is evident and sufficient to require the defendant Noah Wilkerson to answer before the District Court of Runnels County, Texas for the offense of Murder in the first degree and said offense not being a bail-able one it is ordered by the court that the said Noah Wilkerson, defendant, be committed to the jail of Runnels county Texas and there safely kept to answer for said offense before said District Court, without bail.
W. M. Weeks J.P. pct no. 1
The Great State of Texas refuses to pay for this case and others.
August 27th, 1898. Randal (Tump) Eldred has been arrested.
September 2nd, 1898. Noah Wilkerson has been arrested.
From sworn statements taken from subpoenaed witness’s in a court of law, testifying as to what they knew about the few days leading up to and following the murder of Ben Slate, the following is the compiled knowledge of a few people, put before you, the reader, to judge for yourself what the real truth is!!
Those of us who are taking the time to write it all down have leaned more in favor of the possibility and definite “probability” that Noah, R.F., Wilkerson was set up for a big fall by someone or some group of “ones” that really and truly wanted him out of the way, for whatever reasons we’ll surely never know, but the freedom is ours to conjecture and speculate and “hear” what was never said!!
THE STATE OF TEXAS vs NOAH WILKERSON
File No. 401, A True Bill, filed the 17th day of October, 1898 by W. L. Towner, Clerk of the District Court, Runnels co, Texas.
The Grand Jury for the county of Runnels, organized for October term of 1898 did present that Randal Eldred aka Tump Eldred on or about 24th day of August, 1898, and anterior to the presentment of this indictment, did then and there unlawfully and with malice aforethought kill and/or murder Ben Slate by then and there shooting the said Ben Slate with a pistol and a gun.
And the Grand Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do further present in said court that Noah Wilkerson on or about 24th day of August, 1898 and prior to the commission of said offense by the said Randal (Tump) Eldred in the county and state aforesaid did unlawfully, knowingly, willfully and of his malice aforethought advise, command and encourage the said Randal (Tump) Eldred to commit said offense and said Noah Wilkerson did further at time and place aforesaid and prior to the commission of said offense did prepare arms and aid in the way of a horse, saddle, bridle, pistol, ammunition and rope for the said Randal Eldred for the purpose of assisting said Randal Eldred in the commission and execution of said offense, the said Noah Wilkerson not being present at the commission of said offense by said Randal Eldred.
Signed by G. M. Vaughn
Foreman of the Grand Jury.
The witnesses called: R.P. Kirk, sheriff of Runnels co., Mal Cox, Polk Cox, Mrs. Polk Cox, Brack Meeks, John Knight, Joe Knight, Jones Bradley, Mrs. Jones Bradley, Mrs. Ben Slate (Lola May), J.M. Clifford, Henry Slate, Arthur Wilkerson, Miss Minnie Wilkerson, Mattie Wilkerson, Mrs. Frank Moore, Frank Moore.
Court being in session before the Honorable J. O. Woodward, Judge of the 35th Judicial District:
The first witness, J. F. Moore, for the relater being sworn said:
I was with Ben Slate when he was killed on the night of August 24, 1898, (Wednesday night). We had started to Ballinger with wood and had camped about 31/2 north of Ballinger. We were sleeping together on a wagon sheet one end of which was tied to my wagon wheels. I was awakened just before.......I heard something like water running out of a jug and reached down and found that it was blood running from a gunshot wound in Slate’s right temple. I did not see anyone and did not hear anyone. I heard one of my horses that was hobbled run up to our other horses. I heard no other horse run. I stayed there until about daybreak when I went to the nearest house and waked the people there up and told them my brother in law was killed and asked them to send for the sheriff. After the sheriff came, he, Pilcher, Adams and myself searched for horse tracks for about 150 yds. From the wagon. We found none.
I married Ben Slate’s half sister. Slate and Wilkerson were friends so far as I know. On the day that Slate was killed he (Slate) told me that he and Tump Eldred had a little “jower” a day or two before. He also told me either on that day or the Friday before that he and old man Cox had a scrap a few weeks before at Cox’s house. Cox was Slate’s father in law. He, (Slate) said he started to bring his wife to Dr. Monday for treatment. Cox asked him where he was going to take her and he told Cox he didn’t know as it was any of his business. Cox said he would make it his business and started to pick up a club when he (Slate) grabbed him. Said he (Slate) slapped the old man down. Said the old man told his son, Mal, to pick up a chunk and knock him (Slate) down, and that Mal started to do so when Noah Wilkerson interfered and prevented him from doing so. It seems to me that he said Cox got his gun and that the old lady and Noah interfered. I was arrested for killing Slate. This is all that I know about the killing of Slate.
J. T. M. sworn said: I am District Attorney of the 35th judicial district. There is and was at the time Ben Slate was killed, an indictment for perjury pending against Noah Wilkerson in the District Court of Coleman County. This grew out of a difficulty Wilkerson had with Mr. Gray. Gray charged Wilkerson with beating him with a pistol. Wilkerson swore he had no pistol, and was indicted for perjury for so swearing. Ben Slate testified before the Grand Jury that he was with Wilkerson and that he did not see Wilkerson with a pistol. Ben Slate was a material witness for Wilkerson in the trial of that case. The testimony showed that no one but Gray, Wilkerson and Slate was present at the difficulty.
AT THIS POINT THE QUESTION ARISES: WHY WOULD NOAH WILKERSON WANT TO HAVE A STAR WITNESS KILLED WHEN HE HAS YET TO COME TO TRIAL FOR COMMITING THE SO-CALLED PERJURY? BEN SLATE TESTIFIED HE WAS PRESENT AT THE DIFFICULTY. SOMETHING SEEMS AMISS!!
Breck Meeks a witness for the relater being sworn said:
On the evening that Ben Slate was killed I was in a wood camp about ½ mile east of Noah Wilkerson’s house. The two Knight boys, Tump Eldred and I were working together. Eldred broke his ax handle and went to Wilkerson’s to borrow an ax. He borrowed my horse and saddle to go after the ax. He came back leading a horse with a rope. He said he expected to be arrested and was going to Polk Cox’s to attend to some particular business and after that they could arrest him if they wanted to. He wanted to borrow my saddle and said he would be back by daylight. I was afraid he was going to run away, and told him that I was going to use my saddle and did not let him have it. He left in the direction of Cox’s riding the horse he brought with him, bareback, and with a rope halter. He told me that Ben Slate had been lying on him, that he had accused him of stealing from him. Ben Slates wife and Miss Mattie Wilkerson were at Noah Wilkerson’s that evening. Ben Slate had a pair of small o.k. spurs. I was at Wilkerson’s when Eldred was arrested. There was a crowd there. Slate’s body was there. When Eldred was arrested he said he was not guilty—that he could prove by Mal Cox that he stayed at old man Cox’s that night. Mal was present, he did not say anything.
THERE SEEMS TO BE LOTS OF CONFLICTING STATEMENTS ISSUED THUS FAR.
Ed Hardegree, being sworn said:
About 12 o’clock on the day that Ben Slate was killed I saw him at Crews, near the store. He had a load of wood and said he was going to Ballinger with it. We were having a private conversation when Noah Wilkerson came up. About that time I asked Slate if he would get to Ballinger that night. He said no. I don’t know whether or not Wilkerson heard this. Wilkerson had a paper in his hand on which was the names of four witnesses sent to him by a lawyer in Coleman to have subpoenaed in his Coleman County case. He said he could not make out the names of all of the witnesses and asked me to read it for him. I did so. The names were Paul McCulis, Will Burnett, Gip Wilson and I think Ben Slate. Wilkerson and Slate appeared to be friendly. They had no private conversation. Wilkerson and i went off together to look for a mule. Wilkerson did not ask Slate anything about where he would stay that night.
Polk Cox, a witness for the relater being sworn said:
Ben Slate was my son in law. The night he was killed I was in Coleman. I went there that day to do some trading and did not get home until next night. I frequently stay all night in Coleman when I go there to trade. Three or four weeks before this I had a difference with Slate about his taking his wife, my daughter, to Ballinger. I picked up a stick to strike Slate but he took it away from me. I called on my son Mole to pick up a stick and strike Slate. I don’t know whether or not Wilkerson told Mally not to strike Slate. I went in the house and got my pistol. My wife asked me not to shoot Slate. Wilkerson met me at the door and asked me not to shoot Slate. Wilkerson took Slate and his wife off in his hack. I told Slate when we were quarreling that he stole Mally’s money and Elias Cox’s pistol. He dared me to prove it. I told him that he acknowledged it in his sleep. Shortly after this my wife went over to Slate’s and Tump Eldred told me that Slate said he had a notion to drag her out of the house by the hair of her head, and that if she didn’t leave he would stomp her to death. Tump Eldred told me two or three weeks before Slate was killed that Slate tried to hire him to kill me with an ax while I was asleep. After this I slept out of doors with my head against a wall, and a pistol under my pillow until Slates death. I was afraid that he would kill me with an ax. while I was asleep. When Slate left my house the day we had a quarrel I told him if he ever came back there again I would hurt him. I never saw him after this. My wife told me that Ben Slate had tried to have intercourse with our little girl about six years old. Both Eldred and Wilkerson told me that they believed Slate was jealous of them. Eldred waited on Slate’s wife before she married Slate, and wrote her two letters. Wilkerson also told me that Eldred said that Slate tried to hire him to kill me. I don’t remember whether or not Wilkerson told me that he advised Eldred to tell me about it. Eldred made his home at my house when he was not at work elsewhere. I treated him like one of my boys. I first heard of the death of Slate at Wallace’s Blacksmith shop on Friday morning. Tump Eldred was with me. I don’t know whether or not Mal Cox was present at that time. On Sunday or Monday after Slate was killed Mally Cox, for the first time, told me that Tump Eldred told him that he killed Ben Slate. He told me this in my back yard. My wife was present. My wife had told me that Mally had told her about it, and I asked Mally if Tump had told him that he killed Ben Slate and he said “yes”. This is all the conversation I had with Mally on the subject at that time. He did not then tell me any of the particulars. On the road to town after this Mally told me that Tump came down the road and killed Slate and came back to my house that night. I asked him what Tump rode and he said he rode a dark horse. That he asked Tump where he got the horse and he said he traded for it. He said that Tump said he got a saddle and pistol down the road. He did not tell me where. He did not tell me that Tump claimed to get a saddle and pistol at Noah Wilkerson’s. He never did tell me that. He never told me what he swore to at the inquest, and has never told me all that he knew about the case.
AGAIN, HERE IS THE SECOND PERSON EXPRESSING A DESIRE TO DO BODILY HARM TO BEN SLATE! LET’S WAIT AND HEAR IF NOAH WILKERSON EXPRESSES ANY OF THOSE DESIRES.
Mal Cox: a witness for the relater being sworn said:
On the evening before Ben Slate was killed Tump Eldred came to our house about ½ hour by sun riding a dark colored horse barebacked with a rope halter. He left about dusk. While he was there he told me that he was going to kill Ben Slate that night and would be back to our house before daylight. He said that Noah Wilkerson would have a saddle and bridle for him at his barn with a 44 pistol in the saddle pocket. He rode off bareback and without a bridle. He had a stolen saddle at our house at this time. It was hid in the Milo Maize patch. When he brought this saddle to our house he kept it one day in the saddle house with our saddles, and then hid it in the milo maize patch. He rode it once over to Ben Slate’s. I know that he did not ride this saddle that night because after he left I went after our milk cows and saw the saddle in the milo maize. I went along the fence outside and looked down the rows and saw the saddle there. Eldred got back about 3 o’clock that night and told me that he had killed Slate. After Eldred left that evening my mother asked me where he was going, and I told her that he was going to take a ride and would be back that night. I don’t remember telling her anything that Tump told me, and don’t remember anything that she said, only that she asked me what Tump and I were talking about. I don’t remember what I told her. I did not tell anybody what Tump told me until the next Sunday evening when I told my father and mother that Tump told me that he killed Slate. I did not tell them the particulars about it. I told them that Tump said he was going to kill slate and that he said he was going to get a saddle and pistol down the road and asked me if I didn’t know who from and I said “no”, and that he said, “from Noah Wilkerson”. Tump did not ask me to loan him my saddle that night. It is 6 or 7 miles from our house to Wilkerson’s. I was over at Atoka on Friday morning and heard Slate’s death talked about at Wallace’s shop. I went with Eldred down to Wilkerson’s where Slate’s body was. Eldred was arrested there. He said he stayed all night at our house. I said he stayed at our house that night. I did not say that he stayed there all night. I heard Eldred deny killing Slate and say that he could prove by me and my mother that he stayed at our house that night. It was in this connection that I said he stayed at our house that night, but I did not say he stayed there all night. I was after arrested but turned loose. I had some trouble with Slate last winter, have had no trouble with him since. I was friendly with him and did not want him killed. The reason that I did not tell what Eldred told me was because he told me that he would kill me if I did, and I was afraid to tell. I had heard that Slate had tried to have Eldred to kill my father. I heard that Slate tried to have intercourse with my little sister six years old. I didn’t know whether to believe it or not. My father told me about it, and said my mother told him. I didn’t hardly believe it. I am just out of Coleman jail, having pled guilty to stealing a rope.
Polk Cox, recalled said:
Mally told me after we came back from Ballinger about Eldred stealing Kirby’s saddle and hiding it in the milo maize patch. If I saw Eldred with the saddle I thought it was Slate’s saddle. My wife and I went out and got the saddle and moved it. It was well hid. It was in the end of the milo maize patch next to the house, and about 100 yds. from the fence. The milo maize was short and thick and the saddle could not be seen by anyone passing along the fence in the daytime. I never stated in Jim Hubbard’s saloon, the day that Eldred was arrested, that he stayed all night at my house. I did state on the street in the presence of G. W. Newman and others that they had the wrong man, that Tump Eldred stayed all night at my house the night Slate was killed and that I could prove it by my wife and Mally. That Eldred was sick that night and they gave him three doses of medicine. I was not at home that night. The reason that I made this statement was that my wife told me this.
Mrs. Cox, a witness for the relater being sworn said:
Tump Eldred came to our house the evening that Ben Slate was killed about ½ hour by sun. We were eating water melon. He said “I’m too late for watermelon and supper too.” I said “no, we haven’t had supper yet.” He stayed until about dusk. He and Mally went out to the lot and had a talk. After he left, I asked Mally what they were talking about and he said Tump was going to take a ride and would be back that night. That Tump said tell me so that I wouldn’t be scared when he came in. He said that Tump was going to find a saddle and bridle and pistol at Noah Wilkerson’s. I did not ask Mally what Tump was going to do with a pistol, I supposed that he was going to steal horses, and I told Mally that he had better put our horses up. Mally told me that Tump would be back that night, but I thought he was going to drive some horses out of the pasture. Eldred made our house his home when he was not at work elsewhere. I asked him to stay to supper but he said he did not want any supper. I heard him when he came in that night, he was not sick during the night that I know of. Next morning after he got up he said he had the headache and I gave him a dose of anti-kerminia and he laid down awhile. I did not tell my husband that Eldred stayed all night at our house nor that I or Mal gave him medicine during the night. On Sunday after the killing Mally first told me that Tump Eldred said he killed Slate. We were in the kitchen. I think Mr. Cox was present. If not, he came in. Mr. Cox did not have any talk with Mally about it and did not ask him any questions about it, but only told Mally to tell the truth about it. When Tump Eldred left our house that evening my smallest boy K was fixing to milk. He was at the cow--pen and when Tump left Mally went on to the cow-pen and helped milk. Some of the cows were between the gate and the pen and Mally drove them on to the pen. The gate and cow-pen are south of the house. The Milo Maize patch is north of the house. I know that Mally never went in that direction after cows after Tump left because I saw him pick up his bucket and go to the cow-pen and the cows that were not in the pen were between the gate and the pen and saw him drive them to the cow-pen gate. I never knew anything about the stolen saddle until after Tump was arrested. Mally then told us about it and Mr. Cox and I went and got it and hid it in the orchard. My little daughter, 6 years old, told me that Slate tried to have intercourse with her. I didn’t know whether to believe her or not. I thought as much of Ben Slate as I did of anybody, most as much as any woman thinks of her son in law.
K. (went by his initial rather than name) Cox: A witness for the relater, being sworn said:
I was at Wilkerson’s when Tump Eldred was arrested. I told Mr. J. J. Crow that Tump Eldred stayed at our house the night Slate was killed. I told him this because I did not want to come to court.
The next witness is for the “STATE”, only one shown in the court transcripts presently at hand.
Bush Tell: Witness for the state being sworn said:
I was at home the night Slate was killed, also the day and the Monday before and the Friday after the killing, so far as I remember. I was at Wilkerson’s on Sunday before the killing. I went there about 3 o’clock p.m. and stayed about an hour. I saw, (illegible name, looks like “soilutor”) with a pistol in his hack on Monday before the killing. Two of his daughters and Miss Minnie Wilkerson were in the hack. I noticed the pistol because it looked like one I had stolen from me some time ago. He said it was a pistol that had been pawned to him and that Cludy Pilcher had had it and he was taking it home. That pistol was a .41 or .44 or .45. I am familiar with pistols. I never owned but one, and am not certain what its caliber was. It was about the size of the pistol that Noah had. I have never seen that pistol that Wilkerson had since, and I do not know where it was on the night that Slate was killed.
VERDICT OF JURY
FILED MARCH 31, 1899
CK DIST COURT
RUNNELS CO. TX.
WE THE JURY FIND THE DEFENDANT NOAH WILKERSON GUILTY OF MURDER IN THE 1ST DEGREE AS CHARGED IN THE INDICTMENT AND ASSESS HIS PUNISHMENT AT CONFINEMENT IN THE PENITENTIARY FOR LIFE.
The State of Texas The District Court
Vs At Runnels County
Tump Eldred Texas, Oct Term AD 1900
Now on this 19th day of October AD, 1900 comes the state by her District Attorney and says she will dismiss this cause as to murder of the first degree and elect to try the defendant on the charge of murder in the second degree, and to accept the defendants plea of guilty to murder of the second degree for the following reason, to wit: The defendant and one Noah Wilkerson each being charged by indictment in said court with the murder of one Ben Slate and the said Noah Wilkerson having been put upon trial therefore at a former time of this court. And the defendant Tump Eldred having voluntarily confessed to the murder of said Ben Slate, and having voluntarily offered to testify in said cause against the said Noah Wilkerson and having voluntarily so testified in said cause in behalf of said State, upon whose testimony in connection with other corroborating evidence the said Noah Wilkerson was convicted of murder in the first degree and his punishment assessed at confinement in the State Penitentiary for and during his natural life. In consideration of which the state has accepted this defendant’s plea of guilty to murder in the second degree. In this cause he, having gone upon the witness stand voluntarily after having first been cautioned by the court as to the consequences of his said plea of guilty to all of which the defendant has agreed and consented.
T. T. Crousson
Runnels County, Texas
In District Court of Runnels County, Texas
October 19th, 1900
The State of Texas
This day this cause was called for trial, and the State appeared by her District Attorney, and the defendant Tump Eldred appeared in person in open court, his counsel also being present and the State by her District Attorney for the reasons set out in the motion of District Attorney herein filed, elected to try the defendant upon the charge of Murder in the second degree and thereupon the said Tump Eldred was duly arraigned upon said charge as directed by law and in person in open court pleaded guilty to said charge of murder in the second degree as contained in the indictment herein thereupon the defendant was admonished by the court as required by law of the consequences of said plea and the defendant persisted in so pleading guilty and it plainly appearing to the court that the defendant is sane and that he is uninfluenced in making said plea by any consideration of force, by any persuasion or delusion or of hope of pardon, prompting him to confess his guilt. The same plea of guilty of murder in the second degree is here now received and here now entered on record upon the minutes of the court on this plea herein of said defendant. Thereupon Jury to wit: H. A. Thomas and eleven others now duly selected, impaneled and sworn, who having heard the indictment read and the defendant’s plea of guilty thereto and having heard the evidence submitted and having been duly charged by the court, retired in charge of the proper officer to consider of their verdict, and afterwards was brought into open court by the proper officer, the defendant and his counsel being present, and in due form of law returned into open court the following verdict, which was received by the court, and is here now entered upon the minutes of the court, to wit: “We the Jury find the defendant guilty of murder in the second degree and assess his punishment at confinement in the penitentiary for a term of twenty five years.”
H. A. Thomas, Foreman
It is therefore considered and adjudged by the court that the defendant Tump Eldred is guilty of the offense of murder in the second degree, as confessed by him in his said plea of guilty, herein made, and that he be punished as has been determined by the jury, of confinement in the penitentiary for Twenty Five years, and that the said defendant be remanded to Jail to await the further order of this Court herein.
The account of T.T. Crosson, Dist. Attorney.
No. 402 Tump Eldred $50.00, Clay Williamson No 453 $30.00
Approved by J. O. Woodward Dist. Judge
Below photos lend their measure of sorrow that followed the death of Ben Slate, who was murdered. As can be easily determined by simple math. Ben’s wife, Lola Mae, was pregnant at the time of his death, leading back to that portion of the testimony where Ben was apprised by Polk Cox of the reason he was taking his wife to see a doctor?? What agony that woman, along with a small daughter, Winnie Mae, was destined to endure, the death of a husband, forced to live with family and the eventual birth and death of a son, Bennie, all within less than 9 months! Lola Mae, along with the Cox family, moved to Coke county. She later married again, to Frank Loving of Colorado City, Texas shortly before appearing on the 1910 census in that placement. Winnie later married J. W. Hagler in Colorado City and had two children, J. W. Jr., and Dorothy. Obituaries for Lola and Winnie and even J. W. Jr. showed that all three died within a short time of one another in Odessa, Texas, Lola having remarried a 3rd time to a man named Young. Winnie shows to have been born in Novice, Texas, a short distance from where Ben and son are buried and in the general area of Noah’s ranch.
Winnie became a member of United Daughters of the Confederacy, causing one to wonder if she might have been researching her ancestry as well?