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Greer Co, OK
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Greer County, Oklahoma    Old Greer County, Oklahoma Territory

Law and Justice in Greer County, Texas

"Deputy Sheriff Lige Reeves believes the most brutal murder ever committed in Greer County was that of the two prospectors killed on Cave Creek for their possessions. Jim Morris, J. M. Moss, and Will Roberts had worked together at a brickyard in Vernon. After several months of intimate companionship there, the three men decided to cross over into Greer county and locate homesteads. They came to Mangum in a wagon and spent a night there, then drove west to Cave Creek and camped near the home of Billy Murphy, an early-day settler. On the morning of April 14, 1890, Moss and Morris walked up Salt Fork River to hunt wild turkeys, leaving Roberts who was not feeling well, to remain in the wagon.

It is not recorded whether the two saw any turkeys or not. But a shot rang out in the stillness of the spring morning. A bullet from Morris' 32 calibre rifle passed through the head of his companion. Morris concealed Moss' body in a hole he dug in the sand under the root of a cottonwood tree on the banks of the Salt Fork. Roberts was lying on the spring seat of the wagon when Morris returned. Morris fired a bullet through Robert's head and dumped his body over the seat into the bank of the wagon, then drove about half a mile from the scene of the murder, dug a hole in the sand under a thicket, and covered the body of his former friend with a thin layer of earth.

Late in the afternoon a son of Billy Murphy was driving up the milk cows when he found Roberts hat with a bullet hole in it. There was blood, as well as a portion of the murdered man's brains in the hat. Billy Murphy notified Sheriff S. H. Tittle that he suspected a murder had been committed near his home. Sheriff Tittle organized a posse and went to the Murphy home, following the trail of the wagon. L. J. (George) Edwards, pioneer Greer County ranchman, a member of the posse, found the body of Moss under the cottonwood tree. Later the posse found the body of Roberts.

J. R. Byers, pioneer deputy under Sheriff Tittle, trailed the prospectors wagon into Vernon and located Morris. In company with a vernon officer, he placed Morris under arrest and returned him to Mangum.

Morris was placed in a little calaboose on the southwest corner of the public square in Mangum, his leg shackled to a bar. A mob spirit was engendered because of the brutal murder, but Sheriff Tittle protected his prisoner from the Mob, and Morris was placed on trial for his life.

The bodies of Moss and Roberts were buried in Riverside cemetery, and old timers today point out the little stone slabs that mark their final resting places. [[Note: The Inquest of Moss (unknown) and Roberts. Burial: MOSS, J. M., 27 Nov 1861-11 Apr 1890, S-17 R-3 listed in Riverside cemetery] ]

Morris was granted a change of venue to Quanah, where he was tried for the murder. A new jail was being built in Quanah, and Morris was kept in a second-story office room. Constable Bob Downs of Quanah was placed as guard over him.

One evening Constable Downs went to supper, leaving Morris alone. The prisoner unlocked his shackles with a pen point and freed himself. As the constable returned, Morris ran against him and knocked him down the stairs. Sheriff Tittle was notified of the escape of his prisoner and hurried to Quanah to lead a posse of officers, Texas rangers, and citizens in another man hunt.

Two boys, 16 or 17 years old, were hunting along the Pease River when they saw a man asleep under a mesquite bush. Having heard of the escape of Morris and suspecting the sleeping man might be the much-wanted fugitive, the youths cautiously approached him and covered hmi with their guns before awakening him. They marched him to their home, hitched a team to a wagon, forced the man to get in, and hauled him to Quanah.

Sheriff Gibson had offered a reward of one hundred and fifty dollars for the arrest of Morris, and he was surprised that the two youths had captured and delivered the man for whom dozens of officers were searching, for the prisoner was indeed Jim Morris."

From "A History of the Empire of Greer", the OU thesis of James Albert Barnett, 1934