For many families deeply rooted in this part of Texas, tales of outlaws, moonshiners and lawmen often replaced ancient fairy tales and bedtime stories.
The United States marked 100 years since the beginning of Prohibition Jan. 17. My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary the day before and it got me thinking about an odd little piece of history we share...
When my husband and I first started dating, my grandmother produced a copy of an old newspaper clipping and informed us that my ancestor and Texas Ranger Tim Willard had also once partnered with a member of the Hancock family and fellow Texas Ranger Will Hancock.
The article told of how the two partners were sent to shut down a whiskey still – just a few miles from where we currently live today, when Willard was shot and killed by the still's operator, a man named Fagan who ran the backwoods still with his two sons.
“Well, it was between sundown and dark when we made the raid on the still, and Willard asked for permission to go around and come up from the other side,” Hancock wrote about the incident in 1957.
“We got up within 15 steps of the still, when a gun fired and he [Willard] was shot down by the man who operated the still. Tim was ambushed, shot all to pieces. Buckshot, you know. Lived about two or three hours.”
Growing up in rural Freestone County, a moonshiners' hub during prohibition era, it came as no shock to me that I had relatives on either side of the issue – those who brewed it up, and those who shut it down.
How strange to think producing and drinking liquor was once an offense worth dying for. Stranger still, is the fact that some 80 years later, Willard and Hancock would reunite – in a sense.