Murder in Montague: Frontier Justice and Retribution in Texas
On a sweltering August night in 1876, Methodist minister William England, his wife, Selena, and two of her children were brutally slaughtered in their North Texas home. Acting on Selena’s deathbed testimony, a neighbor, his brother-in-law, and a friend were arrested and tried for the murders. Murder in Montague tells the story of this gruesome crime and its murky aftermath. In this engrossing blend of true crime reporting, social drama, and legal history, author Glen Sample Ely presents a vivid snapshot of frontier justice and retribution in Texas following the Civil War.
The sheer brutality of the Montague murders terrified settlers already traumatized by decades of chaos, violence, and fear—from the deadly raids of Comanche and Kiowa Indians to the terrors of vigilantes, lynchings, and Reconstruction lawlessness. But the crime's aftermath—involving five Texas governors, five trials at Montague and Gainesville, five appeals to the Texas Court of Appeals, and three life sentences at hard labor in the state's abominable and inhumane prison system—offered little in the way of reassurance or resolution.
Viewed from any perspective, the 1876 England family murders were both a human tragedy and a miscarriage of justice. Combining the long view of history and the intimate detail of true crime reporting, Murder in Montague deftly captures this moment of reckoning in the story of Texas, as vigilante justice grudgingly gave way to an established system of law and order.
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A. K. Taylor accessed Affidavit attorney August Austin authorities believed Ben Krebs Bill Taylor Book Born Brooks brother Butterfield Overland Mail citizens commutations convicts Cooke County Court of Appeals crime Criminal death December defense died District Douglass England family England murders evidence executive father February File former Gainesville Galveston Daily Governor Grigsby guilty Harvey History Hogg Indian inmates innocent Jackson James Preston John Judge July June jury justice killed KPCF Krebs and Preston Krebs’s later letter living Lubbock Luna March marriage married Matlock Montague County months moved Music named neighbor never North Texas noted November October Office pardon penitentiary person pointed prison quotation Records regarding reported residents Rhoda Roberts Rolls Ross Rusk Savage Selena Selena England sentences September served Sheriff statement Susie Texas Texas Frontier Thomas told trial TSLAC vigilante wife William wrote