The Cornett-Whitley Gang: Violence Unleashed in Texas
During the late 1880s, the Cornett-Whitley gang rose on the Texas scene with a daring train robbery at McNeil Station, only miles from the capital of Texas. In the frenzy that followed the robbery, the media castigated both lawmen and government officials, at times lauded the outlaws, and indulged in trial by media. At Flatonia the gang tortured the passengers and indulged in an orgy of violence that earned them international recognition and infamy.
The damage that the gang caused is incalculable, including the destruction, temporarily, of a Texas Ranger company. The gang tarnished reputations, shed light on what news media was becoming, and claimed lives. As a whole the gang was psychopathic, sadistic, and murderous, prone to violence. They had no loyalty to one another and no redeeming qualities.
But the legacy of the gang is not all evil. Private enterprises, such as Wells Fargo, the railroads, and numerous banks, joined forces with law enforcement to combat them. Lawmen from cities and counties joined forces with federal marshals and the Texas Rangers to further cement what would become the "brotherhood of the badge." These efforts succeeded in tracking down and killing or capturing a good number of the gang members.
Readers of the Old West and true crime stories will appreciate this sordid tale of outlawry and the lawmen who put a stop to it. Those who study the media and "fake news" will appreciate the parallels from the 1880s to today.
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