Hill County Rebellion

Word Count: 313Radical Republican-dominated Twelfth Legislature of 1870
attempted to control crime in the state. In October 1870
Davis threatened Hill County with martial law for its
tolerance of criminals. Conditions in the county seemed
improved by late 1870, but in December a freedman and his
wife were murdered in neighboring Bosque County, and
State Policeqv Lt. W. T. Pritchett moved into Hill County
chasing suspects James J. Gathings, Jr., and Sollola
Nicholson. Pritchett raised the ire of James J. Gathings,
Sr.,qv by seeking to arrest his son. The elder Gathings, Hill
County’s largest landowner, incited a mob that pushed
county officials to arrest and detain the State Police troopers
in Hillsboro in early January 1871. On January 11 Davis
declared martial law in Hill County and dispatched adjutant
general James Davidsonqv and the State Militia to rescue the
jailed police. Davidson arrived on January 15 with fifty state
militia troops from Georgetown, commanded by Capt. E. H.

Napier. Davidson arrested the elder Gathings, his brother
Phillip, and his sons;in;law, James Denmember and Dr. A.

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M. Douglas, for hampering Pritchett’s investigation. The
adjutant general fined the four $3,000, rather than assessing
the entire county as mandated by law. Martial law ended on
January 17. Controversy over incidents in Hill and Walker
counties led to an investigation by the state Senate
committee on militia in February 1871. The committee
supported Davis’s actions; the senator from Hill County, G.

P. Shannon, a Democrat, was the lone dissenter. In 1874,
despite a strained budget and Democratic attacks upon
Radical extravagance, Governor Richard Cokeqv signed a
bill that returned Gathings’s money.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ann Patton Baenziger, “The Texas State
Police during Reconstruction: A Reexamination,”
Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969). Barry
A. Crouch, “A Spirit of Lawlessness: White Violence, Texas
Blacks, 1865-1868,” Journal of Social History 18 (Winter
1984). Ricky Floyd Dobbs, `A Slow Civil War’: Resistance
to the Davis Administration in Hill and Walker Counties,
1871 (M.A. thesis, Baylor University, 1989). Hill County
Historical Commission, A History of Hill County, Texas,
1853-1980 (Waco: Texian, 1980). A Memorial and
Biographical History of Johnson and Hill Counties
(Chicago: Lewis, 1892).


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