Hallettsville Hanging Tree

Historical Period: Frontier Texas (1865-1900)
Historical Topic: Law & Order
Species: Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
County: Lavaca
Public Access: Yes

In the shade of this live oak, an Indian called “Pocket” was hanged in 1878 for murdering an Englishman named Leonard Hyde.

Lew B. Allen, an early cattleman from nearby Sweet Home, took a liking to an Indian boy he met while driving cattle through the Indian Territory. He persuaded the boy to return with him to his Lavaca County ranch, and there the boy grew into manhood and became known as Pocket.

On February 14, 1878, while under the influence of “firewater,” Pocket went on a rampage in Hallettsville, hollering and racing his horse through town. At the home of Frank Edwards, a former slave, Pocket proceeded to terrorize the Edwards women. Finally Edwards knocked him down. Pocket got up and left but threatened to return and kill Edwards.

After getting a pistol at one place, he galloped to the L. D. Peterson ranch, about five miles west of town, where he asked to borrow a shotgun to “kill some turkeys he had seen near the road.”

Hyde, who was helping Peterson shuck corn, said he would go with Pocket and help kill the turkeys. Pocket got the shotgun, but told Hyde not to follow him. When Hyde persisted, Pocket shot him in the head with the pistol, killing him instantly.

Pocket was arrested later and returned to Hallettsville to stand trial. A jury found him guilty and condemned him to death by hanging.

After an appeal, based on two technicalities—drawing the jurors’ names from a cigar box instead of a box with a sliding lid and improperly charging the jury—the original judgement was upheld. Pocket’s execution was set for Friday, September 12, 1879.

An account of the hanging which appeared in the Galveston News stated that a crowd of several thousand men and women witnessed the event at the Shooting Match Grounds, now a city recreation park.

The Hallettsville Hanging Tree is located in City Park, next to the clubhouse of the Hallettsville Golf Association.