Hangman's Oak

Historical Period: Civil War (1861-1865)
Historical Topic: Civil War & Reconstruction, Mob Justice
Species: Texas Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis)
County: Bandera
Public Access: No

The tombstone reads: “Remember, friends, as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, you soon will be; prepare for death and follow me.” Above this inscription are the names of eight Williamson county men who lie beneath it in a common grave. They were victims of a brutal and senseless murder by members of a detachment of Confederate cavalry.

It was mid-July 1863 when a group of eight heavily-armed and well-provisioned men and a boy paused in Bandera on their journey from Williamson County to Mexico to avoid conscription into the Confederate ranks.

When word of the event reached a cavalry unit stationed at Camp Verde, 12 miles north of Bandera, a detail of 25 men under the command of Major W. J. Alexander set out to intercept the “traitors” and bring them back for trial.

The Williamson County group was overtaken on Squirrel Creek, about 10 miles south of Hondo, and were promised a fair trial if they returned peaceably. Feeling that they had broken no law, the men surrendered and the return trip began.

Late in the afternoon of July 25, they made camp under a large live oak southwest of Bandera, near the north side of Julian Creek. After supper, a suggestion by one of the soldiers that they hang the “traitors” was generally approved and soon put into action. Some of the troopers dissented and left the macabre scene. The Major’s non-intervention was taken as tacit consent.

The men’s hands were tied, and a noose was fashioned at one end of a hair rope and the other was passed over a limb of the tree. One at a time, the men were pulled up by the neck and left to slowly strangle to death. When the struggles of one ended, the noose was cut off the rope and left on his neck. A new noose was formed, and the next man was slowly hauled clear of the ground to die. All but one were hanged in this cruel fashion.

One pleaded that he be shot rather than hanged, and the murderers obliged by shooting him through with a full charge but with the ramrod still in the barrel.

As Joseph Poor, who was camped nearby that night but heard nothing, was looking for his horses the next morning, he spied the naked bodies, one with an “arrow” protruding from it. He hastened to Bandera to give the alarm about the “Indian Massacre.”

Several townsmen returned with Poor and buried the eight men near this oak. An inquest rendered a verdict that placed the blame on Major Alexander and his men. After the War, the Major and his men were indicted by a grand jury, but they had disappeared and were never brought to trial.

The boy’s fate was never learned.

The Hangman's Oak is located on the Hanging Tree Ranch south of Bandera.