Murder in Montague: Frontier Justice and Retribution in Texas

Univ. of Oklahoma. Aug. 2020. 166p. ISBN 9780806167091. pap. $21.95. CRIME
In Reconstruction-era Texas, violence was rampant. Vigilante groups raiding farmsteads, lynchings, attacks from and against Native Americans—rarely did a day go by where residents in northern Texas were at peace. The 1876 annihilation at the England home, in Montague, was no different—the entire family was gunned down, with Selena England living just long enough to give a deathbed identification of the attackers. In this engaging true crime whodunit, Ely (The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail, 1858–1861) tells a terrifying tale while also rooting his narrative in strong historical context—no easy feat. Using court documents, newspapers, and other primary sources, the author lays out the local gossip, the courtroom drama, and, most important, the judicial incompetence that led to trial after trial. With matter-of-fact descriptions, Ely makes the reality of Montague in the 1870s comprehensible to a modern audience.
VERDICT This deliberate, beautifully written work offers a disturbing, clear-sighted look into murder on the frontier. Any collection of Western U.S. history or true crime is incomplete without this title.
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