Maurice Walton

Maurice Walton



Maurice Walton is a retired attorney, a longtime Granbury resident, and president of the Bridge Street History Center.

We saw in the last column that Mit Graves was never heard from after the shoot-out on the road to Mitchell Bend. Bill Mitchell’s life on the other hand is well documented. For our purposes today, we will just say he ultimately wound up as a fugitive of the law. He settled into relative obscurity with his wife, Mary, in New Mexico.

After the shoot-out and hanging of Cooney Mitchell, James Truitt went on to a respectable life as a Methodist minister and newspaper publisher. That was the situation of the two men in 1886, when Bill learned that James and his wife, Julia, were living in the east Texas town of Timpson. Undoubtedly, James thought after the passage of so many years that he was safe.

He was wrong. On July 2, 1886, Bill got revenge for the hanging of his father. In the late afternoon that day, he rode his horse into Timpson, tied it up outside the Truitt house, walked in, and in the presence of James’ wife and daughter, fired a single shot into James Truitt’s head, killing him instantly.

With Julia screaming hysterically, Bill got back on his horse and rode out of town back to New Mexico where he and Mary lived as unmolested as a “man on the lam” can live.

In spring 1907, Bill, then living under the alias of Henry “Baldy” Russell, was arrested by the sheriff of Otero County, New Mexico. He was brought back to Texas by Hood County Sheriff J. G. Swofford to answer for his crimes. He was taken first to Hood County where he was indicted for the murders of Sam and Isaac Truitt. He was then taken to Shelby County where he was indicted for the murder of James Truitt.

Ultimately, he was found not guilty in Hood County. He was tried twice in Shelby County for the murder of James Truitt. Even though Julia testified as an eyewitness, both trials resulted in hung juries. His case was transferred to Cherokee County where a jury found him guilty of murder.

Finally, after his appeals were exhausted, in March 1912, almost 40 years after the first blood was shed, Bill Mitchell went to prison. But the story wasn’t over. They couldn’t keep Bill Mitchell behind bars. A little over two years after being imprisoned, he escaped. He spent his final years, still a fugitive, in Arizona where, in April 1928, he died at the age of 76.

I think Bill Mitchell’s life is best summed up by his great, great granddaughter when she said, “I cannot judge Bill Mitchell nor the times he lived in, but I think I understand his motives and actions. It is sad those few short seconds at Mitchell Bend would dominate and motivate this man for the rest of his life.”

When you combine this column and my previous column, you have about as brief a rendition of the Mitchell-Truitt Feud as I am capable of telling, and I didn’t even get to tell you about the death of Jeff Mitchell.

If you want to read more on the life of Bill Mitchell and the Mitchell-Truitt Feud, I suggest you read “Outlaw Bill Mitchell alias Baldy Russell, His Life and Times”by C. L. Sonnichsen. The book can be purchased at the Bridge Street History Center, 319 E. Bridge, where you can also see our exhibits on the Mitchell-Truitt Feud.

Next time, I am going to tell you why I think people are still talking about the Mitchell-Truitt Feud in Hood County.