Author Archives: Heights Blog

100 Years Ago – February 18, 1909

Denton, Tex., Feb. 18, 1909: The Denton Record and Chronicle noted that the Houston Chronicle had featured a Texas Railroad Commission report showing that damages paid by railroads in lawsuits had risen between 1891 and 1908 from $223,749 to nearly $2 million. The Denton paper commented, in an article titled “Damage Suit Industry”:

Although Texas has a barratry law the damage suit lawyer is still able to make trouble and especially have the railroads suffered from the activities of the ambulance chaser. . . . As the Commission points out, all this is figured in when it comes to making the rates, so after all, the people who patronize the railroads in Texas – and who does not in one way or another? – pay indirectly for the damages paid out. No defense of railroads particularly is intended in this. They themselves, by their dilatoriness and refusals to pay just claims, are to no small extent responsible for the disrepute in which they are held and which aids in the assessment of large verdicts, but when the people discovery that they themselves are paying these damages indirectly, they are going to see things differently.

The Denton Record and Chronicle was formed when William C. Edwards merged two competing Denton papers. His brother, Robert John Edwards, became co-owner and editor in 1906. The Handbook of Texas Online states that the Edwards brothers were “active in state politics,” and that the newspaper, “reflecting the concerns of its owners, consistently supported Democratic candidates and policies.”

100 Years Ago – February 15, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 15, 1909:  Around 7:00 a.m., a man was found dead beside the stove of the city jail. A police officer had run across him on Milam Street the night before, and he “appeared to be suffering from the cold, being poorly clad and almost helpless.” He was offered shelter in the police station, and was “allowed to enter the runway and rest beside the big coal stove.” He talked with some of the prisoners during the night, and had responded as late as 4:00 a.m. An inquest was held, and the justice of the peace declared that the man, Stoge “Tobe” Townsend, was found to have come to his death by natural causes, induced by exposure to the cold. The newspaper noted: “There were no signs of struggle, and it was evident that the sands of life had run out while the man was asleep.”

The man’s death was more notable than it might otherwise have been given that he was a member of the Townsend family, “who at one time were engaged in the famous Reese-Townsend feud.”