An American Journey
The Genealogy of the Curbow-Montoya Family
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A Falsely Accused Son and a Hell-Bound Father
A newspaper article published in the Cleburne Times Review on November 1, 2009 regarding the Myers Cemetery and the murder of Mary Ann Hunter by the Myers children.
From the: Cleburne Times Review
November 1, 2009
A falsely accused son and a hell-bound father
By Matt Smithemail@example.com
Myers Cemetery, located in Alvarado, has, perhaps, the richest back history of any Johnson County graveyard.
John Mullen and his team of horses, discussed in Friday’s Times-Review, drowned while attempting to cross nearby Quil Miller Creek one night in 1875, when his wagon overturned in a heavy rain storm.
Myers Cemetery’s most interesting stories, however, revolve around Samuel Houston Myers and his son, Samuel Houston Myers Jr., or Old Sam and Young Sam, as they were apparently known.
Old Sam moved to Johnson County in 1851 with his wife and five of his six children. They settled on land north of Alvarado, according to a history of the Myers Cemetery written by Alvarado resident Dorothy Schwartz.
Patsy Myers, his wife, died in 1853. Old Sam married Cynthia Bales Myers in 1854 who managed to give him seven more children before she died in 1865.
You might think the local women would’ve avoided Old Sam like the plague after that, but he managed to marry Mary Hunter Myers in 1866, who gave him four more children.
Old Sam died in 1874 and was buried in Myers Cemetery — but not before uttering an odd prediction.
A man named T.H. Moore told the story of the prediction to Doris and Leroy Lanfear, president and vice president of the Johnson County Cemetery Association.
“He was quite elderly when he told Leroy and I this,” Doris Lanfear said. “We stopped at his house one day to talk and see if he knew any stories, and asked him about Myers Cemetery. He said, ‘I’ll tell you one that most people don’t know.’ He said he was at the cemetery one day when Old Sam came by on his big black horse. Moore said he asked Sam what he was doing there and that Sam said, ‘I’m sitting here,’ and he was looking at the cemetery, ‘looking at where I’m going to hell from.’ ”
What prompted the remark is anybody’s guess, Lanfear said, though it may have been related to a hanging years earlier.
“Someone stole coins, a fiddle and other things from Old Sam’s house is the story I’ve heard,” Lanfear said. “And he took off for Dallas, which was a long trip back then. Old Sam sent some of his employees after the guy. They found him and brought him back, but they hanged him before they got back to the house. And, I guess, that really bothered Old Sam that it happened because he got so angry with [his employees]. They probably thought at the time they were doing what he’d want them to do. But, to me, that’s the reason he later made that remark to Mr. Moore.”
In his favor, for not going to hell, Old Sam did donate land for a school and a church, Schwartz said.
“In 1853, there was a drought and many of the farmers did not have successful crops,” Schwartz said. “However, [Old Sam] grew a bumper crop of yellow corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and watermelons.”
Old Sam, according to a manuscript written by a relative, “freely furnished the whole community with food.”
Mary Hunter Myers may have outlived Old Sam, but her life came to an unfortunate end not long after.
Most likely because she failed to obey the dictates of Old Sam’s will.
Old Sam left Mary two tracts of land totaling 183 acres with the proviso that the land return to his estate should Mary remarry.
Mary Myers became Mary Hester on Jan. 4, 1877, but continued to occupy the Myers’ property, a situation that caused dissension among family members because several of Old Sam’s bountiful brood believed they had not received their fair share of their father’s estate.
The situation came to a head on the evening of Feb. 21 of the same year.
“[Mary Hester] was sitting at the supper table, surrounded by her family when the assassin slipped to the window and shot her, blowing off her head and spattering her brains in her husband’s face,” according to the March 2, 1877, edition of the Daily Fort Worth Standard Newspaper.
The next day, a man named John Bailes found tracks leading from Hester’s home to the home of James Bowden, who was married to Mary “Mollie Myers, one of Old Sam’s many daughters.
Bowden was arrested and indicted for murder.
“When in prison, he was taken from his cell and placed on a horse,” Schwartz said. “With a rope around Bowden’s neck, Sheriff John C. Brown and a group of men with hoods over their faces led him to a wooded area near the outskirts of Cleburne.
“The men asked Bowden who else was involved in the death of Mary Myers Hester. Bowden later told the mob Sam Houston Myers Jr. [Young Sam] had fired the shot that killed Mary and that he and [brother] Thomas Jefferson Myers had helped him plan to take the life of Mary.”
Thomas Jefferson Myers was imprisoned in Cleburne on July 13, 1877.
When he went to trial, Judge W.H. Wood said, “There is no question but that this affiant is guilty.”
Myers was sentenced to death by hanging in June 1878.
His attorney appealed, claiming that Judge Wood and a Judge Leavitt inappropriately discussed the trial outside of the courtroom.
The attorney’s venue-change request denied, Myers was re-tried and once again found guilty. This time he received a sentence of life in prison with hard labor.
Myers’ attorney’s second venue-change request proved successful, and Myers was tried a third time, this time in Hood County.
During that trial, Myers was allowed to call witnesses who vouched for his activities and those of Young Sam the night of the murder, testimony that had been quashed in the Johnson County trials.
After three years in prison and as many trials, jurors found Myers not guilty and set him free.
Young Sam would not be so lucky.
Bowden’s wife Mollie initially testified that Bowden fired the shot that killed Mary Hester.
Bowden subsequently called her into his cell and convinced her to change her story and say Young Sam, her brother, fired the fatal shot, Schwartz said.
Mollie soon after divorced Bowden and moved to Louisiana, where she lived out the rest of her life.
Based on his sister’s testimony, Young Sam, 18 at the time, was indicted for the murder of his stepmother, Mary Hester.
Myers’ trial was set for July 13,1877, but was four times postponed until 1880. Not that the delays helped Young Sam any.
He was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, which he was on March 19, 1880, in Cleburne. Young Sam managed the last word, however.
“The gun that shot and killed Mrs. Hester was heard at dark,” Myers said from the gallows. “At that time and after that time, up to 8 p.m., I was at the residence of Thomas Jefferson Myers, as was shown in the evidence before the jury. In the name of God, what sane man, without prejudice, could say that this unimpeached evidence created no doubt in his mind?
“Samuel Myers is an innocent victim of false testimony by hired emissaries.”
Bowden’s Johnson County trial ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.
Tried again in Somervell County, jurors found Bowden guilty of conspiring to commit murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
Bowden served 15 years in state prisons in Rusk and Huntsville before being paroled.
“On his deathbed, James Bowden confessed to the murder of Mary Myers Hester,” Schwartz said.
Old and Young Sam now rest in the cemetery named after them, a cemetery that later sat neglected for decades until the Lanfears began cleaning and caring for the cemetery with help from the inmate work crew at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. Leroy Lanfear is the great-grandson of John Mullen.
“Today, this cemetery is in very good condition,” Schwartz said. “It’s peaceful here, with a soft breeze blowing against your face, and tranquility can be found. There is a sadness also knowing a young man, Samuel Houston Myers Jr., buried here, was unjustly accused and paid with his life for a crime he did not commit.”
Hester was buried in Hunter Cemetery near Benbrook. Put on even in the hereafter, Hester’s grave site was moved when Benbrook Lake was formed in 1950 to the northeast corner of Benbrook Cemetery.
Mentioned: Samual Houston Myers; Samual Houston Myers, Jr.; Mary Ann Hunter; James M. Bowden; Mary "Mollie" Myers; and Thomas Jefferson Myers