Francis Augustus Hamer (March 1884 - July 1955) was a Texas Ranger, best known for leading the posse in 1934 that killed the criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. (Snapshot in 2017)
Two years prior to that action, Hamer also had operated as a Ranger in Guadalupe County, Seguin, Luling and Gander Slu. Where there was a big problem, the Rangers often sent Hamer to handle the situation.
Bob Bowman reported how Hamer was called north of Seguin when a farmer named George Hughes was arrested for molesting a woman. The man, Hughes, had gone to get his wages where he worked but the owner was gone. He asked the wife for his wages and she told him he would have to come back later.
Hughes, who was known as a hothead and unstable, returned with a shotgun and again demanded his wages. She repeated what she had told him and that he would have to come back later. When she didn’t have the money, he assaulted her.
Rangers were called to apprehend him and when they approached, he fired his shotgun at them, one shot going through their car windshield, and Hughes quickly fled the area. The following Monday, Hughes surrendered and was jailed for the criminal sexual assault on the woman, and his trial was set for the next week.
The people of the community were so incensed about the assault that the judge ordered that Hughes be moved to another jail for safekeeping and to prevent a mob from seizing him. To further provide safety for Hughes, Hamer and the other Texas Rangers escorted Hughes from the jail to the courthouse.
Only those involved in the case were allowed in the courtroom but a mob soon began to gather outside and some actually managed to gain access to the courthouse corridors. When the trial began, the mob began throwing rocks at the courthouse, breaking windows.
When the jury was selected and the first witness was called, the mob forced open the doors of the courthouse and tried to enter the courtroom. For his safety, the district judge ordered the prisoner locked up in the court house vault. Hamer ordered warning shots be fired and the jury and Hughes were rushed from the courtroom through a back door. The mob made another rush on the courthouse and the Rangers were again able to drive them back with tear gas.
The judge conferred with the attorneys and said he wanted to move the trial to another town. Hamer told him he doubted the trial could be held without bloodshed and so he agreed to the move.
Two more attempts were made to rush the courtroom and were beaten back when a Ranger fired a shotgun loaded with buckshot, wounding two of the men.
One of the agitators walked to the foot of the stairs and and asked, “Are you going to give us the prisoner?” The answer was no, “we are not.” The agitator then told the Ranger that “we’re coming up for him.” The Ranger told him that any time he feels lucky, “come on but when you start up these stairs, there is going to be many funerals in town.”
At 2:30 that same afternoon, two mob members threw an open can of gasoline through a broken window into the courthouse, resulting in a fast-spreading fire and forcing everyone to climb down a ladder to escape.
As the fire spread, the Rangers guarding Hughes offered to escort him from the building but Hamer said the courthouse vault was the safest place for him.
On the ground, the mob held the firemen back, cut their hoses and soon the entire courthouse was engulfed in flame.
By late afternoon, only the walls of the building and vault remained.
The mob attacked the vault, knowing Hughes was inside, and used dynamite and acetylene torches to open the door.
No one knows whether Hughes died from the dynamite or from carbon monoxide, but the mob finally pulled his body from the vault, dragged him outside and hanged him from a tree on the courthouse grounds.
Fourteen men were indicted in connection with the riot but only two were convicted. Hughes was buried in the county’s poor farm.
This was the first known hanging of a dead man in Texas.