In the era following the Civil War, there was considerable lawlessness on the Texas frontier, in Seguin, in Guadalupe County and in the Hill Country. According to Ross Phares and Mike Cox’s account, much of it took place on the Guadalupe River 60 miles north of Seguin in the Hill Country.
Seguin and Guadalupe County were also in the throes of crime and murder with the likes of John Wesley Hardin and the Taylor-Sutton Feud (covered in another Snapshot).
This problem in the Hill Country involved two men — John Long and Gabriel Morrow, which resulted in a story of Texas vengeance.
Long was described as a giant of a man, more than six feet tall. He had come to the Hill Country from Tennessee, cleared his land, built his cabin and began to farm, married and began to raise his family.
He was known to be friendly enough but nevertheless tended to mind his own business. Aside from his stature, Long had something else that made him stand out. He was an excellent marksman and when he squeezed the trigger of his rifle, the bullet always went precisely where he aimed. He was greatly admired by everyone throughout the area except by a man named Gabriel Morrow, who considered himself to be the better marksman.
The community organized a shooting match so it could be determined once and for all who deserved to be known as the best shot in the country. In the contest, Long proved to be the more accurate rifleman. However, Morrow did not gracefully accept defeat. He accused Long of winning by accident. Long was confident in his marksmanship and said he would be happy to give Morrow another chance any time.
The differences between the two men may have been deeper than marksmanship. Some say their differences stemmed from issues related to the late war. Supposedly, Long had opposed slavery and supported the Union. Morrow was also suspected of robbing stagecoaches and rustling cattle in the next county.
A group of Morrow’s friends went to Long’s cabin one night and claimed to have found a horse in Long’s corral that had someone else’s brand.
For stealing a horse, he would receive 20 lashes from each of the 15 men. On top of the lashes, if Long didn’t leave and take his family within 24 hours, he would be hanged.
Long mercifully lost consciousness before the whippings ended. After the gang rode off, Long’s wife untied him and managed to get him inside their cabin where she dressed his wounds. The following day she yoked their oxen to their wagon, loaded their possessions, her badly wounded husband and child and left the valley as ordered.
Over time, people stopped talking about the incident but Morrow and his followers continued to terrorize the Hill Country, robbing stage coaches between New Braunfels, Austin and Kerrville and rustling cattle.
One of the ways men provided meat for their families was to have a deer drive. Men would line up in a line and move through the brush and timber, running the deer toward another line of men. The man who felled the most deer won a purse.
At the end of the hunt, one of the men failed to return. Searching the woods, the hunters found the man dead with a bullet wound to the head. Thinking it was a hunting accident, the men resumed the hunt the following day.
Again, someone turned up missing, only to be found dead with a bullet wound in the head. This happened again and it finally sank in that the three men were all participants in the lashing of John Long and they had not died from a stray bullet.
The gang then turned their attention to finding Long. But as the men scoured the countryside, their numbers continued to decrease, one long-range headshot at a time.
Finally, over time, of all the night riders, only Morrow and one other man remained alive. They decided an out-of-state trip would be good for their health. Morrow sent his deputy and a hired hand to town for supplies. On their way back to Morrow’s place, the half drunk deputy gang leader was puzzled to find a log laying across the road. Getting out of the wagon to move the log, the man dropped immediately to the ground. An instant later, the hired hand holding the reins, heard the crack of a rifle. The hand rushed back to Morrow and reported the death of his henchman.
Now the last of the gang alive, Morrow knew he had to flee immediately. He quickly saddled his horse and rode hard, hoping to escape into no-man’s land of Indian Territory. Less than two weeks later, as he was about to cross the Red River and leave Texas, someone called his name. When Morrow turned to see who it was, a bullet slammed into his forehead.
Some people in the Hill Country say the good folks had taken it upon themselves to get rid of Morrow and his gang and that Long had nothing to do with it. It was evident that whoever did the killings was an expert marksman. Long was never heard from again.