The Jaybird-Woodpecker War LbNA # 60965
|Placed Date||Mar 3 2012|
|Location||Brazos Bend State Park, Needville, TX|
|Last Update||Dec 14 2014|
In the town of Richmond, a block from the courthouse and near city hall, there is an old grey stone obelisk with a stone jaybird sitting at its pyramidal point. The neglected marker tells the tale of a strange yet brutal conflict during the years just after the Civil War, known as the Jaybird-Woodpecker War. The Jaybird-Woodpecker War was a feud between two factions fighting for political control of Fort Bend County. It occurred during the post-Reconstruction era, and its effects echoed in local politics for decades. The conflict allegedly got its name from Bob Chapel, a local "half-crazy" African-American man who was said to sing about jaybirds and woodpeckers. One faction, white Democrats opposed to the Reconstruction-imposed government, identified themselves with the Jaybirds. The other faction was known as the Woodpeckers. This group, too, was composed of 'Democrats', but they represented the former Republican Reconstruction government and were elected largely by black voters. An election was held November 6, 1888, that was supervised by Texas Rangers in which all of the Woodpecker candidates were elected or reelected (many had won election in 1884) to their slate of office. This engendered further hostilities between the two factions. Following this event, in the spring of 1889, a former agitator associated with the Jaybirds, Kyle Terry, who was now a Woodpecker official, as the tax
assessor, murdered one of the leaders of the Jaybirds, Ned Gibson, who was on his way to testify in an unrelated cattle-rustling trial against a friend of Terry's being held in Rosenberg. At the time he was arrested, then posted bail and left to stay in Galveston well into 1890. The dispute resulted in a number of deaths through murders on both sides including the killing of the local sheriff, Tom Garvey (a Woodpecker), and the violence culminated in the Battle of Richmond, in the county seat of Richmond, on August 16, 1889. Following this, martial law was declared and Governor Sul Ross dispatched troops from the Houston Light Guards, along with more Texas Rangers including one well-regarded Special Ranger named Ira Aten, and he himself arrived with the Brenham Light Guards to negotiate a settlement, resulting in a reorganization of county government under control of the Jaybird faction. This was formalized through a meeting held on October 3, 1889. Ranger Aten was such an effective force in resolving the situation that the governor appointed him Sheriff of Fort Bend County. If you drive through Richmond today, it’s a quiet, unassuming small town of fine folks and antique stores. But, it wasn’t always this way.
Directions: This letterbox is located at Brazos Bend State Park in Fort Bend County, Texas, near Needville.
Enter the park, pay your fee and get a trail map. Take the road to Hale Lake and go to the end of the parking area. Park at the trailhead for White Oak Trail. Walk down White Oak Trail. At it's intersection with Red Buckeye Trail, go right on Red Buckeye, cross the small footbridge and find the bench on your right at the intersection. Have a seat and enjoy the natural sounds of birds around you. If you listen close enough, you may be able to hear the Jaybirds squabbling and the Woodpeckers thumping in the tree behind you.
Find out more about Ranger Ira Aten: