George Monroe Dallas Hodges was born in McNairy County, Tennessee on January 20, 1846. In 1881, two outlaws shot and killed Constable G. M. Dallas Hodges, Precinct 7, Grayson County, Texas, in the line of duty on May 5, 1881 in Gordonville.
The Early Years
Dallas’ father, James G. Hodges, mother, uncles, two brothers, and one sister moved to Texas in 1849, possibly through a Peter’s Colony Pre-emption grant. In 1845, the Congress of the Republic of Texas passed the first Pre-emption Act, which allowed people who had previously settled and improved vacant public lands the right to purchase up to 320 acres. (See Hodges family tree) (1)
A.J., Dallas' younger brother, was born in their first home in Texas in Titus County. The rest of his younger siblings were born in Grayson County. The family moved to Choctaw Creek in central Grayson County and finally settled close to the Red River in Basin Springs in 1849. The Red River marked the border between eastern Texas and Oklahoma Territory. People called this area of Oklahoma Territory “The Nation” or “Indian Nation” because Indians and outlaws were prevalent.
When the Hodges family moved to Texas, Dallas’ grandfather, WIlliam C. Hodges Sr., gave each son a male slave and a mule with bills of sale signed in Purdy, McNairy County, Tennessee. Dallas' older sister, Ruby Mae, wrote that James and the slaves built a large house with five large rooms, four big fire places, a large open hall, and two large porches.
Dallas' paternal great grandfather, Jesse Calvin Hodges, born February 11, 1754, in Halifax County, Virginia, volunteered with his own team and wagon to serve as a Wagoneer for six months in 1781 in The Revolutionary War.(2)
Exiting North Texas History
To Dallas Hodges, at age three years old in 1849, life in Grayson County, Texas, was literally terribly exciting. In 1858 the first and most famous stagecoach line in the U.S., The Butterfield Overland Express Company, carried the mail from St. Louis, following a southerly route through Texas and Arizona, then turned north up the California coastline to San Francisco.
As the Butterfield coaches sped through western towns, bands played, guns fired, and men flung their hats high into the air. The Butterfield route passed within three miles of the Dallas Hodges family farm.
By the time Dallas was 31 years old, he had witnessed some of the most dramatic and influential historical events in North Central Texas. These events shaped the landscape, politics, attitudes, social mores, and lives for the next six generations to come. Many of Dallas’ male relatives served in the military or government service.
Helldorado on the Crosstimbers
At this time, Grayson County was known as “Helldorado on the Cross Timbers”. The winter of 1862 saw William Clarke Quantrill and his men, Quantrill’s Raiders, winter in Cedar Mills. These men included Frank and Jesse James, Bloody Bill (William) T. Anderson, and the Cole Younger clan. Quantrill’s men traded with gold in Gordonville and Basin Springs, which was rare during the Civil War. (3)
The Great Hanging of Gainesville, Texas, in 1862 began its sordid story when the Loyal Union League was discovered operating in five Texas counties including Grayson and Cooke Counties. Forty men under the direction of Provost Marshall James G. Bourland were hanged in Gainesville because of their Union sympathetic sentiments. Starr Jones, is reported by his descendants in 1863 to have witnessed the multiple hanging. (4) (5)
The famous railroad line, The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, MKT, known as the KATY, began as the Union Pacific Railway’s southern branch and is unrelated to The Union Pacific Railroad. It was the first railroad to enter Texas from the north. The KATY began operation in 1865 and continued until 1989.
In 1867, the U.S. Congress passed the Reconstruction Act. General Phillip Sheridan, who presided over the Reconstruction, once said, “If I owned Hell and Texas, I would rent Texas and live in Hell".
Dallas: Constable, Husband, and Father
Dallas married Caroline Jones in 1867 when Gordonville was a thriving town with a school, a cotton gin, Crump’s Drugstore, Crabtree Blacksmith, a hotel, a saloon, and the Sanderson Grocery Store. They had eight children; one born six months after his death. (6)
Grayson County voters elected Dallas Hodges as their Precinct 7 Constable on November 2, 1880. Constable Hodges was one of the most efficient officers in the county and the terror of desperados along the Red River. In 1881, Grayson County locals named a long strip of land on the south side of the Red River “Thief Neck”.
Dallas boldly arrested outlaws in Thief Neck and the Nation. In 1881, Hodges had recently made arrests of cattle stealing parties hiding out in the Nation. These captures are attributed to his murder. Constable Hodges operated outside of his jurisdiction but as it is today with our Highway Patrol Officers, if in hot pursuit, they can cross the border.
Thief Neck’s heavy underbrush made an ideal hiding place for outlaws. Most farms did not extend all the way to the Red River. The strip was ¼ to ½ mile wide, and ran east from Dexter to Dennison. (6)
Thief Neck Murderers
On May 5, 1881, the two outlaws that shot and killed Constable Hodges used a trail that ran from Dexter east to Gordonville. The following account is taken and summarized from eyewitness accounts published on May 10, 1881.
"Three farmers named Williams, James, and Arnold saw a hard-looking, armed party riding on the prairie road, suspected them as coming from the Nation, and heard them threaten to kill Hodges at the first opportunity. The farmers quickly mounted their horses and chose a northern route to go warn Hodges in Gordonville. They warned Hodges to be cautious."
After receiving this information, Hodges tried to find a gun or pistol for someone to help make the outlaw’s arrest because he’d left his Henry rifle at home that day. He found no one at the stores to assist him and he had no time to go home for a gun or rifle before the daring murderers who were identified as Bud Stephenson and Granvillle Goode rode into Gordonville with six-shooters in defiance of the law.
Hodges hailed them and as they stopped and walked up to them and told them that he did not wish to be too hasty, but if they had no authority for carrying pistols, he would have to stop them.
One of the outlaws said, “I reckon not.”
Both outlaws drew their pistols at about the same time, and one of them missed Hodges. He fired a few seconds after the his partner fired the shot that killed Hodges, They took off at a gallop, and the man who missed Hodges shot a second time as he passed Hodges who was sinking to the ground and broke Hodges right arm above the elbow. Hodges had caught hold of his pistol and drew it out of its scabbard but did not have time to use it.
A man named Mr. C. Weaver saw the two men draw their pistols and called to Hodges to look out, but Hodges had fallen by the time Weaver made it to him. Weaver picked up his pistol and fired three shots at the killers as they rode off while firing two shots back at Weaver.
Weaver then went off in the direction of Rock Bluff Ferry while other men took Hodges to Crump’s Drugstore where he died without a struggle or a sound in a few seconds. On the night of May 8, 1881, Hodges’ killers showed up west of Gordonville and exchanged horses with Matt Jourdan. Mr. Jourdan tracked the outlaws to the Red River near Elliot’s Ferry and came back with information for the parties in hot pursuit of Hodges’ murderers.
Deputy Sheriffs R. D. Coleman and Billy Irwin left for the trail of the killers while armed posses from Grayson and Cooke County were south of the scene of the tragedy and also in the Nation. Irwin and Coleman returned on May 10th with news that the outlaw’s trail continued from Dexter on a stolen horse and they had left another horse in its stead.
The killer named Stephenson had murdered a man three years earlier at Basin Springs. Overton Hodges also struck the killer’s trail from Dexter. No newspaper published anymore news on the Hodges killing until July 10, 1881. At that point, it was believed that Stephenson and a man named Henderson had killed Hodges.
A posse consisting of Deputies Irwin, Crabtree, Coleman, Hodges brother's, Overton and Babe, and three other men came upon their game in a house about 100 miles north in Sorghum Flats in the Nation. They surrounded the house on four sides.
Six desperados walked outside of the house firing their guns. One shot Coleman above the eye, killing him instantly. Babe Hodges was shot under the eye, with the eye ball coming out of the back his neck. It was thought that Babe would not recover and the outlaws escaped unhurt. Coleman left a wife and three children behind.
An account reports that Bud Stephenson fled to Sorghum Flats with his wife. Dallas’ brothers learned of Bud’s whereabouts and went to arrest him. Stephenson was hiding in a secluded place in rough, broken country. Again, no newspaper reported any news until August of 1881:
“The body of Granville Goode, the party who murdered Constable Dallas Hodges in this county (Grayson), was brought to this city (Sherman) this evening by Sheriff Ragland of Dangefield (Texas). Goode was killed in a fight. The coffin was opened tonight and he was at once recognized by an uncle and many citizens. There was a reward of $1,000 offered for him.”
A report from Austin, Texas, supports this story, but another account says Goode was killed when he resisted arrest. Bud Stephenson was still wanted. After the shootout with Sheriff Coleman’s posse, Bud escaped to Sorghum Flats.
Bully July Avenges Dallas' Murder in the End
Bud Stephenson found a congenial spirit in the person of a young man named Bully July who was of the same character as Bud. They soon became companions and made frequent trips with each other into the mountains.
July learned that Stephenson had accumulated a little property, and July wanted it. July lured Bud into the mountains and shot him down in cold blood. He concealed the body, returned to Stephenson’s home, and informed Bud’s wife that her husband was badly injured in the mountains and needed her care and attention. The unsuspicious woman did not hesitate to accompany July to where her husband was supposed to be located.
July murdered her and cast her body into a deep cave. The absence of Stephenson and his wife bought no attention in the community where they resided because he was an outlaw and on the dodge. The people there believed that the Stephensons had left the country.
Their fate may never have been discovered if July’s lips had remained sealed but his whiskey drinking betrayed him. While attending a gathering under the influence of whiskey, July confidentially revealed the details of his crime to one of his friends named Loftus. Loftus later spilled July’s beans to others in the community. July became suspicious of Loftus and killed him, but the details of July’s crimes leaked out and officers were sent to the cave.
The lawmen lowered one of the officers into the cave who found it crawling with snakes. He signaled to be pulled out and went back down with a gun. He killed a large number of snakes and found Mrs. Stephenson’s skeleton along with a carpet bag containing her clothing. Bully July was arrested and taken to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, where he was tried, convicted, and hanged in 1882.
Dallas Hodges grave lies in Berry Cemetery on private property in Gordonville, TX, and Bully July is buried in the Sorghum Flats Cemetery in Murray County, OK. Dallas Hodges’ farm in 1881 was located on Slayton Road, Gordonville, TX.
Constable Hodges is memorialized at Panel: 19-W: 22 on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC. (8)