San Antonio Daily
Express, Dec. 31, 1884: "The people here in Helena are non-committal about the affray, and it is
very hard to get the facts in the case. Even a
perusal of the evidence given at the inquest is very unsatisfactory.“
"This morning your reporter found the town full of armed men, each faction being about equal
in numbers. The accidental discharge of a six-shooter, Winchester or even a firecracker might have made the
streets run with blood. The coolness and judgment of Lt.
Scott of the State Troops, who with two of his company left
Yorktown and rode to Helena in darkness and rain
on hearing the news, prevented all trouble, and the crowd dispersed and went to their homes.”
Lt. Scott, after making preparations for the safety of the late sheriff’s posse
and closing all saloons, met Mr. Butler, father
of the deceased, and that gentleman told him that neither he nor his late son’s friends came for
any trouble. And that after attending to his
business he would leave town, and about 2 o’clock pm, as both of the Messrs. Butler drove out of
the town, the crowd dispersed, having remained for
several hours without making a threat or using an angry or profane word.
The tragedy is supposed to be
the result of an old feud, and dire apprehensions are felt that the end is not yet.”
A point to remember at Daileyville.
"Six-shooters have been carried openly
in this town, and the law has been denied. The county has now an opportunity to place itself on record as
a law and order place, but unless a man of courage and judgment is elected to fill the office of
Sheriff, county organization ought to be abandoned,
and attachment to some adjoining county for judicial purposes ought to be its fate."
In the reporter’s opinion,
Karnes County was so lawless that the county should be dissolved and split up among other nearby counties.
"At the inquest held on December 27, the verdict was that E. W. Butler was killed
by the Sheriff's posse, the said Butler having first
shot and killed said Sheriff, and that Edgar Leary, Sheriff, was killed by a leaden bullet fired out of
a pistol by E. W. Butler, in Helena, at about
"Edgar Leary was claimed by many to have been the best Sheriff that Karnes
County has ever had, and while some question his discretion,
all agreed that he never feared to go where duty called him. He was the only Sheriff who rigidly enforced
the six-shooter law."2
Reisinger was the previous sheriff. I. L. Elder succeeded Leary, and was followed by W. L. Rudd.
Emmett W. Butler was buried on Sunday December 28 in the Butler Family Cemetery.
One researcher believes that WGB was on a cattle drive, had to be summoned back,
and arrived home a few days later. Another researcher also believes WGB
arrived home after the funeral. We think that he arrived back
Emmett Butler was described as “the best one of the sons of WGB. He was 19 years of age,
and bore an excellent reputation. He was reputed to have been brave almost to rashness, and that quality,
mixed with whiskey caused his death.” They were all good men, but as many know, the Butlers were also
quick to resent an insult, and quick to take action, which in that time of the open wearing of
guns, was often drastic and fatal.” A point to remember at Daileyville.
Well ~ Worn Romantic
following quotes are just that, old well-worn legends:14
“Col. Butler buried his son on
Sunday. On Monday he rode into Helena with 25
armed men, demanding to know who had killed his son. When no one would tell him,
he rode away, shouting behind him: ‘Then I’ll kill the
town that killed my son!’”2
"The next day the boy's
father, William Green Butler, showed up with 25 ranch hands to claim the body. W. G. Butler rode up and
down the street shouting for someone to identify the killer, but got no response. He dismounted and drew
a line in the street with his quirt handle, offering to shoot it out with six-shooters with any man who dared to
cross. He threatened `to kill the town that killed my boy.'
He still could not learn his son's
“To Col. William Butler, the
area’s wealthiest rancher, his son’s death called for vengeance. He buried his boy on Sunday, and
Monday rode into Helena with a Colt on his hip and a rifle in his saddle scabbard. He trotted up and down
the town’s main street, demanding that someone reveal who murdered his son. No one obliged him.
He screamed harshly, his voice echoing from the false fronts of the stores and saloons.
that, I’ll kill the town that killed my son!”4
[Ed. Note: ‘a Colt on his hip and a rifle in his saddle scabbard, his voice echoing from the
false fronts of the stores and saloons’ are wonderful poetry from a San Antonio reporter.]
“Butler, riding his horse up
and down the street and waving a rifle about in one hand, yelled to the citizenry in
general, “I want the men who killed my son!” Nobody would tell him. After a fruitless
effort to find out who they were, he said, “Alright
then, I’ll kill the town that killed my son !”15
Great-grandson Ted Butler
reports that his father Marvin did not believe the stories about `I’ll kill the town.’
“My father said that WGB might do it, but he
wouldn’t brag about it.”2
Marvin Butler said his grandfather WGB was the type of man who
would not boast of what he would do, but instead he would just do it.
William G. Butler may have
believed that Fate Elder fired some of the shots in Helena, where Fate had been a Deputy, some 20
months earlier. Fate had been appointed Sheriff upon the death of Edgar Leary.
There may have been hard feelings between
the two concerning the proposed new townsite for Kenedy Junction.
They were on opposite sides in this election, concerning whether saloons should be allowed
in the county.15
We believe that the Butler family was “wet,” and the Elder family “dry.”
Dr. S. G. Dailey testified at the inquest that “the Elders and the Butlers were sooner or
later going to have a difficulty, because the
Elders were so abusive toward them that a fight would be the result of it.” William H. Ammons told his
daughter-in-law, and she told her son, the author, that the Elders were “mean.”
The feud had been running seriously for some time. The
deadly one-sided affair occurred on Monday September 6, 1886. This tragic incident was a Shooting and not
The summary story presented here is based on the testimony given
in the Justice of the Peace Inquest. The
statements were taken under oath in the first few days after the episode. Some witnesses speak openly,
because the affair is still fresh in their minds. But for others,
their statements are self-serving, and
“I didn’t see anything.”
Memory fails them when it gets to just who was doing the shooting.
Convenient memory loss? In later months, these witnesses recognized reasons
why they should not show up to testify in the murder
It was a local option Election Day. Firearms were not allowed in any town on
Election Day. Seven Butlers and ten Butler cowhands gathered around a
"hack" or hackney buggy which had three empty
feed sacks on the floorboards, and two blankets on the seat. The hack was owned and driven that morning
by Andrew M. Nichols, a son-in-law of WGB. The horse was tied to a tree south of the store and voting
pistolero cowboys rode up, tied their horses, pulled their long rifles from the scabbards, and
walked to the hack with guns in hand. Juan Coy and Epitacio Garza
were said to be bodyguards for WGB, and were proficient
with their extra-long Winchesters. Pulling these rifles was illegal.
Deputy Jack Bailey walked out to the hack, and began talking with his friend and schoolmate
Newton Butler. Newton was married to the
Sheriff’s sister Mary. Bailey was unaware of the
seriousness of the situation.
Sheriff Elder, with his red hair and long red beard, was seated at the front of the store,
whittling on wood. Seeing these two with rifles,
Fate Elder strode briskly from the front of the Dailey store toward the hack, just behind Bailey,
putting up his whittling knife as he walked.8
He pulled his pistol and
held it out in his right hand, and his attention was on the Mexicans
with the long rifles. Juan
said “Stop,” and then he said “Stop” again. Elder said nothing. In
about one minute, in a fierce outbreak of gunfire, Sheriff Fate Elder,
Deputy Bud Elder, and Henry Pullin lay dead. Hiram Pullin died a few hours later, and
Deputy Jack Bailey died the next day.7
Several men testified
that the Mexicans started the shooting. Juan Coy fired on Fate Elder, and advanced while firing again.
According to testimony, Fate Elder then backed around the hack, toward two
mesquite trees, to
avoid Juan Coy and his Winchester. Fate snapped his pistol twice, but the...
Page2 of 6
Continue to next page
your browser to go back to where you were...