The Story of a Murder in Hubbard City, Texas.

I came across this story in the Texas Criminal Reports citing a case from 1888/9. It was an appeal from a murder conviction, John D. Pitts v. The State, No. 3040, Decided February 25, 1889.

It goes something like this: John Dayton Pitts, came to Texas from Georgia and according to the census of 1900, he was a lawyer here in town. He even graduated from Cornell University. Mr. Pitts was born in 1855 and in 1888, at the time of the murder, he was about 33 years old. In 1889, Hubbard was still basically a wild town. While there were stores, and drug stores, and doctors and lawyers, there was also a house of prostitution according to the case.

On with the story… On March 13, 1888 (or 1889 according to the appeal documents) , at about 12 ‘o’clock, John Pitts shot and killed Dave Stern here in downtown Hubbard City, Texas. Dave Stern was a merchant here in Hubbard. Dave Stern was Jewish and came to this country from possibly Russia in 1882, according to the records. He was born in 1852, which would have made him 36 at the time he was shot and killed. His wife was residing in New Orleans at the time of his death and that is where he is buried. According to:

The Times-Picayune
New Orleans, Louisiana
25 Mar 1888, Sun • Page 4

John Pitt was married and his wife was also in her 30’s at the time of the incident. They lived on Walnut Street, but I cannot clarify the exact house.

This is where the story begins. There was a hotel in Hubbard City called the Covington Hotel. It was reputed to be a house of prostitution run by a Mrs. Covington. Mrs. Covington had, prior to the murder, been charged and acquitted of running a disorderly house. Mr. Pitt assisted in prosecuting Mrs. Covington and Mr. Stern took an interest in Mrs. Covington’s affairs in more ways than one. (There is no other information on Mrs. Covington. Who she was is consigned to history).

John Pitts heard that Stern had said, “Pitts need not be cutting up about Mrs. Covington because his wife, Mrs. Pitts, was no better than Mrs. Covington as she had gone to the Covington Hotel and begged Mrs. Covington for a job and she was broke and destitute and needed something to do; and if Mrs. Pitts had a child in 3 or 4 months, it would not be John Pitts’ child.” Evans denied making the statement and even said he would apologize to Mr. Pitts for any slight given to Mrs. Pitts. The day prior to his murder, Mr. Stern was walking down the street and went in to a drugstore to purchase a cigar. Mr. Pitts saw him and said to another man, “There is that son of a bitch, don’t let him come this way.” Mr. Stern did not come that way and at that time was unarmed. The next day, Tuesday, on March 13, 1888, Stern was walking on the street and Pitts came from his home, armed with a double barreled shotgun and he called to Stern, “Stern, Stern, you son of a bitch,” and shot him once, wounding him in the face and head, killing him instantly. Stern, at the time, was armed with a 6 shooter in his hip pocket, but had made no attempt to use it.

The trial was held on October 20, 1890. Pitts was convicted of murder in the second degree was was given only 5 years in the penitentiary (Huntsville).

Pitts appealed the verdict by stating that Stern’s language was grossly insulting to his wife and he acted in a fit of passion to defend the honor of his wife. He also had a witness who stated that he had caught Stern and Mrs. Covington in bed together. The Court stated that since Pitts didn’t know this fact before he killed Mr. Stern, this could not have attributed to the passion in killing Stern. The Court denied his appeal and he was sent off to Huntsville Prison. It does not look like he actually went to Huntsville until March 23, 1891.

Only a year later, John Pitts was granted a pardon by the Governor of Texas at the time, Governor J. S. Hogg. This was attested to by many men around the area and due to the fact that he was a trustee and his father was supposedly ill, he was released in 1892.

Was his father really ill? Well, we may never know. His father passed away in California in 1904. John Pitts and his wife were here in Hubbard in 1900 living on Walnut Street. Later, he moved to Mount Calm. By 1904, he and his family were living in California and he was a still a practicing lawyer and dabbled in property. In 1905 we find him giving a lecture on the Bible.

Los Angeles Evening Express
Los Angeles, California
31 Aug 1905, Thu  •  Page 4

Pitts also became interested in a death row case:

The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, California
29 Dec 1907, Sun  •  Page 9

The murder of Mr. Stern must have weighed on his mind. He passed away in May of 1919 at the age of 64 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery with many of the famous stars of the era. He remained married to his wife Carrie, who died in 1918 and is also buried in Forest Lawn. He had 2 children, Mabel and Marion. Marion was born in September of 1888 and died at the age of about 38 in California, and is buried with his parents. Marion had a rough time of it evidently, and was placed in the Norwalk State Hospital for the Insane according to his draft registration card in 1917/18.

Norwalk Hospital founded in 1915/16

Marilyn Monroe’s mother Gladys was treated at this hospital after she had suffered a mental break down. Bela Lugosi is another famous former patient, admitted for 90 days in 1955 to treat his morphine addiction.

The daughter of John Pitts, Marian, married and had two children. She died at the age of 63 in Los Angeles.

Should I find any further information of Dave (David) Stern, will update a post at a later time.

There is always a story to be found and lives behind the headlines and the tombstones.

Rural Transportation in Hubbard, Texas

The Heart of Texas Rural Transit District (HOTRTD) is one of 39 Rural Transit Districts designated by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT). HOTRTD provides demand response transportation to the general public, including transportation for seniors age 65 and older, and to the disabled of any age. Service is primarily provided using a fleet of 28 HOTCOG owned vans and small buses. The shared ride services is considered “origin to destination,” meaning the vehicle stops at the passenger’s address, instead of the passenger being required to go to a pick-up location; and multiple riders may be on the vehicle. Transportation is provided Monday through Friday in Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill, Limestone and rural McLennan counties. Here in Hubbard you can contact Frances at 254-292-1873. Thank you Bobbie Loud for the information!

May be an image of grass and text that says 'HEART OF RURAL TEXAS HEART OF TEXAS one way trip within county (excludes McLennan County) OF COUENINN RURAL TRANSIT DISTRICT WWW.HOTCOG.ORG PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FOR: BOSQUE, FALLS, FREESTONE, HILL, LIMESTONE COUNTIES one way trip county to county within region (includes McLennan County) ANYONE, ANY AGE, ANYWHERE (WITHIN SERVICE AREA) TO MAKE OR CANCEL A RESERVATION CALL BOSQUE, FALLS, COUNTY 254-292-1873 LIMESTONE COUNTY 254-729-2625 254-292-1873 The Heart Texas Rual Transit Districtprovides District affordable public transportation within service area including Bosque Falls, Freestone Hill, Limestone County. Service classified "demand response' curb curb service. For questions or clarification call or email'

Call Jesse Thomas

If you have ever been out to Valley View Cemetery here in Hubbard, you will see these headstones. Call Jesse Thomas. …. he really meant call him. He has headstones all over the area and this was his way of advertising his services as a tombstone maker!

This is a neat piece of history and who was Jesse Thomas? His gravestone for his services also can be found in Tanyard Cemetery in Madison, Texas. No telling where else! He was a shoemaker in Mexia as well as a monument maker.

His obit – Funeral Set Funeral Set Here Friday Funeral – services for Jessie S. Thomas, Sr. of 319 West Commerce Street, will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, in the Westside Church of Christ. Brother W.H. Meachum will conduct the services. Burial will be in Henderson Cemetery, under direction of Dorsey and Keatts Funeral Home. Mr. Thomas, a native of Limestone County, died May 3 at 12:05a.m. in the Marlin Veterans Hospital. He was 88 years of age. A veteran of World War I, Mr. Thomas worked as a shoe repairman and monument maker. He was a member of the Church of Christ and affiliated with Masonic Lodge 282, Pride of Coolidge. Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Ida Thomas of Mexia; two daughters, Mrs. Lee Jackson and Mrs. Mozell Brewer of Groesbeck; three sons, J.W. Thomas and C.T. Tatum of Dallas, and Jessie Thomas, Jr., of Houston; a sister, Mrs. Anna Murphy of Waco; 14 grandchildren and 18 great- grandchildren (May 6, 1976). Years down the road people will be wondering who Call Jesse Thomas was with the obsolete phone number underneath!

August 11, 1881 – Hubbard, Texas, Up For Sale!

On August 11, 1881, Hubbard City lots came up for public sale. This was the flyer that announced the sale and showed some of the lots. This map is part of the collection entitled: Map Collections from the University of Texas at Arlington and was provided by the University of Texas at Arlington Library to The Portal to Texas History, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries.

Hubbard, Texas – Where Did The Name Come From?

Hubbard, Texas . . . where did the name come from? For those of you who don’t know, Hubbard was named in honor of Richard Bennett Hubbard, former Governor of Texas (1876-1879) and also the Ambassador to Japan. He lived in Tyler and was originally from Georgia, but like many Southerners, he came to Texas. He was a very large man and was a great speech maker. As far as I can tell, Hubbard is the only city in the US to be named after the former Governor.

There are many stories about Governor Hubbard which will be shared later. #themoreyouknow (Governor’s Mansion Collection) Richard B. Hubbard, 1876-1879Silver cake server presented to the Governor by the government of Japan, engraved J.R.H. for First Lady Janie Roberts Hubbard. Richard Hubbard was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Japan. The Hubbard’s had been living in Tokyo, Japan, for almost two years when Janie Roberts Hubbard became ill and died. Her remains were returned to her Tyler, Texas, home for burial.

Desperados in and Around Hubbard City, Texas

Desperados – The Life of Tom Varnell – and yes, he killed a man here in Hubbard.

The ARLINGTON JOURNAL, Arlington, Texas. Thursday July 30, 1903 –

Tom P. Varnell a somewhat notorious character was shot and killed at Abbott, Hill County, on the 26 of July, 1903, by Oscar Ferguson. Varnell had heretofore killed two men and served one term in the penitentiary. For years he has been one of the Hill county‘s bad men. Son of Isaac (Ike) A Varnell and Francis LaDocia Crawford.In 1880 at age 18 Tom P shot and killed A P Fisher in revenge for his father’s death in 1876. He shot and killed Jonas Hagar Land at age 21 in Hubbard City in 1883 after being caught by Land with his 16 year old daughter. After two years on the run he was captured in New Mexico and several trials later was convicted and spent 9 years in the Texas State Pen. He was released on Jan 19, 1902 and was pardoned at the recommendation of State Senator S C Upshaw, who had been his criminal attorney when he was convicted.

Six months later he killed a Mexican, Frenchy Rauls, in the Oklahoma Territory, and was sentenced to 10 years. The conviction was appealed, bail was set and Tom P returned to Texas.On July 26, 1903 he was shot and killed by Oscar Ferguson in Abbott, Texas, to “protect the honor” of Oscar’s sister. Oscar was tried for murder, but found not guilty. His father Isaac Alexander Varnell was murdered on New Years Day in 1876. His brother Isaac Napoleon Varnell was gunned down in 1867 at the age of 17 by a 16 year old. Death and misery followed Tom during his short life of 41 years.

Thomas Powhattan “Tom P” Varnell

BIRTH 13 Feb 1862 Hill County, Texas, USA

DEATH 26 Jul 1903 (aged 41)Abbott, Hill County, Texas, USA

BURIAL Hillsboro City Cemetery Hillsboro, Hill County, Texas, USA

PLOT Section 11

For the book about his life –…/dp/0984185739

Jonas Hagar Land is buried here in Hubbard in Fairview Cemetery.

The Importance of the Hubbard FFA Continues Today

Back in 1963 – a throwback to the FFA and how important this organization continues to be in the lives of the students here in Hubbard and throughout the country. Where would the world be with the farmers?

Did you know – The National FFA Organization, originally called the Future Farmers of America, was founded in 1928 as a national organization for boys in rural, farming communities. Its original purpose, the education of youth in agricultural fields of study, is still recognized through its current programs. Today, the mission of the National FFA Organization is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Through educational programs the FFA teaches students how to become active in their communities and successful in their occupation. FFA membership includes junior high, high school, and college students and totals approximately 450,000. We are thankful that the Hubbard FFA program continues today.

This is an article CLIPPED FROM: The Waco News-Tribune, Waco, Texas, 01 Apr 1963, Mon • Page 11 – Kenneth Stoker of Mt Clam and Rodney Gerik of Hubbard and the champions steers.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'HUBBARD WINNERS Stoker (above) fM. Kenneth Hubbard Lions below) chapter. The annual Club, throughout day. drew Exhibitors Rodney Hubbard High Future Farmers America brought stoc 080 showed bulls and with them.'

Covid Strikes Again But Doesn’t Get Hubbard Down

Usually, here in Hubbard, Texas, celebrations are in full swing during Magnolia & Mistletoe. From parades, to vendors, to music, to parties, to events… this has all been curtailed this year in order to prevent the spread of this horrible thing that has been a blight during 2020. Life doesn’t stop and we wanted to remind everyone of all the fun times from Hubbard past. If you have any photos or videos to submit: Enjoy the photos of Christmas Past here in Hubbard and more to come!

Cars, Not Just Cars, But Rare Cars in Hubbard

We know there are tons of car enthusiasts in Hubbard, and one of the largest collections was right here in Hubbard! Berta Leon, as you know, is the doll collector. She has graciously donated many vintage dolls to the Hubbard Museum (a must see). But did you also know that her husband, J. S. Leon, who is now deceased, was a big collector of vintage automobiles and housed many here in Hubbard? This is a wonderful article about Mr. Leon and his collection from the Corsicana newspaper. Berta Leon was also a former Mayor of Hubbard! – Corsicana Daily Sun – Corsicana, Texas 07 Dec 1975, Sun • Page 17

Thanks to Casie Freeman we have an idea of the extent of the car collection of Berta Hackney Leon and her husband. In March of 2019, the cars went on auction by Sotheby’s. What an amazing collection and my question is which one would you have if you could buy any of them? Mine would be the Silver Phantom – what about you? (Of course I love them all!) Link to the catalogue and photos of the collection.…/2019/am19/index.html