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A Tragic Tale of Murder in Hubbard

On August 22, 1922, a tragic murder occurred in downtown Hubbard in front of the Taulman store. Was it a case of self-defense or a clear case of murder?

The August heat in Texas seems never-ending and it can be unbearable. Imagine the scene, a hot dry August day about 5:00 or so in the afternoon. It was a Friday. Quitting time after working a full day on constructing a building in downtown Hubbard, and Martin Luther Wisenbaker was packing his tools and getting ready to go home to his wife and 13 children. Mr. Wisenbaker was 44 years old at the time, and had come with his family to Texas from Georgia. They called him Luther and he had a twin brother who lived in Mineola, Texas.

Luther and his family lived towards Dawson, a short distance from Hubbard on a property or farm of the Wilkes family. There are a couple of newspaper accounts of the day, as well as the Appeal of Conrad Simpkins (the shooter), which I have relied upon to piece together what happened on that hot and fateful day in 1922 that changed the lives of so many people.

After working the day on constructing a building downtown in Hubbard, Luther Wisenbaker was packing up his tools when Conrad Simpkins entered the area. Did they have an argument? Were words exchanged? Conrad Simpkins was about 26 years old in 1922, and allegedly, he was interested in one of Luther’s young daughters who was possibly only 15 or 16 at the time. Luther objected to the relationship or interest Conrad took in his daughter and would not have been too happy to see Conrad Simpkins that day. Not only was he hot and tired, he most likely was incensed upon seeing Conrad Simpkins.

In 1922, was it common to carry a gun in Hubbard? We know that Conrad Simpkins did. We don’t know the intent of Conrad Simpkins that day. Why did he approach Luther Wisenbaker? Did he intend to get into an argument? Did he intend to shoot Luther Wisenbaker? We will never know. In a space of time, an argument commenced in front of the Taulman store. Wisenbaker took a hammer and struck Conrad Simpkins and Conrad Simpkins fired his pistol, striking Luther Wisenbaker three times, once in the heart, once in the side and once in the leg. He was killed almost instantly.

1920’s Revolver

According to the Appeal filed in criminal court, Simpkins was struck in the head by a hammer and this evidence was not presented at the murder trial. According to the Justice of the Peace, Simpkins stated to him that Luther Wisenbaker struck him in the head with a hammer, and Simpkins was bleeding 30 minutes or so after the shooting from a wound on his head.

The case was remanded for retrial due to the fact that the evidence of the hammer wound on Conrad Simpkins’ head was not presented at trial. What happened after that could not be determined. It is known, according to census records, that Conrad Simpkins was in Hillsboro in 1930 working at a service station. He died in 1961 at the age of 63 in Fort Worth, Texas. How much time he actually served for the manslaughter or murder of Martin Luther Wisenbaker.

There are many stories such as this in small towns everywhere. Tragedies that ripple in time down the families of those involved.

Headstone of Martin Luther Wisenbaker (Dover Cemetery, Dawson, Texas)
Newspaper Story

https://casetext.com/case/simpkins-v-the-state

hubbard city

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 – https://www.amazon.com/Tom-Ps-Fiddle-True…/dp/0984185739

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