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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.

Revolver from the Early 1920s, Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free)  24418673 | Shutterstock
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

mount calm · Patents · Uncategorized

Washing Clothes in 1884 (Mount Calm, Texas)

Mount Calm is just down the road from Hubbard, and we consider her a Sister City. The history of Mount Calm intertwines with the history of Hubbard and sharing the history of Mount Calm ties the towns together!

Imagine this… in 1884 three brothers who were living in Mount Calm and at the time decided to patent a detergent that they had invented. The instructions for washing clothes were detailed and contained highly flammable as well as harsh materials.

Jordon Davis, Epaminiondas (named after the Greek General) and David Davis, patented a new and wonderful invention for the women to use (yes it was always the women) in washing clothes. This is what you had to do:

Take 1 Gallon of Pure Water, 1 Pound of Rock Potash (I had no clue what rock potash was – Potash is an impure combination of potassium carbonate and potassium salt. The term potash has been commonly used to describe the fertilizer forms of potassium derived from these rocks by separating the salt and other minerals.) We continue… 1/4 Pound of Borax, 4 Ounces of Kerosene Oil, and 1/2 ounce of Benzine (which is a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum).

Then follow the directions for your wonderful Detergent!

This is where potash is mined:

Mosaic Shares Fall After Early Mine Closure Cuts Potash Output

Ladies, to use this washing compound you must thoroughly wet all your clothing in cold water, and then wring it all out again. Probably in a wringer or mangler like one of these!

Then, as above, to 3 gallons of soap suds, add 1/2 pint of the Davis Brothers detergent and sit there awhile. Then you dump that out and start all over again in boiling water and soap suds and detergent. Let that sit for at least a 1/2 hour or paddle around to get the stains out. Then you need to rinse in cold water, wring out again, and go hang it out on the line to dry.

Many of the other washing compounds of the day contained beef tallow, skim milk, magnesia, turpentine, alcohol and ammonia!

Patten Number 278, 409 – May 29, 1883. This is a copy.

I also found a photo of Epaminiondas Davis!

Epa, was born in Arkansas and passed away in Waco at the age of 66 and his brother Jordon, with his family (did she wash the clothes?)

Jordon Davis passed away in 1928 in Mount Calm, Texas. They had several children who remained in the Mount Calm area.

When you do laundry today with your little Tide Pods and your Downey Liquid, think about the women who had to struggle and use all those corrosive and dangerous materials just to keep their clothes clean!

Source of Patent: Portal to Texas History – https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth170548/m1/1/?q=%22Mount%20Calm%22

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Buzz The Bee of Honey Nut Cheerios

#DIDYOUKNOW that a young lady from Coolidge named the Honey Nut Cereal Mascot? Their mascot is an anthropomorphic bee, designed for the first commercials by Dean Yeagle at Zander’s Animation Parlour in New York City. The bee did not have a name until 2000, when Kristine Tong, a fifth grade student from Coolidge, Texas, won a national contest to name the bee, dubbing him “BuzzBee”. Buzz also appeared as the host in the Honey Nut Cheerios Spelling Bee game, which was named after the breakfast cereal. Buzz has also gone through several different voice actors in his career. He was originally voiced by Arnold Stang until 1990. He was then voiced by Billy West, Charlie Schlatter, Jason Marsden and currently Oliver Wyman.So, thanks to Kristine Tong from Coolidge, Buzz the Bee is the Honey Nut Cheerios Mascot. In 2017, Buzz the Bee was missing, in order to draw attention to the dwindling bee population.

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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.

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.

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A Typical Hubbard Home in 1915

HUBBARD HISTORY — This was the home of Ward R. Dean in 1915. It was on a postcard that “Kittie” wrote home to Massachusetts August of 1915. “Kittie” appeared to be studying music (there was a music college here in Hubbard at the time). She was sailing out of Galveston and appeared to be going back home. From what I can tell from census records, this house was located at 208 Bois D’ Arc here in Hubbard. It appears to no longer be here. (If any one knows any different, please let us know). Mr. Dean was a cotton buyer and is buried here in Hubbard at Fairview Cemetery. He passed away when he contracted pneumonia in 1918. He was 43.

The “Real Postcard” thing was a huge deal from 1905 to about 1917 (ish), and lingered on until about 1930. Many of the inks and chemicals used in the postcards came from Germany, which explains the decline in interest about 1917.

[House of W. R. Dean], postcard, 1915; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/…/metapth1212784/m1/2/…: accessed October 14, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Private Collection of T. B. Willis.

308 Bois D’ Arc – Hubbard, TX?
Fairview Cemetery, Hubbard, TX
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The 1976 Bicentennial Madness (Even in Hubbard, Texas!)

In the USA, The Bicentennial was a big event! 1976 and our wonderful Country was 200 Years old. I was in elementary school at the time (in SC not Hubbard), but I am sure the excitement was shared all over the USA! National pride and the history of our country was at the forefront even in Hubbard! The articles I found in the Waco paper suggested there was a big celebration. The Hubbard Garden Club planted trees and at the celebration, Justice Sam Johnson was to speak recognizing that Hubbard was a “Bicentennial City.” Does anyone remember the celebrations here in Hubbard or wherever you were at the time? As I recall we began preparing in 1975 through 1976. They called it the “Bicentennial Madness”. I guess it was – everything was red, white and blue. Even Ford put out a special edition truck – don’t you wish you had one now! Where were you and do you remember?

The Hubbard Garden Club planted trees!
Justice Sam Johnson was to speak!
T-Shirts like this were everywhere!
Ford had a special edition truck – Bicentennial Madness was everywhere! It was wonderful!
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1886 Men of Hubbard, Texas

Step back in time to January 24, 1886, in Hubbard. These are the boys and men you would see working and walking the streets, going in the shops and possibly the several saloons! This was an important day for them as you can see they dressed up and they all have their fancy watches and chains (a fashion at the time). They all probably worked hard, but took a Saturday afternoon off to take their photograph at the studio of J. E. Taulman. (Joseph E. Taulman Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin)

Handwritten on back “Ottie Taulman, Percy Bryan, Zac Wilson, Geo. W. Bishop, Eddie Taulman, John Dunn. Hubbard City, Texas. Jan. 24th 1886”.

January 1886 – Hubbard, Texas
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Another Hubbard – Hollywood Connection

We talk a lot about Joseph Taulman and his wife, Arminta McClellan Taulman. Now, we can share about Arminta’s sister, Livonia Mildred McClellan Roach and her daughter, a Hollywood movie star! While Arminta stayed in Hubbard (and is buried here), her sister Mildred moved to Los Angeles and she married to a Edward Roach. They had a daughter, and if you have watched Westerns of the 1940’s, you have seen Nell (Roach) O’Day!

She began acting as a child in the 1920’s (while her mother worked in photography studios – no doubt skills taught to her by her brother-in-law, our Mr. Taulman). By the 1940s, O’Day was becoming a regular in Western films and started to receive starring roles in them, typically opposite the likes of Johnny Mack Brown, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, Max Terhune, and John ‘Dusty’ King. Thanks to her experience as a talented equestrian, she signed a contract with Universal and fulfilled a recurring cowgirl role in a series of horse operas opposite star Brown and his sidekick, Fuzzy Knight. She would also appear in Westerns for other studios, including Republic and Monogram. Her last starring Western role would be in Boss of Rawhide (1943).

Though O’Day occasionally performed on stage, she retired in 1945 after performing in the Broadway’s Many Happy Returns. She made one more movie, a non-Western, entitled The Story of Kenneth W. Randall M.D. (1946). O’Day then devoted her time to writing. One of her successes was the play The Bride of Denmark Hill, which was later turned into a BBC-TV production.O’Day would write and grant interviews until the end of her life at age 79.

She died from a heart attack on January 3, 1989, in Los Angeles, California. Her burial location is unknown. Today, there are few tributes to O’Day that remain. We can remember, here in Hubbard, that her Aunt and Uncle are buried here. Another Hubbard Hollywood connection!

Nell O’Day
Cabinet card with photograph of a woman (Livonia Mildred McClellan) holding artist’s palette and paint brushes and sitting on a wicker chair beside a framed painting. Photograph is on white cardboard with photographer’s name at the bottom. Handwritten note on back of photograph “Livonia Mildred McClellan, (daughter of James W.) Original photo taken by Chalmers, of Ennis, Texas, Oct. 24, 1897.”
Nell O’Day
Nell O’Day