I grew up watching Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger and the Cisco Kid. They rode their horses hard and fast across hills, desert gulches and other western scenes, chasing cattle thieves and train robbers. Houston was a big city with freeways and skyscrapers, so this area never struck me as the Wild West, but in fact it was the Wild West in 1887.
The Galveston Daily News ran a story on Aug. 27, 1887 about some horse thieves in Cypress who had stolen four horses, but had left broken-down ones. Four suspicious men ate lunch at Thompson Switch about seven miles from Cypress, near present day Highway 290 and FM 1960. The men were described by locals for the Harris County sheriff, who came from Houston on the train to Cypress to investigate. The gang’s boss was 5’8” tall and weighed about 160 pounds. He had a sandy mustache and wore a plaid sack coat, striped trousers and “a big slouch hat.” Another was a heavy-set man the others called Baker, who wore a white felt hat and his trousers tucked into his new boots. Another man was tall and slim with a light colored mustache that was “very heavy” and he wore “just one spur.” The fourth man was slim and wore jeans and a black sack coat. They were talkative and claimed to have just sold a railroad cattle car full of beef. They went on a shopping spree as well.
With this information, the sheriff returned to Houston and organized a posse that went hunting for the men. According to the Austin Weekly Statesman of Sept. 1, 1887, the posse left Houston on Aug. 29 and found the band near Eureka Switch, which is inside the 610 Loop today, near the northwest end of Washington Avenue. Captain Lubbock and three of the posse found the gang camped on the prairie, and the posse charged them. The thieves grabbed their guns and horses and broke for the timber. The gang leader turned and fired at the posse and a running gun fight ensued. The chase lasted about 30 minutes, but the posse abandoned the chase after about a half mile into the woods. They returned to Houston, and another posse resumed the hunt but returned without finding the gang. Area residents later reported that at least one gang member was slightly wounded and two of their horses severely wounded. Based on the description of the gang, they were thought to be the gang that had robbed the Northern Pacific near the state line the previous spring. Doesn’t this sound just like an episode of the Lone Ranger, with of course, the exception that the gang would have never escaped from that Masked Man and his Indian friend?
If you would like to learn more about Texas or Cypress history, visit Commissioner Steve Radack’s Cypress Top Historic Park at 26026 Old Hempstead Highway, open daily from dawn to 7 p.m. The buildings are open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. To arrange a special tour, contact the park at 281-357-5324.
The park is home to the Cypress Historical Society housed in the “California Poppy” yellow train depot in the back of the park; hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. They have genealogy and historical information for the greater Cypress area. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-758-0083. If you have questions or comments about this article, contact Fred Collins at email@example.com.
Historical facts courtesy of Cypress Top Historic Park Collection & Cypress Historical Society: Preserving Cypress History for Posterity.