San Saba County Historical Commission

Historical Markers

Texas Rangers and the San Saba Mob

On San Saba County Courthouse grounds

"Removed from major roads and railways, early San Saba County residents had limited access to law enforcement and government. Beginning in the mid-185s, citizens in and around the county formed vigilante mobs to dispatch justice. Although originally formed to protect residents, these mobs often evolved into organized gangs, terrorizing the residents that they had initially formed to protect.

By the 1880s, a group unofficially called the San Saba Mob, or the Assembly, had killed numerous area settlers. Believed to have included religious leaders and elected officials, the mob operated under strict ritual and secrecy, meeting clandestinely at places like Buzzards water hole and Cottonwood pond. Organized similarly to a Fraternal Lodge, the group used secret signs and gestures to identify membership. After meeting and deciding who to eliminate, the regulators would ride wearing black masks or hoods, and ambush their victims with a telling nine bullet holes.

In 1896, in order to stop the violence, the state sent Texas Rangers led by Sgt. W. John L. Sullivan to investigate, and San Saba County News editor Uluth M. Sanderson began running editorials against the mob. Sullivan was later replaced by Ranger Captain William J. "Bill Jess" McDonald, who worked effectively with district attorney W. C. Linden to expose as many mob members as possible. To avoid interference from local officials believed to have ties to the group, they moved key trials to Austin and Llano. By 1900, the Rangers and Linden succeeded in breaking the mob's control over county residents, although few members ever paid for their crimes."