A collection of family histories and genealogies.

Thomas Denman "Tom" Yocum[1, 2, 3]

Male circa 1796 - 1841  (~ 45 years)

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  • Name Thomas Denman "Tom" Yocum 
    Born circa 1796  Kentucky, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died Sep 19, 1841  Jefferson county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Jacob Shannon Evergreen Cemetery, Montgomery county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • He settled on a Mexican land grant on Pine Island Bayou, the south boundary of the Big Thicket of Southeast Texas, around 1830.
        As a fourteen-year-old, he cut his criminal eyeteeth with his father and brothers in the infamous John A. Murrell gang who robbed travelers along the Natchez Trace in western Mississippi.  He was the leader of the so-called Yocum gang, known throughout East Texas for committing thievery and murders. According to "aunt Harriet", a slave owned by the Hardin family, he killed his brother, John Yocum.
          W.T. Block writes "YOCUM'S INN: THE DEVIL'S OWN LODGING HOUSE"
    ; Reprinted from FRONTIER TIMES, January, 1978, p. 10ff
          Thomas Yocum settled on a Mexican land grant on Pine Island Bayou, the south boundary of the Big Thicket of Southeast Texas, around 1830. It was then a virgin, sparsely-settled region of prairies, pine barrens, and thickets, and any settler living within ten miles was considered a neighbor. The deep, navigable stream, 100 feet wide and 75 miles long, was a tributary of the Neches River and had already attracted ten or more pioneers who also held land grants from the Mexican government. Often they heard the pound of hoofs and bellowing of thirsty herds, bound for the cattle crossing over the Neches at Beaumont. There were more than thirty streams which intersected the trail and which had to be forded or swum in the course of travel. And always Yocum rode out at the first sound of the herds and invited the drovers to quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger at the Inn.
          Some people who stopped at the Inn were headed west. Sometimes they were new immigrants driving small herds into Texas. Some, like Arsene LeBleu, one of Jean Lafitte's former ship captains, were Louisiana cattle buyers carrying money belts filled with gold coins, and were en route to White's Ranch or elsewhere to buy cattle. The popularity of Yocum's Inn spread far and wide. Its genial host soon became the postmaster of Pine Island settlement under the old Texas Republic, supervised the local elections, served on juries, and was widely respected by his neighbors and travelers alike.
          Yocum acquired much land and many slaves, and by 1839 his herd of l500 heads of cattle was the fourth largest in Jefferson County. While other settlers rode the wiry Creole, or mustang-size, ponies of a type common to Southwest Louisiana, Yocum's stable of thirty horses were stock of the finest American breeds, and his family drove about in an elegant carriage.
          A gentleman's life, however, held no attraction for Squire Yocum, a man who literally was nursed almost from the cradle on murder and rapine, and for many years Yocum's Inn was actually a den of robbers and killers. What is the most startling is the fact that Yocum was able to camouflage his activities for more than a decade, maintaining an aura of respectability while simultaneously committing the worst of villainies, with a murderous band of cutthroats unequaled in the history of East Texas.
          How Yocum could accomplish this since he used no alias, is unexplainable, for he, his brothers, his father, and his sons were known from Texas to Mississippi as killers, slave-stealers, and robbers. If any neighbor suspected that something at Yocum's Inn was amiss, he either feared for his life or was a member of the gang.
          One account, written by Philip Paxton in 1853, observed that Yocum, "knowing the advantages of a good character at home, soon by his liberality, apparent good humor, and obliging disposition, succeeded in ingratiating himself with the few settlers."
          Squire Yocum was born in Kentucky around 1796. As a fourteen-year-old, he cut his criminal eyeteeth with his father and brothers in the infamous John A. Murrell gang who robbed travelers along the Natchez Trace in western Mississippi. At first Murrell was reputed to be an Abolitionist who liberated slaves and channeled them along an "underground railroad" to freedom in the North. Actually, his gang kidnapped slaves, later selling them to the sugar cane planters of Louisiana.
          Murrell soon graduated to pillage and murder, but slave-stealing remained a favorite activity of the Yocum brothers, and on one occasion two of them, while returning to Louisiana with stolen horses and slaves, were caught and hanged in East Texas.
          When law enforcement in western Mississippi threatened to encircle them, the Yocums fled first to Bayou Plaquemine Brule, near Churchpoint, Louisiana, then in 1815 to the Neutral Strip of Louisiana, located between the Sabine and Calcasieu Rivers. Until 1821 the Strip knew no law enforcement or military occupation, and hence became a notorious robbers' roost for the outcasts of both Spanish Texas and the State of Louisiana.
          In the Land Office Register of 1824, T. D. Yocum, his father and two brothers were listed as claiming land grants in the Neutral Strip; and during the 1820s, according to the Colorado "Gazette and Advertiser" of Oct. 31, 1841, Yocum's father was tried several times for murder at Natchitoches, La., and bought acquittal on every occasion with hired witnesses and perjured testimony.
          By 1824, Squire Yocum, once again feeling the pinch of civilization, had moved on to the Mexican District of Atascosita in Texas. He lived for awhile in the vicinity of Liberty on the Trinity River. Writing about him in 1830, Matthew White, the Liberty alcalde, notified Stephen F. Austin that Yocum was one of two men who allegedly had killed a male slave and kidnapped his family, and as a result "were driven across the Sabine and their houses burned." But Yocum was not about to remain so close to the hangman's noose and the fingertips of sheriffs and U.S. marshals.  He soon took his family and slaves to the Pine Island Bayou region where he built his infamous Inn. Having acquired some wealth and affluence by 1835, the old killer and slave stealer could become more selective with his victims.
          . . . . .
          There are many early records, written at the time of Yocum's demise, which chronicle the innkeeper's death, but they sometimes conflict. The longest of them was written by Philip Paxton in 1853, and his account of how Yocum's misdeeds were exposed appears to be the most plausible.  Paxton claimed that a man named (Seth) Carey, who owned a farm on Cedar Bayou near Houston, had killed a neighbor during a quarrel over a dog and fled to Yocum for asylum.  (Seth was born 1806 in Vermont and had migrated to Louisiana where he joined the "New Orleans Grays" and achieved the rank of Captain.  The Grays went to the Mexican state of Coahuila/Texas and defeated General Cos at the Siege of Bexar at the Alamo in December 1835.)  It was agreed that Yocum would receive power of attorney to sell Carey's land grant and that Yocum would forward the proceeds of the sale to Carey in Louisiana.  An acquaintance of Carey's, W.H. Irion, told Carey that he had no chance of escaping to Lousiana. Then one of Yocum's gang members, Zeke Higdon, told Seth that Yocum had pocketed the proceeds of the sale and had arranged his murder.  Carey had wandered upon some skeletons in a Pine Island thicket and thus had learned "too many and too dangerous secrets" about the murder ring at Yocum's Inn.  Yocum's son Chris and Bud McClusky were waiting for him in ambush deep in the Thicket.  Carey fled, stopping in Liberty county and recounting all he'd witnessed to a rancher there.  Capt. Carey's lurid account so enraged the rancher that he rounded up a posse of some 150 men and they rode to Yocum's Inn, burning it and killing Thomas Yocum.
          The earliest published account, which appeared in the San Augustine "Redlander" of Sept. 30, 1841, stated that Yocum was killed by the "Regulators of Jefferson County who were determined to expel from their county all persons of suspicious or bad character." The newspaper chided the vigilantes for killing Yocum and not allowing him the due process of law and a speedy trial. But the editor conceded that Yocum had a notorious record in Louisiana "as a Negro and horse stealer, repeatedly arrested for those crimes."
          Three other accounts, however, two in the Houston papers of that era and another in the "Colorado Gazette and Advertiser," published at Matagorda, Texas, alleged that "Thomas Yocum, a notorious villain and murderer, who resided at the Pine Islands near the Neches River, has been killed by the citizens of Jasper and Liberty Counties . . . ."
          "Yocum has lived in Texas twenty years and has committed as many murders to rob his victims. The people could bear him no longer so 150 citizens gathered and burned his premises and shot him. They have cleared his gang out of the neighborhood," thus putting an end to the Pine Island postmaster, his gang, and his Inn. Of course, only Yocum could reveal the true number of murder notches on his gun, which may have reached as many as fifty.
          According to Paxton, the Regulators found the bones of victims in Yocum's well, in the neighboring thickets, in the "alligator slough," and even out on the prairie. They then burned Yocum's Inn, the stables and furniture, but allowed his wife, children, and slaves a few days to leave the county. The posse trailed the killers into the Big Thicket and eventually caught up with Yocum on Spring Creek in Montgomery County. No longer willing to trust a Yocum's fate to the whims of any jury, the vigilantes gave the old murderer thirty minutes to square his misdeeds with his Maker, and then they "shot him through the heart" five times.
          Paxton also reported that "not one of Yocum's family had met with a natural death."  Little is known of the fate of Yocum's sons other than Christopher, who in 1836 who had been mustered into Captain Franklin Hardin's company at Liberty, and who had served honorably and with distinction for one year in the Texas Army. Chris, whom many believed to be "the best of the Yocums," may not have been implicated in the murder ring at all, but he fled, leaving his young wife behind, perhaps because of the stigma that his surname carried and the public anger that was then rampant.
          Believing that the public clamor for revenge had died down after a span of four months, Chris Yocum returned to Beaumont, Texas, one night in January 1842.  Sheriff West, although he had no specific crimes to charge him with, was aware that a thirst for retribution still lingered and he arrested young Yocum for his own protection. Jefferson County's "Criminal Docket Book, 1839-1851" reveals that Chris was lodged in the county's log house jail on the afternoon of Jan. 15, 1842. What the book does not reveal is the fact that young Yocum faced Judge Lynch and an unsummoned jury of Regulators on the same night.  The following morning West found him swinging from a limb of an oak tree on the courthouse lawn, with a ten-penny nail driven into the base of his skull.
          During the second administration of Sam Houston as president of the Texas Republic, there were many excesses and assassinations, principally in Shelby County in East Texas, attributed to vigilante bands, who called themselves "Regulators."  On Jan. 31, 1842, President Houston issued a proclamation, ordering all district attorneys to prosecute the Regulators stringently for any offense committed by them.  The proclamation began as follows: "Whereas . . . . certain individuals . . . have murdered one Thomas D. Yocum, burned his late residence and appurtenances, and driven his widow and children from their homes . . . ."
          Whether or not President Houston's paper might have been worded somewhat differently if the chief executive had been forced to witness the bleached bones in Yocum's well or to bury some of the skeletons out on the prairie is, of course, another question.
          . . . .
          Also see W.T. Block's article: SETH CAREY'S ESCAPE FROM THE MURDEROUS YOCUM GANG; .
    Person ID I25969  mykindred
    Last Modified Mar 10, 2015 

    Father Jesse Ray Yoakum \ Yokum,   b. 1760, Botetourt, Virginia, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. circa 1840, Natchitoches parish, Louisiana, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years) 
    Mother Diana How,   b. 1762,   d. Apr 1838, Natchitoches parish, Louisiana, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 76 years) 
    Married May 12, 1787  Harrodstown, Mercer county, Virginia (now KY) Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F9481  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Pamelia Peace,   d. 1841, Jefferson county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Jan 09, 1814  Opelousas, Saint Landry parish, Louisiana, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Christopher Yocum,   b. circa 1816,   d. Jan 16, 1842, Beaumont, Jefferson county, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 26 years)
     2. Sydney Lou Yocum,   d. Y
    +3. Evelina Yocum,   d. Y
    Family ID F9479  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Histories
    Beaumont, The Story of
    Beaumont, The Story of
    by Florence Stratton, 1925

  • Sources 
    1. [S574] Block, William.T.; Reprinted from FRONTIER TIMES, January, 1978, p. 10ff

    2. [S574] Block, William.T.

    3. [S576] Gedcom - Dtierney - at -