The Lynch Family Murder - 2023-10-07
A Very Cold, Cold Case.
George Lynch was a native-born Texian, his parents having come to Texas while it was still a province of Mexico. He was born in rural Grimes county, Texas near where the town of Navasota would be incorporated. It is thought his parents died when was young and he went to live with another family. When he was a young man, he
The man had lost his wife about two weeks previous by sickness
"Mr. Lynch shot, family murdered." Weekly Democratic Statesman, (Austin, TX), Thursday, September 19, 1878 1
On the night of the murder the family all retired as usual and slept in the same apartment. It was an old fashioned country log house with an L containing kitchen, servant's room and dining room. Lynch himself slept on a pallet in the middle of the room, with his young child beside him. Three other children slept on a bed in the corner, three more on a couch alongside the wall. Miss Lynch slept on a lounge in a corner near the brick chimney. It was past midnight and Lynch himself was asleep. He was awakened by a pistol shot and a ball piercing him in the breast. He dropped the child from his arms. Jumping up he seen a white man masked. The murderer fired a second time, he fell unconscious and remembers no more ....
"The Hockley Horror." Brenham Weekly Banner, (Brenham, TX), Friday, September 20, 1878 2
(disinformation) The scene of the murder is seven miles northeast of Hockley in the prairies.
Miss Carrie Lynch a handsome young girl, was the eldest in her seventeenth year, and a young lady enjoying the highest esteem of her acquaintances. Her sister Lorena was aged about twelve, and her little brother Jerome nine.
On the night of the murder the family all retired as usual ann (sic - should this be 'and') slept in the same apartment. It is an old fashioned country log house with an L, containing kitchen, servant's room and dining room. Lynch himself slept on a pallet in the middle of the room, with his young child beside him. Three other children slept on a bed in one corner, three more slept on a couch alongside the wall. Miss Lynch slept on a lounge inacorner (sic) of the brick chimney. All the doors had been locked save a rear door. It was past midnight. A lamp burned on the bureau. Mhe (sic - The) whole were wrapt in slumber.
"Burial of the Eight Children." The Waco Daily Examiner (Waco, TX.), Friday, September 20, 1878 3
The theory that Lynch himself had committed the crime in a fit of insanity is being abandoned because the wounding was done with bullets of 22 caliber, while his pistol carries a 44 ball. Detectives say they can get the murderer in spite of efforts made to cover him up. — Houston Telegram.
Mr. John Pinckney, Justice of the Peace in Walker (sic) county, writes to the Telegram, giving particulars of the horrible affair, in which he makes the following corrections in the previous report:
I never heard of a masked person being seen until I found it in your paper. Have seen no one who has. Who could have made such statements to your reporter at Hockley I know not. Lynch did not have the child in his arms. There was no hatchet found near Miss Carrie. There were no fractured skulls found. How that idea got out I can't imagine, for the skulls were ashes.
"The Lynch Attrocity." Denison Daily News, (Denison, TX.), Sunday, September 22, 1878 4
the ruin of the blackened cinders contrasted with the tastily arranged shrubbery and rose bushes that had so lately been tended by the hands of Mrs. Lynch and her handsome young daughter, Miss Carrie. Lynch says that when he woke up at the shooting he was in his sober senses, not insane. There was no powder burn on his breast. The balls ranged in a direction which could not have been the case had he attempted suicide. Again, according to some of the neighbors, Lynch's five-shooter, cap and ball, was heard to discharge four barrels during the fire, in addition to his double barreled shotgun. Also, a neighbor of Lynch, had the day after the murder picked up in the ruins two or three cartridge shells belonging to a pistol of small calibre, and that Lynch had had no such cartridges about his house for years. This tallies with the fact that he was shot with small balls. Therefore the suicide theory fails.
Lynch said that the children were asleep when he lay down at 9 o'clock, and the last he saw of Miss Carrie in this life she lay on her side with her face turned toward the little boy.
"Lynch did not die." Weekly Democratic Statesman, (Austin, TX.), Thursday, October 3, 1878 5
The scene of this fiendish outrage was eight miles north of Hockley, in Waller county, and in a community between which and Hockley there has never been much trade or intercourse.
Mr. Lynch was born in Grimes county, near where Navasota now is, and several of our citizens have known him from boyhood. All speak of him in the highest terms, as a man of strict integrity, of the purest morals and kindly emotions. * * Not a great while ago he had a difficulty with the Boulwares, growing out of stock trespassing upon each others' farms. Mr. Reuben Boulware made two assaults upon him — once with a pistol, again with a shotgun
The Boulwares have all reputations for being honorable men; nothing can be alleged against them that would reflect upon their characters. They are all distinguished, or at least well known for their fearlessness, and those who know them are not at all inclined to think that they could perpetrate a crime so revolting
rumors that the father of Mr. Lynch was at times deranged, as was also his only sister. In reference to his father's derangement Mr. Lynch refers to many of the citizens of Grimes who knew him long and intimately. He was an educated and intelligent gentleman, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him. So we have heard, Mr. Lynch's only sister was the wife of our highly esteemed citizen J. Eberly, and her friends smile at the idea of her insanity. As to G. W. Lynch himself, whom we never saw until since the perpetration of the foul deed that has brought his name before the public, I have been assured by those who have long known him that he has nover (sic) shown any signs of mental wandering.
"What is Termed the Hockley Horror." The Tri-Weekly Herald, (Marshall, TX), Saturday, October 05, 1878 6
Mr. Lynch was born in Grimes county, near where Navasota now is, and several of our citizens have known him from boyhood. All speak of him in the highest terms, as a man of strict integrity, of the purest morals and kindly emotions. * * Not a great while ago he had a difficulty with the Boulwares, growing out of stock trespassing upon each others' farms. Mr. Reuben Boulware made two assaults upon him — once with a pistol, again with a shotgun — for both of which he (Mr. Boulware) was fined. Mr. William Boulware, who is a very stout man, also met him in the road when (Lynch) was coming home with his wagon, and badly beat him.
"What is Termed the Hockley Horror." The Tri-Weekly Herald, (Marshall, TX), Saturday, October 05, 1878 7
George W. Lynch, a most respectable, honest, and honorable citizen — a native of Texas — a Master Mason in good standing — years ago married a Miss Hargrave, belonging to one of the most reputable families of Central Texas. They lived happily together. Her husband built them a quiet and beautiful home surrounded by everything that makes that sacred place happy, and all the comforts of an ordinary rural residence. It was situated in Waller County, seven miles northwest of Hockley, looking down upon the limpid waters of Spring Creek, a mill to the westward, to whose sandy banks a prairie of tall grass swept down. In the background were umbrageous groves of broad spreading trees, flanked on either side by fields white with the staple of the South, or waving with corn. In a clump of oaks was located the family mansion. Trees waved above the "gallery" or veranda, and beautiful shrubbery, tended by the hand of Mrs. Lynch, such as usually adorns a Southern home, was tastefully arranged around the house.
the family, now in their graves, consisted of the following: Miss Carrie Lynch, a beautiful girl of seventeen; Miss Loraine Lynch, her handsome young sister, aged thirteen years; Lodie Lynch, Abigail Lynch, Jerome Lynch, aged eleven years; China Lynch, Phoebe Lynch and Hayes Lynch. The last mentioned was the innocent babe (a few weeks old) bequeathed by the tender wife of Mr. Lynch to his keeping
"They say the bodies of all my children were recovered from the ruins of my house; but I know better, only six bodies were found."
Just as the two neighbors came up the north wing of the building was falling in, and the entire structure going down before the fierce flames ... Coroner J. M. Pinckney held an inquest ...
Although parties were suspected, however, neither the Coroner nor any other official took any steps to make any arrest. There was but little investigation, in fact, which tallies with the subsequent course of the Coroner in writing a communication to a local paper defending one of Lynch's neighbors from current suspicion, which has fastened upon him. The Coroner seems rather to seek to avert suspicion than to investigate the crime. In fact, the officials of Waller County, nor the people of the neighborhood where the crime was committed, have shown any disposition to ferret out this most damnable crime.
To-day a Globe-Democrat correspondent rode out to the scene of the murder, on Spring Creek. Hitching his horse to one of the fine shade trees in front of the ruined homestead
"A Texas Horror." Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Thursday, October 10, 1878 8
Mr. George W. Lynch, the only surviving member of the family lately massacred and burned at his home on Spring Creek, Waller county, is still with his nephew, Mr. Everly, in Hockley
The reporter asked one of them if Mr. Lynch had ever been accused of cattle stealing. With a look of astonishment he replied, "No. Not only was Mr. Lynch never accused of that, but in all his dealings he had been a man highly honorable and upright." This also is the testimony of citizens of Hockley, where he is well known. Lynch has heretofore been a member of a Master Mason's lodge, in good standing, and nothing has happened to blacken his character or impeach his reputation for veracity.
"The Waller County Horrors." Tri-Weekly Herald (Marshall, TX), Saturday, October 19, 1878 9
Another thing that needs serious attention is the lax manner in which officers discharge their duty. The escape of Crawford, in Waller county, and the utter failure to arrest Hunt, the assassin of Capt. Killough, in Fayette county, are two flagrant instances. Again the murder of the Lynch family in Waller county, and an apparent disposition of the part of his neighbors to quiet the matter on the ground that Lynch was an unpopular man in his neighborhood, shows a bad state of public sentiment.
"ENFORCE THE LAWS." Brenham Weekly Banner, (Brenham, TX), Friday, October 25, 1878 10
George W. Lynch, a most respectable, honest and honorable citizen — a native of Texas — a Master Mason in good standing — years ago married a Miss Hargrave, belonging to one of the most reputable families of Central Texas. They lived happily together. Her husband built them a quiet and beautiful home in Waller county, seven miles northwest of Hockley.
the family, now in their graves, consisted of the following: Miss Carrie Lynch, a beautiful young girl of 17; Miss Loraine Lynch, her handsome young sister, aged 13 years; Lodie Lynch; Abigail Lynch, Jerome Lynch, aged 11 years; China Lynch, Phoebe Lynch and Hayes Lynch
"They say the bodies of all my children were recovered from the ruins of my house; but I know better; only six bodies were found."
"What became of the other two, and was the body of Miss Carrie one of them?"
"A Texas Horror."The Michigan Argus, Friday, October 25, 1878 11
"Shooting of Jno. Binford by Geo. Lynch." The Galveston Daily News, Thursday, November 7, 1878 12
John Binford and Harry Ledu rode into Hockley on horseback
** is this the "Lado" mentioned above?
"Details of the Lynch-Binford shooting." The Galveston Daily News, Saturday, November 9, 1878 13
Forty murders in Waller county since the war and nobody hung! The record of Waller county is a bloody one. Last fall the whole Lynch family was murdered and the house burned, and though the deed was almost unparalleled in the history of human atrocities, yet there seems to have been little effort made to detect the murderers.
"Forty murders in Waller county." The Tri-Weekly Herald (Marshall, TX), Tuesday, May 13, 1879 14
Ed Young, having been indicted by the present grand jury for killing Finkley, who was a valuable state witness in the Lynch family murder case
"Ed Young, charged with murder of Finkley." The Galveston Daily News, Wednesday, October 22, 1879 15
Geo. W. Lynch. He was wounded, but still lives. His house was burned. His home comforts razed from the earth. It is charged here that the affair was never investigated by the officers of the law. Mystery still surrounds the case. It is said Lynch knew too much about stock thieving. Not a single indictment has ever been found in the Lynch horror, that racked the state with its blood-freezing atrocity. Lynch was secretary of a band to regulate cattle-thieving.
The seven hundred or more square miles of Waller county offer inducements to settlers that are comparatively unknown. The county has 80 miles front on the famous Brazos river. This land is rich beyond calculation. There are about 1800 voters in the county
Hempstead is the county seat, with its new court-house — handsome and roomy — its five or six churches, its 2500 hundred people, its eighteen brick stores and as many frame, its pretty residences and orchards, is a place of no secondary importance in a commercial point of view. The trade of Waller and contiguous counties belongs, most of it, to Hempstead, and much of it is coming here. Once a cotton factory stood here
"Waller County - Feuds & Criminalities." The Galveston Daily News, Saturday, October 25, 1879 16
the reason why the Lynch family were murdered and burned up was to cover up the crime of killing of their father — which was attempted — because he had wanted to correct the misdoings of a company of vigilants gotten up in his neighborhood for the purpose of stopping cattle thieving.
"Reason for Lynch Murders." Tri-Weekly Herald (Marshall, TX), Thursday, November 06, 1879 17
The case of the State vs. Hargraves, for killing Moscow (sic - Musco) Boulware, was tried yesterday. The jury after being out twelve hours returned a verdict of not guilty
"State vs. Hargraves." The Galveston Daily News, Saturday, April 10, 1880 18
Sheriff Noble received a letter to-day from the District Attorney at Leadville, Col., asking particulars regarding Geo. W. Lynch, formerly of Hockley, Harris county, and stating that Lynch had been convicted of murder there
"Questions about George Lynch.", The Galveston Daily News, Sunday, July 3, 1881 19
George W. Lynch received a life sentence for the murder of Lyle, at Leadville, about the 1st of June. He goes to Canyon City to serve his term.
"George W. Lynch receives life sentence.", The Galveston Daily News, Sunday, July 10, 1881 20
the killing of a man named Charles Lyles by George W. Lynch, late of Waller county. It seems they were working a mine together being "grubstaked" by one Bennett. They quarreled and Lynch shot and killed Lyles
"George Lynch killed Charles Lyles.", Brenham Weekly Banner, (Brenham, TX) Thursday, August 11, 1881 21
George W. Lynch married Cyllanae (or Selinda) Hargrave July 4, 1860 in Houston, Texas. 22
Their home was
On the night of the murder the family all retired as usual and slept in the same apartment. It was an old fashioned country log house with an L containing kitchen, servant's room and dining room. Lynch himself slept on a pallet in the middle of the room, with his young child beside him. Three other children slept on a bed in the corner, three more on a couch alongside the wall. Miss Lynch slept on a lounge in a corner near the brick chimney. It was past midnight and Lynch himself was asleep. He was awakened by a pistol shot and a ball piercing him in the breast. He dropped the child from his arms. Jumping up he seen a white man masked. The murderer fired a second time, he fell unconscious and remembers no more till he found himself out in a lane a few yards from the house and seeing his home in flames. The house was totally consumed and Lynch's eight children. their charred bodies were dug out of the debris before the inquest. After the inquest all were buried. 23
Levi and Lucienne Hargrave's daughter Selinda was born 1843 in Vermillion parish, Louisiana. George W. Lynch was born about 1836 near Navasota in Grimes county. They married July 4, 1860 in Harris county, Texas where her name was recorded as Cyllanae.
The newlyweds are found the next month on the 1860 census in Lynchburg, Harris, TX. This town was founded by Old Three Hundred Colonist Nathaniel Lynch who ran Lynch's Ferry. He died 1837 but his family ran it until 1848. One other person with the surname was an Old Three Hundred settler -- James Lynch. Nothing has been found about George W. Lynch's ancestry so his relation, if any, is unknown. The 1860 and 1870 censuses say he was born in Texas. Was he related to the Lynch Ferry family?
The family is on the 1870 census in Courtney, Grimes county, TX. He was 34, b. Texas, farming and was married to Plomonia (27, b. LA). All the children were b. Texas: Caroline (9), Lusenia (4), Marion (3) and Joseph (1). They moved to the farm where the crime occurred sometime after 1870.
A terrible crime occurred under the cover of darkness September 13, 1878 in Waller county, 7 miles northwest of Hockley on Spring Creek. 24 The eight children of George W. Lynch were murdered and burned beyond recognition when their home was set afire while they slept. Lynch himself suffered two gunshot wounds but escaped the conflagration. Suspicion initially rested on Reuben Boulware, a neighbor with whom he had some dispute about cattle and who had twice assaulted him with firearms. George reported the incidents and Boulware was arrested and fined each time.
Spring Creek forms the boundary between Waller and Harris county, just south of Fields Store.
Here is what I think (may have) happened. The reader is encouraged to read the newspaper articles below and form their own opinion. Be careful of repetition as it doesn't necessarily imply truth or fact, only laziness on the part of the reporter in not wanting to board the train and then hire a carriage for a ride to the scene of the crime. It's far easier to copy what someone else writes, and that is precisely what often happens in the newspaper of the day.
George Lynch and some of his neighbors had been wrestling with the problem of cattle theft for some time and he was part of a group actively trying to stop it. It was September, and the nights were cooler and darkness came earlier, so he retired from his labors on his farm to his home for dinner and to sleep. His eight children included an infant whose birth may have precipitated his wife's death three weeks before, so he and his oldest daughter, Carrie, 17 years old, had to feed all the children and tuck them into bed. Everyone lay down to sleep, only a lone kerosene lamp shone in the darkness and all was peaceful. George was awakened, possibly by a knock on the door, but more likely he heard a noise outside and went to investigate whereupon he confronted a person or persons messing with his cattle. One of them shot him, twice, leaving him in an unconcious stupor. Thinking him dead, the evildoers set fire to his house to finish the job. It is not known if any of the children roused from their slumber, but they were all incapacitated by the smoke and burned to death. The children and the house were totally destroyed. The man or men had left and George regained consciousness enough to crawl away from the fire into the lane, where neighbors found him incoherent.
George was critcized for giving differing versions of what happened, causing some to doubt his story and casting suspicion on him. Confusion about the circumstances of a traumatic event, especially when the victim is hurt or incapacitated, is common and he was found suffering from two serious gunshot wounds and barely conscious and incoherent lying outside his home.
Probably the most egregious example of editorial malfeasance is seen in the Galveston Telegram, copied in the Brenham Weekly Banner of Friday, September 20, 1878 on the top of page 1 25 and the Waco Daily Examiner 26 of the same date whose reports were that of a masked intruder and George holding his child when shot and the children being killed by a hatchet blow to the head. The "creativity" of the report was so onerous to Justice of the Peace John Pinckney, who did the inquest, that he felt compelled to correct and chastise the Telegram for its errors, a copy of that appeared two days later in the Denison Daily News, also on page 1. 27 He wrote "I never heard of a masked person being seen until I found it in your paper. Have seen no one who has. Who could have made such statements to your reporter at Hockley I know not. Lynch did not have the child in his arms. There was no hatchet found near Miss Carrie. There were no fractured skulls found. How that idea got out I can't imagine, for the skulls were ashes.". Denison Daily News, Sept. 22, 1878
* * Jno Pinckney said the childrens' skulls were ashes. How can that be? A house fire can reach 1,500 degrees F (815 C) at the ceiling. It takes about 2,000 F (1100 C) to destroy bone. They were lying on the floor of the house, which would be the coolest part of the fire. Perhaps the ceiling collapsed on them and continued to burn, but would that destroy the integrity of the skulls sufficiently to say they were ashes?
On that awful night, Lynch said he was sleeping when he was awakened by being shot in the chest and then in the neck with .22 caliber balls. Another account says he was awakened by a knock, went to the door, was shot and fell unconcious, the murderer or murderers thought he was dead and set fire to his house. He somehow got outside his house and escaped his burning home, where he was discovered unconscious by neighbors. The home was burned with all 8 of his children inside. Surely the children would have been awakened by the sound of gunshots, but they didn't appear to have been, suggesting the attack on George occurred outside the home. The fact that the children had not moved from their sleeping positions, even after sound of the gunshots, caused suspicion towards George, but the evidence didn't support his being charged with the crime.
News reports say his wife had died 3 weeks prior to the murders and that there was an infant among the dead children, so perhaps she died at or shortly after childbirth.
Lynch relocated to Hockley to stay with his nephew Mr. Everly immediately after the murders as his home was destroyed and he had friends there who could help care for him as he recovered from his wounds. Scarcely one month after the crime, he had recovered enough to shoot John Binford and was held on $1500 bond for attempted murder.
George swore he would find those responsible as long as he lived. It is not known why he decided to go to Colorado and mine for gold, but he was in Leadville on the 1800 census and he shortly after killed one or two men there (depending on what is believed from the newspaper accounts). Did he follow someone he suspected of killing his children, or did he follow the gold rush fever? Did he kill the men in retaliation for the murder of his children or, as a newspaper reported, was it disputes over mining? Leadville was a small mining community that had been founded only two years previous. It was located at 10,200 feet elevation, just below the tree line, much different than the heavily wooded sea level banks of the Brazos river.
No resolution to his family's murder has been found, no record of any charges ever being brought against anyone.
The Articles below contain some egregious errors in reporting, some of which may be due to the fact that many newspaper editors just copied articles from other papers in their own words. The contradictions in the reports should caution every researcher to be very careful when reconstructing history from oral or written accounts.
The reports of a masked man, the killing of the children with a hatchet, the motive behind the shooting of Binford by Geo. Lynch are all convoluted and the actual facts are in question. What testimony was Finkley going to give before he was murdered? One report says that Lynch was unpopular with his neighbors while others indicate he was an upstanding citizen and a Master Mason. The Galveston Daily News reported that he was secretary of a group working to regulate cattle-thieving and that may have been the reason for the attack and murders. 28
Some articles report that a hatchet was found in the burned-out rubble and that it was used to kill one or more of the children. John Pinckney was justice of the peace at the time and he flatly rejected that information, he having done the inquest and writing: "I never heard of a masked person being seen until I found it in your paper. Have seen no one who has. Who could have made such statements to your reporter at Hockley I know not. Lynch did not have the child in his arms. There was no hatchet found near Miss Carrie. There were no fractured skulls found. How that idea got out I can't imagine, for the skulls were ashes." Denison Daily News, Sept. 22, 1878.
- Why did Geo. Lynch shoot John Binford?
- What evidence was Robert Finklea going to give before he was murdered by Ed Young? He was reported to have been a "valuable state witness".
- John Steele was on the jury of inquest and allegedly attempted to stifle the investigation. He was later killed by Kirby.
- Was the case "Lynch v. The State, 24 Texas Ct. App., 350" related to the Lynch murders? 30
- Why did he move to Leadville, Colorado?
- Why did he kill Beuford and Charles Lyles?– (Did he kill Beuford or was that an error in reporting?)
- He was sentenced to life in prison for killing Charles Lyles but pardoned in 1893. 31
- Did he relocate to New Mexico or south Texas after his release?