Mounted on a wall in the Law Enforcement Center lobby, four shadowboxes pay tribute to four Brown County lawmen shot and killed on duty between 1861 and 1942.
The four lawmen are Sheriff Jesse Sutton (Sut) Harris, end of watch June 6, 1861 at age 39; deputy sheriff Charles Webb, end of watch May 26, 1874 at age 26; Sheriff Charles Bell, end of watch March 23, 1898 at age 47; and deputy Frances Howard Becker, end of watch Aug. 19, 1942.
The shadow boxes, which were mounted earlier this month after a two-year project, contain biographical information, copies of newspaper articles and replicas of items such as pistols, handcuffs, keys and ropes made into nooses.
“I just wanted to honor the former fallen sheriffs and deputies of Brown County,” Sheriff Vance Hill said. “They’re not being recognized so I figured we needed to do something to honor them. Brown County was a rough place from the 1850s to 1900.”
Hill said he began thinking of the project because it bothered him to think of Harris lying unrecognized in an unnamed grave in Connell Cemetery. “And that’s kind of where it really started,” Hill said. “We know where he’s buried but we don’t know the exact spot.”
Hill said he tasked Patti Mauldin, an administrative assistant with the sheriff’s office, with doing the research and putting the shadow boxes together. He said Mauldin was the one who did the research and made the project happen.
“It’s a little shocking to know there was four of the officers killed,” Mauldin said.
In another section of the Law Enforcement lobby, a shadowbox honors William Clarence Fuston, the only Brownwood police officer killed in the line of duty. Fuston was shot and killed on Feb. 3, 1939 by a prison escapee. Fuston was 27.
“I pray that we never have to add anyone else to this,” Hill said.
According to biographical information contained in the shadowboxes:
Sheriff Jesse Sutton (Sut) Harris
Harris, described as a “rugged frontiersman, was appointed sheriff in March 1861. Harris became involved in a dispute with the brother of the former sheriff, and Harris was the victor when the two fought.
The vanquished man’s brother — the former sheriff — warned Harris that he was coming to get Harris with “a brace of Colts.” When the former sheriff found Harris and reached for his six-shooter, Harris killed the man with a shotgun blast.
A friend of the deceased man shot Harris later a point blank range, killing him. The killer rode away unpursued and never returned.
Deputy sheriff Charles Webb
Webb was on leave from the Texas Rangers when he chose Brownwood as his home. The Brown County sheriff asked Webb to help with enforcing the law against cattle thieves and ruffians led by the outlaw John Wesley Hardin, who had settled in Comanche.
Webb, described as well-respected and fearless, agreed to help and was deputized. Webb’s instructions were to focus on the Hardin gang. Webb rode to Comanche to confront Hardin, who killed the deputy in a gun battle.
Sheriff Charles Bell
Bell, who was first elected sheriff in 1892, went with a deputy went to a hotel to arrest a drunken troublemaker. The man fired through the door of his room, killing Bell.
The deputy crashed through the door and killed the man.
Deputy sheriff Frances Howard Becker
Becker, a deputy and a railroad agent, drove from Brownwood to Austin to deliver a patient to the state hospital.
On the return trip to Brownwood, the three stopped in Llano. As they were getting back in their car, a pistol in the railroad agent’s hands accidentally discharged, mortally wounded Becker, who died after surgery in Brownwood.