Historical scrapbook: Brownwood's saloons

Brownwood Bulletin
Ronnie and Donnie Lappe

On Friday, April 22, the Brown County Museum is opening a special entitled “Bootleggers, Moonshine and the Mob” with a gala event April 22, 2022 from 6:30 p. m. to 9:30 p.m.

.This article is taken from a story printed in the Brownwood Banner April 5, 1956.  E. E.  Kirkpatrick came to Brownwood straight from college to work as a newspaper reporter in the days when an area downtown was called “Battle Row” because of all the crime and rowdiness going on there. Battle Row was his newspaper beat. He recalled some of the old Battle Row happenings. This area is the area where the courthouse square is.  There were a lot of saloons there. The office building at 407 N. Fisk has a bullet hole in the floor from days when it was a Saloon. When Charlie Gamblin had a law office there, he used to show the hole to visitors.

When Kirkpatrick  began his newspaper career, after having been on the staff of the college paper, he was  interested in mysteries, crime, and the intricacies of criminal law. He found a lot of crime on a stretch of East Broadway four blocks long – plus the courthouse square. East Broadway is now known as North Fisk.  West Broadway is now known as North Center.

The south boundary was the Weakly-Watson Hardware Company's big establishment at the curve of Fisk. The north boundary was North Broadway on the north side of the courthouse. For four blocks, a beaten path was packed with “rum and romance, mutilation and murders, battles and brawls, cock-pits and pool halls, gambling dens and gangsters; and on the north by the only licensed red light district in Texas.”

In his newspaper articles, he named the street “Battle Row. The name stuck. Residents called the street   “Battle Row” for many years. Many tragedies occurred there before the time his apprenticeship as a “cub” reporter ended.

One time a prominent man named Bob Claiborne was killed by Dan Lindsey, a saloon man. In a saloon on the east side of Battle Row, a tragedy occurred on night when a rowdy drinker kept trying to make trouble, and the bartender, Dowty, tried to quiet him. The man demanded another drink and Dowty told him there would be no more drinks for him that night. The man jumped upon the brass rail of the bar, and was starting to draw a six shooter, when Dowty, with a long butcher knife, disemboweled the aggressor.  There were about 15 or 20 witnesses to the killing, and Dowty was a no-billed by the grand jury, which meant no charges were filed. Another time,City Marshal Jess Perry shot Tobe Wilks, a wood-hauler, at the corner of the square, one Saturday about noon.

One night a poker game was closed about 2 a.m. in the old  O. O. Saloon, on South Broadway across the street form the courthouse where  N. B. Bunin's store was for a long time at 207 S Broadway. He was known by many as Shorty the Jew, and most people did not know his real name. Jerry Green and Jimmy Cross went upstairs where the Franke Candy store, which was located at 209 S. Broadway for many years.  The place burned down about daylight and Cross' body was found in the ruins. Roy Harriman and Ross Alderson hurried to Green's home and told him the sheriff was looking for him. Green was placed under $5,000 bond. Nothing ever came of  the case as for as records show.

There was a long battle, and there were protests and hotly contested elections over the sale of liquor in the area. Some times the sale of liquor passed. Some times protestors got enough signatures on a petition to get an election, and the sale of liquor was voted down.

The saloons were voted out of  Brownwood in 1898. The “Clubs” were opened in 1903. John Martin, Jerry Green, Milt Dupree and others operated the clubs. Their liquor was shipped from Ballinger in gallon jugs and a customer's name was put on each bottle. The customers were supposed to come in and drink their own liquor. The whole thing being an obvious subterfuge to get liquor sold by the drink. Drug stores sold liquor for medicinal reasons. There were long lines waiting to buy medicine.

Bart Carnes and Gaines Scott operated a cock-pit in the irregular enclosure surrounding the old  standpipe, the city water supply tower adjoining Battle Row.

Jerry Green killed “Pacar” Lawson one afternoon in Green's club. Milt Dupree killed “Candy” Carnes on the night of Christmas Eve in 1908.  A blacksmith named Yarborough, originally from Richland Springs was a peaceful citizen except when he became occasionally drunk. On his last spree he became dangerous and threatening. Sheriff Charles Bell and his deputy, George Batton, climbed the stairs of the third floor of the old Singer Hotel, just down the street from Weakley-Watson Hardware Store, where the man had holed up. Yarborough refused to open the door when the sheriff demanded it. The sheriff said he would break in. Yarborough said he would kill the sheriff if he came in to arrest him. He shot the sheriff when the  sheriff tried to come in and arrest Yarborough. Deputy Batton then killed Yarborough.

The Two Coo's restaurant operated by Harriman and Dulaney was located where the Old Marshall's Chili Parlor was for many years in the 100 block of North Fisk. It was a scene of frequent and boisterous fights.  State papers were carrying unfavorable articles about the unlawful acts taking place on battle row. Citizens demanded that something be done. They organized a parade with banners criticizing the criminal acts in the area.

Someone at the Two Cooks Restaurant placed two crates of eggs on the roof, and someone with good throwing arms got in some effective strikes on the heads and bodies of some of the  parade marchers . Soon after that the  citizens of Brownwood took steps to stop the sale of liquor, which helped stop a lot of the crime.