On a sweltering August night in 1876, Methodist minister William England, his wife, Selena, and two of her children were brutally slaughtered in their North Texas home. Acting on Selena’s deathbed testimony, a neighbor, his brother-in-law, and a friend were arrested and tried for the murders. Murder in Montague tells the story of this gruesome crime and its murky aftermath. In this engrossing blend of true crime reporting, social drama, and legal history, author Glen Sample Ely presents a vivid snapshot of frontier justice and retribution in Texas following the Civil War.
The sheer brutality of the Montague murders terrified settlers already traumatized by decades of chaos, violence, and fear—from the deadly raids of Comanche and Kiowa Indians to the terrors of vigilantes, lynchings, and Reconstruction lawlessness. But the crime's aftermath—involving five Texas governors, five trials at Montague and Gainesville, five appeals to the Texas Court of Appeals, and three life sentences at hard labor in the state's abominable and inhumane prison system—offered little in the way of reassurance or resolution.
Viewed from any perspective, the 1876 England family murders were both a human tragedy and a miscarriage of justice. Combining the long view of history and the intimate detail of true crime reporting, Murder in Montague deftly captures this moment of reckoning in the story of Texas, as vigilante justice grudgingly gave way to an established system of law and order.
“Glen Ely’s Murder in Montague is an intricate, dazzling, historical true-crime whodunit. Ely examines the reasons for the extraordinary level of violence in Texas and the specific reasons for the slaughter of four members of the England family. He also details the travails of those convicted and offers a fascinating coda to this long-forgotten murder. Murder in Montague is a compelling, propulsive history.”—Michael Ariens author of Lone Star Law: A Legal History of Texas
“This deliberate, beautifully written work offers a disturbing, clear-sighted look into murder on the frontier. Any collection of Western U.S. History or true crime is incomplete without this title.”—Library Journal
“Fascinating . . . Highly recommended for true-crime readers and those interested in forgotten Texas history."—Western Writers of America, Roundup Magazine
“…this slim but well-written and superbly researched volume reveals scores of lessons related to police procedures, advocacy at both the first instance and upon review, and how humankind may best be studied through the lens of psychology.”— Canadian Law Library Review