Table of Contents


Part of the story of the Sutton-Taylor Feud

This is a compliation of information from multiple sources. Barbara Rivas' web site contains the genealogy of cousins John Choate and Crockett Choate (John Crockett Choate). Both of them were killed during the Sutton-Taylor feud during the 1860's. This feud was one of the larger, longer, and more well know feuds. An extract of the story of the feud is below. I recommend reading the entire story in the book quoted, especially for the readers that enjoy true westerns.
According to the information on Baraba Rivas' web site John and Crockett Choate were cousins of my ancestor Emeline Choate. I have not calculated the exact relationship at this time 30 July 2003.

Headstone Photos

John Choate
Crockett Choate
Also found at Bararba Rivas' web site.

The Story

I'll Die Before I Run - The story of the Great Feuds of Texas
Author C. L. Sonnichsen
Illustrated with drawings by Jose Cisneros
Published by The Devin-Adair Company, New York 1962
Located at Gladys Harrington Public Library, Plano, Texas 75074
Pages 45 through 47

Through the months of July and August there was a reign of terror in the cattle pastures between DeWitt County and the Gulf. The Regulators, backed by the might of the Union leaders, ranged over Bee, San Patricio, Wilson, DeWitt and Goliad Counties seeking whom they might devour. The Galveston News for September 23, 1869, reported "great excitement" and declared that "during the months of July and August they killed twenty-one persons and turned ten others over to the civil authorities." A great many of those killed were shot down while "attempting to escape." Not all of these victims were Taylor friends or relatives, but some of the most important ones were - the Choates, for instance. This family lived in San Patricio County, a long way from the Clinton neighborhood, but they took the Taylor side. Helm suspected them of harboring some of the men he was pursuing, and on August 3, 1869, he surrounded their house, killed old man Choate and his son Crockett, and shot up a neighbor named F.O. Skidmore who survived seventeen bullet wounds and retained enough spirit to write an account of the affair for the Victoria Advocate. A paragraph from his letter will show the kind of thing that was going on: "They conducted themselves in an extremely boisterous manner while at the house, appropriating whatever they desired, as if they had killed a robber chieftain and had a right to appropriate his effects. They left me nothing, not even my clothing and pocket change. They stole my saddle, six-shooter, and other things of less note. I cannot say what was taken from the house." Helm talked in a braggadocio style to Dr. Downs, the attending physician. A complete list of Captain Helm's company is not available, but among his prominent supporters in the Choate business were Captain Joe Tumlinson and Captain Jim Cox, both prominent citizens of DeWitt County who were active on the Sutton side of the Sutton-Taylor feud in later years. These men and others of the posse may have been persuaded that they were actually in pursuit of cattle thieves, as Helm always loudly maintained they were, and there can hardly be any doubt that some of Helm's victims needed killing. By hanging or shooting everybody he could get his hands on, he undoubtedly included some cattle thieves. Undoubtedly he also scared a good many more out of the country. But even the good people who were on his side hesitated to defend him, and the newspapers of the period, at first friendly to him, grew very restive as reports of wholesale shootings and executions came in. "This thing of putting down civil government," said the Galveston News on September 14, "and then employing 'regulators, under military authority,' to hunt up and execute people, according to their own notions, is not the best thing in the world." Captain Helm was pretty sensitive to public opinion and had already published a card in the Victoria Advocate of August 19 explaining that an "erroneous impression" had got abroad-that he sought to molest no one, and that "to the honest, law-abiding citizen he offers protection." What he meant by "protection" may be deduced from his next move against Creed Taylor and his boys. It was a full-dress raid organized by Helm and Jack Bell in collaboration. The latter was encamped near Yorktown in DeWitt County when Helm returned about the middle of August from shooting up the Choates in San Patricio County, and together they determined on a double attack, each proceeding by secret and separate ways to Karnes County in the hope of catching the Taylors unaware. Fifteen of Helm's men were detailed to accompany Bell, who slipped out of camp under cover of darkness. Helm stayed behind in order, as he said, "to attract attention while Bell could operate." The next morning he himself set off by a circuitous route and had arrived within seven miles of the Taylor ranch on the Ecleto when he got word that the engagement was over. Bell's men had made a successful attack.