Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Sunday, February 15, 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - #4 - The Death of Bud Heaslet

Columbus Yell "Bud" Heaslet

Columbus "Bud" Heaslet was born in Talladega, Alabama in 1848, the eldest child of James Marion Heaslet and Polly Rogers.  James moved his family to Nacogdoches, Texas before the Civil War, quite possibly because in a family of slave-owning southerners, he was an abolitionist and Union sympathizer.  When the war began, James gathered some 125 men and went north to aid the Federal army, leaving his wife and seven children behind.  As the eldest son, Bud became the man of the house and took a great deal of abuse for his father's views.  When he was 14, a group of men captured him away from home, put a noose around his neck and threatened to hang him if he did not tell them where his father was.  Bud likely wasn't even aware of his father's whereabouts, but the men choked him until they gave up getting information; Bud crawled off to a nearby home where a widow cared for him until he was able to return home.

When James returned home, he appears to have been considered a doctor of sorts in Nacogdoches; he may have studied medicine, but was not an M.D.  Family stories say he removed a bullet from Jesse James and allowed James to stay at his home until his brother Frank could come for him.  Jesse and Bud were said to have become friends, and when Frank James arrived, he gave a horse to Bud's youngest brother, Ulysses S. Grant Heaslet, then about 10 years old.  (Another child was named Abraham Lincoln Heaslet, leaving no doubt about James Heaslet's sentiments regarding the Civil War.)

After the war had ended, Texas' Republican Governor Davis created a military police force and filled it with appointments; the state police, state guard and reserve militia were racially integrated and were perceived by Democrats as existing to enforce racial integration in the state, an unpopular sentiment at the time.  They were created in order to put down the lawlessness that was becoming rampant in Texas, but as is often the case, many began to abuse their power.   Bud Heaslet was one of the appointed officers in the state police.

In December 1871, David Harvell was killed in Linn Flat, a small town fourteen miles from Nacogdoches, by two state police officers:  William Grayson and Bud Heaslet.  According to an account published in 1880 by Richard Haltom, Grayson and Heaslet became upset with court proceedings being held by Justice of the Peace Dawson in Linn Flat.  They threatened to shoot the judge, who charged them with contempt of court and sent Constable John Birdwell, assisted by David Harvell, to arrest them.  Grayson and Heaslet resisted arrest, and threatened to shoot Birdwell and Harvell.  When Harvell told Heaslet to give up his gun, Heaslet shot him in the chest; Harvell managed to get his shotgun and fire a round of birdshot at Grayson and Heaslet, but then collapsed and died.  The two men got on their horses, gathered a group of "thirty or forty Negroes" to accompany them to Grayson's home four miles from town, and there refused to be taken in, claiming they had immunity from arrest.  The sheriff of Linn Flat persuaded Judge Dawson to issue arrest warrants for Grayson and Heaslet and rode out to Grayson's house with a posse of about 15 men.  They persuaded the blacks who were there to stand down and took them back to Nacogdoches, where they were released.  Grayson and Heaslet were nowhere to be found;  the posse returned to Nacogdoches.

Five days later, Constable John Birdwell, who had been sent to arrest Grayson and Heaslet, opened his front door and was shot dead.  The community of Linn Flat assumed that the two murderers were responsible.  New arrest warrants were issued and posses formed, but the two men could not be found; it was assumed they had gone to Austin, where Governor Davis could offer them protection.  However, a few days later, a state police officer brought them to Nacogdoches from Austin.   Grayson eventually stood trial and was sentenced to life in prison.  Heaslet escaped and fled to Scott County, Arkansas, where his father had moved.  He was found there by a bounty hunter and shot to death.  Bud Heaslet was survived by a wife and two small children, whom he had left in Texas.  He was 29 when he died.

Bud's father, James Heaslet, was committed to the state insane asylum in 1886 for unspecified reasons.  He was apparently released some time in the next few years and returned to his home in Scott County.  In 1891, he was sitting on a stump eating peanuts when a man approached him and shot him.  He died instantly.  No reason was ever found for his killing.


  1. Amazing story -- this could be a movie!

  2. Bud's wife, Elizabeth "Ella" married my great great grandfather, Martin Van Buren Tibbets. I was wondering if you happened upon any other information about Bud and Ella. Maybe Ella's maiden name?

    1. Ella's maiden name was Basket. Go here to see the info I have found in my tree.

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  4. My name is Stanley Boyles. My 2nd great grandfather was Abraham Lincoln Heaslet, younger brother of Bud. I have read this story before but is always a good read. My wife is seriously into ancestry. We have found James Marian Heaslet's old homestead in Scott County Arkansas and Abraham's gravesite in Checota, OK.
    I would be interested in hearing from living relatives in the Nacogdoches area or wherever they may be. I still need to visit the Old Union Cemetery near Nacogdoches to see William Heaslet's gravesite who was James Marion Heaslet's father.