Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Red Light District of Waco

Photograph by David Houghton
    Sherri Knight and I were interviewed by J. B. Smith, a staff writer for the Waco Tribune-Herald's July 27, 2011, issue about our joint writing endeavor, The Oldest Profession in Texas: Waco's Legal Red Light District. This 380-page paperback (released in May) was the subject of Smith's excellent, in-depth article about "the Reservation," the name given to the red light district of Waco. "The Oldest Profession in Texas takes a nonjudgmental tone toward the Reservation era," Smith writes, "but Pylant said he thinks Waco's containment strategy for prostitution was a mistake that trapped hundreds of women in an underworld." 
    While the legalization of prostitution brought money into city offers, it did nothing to curb crime in the red light district. Reservation women were frequent victims of assault, robbery, arson, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and murder. 
    We were also interviewed by Paul Romer about Reservation madam Cora McMahan for the Temple Daily Telegram. Romer's article then went nationwide on May 29, 2011, when it caught the attention of the Associated Press. Cora, not unlike other workers in the skin trade, took up with the wrong man. This led to her being ambushed and executed by a group of vigilantes in 1890.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bill Olds's Final Resting Place

     Murderer F. M. Snow's father-in-law, Bill Olds, garnered arrests for theft, forgery, and murder. Bad Bill's quite demise happened some years before his wife, daughter, and grandson became victims of his hatchet-happy son-in-law. When the aging Bill Olds became too infirm to pose a threat to relatives, he was forced to leave the family home. Having no income or anyone willing to care for him, Bill spent his remaining days at the Erath County Poor farm, an early welfare system. (The new edition of Blood Legacy includes a photograph of the old farmhouse.) Olds died there sometime between 1910 and 1919, and he was buried in one of the unmarked graves in the farm's cemetery near Smith Springs, Texas. Here's how that cemetery looks today. The heavy iron crosses that adorn each of the graves give an almost Gothic appearance to the thickly wooded burial ground.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Alabama Man Finds Roots in "Blood Legacy" -- and changes his name

     The May-June 2011 issue of Family Chronicle includes a three-page feature, "So You're Related to An Axe Murderer," about the re-release of my first true-crime volume, Blood Legacy. "How would you react to finding an axe murderer in your family tree?" I asked in the article. 
     Just as that issue went to press, my question was answered, albeit coincidentally, in a newspaper article.
     A story in The Arab Tribune, May 27, tells of Rick Kirby, an Alabama man stationed in Afghanistan, whose early life is described as a "war zone." His wife, while digging into the roots of his family tree, discovered a dark history. "His grandmother is depicted as the killer in the true-crime book Blood Legacy: The True Story of the Snow Axe Murders by James Pylant," wrote reporter David Moore. "After that," writes Moore, "Kirby changed his last name to what it is today."
     Rick Kirby, however, can count many kind, wonderful people among his living relatives. In researching and writing Blood Legacy, I encountered some two dozen people who share a family connection to those involved in the saga of the Snow murders. "Far removed from the tragedy of past generations," as I wrote in Blood Legacy, "they are baffled at how violence became so entrenched in the lives of their ancestors."