While searching through 100-year-old criminal records in Waco, Texas, I came across an indictment against “one Chicken.” Although it may sound like a case of a fowl running afoul of the law, it was a situation where officials filed charges against a lawbreaker who was only known by his nickname: Chicken.
Similarly, Erath County officials charged “One Cat-Faced Kid” with gaming within the city of Dublin in November 1891. Then in May of 1894 a charge of prostitution was filed against “One Cross-Eyed Woman.”
Chicken’s identity surfaces in another indictment in Waco. In January 1903 Jonathan Columbus Turnbow, alias Chicken, did “unlawfully keep and exhibit, for the purpose of gaming, a gaming table and bank.” In 1910 either he or one of his relatives, noted only as “Mr. Turnbow,” and a madam, Mary Doud, were subpoenaed as witnesses in the State of Texas vs. Mary Hayden in which the accused was charged with running a brothel in Waco.
Sometimes indictments reveal the true identities of these colorfully named characters when arrests were made. The accused, if posting bond, had to sign his or her name. But not so in the cases of Erath County’s feline-faced kid or the cross-eyed hooker, both of whom apparently eluded capture.