Wednesday, November 8, 2023

On the Run: Walter Turnbow’s Sprint from the Law

Walter Turnbow

In the early 1900s, Walter Turnbow (1877—1947), one of the colorful characters perched on my family tree, drew acclaim as one of the swiftest runners in the Lone Star State.

With $1,000 at stake, he won a race against James Goldforth in Dublin, Texas, on October 16, 1905. That prompted G. H. Burrell of Cleburne to stake $500 that he could defeat Walter in a race. Yet, the plan was thwarted by the arrival of Officer Kirk from Hamilton County who came to arrest Walter for escaping from the county farm where he had been sent to pay off a gambling fine. The officer, refusing to accept Walter’s offer to pay the fine, boarded him on a Hico-bound train from Dublin. En route, the prisoner jumped through a window near Alexander and used his racing prowess to escape.

Officer Kirk could find no trace of Walter Turnbow. On October 19, Kirk traveled to Brownwood where he learned that some foot racers were in town to run in a competition the next afternoon. On the morning of the race, the officer scouted around town until he found and arrested Walter.

Eight years earlier, Walter—with a brother and a cousin—donned disguises in a failed train-robbing attempt. The trio were caught, leading to Walter’s two-year prison stint. More about the daredevil’s exploits are told in the pages of my book, Sins of the Pioneers: Crimes & Scandals in a Small Texas Town.


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