Prank
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Prank led to empty sleeve

BY W. T. Block

Reprinted from the Beaumont Enterprise, Sunday January 10, 1999.

NEDERLAND -- In 1880 the "Peck’s Bad Boy" of Beaumont was a young man of Irish descent, nicknamed Bud, who was a river lumberjack with an affinity for firearms. Bud was the straw boss of the river’s "booming crew," charged with separating the saw logs for the Beaumont Boom Company and Neches River Boom Company. And although Bud was boisterous and addicted to pranksterism, he rejected alcohol or the saloons that sold it.

An early Enterprise article noted that Bud "...could skip across... a log jam in the river, and pick out the key log that held it in tangle, but the log jams of his personal life were beyond him in his youth...."

At twilight of one night in Sept., 1881, Bud and 3 other lumberjacks set off a giant firecracker in back of a noisy church, which caused City Marshal Patterson to investigate and fire a warning shot over Bud’s head. In the inky twilight, Bud drew his revolver and fired, striking Patterson in the groin, and Patterson’s second shot shattered Bud’s wrist.

The next day Marshal Patterson died. Two physicians amputated Bud’s left arm below the elbow, and the grand jury soon indicted him for murder.

At his trial in Nov. 1881, Bud pleaded self-defense - that in the darkness he thought that Patterson was trying to kill him. A jury quickly found Bud not guilty, but it could not acquit him of the deep remorse that Bud carried to his grave 75 years later.

Because of his new disability, Bud opened a real estate agency. Soon afterward Evangelist W. E. Penn opened a Baptist revival in Beaumont’s opera house. Galveston News reported that Penn had long refused to come to "hardhearted" Beaumont, where one "...might expect to Christianize the alligators, but not the sawmill hands..." Bud’s friend, George W. Carroll, donated his pay check to bring Penn to Beaumont.

However, Bud became one of the 145 "alligators," who accepted Christ during Penn’s revival. Thereafter Bud’s life reflected a significant change, as he always found time to teach a Sunday School class and partake in other church activities.

During the 1890s, Bud acquired a firm belief that there was underground oil and gas south of Beaumont and he bought a large tract of land at Spindletop. Bud, Carroll and G. W. O’Brien organized the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Co. However their two earliest drilling attempts proved fruitless, until Bud engaged Anthony Lucas, whose gusher exploded on Jan. 10, 1901. Lucas’ geyser of oil quickly converted a sleepy lumber community into a boisterous boom town.

Bud once said: "...If any man in or out of Beaumont ever said he believed in my scheme, I never heard of it..."

In 1951 Bud, by then bent over with extreme age and known to the oil world as Pattillo Higgins, made his last visit to Beaumont during Spindletop’s 50th anniversary celebration.

He died in 1955, carrying to his grave that empty sleeve in his left coat pocket, his symbol of a lifetime of remorse because of the death that resulted from that one night of pranksterism.

W. T. Block of Nederland is a historian and author. His website is http://block.dynip.com/wtblockjr/. This database is very large (150 articles) and is intended as an area history source for students.

Copyright 1998-2016 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
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