Despite his initial reluctance, Marshal Christopher Columbus Rogers of Palestine, Texas. decided to approach a friend outside the opera house in 1887 and arrest him for a misdemeanor. 

Law of the Gun

Seconds later, the friendship between Rogers and Tom O’Donnell ended in an exchange of gunfire.

Earlier in the evening, O’Donnell, the night bartender at the Buckhorn Saloon, had been involved in a bitter argument with his father-in-law and reportedly beat him. 

The man’s wife—O’Donnell’s mother-in-law—became distraught and angry and demanded Rogers arrest O’Donnell. Despite the friendship between the two men, the lawman decided to press misdemeanor charges.

“Tom,” said the sheriff, “give me your gun. Let’s head over to the office, and you can post bail and get this thing straightened out.”

“I give no man my gun,” O’Donnell said and told Rogers he’d have to take it off him if he was man enough.

When Rogers moved toward him, an outraged O’Donnell pulled his gun and began firing.

One of the bullets slammed into Rogers’ right forearm and snapped a bone just as he cleared his Colt from an armpit holster.

With his arm useless, Rogers switched the gun to his left hand and fired, killing O’Donnell. 

Despite what appeared clear-cut self-defense, witnesses accused Rogers of cold-blooded murder, resulting in suspension. Officials also stripped him of the right to carry a weapon pending a murder trial.

Rogers—known as “C. C.”—lived most of his life as either a lawman or a gunman. From 1873 to 1888, he served as the face of the law in Palestine’s railroad town and proved an efficient law enforcer.

Born in 1846, the son of the sheriff in Anderson County, Texas, he joined the Confederate Army at 15 and served as a guard at Camp Ford, a Confederate Prisoner-of-War camp in Tyler.

After the war, he traveled to Palestine and worked as a printer for the Trinity Advocate newspaper. 

Rogers vehemently opposed Reconstruction—especially the conditions involving martial law and the carpetbagger rule.

He never hesitated to use violence to express his views.

In 1872, he tangled with Palestine Marshal Dan Cary and killed him in a gunfight.

No one knew what triggered the violence. 

Rogers left town, moved to Tyler, and opened a saloon. But things soon turned sour, leading to more gunplay.

Rogers shot and killed business rival Mose Remington, but a Smith County jury acquitted him on grounds of self-defense. 

In the O’Donnell killing fifteen years later, the court granted Rogers a change of venue and moved the proceedings to Athens. The jury, however, failed to reach a consensus. Eleven favored conviction. One voted to acquit Rogers.

While awaiting a second trial, Rogers walked into Robertson’s Saloon on the afternoon of July 26, 1888, his broken arm still cradled in a sling. He was not armed. 

Witnesses say Rogers lost his temper in an argument with a young locomotive engineer over the testimony of two witnesses in the first murder trial.

Rogers slugged Young with his broken arm. Young retaliated by stabbing Rogers several times.

The one-time gunman and law keeper died on the barroom floor at age 42.


[Photograph1880~University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Anderson County Historical Commission]



Join the StoryTeller Posse
and receive a FREE copy of
“When the Smoke Clears: Gunslingers and Gunfights of the Old West.”

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.