County Texas Genealogical Society
STORY OF COONEY MITCHELL
Hood County News - January 27,
Nelson "Cooney" Mitchell and his
family moved to Hood County from Arkansas by way of Erath County around 1867
and settled in the south portion of Hood County that now bears his name,
The rich, fertile land of the Brazos River
basin proved profitable for the kind, hard-working farmer and his family.
Always considered by his fellow Hood
Countians to be a giving man, Cooney proved that when he and his family aided a
stranded P.M. Truitt family within the shadows of Comanche Peak.
Cooney took the Truitts back to Mitchell Bend
and helped the family get settled in their new
surroundings. Cooney even paid for the ministerial schooling of P.M.'s
son James and bought the young man his first suit.
Cooney's own words stated the assistance he
afforded the Truitts. "He purchased the farm on which he lived, together
with corn, cattle, hogs, etc...I bought the indebtedness of Truitt―Truitt
acknowledging the justice of the debt."
When Truitt didn't pay Mitchell for the loan,
Cooney filed suit against him in the Hood County courts. From that point on, it
was not a friendly situation between the families.
In a time in the county's history, circa
1870s, records had a habit of being lost, destroyed and several courthouses of
the time were burned to the ground with the hint of arson.
On March 28, 1874, after a day in court in
which no agreement had come, the families set out for the long trip to Mitchell
Cooney's son Bill, along with family friend
Mint Graves, rode their horses ahead of Cooney's wagon. On board with Cooney
was William J. Owens.
Riding ahead of the Mitchells were three of
the Truitt boys―James, Sam, and Isaac. The three Truitt boys seesawed
with Bill Mitchell and Mint Graves, taunting each other as young spirited
youths sometimes do.
As Bill and Mint rode off in pursuit, Cooney
was heard to say, "Give 'em hell boys!"
What exactly happened next was then, as it is
now, unclear, but when the gunsmoke cleared from the treetops, Sam and Isaac
Truitt were dead and James Truitt was injured. It isn't known who fired the
first shot in the deadly melee.
The news spread throughout the community and
soon Cooney, Owens and others were arrested. Bill Mitchell escaped and hid out
Due to an enraged jury and a community cry
for justice, Cooney, 80 at the time, was sentenced to die at the end of a rope.
Cooney lingered in the Hood County jail,
which was, at that time, a crude log cabin on the southeast corner of this
historic district, above the banks of the Brazos River.
On the night before his scheduled execution,
Cooney's young son Jeff was shot and killed while trying to sneak in an
overdose of laudanum for his father.
While in prison, Cooney wrote a booklet,
explaining the events that led to his incarceration and sold them for 25 cents
in an attempt to provide for his family.
In the booklet, Cooney stated of the infamous
day of the murders, "From the action of the Truitt boys on that day, and
knowing the feeling existing between my family and that of P.M. Truitt, I
certainly expected trouble, and that of a serious character, but did not know
what it would when it did. And it took place without any advice or
After several appeals were denied, Cooney
stated, "I heard it calmly. It was expected. I could not be agitated by
the fear of the nearness of that event, which in the nature of things at my age
must so soon take place, and which deprived me of but little of the pleasures,
joys, sorrows or anxieties of earth."
Cooney was taken to the hanging tree―which
was located on Reunion Street in the northeast portion of the city―on
October 8, 1875. The sheriff gave Cooney a moment to speak.
Cooney again stated his innocence. He also
sent a verbal message to his son Bill, to avenge his death against the
"liars" that had placed him in this predicament.
Years later, Bill Mitchell calmly walked into
the East Texas house of James Truitt, and in front of the preacher's family,
shot the former Mitchell family friend through the head.
Cooney remains the only man to be legally
hanged in Hood County.
For more information, read Jay C. Follett's family account of the Mitchell hanging.
~ Web Page by Virginia Hale ~
HOOD COUNTY TEXAS GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY