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Deputized Civilian David W. Harvell | Nacogdoches County Constable's Office, Texas Nacogdoches County Constable's Office, Texas

Deputized Civilian

David W. Harvell

Nacogdoches County Constable's Office, Texas

End of Watch: Thursday, December 14, 1871

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 29

Tour: 1 day

Badge # Not available

Cause: Gunfire

Weapon: Handgun

Offender: one sentenced to life and one escaped

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On December 14, 1871, two Texas state policemen, Columbus Hazlett and William Grayson, attended a justice of the peace court session in the Linn Flat community. Apparently in disagreement with some action by the court, they caused a disturbance and threatened to shoot one of the lawyers. Justice Dawson charged them with contempt. An arrest warrant was issued, and Dawson gave it to Constable John Birdwell to execute. Constable Birdwell summoned a man named David W. Harvell to assist him in the arrest of the two state policemen. The constable then located Hazlett nearby and arrested him. Hazlett offered no resistance, and on Birdwell’s command called to Grayson in a nearby store.

When Grayson drew near, Hazlett told him, “I am a prisoner.” Grayson said, “Die before you surrender.” Deputized Citizen Harvell then demanded Hazlett hand over his gun. Instead, Hazlett drew his weapon and shot Harvell in the chest. But Harvell did not go down. He staggered though a nearby store door, picked up a shotgun, and fired the first barrel into Hazlett’s face. Hazlett was hit by only a few pellets, but the second barrel discharged in the direction of Grayson, wounding him. Hazlett and Grayson returned fire, twice hitting Harvell, who dropped dead on the store floor. Constable Birdwell never had a chance to draw his weapon, and was looking down the barrels of the state policemen’s guns when they mounted their horses and rode off.

On December 19, 1871, Constable John Birdwell answered a knock on his door in Linn Flat and was shot dead. Arrest warrants were issued for Grayson and Hazlett.

About a week later Lt. Thomas Williams, a respected member of the state police, rode into Linn Flat with Grayson and Hazlett. Lt. Williams negotiated with Sheriff Orton for several days over the arrest and confinement of the two state policemen. No settlement was reached, and Williams rode away one night with his two prisoners. Soon after, the head of the state police returned to surrender Hazlett and Grayson to the sheriff.

Grayson was convicted and sent to prison for life. Hazlett escaped from jail before his trial, fled to Arkansas, and was killed by bounty hunters.

Constable John Birdwell, 59, was survived by his wife and 10 children. David W. Harvell, 29, was survived by his wife and 3 children. The place of burial for both men has not been located.

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Related Line of Duty Deaths

Constable John Birdwell
Nacogdoches County Constable's Office, Texas
End of Watch: Tuesday, December 19, 1871
Cause: Gunfire

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Most Recent Reflection

Constable John Birdwell was buried in the Birdwell family cemetery, Mt. Enterprise, Rusk County, Texas, but the graves were ploughed up by a farmer in the 1960s.

Ray Isbell
4th-great-nephew of John Birdwell
May 31, 2013

 

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