Sheriff James Thomas "Tom" Garvey

Sheriff James Thomas "Tom" Garvey

Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office, Texas

End of Watch Friday, August 16, 1889

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James Thomas "Tom" Garvey

Reconstruction in the South officially ended in 1877, but the Republican Party had gained a stronghold in many counties with the support of freed Black voters. A feud broke out in Fort Bend County in 1888 between wealthy, white Democratic “Jaybirds," and Republican “Woodpeckers,” who had power since Reconstruction. The feud crossed racial, social and politics lines. Assassination and violence had become commonplace. Fort Bend County Sheriff Tom Garvey was a leader of Woodpeckers, and opposed the efforts of the Jaybirds to return to power through violence. The town was an armed camp. The Governor sent Texas Rangers to maintain order.

On August 16, 1889, the Jaybirds faced Woodpeckers in front of the courthouse. Sheriff Garvey and a crowd of armed men warned the Rangers to get out of the way since this was none of their business. A Ranger sergeant and four privates on horseback tried to block the two sides. A gun battle erupted and Sheriff Tom Garvey, his uncle, former Sheriff J. W. Blakey, Jaybird leader, H. H. Frost, and a bystander were killed outright and many participants were wounded. Ranger Private Frank Schmid, Jr., was severely wounded, and died from his wounds on June 17, 1893.

Sheriff Garvey was appointed in October 1886, and was elected on November 2, 1886. He was re-elected on November 6, 1888. Ranger Sergeant Ira Aten, who was trying to maintain order that day, was appointed sheriff on August 21, 1889.


  • Age 29
  • Tour 2 years, 10 months
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Shot and killed

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Garvey and Blakley were buried on the same day in Morton Cemetery in Richmond ,Texas. Garvey's grave is now lost with no marker. The Cemetery Association have no record of Garvey s grave. Blakleys grave has a nice grave stone. Garveys wife and family lived in Galveston at the time of his death. Blakley was Garveys uncle. It may be assumed that they were buried side by side at the double funeral for both families. Since Garveys wife did not live in Richmond its possible that his wife never got him a proper grave stone. The Cem Assco also said that the 1900 hurricane wiped out lots of grave markers. Its also possible that perhaps he had a wooden headstone that got washed away during the storm. Its my opinion that due to the fact they had were kin to each other and there was a double funeral that day, they were buried next to each other.

Bobby McKinney

November 23, 2020

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