Christmas Soiree on the Nueces
By Linda Kirkpatrick
It was back in 1888 in the town of Vance, Texas; the Taylor family was putting the finishing touches on the Christmas soiree that would be held at their house. These “get-togethers” were common practice and served as an important role of socialization for folks in those remote areas of Texas.
At this same time the lawmen of the area were planning their own little get-together. Sheriff Ira Wheat, of Leakey, Texas, got word that two brothers were heading to the Christmas soiree on the Nueces. He sent word to his deputy, Will Terry, in Vance, Texas that the brothers were headed that way and they were wanted……dead or alive. Terry then gathered Texas Ranger Captain John Hughes, Captain Ira Aten and Ranger Bass Outlaw. He assigned a local posse that included Paul Jones, Dan Crier, Jim Rhodes, Henry Wells and about twelve or fifteen other men to serve as back up to the Rangers.
Alvin and Will Odle were looking forward to the dance at the Taylor’s and as anxious as the Odles were to get to the party that Christmas Eve, the law was just as anxious for the Odles to arrive at the party.
The Odles had problems with their in-laws and the law. When the family lived in Burnet County, John Odle, brother to Alvin and Will shot and killed his father-in-law and before the dust settled the family up and moved to the Nueces Canyon in the area of Vance, Texas. Then another death occurred. John Stroope , the brother in law of Alvin and Will, was killed. There is some inaccuracy as to the death of John Stroope but rumors have it that Will and Alvin were the guilty parties. Will was only twelve years at the time but to cover all bases both brothers were wanted dead or alive for the murder and for stealing horses. So you have to wonder why they thought that attending this Christmas party would be a good decision.
With the excitement of dancing and Christmas vittles, it is no wonder that the two young men made their way to the remote hills along the Nueces River to join this Christmas party at the Taylor home. Why, who in the world would be hunting them in this faraway place they thought, especially on such a special holiday. They really underestimated the long arm of the law.
Photo of Henry Charles Wells, courtesy of Ancestry.com
The Rangers and the posse set up an ambush and waited patiently until they heard the distant clip of metal horseshoes upon the rocks. The sounds got closer with the occasional blow from the horses. The Texas rangers and the posse patiently waited for the signal from Captain Hughes. They didn’t have to wait long because soon the captain stood and yelled, “Halt!” Those Odle boys turned their horses on a dime and were leaving faster than they were arriving. The Texas Ranger, Bass Outlaw, opened fire and didn’t stop until the two Odle brothers lay on the ground, not moving or breathing. Or so everyone thought. Someone identified the two bodies as those of Alvin and Will Odle.
But wait, Will was only twelve years old; would they have killed a twelve year old boy? It was later discovered that Will, also known as Walter, was charged with perjury in Arizona. A news paper later reported that Walter Odle died of typhoid fever. So who is buried at the foot of Bullhead Mountain besides Alvin? Maybe brother John had ventured down to visit during Christmas. Or maybe it was a friend of the Odle family, Henry Cavin. This is still a shivering cold case.
Will the mystery ever be solved as who is buried next to Alvin Odle? Probably not but we will keep looking! I wonder if the soiree continued, just a little thought.
Linda Kirkpatrick is a ranch real estate agent, author and Texas Hill Country historian