WHARTON COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM

W. W. Pitman

Wharton City Constable

1916 to 1920

Wharton City Marshal

1920 - 1935

Wed. Morn.
Feb. 23, 1983
Dear Mrs. Bartlett,
I am sending you mu Daddy Pit's diary he wrote himself. I have the original copy so you can keep this one.
He wrote this in Aug. 1935 after he and Momma got home from Cuba, because he tells all about their trip.
Then on Nov. 9, 1935 he had a massive heart attack from dragging a white drunk man to the jail. He had to do this every Sat. until the lat time got him.
I'm so sorry he didn't live to see his namesake, Walter Pitman Jett who was born April 4, 1942.
Am sure you will enjoy reading Papa's Diary
Lots of Love,
Mrs. H.K. Pitman
Grace Pitman Jett
P.S. Papa was born Jan 14, 1884. He died Nov. 9, 1935 and buried Nov. 11, 1935. It was raining & freezing. We couldn't get out of the car at the cemetery.
He was 51 yrs & 10 mo. when he died.

I was born Jan 14th 1884, six miles north west of Muldoon, Fayette Co, Texas. The oldest of 5 children, 3 brothers and one sis. However, there were 2 half brothers and one half sister older than I, my mother was Fathers 2nd wife. Father died when I was a small boy leaving mother and us 5 tots and the youngest of my half brothers at home (the other ½ brother & sister being married) we were on a small farm which was not paid for. Mother kept us kids going and in a few years paid for the farm and bought another 100 acres which we fenced for cattle to graze. One day while looking at the small heard [sp] of cattle on the open range I found a two year old steer with screw worms in his shoulder and of course had to kill the worms by roping the steer and doctoring him, but to my surprise and expense when I threw him I gave my horse too much slack and broke the steers neck. I immediately went to the house and proposed to buy the steer from mother, however she would not consent to sell him even at a good price. Then I had to break the news to her that I had killed the steer, and the first thing she said was that I had to pay for him and I told her that was what I had been trying to do since entering the house. So she made her word good and Brother Henry and I paid for my foolishness. There was no need of me letting my horse hit the end of the rope so hard.

Well after a year or two (or when I was about 17 yrs old) I fell in love with Miss Ella Holstien and I fell so hard that I still feel the effects of the lick. We were sweethearts for about 4 years or until I was nearly 21 when on Nov 6th 1904 we were married and she has lived with this one husband since that date for which I think she deserves a great deal of credit as I think any woman that has to put up with a man that long deserves credit.

During those years we raised two girls, Grace and Ruby, both of which are married, Grace has two children, a girl 3 yrs old and a boy 6 months old.
While I with the children moved from Muldoon to Wharton October 1910. I had contract with J.R. Watkins Medicine Co for 1911 which I followed a house to house canvass of Wharton County becoming dissatisfied at this I gave it up and rented a farm and followed farming 1912 to 1916 inclusive. during which time I had lots of sport deer hunting in the dense Colorado river bottom which bottom also had some bear, but I was never lucky enough to get a shot at a bear, however I killed several deer. The first of which was a big buck during the month of September 1912. This fellow had a set of horns like a rocking chair. I shot him just at sunset while I was seated in my saddle on a small Texas mule at the crack of the gun the deer went one way and the mule the other, this of course kept me busy try8ing to ride the mule and get another shot at the deer running directly from me but it was my day I missed the deer the second shot shooting a grape vine just over the buck, next thing was to get the mule under control then reload my gun and follow in the direction the buck went and at about 100 yards from the starting point I found him lying flat where he had fallen with a shot directly through his heart. I cut his throat and bled him good, and then my troubles started. An extra big buck 3 miles from any body in the brush and getting dark. I decided to try to carry him out on the mule, but I soon learned that the mule had decided in advance that he would not carry any extra weight, especially the buck as every step my mule made while I was trying to ride close up to the deer got us farther away from it. You fellows who have ridden a Texas mule know they can dodge a hole in a bridge or the ground or anything that he is afraid of. Well, I went home and a good gentle horse and a neighbor and we soon got Mr. Buck out and dressed.

I could go on and tell about the great flood of 1913 when our chickens rode rafts for a week without food but I won’t tell it.
In 1916, I made the race for Constable of Prect # one of Wharton County of which the City of Wharton is near the center. Was elected and took office during the late fall after the general election. This was during what some call the good old days when the poor renter would go to his landlord for supplies for the following week and would sometimes get it in Cash and then would spend a small part of it for booze to get drunk on, and the rest as part payment on his fine or to a doctor for treating his wounds received while insulting someone and often some would get down and loose their money and leave their wives and children to suffer, and those are the days when I really saw people suffer for some one elses wrong doing. They say prohibition is no good, well I must admit that it is in bad shape but who wants the open saloon. They say the young people are drinking more now than, that may be true but I bought Whiskey from the time I was 16 until the saloons closed anytime I wanted it.

Now back to being Constable. I made a trade with the sheriff wherein I would move into the living quarters of the county jail and would work with and for him and I would do the feeding of the prisoners. Everything went along fine [with the exception of those Cronic drunks that I had to handle every day] until about 9 oclock PM Sept 15th 1917. I undertook to arrest one Francisco Lopez, a drunken Mexican and as I approached him he jumped from the sidewalk into the street and opened fire on me with a little 38 Cal. revolver and I returned the fire as quickly as I could, pull my single action 45 Colt my first shot being immediately after his 2nd and as luck would have it my first shot put his gun out of commission ½ of my bullet entering his cylinder and the other ½ hitting him in his left hand as it split and glanced off. My second shot went through his right shoulder and the rest went wild just as the Mexican did. This all happened within 30 yards of the jail door and my wife hearing the shooting made a rush to the jail door with another 45 and my shot gun, an old reliable double barrel loaded with buck shot.
The hombre ran to within 20 yds of the jail door and hid behind a fence corner and when I got the guns from my wife I made a run in the direction of where I last saw him and t5he first flash of my lite hit him my [wife] followed there he is as She followed I raised the shotgun and then is when she really screamed “don’t shoot him”, and that scream from her is all that kept me from being tried for murder. I approached him with both barrels cocked in his center and taken the pistol) , or made him hand it to me handle first, then took him into the jail and locked the door behind and the people from all parts of town came rushing into the jail yard. But the Mexican was already safe behind jail bars. Waiting for a doctor to come treat his wounds which soon got ok. Then he was carried before the county Judge who fined him $200.00 and one year in jail for carrying a pistol later he was tried in District Court for assault to murder, during which trial his large family of small children occupied the front seats in front of the Judges bench. The jury brought in a verdict of 5 years suspended sentence, the sentence being suspended through sympathy for the children. Then everything went nicely again until June 26th 1920 when I went out to the country to arrest a negro for tying a piece of paper to a dogs tail saturating it with gasoline and setting it on fire burning the dogs tail off and almost burning his legs off. As I started out I called to Harry McCormick a deputy sheriff who was not armed and he went along just to be riding not thinking of having trouble with the negro having arrested hundreds of them alone, but when we got to this negro’s house he, his wife a big 190 lb woman and his brother were all mad and as he rushed into the house a big dog took a piece out of my leg as the scar will show now. Then after some argument I got him out of the house to the front porch then he decided he would snatch my gun but instead I hit him and knocked him to the ground and at that moment the old woman jumped on my back from the porch and the dogs joined in the fight and the brother came out with a 30x30 rifle and after a few seconds they took my pistol and shot my friend Mr. McCormick through the head and started shooting at me but the Lord and my legs kept him from hitting me even tho he shot at me 3 with the pistol and then emptied the Savage 30x30 a total of seven shots at me, but all missed. Then I caught a negro with a buggy and made him drive me toward town having been forced to leave my friend dying and my car at the negros house. After driving quite a ways in the buggy we met Dr. J. M. Neal in his car and he brought me to town and the great man hunt was on. Sat night Sunday, Monday and most of Tuesday we chased the two men through dense brush and corn fields and about 3 PM Tuesday they made their last fight both being mowed down with buck shot at close range something like 40 miles from where they first started. I was not in the party that killed them neither was I in the party that hanged a couple of cousins of the hunted men for lying to the policemen while the chase was red hot. The old woman was tried in Court and given 5 years in the pen, but never returned to these parts any more.

Now so much for that. We will get down to things that are sweeter and not so dangerous, my 4 years as Constable is up and owing to the fact that there was no money to be made (not even a living) as Constable I did not offer for re Election but followed carpentering for awhile, then went to work as a clerk in a grocery store and after working there about 9 months I ran for City Marshall which office carries the duties of assessor and Collector of the City taxes, which office I have held nearly Eleven years and If I do say it myself I am one of the best City Marshal’s Wharton has ever had during her 25 years as a City. As the man who held office before me held it 14 years consequently she has only had two Marshall’s naturally I am one of her best or worst just as you want to take it.

One of my biggest problems as marshal is trying to control children and keep them out of the Penitentiary that have not been controlled at home and to my sorrow now and then one of them must go to jail and later to the state institutions. Then and not until then some parents realize their mistake in letting sonny ( or some times daughter) have his or her way. Some parents come thank me for correcting their children while others get very indignant, but usually to their sorrow before the child is grown. I was a boy my self once and believe I know about how far they should be let go before being corrected.

Now we will get to the Ripley Believe It or Not Contest which was carried by something like 300 news papers over the United States and Cuba. But before going into the trip or contest let me state that during the fall of 1930 our house was entered by some thief who stole the best suit of clothes I ever owned and also 3 pistols, but overlooked the pistol that figured into the contest. Well that hurt pretty bad, not the loosing the pistols but the loosing the suit.. As I said over looked the little Mexican pistol. So the contest was on and I read with interest the many things people had sent in. So one Sunday afternoon I decided to send in my experience with the Mexican. So without telling my wife or anyone else I went to my office and started my hunt & peck (mostly hunt) system of typing my experience with the [Mexican] and after a short while mailed it out to the Houston Post of Houston, Texas. Hoping that I might win a ticket to the show, but never dreaming that I might win one of the 9 grand prizes. I watched the paper for the next 3 days when all whome [sp] had won a ticket were announced and my name was not in there so that settled it or I thought it did. , but low and behold some 5 or 6 weeks later the Houston Post called, I answered and it was Bob Johnson {of the Post Staff} all excited telling me that he had a telegram from Believe It or Not Ripley office stating that I had won a two week trip to Cuba all expenses paid. Now can you imagine a boy raised as stated above winning an over seas trip with expenses paid for wife & I. Just how do you suppose I felt, but regardless of how I felt the trip was up to me.

Well I must produce the pistol as proof having never told anyone about sending in my experience, it must have been more of a surprise to my family. I called my wife from my office and ask her if she wanted to go to Houston, and of course she ask what I was going for, I wouldn’t tell her over the phone as I was so afraid it would get out over town, but went home and told her the whole story. Well to Houston we went and deliver the pistol to the Post with my bullet and the Mexicans bullet stuck together just as the stuck 15 years before that. Well they met us at the door and acted as they were as glad to see us as some people was to see President Hoover defeated.

They taken our pictures and next day or so every thing was on the front page of the dalies over the country. And that started me to answering questions that keep me busy a long time.. Then within a few days the Post received another wire from the New York office of Mr. Ripley stating that arrangements had been made Whereby wife and I would take an airplane top Houston, and fly to New York and there take the Oriente to Havana Cuba. Then again, Mr. Bob Johnson called me over phone and told of the arrangements and I told him I knew my wife would not get in the plane., but to my surprise when I broke the sad news to her she said she didn’t see any thing so bad about that. So I slipped over to Western Union office and wired that we were raring to make the trip as suggested. Now imagine a fellow that had never been in a plane in fact Mrs. Pitman had never more than looked at them as a distance but she is surely game. And on Sunday July 24th 1933 we went aboard an American Airways ship at Houston flew to Waco, then Ft. Worth and landed again in Dallas and stopped over night there. Monday we left Dallas went to Texarkana, Little Ark and near Little Rock we ran into a little storm which started the ship and my stomach to going up and down and it wasn’t long until my stomach was only going up, even when the ship went down. You folks that have been air sick know what I am talking about. and boy I was some sick. At Nashville, Tenn the Capilate took me into the depot and gave me a large dose of ammonia and let me lie down on a couch, but by the time I got straight, they hollered “All aboard”. I had to go after a while the young man {who was awfully nice as were all American Airways employees} came to me and told me that he believed I was going to live. I told him I was afraid so [?]. After leaving Nashville we landed at Louisville KY and stopping over night at Cleveland Ohio. The next day we left Cleveland headed to Buffaloe. This was a dark rainy day and we had to fly very low in fact I felt that we were flying too low but one of the best pilots in the service was at the wheel so after a short while the ship dropped into Buffaloe, then to Seracuse. Albanny and on into Newark, N.J. about 9PM & spoke of the good pilot, if he had not been one of the best we could have never landed without hitting an electric light. People that have made that trip from Albanny to Newark after dark know what I am talking about because you surely saw the multiplied millions of lights. Then as the plane came to a stop at Newark Mr. Heiman of the Ripley force and Miss Louise Brown that pretty movie star met us and the picture camera began to snap and before it stopped they had wife and myself and then Miss Brown. And I all fixed up. Miss Brown is some sweet girl and Mr. Heiman and she surely were [next line cut off at bottom of paper] great Holland tunnel {which is about 9 miles long and you [next few words unreadable] one of the greatest pieces of work I ever saw. Then to the top of the 102 story Empire State Building and from there to the New Waldorf Astoria hotel where our room was waiting for us.
The following morning they came for us and drove us through Central Park then over to meet Mr. Ripley and on to the foot of Wall Street at which point we went abord [sp] the Oriente and met Miss Mary Cain a Texas girl whole Mr. Ripley had brought along to make Wife & I feel at home. And after a few moments the photographer took three or four shots at us and we were soon off for Havana over the deep blue Sea. We landed in Havana the Saturday morning following and then is when I wish I could have spoken Spanish. My My how I needed it. Those poor peddlers and beggars almost took charge of us but before we left there I had gotten somewhat used to paying no attention to them. I am getting a little ahead of the story, as we were leaving the Ship the news paper men of Havana were shooting their camera’s at us and the following morning we were written up in all the largest papers and from then on it seemed that every Cuban knew us but very few could make us understand and we had just as hard time making them understand. We were not at the boat and carried to the National hotel where we were assigned a &20.00 per day room which we occupied for the next 8 days. Our meals were only &9.00 per day for us two. and believe me it took most of my time trying to eat that $4.50 worth of Cuban cooking. We were treated royally at all places and by every one that we met. A Mrs. Bedden and Mrs. Dollvitt saw us at the hotel the first evening and when they saw the pictures and write up of us the next morning they called my wife and made arrangements to come over and take us out to where we could see the city and the country around and those two ladies were so nice to us that we shall ever be indebted top them. They came for us almost everyday and took us out to see every place of interest. Jes and Miss Gallavan Manager of the Havana Post {an american newspaper} either called for us or called over phone nearly everyday. one day she carried us to that great Cemetery which covers 120 acres and for the first time we saw the bone. We drove through and here and there were small cans full of bones which had just been dug up but not yet moved to the bone yard. I never saw so much marble as there was over the 120 acres there was enough to build a big town and pave every street with marble. There was one thing those people failed to understand and that was why wife nor I either would drink liquor or5 beer. There were 5000 saloons or bars in the City of Havana and the only drunks we saw were a couple of American boys that came on the ship [?] morning and stopped there for the day. I was about to forget to mention Mr. Moreno manager and Miss Clara Pa?? Assistant manager of the El Mundo {the paper that carries Ripley’s Believe It Or Not cartoons in Havana}.
They were just as nice as two people could be to a couple of strangers I hope to see them again some day. We were warned not to go into the business district on Monday which was Communist day as there might be some bombs touched off by a faction that were opposing the Government, so Monday I stayed at the hotel until nearly noon, but finally decided the only way to see things was to be at the right place at the right time so I went to town and stayed there the rest of the day. The only bomb that went off while we were there killed a man that put it off, which was in the wash room of a café about 7am and I was in my room at the hotel and knew nothing of it until I saw the account of it in the paper.
It is a pitiful situation when a man or a country get in a shape that some people in Cuba and the Cuban County is in expecting to be blown to pieces every moment.

Well after 8 days in Havana we boarded the Oriente and sailed back to New York arriving Tuesday. We stayed there until Wednesday morning when we caught an American Airways Ship stopped in Cleveland Ohio Wednesday night and at Wharton Thursday night a distance of about 1400 miles the route we took. On our return across Tennessee, we ran into cloudy weather and out pilot raised our plane to above 11000 feet to get above the clouds and to you who have not been up just try it once and you will agree withy me that 11000 feet is a long way from home altho if any thing goes wrong I had rather be 11000 than 1100 feet up. Yes, we got up high and I got sick too but if I were making the trip to New York again and had the money I would surely ride a plane of the American Air Ways. It is great if you don’t have a wreck but the Air route is so nice and clean, no dust or smoke just lots of fresh air.
Ripley's Believe It or Not Photo


This page transcribed by Janet Barrett Hobizal in June 2007,

From a photo copy found at the Wharton County Historical Museum


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