A SECESH, RING CLICK, PAPER COLLAR,
By IRA KENNEDY"They came to the shop and told their business, and I says, "Well gentlemen, I have said I would not take the oath without I was forsed to and I concider a forse-put no-put atal so out with your oath."
Jim Nichols, a former Texas Ranger who rode with the renowned Captain Jack Hays, was living in Blanco earning a living as a blacksmith and carpenter when, in 1861, Texas held a general election which resulted in the states secession from the Union and joining the Confederacy. A staunch Unionist, Nichols paid dearly for his convictions. While many Union sympathizers in the area were shot or hung for their beliefs, certain citizens in Blanco brought Nichols to court on trumped up charges of horse theft. He was convicted, then pardoned by the governor, the pardon was overturned. However, Nichols never served a day in prison. Very likely Nichols reputation as a Texas Ranger, and his unparalleled courage in the face of numerous threats on his life spared him the fate suffered by many of his neighbors. Attorneys fees for the trial essentially resulted in Nichols bankruptcy and forced him out of Blanco County. Attorney's fees have always been expensive. Even today, anyone who hires a San Antonio DWI attorney can expect a costly bill. Before the events mentioned here Nichols was offered $10,000 by Tom Smith for his place; to satisfy his attorneys fees, Nichols eventually sold his place to Smith for $1,000. The following excerpts are taken from Now You Hear My Horn: The Jouranl of James Wilson Nichols 1820-1887, published by the University of Texas Press, 1967. Nichols grammar and spelling was retained in the publication of the book, as it is here:
"I never went to town, but what I was tackled by someone and I spent my opinion freely, thinking every man had a right to do so, always advocating the union principles and was pounced on by some one as though I was the only Union man in the county. Thare was plenty others, but they kept their mouths shut as I should have done. I must acknowledg tho that I was a little contrary, for in 1845 I voted against annexation, believing it best for Texas to remain a separate, independent Republic, but after annexation I found it worked well enough and I become satisfide and could see no good that would accrew from seceding. If it was an eror in me it was an eror of the head and not of the heart.
"The day of election was but a few days off, and I went to town on som business and thare was a large croud assembled at the grocery whare thare was big talking and biger drinking.
"I stood round awhile having nothing to say when one fellow sideled up close to me in order that I might hear him and said, "Well, boys, the election is close by, and thare is a big croud of us has agreed to meete on the ground early and Ill venture a treat for this croud that a union man wont venture to show his head at the poles on that day. We have agreede that if any dare come we will clean um up as fast as they come, and well do it shore."
"The croud hurrahed for Ike. I said nothing but thought thare would be one union vote cast if but one. When the day came I went down early and taken a slip of paper about a foot long and wrote it full from one end to the other, "for the Union" and when the poles was opened I haded it in without folding it up. They taken it, looked at it, shoed it to all the judges and clerks, then folded it up, and deposited it in the box, registered my name, and put on my ticker, "Nomber 1," and I went out."
The election returns in Blanco for February 23, 1961 showed 86 for secession and 170 against. State-wide the results were 46,129 for secession and 14,697 against. In a footnote to the Nichols Journal editor Catherine W. McDowell noted: There were considerable differences in the feelings of Texans concerning participation in the Civil War. In all probability only about one third of the people were staunch Confederates, and a large number did not want to secede at all. Of those several areas in Texas that were predominately loyal to the Union, one of the strongest included Blanco, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, and Llano counties."
"After the election the Confedercy was organized and in the year 1861 the war commenced" Nichols wrote. "Thare was a man appointed in every county to administer the oath of allegiance to the Confederate government and Col Duff was apointed for this purpose in Blanco County and he apointed a day and the majority met and taken the oath."
In another footnote editor C. McDowell notes: "James M. Duff was a Scottish adventurer and soldier of fortune who had been in the United States Army at one time and had been drummed out because of his actions." On several occasions Nichols was told to attend a meeting so that the oath might be administered, but as Nichols wrote, "I told them that I never would take the oath until I was forsed to do so, and it went on this way for some months I was busy at work in the shop and saw to Col and two other men drive up and git out of the hack loaded down with arms and I thought to myself, "Gone up now." They come to the shop and told their business, and I says, "Well gentlemen, I have said I would not take the oath without I was forsed to and I concider a forse-put no-put atal so out with your oath."
After taking the oath Nichols still suffered abuse and threats of hanging from a group he called "civilized savages or heel flies, secesh, ring click, paper collar, kid glove gang of cyoties." Eventually a meeting was held in Blanco during which a resolution was passed ordering Nichols to leave the county or abide the consequences. A contingent of three men was sent to Nichols place to read the resolution and get his reply. Nichols replied that even if he was disposed to leave, which he was not, ten days would not be enough time to get his affairs in order. One of the messengers said to Nichols, "I would advise you to leave, if you do not the charges will be so high against you they will hang you. I would leave if I was in your place
"I have done nothing to leave for," Nichols replied, "and rather than have it said that I was running away from a mass of filthy corruption such as that, I wont go if they give me more than ten days."
"We have to report," came the reply.
"Very well," Nichols said, "You can report that if they want to hang me they can find me right here at the end of two double barrel shotguns. We can git as many of you as you can of us and the fist man that crosses that fence is my meat. Now you hear my horn."
Nichols moved to Hays County in an attempt to leave his problems behind, however his persecutors followed him to San Marcos. What followed for Nichols was series of criminal charges brought in San Marcos, acquittals and finally a conviction on horse theft for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. He never served a day. Many of his neighbors were not so fortunate. They were hanged, their homes ransacked, and possessions stolen. After recounting many of their outrages, Nichols wrote,: "Now, dear reader, these transactions did not take place out on the plains and by the wild Indians but here in Blanco County and amongst some few civilized people was it perpetrated by this blood thirst gang of jackals, ring click, kid glove, paper collar beasts of prey in human shape."