April 18, 2014
Political games used to confuse voters PDF Print E-mail

Sometimes in the Old West, it seemed as if everyone and everything were battling to gain the upper hand...even jaybirds and woodpeckers.
The year was 1888. The Civil War had recently ended. Reconstruction was still taking place in Texas. Things were particularly difficult in Fort Bend County of Texas. And there developed a feud that had both political and racial implications.

With blacks now being able to vote, they became a political factor. The blacks felt it was the Republicans who fought for their freedom, and they supported that party's ticket. Not willing to loose power in the county, a group of about 40 Democrats...known as the Woodpeckers...decided to confuse the issue by campaigning as Republicans. As a result, the Woodpeckers got a significant percentage of black votes.
The legitimate Republican group opposing the Woodpeckers was called the Jaybirds. They started their own campaign. Finally, words turned to lead, and on August 2, 1888, the first blood was drawn as the leader of the Jaybirds was shot.
In retaliation, the Jaybirds warned certain black people to vacate the county, which they did. Still, the Woodpeckers won the next election.
An all out battle took place around the courthouse on August 16, 1889. Although the actual number of dead isn't known, casualties were said to have been heavy.
The next day the governor sent in the military. He personally came to negotiate the peace, which resulted in the Woodpeckers either resigning or being forced from office, and the Jaybirds replacing them.
The settlement didn't stop the feuding, which went on for decades. But, hunting season on birds was over.