Jesse Ray Yocum and the Murrell Gang…
provides a little bit of history, both good and bad.
Jesse Ray Yocum,1760-1840, is said to have served in the Revolutionary War. He was a member of the infamous John A. Murrell gang who robbed travelers along the Natchez Trace in western Mississippi and the leader of his sons in what was known as the “Yocum gang” who were known from Texas to Mississippi as killers, slave-stealers, and robbers. Mark Twain wrote this about John Murrell. “When he traveled, his usual disguise was that of an itinerant preacher; and it is said that his discourses were very ‘soul-moving’–interesting the hearers so much that they forgot to look after their horses, which were carried away by his confederates while he was preaching.”
“In the Land Office Register of 1824, Jesse, his son T. D. Yocum, and two other sons were listed as claiming land grants in the Neutral Strip; and during the 1820s, according to the Colorado “Gazette and Advertiser” of Oct. 31, 1841, he was tried several times for murder at Natchitoches, La., and bought acquittal on every occasion with hired witnesses and perjured testimony.”
The Texas Handbook Online:
“YOKUM GANG. The Yokum Gang was a group of reputed thieves and murderers who operated in the Neutral Ground between Louisiana and Spanish Texas in the early 1820s. Susan Callier (Collier), daughter of Robert Callier, who settled east of San Augustine in 1822, favored as a suitor, Matthew Yokum, a member of the gang; but her father ordered Yokum never to return to the Callier home and persuaded his daughter to marry Charles Chandler. Susan’s uncle, James Callier, married a Yokum sister and became a member of the gang. James Callier and Matthew Yokum then killed Robert Callier and started to San Augustine to murder Charles Chandler, but Chandler, aided by a slave who was killed in the encounter, killed both his assailants. Other members of the gang then murdered a Louisiana citizen and seized his African-American wife and mulatto children to sell as slaves in Texas, but David Renfro and his neighbors drove the gang out of the country and returned the woman and her children to Louisiana. The gang fled to Pine Island Bayou in the area of present Jefferson County and resumed their practices of robbery and murder until neighboring citizens hung Thomas Yokum and dispersed the remainder of the group.
Robert Bruce Blake
“YOKUM GANG.” The Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/YY/jey1.html
The Texas Monthly; July, 2002
The Bad Old Days
The 1800’s had its share of criminal activity.
by Anne Dingus
… Texas has seen its share of historical horrors … no surprise in a state that was the wildest and woolliest of the American West. … outlaw Wild Bill Longley, for example, claimed to have once shot a man for insulting the virtue of Texas women. … Below are … criminal vignettes of the 1800’s that have largely been forgotten by modern Texans, but when it comes to terror, they’re still pretty high-caliber.
1810’s-1820’s: The Yokum Gang, a group of thieves and murderers, terrify the Neutral Ground, an area between Louisiana and Spanish Texas. The first to die at the hands of ringleaders Matthew Yokum and James Callier is Callier’s father, who had refused to let Yokum marry his daughter. The group commits additional murders and attempts to kidnap freed blacks to sell as slaves, but eventually is thwarted by outraged neighbors who drive them west across the Sabine River and into Pine Island Bayou, in what is now Jefferson County.
Jesse Ray, some of his sons, and some of his grandsons were suspected of being outlaws in Kentucky, along the Natchez Trace and in the Neutral Strip in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas. Though several were hanged or shot by vigilante groups, none were arrested, tried, and convicted by legal authorities. The family criminal activities occurred over three generations from about 1800 to about 1878.Several descendants of Jesse Ray Yocum and Diana How Denton made their way to the lawless area in southwest Louisiana in the mid 1800s. Some were involved in the lawless activities of the time. Two sons were hanged. One, Zach Yocum, was hanged by “Regulators” in Louisiana (date unknown, perhaps around 1876) and the other was hanged by parties unknown in Texas in 1841. A grandson, Doc Addison fought off the Regulators, killing four of them, in Louisiana after fleeing from murder charges in Texas. Another son, Matthew (or Matthis) Yocum, along with his brother-in-law, James Collier, was suspected in the killing of Robert Collier (James’s brother). They then attempted to kill Charles Chandler, Robert Collier’s son-in-law.
These lawless few constituted a minority of the Yoakum family members in the area at the time.
The Yocums mentioned in the Handbook of Texas article “Yokum Gang” are all children of Jesse Yocum, son of Matthias Yoakum and Diana Denton, both of Kentucky. Matthias Yocum, b 1790, KY; Thomas D. Yocum, b 1796, Ky married Pamelia Peace, 9 Jan 1814, St. Landry Parish, LA; and Martha “Patsy” Yocum,b 20 Mar 1804, KY. m James Callier. Jesse and Diane had 11 children in all.