By Austin Brown #105
Beeville, Texas, needed a new post office.
The old one was getting too small to gossip,
So, the town petitioned the PO department
To select a lot from an available assortment.
There were vacant lots in the downtown central area.
Many were proffered – the more the merrier!
The site selected was 111 N. St. Mary’s Street,
With a new, bigger building in which to meet.
When we’re all there to mail an important letter,
The larger building would be much better.
The USPS contracts went out for bids in town
And all the contractors were gathered around.
The first contract to be let for the edifice
Was for excavating the site of the new office.
The design called for a basement in which to store
All the route carriers’ leather bags and much more.
So, the draymen, with huge wagons and teams,
Competed hard to get the contract by any means.
“Wagons and teams?” you ask. Oh, I forgot to say
That all this took place way, way “back in the day”!
The year was 1916 and dirt was dug with tools,
Loaded by hand into wagons, and pulled by mules.
The final bidders came down to two draymen.
They were Hermes and Brown, who were not friends!
In the end, Brown got the bid and started the job.
Hermes was really hot and said he was robbed,
Then showed up to haul some dirt loads, too.
Brown ran him off; there was no room for two.
Hermes was really irate because he was left out.
“You can bet I’ll get even!” he said with a shout!
He showed up again and tried to get a load to haul
But Brown was adamant; he wouldn’t move or stall.
Hermes cussed Brown with all his might;
Said he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
A black box would be the end for one of them
The next time they met and it wouldn’t be for him!
True to his word, Hermes showed up again, really mad.
He pulled a knife on Brown and gave it all he had.
Brown backed up to his wagon, grabbed his gun,
Shot Hermes four times, and didn’t run.
Brown then walked two blocks to the city jail.
He gave his pistol to the sheriff and asked for bail
Because he shot a man who had attacked him
With a knife and he didn’t want to go to the pen.
The sheriff was pleased with the honest conduct
Of this man who was had been hired to construct
Part of the new Federal Post Office in their town.
But, a shooting is a shooting. The word got around.
A grand jury was summoned to decide his fate.
Brown was true billed and his trial was set for a date.
The district court, they said, was in charge of the trial.
He was found guilty of murder there after a while!
His friends and family, who all knew the truth,
Hired good lawyers for to turn him loose.
The documents were drawn for a State appeal.
In review, it was discovered that the verdict wasn’t real!
Seems the offence took place on Federal soil
And the State court had no right to spoil
A man’s life for a shooting at this particular place.
The crime was determined to be a Federal case!
Sadly, a guilty verdict came in the first Federal trial
But the lawyers weren’t through and carried on with style.
They drew up an appeal to the US Supreme Court
That asked for full acquittal in their lengthy report.
After many long days of consideration of Brown’s defense,
The court finally delivered a verdict that made good sense;
Brown was acquitted on the grounds that he used
Self-defense in the killing for which he was accused.
R. B. Brown, of Beeville, was finally found innocent
By the US Supreme Court, which was most diligent!
Now you know why and how this great law of protection
Came into being after many long years of close inspection.
In its job of deciding hard cases and doing what’s right,
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the opinion so tight,
That, to this day, that law is the basis for our protection
And is always held to be correct without exception!
Upon his release from jail after many wrong years,
Brown retired and handed over the reins, with tears,
To his two sons, who became well known overall.
Harry started Brown Express and Leonard, Red Ball!
Harry Brown became the owner of the famed Arrowhead;
One of the famous ranches of McMullen County, it’s said.
These two companies rolled freight on Texas highways
For forty years until finally being sold to national drays.
Written By: Austin Edwin Brown II March 24, 2019
Notes by the author: This little known story can be found on Wikipedia as well as the Supreme Court records: Brown v. United States (1921). Previously, in the United States, persons who were confronted with deadly, bodily harm were required to retreat and not fight, in order not to be prosecuted for retaliation! Sure glad that terrible law was overturned and rewritten by our United States Supreme Court. And, “yes”, R. B. Brown was my great-grandfather’s brother.