|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2012)|
|Location||Fort Bend County, Texas, United States|
The Jaybird–Woodpecker War (1888–89) was a feud between two factions fighting for political control of Fort Bend, Texas. It occurred during the Post-Reconstruction era, and its effects echoed in local politics for decades.
The conflict allegedly got its name from Bob Chapel, a local "half-crazy" African-American man who was said to sing about jaybirds and woodpeckers. One faction, white Democrats opposed to the Reconstruction-imposed government, identified themselves with the Jaybirds. The other faction was known as the Woodpeckers. This group, too, was composed of 'Democrats', but they represented the former Republican Reconstruction government and were elected largely by black voters. An election was held November 6, 1888, that was supervised by Texas Rangers, in which all of the Woodpecker candidates were elected or reelected (many had won election in 1884) to their slate of office. This engendered further hostilities between the two factions. Following this event, in the spring of 1889, a former agitator associated with the Jaybirds, Kyle Terry, who was now a Woodpecker official, as the tax assessor, murdered one of the leaders of the Jaybirds, Ned Gibson, who was on his way to testify in an unrelated cattle-rustling trial against a friend of Terry's being held in a neighboring town. At the time he was arrested, then posted bail and left to stay in Galveston well into 1890.
The dispute resulted in a number of deaths through murders on both sides including the killing of the local sheriff, Tom Garvey (a Woodpecker), and the violence culminated in the Battle of Richmond, in the county seat of Richmond, on August 16, 1889. Following this martial law was declared and Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross dispatched troops from the Houston Light Guards, along with more Texas Rangers, and he himself arrived with the Brenham Light Guards, to negotiate a settlement, resulting in a reorganization of county government under control of the Jaybird faction. This was formalized through a meeting held on October 3, 1889.
Subsequently the Jaybirds held a meeting on October 22, 1889, creating the Jaybird Democratic Organization of Fort Bend County, which dominated local politics for many decades thereafter. The faction's white-only preliminary ballot, which effectively disenfranchised African-Americans by choosing the all-but-official Democratic party nominee, remained in effect until the United States Supreme Court's decision in Terry v. Adams, 345 U.S. 461 (1953).
- Jaybird–Woodpecker War from the Handbook of Texas Online
- http://www.texfiles.com/texashistory/woodpecker.htm Article scanned from Enchanted Rock Magazine.