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Clarence W. Swank 1850-1895
I'm not related to Clarence Swank but felt I should find him. While researching my genealogy, I found an 1895 newspaper article about Clarence and my great grandfather, Judge Thomas Rusk Yantis. It seems my GGF was at the train station in Wills Point on 16 Feb 1895 when he got into an argument with another attorney. The two got into a scuffle and then the other man pulled a gun. My great grandfather beat him to the draw and fired but as he did, the other man fell and the bullet struck Clarence W. Swank who was just stepping off the train. Swank was killed and my great grandfather was tried for his death but found not guilty as it was an accidental shooting. The sad irony was that Clarence Swank and my great grandfather were the best of friends.
Mary E. Swank was born Mary Elizabeth Graham, they had two children, Ammye (1875-1948) and Archie B. (1878-1950). Ammye married John R. Finney and the one word Finney appears on the other side of this marker. Archie married Olin Gilchrist, she committed suicide in 1934 by jumping out of a 3rd floor window at a hospital in Galveston, TX. Ammye, Archie and Olin are all buried adjacent to this stone.
This stone is at White Rose Cemetery, Wills Point, Van Zandt County, TX.
The following article was taken from the Wills Point Chronicle: "WRONG MAN KILLED AS JUDGE AIMS AT ATTORNEY-21 Feb 1895- A very deplorable accident happened in our little city last Saturday morning at 11:35 o'clock, just after the Texas & Pacific passenger train No. 2 ran into the depot, resulting in the death of one of Wills Point's best citizens, Captain C.W. Swank, who was at the depot on business.
"The cause of the accident was a difficulty between ex-County Judge T.R. Yantis and County Attorney W.W. Berzett. On such occasions there is always much excitement and almost everyone sees things in a different way. As to the facts in the case, we simply give the statement of City Marshall Marabel, who was on the scene of disturbance. Mr. Marable ways: 'I was inside the office of the Texas & Pacific Railroad as the east bound passenger train No. 2 came in, about 11:35 o'clock. The train had been in but a few seconds when I went to the door and discovered W. W. Berzett and T.R. Yantis engaged in a fist fight. I immediately attempted to stop them by getting between. I saw Berzett draw his pistol and in an instant, and before I could prevent it, Yantis had drawn his and fired, his hand just in front of me. Just as the first and only shot was fired, Berzett turned to run and slipping, fell, and I think the ball passed over him striking Mr. Swank. I am of the opinion that Berzett was between Yantis and Mr. Swank. At first I did not know who was shot as I took charge of Yantis and carried him inside the depot.'
"Physicians were summoned immediately but to no purpose, for the leaden missal had done its deadly work and Capt. S.W. Swank was beyond all human aid. The ball passed entirely through his body striking the lower point of the heart and causing instant death.
"Judge Yantis was taken in charge of Marshall Marable and, as Justice Riley was disqualified from hearing the examining trial, by reason of his kinship with Mr. Yantis, was carried to Canton where he waived examining trial on a charge of negligent homicide and was admitted to bail in the sum of $1,000. Mr. Yantis and Capt. Swank were the warmest personal friends and no one regrets the unfortunate affair more than he.
"The funeral services took place from the family residence Monday morning at 10 o'clock under the beautiful and impressive ceremony of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, of which he was a member. All the business houses closed and near the entire population of the city followed this good man to his last resting place, all bemoaning his untimely death and sympathizing with family and relatives in their sad affliction.
"Deceased was born in Illinois, 27 Aug 1850, but moved to Texas when quite young and for many years has been a resident of this county. He has been on the road for a number of years, holding various important positions with large St. Louis firms. His high standing among the business men is evidenced by the numerous messages of condolence received from his associates. The traveling men of St. Louis wired that a floral offering might be presented in their behalf as the only possible means of expressing their deep friendship. He will be missed by his friends, but those who will miss him most are an aged mother, and a wife and two children.
"At the time of his death Capt. Swank was a traveling salesman for the Wertheimer-Swarts Shoe Co. of St. Louis, Mo." That fall the following item appeared in the newspaper: "7 Nov 1895--The case of ex-County Judge Yantis, for the accidental shooting of Capt. C.W. Swank here on the 16th of Feb last, was tried in District Court at Canton with the jury returning a verdict of not guilty."
Judge Thomas Rusk Yantis
Judge Yantis was born 9 April 1857 in Millville, Rusk County, Texas. He was educated at the Alexander Institute in Kilgore, Texas. He moved to Canton, Van Zandt County in 1879 as a school teacher. He read law on the side and was accepted to the bar in Van Zandt County in 1881. He was the Van Zandt County Judge from 1892 to 1896. He also was the senior partner in the law firm of Yantis & Hubbard with attorney Charles L. Hubbard. In 1890 he had married the popular Belle Riley, daughter of David Love Riley, Jr. and Mary C. Hobbs. Thomas and Belle had 8 children, 5 surviving to adulthood including my grandmother. Belle died in 1917, Thomas died on 8 Feb 1932 at his home in Canton. Thomas and Belle are buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Canton, Van Zandt County, Texas. Thomas and Belle were my maternal great grandparents.
In researching my great grandfather, I found an article in the Wills Point (Texas) Chronicle newspaper, dated 21 Feb 1895, that he had been involved in a fatal shooting on 16 Feb 1895 at the railroad station in Wills Point. A Texas & Pacific train had just stopped when, for some reason, Thomas Rusk Yantis and another attorney, W.W. Berzett got into a scuffle (two lawyers, go figure). Berzett pulled his revolver but Yantis was quicker getting his out. As my great grandfather Yantis fired his pistol, Berzett fell and the bullet struck a close friend of Judge Yantis's named Capt. Clarence W. Swank, killing him. Yantis was arrested and the case was moved because Yantis's father in law (David Love Riley Jr.) was the Justice of the Peace where the shooting took place. He was later found not guilty as it was ruled an accidental shooting. Captain C.W. Swank (1850-1895) is now buried in White Rose Cemetery, Van Zandt County, Texas.
Thomas Rusk Yantis (born in Rusk County, Texas) was named after Thomas Jefferson Rusk who was the secretary of war under Republic of Texas President Sam Houston. Rusk County was formed in 1843, in 1860 it was the most populous county in the state.
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