RIP George Thomas Cherryhomes
“Faithfull and forgiving but duty came first.”
Those are the words on the tombstone of George Thomas Cherryhomes at Oak Grove Cemetery in Graham, Young County, Texas.
He was born, the engraving says, on 8 November 1870. He died 98 years ago tomorrow, on the 24th of February 1915.
And he died because, as the words on his tombstone say, “duty came first.”
Tom, as he was called, was a shirt-tail cousin of mine, the husband of Ida Bell Baker (1876-1921), my maternal grandfather’s second cousin. He and Ida were married on 5 March 1894 at her parent’s home five miles west of Graham.1 By 1900, they’d had two children, and they were farming next door to Ida’s parents.2
But sometime between the enumeration of that census in April of 1910 and the early days of 1915, Tom began doing something other than farming. At some point before a fateful night in February 1915, he had become a deputy sheriff in Young County. And he was on duty in the early morning hours of 24 February 1915.
Some days earlier, a local politician, former county judge E.W. Fry, had been charged with forgery. Tom and a special deputy, Riley Dollins, were assigned to guard the Young County Courthouse in Graham and prevent anyone from taking anything from the building, “it being feared that some effort would be made to secure some of the official records.”5
At about 3:30 a.m. on that Wednesday, the lawmen heard noises from the area of the cistern outside the courthouse. They went to investigate and were confronted by four armed men, who ordered them to surrender. Contemporary accounts quoted Tom as saying he’d “never” throw up his hands. He and Dollins opened fire; the armed men returned fire.
According to one account, Tom emptied two pistols at the armed men and Dollins shot six rounds with a shotgun. But “the intruders … had the advantage since Cherryhomes and Dollins were illuminated by the exterior lights of the courthouse…”6
Tom yelled to Dollins that he’d been hit, and Dollins helped get him to the local telephone exchange building. A posse followed the tracks to a local church and then followed buggy tracks to the home of the local politician, E.W. Fry, where they found one Pat Carlton in critical condition with a gunshot wound and Fry’s brother Pete with a scalp wound.7
Tom lived for only 12 hours after being shot. Carlton died later in the day; the Fry brothers and two other men were arrested, charged with murder, and taken to Wichita Falls, county seat of nearby Wichita County, because of tensions running high in Young County.8
They were tried there in April 1915; Tom’s statement that he had “done his duty as he swore to” wasn’t allowed to be read to the jury.9 But the doctor who treated him was allowed to testify that Tom said he “stood until his ammunition gave out, like he said he’d do.”10 Tom’s widow did testify. “Do the best you can and raise the children the best you can,” she said he’d told her in his last hours. Daughter Gladys also testified, breaking down in tears.11
But the evidence wasn’t enough: at the end of the trial, presumably because there was no proof that anyone other than Carlton had fired any shots, all four of the defendants were acquitted.12
Former Judge Fry stood trial twice on the forgery and other charges. In June 1915, the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict. In October, he was convicted. In his second trial, one of his co-defendants J. B. Lischke, testified that he’d been at the Fry home, say Judge Fry masked and then went with others to the area of the courthouse where the shooting occurred.13 He was sentenced to two years in prison.14
Tom’s tombstone stands today in Oak Grove Cemetery in Graham, only blocks from the site of the courthouse he died protecting. And, on it, the words recognize that, for Tom, “duty came first.” In recognition of that devotion to duty, his name is engraved today on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. On the Memorial website, the description reads: “Deputy Cherryhomes was shot while as a result of a gun fight while he was protecting county records. Records were being audited for possible embezzlement charges of local judge.”15
George Thomas Cherryhomes.
Young County, Texas.
End of Watch February 24, 1915.
My shirt-tail cousin, for whom “duty came first.”
Rest in peace, Tom. Rest in peace.
Courthouse photo used with permission of Dorman Holub.
Tombstone photo used with permission of Kay Douglas.
- Oak Grove Cemetery, Young County, Texas, Ida Bell Baker Cherryhomes; digital image, Find A Grave (http://findagrave.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013). The information as to the marriage was supplied by Young County GenWeb coordinator Dorman Holub, whose wife is a Baker cousin. ↩
- 1900 U.S. census, Young County, Texas, Justice Precinct 1, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 161, p. 228(B) (stamped), dwelling/family 84, G.T. Cherryhomes household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1681; imaged from FHL microfilm 1241681. ↩
- 1910 U.S. census, Young County, Texas, Justice Precinct 1, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 270, p. 207(A) (stamped), dwelling /family 4, G. T. Cherryholmes household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1595; imaged from FHL microfilm 1375608. ↩
- Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997, database, entry for I.B. Cherryhomes, 1911; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013). ↩
- “Three Shot at Graham,” Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Texas, 24 February 1915, p.1. ↩
- Clifford R. Caldwell and Ronald G. DeLord, Texas Lawmen, 1900-1940: More of the Good & the Bad (Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2012), 388-389. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- “Four Charges of Murder Follow Graham Tragedy,” Wichita Daily Times, Wichita Falls, Texas, 26 February 1915, p.1. ↩
- “Dying Man’s Words Barred From Trial,” Galveston (Texas) Daily News, 10 April 1915, p.2; digital images, NewspaperArchive.com (http://newspaperarchive.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013). ↩
- “Witness Says Plan Was To Get Records,” Galveston (Texas) Daily News, 11 April 1915, p.4; digital images, NewspaperArchive.com (http://newspaperarchive.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013). ↩
- “Court Has Statement Of A Man Now Dead,” Galveston (Texas) Daily News, 13 April 1915, p.3; digital images, NewspaperArchive.com (http://newspaperarchive.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013). ↩
- “Fry Et Al Freed At Wichita Falls,” Abilene (Texas) Daily Reporter, 18 April 1915, p.1; digital images, NewspaperArchive.com (http://newspaperarchive.com : accessed 22 Feb 2013). ↩
- “Testimony Barred at Murder Trial May Be Admitted,” Wichita Weekly Times, Wichita Falls, Texas, 1 Oct 1915, p.1. ↩
- “Judge Fry Is Found Guilty, Given Two Year Sentence,” Wichita DailyTimes, Wichita Falls, Texas, 4 Oct 1915, p.1. ↩
- “George Thomas Cherryhomes,” National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (http://www.nleomf.org/ : accessed 22 Feb 2013). ↩