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Or fowl, really

There it is, in black and white.

Set out in the Texas statutes of 1879.

So The Legal Genealogist is off today on another road trip… starting off in the Lone Star State of Texas… provided it hasn’t washed away by the time the plane is supposed to land this morning. I’m not entirely sure what Texas did to annoy Mother Nature, but man… the weather has been just appalling lately.

So cross your fingers that there’s some sunshine for me and the Austin Genealogical Society — and if you’re looking for high ground, come join us tomorrow, Saturday, May 30th, at the Triumphant Love Lutheran Church on Great Hills Trail for an all-day seminar starting at 9 a.m. (the doors open at 8 a.m.).

And in honor of that trip, another trip — into the Texas statute books.

And that’s where it is. In black and white.

In those Texas statutes of 1879.

prairie.chickenWhere we learn that our ancestors weren’t allowed, in the Texas of 1879, to kill a prairie chicken in March, April, May or June.1

And they weren’t allowed to kill a quail or a partridge in March, April, May, June, July or August.2

Well, okay, they could if they lived in some counties.

Well, okay, they could if they lived in a whole bunch of counties. Eighty-five counties, to be precise: “Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Titus, Franklin, Bosque, Hood, Somervell, Delta, Red River, Hunt, Rockwall, Henderson, Rains, Wood, Coryell, Hamilton, Brown, Coleman, Runnells, Johnson, Harrison, Cass, Cooke, Jasper, Newton, Orange, Morris, Rusk, Panola, Grayson, Denton, Leon, Marion, Fannin, Dallas, San Jacinto, Polk, Tyler, Wise, Montague, Clay, and the unorganized counties attached to the same for judicial purposes; Falls, Nacogdoches, Angelina, Hopkins, Parker, Jack, Young, and the unorganized counties attached to the same for judicial purposes; McLennan, Ellis, Robertson, Anderson, Bastrop, Tom Green, Hill, Lamar, Freestone, Cherokee, Bowie, Fort Bend, Wharton, Waller, Tarrant, Taylor, Callahan, Shackelford, Stephens, Eastland, Erath, Comanche, Palo Pinto, Smith, Gregg, Upshur, Camp, Limestone, Navarro, Grimes, Madison, Walker, Trinity, Burleson, Washington and Austin.”3

Which sounds like a lot until you figure Texas had 226 counties in 1879.

So… what the heck is a prairie chicken?

I mean, really, I live in the northeastern United States. We have city chickens (otherwise known as pigeons). But we don’t have prairie chickens.

So for all of us who want to know what our Texas ancestors weren’t allowed to hunt in the spring months of 1879 (and years thereafter)…

A prairie chicken is a pinnated grouse4 — the bird in the photo you see here.5

Which our ancestors could kill, and presumably eat, in the months from July through February.

And, apparently, did kill in such numbers that they’re now endangered.6

Could you have gotten through the day without knowing that?

Didn’t think so…


  1. Chapter 5, Article 427, in The Penal Code of the State of Texas … 1879 (Austin: State Printing Office, 1887), 59; digital images, Texas State Law Library ( : accessed 28 May 2015).
  2. Ibid., Article 428.
  3. Ibid., Article 430a.
  4. See Wikipedia (, “Greater prairie chicken,” rev. 19 March 2015.
  5. Image by John Carrell, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
  6. Wikipedia (, “Greater prairie chicken,” rev. 19 March 2015.
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