Sunday, May 30, 2010

Murder in the Home

The Confederate soldiers’ homes were not always places of peaceful rest for the veterans who lived there. A group of old men living together will always have its share of grumpiness, hot tempers and outright craziness. Sometimes that craziness could erupt into senseless violence.

On a warm day in September 1904 at the Texas Confederate Home for Men, John Rotley and another man got into a heated argument. A third inmate, 65-year-old C. H. Lyster from Galveston, stepped into the argument as peacemaker. Rotley picked up a chair and smashed it over Lyster’s skull, sending him to the ground, unconscious.

Rotley immediately left the Home and walked into downtown Austin to hide out.

Lyster eventually came to, but he was confused and disoriented. As the afternoon went on he lost consciousness again and died that evening. Police found Rotley in a downtown alley and arrested him for murder.

Rotley was 74 years old and had been in the home only a few days. Though he was described as “strong and vigorous despite his age” when arrested, officials noted that he “seemed in a very penitent mood over the tragedy.”

Rotley died of heart failure before he could stand trial.

(See Dallas News, September 8, 1904.)

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