The Cornett-Whitley Gang (Hardcover)

Violence Unleashed in Texas (A.C. Greene Series #21)

By David Johnson, Doug Dukes (Foreword by)

University of North Texas Press, 9781574417685, 320pp.

Publication Date: June 13, 2019

List Price: 29.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


During the late 1880s, the Cornett-Whitley gang rose on the Texas scene with a daring train robbery at McNeil Station, only miles from the capital of Texas. In the frenzy that followed the robbery, the media castigated both lawmen and government officials, at times lauded the outlaws, and indulged in trial by media. At Flatonia the gang tortured the passengers and indulged in an orgy of violence that earned them international recognition and infamy.

The damage that the gang caused is incalculable, including the destruction, temporarily, of a Texas Ranger company. The gang tarnished reputations, shed light on what news media was becoming, and claimed lives. As a whole the gang was psychopathic, sadistic, and murderous, prone to violence. They had no loyalty to one another and no redeeming qualities.

But the legacy of the gang is not all evil.  Private enterprises, such as Wells Fargo, the railroads, and numerous banks, joined forces with law enforcement to combat them. Lawmen from cities and counties joined forces with federal marshals and the Texas Rangers to further cement what would become the “brotherhood of the badge.” These efforts succeeded in tracking down and killing or capturing a good number of the gang members.
Readers of the Old West and true crime stories will appreciate this sordid tale of outlawry and the lawmen who put a stop to it. Those who study the media and “fake news” will appreciate the parallels from the 1880s to today.

About the Author

DAVID JOHNSON has received degrees from Pennsylvania State University and Purdue University. He is the author of John Ringo, King of the Cowboys; The Horrell Wars; and The Mason County “Hoo Doo” War, 1874–1902, all published by the University of North Texas Press.

Praise For The Cornett-Whitley Gang: Violence Unleashed in Texas (A.C. Greene Series #21)

“I was riveted by the detailed account of the nefarious misadventures of these low-life ne’er-do-wells. This is David Johnson’s best book to date—he has put together a fresh story and he has told it with mesmerizing skill.”—Bill O’Neal, former State Historian of Texas and author of The Johnson-Sims Feud and War in East Texas
“Astutely Johnson has presented a biography of the gang objectively, without any preconceived ideas or bias. It would be difficult to find ‘social redeeming qualities’ in these characters, nothing to make them heroic as social-bandits, such as some perceive the James Boys and the Younger Brothers to be.”—Chuck Parsons, author of Captain Jack Helm and The Sutton-Taylor Feud

“David Johnson, an eminent specialist on Wild West era feuds, presents a compelling story of criminality, one attracting international attention. Aside from the thrilling tale is an underlying theme: the coalition of law enforcing entities. The hunt for these outlaws spurred the best efforts of Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals, and sheriffs, an early day task force concept. The storyline is buttressed by impeccable research. The narration is outstanding. As is typical of Johnson’s work, the reader feels as if he or she is actually chasing desperadoes riding down the Owl-Hoot Trail.”—Bob Alexander, co-author of Texas Rangers and author of Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten

“Having tackled the Mason County War, John Ringo, and the Horrell Brothers, noted historian and author David Johnson sets his sights on the Cornett-Whitley Gang. A worthy addition to his body of work, this book is a meticulously researched and engaging volume that sheds light on a largely forgotten band of Texas desperadoes. Observing Americans’ love-hate fascination with outlaws, Johnson strips away the romance and myths to tell the true story of these ruthless criminals and the relentless lawmen who brought them to justice.”—Darren L. Ivey, author of the Ranger Ideal series

"The Cornett-Whitley Gang, due to its use of senseless and gratuitous violence, gained international prominence. It was a hot flame that quickly burned out."--Tombstone Epitaph