While the Beaumont area was home to one of America’s oldest Boomtowns, it was also home to the Free State of Sabine, or “No Man’s Land.” An unclaimed territory between today’s Texas and Louisiana borders, this lawless society was once home to infamous outlaws, gun-slinging cowboys, and wild shootouts.
The Spindletop era's original bad boys (and girls) pillaged, plundered, and spent their lives on the lam. Notorious and legendary, their escapades make for quite the bedtime story that somehow managed to slip through the pages of the history books. Curious? Read on.
Better known as “Jack the Ripper of Southeast Texas,” Red Goleman was one of the most famous outlaws in SETX. An oil field worker, he often found himself caught up in saloon brawls. He murdered, robbed, and is the suspect of many Big Thicket disappearances. A native of Kountze, he knew the forest well and often made it his hideout when the law came calling.
He was finally found hiding in a relative’s shed, opening fire on the officers who came to collect him; his fate was sealed. “The Red Fox of the Big Thicket,” as he is now known, is buried at the Old Hardin Cemetery.
The infamous Triple Murderer, Em Sapp, indeed got away with murder multiple times, but not with purchasing a firearm. Sapp’s journey began at a Beaumont jewelry store in 1912. After divorcing his wife and marrying a wealthy widow at the jeweler’s home, he had her change her will and then killed her. He “accidentally” shot another cleaning his gun on a hunting trip.
He was convicted and did time in a minimal prison at a farm. He escaped and settled in Tennessee after stealing a dead man’s identity. He was eventually caught for other crimes and sent back to Texas. He told the media a tearful story and somehow earned the community’s support. He was let off the hook again and settled in Silsbee before finally being arrested for illegal possession of a firearm before ultimately being sent back to prison. He died in 1962 from natural causes.
Lady Lumber / Lady Bountiful
One of the most remarkable women in the sawmill industry, Lillian Marshall, was a maven, according to President Woodrow Wilson. Her legacy was scorched after bamboozling her way into a wealthy family.
The story goes that in Hemphill in 1913, Lillian tended to a sick patient, Hiram Knox, killing his wife so she could nurse him back to health and marry him. Staying close to the family, she started killing them off one by one, first poison, then stabbing.
Years after the sawmill had closed, she was arrested for mail fraud and spent time in prison. She lived under several aliases and is presumed to have killed countless others. Ultimately dying in a mental institution, she is buried in a pauper’s grave, never having shed light on all of the crimes she is suspected of.