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“Last of Old School” Peace Officer


Wrote by Leslie Fain and rewrote by Gene Watters Uzzle

Copied from Ogreta Huttash booklet “Miscellaneous Genealogical Records of Cherokee County, Texas” (1998).


The passing of Joe G. Moore, almost 90, means the last of East Texas’ old school officers – those who brought this section of Texas from lawlessness to order. Joe G. Moore died at the home of his nephew Jimmy Williams of Nacogdoches, where Mr. Moore lived the last seven years of his life. Mr. Williams said that until almost the last ten minutes before his death, Mr. Moore remembered vividly the events of his long lifetime.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Mr. Moore was the town’s law enforcement officer in the days when Alto, Texas was one of the major centers for business in East Texas. Mr. Moore served as the town Sheriff and Marshall as of Cherokee County. Mr. Moore was for years the “law” in Alto, Texas. Standing six feet four inches tall and weighing 280 pounds in his prime, Mr. Moore was a commanding presence and his reputation for fairness and strict adherence to the law, kept the lawlessness to a minimum. Mr. Moore was the type of officer who did not bother to wear a gun constantly. He was the town’s law enforcement officer during the days when Alto was one of the major centers of business in East Texas, and also when street fights and rather wild qunplay were almost commonplace.

Born in Alto, Texas on December 14, 1862, his father died when Joe was a young boy. He became the only support of his family after his father died by farming and raising cattle. After several years Joe went to Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma, where he lived for a number of years.

Returning to Alto he married, but his wife died shortly after the marriage.  Several years later he married Ruth Watkins of Douglass and lived in Douglass for a number of years. Moving back to Alto, he was Deputy Sheriff of Cherokee County for a term or two and then, became town Marshal of Alto. He built a home of his own design, which finally contained about forty rooms. The house was three–storied and had rambling towers of independent three story rooms facing the Nacogdoches Highway (Old Camino Real) and was a point of interest, until it was torn down about 1945.

              Mr. Jimmy Williams said that his uncle was not the type of officer who bothered to wear a gun all the time. Mr. Moore often told his friends that he sometimes wondered how he was going to handle “tough” situations, but that “when the time came, he always seemed to have the strength to do it.”

            One of his more frequently told stories concerned a citizen who often drank to much. One day the man was downtown in Alto on his horse after sampling an amply amount of the bottle. He was told by Mr. Moore to go home, but offered to be argumentative.  “I just took hold of his leg, jerked up, and threw him off his horse on the other side.” “He went back on his horse and went home.”

            Another one of Mr. Moore’s accomplishments that he related was the quelling of a mob about to lynch a Black man. Mr. Moore walked into the crowd unarmed and he sent them home, saying the man was his responsibility and that he would handle the situation. Although, Mr. Moore saw the underside of times when people could not depend on being safe in their own homes from breakers of the law, he also, told as his favorite experience a story definitely on the lighter side. There was a Black resident of Alto who was “repeater” or constant offender, usually for drunkenness. One fine day, the Black man was drunk and Mr. Moore was after him. The wily intoxicated one climbed a telephone pole and then called down to Mr. Moore that he was “out of town” and couldn’t lawfully be arrested by the town Marshall. That was a story Mr. Moore could tell and laugh about to the day of his death.

            During his years as Marshall, Mr. Moore affected a high stiff collar, Prince Alber coat, morning trousers, and a broad brimmed “sheriff’s” hat. He was a commanding figure of childhood memory to many present day adult citizens of Nacogdoches and Alto. One of his Nacogdoches friends recently said of him “As a peace officer, Joe Moore did more good at home off duty than most men do downtown with a gun on.”

            Mr. Moore was also a photographer, beginning his work with tintypes. Mr. Williams still has some of the old photographs Mr. Moore made. For several years, before becoming town Marshall at Alto, he was a traveling photographer. In addition to all his other interests, Mr. Moore was a musician. He played the violin cello and the violin as a member of various musical groups.

            Mr. Moore died Wednesday night at 11:05 PM on August 13, 1952 four months from his ninetieth birthday on December 14, 1862. Funeral services were held Friday afternoon at 3:00 PM at the Old Palestine cemetery near Alto with the Rev. Marshall Hampton of the First Methodist church in Alto officiating.

            Survivors, are a daughter, Mrs. Joe W. Goldsberry of Alto and a number of nieces, nephews, and other relatives. A son, Hubert Moore preceded Mr. Moore in death.

Ballbearers were Jimmy Williams, C. M. Williams, G. M. Williams, Arthur Marshall, Sam Watkins, R. L. Godsey, Wade Tannery, and Mallie Houston. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of Cason, Monk and company funeral home.


Above information comes from a newspaper clipping in the Alto Library.



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