A  Biography of Ahijah W. Grimes

“The Forgotten Deputy”, an article by Robert W. Stephen’s, begins by saying ”Among the weathered grave stones of the little cemetery in Round Rock, Texas, is the one bearing the inscription GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. But today Ahijah W. Grimes , over whose grave the stone stands, is an almost forgotten lawman. His singular claim to fame was his death as a deputy sheriff in Round Rock on July 19, 1878-murdered by the Sam Bass Gang.”

The following was written and provided by:   Benjamin Lyman Grimes III and Charles Bowman Grimes

 

Ahijah W. Grimes was born in Bastrop, Texas, on July 5, 1850. He was the  second from the youngest of many children of Robert Henry and Elizabeth Highsmith Grimes.  They were among the first pioneer families of Bastrop County.

Ahijah’s grandfather was Jesse Grimes, for whom Grimes County is named. Jesse signed the Declaration of Independence of Texas and lead a life of Texas statehood and US political offices. He was Sam Houston’s running mate as Lt. Governor after Statehood. While at Washington on the Brazos, his son Albert Calvin Grimes (A. W. ‘s uncle) died at the Alamo. In the Archives, there is a letter from William B. Travis asking Jesse Grimes  to take care of his wife and child.

Ahijah W. Grimes was named for his other grandfather, Ahijah Morris Highsmith. His grandmother, Deborah Turner, was from  prominent Mayflower Families. Many of the Turner’s came with the Highsmiths, from Missouri,  when they first settled Bastrop County in the early 1820’s. Ahijah M. was, of necessity, an Indian fighter along with his son, Benjamin Highsmith (A.W.’s uncle). Ahijah M. and Benjamin were at the Battle of San Jacinto in the victory over Santa Anna.

A. W. Grimes’ father, Robert, was the oldest son of Jesse Grimes. He was born in Duplin County, North Carolina  and probably was with his father as they migrated from North Carolina to Green County, Georgia and on to Washington County, Alabama.  We are unable to find the reason Robert H. moved to Bastrop County while his father stayed at Grimes Prairie near Navasota.  Robert settled at Alum Creek, Bastrop County and married Elizabeth Highsmith. He was part of  of Secrest’s  Washington County Cavalry during the Texas Revolution. He became Justice of the Peace  in Bastrop County in 1846.  He moved to Craft’s Prairie  in 1852 and went into the lumber mill business. He died in 1863. His wife Elizabeth ( A.W. ‘s mother), later remarried a James Hendon Wilkins  in 1866.

Ahijah W. Grimes was born in 1850 among many brothers and sisters and Highsmith cousins.  His younger brother, named Albert Calvin Grimes (born 1855) became a noted Texas Ranger in the Panhandle and South Texas regions . 

Interestingly........Many of the articles on Sam Bass have called A.W. Grimes  “Caige”.

Family folklore has his nickname as “High”. The “W” (middle initial) of his name,  has not  been identified. Most probable the W was Woods as this was one of the Lincoln Co. Families.  Ahijah worked as a printer as a young man in Bastrop. His Father died when he was 13.  He grew up among  the Cottles, Turners,  Grimes and Highsmith families in Bastrop. 

Ahijah W. Grimes married  Charlotte (Lottie) Lyman in McDade, Bastrop Co. in 1874. Her Parents were Mayor Benjamin Lyman and Lelia Addie Dabney.  Like A. W.’s father, Lottie’s father had also been in the lumber business in Bastrop, which failed after the Civil War. He then moved to Lampasas,  Texas, as a Federal Judge for the Bandera district.  After A. W. was killed Lottie moved, with her three children, to Lampasas also .

Ahijah Grimes lawman’s career began as Bastrop City Marshall in 1874. He also won the  election as City tax assessor in 1875. But he was defeated as County tax assessor in the elections of 1876.

His daughter, Elizabeth is born  January 31, 1875 and a son Benjamin Lyman is born May 10 , 1876. On September 21, 1876, the Bastrop County Commissioners Court appointed A.W. Precinct 6 Constable.   

Nineteen days after his brother, Albert joined the Texas Rangers, A. W. joined the Texas Rangers on September 20, 1877. He was in Neal Caldwell’s A Company of the Frontier Battalion. He left the Texas Rangers in December, 1877. (Short enlistments in the Texas Rangers were not unusual). He then returned to Bastrop.

In 1878 he moved the family to Round Rock and went to work for Miller’s Exchange Bank.  A third child, Mabel(Mae), was born in Round Rock.  Henry Albert Highsmith, his cousin, operated a livery stable in Round Rock.  The small town now had the railroad to spur its growth.

According to Mike Cox’s research, Williamson County Sheriff, Sam Strayhorn,  appointed A.W. Grimes as a Deputy Sheriff of  Williamson County to handle the law enforcement of  the growing city of  Round Rock. Having Henry, his cousin, in town and all of his relatives in Bastrop and Lampasas,  A.W. was a young man ready for the prime of his life.  

After the Bass gang wounded Former Texas Ranger, Travis County Deputy Sheriff Maurice B. Moore and Killed Williamson Co. Deputy Sheriff Ahijah W. Grimes, The Texas Ranger contingent shot Sam Bass. He died the next day. Family legend  tells of Henry Highsmith (cousin) and Albert Grimes (brother) standing guard to prevent Sam Bass from leaving the Round Rock Jail alive. Bass  died there. Obviously Sam Bass did not die in the jail as many stories tell of the Hart Hotel billing the State for the blood stained sheets on Sam Bass’ bed.

A. W.’s widow,  Lottie, was given $200 and one of the horses from the Bass Gang by the town of Round Rock. The Houston and Texas Railroad also gave $250 in recognition of her husbands sacrifice. Elizabeth (age 3), Benjamin (age2), and Mabel (age 1) with mother Lottie left for Lampasas.  The family grew up  in the Lampasas area.  Lottie later remarried a man by the name of Hart.

The oldest daughter, Elizabeth, married local Lampasas  residents, Charles Witcher, divorced him and married Dr. W. D Frances. She had no children and in later  years ran a boarding house across the street  from St. Mary’s  Episcopal Church in Lampasas.   My brother Charles and I spent many weekends, growing up, running all over the Courthouse Square when we visited our Great Aunt and Grandfather there.

Benjamin  Lyman spent his early years in the printing business. Benjamin may have learned his trade as his father, A.W., in Bastrop. In 1901 he was the publisher of the Elgin Eagle newspaper.  In 1902 he married Susie Mae Highsmith. Her part of the Highsmith family also lived in Bastrop. In 1903 he sells the Elgin Eagle newspaper to W.C. Smith.  Benjamin, Sr.(A.W.’s son) is in Cameron, Texas with the newspaper when Benjamin, Jr. (A.W.’s grandson) is born. Ben Jr. is the only child of Ben and Susie. Ben, Sr. spent his whole life with Hill Printing and Stationery Co. of Waco, Texas. They had a stationery store in San Angelo for many years. They moved to San Angelo because Ben, Sr. was supposed to have had  TB. In 1940 Susie died and Ben. Sr moved to Elizabeth’s boarding house in Lampasas and traveled West  Texas for Hill Printing. Ben, Sr. and Susie saw  their son, Ben Jr, Graduate from Texas A&M in 1929 . Ben Sr. saw his grandson ‘s, Ben and Charles, at Texas A&M. He died of a heart attack in 1956 as he left on a business trip at the age of 80. 

Mabel, the youngest daughter married a William Cobb. Their son Moulten became a TV celebrity in the early years of television. He had the first television talk show in the Rio Grande Valley. He lived in Weslesco, Texas.  He married late in life to a lady he had met years ago while at the University of Texas. They had no children.

Ben Sr., Elizabeth (“Auntie”), Mabel (“Mae”) and their families met frequently in Lampasas. Of these three children of  A. W. and Lottie, only  Ben Sr.’s son, Ben Jr., had children. He had two boys, Ben III and Charles.  Each of these great grandchildren had three children and the family will increase in size again.

For Years, Sam Bass, who killed A.W. Grimes has been the focal point of the celebrations of Round Rock as they celebrate their heritage. Captain Stan Simpson of the Round Rock Police Department has done more to change the focus of these celebrations from the “bad guys” to a focus on the good people of Round Rock and their efforts to build a good and law abiding community.  Our thanks to him.

Benjamin Lyman Grimes III and Charles Bowman Grimes

Great Grandsons  of Ahijah W. Grimes