Toni Turk has done significant genealogy research into the Merritt family record. According to his post at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5089472 :
"James Wesley Merritt was convicted of killing his wife's cousin, Joel F. Brown, ... He was received at the prison in Huntsville, TX, on 12 Apr 1899 to serve a four year sentence. He was #17719. He was pardoned on 21 Jul 1901."
I am the great-granddaughter of James Wesley Merritt, and according to an account my father, John Wesley Merritt (eldest son of James Wesley Merritt's eldest son) described of the incident ... a physical altercation between the parties occurred early in the day. The reason claimed was a verbal insult imposed by Joel onto James. James was knocked to the ground, and his horse was taken. James returned to his homestead, retrieved a firearm and returned to confront Joel Brown. Joel was killed on the second encounter. The term "carpet-bagger" was applied by my father in reference to Joel Brown, but that is otherwise unsubstantiated. It could, however, be the reason only four years were levied and just over two years served before a pardon - not parole - was issued in a matter as serious as murder.
You might also want to review Toni Turk's reference for further information. Merritt v. State, Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, "Southwestern Reporter," Vol 45, 16 Mar1898. West Publishing Co., St. Paul MN, 1898.
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