Maybe your James Yancy (Yank) Criswell was caught up in this vigilante mob actions as was one of my kin, John Wesley Smith. Sure sounds like it.
Excerpts below from:
SEE NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL by Ross McSwain and
THE TEXAS RANGERS AND THE SAN SABA MOB by Ross J. Cox
A few years after the Civil War a large part of Central Texas was partially, to almost completely controlled by vigilante mobs. Settlements were scattered. There were very few lawmen and very few jails, but many army deserters, thieves, robbers and murderers. Many Texas counties, including San Saba, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas McCulloch, Brown, Llano and others had to contend with terrorist actions of the mobs. Many of these secret vigilante groups were ranchers who started out to counter the outlawry, and to enforce laws that were not enforced by officers of the state. In the end, most of the mobs and vigilante gangs were all acting under the same unlawful rules. The ranchers began to run off the little operators who strung barbed wire, or too run innocent people out of the area with violence. Eventually everybody was afraid to talk. Nobody knew who was a mob member and who was not. Silence was golden. If you were an innocent citizen who talked about or revealed a mob member's name or an unlawful deed, you were at real risk of assassination. The same rule applied even to mob members. Talk, and you are either killed or your house burned or, maybe, given a three days to get out of the county permanently. If you were told to perjure yourself for the sake of a gang member, you did as told. If you were told to assassinate someone, you obeyed or left the area fast and permanently to avoid retribution.
In 1869-1870 a study was conducted that revealed that 939 murders were committed in one three year period. That number was later revised to 1,035. And from 1865 to 1871 sheriff's reports revealed that 4,425 crimes were committed, with fewer than 600 arrests and very few convictions. Almost everyone was intimidated to a point of refusing to testify against a suspect. Texas Ranger W.J.L. Sullivan reported to his Austin officers at one time that the sheriffs of both San Saba and Mills Counties were members of the mob. This went on until late 1890s before the mobs began to weaken.
One murder and trial that started the decline of the mob was a bushwhacking and murder on July 19, 1889 of an elderly man named James Turner, a farmer and postmaster in Knob Ridge community, one morning while he was working in his field. Turner had been warned to get out of town about two or three months earlier because he had talked to his neighbor, James Daugherty about his dislike of the mob actions, and his belief that William Ford, a deputy sheriff, was a member of the mob. Daugherty then told Ford.
Family members of the murdered farmer testified that they had seen the murder, and murderers, and named Ford and George Trowbridge, along with John Harris who was never charged. Texas Rangers turned over their records to the District Attorney. The case against the two men was moved to Austin, and trial began in February, 1897, eventually ending with a hung jury. Second trial started June 14, 1897 ended in a hung jury. Charges were eventually dropped, but the trial had a lot of publicity and helped to hasten the end of the mobs control.
SMITH, JOHN W. testified in the first FORD and TROWBRIDGE trials for the state. He was in the cattle business with CUNNINGHAM and was told to leave by the Mob. Recognized the voice of AARON MEEKS at the time. He received a threatening letter from DICK SULLIVAN, telling him to "spool his wires" and leave the county. He may be the SMITH mentioned in the Texas court of Criminal Appeals record of the BILL OGLE case.* NOTE: The reference to spooling his wires revealing that the vigilantes were trying to stop fencing of the 'free range' or possibly trying to get rid of sheep men in the county?