Adkins & Green to Lanham, February 6, 1905
Like Juan Cortina before him, Gregorio Cortez became known as an outlaw to white Texans and a folk hero to Tejanos. A transient farm hand and vaquero, Cortez had apparently been involved since childhood in horse thieving, along with his father and brothers. Cortez's legend began June 12, 1901, when Karnes county sheriff W. T. "Brack" Morris and his deputies went to the ranch on which Cortez was working to question him about a stolen horse. The men argued and a shootout ensued. Morris wounded Cortez's brother Romaldo, after which Gregorio shot and killed the sheriff. Cortez fled the scene on foot. Posses mobilized to find him, and his picture was on the front page of every major Texas newspaper.
Cortez hid out at a ranch near Belmont, where he was found by Gonzales county sheriff R.M. Glover. In another shootout, Cortez killed Glover and his deputy. He then escaped again, walking nearly 100 miles before acquiring a horse from a friend and lighting out for Laredo. Some newspapers fanned Cortez's reputation as an "arch fiend" and leader of a well-organized gang of outlaws, while others seemed to almost be cheering for the elusive fugitive. Hundreds of men, including the Texas Rangers, joined the man hunt for Cortez. Ten days after the shooting of Sheriff Morris, he was apprehended in South Texas.
Cortez became a cause celebre, with Tejanos raising money to provide for his legal representation. Cortez went through numerous trials from 1901 to 1904, finally being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Sheriff Glover. He received a conditional pardon in 1913 from Governor Oscar Colquitt and moved to Mexico, where he died in 1916. A ballad, book, and movie later contributed to the Cortez legend.
This letter from a Columbus law firm asks for payment for services rendered for the prosecution of Cortez.
Adkins & Green to Lanham, February 6, 1905, Records of Samuel Willis Tucker Lanham, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.