Photographic portrait of young Mary Couts from the late 19th century. Mary was active in the social scene of Weatherford and Fort Worth. She married her first husband in 1880.
Mary Couts's first love was not Burk Burnett. The first man to capture her heart was Claude Wills Barradall.
Barradall was born in 1845 in Virginia to William and Louisa. The family lived in Isle of Wight County, Virginia in 1850. He had five siblings, including a younger brother named Norbone. In 1860, 17-year-old Claude lived on his own in Richmond. According to the National Park Service he and his brother Norbone served in Company A, 19 Battalion (Atkinson's Battalion), Virginia Heavy Artillery.
By 1870 Claude was working as a druggist in Memphis. Sometime between 1874 and 1878, he and Norbone moved to Fort Worth and opened a pharmacy, Barradall & Bro, at the corner of Houston and 4th Street (near the present-day Sundance Square). It is not clear if Claude received formal education in the medical or pharmacological fields, but he was sometimes referred to as "Dr. Barradall." Norbone eventually left the business and moved to New Mexico to work in mining. Claude stayed in Fort Worth and went into business briefly with someone named Wheeler. In 1879, he began courting a pretty young Weatherford socialite, Mary Couts. Mary visited Fort Worth often staying with friends and the family of Captain Martin Loyd. On November 3, 1880, Mary and Claude tied the knot in Weatherford and made their home in Fort Worth. But their happiness would not last for long.
Fort Worth Gazette story about the murder of Claude Barradall in Fort Worth.
On June 24, 1884, Barradall was sitting in the back of the Fort Worth Pharmacy at the northeast corner of First and Main Streets with his colleagues John Cravens and H. W. Moore. According to an account in the Fort Worth Gazette, at around 9 pm a man named Charlie Herrin walked in and went to the back of the store where Moore and Barradall were sitting. Moore witnessed Herrin shout at Barradall and the two men exchanged words. Herrin pulled out a gun, put it to Barradall's chest, and shot the man, killing him instantly. Herrin then fled and ran down First Street. Officers pursued him but couldn't catch him. Herrin evaded authorities until he was captured on June 28, 1884, and charged with murder. The motive for this violent act remains a mystery.
Herrin's trial took place in Cleburne Texas, and his lawyers pled insanity on their client's behalf. According to the Austin Daily Statesman on January 16, 1886, a jury convicted Herrin of second-degree murder and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The perceived light sentence caused outrage in Fort Worth and beyond. By 1895, Herrin was again living in Fort Worth and working as a saddler.
Mary is not mentioned by name in any news articles about Barradall's murder, but there is a mention of his "heartbroken wife." Mary was 28 years old when she became a widow. Although she left no written letters or diaries describing her thoughts and feelings, it's not hard to imagine that this was a devastating loss.