The Times when Men Were Quicker to Shoot than to Argue and Answered Insult with the Bullet Rather than Retort-Some Notable Duels and Killings
The era of the men who boasted that they "would die with their boots on" has happily passed; development and material prosperity in the Texas southwest has driven the killers and gunmen who found pleasure in slaying to less populous localities, and today El Paso and its environs is as peaceable as a New England hamlet, albeit a lot more interesting. In the early '80's, Dallas Stoudemeier was imported from elsewhere to be town marshal, and brought with him a brother-in-law, "Doc" Cummings. Both men were known to be handy with a six-shooter and had records for an ability to draw which commanded a measure of respect. Stoudemeier and Cummings became involved in some trouble with the Manning brothers, recent arrivals in Texas from the east, and in 1883 Jim Manning killed Cummings in a standup fight. A year later Stoudemeier and "Dr." Manning, a brother of Jim, had exchanged opinions of each other at long distance, and he started for the Manning home, it is said, with the avowed intention to either fix a truce or have it out. The argument ended in guns being drawn. Dr. Manning was shot through the right hand at Stoudemeier's first fire, but swung his revolver to his left hand and killed the marshal.
A Quiet Pair
The Mannings were not turbulent and did not seek quarrels, but as an old negress who came with the brothers from Kentucky said, "The doctor don't go around hunting any fusses, but if any one lays one on his lap he naturally cuddles it up to keep it from gettin cold." John Sellman was named as constable shortly after the death of Stoudemeier, and got into the limelight as a gunman first in the three-cornered affray which resulted in the deaths of Bass Outlaw, a deputy United States marshal and ranger Joe McKittrick. The trouble started when Outlaw discharged his revolver in the rear of a house in the restricted district. Sellman testified at his trail that when he approached McKittrick and Outlaw, his intentions were to ask the latter not to get careless with his gun. He swore that Outlaw became angered and shot first at McKittrick, killing him instantly, and that he (Sellman) then fired at the federal deputy. Sellman was shot twice through the legs in the fracas.
Wesley Hardin's Death
Sellman's next exploit with his gun was the slaying of John Wesley Hardin, who was probably the most notorious of the coterie of bad men in the first half of the decade prior to the present one. Hardin was a native of Comanche country, and first became known as a killer by his hatred for the negro state police which supplanted the rangers during the reconstruction days. According to the story current at the time, one of the members of the organization had abused Hardin's father, and before his career was ended by Sellman's bullet, he took toll of seven or eight lives of these police in revenge for what he believed an insult to his parent.
Hardin's one act that the government held most against him was the killing of Capt. Hill of the state police force. He and Jim Taylor were at a country blacksmith shop in Comanche county when Hill rode up.
"Anyone here seen John Wesley Hardin?" he asked.
"Why?" inquired Hardin himself.
"I'm looking for him and I'll kill him on sight," announce the policeman.
"I'm Hardin, and you'll never have a better chance," said the fugitive, and he punctuated the announcement with cartridge reports. Hill died where he fell.
Hardin's Fight For Life
Hardin was continually dodging government officers who wanted him. He was kin to Jim Taylor, of the Taylor-Sutton feud, and helped in the fighting. When Harden was 22 years of age, Charles Webb, a deputy sheriff, was killed and Hardin was accused of the crime. He fled to Florida when the officers got hot after him, and was brought back four years later by Jack Duncan, deputy sheriff of Dallas who since has died. Hardin was sentenced to serve 18 years, but was pardoned after 16 years. Subsequently he served two years more in the penitentiary, and upon his release came to El Paso. Hardin was killed in the Acme saloon on San Antonio street by Sellman. He was shaking dice when Sellman entered and never knew he was in peril, the bullet drilling a hole clear through the brain to the point of exit, which was the right eye. Sellman declared that Hardin had threatened to make him leave town.
Killing of Sellman
Sellman's turn came when he got into an altercation with George Scarborough in 1897. Scarborough was a deputy United States marshal. One of Sellman's boys got into trouble in Juarez, and Scarborough had been using his influence to secure his release. Before the negotiations were concluded, a brother of the imprisoned youth went across the river and raised a disturbance, which practically destroyed the value of the work that Scarborough had done. The deputy marshal declared himself disgusted, and announced his intention of doing nothing more, it is said. Sellman heard of the declaration and sought Scarborough. He fund him in the Wigwam saloon, on San Antonio street, since demolished to make way for a moving picture house. The two went into a alley through the side entrance. Whatever quarrel was engendered in the talk was never known, but Scarborough shot first, the missile entering his antagonists' neck and producing partial paralysis, from which Sellman died later. Scarborough was indicted for murder June 24, 1887, but the trial jury was unable to agree and he was not tried again.
Killing of McRose
Previous to his encounter with Sellman, Scarborough and J.D. Milton had occasion to kill a man suspected of horse theft and smuggling; Martin McRose, who had found refuge in Juarez when pursued from Carlsbad, N.M. with a band of animals alleged to have been stolen. With McRose was a man named Queen. The wife of the former lived in El Paso and one night the officers got a tip that he intended coming over. They laid in wait for him at the American end of the Mexican Central bridge, and when McRose was within hailing distance, Scarborough shouted to him to throw up his hands. McRose had declared that he would not be taken alive, and replied to the command with a bullet. In the fusillade which followed, McRose was killed.
Scarborough Is Killed
Three or four years later, Scarborough met his death when a posse he was leading in pursuit of the Alvord Stiles band of train robbers and outlaws in New Mexico was ambushed in a canyon. Deputy sheriff Burchfield got him to a train, but the wounds were mortal and he died before reaching Deming, where he had resided with his family.
There have been other "bad men" and "killers," men of the stamp of Barney Riggs, Jim Miller and "Bud" Fraser. The Miller-Fraser feud was one of the bloodies in Texas. The two men had formerly been associates, but quarreled, according to report, over some smuggling operations. Riggs first aligned himself on the Miller side, but subsequently went over to the Fraser clan, to which he was related. The fighting was mostly in the vicinity of Pecos, where the principals lived, but all of the men involved were well known in El Paso. John Denson and Bill Ahart, of the Miller forces, are said to have been slain by Riggs and Denson before his death killed Con Gibson, a Fraser supporter. Miller escaped to Oklahoma,, where he was mixed up in several fatal fights, but escaped conviction because of the regularity with which the principal witnesses disappeared. About five or six months ago Miller was lynched there, after a particularly atrocious gunpaly.
A Gritty Fight
Sheriff Peyton J. Edwards, who has been an El Paso resident for 26 years, enumerated in the foregoing, is of the opinion that for sheer grit and nerve the fighting fight of Seth Burr from Juarez to the American side, in November, 1897, has no equal. Burr had been a cowboy since he was a lad, and his nerve was undisputed. He never sought a quarrel. It was said by his friends, but was never know to run from one. He did not drink nor use vile language, but he was never seen to smile. At the time of his exploit in Juarez, Burr was 22 years old. He was living in the Mexican town waiting arraignment for a bond for his release on a charge then pending. Jealousy over a woman involved him with a gambler, who broke into his room one night, his revolver flashes stabbing the darkness in search for Burr. The gambler was killed, and Burr dressed and went into the hall, he says, to surrender to the first officer he met.
Kills Many Pursuers
A Mexican policeman shot him from behind, the bullet entering the left side and penetrating the hip bone. Burr killed him. In this crippled condition he started down the street, pursued by a police posse. His gun was emptied in the early firing and he reloaded as he limped a bloody trail toward the American side. Two more policemen were killed by him, a horse was shot from under the police sergeant and a citizen who mixed up in the pursuit was fatally shot. When he got across the bridge, he sat down under a tree and waited for the sheriff's deputies, to whom he gave himself up. The then mayor of Juarez so admired the gritty fight Burr put up that when he was taken to the Mexican jail he was not placed incommunicado, but was permitted to see his friends at any time Burr subsequently died from his wounds.