A Lawless Breed
John Wesley Hardin, Texas Reconstruction, and Violence in the Wild West
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of North Texas Press
Series: A. C. Greene Series
Title Page, Copyright
List of Maps and Illustrations
John Wesley Hardin is not a name that most readers today recognize, but as an Old West gunslinger he was the giant of his time. He was a man among men, a titan in Western gunfighter history. Granted that he was not a killer like Billy the Kid, but in his own way, he...
In 1895 John Wesley Hardin was nearing the conclusion of his autobiography. He had brought the story of his adventurous life up to the year of 1889, relating how he was beginning the study of law, determining what books to obtain in order to pass the bar exam. He had just...
Any biography worked on over years by two different authors requires the assistance of many, many people. The following are some of those people who provided information or encouragement through the years. If we have overlooked anyone, please accept our apologies....
In November of 1868 young John Wesley Hardin, all of sixteen years of age, shot to death a former slave who had belonged to his uncle, Major Claiborne C. Holshousen. The black man was known as “Maje,” a nickname he either adopted or was given. This is the only...
1. First Blood
On May 19, 1847, the Rev. James Gibson Hardin (age twenty-five), and Mary Elizabeth Dixon (a year younger than he), were joined in holy matrimony in Navarro County, Texas. History has not preserved any details of the ceremony, however. Presumably, the groom...
2. Gunfire in Hill County
Hill County lies in north Central Texas, a day’s ride south of Fort Worth and two or three days’ ride north of Austin in Hardin’s time. The county was created in 1853—the year Wes Hardin was born—and an election was held to select county officials on May 14 of...
3. Mexico or Kansas?
With the advent of the Texas State Police many men, some former slaves, applied for a commission. Those who were accepted were sworn in for a period of not less than four years—“unless sooner removed.” Policemen also would earn what some considered an...
4. Shedding Blood in Kansas
Twenty miles south of Wichita was a crossing over Cowskin Creek, although Hardin mistakenly remembered it as Cow House. There a group of men met the Texans. They were not to cause trouble for the drovers but wanted the herd to be driven west of Wichita, opening a...
5. The Texas State Police
Hardin and cousin John Gibson “Gip” Clements arrived at Uncle Barnett Hardin’s in Hill County where they met Mannen Clements, Gip’s older brother, as planned. Hardin recalled the date as July 30, but it was closer to the end of August. After visiting a week with relatives the...
6. Capture and Escape
Fugitive Hardin did not leave Sabine County in a gallop as one might expect him to do after wounding a state policeman. He intended to return to Gonzales County—to Jane—but on the way he stopped in Polk and Trinity counties to visit relatives. At a store not far from Livingston he...
7. The End of Jack Helm
Why did Brown Bowen kill Thomas Haldeman? Bowen later stated that Hardin killed him, because “he was afraid of him being a spy” for Joe Tumlinson, Jack Helm and W. W. Davis of the Sutton faction. Tumlinson, Helm and Davis had all been members of...
8. Killing Intensifies
The killing of Jack Helm certainly caused members of the Sutton party great concern as it was obvious that with Hardin’s leadership, the lay of the battlefields had changed in favor of the Taylors. Hardin’s unbridled and psychopathic aggressiveness was now openly...
9. A “Bully from Canada”
It was common knowledge that the Taylors had attempted to kill Sutton several times. Jim Taylor had shot him in a Cuero saloon, breaking his arm; he had had a horse killed under him on the prairie in another assassination attempt, and another horse killed under him while crossing the...
10. Fighting Waller’s Texas Rangers
Charles M. Webb, deputy sheriff of Brown County, lay dead on the street in Comanche. This victim was different from Hardin’s previous ones: he was not a member of the unpopular State Police; he was not a soldier wearing the uniform of an occupation army; this man...
11. Leaving the Lone Star State
The herd in Hamilton County was no longer in control of any of Hardin’s hands, but confiscated by the Rangers. Waller’s men had arrested the cowboys, or most of them, including James M. “Doc” Bockius, Rufus P. “Scrap” Taylor, Alf “Kute” Tuggle, Thomas Bass,...
12. Troubles in Florida
Why Hardin, traveling under the name of Walker, chose to visit Cedar Keys, Florida, is unknown. Incorporated in 1869 as the “Town of Cedar Keys”1 the population by the time of its first census was 400. It scarcely increased through the years, not even doubling by...
13. “Texas, by God!”
On the afternoon of August 23, 1877, Mr. John H. Swain was ready to leave Pensacola and return home to Jane and their three children. He was seldom alone on these gambling ventures, and this afternoon was no different: he was with several friends who together...
14. Hardin on Trial
Armstrong and Duncan arrived in Texas on August 27. From Longview Duncan sent a telegram to his brother S. W. S. Duncan informing him where they were and that they were “all safe” and that they would arrive in Austin the following day.1 All along the way,...
15. Huntsville and Punishment
While waiting the result of his appeal, Brown Bowen was placed in the Travis County jail with Hardin, sent there from Gonzales. Confined together in the Travis County jail they could not avoid each other. On January 29, 1878, Hardin wrote to Jane, pointing out that...
16. Dreams of a Future
How did John Wesley Hardin later describe this punishment of thirty- nine lashes? He only knew the pain of it being infl cted, not knowing or caring that the administration of lashes was a form of corporal punishment which harkened back centuries. Ancient Jewish...
17. Seeing Jane Again
It is evident from the Hardin correspondence beginning the second decade of his imprisonment that his studying showed results in greatly improved writing. His letters, although still far from grammatical and with occasional misspelled words, unfortunately are filled with axioms...
18. A Full Pardon
Following the brief visit with Jane and the children—strangers to him now, just as he was a stranger to them—prisoner 7109 returned to his cell. His feelings were mixed: euphoric at seeing and holding his family together, but seeing Jane no longer the beautiful woman he recalled,...
19. Attorney at Law, J.W. Hardin
One of the first people Hardin intended to meet in Gonzales was Richard M. Glover. They could hardly be called old friends, as Glover was still a boy when Hardin and the Clements brothers had been in Gonzales, driving cattle and feuding with the Sutton forces....
20. Troubles in Pecos
How Callie Lewis and John Wesley Hardin met, were introduced, and became more than mere acquaintances is uncertain. For his first Christmas as a free man he may have been lonely, and he and his brother Jeff attended a dance in London, only a dozen or so miles from...
21. Troubles in El Paso
John Wesley Hardin found El Paso much to his liking. In some ways it reminded him of the wild towns of his youth; El Paso now was a wild town of his middle age. The railroad had reached there in 1881 and by the time Hardin arrived the population had boomed to...
22. “I’ll Meet You Smoking”
Various authors over the years have attempted to list the kills of John Wesley Hardin. Most have relied on Hardin’s Life exclusively and accept what he wrote as accurate, not raising the question of whether the man Hardin shot was dead or merely wounded. Several of...
23. The Youngest Brother
Adrian D. Storms, the El Paso County Attorney, kept notebooks concerning his business matters and on August 20 went to Thomas Powell’s funeral parlor with two friends, Maurice McKillegon and Joseph Woodson, to look at the body of John Wesley Hardin. With a tape...
24. End of the Gunfighters
Not surprisingly perhaps, brother Jefferson Davis Hardin experienced violence as well as his older brother. In 1874, at the age of thirteen, he was in Comanche when John Wesley killed Webb. Hardin barely mentioned him in his Life, a simple mention that he drove...
Appendix. Teagarden and Hardin
One of the fascinating aspects of Hardin’s life is the fact that even though he was a hunted fugitive for much of his adulthood he befriended many lawmen, men whose sworn duty was to arrest him, such as state policemen, deputies, and county sheriffs. He seemed to have...