Friday, February 01, 2008

The El Paso Chain of Death

If there are people out there that want to do a new movie western and want a good setting then El Paso, Texas might be it. The way I see it is there are at least three separate major stories one could base one's story on. It was called the gunfighter capital of the world because dozens of professional gunman came through the town for a stay during the 1890's. The other time settings for two other separate events would be in the late 1870's and another one in the early 1880's. This entry really deals with a couple of professional gunmen in the mid-1890's.

I went to the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum or The Museum of the Old West. I usually just refer to it as the Autry. I took some pictures and videos of the various exhibits. They have a permanent collection of items, but they also have roving exhibits that last for a few months. This entry will cover some of artifacts of some of my favorite old west figures.

One thing to keep in mind in all of this is that I am assuming these guns are real deal. One can be skeptical of any artifact of the old west. There is the old story of Bat Masterson buying guns from pawn shops and selling them as authentic weapons he used in the cattle town days. I mentioned on youtube that there is a paper trail, and that deals with some of the books below. There is some evidence for this. Please keep that in mind when I am talking about these things.

My favorite outlaw of the old west is John Wesley Hardin. Opinions on him are always controversial. There is no doubt that he is one of the most dangerous gunfighters of the old west. The tradition is he killed about forty. I think it is anywhere between twenty and forty. Either way, he killed a lot more than some of the more popular characters of the west who usually gained their reputation on one or two killings. He wrote his own autobiography that was mostly complete at the time of his death. It is written from his own point of view of course, some of his explanations for some things are little strange, but much of what he says can be verified in newspaper reports and other witnesses at the time. When he was a kid he used mostly Colt Navy revolvers. However, much had changed after he got out of prison for the final years of his life. He had now upgraded to these guns:

The above is a Colt .41 Double Action Model. The serial number is #68837. The picture below is a Colt .45 Single Action. The serial number is #126680. Hardin actually owned a few other guns at the time he was in El Paso. He had a Smith and Wesson on him at the time of his death.
I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of John Selman. His claim to fame is he ended up killing Hardin, but the evidence is pretty clear he did it as a surprise attack from behind while Hardin was gambling. Much like the death of Wild Bill Hickok. Somewhat like the death of Jesse James. Maybe a bit like President Lincoln. Either way, Selman did have a reputation from prior kills and feuds he had been in. The following picture is allegedly one of Selman's Colt .45 guns. The barrel was cut to five inches f0r an easier draw. The serial number is #36693. It isn't the one that killed Hardin, but similar.
It turns out though that the gun above is the one that Selman would have allegedly had with him at his death. It was stolen from the scene and then recovered later. It would turn out that George Scarborough would be the one that would do Selman in outside of a saloon. Scarborough is one of about two or three of my favorite law enforcers of the west. He was very much feared as a manhunter in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Unfortunately, for him, he is best known for two killings in El Paso. One of these would be the one against Selman. Since he was up on murder charges for quite some time over these killings in El Paso he did get some bad press. This is unfortunate for him since he deserves a bit more than to be remembered for this.

The following gun is another colt. Serial number is #130272. Allegedly, it was the one that would have killed Selman.

In the video, I show a Winchester rifle Scarborough owned. You can't see it, but it has a GS engraved on the side.

Scarborough was acquitted of all murder charges in El Paso. He continued to work in law enforcement. In the movies, especially spaghetti westerns, most of the main characters are bounty hunters. This type of profession was very rare in the west. However, Scarborough, and a few others, are probably the closest to that. A few years after El Paso, Scarborough was in pursuit of outlaws. He was shot in the leg. The doctors tried to amputate the leg, but on the operating table he died. One story from his friend is the medication they gave him caused his heart to give out; he had heart problems. Scarborough was a precursor to what would become the New Mexico Rangers. He pushed to have them formed, but it took a few years before they were created after his death. I just wanted to mention some things about G.S. since he is one of the hard working law enforcement guys that one never hears about compared to guys like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson.

The above artifacts can also be seen in the following:

Rosa, Joseph. Age of the Gunfighter: Men and Weapons on the Frontier 1840-1900. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

For more information on Hardin:

Hardin's Wikipedia Entry.

Hardin, John Wesley. The Life of John Wesley Hardin as Written by Himself. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.

Marohn, Richard. The Last Gunfighter: John Wesley Hardin. College Station: Creative Publishing Co., 1995.

Metz, Leon. John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

For more information on Selman:

Selman's Wikipedia Entry.

Metz, Leon. John Selman, Texas Gunfighter. New York: Hastings House, 1966.

For more information on Scarborough:

Scarborough's Wikipedia Entry.

DeArment, Robert. George Scarborough: The Life and Death of a Lawman on the Closing Frontier. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1992.