Old West History Archives

Henry Brown, The Criminal Marshal

Henry Newton Brown was born in Missouri in 1857. Migrating west, he did some buffalo hunting. At the age of nineteen he ended up in Lincoln County, New Mexico during the time of the Lincoln County War. Brown became a member of the Regulators, the quasi-legal group led by Billy the Kid. After being involved in a couple of the shootouts, he was indicted for murder. Before warrants could be served, Brown took off to Texas.

Henry Brown didn’t smoke, drink or gamble. He frequently dressed in a suit, and he could handle a gun…the perfect candidate for a lawman. So, he was appointed deputy sheriff of Oldham County. Shortly afterward he went up to Caldwell, Kansas where he became deputy marshal. And when the city marshal resigned, Brown stepped into that position. Brown did so well that the citizens of Caldwell gave him a handsomely engraved Winchester rifle.
On April 30, 1884, after his third appointment as marshal, Henry Brown and his assistant, Ben Wheeler took a few days off to go up to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. The purpose of their trip wasn’t to get in a few days of rest, but to rob the Medicine Lodge bank. In the process Brown killed the bank president and Wheeler killed the cashier.
The men were captured and locked away in jail. However, that night a mob stormed the jail with ropes in hand. Henry Brown tried to escape. But before he could get far, a shotgun blast ended the whole affair. The people of the Old West could accept their lawmen having a criminal background, but not committing crimes while wearing a badge.

Wild Bill Hickok Kills Dave Tutt

In the early 1860’s two men of strong will, Dave Tutt and a William Hickok had a couple of meetings which ended in fist fights.
In 1865, working on the principal of “the third time’s a charm,” they met again. This time William Hickok, or Wild Bill Hickok, as he was now known, seemed to get along with Dave Tutt. Part of the reason could have been that Dave had his comely sister with him, and Wild Bill took a likin’ to her. Dave Tutt was doing much better financially than Wild Bill, and Dave loaned Bill money from time to time.

Now enters the wild card. A Susanna Moore came to town. Wild Bill had supposedly known her during before this. So Wild Bill started sparking her along with Dave Tutt’s sister. Susanna was not a woman to share her man, so she started flirting with Dave Tutt.
The whole affair came to a climax on July 20, 1865. Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker when Dave Tutt came up to him and grabbed his pocket watch that was lying on the table. Dave said it was payment for what Wild Bill owed him. Wild Bill allowed Dave to take the watch, but let it be known not to wear the watch in public.
The next morning Wild Bill saw Dave on the street wearing the pocket watch. With his pistol held at his side, Dave started walking toward Wild Bill. In response to a warning from Wild Bill, Dave shot off a round. Making sure he didn’t hit the pocket watch, Wild Bill shot Tutt through his heart.
Wild Bill learned that a person can’t play two fiddles at one time and make pretty music.


Although it wasn’t a relationship most people would expect, King Fisher and Ben Thompson were friends. The reason their friendship was unusual was that both men were hard cases.
King Fisher dressed in a flamboyant style. He wore a gold braided sombrero, silk shirts and gold-embroidered vests. His chaps were made of Bengal tiger skin. He didn’t get the tiger skin from a safari, but a raid on a circus.
Fisher traded in cattle. He took cattle that he had stolen in the United States to Mexico, and traded them for cattle that had been stolen in Mexico… And buyers didn’t care as long as the cattle didn’t have a brand from the country in which it was sold.
Ben Thompson’s reputation wasn’t much better. Ben didn’t care on which side of the law he walked, as long as he could use his pistol and intimidate people. Sensing the opportunity for a good fight, he even went to Mexico and joined Maximilian as a mercenary, rising to the rank of Colonel. Ben Thompson had also spent time as the city marshal of Austin, Texas.
These two hot heads met up in San Antonio on March 10, 1884, and decided to have an evening out. Celebrating, as friends do, they ended up going to the Vaudeville Variety Theater. Maybe because of too many drinks, or advancing age, Ben Thompson evidently didn’t remember that a couple of years earlier he had killed the proprietor of that establishment. Within minutes of their arrival four of the dead man’s friends, including the bartender and one of the actors, opened fire. Ben Thompson ended up with 9 slugs in him, and his friend King Fisher had 13. It was a tough night out for the boys.
Stephen Austin

Remember Goliad and the Alamo!

When Mexico gained their independence from Spain, Mexico gave the Anglo-Texans considerable autonomy. But in 1835, Santa Anna proclaimed himself dictator of Mexico; he imposed martial law, which fed the flames of the Texan’s resistance. So, Santa Anna decided to personally lead his army to wipe out these Anglo-rebels.
Early in March of 1836, while Santa Anna was attacking and defeating a small force of Texans at an abandoned mission called the Alamo, Santa Anna’s chief lieutenant, General Urrea was heading toward another group of 400 Texans defending a town called Goliad.
As General Urrea’s 1400 man army approached, James Fannin, the leader of the Texans, was indecisive as to whether he should defend Goliad or rush to the aid of the Alamo. At the last minute, Fannin decided to retreat. By then General Urrea’s men had surrounded the Texan force. Trapped on an open prairie Fannin realized there was no escape, so he surrendered.
Fannin and his men felt they were soldiers surrendering as prisoners of war. Unfortunately, Santa Ana had stated before that he considered the rebels to be “perfidious foreigners” or in a more common term “traitors,” and they would be treated as such.
On March 27, 1836, General Urrea took the over 340 prisoners and shot them at point blank. Those who didn’t die during the first volley were hunted down and killed by bayonet or lance. Then General Urrea and his men moved on, leaving the dead Texans unburied.
When news got out about the Goliad massacre, the battle cry became “Remember Goliad and the Alamo!”
Tiburcio Vasquez

Freed Slaves Head West

It was early 1877. The Civil War had been over for more than ten years. But blacks still didn’t have the freedom they had hoped for. Tenant farming had replaced the plantation system. Because of the price of rented land, and supplies, the black farmer seldom broke even at the end of the year. So, they started looking for somewhere else that would give them true opportunity.
Prior to the Civil War, by the vote of the residents, Kansas had changed from a slave to a free state. Although blacks had moved to Kansas on an individual basis, the first serious attempt to establish a black colony was on March 5, 1877 when Benjamin Singleton led a group from Tennessee to Baxter Springs located in the southeast corner of the state. Cherokee County Colony, Singleton Colony, Hill City, and Nicodemus Town followed. Most failed because of poor leadership, the transient nature of the emigrants, and having only marginal land available for settling.
It’s estimated that between fifteen and twenty thousand blacks migrated to Kansas in just a two-month period. Realizing the loss of cheap labor, southern landowners tried to stop the migration with intimidation and attacks against those involved in the “Colored Exodus.”
The biggest obstacle for blacks was that they had little or no money when they started their trek to Kansas. Many had only the possessions they could carry on their backs. However, they were assisted with relief efforts along the route from churches and private citizens.
By 1879 word got back to the south that the Kansas immigrants were facing tremendous problems in establishing a new life, and almost as fast as it started, the Kansas immigration dropped off to a trickle, and stopped.
Stephen Austin
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