Tag Archives: Gunfights

Today in Texas History – April 5

From the Annals of the Gunslingers –  In 1896, U.S. deputy marshal George A. Scarborough shot John Selman in El Paso.  Selman was a notorious gunman and gambler. Selman was perhaps best known as the man who killed John Wesley Hardin in 1895.  Selman, as Constable of El Paso, had also shot and killed former Texas Ranger Bass Outlaw on April 5, 1894 after Outlaw killed Texas Ranger Joe McKirdict.  Outlaw had been a close friend to Scarborough.  Selman was tried for the shooting and found not guilty.  On the second anniversary of Outlaw’s death, Scarborough called out Selman into the alley behind the Wigwam Saloon.   An argument ensued followed by a fight.  Scarborough claimed both drew their guns, and that he then fatally shot Selman. Selman died the next day. No gun was found on Selman’s body.  Scarborough was indicted for murder.  Conveniently before the trial, a thief was arrested who claimed to have stolen Selman’s gun immediately after the supposed gun fight. Scarborough was acquitted but was forced to resign his position as deputy marshal.    April 5 was an auspicious day for Scarborough. As with many of his ilk, he died at the end of a muzzle.  He died at his home in Deming, New Mexico on April 5, 1900 following a gun fight with cattle rustlers in Arizona.

Photo of U.S. Marshall George Scarborough from murderpedia.org

Today in Texas History – February 8

From the Annals of the Old West –  In 1887, “Longhair Jim” Courtright was killed in a gunfight with Luke Short.  This particular violent episode actually matched the largely inaccurate movie legends which typically involve a face-to-face showdown at high noon in the middle of the street.  Most such shootouts were more of the ambush or hide behind the water trough while taking potshots variety.  However, this famous gunfight lived up to the classic Hollywood image.

Courtright had been at various times a jailer, Fort Worth City Marshal, deputy sheriff, deputy U.S. Marshal, hired killer, private detective and racketeer.  What was not disputed was Courtright’s ability with a gun and willingness to use it with deadly results.  After losing a race for another term as City Marshal he decamped to New Mexico where he participated in the killing of two men in a range war.  He escaped back to Texas where he had friends and resisted extradition ending up back in Fort Worth.

Luke Short was a gunfighter, gambler and bar owner who came to Fort Worth from Dodge City where he had dabbled in gambling, and befriended such legends as Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp who were also friends of Courtright. In Fort Worth, he managed the White Elephant, a saloon and gambling house in the area around the Fort Worth Stockyards known as Hell’s Half Acre.  HHA contained numerous bars and whorehouses and was largely left alone by law enforcement.

Most historians believe the gunfight arose from Courtright’s protection racket.  When Short refused to pay for protection for his saloon, Courtright apparently felt the need to make him an example.  Short also had a reputation as a gunfighter mostly due to an 1881 gunfight with gunslinger Charlie Storms at the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone.  At 8:00 in the evening, Courtright called Short out of the White Elephant.   Short came out and confronted Courtright in front of a bar and brothel appropriately called the Shooting Gallery.   Few words were exchanged until the men faced off.  Courtright, who was probably drunk, said something about Short having a gun. Short claimed he was unarmed – a flat lie.  Probably for the benefit of future witnesses,  Courtright loudly exclaimed, “Don’t you pull a gun on me,” while drawing his own pistol.   Courtright’s gun hung for a second on his watch chain allowing Short to draw.  Short’s first shot blew off the thumb on Courtright’s shooting hand. As he attempted to shift the pistol to his other hand, Short fired four more shots in quick succession killing the notorious Courtright.

Two weeks later a prostitute named Sally was murdered and combined with the earlier gunfight, efforts to clean up the area gained irresistible momentum.  HHA would remain a rather wild spot for many more years but its days of abject lawlessness were coming to an end.

Today in Texas History – August 3

From the Annals of the Feud – In 1898, the Colorado County Feud began.  The Feud was ignited by the County’ Sheriff’s race and involved a series of gun battles between members of the Townsend family of Columbus. The actual election was between incumbent sheriff Sam Reese and a former deputy Larkin Hope. Former state senator and power broker Mark Townsend dropped his backing of Reese and endorsed Hope. The move indicated victory for Hope since Townsend typically backed the winner.  It was not to be, as Hope was gunned down Columbus.  Hope’s backers suspected Jim Coleman, a close friend of Sam Reese’s sons, Walter and Herbert, was behind the killing. Townsend picked a new candidate, Will Burford, and, with feeling running high against the Reeses, Burford won the election. Less than a year later, on March 16, 1899, Sam Reese was killed in a gun battle on the street near where Hope died. Will Clements, Marion Hope, and Mark Townsend were among those shooting. Stray bullets killed Charles Boehme, a bystander, and wounded a boy named Johnny Williams. Even though the best evidence suggests that Reese had provoked the fight in which he was killed, his sons vowed to get revenge. In five more gunfights five more men were killed and several others wounded. The dead included Reese’s brother Dick, Burford’s son Arthur, Will Clements’s brother Hiram, and Jim Coleman. No one was ever convicted of any of the murders. Those accused included Mark Townsend, Jim Townsend, Step Yates, Will Clements, Walter Reese, Joe Lessing, Frank Burford, and Marion Hope.  Perhaps not so curiously, the Townsends, Reeses, Burfords, Clementses, Hopes, and Lessings were all related to each other.