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Peace Officers

Named after the War of 1812 hero of Lake Erie, Commodore Perry Owens was reared in Tennessee. As a youth he left home and spent a decade as a cowboy. He then drifted into Arizona as a stage station employee, also earning a reputation as a dead shot against Indians.

Owens began a horse ranch at Navajo Springs and later became sheriff of Apache County. After mowing down four opponents in an 1887 gunfight, Owens, who sported long hair, a brace of .45's, and two rifles, cut his mane and settled down to the peaceful occupation of rearing a family. After three years as sheriff, he became a detective for the Santa Fe Railroad and an express messenger for Wells, Fargo. He then became a businessman in Seligman, where he died in 1918.

Reared in Wisconsin, William Milton Breakenridge quit school at fourteen to sell newspapers in Milwaukee. Two years later he ran away from home and enlisted as a teamster with the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Soon he went West, working at a variety of jobs in Denver, including service as a page boy for the Colorado legislature. In 1864 he joined Chivington's Third Colorado Cavalry and participated in the savage Sand Creek Massacre. After the war he worked as a train brakeman, but by 1867 he was employed as a storekeeper in Sidney, Nebraska.

He was soon wandering again, and in 1878 he turned up in Phoenix as a deputy sheriff. The next year he was attracted to booming Tombstone, where he hauled lumber for a time before again securing an appointment as a deputy sheriff. In 1883 he went into a ranch partnership, but he soon sold out and pinned on a deputy U.S. marshal's badge.

In 1888 Breakenridge was elected surveyor of Maricopa County, and later he became special officer for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Headquartered in Tucson, he performed detective and guard work for the railroad until his retirement at the age of seventy-two. In 1928 he published his reminiscences in Helldorado, and he basked in the book's publicity until his death three years later in Tucson.

Born either in Maine or, to quote the U.S. census of 1870, "at sea," Jack L. Bridges was a peace officer for fifteen years in Kansas. A deputy U.S. marshal by 1869, Bridges lived for a time in Hays City, then moved to Wichita. There he was badly wounded in a shootout, and he returned to Maine to recuperate. Soon he resumed his career in Kansas, and about that time acquired a wife.

Bridges spent some time in Colorado, but in 1882 he was appointed city marshal of Dodge, and the next year he was aligned against Luke Short in the "Dodge City War." During his years as a peace officer he was involved in several minor incidents featuring gunplay, generally while making arrests. In 1884 he was replaced as marshal of Dodge by Bill Tilghman, and thereafter he faded into obscurity.

James Cole, a marshal and peace officer assigned to the Indian Territories during the 1880s, often dispensed frontier justice from the point of his gun. He and Deputy Marshal Frank Dalton were once sent to the Cherokee reservation to capture suspected horse thief Dave Smith. They tracked him to his camp near the Arkansas River, where he was joined by his brother-in-law Lee Dixon, fellow horse thief William Towerly, and Dixon's wife.

The gang spotted Cole first, and opened fire. Dalton was shot through the chest, fell to the ground, and was finished off by Towerly, who emptied his Winchester into the deputy. Cole was shot in his side by Smith, but he refused to retreat. Cole killed Dixon's wife and Smith, and wounded Dixon. Towerly managed to escape, but only temporarily. He was soon killed in a shootout. Cole brought Dixon back to Fort Smith, where he died of his wounds.

Ben Collins served as an Indian policeman in Indian Territory, and in 1898 he received an appointment as deputy U.S. marshal. Collins made a number of sensational arrests, including an incident in which he was forced to shoot Port Pruitt, an influential resident of Emet. Partially paralyzed, Pruitt and his brother Clint, a prominent citizen from Orr, swore revenge against Collins. In 1905 a gunman acquaintance of Collins told the officer he had been paid two hundred dollars to kill him, with an extra three hundred dollars to come after completion of the job. The hired gun skipped the country with a two-hundred-dollar profit, but the next year Collins was assassinated by Jim Miller.

Timothy Isaiah Courtright, a native of Iowa, fought during the Civil War under Union General John ("Black Jack") Logan. After the war Courtright drifted to Texas, where he was employed by Logan as an army scout. In 1876 he was appointed city marshal of Fort Worth, a job he held for three years. Three years later Courtright went to Lake Valley, a booming New Mexico silver camp, where he secured a job as an ore guard with the American Mining Company. He was then once more employed by General Logan, this time as foreman of the old officer's New Mexico ranch.

Prominent among his duties was the assignment of keeping Logan's range clear of rustlers and sodbusters, and after killing two squatters, Courtright fled New Mexico to avoid trial. He returned to Fort Worth and opened a private detective firm known as the T.I.C. Commercial Agency, but soon extradition papers were served on him. Friends fastened a pair of six-guns beneath a cafe table, however, and using these weapons and a saddled mount, Courtright escaped custody. He hid aboard a train headed for Galveston, and from there he took a ship to New York. He wandered through Canada and into Washington, and then he went to New Mexico and succeeded in clearing his name of all charges.

Courtright next returned to Fort Worth and reopened the T.I.C., although the agency's primary activity was a protection racket by which the town's gambling joints were "policed" in return for a piece of the action. Luke Short, part owner of the White Elephant Saloon, flatly refused to pay, and when Courtright confronted him, the little gambler shot Longhaired Jim to death.

Les Dow was a Texan who drifted into New Mexico and after running a saloon and hotel became a deputy sheriff of Chaves County. Later he was a range detective and a cattle inspector for the Texas and New Mexico Sanitary Association, and for a time he served as sheriff of Eddy County and held a commission as a deputy U.S. marshal. Eventually he ran afoul of a Texas hard case named Dave Kemp, who shot him to death in 1897.

A native of Tennessee, George W. Flatt achieved notoriety as a two-gun lawman in Caldwell, Kansas. Although he was alleged to have killed on previous occasions, Flatt's reputation as a gunman was established in Caldwell in 1879. Shortly afterward Flatt and William Horseman opened an "elegant saloon" adjacent to Caldwell's City Hotel. That same summer Flatt became Caldwell's first city marshal, but the next year he was replaced by Horseman.

Flatt next became a range detective, and during this same period he married an eighteen-year-old girl named Fanny. In June, 1880, Flatt was gunned down in the streets of Caldwell, and four days later Fanny Flatt gave birth to a son. William Horseman was suspected and tried for Flatt's murder, but he was acquitted, and the murderer was never brought to justice.

One of eight children born to a Texas farm couple, Dee Harkey was orphaned at the age of three and was reared by an older brother. As a youth, Harkey witnessed more than one Indian raid, and three of his brothers were killed in gunfights before they reached twenty-one. Harkey had little schooling, but earned his way as a farmhand and cowboy. When he was sixteen he began wearing a badge as deputy to his brother Joe, who had been elected sheriff of San Saba County. It was there that Dee first clashed with Jim ("Killer") Miller and various other hard cases.

After four years of serving warrants and arresting stock thieves, Harkey married and established a farm in Bee County. He soon came into conflict with a contentious neighbor named George Young, whom he killed in a knife fight in a corn patch. In 1890 he moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and found employment as a butcher. A quarrel with a customer named George High resulted in two shooting incidents in which Harkey acquitted himself well, and a delegation of citizens secured an appointment for him as deputy U.S. marshal to clean up the area.

Harkey served as a New Mexico peace officer until 1911 and eventually held a variety of official positions, ranging from town marshal to inspector for the cattle raisers' association. When he retired as a lawman, he engaged in ranching in Eddy County, and he died peacefully in his eighties.

Fred R. Higgins was a deputy U.S. marshal in the Arizona Territory. In the San Simon Valley in 1896, Higgins and seven other lawmen formed a posse to pursue Black Jack Christian, Bob Hays, and two other bandits. The lawmen found the fugitives' lair and set up an ambush. When the outlaws appeared, a furious gunfight broke out. Hays fired three shots at Higgins, who was sprayed with splinters of rock, but not hit. Higgins returned the fire and killed Hays with two shots. The other criminals escaped. The following year, on Apr. 28, Higgins and three others, while still in pursuit of the remaining three bandits, tracked them to a cave near Clifton, Ariz. Again while attempting an ambush, they mortally wounded Black Jack Christian, but the other two bandits escaped. A few years later, Higgins moved to New Mexico and became the sheriff of Chaves County.

Reared in Louisiana, Seldon T. Lindsey demonstrated his violent inclinations by participating in a knife fight while a schoolboy. When his father returned from the Confederate army after the Civil War, the family moved to McClennan County, Texas, where the elder Lindsey established a law practice. In 1870 sixteen-year-old Seldon found work as a cowboy, and over the next few years he trailed cattle to the Kansas railheads. He also spent a couple of seasons hunting buffalo, twice meeting Bill Cody.

Lindsey was wed in 1881, and during their thirty-two-year marriage his wife bore him eleven children. He was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal in 1890, operating for many years out of Paris, Texas, and engaging in several shooting frays with outlaws.

Natives of Ireland, Michael Meagher and his younger brother John immigrated to the United States and settled in Illinois. They fought in the Civil War, and in the late 1860's they moved into Kansas as stage drivers. In 1871 Mike was appointed marshal of Wichita, and John became his deputy. Mike consistently distinguished himself by making arrests, often in the teeth of drawn guns, without violence and by frequently preventing bloodshed.

After three years Mike left the job, went to Indian Territory, dabbled in carpentry and drove a freight wagon, then returned to law enforcement in 1874 as a deputy U.S. marshal. That same year he was appointed first lieutenant of a militia company organized to scout Indians. In 1875 Meagher was reelected marshal of Wichita, and in 1877 he was forced to kill Sylvester Powell.

As the cattle boom waned in Wichita, Meagher moved to Caldwell, gambled, opened a saloon, and was elected mayor in 1880. The next year he served a brief term as city marshal, and a few months later he was killed by Jim Talbot in the streets of Caldwell.

Born in a Michigan village near Detroit, Cyrus Wells Shores ("Doc") received both his Christian name and his appellation from the man who brought him into the world, Doctor Cyrus Wells. In 1866 the young man left home for Montana Territory, finding work at Fort Benton as a bullwhacker.

Shores briefly turned to hunting and trapping, but soon he bought a wagon and spent the next few years hauling ties for the Union Pacific Railroad, running freight to various mining camps, and carrying government supplies from Fort Hays to Camp Supply, Oklahoma. In 1871 he sold his wagon and bought a small herd of Texas cattle, which he drove up the Chisholm Trail, and for the next seven years he bought and sold cattle in Kansas.

In 1877 Doc married, and three years later the Shoreses moved to Gunnison, Colorado, establishing a freighting outfit which supplied the area's booming gold camps. In 1884 Shores won election as sheriff of Gunnison County, and he served for eight years. He continued his career as a deputy U.S. marshal and as a railroad detective for the Denver and Rio Grande, and in 1915 he was appointed chief of police in Salt Lake City.

Shores associated with men such as Wild Bill Hickok, Tom Horn, and Jim Clark, and among the numerous fugitives he apprehended was the notorious cannibal, Alfred Packer. The veteran lawman's first wife, an artist and poet, died in 1908, and he later remarried. Shores retired to Gunnison, where he survived to his ninetieth year.

The oldest of nine children of a Mississippi farmer, A. John Spradley lived with his family until 1871, when a local shooting scrape sent him scurrying to Texas. For a year he worked at the Nacogdoches farm of an uncle before accepting a job at a mill. In 1880 he was appointed deputy sheriff of Nacogdoches County, and a year later he stepped into the vacated sheriff's office.

In the following decades Spradley served thirty years as sheriff and four years as a deputy U.S. marshal. He was vigorous and shrewd in pursuing criminals, and on occasion he took the precaution of wearing a steel shirt beneath his clothing. He killed three men in gunfights, and twice he was nearly shot to death. As an extra source of income he owned an interest in a Nacogdoches saloon, but after a near-fatal wound he sold out and became an ardent prohibitionist. Following his retirement from law enforcement, Spradley farmed and took an active hand in politics until his death in 1940.

Before his arrival in Wyoming in 1899, Bob Meldrum had a vague reputation as a western killer. During the early 1890's he had supposedly aided Pinkerton detective Tom Horn in chasing and gunning down two horsemen, only to discover that their victims were the wrong men. Around the turn of the century Meldrum killed a man in Dixon, Wyoming, and then drifted to Colorado, where he was hired as a strike breaker against the United Mine Workers of America in Cripple Creek.

Meldrum returned to Wyoming in 1908 and was paid $250 a month by the Snake River Cattlemen's Association to rid the area of rustlers. He was made a deputy sheriff in Routt County and in Carbon County, but by 1911 he had been relieved of his duties. He soon found employment as town marshal of Baggs, and he quickly entered into a tempestuous marriage with a local girl. After killing a well- liked cowboy early in 1912, Meldrum was sentenced to the Wyoming Penitentiary for five to seven years for voluntary manslaughter. Following his release he worked as a harness maker in Walcott, Wyoming.

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