A member of a large Southern farm family, young Dallas Stoudenmire joined the Confederate army in 1862 and served through the duration of the Civil War, suffering numerous wounds in the course of his duties. For several years after the war he farmed near Columbus, Texas, before becoming a member of Company B of the Texas Rangers. He had a reputation for being handsome, a sharp dresser and a gentleman around ladies. But when intoxicated, he could be extremely dangerous and had a quick temper. He was known for his habit of wearing two guns and being equally accurate with either hand. He disappeared from the records between 1874 and 1878, possibly residing in Mexico for a time. He was able to speak Spanish fairly well, and is known to have worked during the years immediately after the war as a sheep farmer, wheelwright, proprietor, merchandiser and carpenter.
After a couple of years of Indian fighting, Stoudenmire returned to civilian life as a carpenter and wheelwright in Alleyton, Texas. Between shooting scrapes he engaged in sheep ranching in Oldham County and in the merchandising business in Llano County.
Stoudenmire served as a town marshal for Socorro, New Mexico. While employed there, his brother-in-law and El Paso, Texas resident, Stanley "Doc" Cummings, convinced him to take up a job as town marshal in El Paso. The city was seeking to hire an outsider with a "rough reputation". At that time, El Paso was a remote, lawless boomtown. Stoudenmire traveled to El Paso by stagecoach and was soon hired. This was the beginning of the end of a wild and violent El Paso and the beginning of his fame.
Marshal Stoudenmire started his tenure in El Paso on Monday, April 11, 1881. He was the sixth town marshal in eight months. The City Council asked him to take the city jail keys from deputy marshal and town drunkard Bill Johnson. Witnesses alleged that Stoudenmire approached an intoxicated Johnson asking for the jail keys. Johnson mumbled that he would go home and figure out which keys were his and which were the city's. Stoudenmire became impatient and demanded he hand over the keys right away. When Johnson demurred, the marshal physically turned Johnson upside down, grabbed the keys, then threw him to the ground. Johnson was publicly humiliated.
A tall, rangy, impressive figure, Stoudenmire ceaselessly patrolled the teeming streets of El Paso with a brace of six-guns tucked inconspicuously under his coat in a pair of leather-lined hip pockets. (He also carried a snubnosed revolver as a hideout gun.) Within days of his appointment as marshal he was involved in two bloody shootouts, and although he thus made bitter enemies, the city fathers were delighted with their new lawman.
On Thursday, April 14, 1881, only three days into his new job, Stoudenmire became involved in one of the most famous gunfights in Old West history, called the "Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight". Witnesses generally agreed that the incident lasted no more than five seconds after the first gunshot, though a few would insist it was at least ten seconds. Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire accounted for three of the four fatalities with his twin .44 caliber Colt revolvers. This gunfight was well publicized in newspapers in cities as far away as San Francisco and New York City. The events began a mile south, at the Rio Grande which divided the U.S. and Mexico. Roughly 75 heavily-armed Mexican cowboys galloped into El Paso, looking for two missing young Mexican cowboys, Sanchez and Juarique, plus thirty cattle stolen from a ranch just across the river. The missing animals belonged to a wealthy Mexican who hired an armed posse to recover them. El Paso County Constable Gus Krempkau was asked by the Mexican leader to lead them to a possible location. Krempkau agreed. The bodies of the two missing Mexicans were discovered near Johnny Hale's ranch about 13 miles northwest of El Paso. Hale was a ranch owner and cattle rustler.
The bodies were taken back to town. Records indicated that the young Mexican cowboys were trying to find the stolen cattle. Two American cattle rustlers, Pervey and Fredericks, were accused of the murders after they were overheard bragging about killing the two cowboys when they found them trailing the herd to Hale's ranch.
A large crowd gathered in El Paso, including John Hale and his friend, former town marshal George Campbell. There was animosity and worries among Americans about the Mexicans being heavily armed within the city limits. At the same time, angry Mexicans demanded justice for the slain men. Constable Krempkau was fluent in Spanish and was required to interpret for the judge. An inquest was held in court. The two Americans were formally charged with the murders and immediately arrested. They were scheduled for trial at a later date. The court was adjourned and the crowd dispersed. The armed Mexicans, now calm, took the two corpses back to Mexico for burial.
This gunfight made Stoudenmire a legend, but it eventually had deadly consequences. Although his reputation as a gunman would continue to grow with later gunfights, he had few friends in El Paso, whereas both Campbell and Hale had many. Eventually, Stoudenmire would stand alone in his own defense of his actions. As often was the case, a shooting being justified meant very little in towns of the Old West, and vendettas were common.
Three days after the gunfight, on April 17, 1881, James Manning (he and his brothers were friends to Hale and Campbell) convinced former Deputy Marshal Bill Johnson to assassinate Stoudenmire. Johnson was known to have a profound grudge against Stoudenmire for publicly humiliating him. That same night, Johnson, heavily intoxicated, squatted behind a large pillar of bricks with a loaded double-barreled shotgun and waited. When he heard the voices of Stoudenmire and Stoudenmire's brother-in-law, Stanley "Doc" Cummings, his legs started to wobble and he fell backward, accidentally firing both shells into the air. Stoudenmire quickly pulled out his pistols and fired at Johnson eight times, severing his testicles. Johnson died shortly thereafter.
This started a feud between Stoudenmire and the Mannings. Within six days of his having started his job as town marshal, Stoudenmire had killed four men, one accidentally. Between the killing of Johnson and the following February, Stoudenmire killed another six men in shootouts during arrests and the city's crime rate dropped dramatically. His reputation as both a lawman and a gunman increased his legendary status.
On February 14, 1882, James Manning killed "Doc" Cummings, supposedly while acting in self-defense after an earlier argument that evening had escalated. Manning claimed that Cummings had pulled his pistol and verbally threatened to kill him outside the saloon when an innocent bystander walked by. Cummings whirled and growled, "Now, are you not one of his friends?" The bystander squealed his innocence. Cummings allowed him to go provided that he walked with his arms up in the air. Cummings then turned and realized that Manning had gone back inside the saloon. Cummings entered and again verbally threatened to kill him. Manning left the bar briefly and appeared in the hallway. Armed with his pistols, Manning snapped, "We will settle this for now and all." In an instant, gunfire erupted from both sides. Hit, Cummings staggered out across a wooden sidewalk until he fell backward onto the street.
Manning was acquitted in a trial attended by a large number of local residents who were friends of the Mannings. This enraged Stoudenmire. Unfortunately for El Paso, Cummings had been the only man able to control Stoudenmire's temper. He began to publicly confront those responsible for James Manning's acquittal and caused many to avoid coming into town or visiting saloons for fear of running into an enraged Stoudenmire.
Despite his prowess and expertise with handguns, and his effectiveness as a lawman, Stoudenmire was still an outsider. He was well respected by the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Marshals. However, locally, he had several things against him. He was not from El Paso, had no family there other than his own family and his now deceased brother-in-law; the Mannings had been in El Paso longer and had many friends in the general population as well as in high places in the city government. Stoudenmire had only two things in his favor; he had lowered El Paso's violent crime rate more than any who came before him, and people feared him.
But Stoudenmire was an alcoholic, and his habits of drunkenly firing his guns in the streets - often in the dead of night - and of running around on his wife Belle soon dimmed his popularity. After a series of absences because of excessive drinking, Stoudenmire was censured, and Deputy Jim Gillett was groomed to replace him. Stoudenmire resigned after just over a year in office, and he then operated the Globe Restaurant, which his brother-in-law had willed him. He was then appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal for Western Texas and New Mexico Territory.
For a few short months, Stoudenmire served well as a Deputy U.S. Marshal. However, the feud was far from over. The Mannings, mainly "Doc" Manning, James Manning, and Frank Manning, were careful to never confront Stoudenmire alone. Despite their hatred of him, he had shown his skill with a gun on several occasions and this made them wary. On one instance, while standing out in the street, a drunken Stoudenmire mocked them, daring them to come outside and fight him. They remained inside a saloon while other residents attempted to convince Stoudenmire to go away and sleep off his intoxication. Eventually he tired, called the Mannings cowards, and left.
He continued to drink and get into trouble. That summer he took a "cure" at the hot-springs bathhouses near Las Vegas, New Mexico, and by then he had developed such a severe tremor that a friend had to sign the hotel register for him. A short time later he became involved in a drunken saloon brawl in El Paso, and he was shot to death during the brutal gunfight which followed.
On September 18, 1882, the Mannings and Stoudenmire met in a local saloon, to make what they would call a "peace treaty" to end the feud. James Manning, believing things were settled, left. Stoudenmire started off saying, "Doc, someone or somebody has been going about telling lies...". Doc replied, "Dallas, you have not kept your word." "Who ever says I have not tells a damn lie," Stoudenmire roared. Manning and Stoudenmire drew their pistols and fired. Stoudenmire's friend tried to push both men, causing Stoudenmire to lose his balance and Doc's bullet hit Stoundenmire in his left arm. A second round barely penetrated Stoudenmire's skin because of papers folded heavily in his shirt pocket. Nonetheless, the second shot knocked Stoudenmire down. As he fell outside the doorway, he pulled one of his pistols with his right hand and shot "Doc" Manning in the arm. As Stoudenmire was firing, James Manning came from behind Stoudenmire and fired two rounds, one hitting a barber's pole, and the other hitting Stoudenmire behind the left ear, killing him. "Doc" Manning then commenced beating the dead man over the head with his own gun, before being restrained by James Manning.
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