Saturday, August 24, 2013

Little Known Old West Gunmen & Outlaws - Part One

Yes, here are the Outlaws who never made it big in the minds of the public.

The reasons are many, but basically some did the crime but didn't have the name recognition that Dime Novelists wanted.

As most know, others of course simply didn't live long enough to find their own biographer and rewrite their own history - like say how Wyatt Earp did his.   

Jim Cummings Clark

Born in Missouri, Jim Cummings Clark was christened Jim Cummings, but his name soon was changed when his widowed mother married a man named Clark. At the age of seventeen Clark stole a mule from his stepfather and fled to San Antonio, where he and a friend sold the animal, stole fourteen hundred dollars from a rancher, and then returned to Missouri.

Clark met William Quantrill, and when the Civil War broke out, he became one of the guerrilla leader's most trusted lieutenants. After the war he again turned to thievery for a time before moving to Leadville in the 1870's.

There he fought a champion prizefighter for a one-hundred-dollar fee, flirted with outlawry again, and left for Telluride in 1887. Clark worked at digging a pipeline into town, then secured an appointment as city marshal.

He enforced the law by clubbing ruffians with his fists, and he was widely rumored to have continued his criminal activities from time to time even as a law enforcement officer. He was finally fired, but then began making threats to kill members of the city council "for fifteen cents, or two for a quarter."

Clark remained in Telluride and was shot to death there in 1895.

James Copeland

James Copeland terrorized parts of Southern Mississippi during the 1830s and the 1840s. So infamous was Copeland that he became a household name from Mobile Bay to Lake Pontchatarain as a man of violence, a robber and a killer who created trouble wherever he went.

Like many of his kind, Copeland was born to respectable folk, his father a veteran of the War of 1812. He was born in the Pascagoula River Valley near the Mississippi Gulf Coast, about ten miles from the Alabama border.

Copeland began his life of crime at the tender age of twelve. Copeland claimed that his mother upheld his so-called "rascality" when he was accused of stealing pigs from a neighbor. She and a man named Gale H. Wages, a notorious character from Mobile, convinced the boy that if the local courthouse were burned down, evidence against him would no longer exist!

From then on, Copeland, aided by Gale Wages, turned to crime.

Those were the days before Colt's revolvers were readily available, and great reliance was placed upon single-shot pistols, shotguns and knives. But the lack of firepower did not impair Copeland's rise to infamy.

In 1841, accompanied by Wages and some other companions, he took a trip to Texas. From there the gang moved to Ohio, Louisiana and back to Mississippi, following a lucrative tour.

In the winter and spring of 1848, Wages and another gang member were shot by a man named James A. Harvey, who was himself murdered by Copeland.

In 1849 Copeland was arrested and charged with larceny and sentenced to four years in the Alabama penitentiary. On his release in 1853, he was promptly re-arrested by the Mississippi authorities and charged with grand larceny.

Following two years in the state pen, he was then handed over to the sheriff of Perry County, who placed him in jail to await trial for the Harvey murder.

Two years later, in 1857, he was put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to hang.

Bob Hays & Jess Williams

Bob Hays was one member of Black Jack Christian's outlaw gang which attempted to rob the International Bank of Nogales, Arizona, on August 6th, 1896.

Hays and fellow bank robber Jess Williams were inside the bank when newspaperman Frank King accosted gang members stationed outside.

When King began firing, Hays and Williams were forced to abandon their efforts and flee. Despite the failed attempt, the gang was pursued by an eight-man posse and was cornered at a hideout in San Simon Valley.

In an exchange of gunfire, Hays was shot to death by lawman Fred Higgins.

The Tom Bell Gang

Reared in Rome, Tennessee, Thomas Hodges enlisted at the outbreak of the Mexican War as a medical orderly. Following the war he moved to nearby Nashville and began practicing medicine, but within a few years he was attracted to California by the gold rush.

Prospecting proved unsuccessful, and he assumed the alias "Tom Bell" and became a thief. He was arrested in 1855 and sentenced to the state penitentiary on Angel Island at San Francisco, but he soon managed to escape.

Assisted by a notorious criminal named Bill Gristy, Hodges formed the Tom Bell gang and began to prey regularly upon gold rush area stagecoaches and teamsters.

Bill Gristy, alias "Bill White," was a notorious criminal who became the chief lieutenant in the bandit gang. A known thief and arsonist, Gristy met Hodges while awaiting trial on a murder charge. Gristy, Hodges, and several other men escaped jail, and Hodges and Gristy organized a band of thieves.

After killing a woman in an unsuccessful robbery attempt, however, the gang was tenaciously pursued. The gang was active throughout 1856, but in September, Gristy was captured, and, extracting promises of leniency, he informed on Hodges and then was imprisoned.

Before that there were violent escapes from the clutches of justice, but because of Gristy's information Hodges was finally captured by a posse near the Merced River.

Hodges wrote letters to his mother and to Elizabeth Hood, his mistress and partner in crime. Then on October 4, 1856, at around 5 pm, local vigilantes strung him up to strangle to death.

John Joel Glanton

John Joel Glanton, soldier of fortune, outlaw, and notorious bounty-hunter and murderer, was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina, in 1819. According to reports he was an outlaw in Tennessee before his arrival in Texas.

In 1835, he was living with his parents at Gonzales, Texas. His fiance may have been killed by Lipan Apaches that year. During the Mexican War, Glanton scouted as a free ranger with Colonel Hays for Gen. Zachary Taylor.

In 1849 he rode out of San Antonio for California with thirty well-armed gold-seekers, leaving his wife, Joaquina Menchaca Glanton, called "the most beautiful woman in the Republic of Texas," whom he had married in 1846, and a daughter.

His campaigns during the remainder of 1849 were widespread, successful, and financially rewarding.

By 1850, however, it became increasingly difficult for the Glanton gang to find hostile Indians, and they began to attack peaceful agricultural Indians in the vicinity of Fort El Norte.

Finally they turned to taking Mexican peon scalps for profit. As a result the Chihuahua government drove Glanton and his company into Sonora and put a bounty on his scalp.

There he contracted with the authorities to fight the Indians, traded Indian scalps for bounties, and again resorted to taking Mexican scalps to increase his profit.

He and his gang seized and operated a river ferry controlled by the Yuma Indians. While operating the ferry, they killed Mexican and American passengers alike for their money and goods.

Finally, they schemed to kill a party of Mexican miners who used the ferry, but before they carried out their plot, the Yumas attacked the ferry and killed Glanton and most of his men in mid-1850.

Glanton was scalped.

Jim Reed

Jim Reed was born eight miles from the Missouri hamlet of Rich Hill, where his father was a large landholder. When Jim was seventeen his family moved to Carthage, where he met a thirteen- year-old girl named Myra Belle Shirley, later to be known as Belle Starr.

The two adolescents courted, and after a clash with her father, Reed had a bloodless shootout with John Shirley. By this time the Civil War had broken out, and Reed joined a group of guerrilla raiders. This taste of lawless plunder set the tone for the remainder of his life.

After the war Reed became embroiled in a Missouri feud and killed two men. He fled the state and went to Texas. where he again encountered Myra Belle.

Her family had moved to Scyene, near Dallas, and she became his concubine. She already had a daughter named Pearl, whom she claimed was sired by Cole Younger.

Reed, Belle, and Pearl now migrated to Dallas, and the lovers soon produced a son they christened Eddie. After pulling a couple of holdups out of the state, Reed and his "family" returned to Texas, where he bought a farm near Scyene.

On November 30, 1873, Reed, Belle, Dan Evans, and another thief ventured into Oklahoma and went to the cabin of Watt Grayson on the North Canadian River.

Grayson was a Creek Indian chief who handled government subsidies for his tribe, and Reed's gang tortured him until he revealed where they could find thirty thousand dollars. For this and a variety of other misdeeds Reed soon was hotly pressed by the law, and he was forced to leave Belle.

On April 7, 1874, Reed and two other holdup men robbed a stagecoach near Blanco, Texas, and rewards totaling four thousand dollars were posted for him. Within a few months a close acquaintance killed him for the bounty on his head.

Judd Roberts

Judd Roberts first achieved notoriety in 1885 when he led a gang of four men in robbing and killing a rancher named Brautigen in Fredericksburg. Texas.

Texas Rangers captured Roberts and one of his confederates, and since lynching fever was high in Fredericksburg, the two outlaws were transferred to the new, "escape-proof" jail in San Antonio. 

A short time later a Fredericksburg posse captured a third member of Roberts' gang, and the local jail "immediately and mysteriously" burned down, roasting the desperado alive.

After four months Roberts and his cohort escaped from the San Antonio jail, and Roberts soon was stealing horses in the Texas Panhandle.

He periodically visited Williamson County to see relatives and friends, and Texas Ranger Ira Aten was dispatched to intercept him.

After several clashes and near misses, Aten and future Ranger John Hughes killed Roberts in the Panhandle.

John Sontag

During the 1890's John Sontag and his brother George owned a quartz mine near Visalia, California.

In 1891 they ventured east and were responsible for train holdups in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Within months they had returned to California, where they robbed a train at tiny Collis Station.

Wells, Fargo and Pinkerton detectives were hot on the trail of the Sontags, and their efforts resulted in the capture of George. For nine months there was a widespread manhunt during which John and accomplice Chris Evans wounded a total of seven posse members.

But in September there was a final confrontation which resulted in a marathon gun battle. Two deputies were killed, and both outlaws were finally shot and captured. John died of his wounds, and when his brother heard the news in Folsom Prison -- he went berserk and was killed by guards.

Burt Alvord

Burt Alvord came West with his father, a justice of the peace, at an early age. As a teenager he worked as a stable hand at Tombstone's OK Corral, where he witnessed the famous shootout and, three years later, the lynching of John Heath.

When John Slaughter was elected sheriff of Cochise County in 1886, the twenty-year-old Alvord became his deputy and right-hand man.

For the next four years Alvord helped Slaughter track down numerous thieves and rustlers, and, as an amiable frequenter of bars, he was particularly adept at ferreting out information concerning the whereabouts of various fugitives.

During the mid-1890's Alvord drifted into Mexico and rustled cattle for a time, but soon he returned to the right side of the law as constable first of Fairbank and then of Willcox, Arizona.

Although respected as a lawman, Alvord used his position to mastermind a band of train robbers. After arrests in 1900 and in 1903, Alvord and Billy Stiles, his deputy and accomplice, managed to escape.

Alvord spread a rumor that he and Stiles had been killed, and he sent two coffins to Tombstone. Though it would have been great for them if it had, their scheme didn't work. Soon Arizona peace officers continued the search for the two bandit leaders.

Alvord was recaptured in 1904, but after two years in prison at Yuma he was released and went to Latin America. He reportedly turned up in Venezuela, in Honduras, and in Panama as a canal worker. Supposedly, he died about 1910.

Reuben Houston Burrows

Born in Alabama, Reuben Houston Burrows married and moved his small family to Texas in the 1870's. He became a member of the Masonic Lodge and was noted as a cracker-barrel philosopher.

For fourteen years he lived quietly while working for the railroad, but in the late 1880's he became the leader of an outlaw band.

His wife and two children returned to Alabama, while Rube, his brother Jim, and four other hard cases began holding up trains. Jim was captured in 1888, but Rube continued to stage train robberies until he was killed a year later.

Will and Bob Christian

Will and Bob Christian were Oklahoma outlaws who broke jail in 1895 after a killing and after two months of thievery headed west.

They passed through New Mexico and stopped in Arizona's Sulphur Springs Valley, where Will, using the alias Ed Williams, broke horses and mules and later punched cows.

His friends nicknamed him "202" because of his weight and also called the swarthy cowboy "Black Jack." Soon Will returned to robbery, and his gang, the "High Fives," plundered stagecoaches, trains, and banks, throughout 1896 and 1897.

There was a series of battles and escapes from lawmen, and Will was chased down and killed by Deputy U.S. Marshal Fred Higgins.

For more information of Little Known Old West Gunmen & Outlaws, don't hesitate to visit:

Little Known Old West Gunmen & Outlaws - Part Two

Little Known Old West Gunmen & Outlaws - Part Three

This information was compiled from multiple sources.

Thanks for visiting!

Tom Correa


  1. Thank you for taking the time. Much appreciated.

  2. All good reading but,I'm looking for cowboy (name unknown) who robbed a train in Nelson,Nv. near El Dorodo,canyon. t was stated in Feb. 9,1897. If anyone knows who the cowboy was please send to my email address. He was s byA.O.Summers who was a messenger on the train. Thank you.

  3. I wouldn't know who you're talking about but I think I guess. I wanna say it was Ben Kilpatrick but then again I could be wrong. Then there was an outlaw by the name of Dynamite Dick. Maybe he's the guy you're looking for.


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