Friday, October 10, 2014

Jeff Milton & George Scarborough - Cowboys, Lawmen, Gunfighters

Jeff Milton & George Scarborough

The two lawmen had a great deal in common. Besides there only being about two years difference in age, both were from the South, both left the South for Texas, both were working cowboys, both became lawmen, both were Deputy U.S. Marshals for a while, and both became a big part of the history of the Old West.

George Scarborough was born on October 2nd, 1859 in Louisiana. He was a cowboy and lawman. And yes, like other lawmen of the time, he may or may not have even been an outlaw in the Old West.

After Louisiana, Scarborough's family moved to Texas, where he worked as a cowboy until 1885 when he was appointed sheriff for Jones County. He would later work as a Deputy U.S. Marshal in and around El Paso, Texas.

On June 21, 1895, while working alongside El Paso Police Chief Jeff Milton, Deputy U.S. Marshal Scarborough shot and killed notorious Texas outlaw and rustler Martin McRose. 

George Scarborough's partnership with Jeff Milton actually brought down several outlaws during their time together.

Jeff Milton
Jeff Milton was born on November 7, 1861, in Marianna, Florida.  At age 15, he moved to Texas where, like George Scarborough, he too worked as a cowboy.

Later, it's said that Milton lied about his age and joined the Texas Rangers in 1878. After serving with the Texas Rangers for four years, he moved through west Texas and into New Mexico, where he became a Deputy U.S. Marshal in 1884.

For a time in the 1880s, he worked under Sheriff John Slaughter in Cochise County, Arizona, during which time the two were involved in several manhunts and shootouts with outlaws including capture of Jack Taylor Gang. Their pursuit of the Jack Taylor Gang in late 1886 to the middle of 1887 became local folklore.

In fact, Milton and Slaughter trailed the gang to the home of Flora Cardenas in Mexico. But not good for the lawmen was the fact that the bandits had been tipped off that the American lawmen were after them,  and they left before Milton and Slaughter reached their Cardenas' home.

Returning to Arizona, the two lawmen traveled to Willcox on the outlaw's trail, then to Contention City, where they found gang member Manuel Robles and one of the others asleep. When Slaughter shouted at them to put their hands up, a gun battle ensued.

Guadalupe Robles, Manuel's brother, joined the gun battle, but he was killed quickly. Manuel Robles and Nieves Deron tried to run away and while still firing back, one of their bullets hit Slaughter's ear.

Slaughter's next bullet killed Deron, but Manuel Robles escaped.

Jack Taylor was soon arrested in Sonora, and Robles, along with Geronimo Miranda, were killed by the Mexican police in the Sierra Madre mountain area.

Later in June of 1895, Milton partnered with Scarborough when they shot rustler Martin McRose. McRose had been captured, and was killed while being brought back from Mexico by the two lawmen on an outstanding warrant.

Gunman John Wesley Hardin claimed that he had paid Scarborough and Milton to kill Martin McRose. But frankly, from what I've been able to find out, most folks at the time knew how full of beans Hardin was and didn't put much credence in what he had to say.

But as in today's world, there is always someone who will take what a liar says as the truth. Because someone took what Hardin had said as fact, both Scarborough and Milton were arrested. They were only released later after Hardin withdrew his comments -- owing up to the fact that he made it up.

And yes, then people wonder why I don't believe Hardin's jailhouse yarn about beating Wild Bill Hickok to the draw. Like it or not, besides being a psychopath, Hardin was known for telling some very tall tales. And yes, I find it only fitting that John Wesley Hardin gets buried near McRose later.

George Scarborough is said to have became well known for his unusual tactics when tracking a wanted outlaw. It's said that he would often lower himself down to the level of those he was pursuing.

Now I don't quite know if that means actually "tracking" or meaning go rogue and think as they did. Either way, whatever he did, it was apparently a tactic that was extremely effective. And yes, it made him a hated and feared man among the outlaw element.

In July, 1898, Scarborough and Milton tracked, shot and captured outlaw "Bronco Bill" Walters, killing another member of Walters gang, and scattering the rest from their hideout near Solomonville, Arizona.

Burt Alvord
In late 1899 and into 1900, Scarborough pursued the butt-ugly Burt Alvord and his gang.

Believe it or not, during the 1890s, outlaw Burt Alvord worked as a lawman in several towns, including Fairbank and Pearce, Arizona.

In the late 1890s, Alvord formed a gang with outlaw Billy Stiles and "Three Fingered Jack" Dunlop. They began committing armed robberies in Cochise County, Arizona.

Alvord and Stiles were captured in 1899, but they managed to escape. 

On February 15, 1900, "Three Fingered Jack" Dunlop was killed and gang member Bravo Juan Yoas was wounded by lawman Jeff Milton during a train robbery attempt in Fairbank, Arizona. 

It was actually a Hell-of-a-shootout which all started when Jeff Milton substituted for another Express Agent who was sick. When the train arrived in Fairbank, Arizona, Jeff Milton was handing packages to the station agent when former lawman-turned-outlaw Burt Alvord and five of his gang attempted to rob the Express Car of its cash.

Milton got off a shot that struck outlaw "Three Fingered Jack" Dunlop. It was a good shot in that it badly wounded him, and he died days later. Milton also shot but only wounded gang member Bravo Juan Yoas during the gunfight.

During the exchange, Milton was shot up pretty badly. The most serious wounds were to his left arm. Keeping a clear head, Jeff Milton improvised a tourniquet which stopped the blood loss from a severed artery.

Then deciding to make things harder on the remaining Alvord gang members, he managed to throw the keys to the express car safe into a pile of packages at the far end of the car just before Alvord and his men boarded the car.

On his back and dieing, the gang was about to finish Jeff Milton for good when the train engineer intervened -- telling Alvord that Milton was already as good as dead, "Why waste the bullet?"

Because Milton's trick of throwing the keys away had worked, the remaining gang was unable to open the safe and escaped with only a few dollars. For his heroism, the railroad dispatched a special engine and boxcar to transport Jeff Milton from Benson to Tucson for treatment.

In fact, Dr. H. W. Fenner tied the shattered bone together with piano wire. But when the wound wouldn't heal, Fenner sent Milton to San Francisco where he could be seen by experts at the Southern Pacific Hospital there.

There they wanted to amputate his arm at the elbow, but Milton refused and got a ride to his friend Dr. George E. Goodfellow's office. Dr. Goodfellow cleaned and treated Milton's wound, but told him that he would never gain use of the arm again.

For the rest of his life, Jeff Milton's left arm was permanently disabled and shorter than his right arm. He would later return to Tombstone and then Tucson where he would retire.

Jeff Milton's story is legendary and is told very well in J. Evetts Haley's book Jeff Milton, A Good Man With a Gun. I find it interesting that lawman Jeff Milton described Wyatt Earp as a "scrub."

As for the Alvord gang, well Alvord was captured later that year, and taken to Tombstone. Billy Stiles went to see Alvord, and buffaloed the deputy on duty. With the deputy out cold, Alvord and 24 others to escape. Alvord would be captured and put in prison later.

John Selman
As for George Scarborough, he would become part of another famous shootout in the Old West.
John Selman was born in Madison County, Arkansas, on November 16, 1839. 

In 1858, the Selman clan moved to Grayson County, Texas. On December 15, 1861, John Selman joined the Twenty-second Texas Cavalry as a private.

He deserted from Fort Washita, Choctaw Nation (Indian Territory), in April 1863 and joined his family at Fort Davis, a Stephens County settlement at the fort on the Clear Fork of the Brazos.

On August 17, 1865, John married and they had four children. In the mid-1870s the Selmans moved to Fort Griffin, Texas, where John became a deputy for Shackelford County sheriff John M. Larn.

The two were crooked and controlled the vigilantes, rustled cattle, and at times actually terrorized the county. That is, until the local vigilantes had enough and locked John Larn in his own jail -- only later to returning to shoot him to death in his cell.

After Selman's wife died in 1879, he fled to Lincoln County, New Mexico, and organized the "Selman Scouts," a band of desperados accused of murder and rape during the late 1870s.

In 1880, the law drove Selman to Fort Davis in Jeff Davis County, Texas, where the Texas Rangers captured him and took him to Shackelford County for trial. He escaped, however, and fled to Chihuahua where he lived until 1888. He only returned when the Texas charges were dropped.

That year Selman moved to El Paso, where he married his second wife while living as a gambler and a city constable.

On April 5th, 1894, he killed former Texas Ranger Sebastian Lamar "Bass" Outlaw, aka Bass Outlaw, during a wild brawl in Tillie Howard's brothel. It started when Bass Outlaw arrived at Tillie's and demanded his favorite girl only to be informed she was with a client, and that Tillie had no intention of disrupting her.

Bass Outlaw
Outlaw erupted in rage, stormed through the house tossing chairs and furniture aside as he passed through to the back door. He disappeared into the back yard.

Suddenly a shot was heard. Some say that the shot was Outlaw's pistol which went off when he supposedly dropped it, but no one really knows what that shot was about. The shot did have Constable Selman and a few others rushing to the back yard to see what was the shot all about. 

While people were going to see what was taking place there, a young Texas Ranger, Joe McKidrict of D Company, who was walking nearby with a City Constable, and they also heard the shot. Both rushed to the yard from the opposite direction.

McKidrict was in El Paso attending court sessions and only by chance had he been on Overland Street when the shot rang out. McKidrict knew Outlaw, and had always been friendly towards him. It is said he felt safe enough as he approached.

What was said is unknown but whatever it was Outlaw took exception and shot the young Ranger just above his right eye. Texas Ranger McKidrict died on the spot.

The moment Outlaw fired at McKidrict, Selman, and two others entered the yard. Outlaw turned to face the three but Selman, the only one armed, had not yet drawn his pistol.

Outlaw, turned, fired, and hit Selman in the thigh. Before Selman knew what had hit him Outlaw fired a second shot. It too found Selman's leg.

On the ground, Selman drew his pistol and fired one shot. The bullet ripped into Outlaw's chest. Recoiling in shock, he dropped his pistol and slumped to the ground. He died later.

John Selman was then put on trial for killing Outlaw, but the judge instructed the jury to find him not guilty.

John Wesley Hardin
As for the murder of John Wesley Hardin, some say that he was a changed man after prison, and all he wanted to do was establish a law practice and lead a decent life.

They say his lover was the wife of one of his clients, Martin Morose. Others say he should have not been screwing around with the wife of one of his clients. And yes, some say that when Morose found out about the affair, that he hired a number of law enforcement officers to assassinate him -- and make it appear within the law.

There were those who believed that John Selman was one of those hired killers who would be able to hide behind his badge and make it look legal and proper -- when in fact it would be nothing less than a paid assassination.  

On August 19th, 1895, John Selman did just that and murdered John Wesley Hardin. All who testified later said that there was no justification for what Selman did, and all of the lies that Selman tried to sound plausible simply did not wash.
Everyone knew that Selman was a heavy gambler and needed cash so that's why Selman walked up behind Hardin without provocation and shot him in the head as he rolled dice in the Acme Saloon. One report said that Selman fired another two shots into Hardin who was already dead on the floor.

Selman went on trial for murder, but because of a hung jury -- he was released. George Scarborough had long been feuding with Selman. Remember, Selman had as Constable of El Paso, shot and killed Bass Outlaw. Outlaw was a close friend to Scarborough. And even though Selman had been tried for the shooting, and found not guilty, most believed that Scarborough wanted revenge for Bass Outlaw.

The tension between the two men came to a head on April 5th, 1896, two years after the shooting of Bass Outlaw, when Scarborough called Selman into the back alley behind the Wigwam Saloon. The two men argued and then began fighting.

Later Scarborough claimed both men drew their guns, but he shot first. Actually, he shot Selman four times. Selman died on the operating table on April 6, 1896. 

Problems started for George Scarborough when no gun was found on or near Selman's body. Because no gun was found, Scarborough was arrested. Luckily for George Scarborough, just before the trial a thief was arrested who claimed to have had stolen Selman's gun immediately after the gunfight.

He won an acquittal, but was forced to resign as Deputy U.S. Marshall. He then went to Fort Davis, Jeff Davis County, where he dealt in cattle and horses, buying and selling as a representative of the large ranchers of the area. Later he moved to Deming, New Mexico, where he worked as a Stock Detective for the Grant County Cattlemen's Association while holding other commissions including deputy sheriff and state ranger.

On April 1st, 1900, Scarborough was involved in a shootout with two cattle rustler, George Stevenson and James Brooks, near San Simon, Arizona. He killed one of the men, but during the shootout he was shot in the leg and was taken back to Deming where he had his leg amputated. But as was the case for many at the time, because of infection and fever, George Scarborough died four days later. He was 40 years of age.

Some say it was a coincidence that he died six years to the day after the death of his friend Texas Ranger Bass Outlaw and four years after he shot John Selman, but others just think it was his time.

As for Jeff Milton, he and his wife Mildred had a home on Third Street across from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Tombstone where they lived from 1931 to 1945. They then moved to Tucson. It is said that Jeff Milton was admired by many, and much has been written about him as a lawman, Texas Ranger, and Border Agent.  Most simply say he was "the real deal."

On May 7th, 1947, almost two years after the end of World War II, Jeff Milton passed away at the age of 85. Jeff Milton was born at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and died a little over a year after the end of World War II.

Imagine this man's life and the world that he lived in. Imagine the American History he watched take place in his lifetime. Imagine the America he lived in. He the advent of cars, the Wright Brothers, Atomic bombs, and jet fighters. Incredible!

Tom Correa 


  1. Two of my favorite old west lawmen...Milton and Scarborough. Thanks for the article.

  2. Jeff Milton was my great grandfathers cousin. He was an amazing lawman with a legacy that I'm so proud of.Being a Texas peace officer and Arizona officer ,and to trace the footsteps of this man has been an amazing thing for me. I can only imagine the life and times.Jeff Milton was the only man that I know of that John Wesley Hardin refused to fight noting his speed with a gun and his willingness to kill him.Milton stated that he had no regrets for the men he killed,only regrets for those he didnt kill and should have.

  3. Jeff Milton was an Old West badass. That story about being wounded and having to stop the bleeding with piano wire has got to be number 5 in the top ten lists of Old West exploits. American actor Wayde Preston played a fictionalized version of Jeff Milton in the 1968 Spaghetti Western, "Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die". He is considered one of many legendary Old West lawmen and one of many from Arizona. His legend most certainly lives on.


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