Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Murder of Caldwell City Marshal George Brown 1882 -- Part One

Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City Kansas between 1870 and 1885
In the archives of the Kansas Historical Society, you can find evidence of the real West in the newspapers which have been preserved there.

The Caldwell Commercial, June 29th, 1882:



About half past nine o'clock on Thursday morning of last week, the city was alarmed by the report that Geo. Brown, our city Marshal had been shot dead at the Red Light. Proceeding up street, we learned that the killing, had occurred but a few moments before and that the parties engaged in it had barely rode past the COMMERCIAL office which is located on the lower part of Main street, on their way to the Territory, the refuge for every fiend who perpetrates a crime upon the southern border of Kansas.

On going to the Red Light, we found the body of George Brown at the head of the stairs, his face covered with a clot of blood and his brains spattered on the wall and floor of the building, while the gore dripped through the floor to the rooms below.

Dr. Hume had been called in and was engaged in washing off the blood in order to ascertain the nature of the wound which had caused Brown's death.

It is useless to give the various stories told as to how the murder occurred, and we shall only state the facts as made up from the statements of different parties.

Shortly after 8 o'clock in the morning, three men, two of them brothers going by the name of Steve and Jess. Green, and another whose name has not been ascertained so far, went to the Red Light. Brown at the time was on main street, engaged in obtaining signatures to a couple of petitions in reference to voting bonds.

Some one informed him (as near as can be ascertained) that a man had gone down there armed, and Brown requested Constable [Willis] Metcalf to go down with him, as he (Brown) did not want to go alone.

Arriving at the Red Light Brown and Metcalf proceeded up stairs, the former in the lead. On reaching the top of the stairs they found three men one of whom had a pistol in his hand. Brown laid his hand on the man with the pistol and told him to give it up.

The latter replied "let go of me," when Brown grasped hold of the fellow's arm and pressed it against the wall. Meantime another man grasped Metcalf by the throat and backed him up into the corner, at the same time telling him to hold up his hands, the order being enforced by another who held a pistol at his head.

Just then another man jumped out of a room across the stairway and to the right of where Brown and the man he was holding stood, and called out "Turn him loose."

This seems to have attracted Brown's attention momentarily, but that moment was most fatal to him, for the man whom he held turned his wrist and fired, the ball from the weapon crashing through the Marshal's head, and he fell to the floor dead, without a struggle or a groan.

The man who shot Brown and the other who held Metcalf then ran down stairs, while the fellow who had drawn on Metcalf guarded the retreat.

The two former proceeded on up Fifth street to the alley in the rear of the Opera House, followed the alley to a passage between the buildings fronting on Main street, went through the passage, down Main street to the front of the Hardesty corner, where they mounted their horses and rode on down the street toward the Territory.

Fully ten minutes transpired before it was known that Brown had been shot, but as soon as the fact was ascertained and that his murderer had escaped, several citizens mounted their horses and started in pursuit.

It is needless to detail the operations of the pursuing parties. Suffice it to say that J. W. Dobson, who was among them ascertained that on reaching Bluff creek the murderers turned down the stream, crossed over Wm. Morris' farm, thence north across the creek and through E. H. Beal's place thence down the line to a point east of Cozad's place, where they turned into the bottoms of Bluff creek and probably remained there until towards evening.

When the pursuing party started out nothing was known or could be ascertained as to who the two men were, or whose herd they belonged to, although, as subsequent investigation showed, one or more persons knew all about them, but refused to give any information, fearing, perhaps, they might loose six bits worth of trade if they "gave away" a cowboy, no matter what crime he might commit.

But it was learned before noon that the men belonged to Ellison's outfit, camped on Deer creek, and that of the others who were with them at the time of the murder, one was McGee, the boss of the herd, and the other two were herders.

No effort seems to have been made to take in the Greens in case they went to camp, which they did about 6 o'clock, obtained fresh horses and ammunition, and then started off in a southeasterly direction.

Up to the present writing the men have not been captured, and if any efforts have been put forth in that direction, the fact is kept a profound secret.

Geo. Brown, the murdered officer, was a young man about 28 years of age. He has resided in this city about two years, and has borne a good character. There was nothing of the bully or the braggart about him, but in the discharge of his duties he was quiet and courageous.

It is not known that he had an enemy, therefore his murder would seem to be an act of pure fiendishness, perpetrated solely from a desire to take human life.

Of the Greens, Steve and Jess., we are informed that they are brothers, French Canadians by birth, and came originally from the vicinity of Collingwood, Ontario. They have been employed as herders for several years, and have visited Caldwell every season for the last three years.

McGee, Ellison's foreman, says they came to the herd, and were employed by him, on the trail south of Red River; that they were desperate men, who did not seem to care for danger, but rather coveted it, but that they were good hands, doing their work faithfully and well.

It is probable that they are outlaws, all the time ,fearing arrest, and constantly on the alert to prevent being taken alive. If not taken or killed for their last crime, it is only a question of time when they will yield up their lives in much the same manner in which they have taken the lives of others besides George Brown.

George Brown was a single man, resided on Fifth street, east of Main, his sister, Miss Fannie Brown, keeping house for him. When the terrible news was brought to her that her brother, her supporter and protector, had been cruelly shot down within a stone throw of his own door, the poor girl could not realize it at first, but when the truth forced itself upon her mind, she gave way to the most heart rending screams.

Kind and sympathetic friends did everything in their power to solace her, but notwithstanding all their efforts it was feared at one time that she would not be able to survive the terrible blow. But nature, ever kind, came to her relief, and by Friday the intensity of her grief had given way to a calm resignation.

Word was telegraphed to their father at Junction City, but owing to railroad connections he did not arrive until Saturday. George was buried on Friday afternoon, the funeral being largely attended by our citizens. All the business houses in the city closing out of respect for the deceased during the funeral.

A coroner's jury was summoned by J. D. Kelly, Esq., and an inquest began on Thursday afternoon. The inquest was not concluded until Monday afternoon, when a verdict was rendered that the deceased came to his death from a gun shot wound at the hands of J. D. Green.


J.D. or Jess Green as he is called, is a man about five feet ten inches in height, strong built, weighed about 180 pounds; full, broad face, dark complexion; hair black, coarse and straight, mustache and imperial colored black, but naturally of a sun burnt color. Had on dark clothes, leggings, and new white felt hat with a leather band around the crown.

Steve Green is about five feet six or eight inches high, heavy built, coarse black hair, mustache and imperial dyed, broad face, very dark; dressed about the same as his brother, save that his hat was not new.

As stated above, the men are brothers, and from their appearance would be taken for Mexicans. When last heard from they were traveling west, evidently intending to make for New Mexico.

-- end of newspaper article.

According to The Caldwell Commercial police docket, which for 1882 begins with April, "Marshal Brown was required to perform his duties mostly upon drunks, gamblers, madams, and prostitutes. In his brief tour of duty no record was found that he encountered more serious crimes until he was shot and killed by cowboys on June 22nd "in a most gruesome manner."

Earlier on March 9th, 1882, the newspaper The Caldwell Commercial reported that George Brown had apparently accepted the "marshalship" ... "since Geo. Brown has been acting as City Marshall, $216 in cash have been collected for fines by the Police Court."

Yes, George Brown was hired in early March and murdered by June 26th. While the article above reported him as being 28 years of age, his headstone says he was 32.

What happened to him was really no different than what happens to many law enforcement officers today. There are a great number of them who are killed in the line of duty early in their careers. Yes, very young. And frankly, I find that very sad.

Tom Correa

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