Saturday, August 27, 2016

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

Here is Part Two on the murder of Caldwell Kansas City Marshal George S Brown on June 26, 1882.

We pick up the story from Part One shortly after Marshal Brown's death when the Sumner County Sheriff, which the town of Caldwell is situated, wrote the governor of Kansas and asked that he offer a reward for the capture of the Green brothers.

This is the letter to the governor:

Office of J. M. Thralls
Sheriff Sumner County.


On the 22" day of March [June] 1882 the City Marshal at Caldwell George Brown was killed -- by one of two men giving their names as Jeff and Steve Green "Cow boys" The circumstances are about these -- Brown went up to one of them & asked him for his revolver he said he did not have any -- When Brown and an assistant took hold of him he jerked loose and shot Brown through the head killing him instantly -- Now are you not authorized to offer a reward of $500 apiece for their arrest and delivery to the Sheriff of Sumner Co We are having so much of this kind of work it does seem as tho the State should offer a good reward for some of these "Texas killers" and outlaws -- This is the fourth murder within the last year at Caldwell and Hunnewell and no reward offered by State for any of them --

Yours truly J M THRALLS
Please answer

Within days Gov. John P. St. John responded with this proclamation:

$1000 REWARD!

WHEREAS, "JEFF. GREEN AND STEVE. GREEN" stand charged with the murder of George Brown, City Marshal of the City of Caldwell, in Sumner County, Kansas, on or about the 22nd day of March [June], 1882, and are now at large and fugitives from justice:

Now THEREFORE, I, JOHN P. ST. JOHN, Governor of the State of Kansas, by virtue of the authority vested in me by law, do hereby offer a reward of FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS each, for the arrest and conviction of the said Jeff. Green and Steve. Green of the crime above stated.

In Testimony Whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name, and '. [L. S.] affixed the Great Seal of the State, at Topeka, the day and year first above written.

By the Governor:
Secretary of State.

The shooting of George Brown prompted at least one out of town newspaper Wellington's Sumner County Press which decided to publicly censure Caldwell's city officers.

Yes, on June 29th, 1882, Wellington's Sumner County Press claimed that all of Caldwell's troubles were caused by men who had been "fired to evil by bad whiskey and prostitute women, both of which were placed within their reach only by means of flagrant violations of the laws of the state, through and by the sanction of the city governments of Caldwell and Hunnewell ...."

Those charges were not taken lightly by the Caldwell Post which answered in its issue of July 6th, 1882, which stated: 


Under the above caption the Sumner County Press, of last week, proceeds to read the citizens of Sumner county, and officers of Caldwell and Hunnewell a lecture on morality and immorality. The editor states what he is pleased to call facts, what in reality is a string of falsehoods or mistakes. In the first place, he says there has been forty murders committed in Sumner county in the last ten years, all traceable to whisky and lewd women, and that only three of the murderers have been brought to justice, namely, Jackson, Chastain and Carter.

In the three cases above, the city of Caldwell had nothing whatever, to do. Jackson killed his man for money-was tried, convicted and allowed by his guards to escape them while they were playing cards. The guards were leading citizens of Wellington, and were not drinking whisky at the time.

If we remember right, the citizens of Wellington murdered three or four men in an early day, that was not decidedly traceable to mean whisky. A murder was committed in London township, and the murderer was tried and not convicted. The murder was not committed while either of the men was under the influence of whisky nor prostitutes.

The murder of two men in the early days of Caldwell was not traceable to either whisky or prostitution. One was hanged by the citizens for his cursedness, and the other was committed by an outlaw just for the fun of the thing, who was chased by the citizens and killed.

George Flat was killed to satisfy a grudge. Frank Hunt was killed for the same reason and not on account of either women or whisky.

George Spear was shot by citizens or officers while assisting the Talbot gang to escape.

Talbot shot Mike Meagher in a riot, not caused by whisky or women, but from a supposed insult. He was an outlaw, and the officers nor citizens were not responsible for his actions no more than the city of Wellington. He was killed in Texas about two weeks ago.

George Brown was shot in the discharge of his duties. The men who did the killing were not under the influence of whisky or lewd women. One of them had taken two drinks and the other had not taken any. They were outlaws and would have made the same play had they been anywhere else in the State. They would give up their arms only after they were past using them.

The Press' fine-spun theory in the above named cases is decidedly at variation with the truth.

George Woods was killed by a man who had not touched whisky in two years, and was the outgrowth of a feud and supposed insult, but was, we are willing to admit, brought about through prostitutes.

Rare cussedness has been the cause of nine-tenths of the murders committed in the county, and not whisky and public sentiment, as the Press would have one believe. The city authorities are no more responsible for the murders that are committed in Caldwell, than is the President of the United States, and it is a base slander for any one to make such a statement.

-- end of article.

On July 13th,1882. The Caldwell Commercial reported that Sumner County Sheriff Joseph Thralls, who was instrumental in having a state reward offered for Jesse and Steve Green, added $400 to the amount.

And yes, believe it or not, out-of-town newspapers were still taking pot shots at the town of Caldwell even into November. And yes, once again the Caldwell Post defended the town's honor in its issue of November 9th, 1882, which stated:


The cowboys have removed five city marshals of Caldwell in five years. -- Dodge City Times.

We most emphatically deny the charge made by the Times that the cowboys removed five city marshals. The fact is, the cowboys have "removed" but one city marshal, and that one was George Brown.

His murd[er]ers were escaped convicts from the Texas penitentiary, and were only making the profession of herding cattle a cover to their outlawry and cattle and horse-stealing operations.

Jim Talbot killed Mike Meagher, assisted by cowboys, some of them being in a row of that class for the first time. Mr. Meagher was not a city marshal at the time of his death, nor was his murderer a cowboy at that time.

The other marshals spoken of by the Times were not killed by cowboys, but by male prostitutes, to put it mildly.

It looks to us as though the charge contained in the item quoted from the Times comes with very bad grace from a man whose entire support-bread and butter, as it were-comes from men whose chief patrons are cowmen.

The cowboys of our acquaintance are not the class of men that commit murders and raise riots simply because they can. They are, as a majority, well-educated, peaceable and gentlemanly fellows.

The day of the wild and woolly cowboy is past, in this section, at least, if it is not in such ungodly towns as Dodge City. If the Dodge City editors would visit us once, and see what kind of people live here, we think they would not be so rash in their assertions.

-- end of article.

On November 7, 1882, Sumner County Sheriff Thralls reported the deaths of the Green brothers to the governor.

Below is his letter informing the governor of what took place:

Office of J. M. Thralls Sheriff Sumner County.

WELLINGTON, KAN., Nov 7" 1882


You doubtless remember having offered a reward about July 1st for the arrest and conviction of the murderers of City Marshal George Brown of Caldwell- I had issued cards describing them as minutely as possible and sent them to every P. O. in the I. T.- N. M.- Colorado- and the western half of Texas- besides getting them into the hands of all Officers possible-

The result was the Officials of Wise County Texas- got after them had a fight with them- on Monday Oct 9"/82 when they whipped the constables' -posse- and escaped with one of them carrying a Winchester ball in his right side-which disabled him from traveling much.

They were again overtaken on the following Wednesday morning- When asked to surrender they replied with a Shot gun and Revolver- The posse replied killing one instantly- and hitting the other 12 times- 2 Winchester balls and 10 Buck Shot- entered his body- but did not disable him so badly but what we could bring Trim to this County, his right side was paralyzed so he could not handle himself- We have had him in our Jail since- until today- last Saturday he was taken suddenly ill and became unconscious all at once and died Sunday morning.

The Post mortem examination showed that our Buck Shot, of small size, entered his forehead- and passed through the lower part of his brain- and stopped near the back part of head- Then had puss formed along the course, of the ball- which caused his death.

That ends the course of the two murderers of George Brown- Now what is necessary for us to do to get the State reward- which goes to their captors in Texas- We can give you several affidavits of his own admission to killing Brown.

The one that died in our Jail is the one who fired the fatal shot while the other, his bro -- was present and assisted by keeping off Brown's Deputy -- and came near shooting him -- He told the boys in Jail (5 of them) the circumstance of their flight after the murder --

If you will indicate in what way we can get the State reward -- I think we can fully satisfy you as to their identity and guilt -- If you will appoint some attorney -- in this section of the country we will furnish him the witnesses- as to Identity and guilt, or any attorney from any where so it is not too Expensive to us.

We are asking this for the Texas Officers who have done good work in the case -- And what was dangerous work, in good faith, and at some expense, now I would like to see them rewarded to make our part of the contract good

Hoping to hear from you soon I remain
Yours Respectfully,

Editor's Note:

If you noticed, Caldwell City Marshal George S. Brown was murdered by the Green brothers in June, and by November both of the badmen were dead. It just proves that people did everything possible to catch the culprits when a lawman was shot back then. While it's true that lenient sentencing existed even back then, they did not rest until they found those responsible for such killings.

As for the murder of Marshal George Brown, though this is a little known killing of a law enforcement officer of the times -- it certainly illustrates how swift justice was when such a horrible thing took place back then.

Horrific as an murder is of course, it was considered doubly significant to the people of that time because their was a special significance when a badman killed a lawman.

It is of special significant because people back then understood that if someone has no respect for the law to that extent, then he or she has no respect for anything at all. People back then understood that if a badman was willing to kill a lawman, then he would have no hesitation when it came to killing anyone else.

Frankly, people today should understand the same thing about anyone who kills a law enforcement officer. We should all understand what people knew so many years ago: That sort of uncivilized behavior translates to them being as rabid as the most rabid dog. And that, well that puts them in need of a bullet or rope from the nearest tree.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the articles; most informative. I kept expecting to see someone blame the killings on guns.

    George Mabry
    Dallas, Texas


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