of us associate John Wesley Hardin--the man often called Texasí
most famous gunfighter--with regions beyond East
Texas, but the truth is that Hardin had deep roots in the pineywoods. |
on May 26, 1853, at Bonham, Hardin was
the son of John and Elizabeth Hardin. His father was a Methodist minister who
named his son for the eighteenth century English religious leader, hoping that
young John would become a preacher, too.
In 1861, while living with his
parents at Sumpter in Trinity
County, nine-year-old John Wesley first saw a man killed when John Rulf pulled
a Bowie knife and slashed the jugular of Turner Evans during a property dispute.
Hardin later wrote about the incident: ďIf you wish to be successful in
life, be temperate and control your passions.Ē
But, six years later in
a Sumpter schoolyard, Hardinís
own passions erupted when he stabbed a fellow student twice in the chest and back,
claiming the boy had accused him of writing a line of doggerel about a female
A year later, Hardinís passions flared again during a fight with
a black man named Mage at a sugar cane mill near Moscow.
Onlookers broke up the fight, but Hardin later shot and killed Mage on a lonely
road near Moscow.
that soldiers from the post-Civil War reconstruction government were looking for
him, Hardin decided to hunt down his accusers. He ambushed and killed three soldiers
at a creek crossing in Trinity County. Thus, by the age of fifteen, Hardin had
already killed four men.
1871 Hardin went up the Chisholm Trail as a cowboy and reportedly killed seven
people on the trail and another three when he arrived in Abilene, Kansas. After
allegedly backing down Wild Bill Hickok, Hardin returned to Texas.
Clinging to his East Texas
roots, he came back to the pineywoods on numerous occasions.
On a visit
to Polk County relatives, he and a cousin rode to Trinity County, where they got
into a gambling argument. Hardin was badly wounded and his friends shuffled him
around East Texas until they reached
Redland, a community near Lufkin.
There, Hardin was to recover at a friendís house, but his stay was brief.
Two lawmen surprised him and wounded him again, but he killed both men with a
Hardin knew he could run no further and sent the word to Cherokee
County Sheriff Richard Reagan, an old friend, that he would surrender only to
The sheriff and four deputies arrived the next day. As Hardin
gave up his pistol, Reaganís deputies thought he was drawing on the sheriff. A
shot rang out and Hardin was wounded a third time. Reagan carried Hardin to his
hotel in Rusk, where two weeks
of nursing by the sheriffís family saved his life.
After killing a deputy
sheriff in Brown County, Hardin was captured in Florida, tried for murder and
sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In prison, he studied the law, read theological
books, and was superintendent of the prisonís Sunday School. When he was pardoned
in 1894, he was admitted to practice law.
In 1895, he moved to El
Paso, but his old habits were hard to break. He look as his lover the wife
of a client, Martin Morose. When Morose found out about the affair, Hardin hired
several men, including Constable John Selman, to assassinate him.
hot August day in 1894, Selman, shot Hardin in the Acme Saloon because he was
never paid for murdering Morose.
August 22, 2011 Column
Bob Bowman's East Texas >
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
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