4/21/2012

John Slaughter - Sheriff of Cochise County

Here's another tale of the Old West for this week's post.  I've chosen Cochise County Sheriff John Slaughter. Our county has a long and checkered history of lawmen who danced precariously with law and disorder. For the western history buff, you know many of them by name. The Earps, John Behan, Burt Alvord, Harry Wheeler.

John Slaughter was the exception.  Born in Louisiana on October 2, 1841, his family moved to Texas where he grew up in the cattle ranching industry.  He married, had two children and entered law enforcement as a Texas Ranger.  His nickname wasTexas John. When his first wife died of smallpox, he was left to raise two children on his own.  He met his second wife, Viola in 1879 when she was only 16 years old.  After a speedy courtship, Viola's family finally agreed to the marriage.  He was after all a good prospect as a successful rancher in Douglas and a famous lawman. John was 38 years old at the time. They would be married for the next 43 years until John's death.

John's Achilles' heel was gambling.  Sometimes he spent days playing poker much to his wife's dismay.  For the card cheat, things could turn ugly within seconds if John found a marked card or suspected cheating.  He was known to clear the entire table of winnings and walk out the door with everyone's money.  Texas John had many gambling adventures and one that included a poker game with John Chisum. Chisum was a notoriously bad card player and Texas John took great pleasure in beating him soundly, relieving him of a great many head of cattle.

Despite his short stature of 5 feet 6 inches, Slaughter was a man to be reckoned with. When crossed, he was just as likely to shoot the man dead as to speak to him. 

In 1886, he was elected sheriff of Cochise County.  It became his personal mission to clean up the abundance of outlaws who ran Tombstone and other parts of the county.  One of the men who rode with him is quoted as saying, "He was like a spider spinning its web for the unwary fly." His admirers included Wild Bill Hickok, Ben Thompson, Wyatt Earp, Big Foot Wallace, King Fisher, Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, and Pat Garrett.

Sheriff John Slaughter
He successfully eliminated the Taylor gang and many other outlaws, including Mexican bandits who stole, killed, and otherwise disrupted life in Cochise County. A severe drought in 1892 and 1893 decimated the cattle industry and forced Slaughter to mortgage his ranch. Instead of beef on the hoof, he ended up shipping bleached cattle bones to bone factories back East. He stepped down as sheriff around the turn of the century and lived another 20 years as a rancher. In 1922, he died in his own bed at his beloved ranch in Douglas. A man who lived life on his own terms, one writer described him as " the meanest good guy who ever lived."

For more information on John Slaughter, visit http://www.desertusa.com/mag00/jun/papr/slath.html
and www.slaughterranch.com. The ranch is still open today for visitors and once you're there, you can understand why he loved Cochise County so much.

2 comments:

Francine said...

Laurinda - great article. Loved the opening

Laurinda Wallace said...

Thanks, Francine. Cochise County has some wonderful and colorful characters.

Positively encouraging

4/21/2012

John Slaughter - Sheriff of Cochise County

Here's another tale of the Old West for this week's post.  I've chosen Cochise County Sheriff John Slaughter. Our county has a long and checkered history of lawmen who danced precariously with law and disorder. For the western history buff, you know many of them by name. The Earps, John Behan, Burt Alvord, Harry Wheeler.

John Slaughter was the exception.  Born in Louisiana on October 2, 1841, his family moved to Texas where he grew up in the cattle ranching industry.  He married, had two children and entered law enforcement as a Texas Ranger.  His nickname wasTexas John. When his first wife died of smallpox, he was left to raise two children on his own.  He met his second wife, Viola in 1879 when she was only 16 years old.  After a speedy courtship, Viola's family finally agreed to the marriage.  He was after all a good prospect as a successful rancher in Douglas and a famous lawman. John was 38 years old at the time. They would be married for the next 43 years until John's death.

John's Achilles' heel was gambling.  Sometimes he spent days playing poker much to his wife's dismay.  For the card cheat, things could turn ugly within seconds if John found a marked card or suspected cheating.  He was known to clear the entire table of winnings and walk out the door with everyone's money.  Texas John had many gambling adventures and one that included a poker game with John Chisum. Chisum was a notoriously bad card player and Texas John took great pleasure in beating him soundly, relieving him of a great many head of cattle.

Despite his short stature of 5 feet 6 inches, Slaughter was a man to be reckoned with. When crossed, he was just as likely to shoot the man dead as to speak to him. 

In 1886, he was elected sheriff of Cochise County.  It became his personal mission to clean up the abundance of outlaws who ran Tombstone and other parts of the county.  One of the men who rode with him is quoted as saying, "He was like a spider spinning its web for the unwary fly." His admirers included Wild Bill Hickok, Ben Thompson, Wyatt Earp, Big Foot Wallace, King Fisher, Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, and Pat Garrett.

Sheriff John Slaughter
He successfully eliminated the Taylor gang and many other outlaws, including Mexican bandits who stole, killed, and otherwise disrupted life in Cochise County. A severe drought in 1892 and 1893 decimated the cattle industry and forced Slaughter to mortgage his ranch. Instead of beef on the hoof, he ended up shipping bleached cattle bones to bone factories back East. He stepped down as sheriff around the turn of the century and lived another 20 years as a rancher. In 1922, he died in his own bed at his beloved ranch in Douglas. A man who lived life on his own terms, one writer described him as " the meanest good guy who ever lived."

For more information on John Slaughter, visit http://www.desertusa.com/mag00/jun/papr/slath.html
and www.slaughterranch.com. The ranch is still open today for visitors and once you're there, you can understand why he loved Cochise County so much.

2 comments:

Francine said...

Laurinda - great article. Loved the opening

Laurinda Wallace said...

Thanks, Francine. Cochise County has some wonderful and colorful characters.