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Wild West Outlaws and Lawmen

John Wesley Hardin



Outlaw John Wesley Hardin was born in Bonham, Texas in 1853.  He became one of the most famous gunmen in the history of the Wild West.

He is reputed to have killed 30 to 40 men including a man that he shot for snoring. His family was prominent with members in the fight for Texas independence, and a Judge William Hardin, served as a congressman in the Texas legislator. John Wesley Hardin was the son of a Methodist minister, who got into trouble early in his life, by stabbing another boy when he was 11 years old. In 1868, at age 15, he killed a former slave, and then ambushed and killed three soldiers that had tried to arrest him.

In 1869. he quarreled and killed a man who threatened him in a card game, later he shot a circus man, and in the same month killed a man trying to rob him. In 1871, he shot two more men in a card game, and an Indian "just for practice". In Abilene, he killed Juan Bideno who had killed one of his friends. Later that year, he walked up to two black policemen who were looking for him and killed one and wounded the other. In Trinity City, Texas, Hardin got into a fight where he was wounded (the other man was killed) and while he was recuperating a couple of policemen crept up and fired into the room he was in, wounded him but were driven off by Hardin's gunfire.

He killed more men in 1873, and in 1874 (on his 21st birthday) where he had a quarrel and then a shoot-out with deputy sheriff Charles Webb, who wounded Hardin before he was killed and that led to a $4000 "Dead or Alive" reward being put on him. Taking the name "J.H. Swain Jr.", he spent three quiet years in Florida as a businessman with his wife and daughter until 1877 when he was returning from Alabama on the train and the Texas Rangers caught up to him.

Hardin recognized the Rangers and tried to draw, but his pistol got caught in his suspenders, his young friend fired and missed, and was shot dead, and Hardin pistol-whipped to unconsciousness. He was taken back to Texas and placed in the penitentiary, where Hardin studied law and was released in 1894. He moved first to Gonzales, then El Paso, Texas and continued to have trouble with John Selman, a peace officer, and threats passed back and forth, leading up to the older Selman walking up behind Hardin while he was shooting dice, and shot him in the back of the head. Hardin never got off a shot, and so ended the life and career of perhaps the most feared gunfighter the old west has ever known.

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