Monday, April 12, 2010

Abilene, TX and John Wesley Hardin

We did not have time to stop in Abilene. The highway bypasses it and as we are running out of time we decided to give it a pass for this time.

One thing I do know about Abilene is that it is where the gunfighter John Wesley Hardin spent much of his career. Born in 1853 and the Son of a Methodist Preacher, he started his colorful career at age 11 when he stabbed (but did not kill) a schoolmate in the chest and throat after the other child attacked the young Hardin with a knife. By 15 he was in full killer mode, shooting Reconstruction Soldiers (Yankees) which in those wild days in Texas was hardly considered a crime. He moved on to gun-fighting and gambling and was very good at both. He once beat another gambler several hands in a row and the other gambler told Hardin he would kill him if he won another hand. Hardin won the next hand and the other gambler went for his gun. Hardin drew both his guns and fired, striking his opponent simultaneously in the head and chest. Many people saw this fight so there is a good record of how Hardin used his guns: his holsters were sewn into his vest, with the butts pointed inward across his chest. He crossed his arms to draw. Hardin claimed this was the fastest way to draw, and he practiced every day.

There is no question that Hardin was fast. Once he was walking down the street when a deputy sheriff slipped in behind him and drew his gun to shoot Hardin in the back. A by passer on the other side of the street yelled a warning and Hardin spun, drew and fired before the sheriff could squeeze the trigger. No one dared challenge Hardin to a “fair” fight. He could not be beaten.

It was in Abilene where Hardin was sleeping in a hotel and his next door neighbor started snoring. Enraged, Hardin fired several shots through the wall, killing the snorer. He escaped into the night before Wild Bill Hickok, his friend, mentor and current Marshall of Abilene, could arrest him. He left because he did not want to have to kill Hickok, his friend and mentor. Later Hardin said in an interview, "They say I killed seven men for snoring, it is not true. I only killed one man for snoring."

Hardin was an intelligent man. After being arrested on a train, he was sent to prison for 17 years. While in prison he studied Theology and Law and after being released in 1895 he passed the Texas State Bar Examination. Shortly after in El Paso, Texas he got into a verbal argument with lawman John Selman over the arrest of Hardin’s friend for “brandishing a firearm”. The two parted without a fight. Later that night Selman’s father (also named John), fearing that his son would be killed by Hardin, sneaked up behind Hardin while he was gambling and shot him once in the back of the head and three more times in the back as he lay on the floor. It was the only way to bring down the man considered by many to be the greatest gunfighter of all time. He was 42 and is said to have killed 40 men.

John Wesley Hardin. Pre and Post Mortem:

John_Wesley_Hardin1 John_Wesley_Hardin2

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