On December 17, 1881, yet another
shoot-out occurred in one of
many cowtowns – this time in
which lasted long enough for a hardware store to pass out guns and
ammunition to townspeople, left two men dead.
The whole affair
began the night before when a group of
led by Jim Talbot, made a ruckus at a presentation of the play "Uncle
Tom’s Cabin” in the Opera House.
Texas cowboy, and his friends who included Jim Martin, Bob Bigtree, Tom
Love, Bob Munson, Dick Eddleman, and "Comanche Bill” Mankin, had been
in Caldwell for about 30 days,
gambling, drinking and hell-raising the entire time.
The day after the episode at the Opera House, the Caldwell Post
berated the men for their actions during the play. The swaggering
Talbot and his friends, who were still having a "party,” vowed to get
even with the editor.
By this time, another man by the name of George Spears, a former
police officer and operator of a local dance hall, had joined the group at Ren Moores’
When Tom Love created a disturbance in the saloon,
former City Marshal,
Mike Meagher, went to the home of the current marshal, John Wilson,
and asked him to go downtown to stop "a riot.”
The pair then returned to the
to arrest Tom Love but as they headed to the courthouse, they were
overtaken by Talbot and his cowboy
friends at the intersection of Main and Fifth Streets. However, Marshal
Wilson took aim at the cowboys,
threatening to shoot the first one who made a move. Talbot and his cowboy
buddies retreated. Love was taken to court and almost immediately released.
Later in the day, City Marshal
John Wilson and Deputy Bill Fossett arrested Jim Martin for carrying
firearms and rowdy behavior. Martin was taken to the courthouse and fined.
He then headed down the street to get the money to pay the fine, with
Deputy Fossett escorting him. However, when they ran into Talbot, Love,
Munson, and Eddleman, the cowboys
relieved Fossett of his prisoner. When Marshal Wilson heard the commotion,
he quickly headed their direction and demanded that the cowboys
hand over their weapons.
Instead, Talbot fired two shots at Wilson and the
ran. Wilson enlisted the help of
Meagher once again and took off after the cowboys.
A man named Ed Rathbun soon joined them. In an alley behind Pulaski’s
store, they confronted four cowboys,
including Talbot, exchanging several shots. Meagher was hit and died about 30 minutes
later. Talbot and the rest of his "gang” fled.
In the meantime, Caldwell citizens had joined the fight
and pursued them east of town. With bullets reigning on the fleeing
men, George Spears was shot and killed. A running fight continued in a
standoff for the next twelve miles until the gang split up and managed
to escape south to Indian Territory. Though more posses were
formed they were unable to find the cowboys.
A coroner’s jury
returned a verdict that Mike Meagher was murdered by Jim Talbot, and that Bob Bigtree, Jim
Martin, Tom Love, Dick Eddleman, Bob Munson, and Doug Hill, were
accessories to the crime. Dead or alive rewards totaling $1100 were
offered for the capture of the men.
Later, Tom Love was
captured, but on January 24, 1882, was acquitted. Love went on to become a
lawman, who would later help to track down outlaw
Bill Cook, a.k.a., The Cherokee Kid.
Eddleman was also captured but was never convicted. Five years later, in
1887, Doug Hill was brought back from Texas. He
plead guilty to manslaughter in the fourth degree, and received a sentence
of six months in the county jail.
Jim Talbot was finally
1895 and returned to Kansas.
However, his first trial ended in a hung jury and the second in acquittal.
Talbot returned to California
and the next summer was gunned down by an unknown assailant. Some believe
the killer may have been Mike Meagher's twin brother, John.