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Texas State Flag - Lone Star Legends IconTEXAS LEGENDS

Wild Bill Longley - A Dangerous Man

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William Preston Longley went by several names during his 27 years as one of the most vicious murderers of the American West. Aliases included Wild Bill, Rattling Bill, Tom Jones, Jim Paeeson, Jim Webb, Bill Black, Bill Henry, and Bill Jackson. Longley was a ruthless murderer, killing his first man at the age of sixteen. Growing up with strongly held racist views, he was adamantly opposed to the government’s Reconstruction policy, a view that would lead to enough trouble that he would eventually be hanged.

 

William Longley was born at Mill Creek, Texas to Campbell and Sarah Longley on October 6, 1851. When Longley was still very young the family moved to the small town of Evergreen, Texas, where he went to school and worked on the family farm. Longley learned how to use a gun before he was a teenager and would soon prove to be one of the fastest draws in Texas with his deadly accurate aim and participation in numerous gunfights.

 

 

William Preston "Wild Bill" Longley

William Preston "Wild Bill" Longley

 

 

 

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After the Civil War had ended, Texas Governor E.J. Davis, created a state police force that was made up of mostly freed slaves. This incensed many of the Confederate Southerners who were still bitter over the war. One day in December, 1866, while Bill and his father, Campbell, were in Evergreen, a black policeman who had been drinking came riding down the street waving his gun and cursing some of the local towns’ people.

When the police officer began to insult his father, Bill stepped forward and told the man to lower his gun. Not knowing Bill's accuracy, the lawman brought his own gun up, pointing it at young Bill who shot the man dead. Soon Longley took up with other young men and began to terrorize newly freed slaves, killing two more black men in Lexington, Texas.

On December 20, 1868, Longley, Johnson McKeown, and James Gilmore intercepted three ex-slaves from Bell County, killing a man named Green Evans. During the next two years, he and his brother-in-law, John W. Wilson, were terrorizing black families of south central Texas.

 

By this time, Longley had earned a reputation as a fast-draw and was often sought out by those wanting to establish themselves as feared gunmen. However, these challengers invariably lost when calling Longley into the street. Longley himself picked many a fight with anyone he suspected of being a Yankee sympathizer or a carpet bagger. Standing six feet tall, he was also known to whip any black man who crossed his path.

 

It was during this time that Longley was supposedly involved with an outlaw gang led by Cullen M. Baker in Arkansas. Although, by some accounts, he was only traveling with a member of the gang and was accused by association.

 

Soon, he and his traveling companion were captured by a group of vigilantes and lynched as a horse thieves. However, as the mob rode off, one man turned and aimed several shots at the pair. One bullet hit Longley in the face and broke a tooth, while another frayed the rope from which he was hanging. The rope weakened with the weight of Longley's body and broke saving his life.

 

In February, 1870, Longley and his brother-in-law, John W. Wilson, killed a black man named Brice in Bastrop County. They were also accused of killing a black woman. In March, the military authorities offered a $1,000 reward for the pair. His brother-in-law Wilson died soon after and Longley traveled north.

 

Later, Longley claimed to have worked as a trail driver in Abilene, Kansas where he killed his trail boss, a man named Rector, after a disagreement.  He also professed to having killed a horse thief named McClelland. He then fled to Leavenworth, Kansas where he killed a soldier for insulting the virtue of Texas women. This time he was arrested and convicted of murder. Though he was tried and sentenced to 30 years, he managed to escape.

 

U.S. Cavalry

US Cavalry

 

Before long, Longley joined a gold-mining expedition in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming Territory, but was stranded when the United States Army stopped the group. In June 1870 he enlisted in the United States cavalry and promptly deserted. He was captured, court-martialed, and sentenced to two years' confinement at Camp Stambaugh, Wyoming Territory. After about six months he was released back to his unit, where he remained until he again deserted on June 8, 1872.

 

Longley claimed that he lived and rode with Chief Washakie and the Shoshone Indians, which is questionable, and then returned to Texas via Parkerville, Kansas, where he professed to have killed a Charlie Stuart, of whom there is no record.

 

 

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