OLD WEST LEGENDS
Charles Siringo - Cowboy
"The risks he ran, the deadly
situations through which his extraordinary nerve took him safely, his
resourcefulness, his loyalty, and above all his cold-blooded bravery, always
made men remember this picturesque, modest figure of the American frontier."
-- John Hays Hammond
One of the most famous detectives of the
Pinkerton National Detective Agency,
Charles Angelo Siringo also served as a
for many years and became an author. Born February 7, 1855, in Matagorda County,
Texas to an
Irish immigrant mother and an Italian immigrant father, he attended public
school until he was 15 years-old, at which time he started working as a
at area ranches.
Working for a number of
over the next several years, he became a trail driver in 1876, accompanying a
herd of 2,500 longhorns over the
Chisholm Trail from Austin to Kansas.
He made a second trip in the spring of 1877, following the trail's western
Siringo was in
when an altercation almost erupted between gunfighter,
and Dodge City
death in 1887, Earp would
claim that he and Bat Masterson
had forced Allison
to back down from an impending confrontation. Siringo, however, later gave a
written account of the incident which contradicted Earp's
claim, stating that Earp never
came into contact with Allison,
and that two businessmen in Dodge City
actually defused the situation. Siringo’s account was also verified by other
witnesses of the time.
In Dodge City
he signed on with David T. Beals and W. H. "Deacon" Bates to drive a herd into
the Panhandle, where they establish the LX Ranch. For the next several years he
worked as a LX
where he met a young man named Henry McCarty, aka:
Billy the Kid,
and later he would lead a posse in
New Mexico in
an attempt to capture the Kid and his gang.
1884 Siringo married Mamie Lloyd and after having been a cowboy
for more than two decades, changed careers, opening a store in Caldwell, Kansas.
That same year, he also began writing book entitled "A Texas Cowboy;
Or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony." It was published a
year later to wide acclaim and became one of the first true accounts of the
life during the days of the
Bored with being a merchant,
Siringo moved to
1886, applying for a job with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Using Pat Garrett’s name as a reference,
he got the position and for the next 22 years worked all over the West as a
detective. Traveling as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico City, he
often worked undercover, infiltrating gangs of robbers and rustlers, and making
hundreds of arrests.
In 1890 Siringo's wife died,
leaving him a widower with a five-year-old daughter. Three years later Siringo
met and married Lillie Thomas of Denver,
the two had a son in 1896. However, shortly afterwards, the two divorced.
By the early 1890’s Siringo was
working out of Pinkerton's Denver office, where he worked with noted
Pinkerton agent, gunman, and later assassin,
Tom Horn. Though he greatly admired Horn's talents and skills in
tracking down suspects, he would later reflect that Horn had a dark side.
In 1892, Siringo was assigned
to a case in
Idaho, where he worked undercover to get information against
corrupt labor union officials. Though he despised the labor union officials, he
stood against a lynch mob to protect union attorney Clarence Darrow from being
In the late 1890's, posing as
"Charles L. Carter," an alleged gunman on the run for murder, he infiltrated
For over a year he severely
hampered the their operations but made few arrests.
Wild Bunch committed the 1899 Wilcox
Train Robbery in Wyoming, he was assigned to capture them. He continued to work
Tom Horn on the assignment, though
Horn was actually working for a cattle company at the time. Several members of
the Wild Bunch were captured due to his efforts including
Kid Curry, who would later escape only to be killed by a shootout with
lawmen. During this time, Siringo also met
Joe Lefors, who later would arrest Tom Horn for murder. Later, he would
say of Lefors that the man was incompetent and he greatly despised him. In the
Sundance Kid fled to Bolivia,
where they were later allegedly killed by Bolivian soldiers during a robbery
22 years of successfully capturing hundreds of
Siringo retired from the Pinkerton Agency in 1907. During his career with the
Pinkertons, Siringo participated in a number of other celebrated
cases, including the Haymarket anarchist trial, the Coeur d'Alene miners
strikes, and the trial of Western Federation of Miners Secretary "Big Bill"
Haywood, who had been charged with the dynamite murder of former
Frank Steunenburg. Although Siringo was a fine shot, the vast majority of his
arrests were made without violence.
He then moved to a ranch in
where he began to write a second book detailing his experiences as a Pinkerton detective, entitled "Pinkerton's Cowboy Detective." When
it was complete, publication of the book was held up by the Pinkerton Agency who felt it violated a confidentiality agreement
signed by Siringo when he was hired, and objecting to the use of their name.
Siringo gave in, and deleted their name from the book title, instead writing two
separate books, entitled "A Cowboy Detective" and "Further Adventures of a
Cowboy Detective," with fictitious names replacing real ones.
To vent his anger against the
Pinkertons, Siringo wrote and clandestinely published a third book,
entitled "Two Evil Isms, Pinkertonism and Anarchism" in 1915. Again, the
Pinkerton Agency blocked publication, and this time attempted to have
Siringo prosecuted for libel, asking that he be extradited from his ranch in
Santa Fe, New Mexico to
However, the New Mexico
governor denied the extradition request.
In 1916, Siringo began working
as a New Mexico
Ranger where his main task was to capture the numerous rustlers operating in
the southeastern part of the state. After two years he resigned when his ranch
and his health began to fail. In 1919 he published "A Lone Star Cowboy,” which
he said was to take the place of "A Texas
Cowboy,” on which the copyright had expired. This was followed by History of "Billy
in 1920. However, his health continued to fail, and that coupled with financial
difficulties forced him to abandon his ranch and leave Santa Fe in
He then moved to
where he became a minor celebrity due to his well publicized exploits. While
there, he sometimes worked as a film advisor on western film sets and even took
an occasional bit part. In 1927 he released his final book, "Riata and Spurs," a
composite of his first two autobiographies. However, when the Pinkerton Agency intervened again to halt publication, the book
became a whittled down version with many fictional accounts rather than the true
accounts that Siringo had envisioned.
The next year, Siringo died in
Altadena, California on
October 18th, 1928.
Siringo's recollections of his life as both a cowboy
and a detective helped helped to romanticize both the myths and realities of the
Siringo's prowess as a
detective made him widely known in his lifetime; he met United States Senators,
state governors, and national officials, as well as diverse celebrities such as
Pat Garrett, Bat Masterson,
Clarence Darrow, Charles M. Russell, Eugene Manlove Rhodes, William S. Hart, and
Will Rogers, and numerous
of America, updated April, 2017.
Pinkerton Detective Agency
Billy the Kid
Trail Blazers, & Stage Drivers
Lawmen of the Old