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Old West Gunfights - Page 4

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Sheriff Commodore Perry OwensOwens-Blevins Shootout (1887) - In the 1880's Navajo County, Arizona was home to the Pleasant Valley War, a bitter range war between the cattle-herding Grahams and the sheep-herding Tewksburys. In September, 1887, members of the Graham faction surrounded the Tewksbury cabin and killed two men. A few days later, a man named Andy Blevins, a member of the Graham faction, was overheard in Holbrook, Arizona, bragging that he had killed both of the Tewksbury men. Holbrook Sheriff, Commodore Perry Owens, got wind of the confession and having a warrant for Blevin's arrest for cattle rustling, decided it was a good time to pick up the lawless man. When Owens went to the Blevins family home on September 4, 1887, the family was in the midst of Sunday dinner and Andy refused to come out. Within moments, Andy’s half brother, John, opened the door and took a shot at the sheriff, who quickly drew his six-guns, sending bullets into both John and Andy.  


A gunfight inevitably erupted and Sam Blevins, just 15 years-old, ran out the door firing at Owen, who returned the shots. A friend of the Blevin family named Mose Roberts also fired upon the Sheriff. The melee, lasting less than a minute, left Andy and Sam Blevin, as well as Mose Roberts dead. John Blevins was wounded.



James BowieSandbar Fight (1827) - The Sandbar Fight occurred just north of Natchez, Mississippi on a sandbar in the Mississippi River on September 19, 1827. When two men, Samuel Levi Wells, III and Dr. Thomas Maddox, decided to solve their issues by participating in a duel, Jim Bowie attended as Wells' "second." In those days, a "second" always attended an "official" duel to ensure that the proper rules were followed. Surrounding the duelers were several spectators, including Wells supporters, Major George McWhorter and General Samuel Cuny. Supporting Maddox were his "second," Major Norris Wright, Colonel Robert Crain, and brothers, Carey and Alfred Blanchard. Others were also gathered about to watch the spectacle, numbering about 16 men in total.


When the principles exchanged shots, neither hit the other, but all hell broke loose. From the crowd that surrounded the duel, Robert Crain fired upon Samuel Cuny, and when Cuny fell, Bowie stepped in and fired at Crain but missed.

Norris then shot Bowie through the lower chest, at which time Bowie drew his long butcher knife, that he was known to wear, and began to chase down Wright. The Blanchard brothers then shot Bowie in the thigh, while Write and Alfred Blanchard stabbed him in several places. However, Bowie still fought back, plunging his long knife into Wright's chest and slicing Alfred Blanchard's forearm. Carey Blanchard then fired a second shot at Bowie then he and his brother, Alfred fled. However, Carey Blanchard was shot and wounded by Major McWhorter as he ran.


Though the Battle of the Sandbar lasted less than ten minutes, it left General Samuel Cuny and Major Norris Wright dead, and Jim Bowie and Alfred Blanchard wounded. Eyewitnesses, who remembered Bowie's "big butcher knife," began to spread the word of Bowie's prowness with the lethal blade, capturing public attention and starting the legend of Bowie's reputation as the South's most formidable knife fighter. Soon, men were asking blacksmiths and cutlers to make them a "Bowie Knife."


Luke Short, gunfighterLuke Short-Jim Courtright Duel (1887) - In 1887, Timothy Isaiah "Longhair Jim" Courtright was  was running the T.I.C. Commercial agency in Fort Worth, Texas, which provided "protection" to gambling dens and saloons in return for a portion of their profits. At the same time, Luke Short, a former friend of Courtright's, was running the White Elephant Saloon and Jim was trying to get Short to utilize his services. But, the Dodge City gunfighter told Courtright to "go to hell," he could do any gunslinging that was necessary to take care of his business. On February 8, 1887, the two quarreled, resulting in one of the most famous gunfights in western history. With Bat Masterson at Short's side, Courtright and Luke Short dueled in the street in one of the few face-to-face gunfights in the American West. Drawing their pistols at close range, Short fired first, blowing of Courtright's thumb. Courtright then attempted the "border shift" a move where a gunfighter switches their gun to an uninjured hand, but he was too slow. Luke Short shot him in the chest, killing him.


Spokogee Gunfight (1902) - In the railroad town of Spokogee, Indian Territory, which is now Dustin, Oklahoma, a gunfight occurred on September 22, 1902. A feud between the Willis Brooks family and an outlaw gang headed by Jim McFarland had been ongoing for almost a decade. Willis Brooks held the Jim McFarland responsible for the murder of his son, Thomas, in 1896 but could prove nothing. Finally, the long-simmering hostilities came to a head on September 22, 1902 when Brooks rode into town with sons, Clifton and John, to pick up their mail. In the post office, the Brooks' encountered a man named George Riddle who sided with the McFarland faction. Immediately, they began to threaten the unarmed Riddle who dashed out of the post office and ran toward U.S. Deputy Marshal Morton Rutherford, who was standing across the street. Willis Brooks followed him out and drew his gun, at which time Rutherford commanded him not to shoot. However, Willis shot Riddle in the head, killing him instantly, then sent two more bullets into the dead man's prone body. In the meantime, Jim and Joe McFarland, along with George Riddle’s son, Alonzo, who were also on the street, immediately began to shoot back at the Willis faction. When the smoke cleared, Willis and Clifton Brooks lay dead on the street along with George Riddle, and John Brooks was severely wounded. Marshal Rutherford promptly arrested Jim and Joe McFarland and Lon Riddle. Though all three were tried, they were later All acquitted. John Brooks recovered from his wounds and lived until the 1950’s. See full story HERE.




Talbot Cowboys Shootout (1881)  - On December 17, 1881 in the lawless cowtown of Caldwell, Kansas, Mike Meagher, past Wichita Marshal and Caldwell Mayor was killed in a shootout with Jim Talbot and his "gang" of Texas cowboys. Also killed by the gunfire was George Spears, a former policeman, who had changed aligned himself with Talbot. The fight lasted long enough for a hardware store to pass out guns and ammunition to the local townspeople. Only one of the cowboys was ever convicted. Jim Talbot was one of those acquitted but was later killed, probably by Meagher's brother who was seen following Talbot from the courthouse in Wellington after Talbot's release. More ...


Trinidad, Colorado Saloon (1882) - Frank Loving, who had been involved in the Long Branch Saloon Gunfight in 1879, had moved on to Trinidad, Colorado by 1882. A professional gambler, he was dealing faro in the Bank Exchange Saloon, when he often quipped that it was his slow draw that had enabled him to win the earlier gunfight in Dodge City. Also in Trinidad at the time, was another "old” Dodge Cityy acquaintance and gambler, John Allen. Allegedly the two had been arguing for some time over loans the two had made to each other. On April 15, 1882 the argument came to a head on Trinidad’s Main Street when the words became so heated that it caused both men to draw their revolvers. However, the gunfight was avoided when friends intervened. However, the very next evening when Loving entered the Imperial Saloon, where John Allen worked, Allen stood up with gun in hand and took a shot at Loving. Frank responded by pulling his own Colt 45, but as people began to scramble for cover, the gun was knocked from Loving's hand.


Shielding himself behind another man, Allen fired another shot. Loving then bent over to retrieve his revolver as Allen fired a third shot. Headed for the rear door, Loving pursued him emptying his revolver into a darkened back room. But, Allen had gone into the alley and taken refuge in Hammond’s Hardware Store, a few doors down.


In the meantime, Jim Masterson, former Dodge City marshal, had accosted Loving, disarmed him, and notified him that he was under arrest. Leaving Loving in the Imperial Saloon, he then went after John Allen but couldn’t find him. When Masterson returned to the Imperial Saloon, he found Loving had acquired two other guns and had gone looking for Allen. Masterson was quickly on his tail again and finding him at the Catholic Convent down the street, again disarmed him and went looking for Allen.


Suddenly, a shot rang out from Hammond's Hardware Store and Masterson quickly headed there, meeting Frank coming out the door, saying "Jim, I'm shot." Having gone into the hardware store to refurbish his ammunition supply, Frank had been struck in the back by a bullet. Allen, who was hiding in the rear of the store was quickly arrested by Marshal Lou Kreeger and taken to the county jail. In the meantime, Frank Loving was treated for his wound, but died five days later, on April 21st.


Charged with murder, John Allen was tried in September, but was found not guilty and walked away a free man. Later he headed back to Dodge City and eventually became a street preacher and traveling evangelist.




© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated July, 2017.


Gunfight re-enactment

Gunfight re-enactment



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