Born in 1857, Henry
was orphaned at an early age and raised by relatives in
Missouri. When he was seventeen, he headed west to become a
cowboy, working on
ranches before drifting south to
Texas. There, he killed a cowhand in a
gunfight outside a
panhandle town and moved on to Lincoln County,
soon became involved
in the Lincoln County War. Fighting on the side of the McSween-Tunstall
faction, known as the "Regulators," he befriended
Billy the Kid.
He rode with
Billy the Kid's Gang, rustling cattle,
and continued on with the
gang when they went to the
Panhandle in 1878 to steal horses.
New Mexico ,
Brown decided to stay in
which probably saved his life for a few more years.
He then took a job
working as a deputy sheriff in Oldham County,
but was soon fired for picking fights with drunks. Afterwards, he moved on to
where he worked on several ranches before making his final move to
In 1882, he was
hired as an assistant marshal in Caldwell and later was promoted
to marshal. Brown hired his friend
Wheeler, aka: Ben
Robertson, to work as a deputy and the two men "cleaned up the tough
town quickly. When Brown felled two
in the streets of Caldwell in 1883, the Caldwell Post bragged that
"one of the quickest men on the trigger in
the Southwest." So taken were the town citizens, that
they presented him with a new, engraved Winchester rifle.
The marshal continued to serve the city
well and the Caldwell Commercial
lauded him as "cool, courageous and gentlemanly, and free from vices." In early spring of 1884 he married a local woman, purchased a house
and furnishings, and seemingly settled down. However,
unbeknownst his wife and the citizens of
Caldwell, Brown had been
living beyond his means and the debts were mounting.
Falling back on
outlaw skills, Brown, along with his
Wheeler, and two other former
outlaw friends named William Smith and
John Wesley, planned to rob the bank in
under the ruse of traveling to
to apprehend a murderer left
Caldwell, met up with the two other
would-be bank robbers, and headed to
Medicine Lodge. On April
30, 1884, they entered the bank just after it opened and demanded the
cash. When Bank President E.W. Payne reached for his gun, Brown
shot him to death. Though Chief Cashier George Geppert had his
hands up, he too was shot. However, before he died he staggered
to the vault and managed to close the door.
attempt failed, the gang quickly mounted their horses and fled with an
angry posse right behind them. Just outside of town the posse
trapped them in a box canyon and, after a two hour shoot-out, the
outlaws finally surrendered. Taken to the
Medicine Lodge jail, a mob outside chanted "Hang them!
photo was taken at
Medicine Lodge, Kansas just after the robbery.
From left to right, John Wesley,
Henry Brown, Billy Smith, and
Wheeler. The four robbers
were lynched a few hours after this photo
was taken. Photo courtesy Kansas
outlaws were given a meal, their photo
taken, and told to write letters to their families.
At about 9:00 p.m. the mob broke into the jail,
demanding the prisoners. The sheriff refused but was overpowered by the mob of men
and the jail doors opened.
As the prisoners attempted to dash for freedom,
Brown was shot and killed, his body riddled with bullets. Wheeler was also
wounded but was dragged along with Wesley and Smith to a nearby elm tree
of America, updated February, 2012.
Caldwell - The
Wicked Border Queen