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Old West Lawmen - J-K

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Bill Johnson (18??-1881) - Though a known alcoholic, Johnson was hired as an Assistant Marshal in lawless and violent town of El Paso, Texas in September, 1880. Described as the "town drunk," he nevertheless survived the brief reigns of three marshals, before Dallas Stoudenmire took office in April, 1881. One of Stoudenmire's first tasks was to get the city jail keys from Johnson, who was drunk and stalled the new marshal. Stoudenmire became impatient, demanding the keys immediately, but when Johnson continued to delay, Dallas physically turned the man upside down, took the keys, and threw him to the ground. Later, Dallas fired the already humiliated Johnson, who was soon convinced by a couple of local "toughs" that he should go after Stoudenmire. On April 17, 1881, a drunken Johnson hid behind a large pillar of bricks with his shotgun planning to ambush Stoudenmire. However, when Dallas and his and his brother-in-law, "Doc” Cummings, came by, the drunken fool fell down instead, accidentally firing two harmless blasts into the air. The marshal wasted no time returning fire, sending a number of bullets his way and leaving Johnson dead on the dusty street. 


Edwin W. Johnson (1853-1931) - Born in Clark County, Arkansas on December 13, 1853, Edwin became a deputy sheriff at Arkadelphia Arkansas around 1877. A few years later, in 1880, he made his way to Texas, where he worked a as a deputy in Clay County. Continuing his lawman career, he became a U.S. Deputy Marshal in 1885, living in Graham, Texas, but working mostly in western Indian Territory. Unfortunately, Johnson lost his right arm in a gun battle with Bob James at Wichita Falls, Texas in February, 1888. But the determined lawman persevered, learning to shoot well with his left hand. In January, 1889, while he and seven other lawmen were escorting four horse thieving Marlow brothers from Graham to Weatherford, Texas, they were attacked by a mob and an all-out gun battle erupted, in which, five men lost their lives, including one lawman, two of the Marlow brothers, and two members of the mob. Five more, including Johnson were wounded. In 1916, Johnson moved to Los Angeles, where he became a deputy sheriff, a position he held until his death on December 5, 1931.


Grant Johnson (1858–1929) - The son of a Black Chickasaw, and Black Creek mother, Grant grew up to become a U.S. Deputy Marshal in Indian Territory. Serving under Judge Isaac Parker for at least 14 years, he began as a U.S. Deputy Marshal around 1887 in Indian Territory and was extremely effective as he knew the customs and language of the Muskogee Creek nation. Often working with Bass Reeves, the pair captured one of the most notorious outlaws in the territory, Abner Brasfield. Johnson also captured the noted counterfeiter, Amos Hill; Choctaw outlaw Chahenegee; the murderers, John Pierce and Bill Davis; the Cherokee outlaw, Columbus Rose; train robber, Wade Chamberlee, and dozens of others. During his career, Isaac Parker considered Johnson one of his most effective deputies.


John "Turkey Creek Jack" Johnson (1852?-1887?) - Thought to have been a bookkeeper and lawyer in Missouri, before he headed west, Johnson spent some time in Deadwood, South Dakota where he got into a gunfight with two men at 30 yards. Some say the men were his gold mining partners. Later, he was known to have been in Dodge City, Kansas, where he may have first made the acquaintance of Wyatt Earp. Next he turned up in Tombstone, Arizona, where he worked along side the Earps as a deputy marshal. After Morgan Earp was killed on March 18, 1882, Virgil and the Earp women, boarded a train, along with Morgan's body, for California.


Along the way, they were protected by Wyatt and his friends, including Jake Johnson. When they ran into Frank Stillwell, whom they suspected as being one of Morgan's killers, in Tucson on March 20th. Stillwell's bullet ridden body was found the next morning. In the meantime, Johnson had returned with the others to Tombstone, and the next day, joined by Texas Jack Vermillion, began the Earp Vendetta Ride. In the meantime, Johnson, along with Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, and Sherman McMasters, were indicted in absentia for Stillwell's killing. After the Earp Vendetta Ride, Johnson escaped first to Colorado before moving on to Texas and then Salt Lake City, Utah. He died in Salt Lake City in 1887 of tuberculosis.


John "Liver Eating" Johnston, aka: John Garrison (1824?-1900) - Primarily known as a mountain man, Indian fighter and lawman, New Jersey born John Johnston’s birth name was actually John Garrison. He joined the Navy during the Mexican-American War, but after striking an officer, he deserted and changed his name to John Johnston. He then traveled to Montana where he worked as a trapper, miner, wagon master, scout, tour guide, whiskey peddler, and supplier of cord wood to passing steamboats. He also served with the Union during the Civil War.

>Johnston is purported to have married a Flathead woman named the Swan, who was said to have been killed by the Crow. He then supposedly waged a personal war against the Crow, killing any Crow warrior he saw. Neither of these legends actually occurred because Johnston’s military records tell us he was a sailor, onboard ship, during the Mexican American War. Similarly, Johnston never did eat anyone’s liver. One day during a Sioux battle, he jokingly told his companions he ate a piece of liver. Hence, his nickname, "Liver Eating" Johnson,” was earned through a macabre joke.


Johnston became the constable of Coulson/Billings, Montana in the early 1880’s. He also served as town marshal in Red Lodge, Montana in the 1890’s. In December, 1899, he was admitted to a veteran's hospital in Los Angeles, California where he died the next month on January 21, 1900, of peritonitis. He was buried in nearby Sawtelle National Cemetery. However, in the early 1970s his body was moved to Cody, Wyoming, where it now rests at Old Trail Town with several other local old west characters. A number of legends surround Johnston, some of which are the basis for the movie Jeremiah Johnson.




Dave Kemp (18??-1930s) - While still in his youth, Kemp was sentenced to hang for killing a man in Hamilton, Texas. While awaiting his execution attempted to escape by jumping from the second story of the courthouse. Breaking both ankles, he was quickly recaptured. His sentence was commuted to life, but later he received a pardon. Afterwards, he moved on to Eddy (now Carlsbad), New Mexico where he established a butcher shop and became the Eddy County sheriff in 1889. He was also a co-owner in a casino in Phoenix, Arizona and as sheriff, he tended to cater to the interests of gamblers. But this was the least of his crookedness. When Dee Harkey, a U.S. Deputy Marshal caught him stealing cattle, he forced Kemp to leave the county. The crooked lawman then went to Arizona, but returned when Les Dow, with whom he was a bitter enemy, replaced him as sheriff in Eddy. In April, 1896, Kemp shot Dow to death. Quickly arrested, Kemp was acquitted on a plea of self-defense. However, he allegedly had forced the only eye witness to to leave town. Kemp then went back to Texas, where he returned to cattle rustling. He was shot to death by his sister in the 1930s.


Frank King (1863-1920's) - A dedicated lawman, King was a deputy sheriff of Phoenix, Arizona in the 1880s and worked as a lawman in Texas, New Mexico and California in the next decade. In 1889, he served briefly as a guard at the Yuma, Arizona prison, during which a massive prison break was attemptedl. Before it was put down, five prisoners lay dead, shot at the hands of King who was the only guard in the main tower. By 1896, King had returned to being a lawman and was in a gun battle with Will Christian and his gang when they attempted to rob a bank in Nogles, Arizona on August 6th.



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