Ben Robertson – Lawman Turned Outlaw

Caldwell, Kansas

Caldwell, Kansas

Ben Robertson, aka Ben Wheeler and Ben Burton, was a lawman who later turned to outlawry.

The son of a respected Texas family, Wheeler was born Ben F. Robertson around 1854. He lived an honest life, marrying and having four children by the time he severely wounded an opponent in a dispute in 1878. Abandoning his wife and children, he fled the state, traveling to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he worked as a cowboy. Later, he wound up in Indianola, Nebraska, using the name of Ben F. Burton. There, he married a woman named Alice Wheeler in November 1881, but after living with her at her parent’s home for a year, he also abandoned her. From there, he went to Caldwell, Kansas, where he met up with an old friend named Henry Brown, who was serving as Caldwell’s City Marshal. Now going by the name of Ben Wheeler, Brown appointed Wheeler as Assistant Marshal in December 1882.

The two men “cleaned up” the tough town of Caldwell quickly, but Brown was having financial troubles and soon devised a plan to take care of his problem. On Apr. 30, 1884, Henry Brown and Robertson traveled to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, allegedly in search of a killer. However, their real intentions were to rob a bank with two other outlaw friends named John Wesley and William Smith. However, their robbery attempt failed, and the four quickly fled. Almost immediately, they were apprehended by a posse just outside of town. Taken to the Medicine Lodge jail, the outlaws were given a meal, their photo taken, and told to write letters to their families. At about 9:00 p.m.a mob broke into the jail, and the prisoners attempted to dash for freedom. Brown fell quickly, his body riddled with bullets. Wheeler was also wounded but was dragged along with Wesley and Smith to a nearby elm tree and hanged.


© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.

Also See:

Adventures of the Old West Legends

Outlaws on the Frontier

TimeLine of the American West

The Vice-Laden Wild West