Dallas Stoudenmire – Taming El Paso, Texas

 

Dallas Stoudenmire, lawman & gunfighter

Dallas Stoudenmire, lawman & gunfighter

A gunfighter and lawman, Dallas Stoudenmire was born in Aberfoil, Alabama on December 11, 1845, one of nine children born to Lewis and Elizabeth Stoudenmire. In 1862, he joined the Confederate Army serving in the 45th Alabama Infantry, during which he was wounded a number of times and carried two bullets with him for the rest of his life.

When the war was over he moved on to Columbus, Texas around 1867, where he was said to have killed a number of men. Though definitely dangerous, the 6’4” man was said to have been quite a gentleman around the ladies, who found his handsome face and sharp dress quite attractive. However, Dallas had an extremely bad temper, especially when intoxicated. Continuing to hone his shooting skills, he became equally accurate with both hands and always wore two guns. During these years he worked variously as a sheep farmer, a carpenter, wheelwright and merchandiser.

Some time later Dallas joined the Texas Rangers and in 1874 was serving as a second sergeant in J. R. Waller’s company. Afterwards, he lived briefly in the Texas Panhandle, in Mexico during the days of Maximillan, and served a short stint as a marshal in Socorro, New Mexico.

While he was in Socorro, his brother-in-law, “Doc” Cummings, who lived in El Paso, Texas convinced him that he should come there and take up the marshal’s position. At the time, El Paso had a reputation as a violent town and the city hoped to bring in someone from the “outside” who had a reputation that was as “tough” as the town. Stoudenmire fit the bill. In early April, 1881, Stoudenmire traveled to El Paso and was hired almost immediately, starting his new position on April 11th. He was the sixth town marshal in just eight months.

His first task was to get the city jail keys from a deputy marshal who also just happened to be the town drunk. When Stoudenmire approached the drunken deputy, Bill Johnson, to get the keys, Johnson mumbled that he would go home and figure out which ones they were. However, Stoudenmire became impatient, demanding the keys immediately. When Johnson continued to delay, Dallas physically turned the man upside down, took the keys, and threw him to the ground. Stoudenmire wasted no time living up to his tough reputation, along with humiliating Johnson.

Just three days later he was involved in one of the most famous gunfights in Texas, referred to as the “Four Dead in Five Seconds” gunfight. On April 14th, while Constable Krempkau was in Keating’s Saloon, one of the worst pestholes in El Paso, Texas, he got into an argument with ex-City Marshal, George Campbell. Also in the saloon was one of Campbell’s friend’s, a man named John Hale. Hale, who was drunk and unarmed, pulled one of Campbell’s two pistols, shouting, “George, I’ve got you covered!” Hale then shot Krempkau, who fell wounded against the saloon door. Realizing what he had done, Hale ran behind a post in front of the saloon just as Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire appeared with his pistols raised.

Stoudenmire then shot once but the bullet went wild, hitting an innocent Mexican bystander. When Hale peeked out from behind the post, Stoudenmire fired again, hitting Hale between his eyes and killing him instantly. In the meantime, when Campbell saw Hale go down, he exited the saloon, waving his gun and yelling, “Gentlemen, this is not my fight!” However, the wounded Krempkau disagreed and though down, fired at Campbell, striking him in the wrist and in the toe. At the same time, Stoudenmire whirled and also fired on Campbell, pumping three bullets into his stomach. As Campbell crashed to the dusty street, he shouted, “You s.o.b., you have murdered me!” When the dust cleared, both George Campbell and Constable Kremkau lay dead. In less than five seconds in a near comic opera gun battle, four men lay dead. This gunfight was well publicized in newspapers in cities as far away as San Francisco and New York City and made Stoudenmire a legend.

Just three more days later, on April 17th, violence would erupt again, when the wealthy Manning brothers, who were friends of Hale and Campbell, convinced a drunken Bill Johnson to assassinate Stoudenmire. However, it took little convincing on Johnson’s part as he was still suffering the humiliation he had felt at Stoudenmire’s hands less than a week past. Johnson then hid behind a large pillar of bricks with his shotgun and waited. A short time later, he heard the voices of Stoudenmire and his brother-in-law, Stanley “Doc” Cummings. As he started to take aim, 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.

This, of course, further enraged the Manning brothers who would eventually take their revenge. In the meantime, Stoudenmire continued to take a hard line against the lawless city of El Paso. Between the April shooting of Johnson and the next February, Dallas killed another six men in shootouts during arrest situations. The city’s violent crime rate began to drop as Stoudenmire’s legend grew.

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