Quotes and Words of the Old West

Judge Roy Bean's Saloon

Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon

“The deceased came to his death at the hands of an unknown party who was a damned good pistol shot.” – Judge Roy Bean

Bill Hickok was regarded as the deadliest pistol shot alive as well as being a man of great courage.  The truth of certain stories of Bill’s achievements may have been open to debate but he had earned the respect paid to him.” – Wyatt Earp

“You sons of bitches. Give my love to Mother.” – Francis “Two Gun” Crowley, bank robber and murderer, just before he was electrocuted in 1931.

“Surrender had played out for good with me.” – Jesse James

“It was considered the most dangerous route in the Hills, but as my reputation as a rider and quick shot was well known, I was molested very little, for the toll gatherers looked on me as being a good fellow, and they knew that I never missed my mark.” — Calamity Jane

Hey, you damn sonofabitch cowboy. Go get a gun and get to work. – Doc Holliday to Ike Clanton, the day before the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Tombstone is a city set upon a hill, promising to vie with ancient Rome  in a fame different in character but no less important.” — John Clum in his first editorial in the Tombstone Epitaph

After robbing a bank, Henry Starr walked three miles out of town and was eating supper at a farmer’s house when the telephone rang. When the farmer answered it, he turned to Starr and said, “The sheriff says the bank was held up and he wants to know if I’ve seen a suspicious character out this way.”  To this, Starr responded: “Tell him the robber is at your house eating supper and for him to come on out and get me.” With that, he finished his meal, paid for it, and left.

Fort Smith, Arkansas Gallows

Fort Smith Hanging, courtesy Fort Smith National Historic Site

“The United States court opened at Fort Smith last week, with many cases on the docket. This court has the most extensive jurisdiction of any in the United States. More prisoners are tried and convicted here of serious offenses than at any other court in this country, and more people are hanged here than at any other place in the Union. Here also resided the most noted executioner in American, George Maledon, who has hanged more people than any other man now in the business and never did a “bad job”. Maledon seems to take pride in his profession. Launching a man into eternity appears to have no more effect on his nervous system than caster oil on a graven image.” — The Fort Smith Elevator, October 23, 1891

“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.” — John Wesley Powell

No cowboy ever quit while his life was hardest and his duties were most exacting. — J. Frank Dobie, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, 1929

“I never killed unless I was compelled to.” – Belle Starr

“I have no more stomach for it.” – Tom Horn when he resigned as a lawman.

Kit Carson

Kit Carson

“I was a young boy in the schoolhouse when the cry came, Injuns! I jumped to my rifle and threw down my spelling book, and thar it lies.” — Kit Carson

“I rob banks for a living, what do you do?” — John Dillinger

The more ignorant you are, the quicker you fight. – Will Rogers

“After being so bad I could hear the angels singing.” — Lillie Langtry

“I still have a clear vision of that dignified figure walking down Allen Street.”  — John P. Clum, Tombstone Epitaph editor, speaking of Wyatt Earp.

“Now look, that damned cowboy is President!” — Senator Mark Hanna referring To Theodore Roosevelt after McKinley’s assassination in September, 1901.

Wild Bill [Hickok] was anything but a quarrelsome man yet I have personal knowledge of at least half a dozen men whom he had at various times killed.” — Buffalo Bill Cody

This dern grits is burned, but that’s the way I like it. — Bone Mizell, thinking quickly to avoid violating the rule that cowboys didn’t complain about the food.

Dr. Holliday and Mr. Austin, a saloon keeper, relieved the monotony of the noise of firecrackers by taking a couple of shots at each other yesterday afternoon. The cheerful note of the six-shooter is head once more among us.” – Dallas Weekly Herald

Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry

“Anyone who limits her vision to memories of yesterday is already dead.” — Lillie Langtry

“Shooting at a man who is returning the compliment means going into action with the greatest speed of which a man’s muscles are capable, but mentally unflustered by an urge to hurry or the need for complicated nervous and muscular actions which trick shooting involves.” — Wyatt Earp

”Aw, you ain’t worth killing.” — Billy the Kid to John Chisum after Billy threatened to kill Chisum if he didn’t pay him for fighting in the Lincoln County War.

[Doc] Holliday had few real friends anywhere in the West. He was selfish and had perverse nature-traits not calculated to make a man popular in the early days on the frontier. — Bat Masterson

“Gentlemen, I find the law very explicit on murdering your fellow man, but there’s nothing here about killing a Chinaman. Case dismissed.” — Judge Roy Bean

“You get so tight with your players that they can’t let you down.” — Doc Holliday

Never expect a handout and never wait for anybody to hand you anything. — Jesse James

“Money and whiskey flowed like water downhill, and youth and beauty and womanhood and manhood were wrecked and damned in that valley of perdition.”  Said by an Abilene, Kansas citizen about the town and its red light district.

“Each little chapter has its place.” — Lillie Langtry

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