Lawless Breed

John Wesley Hardin, Texas Reconstruction, and Violence in the Wild West

Chuck Parsons,

Lawless Breed: John Wesley Hardin, Texas Reconstruction, and Violence in the Wild West
 
 
John Wesley Hardin! His name spread terror in much of Texas in the years following the Civil War as the most wanted fugitive with a $4000 reward on his head. A Texas Ranger wrote that he killed men just to see them kick. Hardin began his killing career in the late 1860s and remained a wanted man until his capture in 1877 by Texas Rangers and Florida law officials. He certainly killed twenty men; some credited him with killing forty or more. After sixteen years in Huntsville prison he was pardoned by Governor Hogg. For a short while he avoided trouble and roamed westward, eventually establishing a home of sorts in wild and woolly El Paso as an attorney. He became embroiled in the dark side of that city and eventually lost his final gunfight to an El Paso constable, John Selman. Hardin was forty-two years old. Besides his reputation as the deadliest man with a six-gun, he left an autobiography in which he detailed many of the troubles of his life. In A Lawless Breed, Chuck Parsons and Norman Wayne Brown have meticulously examined his claims against available records to determine how much of his life story is true, and how much was only a half truth, or a complete lie. As a killer of up to forty men, Hardin obviously had psychological issues, which the authors probe and explain in laymen’s terms. To Hardin, those three dozen or more killings were a result of being forced to defend his life, his honor, or to preserve his freedom against those who would rob or destroy him or his loved ones. Was he a combination freedom fighter/man-killer, or merely a blood-lust killer who became a national celebrity? This deeply researched biography of Hardin and his friends and family will remain the definitive study for years to come. “Chuck Parsons and Norman Wayne Brown made an excellent choice in choosing as their subject a man who would shoot first, pray quick, and ride harder than any outlaws or lawmen in western United States history. It would seem that killing people was what John Wesley Hardin was born for.”—from the Foreword by Leon C. Metz, author of Pat Garrett and The Shooters “Chuck and Norm have questioned everything in the Hardin autobiography, thereby adding a lot to our understanding of Hardin’s early career. Readers of gunfighter lore will embrace this fine biography, and so will Texans in general.”—Bill O’Neal, author of The Johnson-Sims Feud and Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters “The best known outlaw of pioneer Texas was John Wesley Hardin. Misspent as his life might have been, he was a deadly gunman and acknowledged by his contemporaries as a man who wore his emotions on his sleeve and not to be crossed. From an early age to his violent death with his boots on, he left behind a unique paper trail, including an autobiography. Parsons and Brown have dug deep in that trail and come up with a definitive biography that not only accurately tells the saga of Hardin’s life, but does it in a readable manner that puts his life in the context of the times.”—Rick Miller, author of Texas Ranger John B. Jones and the Frontier Battalion, 1874-1881 and Bloody Bill Longley A Texan by choice, CHUCK PARSONS was born and raised in Iowa and Minnesota. His books include Captain John R. Hughes: Lone Star Ranger (winner of the WWHA Best Book Award); The Sutton-Taylor Feud; John B. Armstrong: Texas Ranger, Pioneer Rancher; Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds; Captain L. H. McNelly, Texas Ranger; Bowen and Hardin; Clay Allison: Portrait of a Shootist; and The Capture of John Wesley Hardin. He lives in Luling, Texas. NORMAN WAYNE BROWN is retired from the U.S. Air Force and was a Texas State Parole Officer for more than seventeen years. He has written two books and his articles have appeared in True West and Wild West History Association Journal. He and his wife Bettie live near Snyder, Texas.


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