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Official Site of True West Magazine, Since 1953

March 21, 1886

All I know is that 4 men were killed, 3 of whom were Cowboys on the 'LS' Ranch. Anyone here have any more?

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The Tascosa Murders by Michael H. Price.

Murder yarns, whether fact or fiction, should be neatly packaged with everything resolved and explained at the finish.

Just try impressing such a standard upon the rowdies who practiced homicide as a way of life around Tascosa, Texas, during the fading Nineteenth Century.

One particularly untidy case took shape in 1882 at Tascosa’s Hog Town Dance Hall, an establishment about as dignified as its name. The saloon, including a gambling den and a brothel the Old West’s prototype for a theme park was situated in a portion of town set aside for such activities so that the rest of the Northwest Texas settlement could stay quiet and respectable.

One autumn night, a cowboy known as Bill Gibson became gloriously soused at Hog Town while courting Sally Emory, a hostess at the establishment. Gibson’s big night found him collapsing at last in drunken slumber, alone in Sally Emory’s quarters. When a stray gunshot was heard, nobody paid much attention; aimless gunfire was commonplace at Hog Town.

Next day, somebody noticed that Bill Gibson had not returned to work. A number of fellow cowhands found him slain and robbed, right where he had collapsed the night before.

Sheriff Jim East investigated with all due indignation. Gibson had been well liked and had not deserved such a cowardly attack. A likely suspect was Johnny Maley, the bartender, but no arrest was made.

Months later, a new arrival named Ed Norwood sauntered into Hog Town and displayed a hefty bankroll. Norwood bought drinks for everybody and flirted with the same Sally Emory who had attracted Gibson. Eventually, Norwood asked permission to lie down upstairs, choosing the same room in which Gibson had died. Once the door was closed, Norwood’s drunken demeanour vanished. He sat in the darkness, silent and alert, with a six-shooter ready for service.

Finally, unable to endure further waiting, Norwood moved silently back into the saloon. And before any of the patrons could realize what was happening, Norwood had gunned down Johnny Maley. Norwood then declared himself to be the brother of the slain Bill Gibson.

Whereupon Jim East arrested Norwood and kept him jailed for weeks. East had little interest in holding Norwood for trial because he felt (as did many others) that Maley had deserved killing. Norwood became popular with the local cowboys, who visited him often.

One night, the sounds of a gun battle erupted, drawing East and a deputy away from the jail. The lawmen found a great deal of shooting, but no casualties.

Returning to the jailhouse, East found that a large hole had been knocked through a wall. The prisoner was gone. East gave chase but returned empty-handed. The mysterious Ed Norwood was never heard from again in West Texas.

Thus ended what should have been a classic case of frontier vengeance, but for all those troublesome loose ends, with one murder never solved officially, and another killing solved but never paid for not officially, at any rate.

Like most frontier enforcers, Jim East was not exactly a peaceable man. He was a gambler and saloon owner who figured in some violent incidents even after he resigned as sheriff and became manager of the big LS Ranch.

East was, however, an efficient sheriff, with an ability to curb trouble. One of the greater frustrations of his career was that the courts failed to convict the instigators of the worst gunfight in Tascosa’s history. One of the miscreants involved was John B. Gough, an unpleasant-looking sort whose peculiar bulging eyes had earned him the nickname of the Catfish Kid.

A trading center for ranchers in the desolate Panhandle, Tascosa boasted a population of about six hundred and an impressive array of stores, restaurants, hotels and saloons. The main town separated itself from its Hog Town section with a sign that read: No Shooting beyond This Line.

The Catfish Kid ran with a rough crowd that included a bartender and part-time cattle rustler named Lem Woodruff. Woodruff feared Ed King, an LS Ranch cowhand who was known as a fast and accurate gunfighter.

The enmity between Woodruff and King worsened when Sally Emory the same saloon floozy who had figured in the slaying of Bill Gibson rejected Woodruff in favour of King. Woodruff rallied Catfish and several other ruffians to plot an attack.

Just past midnight on March 21, 1886, Ed King and a cowboy named Johnny Lang left a barroom and walked to the livery stable. On the way, they met Sally Emory. Just as she and King embraced, a gunshot shattered the night and King fell. Lem Woodruff stepped from the shadows and opened fire on the fallen man. Sally Emory ran screaming back to Hog Town while Lang left to summon two LS cowboys.

As the men reached King’s side, they were met with a fusillade. Sheriff East arrived to find King and one of the LS hands dead. Woodruff, though wounded, had managed to escape. Catfish, unharmed, and another accomplice ran for cover. Deputy L.C. Pierce fired at Catfish, who fell headlong and lay still, his weird eyes staring blankly. Assuming that Catfish was dead or dying, Pierce ran off in pursuit of the other shooter. As soon as the deputy was out of sight, Catfish leapt to his feet and escaped.

Catfish was arrested at last and charged with murder, but he beat the rap despite testimony from Lang, the surviving LS cowboy, and returned to Tascosa, free to commit further mayhem.

The Catfish Kid’s downfall came on June 22, 1886, with the impulsive slaying of an unarmed freight driver from New Mexico at a livery stable. Catfish made no attempt to deny the deed, and by October he had landed a sixteen-year prison term, during which he died. One callous and pointless deed had brought the Catfish Kid to justice after a lifetime of crimes that could not be proved in court.

http://www.bizpress.net/display.php?id=9293
Below is from the Fall 1961, Frontier Times magazine.

Great read Bob, thanks for posting it.
The story is also covered in the Book Maverick Town, by John L McCarty, The story of old Tascosa.
Interesting book

Hi folks,

I'm writing because in the last few days I found out that my wife's great grand uncle was the John Gottlieb Lang who was the only LS Ranch survivor of the Tascosa gunfight. Our family has an old newspaper article about him, some of it told from his perspective, which varies in a couple of points from the story of the fight that's commonly known - specifically that Jesse Sheets was armed and shot at him. He also says that the bartender at Jim East's saloon wasn't East, but a Mexican named 'Concho', and that Jim East wasn't at the saloon at the start of the fight.

I've bought the books that are available about Tascosa, and I'm waiting for them to arrive. I'd be interested to know where I can find more information about John Lang. Before now, all I knew was that he was living in Pleasant Valley, Kansas, with his family in 1880, and that by 1900, he was living in Oregon, again with his family. So the idea that this man who had such close ties to home and family could have been a gunfighter came as a bit of a surprise.

Thanks to all who posted info on this. You have filled a blank spot in my family history and corrected several misconceptions. Charlie Emory was my Great Grandfather. His real name was Fehdor Charles Arnim. He was born in Moulton, TX in 1857 and died in Abilene, TX in 1897. His bother's, Tom Emory, real name was William Oscar Arnim. He was born in Moulton, TX in 1854 and died in Schulenburg, TX in 1914. Tom was in Pat Garrett's posse at Stinking Springs when Billy the Kid was captured. This is quite a different story than my Grandmother told me when I was a boy. She told that Charlie (she used his real name) was a Texas Ranger. I inherited and still own his Colt 1873 Single-Action Army Revolver. Whether this gun was involved in the Tascosa Gunfight is unknown.

Greetings Jim Allen,

I understand that your g/grandfather's brother Tom Emory once rode with Pat Garrett . . .

Would you or your family happen to know of my g/grandfather, Albert E. Perry, who was also a Texas Ranger and rode with Garrett too, circa 1880's.  See Maverick Town, pg-129~130, Pat Garrett, pg- 142 and www.perryfamilyhistory.com

I am most interested if our family members might have known of each other.  Do you have pictures of Tom Emory?

Regards & thanks,  David Perry

Hello David,

This is my 3rd attempt to reply to your post. For some reason I keep getting kicked out of this form before I finish. If you could advise me how to send pics to you, I have 2 of Tom Emory. I also have additional info re Tom, Garret and your ggf.

Jim Allen

Thanks Jim for the reply - I'm interested in your information and pictures.  I'm new to this TrueWest site and I'm not sure how to do pictures yet.   I might suggest that you contact me directly at my e/mail address:  david@davidperryarchitect.com  and attach your pictures.  I also have a picture of Albert E. Perry on my www.perryfamilyhistory.com website.  Check-out the website index for Albert Emmet Perry in Arizona, after leaving Texas, when he was trying to escape the dangerous occupation as a frontier lawman.   As it turned out Albert ended-up on getting shot anyway.   Sure wish someone would have left me my g/grandfather's Colt SSA.  Your so lucky to have it . . .

Also, my Great Grandfather was present during this gunfight, please check out the blog I just posted about it...

 

Boss Neff and the Panhandle part V.

 

 

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