DIAMONDFIELD JACK: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

Diamondfield Jack Davis

Diamondfield Jack Davis

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 2nd. 

DIAMONDFIELD JACK – Born Jackson Lee Davis this neglected gunslinger is a colorful example of the old west’s gunmen for hire. He’s also a poster child for the confusion and conflicting information that surrounds those figures. Various sources place his year of birth anywhere from 1864 to the mid 1870s and in several different states. Even the story behind his nickname is disputed as I’ll deal with in detail as we go along.

Diamondfield Jack is noted for the shotgun he carried in a holster on his back, like a quiver of arrows carried by an archer. He also sported three 45 caliber pistols in holsters and coatpockets and had a Bowie knife strapped to his leg.

By the late 1880s Jack was in Colorado during the Silver Boom. In return for various killings and acts of violent intimidation he performed for the railroad tycoons and the silver mine owners he was partially paid with several uncut diamonds. Later Jack’s own boasting and the usual embellishments that accompany men like him exaggerated the story to the point where he supposedly owned a hidden diamond mine near the Idaho/Nevada border. Jack cultivated the story by forever after carrying around a pocketful of uncut diamonds.

In 1892 Diamondfield Jack was in Silver City, Idaho, working for the Black Jack Mine’s owners to try to shoot down chances of the miners organizing a union. After a time he was wanted for questioning in some killings in the area and laid low in the mountains for several months.

(In later years this sojourn was pointed to as one of the times Jack was claimed to have discovered the fictional diamond mine)

By 1895 Davis was employed by the Sparks-Harrell Cattle Company in Elko County, Nevada and Cassia County, Idaho. In yet another of the American West’s Range Wars between established cattlemen and newly-arrived sheep ranchers, Jack was being paid between $50 and $150 a month to lean on the armed sheep herders. “If you have to kill, the company will stand behind you” was part of the understanding. Diamondfield Jack and his fellow mercenaries spent months raiding sheep camps, poisoning wells and spreading a lot of lead around in the conflict.

On February 19th, 1896 sheepmen Daniel Cummings and John Wilson were killed at Deep Creek by the cattle faction and, as the most notorious of the gunslingers working for Sparks-Harrell Diamondfield Jack was largely assumed to be the culprit. Davis fled the territory but was eventually arrested by lawmen in Arizona and extradicted back to Idaho.

Jack may have been innocent of these particular killings but was found guilty and in the years that followed he was incarcerated at various prisons as a complicated legal web of appeals, jurisdictional feuds and stays of execution played out. The Idaho Supreme Court got involved and future Senator William Borah was the attorney for the sheepmen.  

All that drama came to a close on December 17th, 1902 when Diamondfield Jack was pardoned and released. In 1904 Diamondfield Jack rolled into Goldfield, Nevada, where another gold rush had been underway for years. Virgil Earp was in town at the time as a Deputy Sheriff and his brother Wyatt was there making money at the gambling tables.

From 1904 to December 1907 Diamondfield Jack made his usual living by wielding his guns against miners and pro-union gunmen. He also carried on an affair with Goldfield’s famous singer Diamond-Tooth Lil. On December 4th, 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt sent federal troops in to restore order to the violence-plagued region. 

Mining tycoon George Wingfield rewarded Jack for his services in the conflict by advising him on investments and soon Davis owned mines in Utah, Montana and California. Several years later Diamondfield Jack had blown his sizeable fortune and was financially strapped. In 1949 the elderly man was killed after being accidentally struck by a taxi in Las Vegas, NV.

FOR FOUR MORE NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2013/07/14/four-cool-but-forgotten-gunslingers-for-frontierado/

FOR SIX MORE NEGLECTED WESTERN FIGURES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2012/06/18/six-neglected-wild-west-figures/

© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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