The annual Frontierado Holiday is coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, Frontierado is about the myths of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here is another often-overlooked gunslinger.
DALLAS STOUDENMIRE – Dallas was this figure’s real first name, and it was ideal for an old west legend, just like Sam Sixkiller had an ideal surname and John X Beidler had an ideal nickname in “X”, from his middle initial. His life was filled with whiskey, cigars, women and opium, all garnished with the smell of gunpowder.
Stoudenmire was born on December 11th, 1845 in Aberfoil, AL.
With the Civil War raging, 1862 and 1863 saw Dallas repeatedly trying to enlist by lying about his age only to be found out within months and discharged. Finally, on March 8th, 1864 Stoudenmire enlisted at legal age and served until the end of the war.
Immediately after war’s end, Dallas moved to Texas with his brother Abednego and his sister-in-law. While Abednego and his spouse settled in Colorado County, Dallas traveled to Mexico like many other former Confederate soldiers and served in the army fighting to keep the country’s Emperor Maximilian on his throne. Among the other southerners putting their military experience to use in Mexico was future gunslinger Ben Thompson aka Texas Ben aka Texas Thompson.
After Maximilian fell and was executed in June of 1867 Stoudenmire returned to Texas and farmed with his brother in Columbus in Colorado County.
Between 1870 and 1874 Dallas wandered, working as a wheelwright and other odd jobs when on the Texas side of the border, but engaging in still-mysterious activities during periodic trips to Mexico. Some legends claim Stoudenmire was part of a rustling gang during those outings, while others have him contending with rival fortune hunters in searching for Emperor Maximilian’s lost gold.
On January 17th, 1874 this figure enlisted as a Sergeant in the Texas Rangers – Company A under Captain J.R. Waller. That company’s jurisdiction ranged from western Erath County north to Stevens County and southwest to Brown County.
The unit spent the majority of their time fighting Comanches and other Native Americans who were killing or abducting Texans as well as destroying or stealing their property.
The Texas government was still suffering financial hardship in these postwar years and couldn’t afford to keep many Ranger outfits constantly employed. By February 17th, 1874 the latest conflict with renegade Native Americans was over and Company A was temporarily disbanded. Dallas worked as a carpenter until May, when Native American raids caused Waller’s Company A to be reactivated and our hero reenlisted.
On December 15th, 1874 the company was again disbanded and Stoudenmire gave up on working as a Texas Ranger. He traveled back to Colorado County and worked as a wheelwright again, this time in Mentz and Alleyton. Though he was generally a solid citizen, drinking unleashed the beast within Dallas Stoudenmire and he became involved in frequent gunfights, usually while intoxicated. His two-gun belt/ holster made him a very distinctive figure.
On one occasion while riding the Bernardo Prairie, Stoudenmire encountered a German-American Texan that he had been feuding with. The pair dismounted and opened fire on each other, with Dallas killing the other man.
Another time, at a party with at least 50 others in attendance, Stoudenmire got into a drunken brawl with several other men. Producing a pistol, he shot and wounded his foes but was overcome and chained up to await the authorities. The partygoer guarding him fell asleep so Dallas managed to free his hands and escaped. A grand jury recommended no further action since our hero had not been apprehended at the scene.
When Dallas’ friend Tuck Hoover was feuding with the Sparks Brothers over open range cattle around Eagle Lake, TX, Stoudenmire loyally backed his buddy. In the resulting gunfight Dallas and Tuck seriously wounded one of the Sparks Brothers and killed their ranch hand Benton Duke plus his teenage son Little Duke.
During the mid-1870s Stoudenmire, Tuck Hoover and Tuck’s brother Buck were virtually inseparable friends. Dallas, by all accounts, loved to laugh and loved making others laugh. The trio boozed it up, courted women and attended horse races & dog fights. As a lark Stoudenmire once trained a horse he owned to bite other men on command.
Buck Hoover was renowned for his talent at fiddle-playing and got gigs around Texas. Dallas and Tuck always accompanied him to drink, dance and flirt with the ladies while Buck and other musicians performed.
On September 14th, 1876 our hero sat on the jury in the infamous Outhouse Trial. Per the Colorado County Citizen newspaper an outhouse had actually been charged as a public nuisance and was even represented by a lawyer at the trial. The outhouse was found guilty and was ordered cleaned. (?)
For a time Dallas moved to the Texas Panhandle where he worked with his brother-in-law Samuel M “Doc” Cummings on the sheep ranch that Doc owned with Dallas’ sister Virginia. In later life Stoudenmire claimed that he had also dabbled in running a store in Llano County during this period. At any rate, he supposedly contracted VD around this time and sought treatment for it in San Antonio from his old Columbus, TX friend Doctor John Herff.
That treatment was successful and in 1878 Dallas became the Town Marshal of Socorro, NM off the strength of his military and Texas Rangers experience plus his reputation for gunning down at least 6 men from 1875-1877. Those gunfights had taken place from the Bernardo Prairie to San Antonio. Stoudenmire’s exact body count against Union soldiers, Juaristas in Mexico and Native Americans in Texas was not known.
NOTE: There are some contentions made that Dallas Stoudenmire was a hired gunman in the El Paso Salt War in late 1877 and early 1878 before landing his Socorro Town Marshal gig.
During these Town Marshal years, Dallas had apparently learned how to shoot to wound, since despite all the lead he was slinging, the net result was a lot of hospitalizations but few funerals.
NOTE: At some point between 1878 and 1880 Stoudenmire may or may not have participated in a gunfight which resulted in the death of William Manning. Details are hazy, but the Manning family – into the late 1960s at least – were claiming that Dallas and another man had gunned down William during a firefight between our hero and the Manning Brothers. The other Manning Brothers shot dead the other, unnamed man and supposedly the still-cloudy incident ignited their hostilities with Stoudenmire a few years before it is generally assumed.
After a successful law enforcement career in Socorro, Dallas Stoudenmire entered the most active period of his life when he was hired as the new Town Marshal of El Paso, TX, better known as “Hellpaso” for its wild and dangerous ways. Six Marshals had come and gone in the past 8 months, but the man who would go down in history for taming Hellpaso was sworn in on April 11th, 1881. No one knew at the time that Stoudenmire had less than a year and a half left to live.
Shortly after being sworn in, Dallas went to get the keys to the town jail from Deputy Marshal Bill Johnson, a noted drunk who had been acting as Marshal only until a new one could be hired. The soused Johnson resisted, claiming he didn’t know which key on his ring was for the jail. Stoudenmire shook Bill violently and seized the key ring from him, then walked off to begin his duties.
Bill Johnson, like George Campbell, the corrupt Town Marshal he had served under, was very tight with the Canutillo Gang. That gang of rustlers and smugglers was led by the Manning Brothers – James, John and Frank. The Manning Ranch, called Canutillo, was the hub of their criminal empire. The brothers and their gang members ruled the wild bosques on both sides of the Rio Grande near El Paso. Many Texas Rangers were in the pockets of the Mannings, too.
Hellpaso was tucked away in the southwest corner of the state near where the Texas, New Mexico and Mexico borders converged, making it an ideal place for criminal activity since outlaws could just skedaddle from one jurisdiction to the next when they couldn’t buy or kill the lawmen who opposed them.
The next day, April 12th of 1881, Johnny Hale and some of his fellow Canutillo Gang members rustled 30 head of cattle from the spread of Don Ynocente Ochoa, the political head of the El Paso on the Mexican side of the border. (Yes, there were two towns called El Paso.) Don Ynocente complained to Texas Ranger Captain George Baylor, since he did not yet know if Hellpaso’s new Marshal was honest or not.
Baylor sent Ranger Ed Fitch and 10 Mexican nationals who had accompanied Ochoa to Johnny Hale’s ranch, which was separate from, although subordinate to, the Canutillo Ranch. At Hale’s ranch, near which three Texas Rangers had been killed in a gunfight earlier in the year, the rustler stonewalled Ed Fitch and his fellows. Fitch and 8 of the 10 Mexicans rode off, but 2 of them – Juarique and Sanchez, lingered in the area to continue searching for the stolen livestock and were riddled with bullets by Hale and his men.
On Thursday April 14th the pair of dead men were missed and their bodies found. Captain Baylor arrested some of Hale’s boys but at an inquest later that day in El Paso, Marshal Stoudenmire got his first taste of the area’s corruption as the gang members were released pending a future trial and the corpses of the dead Mexicans were sent south to Don Ynocente for burial.
George Campbell, the former Hellpaso Marshal fired for his ties to the Canutillo Gang and other offenses, drunkenly taunted Dallas and told him he would “try him out” within 5 days. Tensions continued and Campbell turned his taunts on Constable Krempkau (no, not Officer Krupke, Constable Krempkau).
A gunfight between the pair broke out, with Johnny Hale joining in and shooting Krempkau. Marshal Stoudenmire, dining at his brother in law Doc Cummings’ nearby Globe Restaurant, emerged from inside and used his pair of guns to settle the incident. He killed Johnny Hale, George Campbell and an unnamed bystander by accident. (Under the usual legal protection for lawmen who accidentally killed or wounded people in carrying out their duties, Dallas faced no punishment for the accidental death.)
This clash became legendary as the “Four dead in five seconds” gunfight. It’s not as catchy as “the gunfight at the OK Corral,” but what can ya do? Newspapers as far away as San Francisco and New York City covered the incident, making Stoudenmire famous nationwide, where he had previously just been famed in Texas and New Mexico.
Between April 1881 and February of 1882 the Marshal would fatally shoot 7 more men in the performance of his duties.
On April 17th, 1881 Dallas was walking his nighttime beat around El Paso accompanied by his old friend Sam Cummings. Former Deputy Marshal Bill Johnson opened fire, trying to kill Stoudenmire for gunning down his former boss George Campbell. Dallas and Sam returned fire, ripping Campbell apart with 8 bullets, killing him.
Next, gunfire erupted from inside Frank Manning’s Saloon as an unknown number of Canutillo Gang members shot at Stoudenmire and Cummings. Our heroes returned fire and the reckless Dallas charged the saloon with the result that all the gang members scattered and escaped in the night-dark streets.
Marshal Stoudenmire had caught a bullet in the heel during the action. Sam Cummings rounded up a 35-man “Law and Order League” to help him patrol El Paso for days afterward in case the Canutillo Gang struck again. Dallas went to the Texas Ranger camp at Ysleta to recover from his wound, which was preventing him from walking.
Ranger Captain Baylor, Sgt James B Gillett and 7 more Texas Rangers arrived in Hellpaso to maintain order if war broke out between the Law and Order League and the Canutillo Gang. Over the next several days the League held nightly meetings and left nooses around establishments frequented by Canutillo members as obvious threats to lynch them. The gang tried to shoot Deputy Marshal Jones to death one night but hit only his bedding.
On April 24th Dallas Stoudenmire returned to duty. The Law and Order League disbanded but 5 Texas Rangers were left in El Paso to help Marshal Stoudenmire maintain order.
On May 28th, 1881 the first train to enter El Paso arrived from the west as the Southern Pacific Railroad completed construction and hit town. Over 1,500 Chinese railroad laborers and some family members settled in El Paso. Like any group, there were criminals among these new arrivals and a Tong War broke out.
After a few nights of gunfire in the Chinese quarter of town Marshal Stoudenmire asserted his authority and the shooting stopped. The Tong War continued, however, with the Tongs using more traditional methods like poisons, garrotes and gases through keyholes to do their killing. This disappointed Hellpaso merchants, since the Chinese had become their biggest purchasers of ammunition up til then.
June 1st of 1881 saw the arrival in El Paso of Dr George Felix Manning, another of the Manning Brothers. This physician became a pillar of the community except for his support of his criminal siblings. G.F.’s prestige strengthened the ever-growing political influence of the Canutillo Gang. Dallas Stoudenmire and his deputies, meanwhile, had been dealing with a marauding band of Native Americans over the past few days.
On June 11th the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad made its first stop in El Paso. As usual, the arrival of railroad traffic brought with it more citizens, more money and more businesses but also a larger contingent of the criminal element.
By October of 1881 Marshal Stoudenmire was being praised by the El Paso Times newspaper for how drastically he had reduced crime in the city.
Dallas showed up at the El Paso railroad yards on November 5th to arrest a man wanted for assault. By sheer chance, a man wanted for murder was hiding out in a boxcar and assumed that the famous lawman was there for him. He opened fire on our hero, who drew his six-guns and fired back. After a running gunfight through the railyards the killer got away and later bragged about his narrow escape.
On November 7th the Las Vegas Optic newspaper in Las Vegas, NM, praised Stoudenmire for the way his ongoing cleanup of Hellpaso was becoming renowned far and wide.
At some point in December of 1881 Dallas investigated a theft at Ben Schuster’s store. He determined that it was an inside job by two of Ben’s employees, Eulalio Provencio and Jose Alarcon. After being arrested the pair confessed separately to this and other thefts.
On December 10th Texas Ranger Sgt James B Gillett left the Rangers to become another of Dallas Stoudenmire’s Deputy Marshals, sporting their distinctive leaf-shaped badge in their hat-bands. December 13th saw Stoudenmire work with Mexican law enforcement to arrest and extradite murderer Chris Moesner from El Paso (Mexico) to Lake Valley, NM. Dallas got a $500 reward and was back in Hellpaso by the wee hours of December 16th.
Arriving around 3:00AM at the boarding house where he lived, our hero almost fell to an assassination attempt by hired killer Joe King, who tried shooting Dallas from ambush. Stoudenmire returned fire, ultimately driving off the would-be murderer. King fled to Harshaw, AZ, where he boasted about how he had dueled with the legendary lawman.
On December 24th, Deputy Marshal H.M. Mathis resigned when the city council refused to authorize raises for law enforcement. Some sources claim that Mathis was an alias for the enigmatic gunslinger Mysterious Dave Mather.
Stoudenmire’s investigative skills were called upon by authorities in Rincon, NM to solve a three-month long series of railroad boxcar thefts which had resulted in the loss of roughly $40,000.00 in cargo. And that’s in 1881 terms. Dallas arrived in Rincon on December 28th and by Midnight he had arrested two perps. The next day he hauled in the fences involved – Mr & Mrs Procter, Dr Paxton and Charles Raitt.
January 16th of 1882 saw Dallas team up with Deputy U.S. Marshal Big Tony Neis in Lamy, NM to fight and take down assorted members of the old Hoodoo Brown Gang from Las Vegas, NM.
In early February a Kansas sheriff came through El Paso on the trail of a rapist who had fled to Chihuahua in Mexico. Sam Cummings, his sense of outrage inflamed, insisted that his friend Dallas deputize him and let him accompany the Kansas man on the hunt into Mexico. The next day both Dallas Stoudenmire and James B Gillett came down with some form of influenza and were confined to bed.
A few days later Dallas recovered but was judged too weak to carry out his duties and was sent to Columbus, TX for a recovery vacation. While there he wooed and married Isabella Sherrington on February 20th. In the meantime Sam Cummings and the Kansas man had returned from Chihuahua empty-handed. Since Gillett was still bedridden Cummings decided to keep his new deputy status and for a time was the only law enforcement figure in El Paso.
On February 14th 1882 James Manning of the Canutillo Gang shot Sam Cummings to death under suspicious circumstances at James’ Coliseum Variety Theater. The Manning influence smoothed over any legal troubles for the killer. Cummings was buried on February 18th while El Paso braced for whatever would be let loose when Dallas Stoudenmire learned that a Manning had slain his old friend and brother in law.
Marshal Stoudenmire and his wife Isabella arrived in El Paso on February 25th. The recovered Deputy Marshal Gillett broke the news to Dallas about the death of Sam Cummings. Marshal Stoudenmire recklessly rode into the bosques near the Canutillo Ranch where he blew away a few gang members (accounts vary as to how many), making sure to leave none of his foes alive to testify that he had committed the killings.
NOTE: Some sources claim that brother John Manning was among the gang members shot to death by Dallas during this revenge spree. It is true that John Manning mysteriously disappeared from any mention of the Manning Brothers’ activities ever again.
Hostilities in El Paso were still boiling, however, and the enraged Stoudenmire took to frequently issuing threats against the Mannings and their fellow gang members. He also tried to provoke them into attacking him by practicing his gunplay on targets at the site of his killing of Johnny Hale and George Campbell.
For their part, the Mannings and their fellow gang members made a point of never being caught alone in El Paso, figuring that none of them were a match for Dallas in any one on one fight. Maybe not even in a three on one fight. They also shrewdly consolidated their political power by schmoozing and buying more and more office-holders.
Like the fictional Solozzo the Turk being protected by always having Captain McCluskey at his side, the Manning Brothers took to always hanging out with several of their bought and paid for Texas Rangers when they had to go out in public.
The less sophisticated Stoudenmire merely stewed in anger and took to drinking even more heavily. Many onlookers noticed how lost Dallas seemed without his longtime comrade Sam Cummings. Sam had often served as a gentling influence on the gunman but with Cummings gone and with the way he was becoming isolated politically our hero’s behavior became more and more erratic.
On March 25th, 1882 the El Paso Lone Star newspaper ran an editorial denouncing the ongoing feud between Marshal Stoudenmire and the Manning faction. The editorial said El Paso was sitting on a volcano and called for reason to prevail.
That volcano nearly erupted on March 29th, 1882. Frank Scott and Ed Scotten, two of Captain Baylor’s Texas Rangers who were in the pocket of the Manning Brothers, were in El Paso enjoying the usual free booze, gambling markers and women that the Mannings used to pay them off. Scott had been bad-mouthing Marshal Stoudenmire around town and word of that got back to Dallas at his office.
The infuriated Stoudenmire had Deputy Marshal Gillett come with him as he went to confront Scott at James Manning’s Coliseum Variety Theater, where Sam Cummings had been gunned down. Bursting in on Scott, Scotten and a few other Texas Rangers boozing it up, Dallas manhandled Frank Scott against the wall and was in the middle of chewing him out when both he and his deputy noticed what peril they were in.
At least three holes were in the walls of the room, with the mouths of shotgun barrels just barely peeping out of them. James Manning and some of his boys could spray Stoudenmire and Gillett with buckshot at any moment. They were just waiting for their friend Frank Scott to get out of the line of fire as soon as Dallas let him go.
Under the circumstances, the Marshal refrained from letting go of Frank Scott, using him as a human shield as he and Deputy Marshal Gillett carefully backed out the door. Only then did he release his two-fisted grip on Scott. In the resulting flurry of indignant letters between Captain Baylor and El Paso officials over the incident the Manning Brothers were happy to paint Dallas as if he had ingested too much alcohol or opium.
Under public pressure, Dallas Stoudenmire, James Manning, Frank Manning and Dr George Felix Manning signed an actual peace treaty on April 16th witnessed by 4 citizens of El Paso. Neither side bothered to abide by the treaty and tensions continued.
Stoudenmire’s boozing continued as well. On Sunday May 7th, 1882 Parson Tays at El Paso’s Church of Saint Clements used part of his sermon to call out the Town Marshal’s abuse of substances and disgraceful public conduct under the influence of those substances.
Word of that sermon reached Dallas that afternoon, setting up his latest bout of Bad Craziness that night. Very late, after hours of pounding drink after drink at the Acme Saloon on San Antonio Street, our hero resentfully made his way to the Church of Saint Clements.
To make clear his ire toward Parson Tays, Stoudenmire drew both his guns and emptied both barrels against the church bell. By the time he was finished, the bell was clanging loudly. The “respectable” citizens of El Paso were all asleep at that hour and assumed from the gunfire and the clanging bell that a fire had broken out, since those noises were usually employed to summon the Fire Brigade.
Nobody was pleased to have been roused out of bed in a panic and Dallas proved once again that he was his own worst enemy. Fewer and fewer citizens could defend his behavior.
On May 27th, 1882, the El Paso City Council confronted Marshal Stoudenmire in a meeting at Tiboli Hall. One member even had a shotgun within reach in case Dallas grew violent. The council spelled out how the Marshal had become too drunk or far-gone on opium on most days to perform his duties and he was suspected of pocketing fees from fines to feed his appetites instead of passing on those fees to the council.
Worst of all, they pointed out that Dallas was in danger of losing his legacy because the criminal element of El Paso had begun paying attention to the Marshal’s level of sobriety from day to day to estimate how much they could get away with. The obviously drunk Stoudenmire challenged the council members to try to take his badge or to arrest him, then staggered off when there were no takers.
May 29th saw a sober and contrite Dallas turn in a letter of resignation. The city council graciously praised Stoudenmire’s prior service to the community and unanimously appointed Deputy James B Gillett as the new Town Marshal. Dallas remained in El Paso, living off the money from his share of the Globe Restaurant, which had been willed to him by his late friend Sam Cummings. Stoudenmire’s sister Virginia was still running the place.
On July 13th, 1882 Stoudenmire received another source of income as U.S. Marshal Hal Gosling named him a Deputy United States Marshal for the Western District of Texas, with headquarters in El Paso.
Still drinking and carousing, Dallas and former deputy William Page were arrested by shotgun-wielding Town Marshal Gillett at the Acme Saloon on July 29th as the pair were about to draw their guns on each other. The next day each man was fined $25 and released.
In August and early September of 1882 Deputy U.S. Marshal Stoudenmire helped New Mexico Sheriff Pat Garrett clamp down on train robberies and crimes committed on board the trains of the Santa Fe Railroad. The pair apprehended train robbers as well.
On September 17th, 1882 Dallas arrived in El Paso by train with a warrant that needed served. He got off the train drunk and proceeded to wander the city hitting a few more saloons before ending the night at Abbie Bell’s bordello. Stoudenmire waited for his favorite prostitute “Carrie” to arrive as morning approached and then whiled away hours with her.
Dallas spent most of September 18th – beginning at Noon when he at last dragged himself away from Carrie’s charms – wandering from saloon to saloon as assorted Manning Brother partisans kept trying to talk him into signing another peace treaty with his enemies. Sources vary regarding whether all this was just smoke and mirrors to lure the Marshal into the kind of situation that resulted in his death later in the day.
Shortly after 5:30PM the drunk and/or stoned Stoudenmire had been maneuvered to Frank Manning’s Saloon where he and Doctor George Felix Manning tensely passed the time waiting for the other Manning Brothers to arrive. Eventually harsh words were exchanged and the pair started exchanging close-range gunfire and grappling with each other.
The fight spilled out onto the street, where Doc Manning, wounded by Dallas’ gunfire, managed to shoot Stoudenmire a few times until his brother James Manning arrived on the scene and put a bullet in the back of Dallas’ head, killing him. Dr Manning sat astride Stoudenmire’s corpse battering his face with his own gun until he was dragged off the body.
In the aftermath of the gunfight, none of the Mannings paid any legal price for what had happened. The fix was in, as usual. However, Doc Manning’s right arm was paralyzed for the rest of his life from one of Dallas’ bullets. As for the late Dallas Stoudenmire, his funeral was held by Freemasons Lodge #130 in El Paso, since the lawman had received his third degree there on January 7th, 1882.
Per his widow Isabella’s wishes his body was sent to Alleyton, TX in Colorado County. After lying in state, he was buried by Masonic Caledonia Lodge #68 of Columbus, TX. His grave is in a cemetery in Alleyton, but the large headstone disappeared long ago and his exact resting place in the cemetery is no longer known.
And so ended the checkered and violent saga of Dallas Stoudenmire, dead at age 36.
FOR SIX MORE NEGLECTED WESTERN FIGURES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2012/06/18/six-neglected-wild-west-figures/
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