DUTCH HENRY: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

This year the Frontierado Holiday falls on August 5th. Here is another seasonal post and, as always, Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.

dutch henryDUTCH HENRY – Henry Borne, spelled Bourne in some sources and Born in others, was born on July 2nd, 1849 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. His parents were fresh from Germany and the old “Deutsch-Dutch” confusion on the part of non-German speakers led to Borne’s eventual nickname Dutch Henry.

The family moved to Montague, Michigan where Henry worked as a lumberjack in his teens. Around 1866 the young man enlisted in the 7th Cavalry but had left the army by 1868. Later that year Dutch Henry was arrested for stealing 20 government mules at Fort Smith, Arkansas.

After serving just 3 months of his prison term the resourceful Henry escaped and in 1869 was in Kansas, keeping “off the grid” as it were as a buffalo hunter for years. During lean times Borne would work as a freighter in Kansas and Colorado.

quanah parkerCome 1874 and Dutch Henry was living on the Texas Panhandle. He was on hand at the storied Adobe Walls store called Myers & Leonard’s when the Second Battle of Adobe Walls began on the morning of June 27th. A combined force of several hundred Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche and Kiowa warriors attacked, led by Comanche Chief Quanah Parker (at right).

For the next 4 days, Dutch Henry, THE Bat Masterson and 26 other men hunkered down in two stores & James Hanrahan’s Saloon and held off their attackers. On that 4th day, reinforcements approached Adobe Walls and the Native Americans withdrew, leaving as many as 70 of their dead behind. The men holding Adobe Walls lost 4 dead.

dutch henry full bodyThis kicked off the famous Red River War as roughly 5,000 Native American warriors from various tribes flocked to the Texas Panhandle and the western part of Indian Territory (later to become Oklahoma). The army responded with a 5-pronged campaign against the hostiles, with Dutch Henry serving as an Indian Scout for the army in the battles ahead.

The war ended on June 2nd, 1875 when Quanah Parker surrendered. Soon after the war, Henry was reassigned as a scout for George Armstrong Custer but before long he quit due to his openly spoken contempt for Custer. And this was back before Little Big Horn and the later historical condemnation of Custer. Dutch Henry was obviously a good judge of character. 

Borne joined a horse-theft ring, fighting his way to the top of it and then becoming a criminal legend in that dirty trade. Dutch Henry and his gang spent years stealing horses and government mules in Kansas, eastern Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. 

dutch henry action figureThe man became so synonymous with horse-stealing that a “Dutch Henry” came to mean a stolen horse in old west slang. Borne never shied away from violence and he acquired quite a reputation in the years ahead.

In 1877 the one and only Charles Goodnight of Goodnight-Loving Trail fame, arranged a sit-down with Dutch Henry near Goodnight’s JA Ranch and Fort Elliott on Commission Creek. Charles had several of his ranch hands with him while the criminal chief showed up with 18 members of his gang.

Goodnight and Borne hammered out a truce under which Charles and his employees would stop engaging in firefights with Dutch Henry and his men in exchange for the outlaw never again raiding below the south fork of the Red River, which was the northern boundary of Goodnight’s ranch. The two storied figures drank on it and neither one ever broke the agreement.

Our criminal continued leading his organization in spectacular horse and mule thefts and efforts to bring him in escalated. In December of 1878 Dutch Henry was grabbed for mule theft in Trinidad, Colorado by Las Animas County Sheriff R.W. Wootton.

Borne was imprisoned in Bent County but Bat Masterson showed up with a heavier warrant against Dutch Henry for grand larceny in Kansas. Henry’s former ally at Adobe Walls was firmly on the opposite side of him now and took the outlaw to Dodge City.

Astonishingly, Borne was found not guilty in January of 1879 and followed in the path of several present and former Dodge City criminals by moving to infamous Las Vegas, New Mexico. Dutch Henry and his horse-theft network attached themselves to Las Vegas’ notorious Dodge City Gang, along with the likes of Mysterious Dave Mather, Hoodoo Brown and California Jim.

When vigilantes ultimately caused the collapse of that criminal ring by late 1880, Henry went back to running his outfit independently. Unexpectedly, the law finally caught up with him in the form of the old warrant over his Fort Smith mule theft conviction of long ago.

By 1888 Borne had served his sentence and was prospecting in Summitville, Colorado and in 1892 struck gold and founded the successful Happy Thought Mine in famous Creede, Colorado. At some point during the 1890s Dutch Henry bought 160 acres of land 20 miles outside of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The land was later known as Born’s/ Borne’s Lake. Our man ran a trout hatchery there.

Ida and Henry BorneHis criminal past falling ever further behind him, Henry married Ida Dillabaugh in July of 1900 and the couple raised 4 children. Unlike many other old west legends on both sides of the law, Dutch Henry did not trade on his former notoriety in his old age. He even refused to do interviews with newspapers and never discussed going straight beyond his famous statement “I had all of the killing that I wanted.”

He did, however, graciously visit with legendary old west lawman Bill Tilghman when the man dropped by to visit with his fellow western icon.

Henry Borne died of pneumonia on January 10th, 1921 and was buried in Pagosa Springs, CO. 

1 Comment

Filed under FRONTIERADO

One response to “DUTCH HENRY: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

  1. fantastic post.Ne’er knew this, thanks for letting me know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s