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John Wesley Hardin

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John Wesley Hardin

John Wesley Hardin aka "Seven up"; "Little Arkansas"; "Wesley Clements" "James W. Swain" was a post Civil War outlaw and killer. Some sources claim he committed over forty murders although contemporay newspaper accounts of his 1877 arrest credit him with only twenty-seven. {Whicita City Eagle August 30, 1877}

BackgroundEdit

Born May 26, 1853 in Bonham Texas the son of the Rev Joseph "Gip" Hardin and Mary Elizabeth Dixson the second of ten children. His brother Joseph "Gip" Hardin Jr was three years older.

The Hardins were Southerners and politcially promient. His great-grandfather was North Carolina provincial Congressman Colonel Joseph Hardin the father of Congressman Martin D. Hardin of Ky and grandfather of Congressman John J. Hardin; relataives included Congressman Benjamin Hardin and Colonel John Hardin of Virgina 1861 Introduction to violenceEdit

In 1861 according to his own account Hardin's first exposure to violence came when a man named Turner Evans was stabbed by a John Rauff. Evans died of his injuries and Evans spent a few years in jail. Hardin later wrote '..Readers you see what drink and passion will do. If you wish to be successful in life, be temperate and control your passions; if you don't ruin and death is the result." In view of how Hardin's life would end, this was an unintentional irony on his part. In 1862 at the age of nine Hardin tried to run off and join the Rebel army.{Hardin Autobiography .pp.10-11} 1867-1869Edit

In 1867 a schoolmate named Charles Sloter claimed Hardin wrote a bit of doggeral about a local girl on a schoolboard. Hardin denied doing so and Sloter tried to stab Hardin with a knife. Hardin in his turn stabbed Sloter with his own knife and was almost expelled from school.Hardin Autobiography .p.11

This may not have been Hardin's first incident of Violence:

"No.302 Kaufman county, August 1867.- John Love, L.T.Nash, Joe Hardin, and J. Hardin {white} murdered Tom {colored}. These men constitu'ted themselves into a court 'and hanged a negro boy." Index to miscellaneous documents of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Fortieth Congress 1867-68 .p.18 {Texas} 1868

In 1868 at Moscow Texas Hardin enguaged in a wrestling match with a ex slave named Mage who had belonged to Judge Holshoven-a brother of Hardin's aunt. Hardin beat Mage and scratched his face. Hardin later claimed that he meet Mage near a creekbed and after the man shook a stick at him and cursed him, Hardin shot and mortally wounded Mage with a pistol.

While this killing can be confirmed {See James Smallwood "The Feud that Wasn't" .pp.105-106} Hardin claimed that when three yankee soldiers tried to arrest him, he ambushed them at crossing at Hickory Creek, Logallis Prairie-now Nogalus Texas {About 25 miles north of Sumpter, Texas} with a shotgun and pistol and killed all three. Locals hid the victiums in the creekbed about 100 yards from the ambush. {Hardin Autobiography .pp.11-14

Although offical records of the Fifth_Military_District {which comprised Texas and Louisiana} do not confirm Hardin's account of these latter deaths, there is some circumstantial evidence that indicates Hardin did commit murders here because about eighty years later human bones were found in the creekbed; however the identity of the victiums are unknown. { http://www.texasescapes.com/EastTexasTowns/Nogalus-Prairie-Texas.htm}

In 1869 Hardin fled to Pisguah, Navarro County Texas and teamed up with an outlaw named Frank Polk. Polk had killed a man named Tom Brady and Union soldiers sent out from Corsicana Texas {Flickr} to arrest both Polk and Hardin. Hardin escaped but Polk was captured; he was later killed September 23, 1878 after killing Wortham Texas City marshal Charles Powers {ODMP memorial}.

In Pisguah Hardin taught school for three months but deceided to learn the cattle trade and playing poker. Once to win a bet of a bottle of whiskey-which he collected years later-he shot a mans eye out with a pistol.Hardin Autobiography .p.16 Hardin also claimed that he and his cousin "Simp" Dixon were in a gunfight with Yankee Soldiers in Richland Bottom in which they each killed a soldier. Hardin Autobiography.p.17 {note reports of Simp Dixon with the "Bob Lee gang" can be found here at {Reference only}

Again Offical records do not confirm Hardin's account but on May 7, 1869 at Livingston Texas Sgt J.F. Leonard age 29 of Company B 6th US cavalry had a gunshot wound of thoracic parities

An 1895 account claims that before he killed Benjamin Bradley in 1870, Hardin killed a negro in Leon County Texas. {Dallas Morning News August 31, 1895}

1870-1871Edit

On January 5, 1870-not December 1869-in Towash, Hill County Texas Hardin was playing cards with Benjamin-not Jim-Bradley and a Judge Moore who held Hardin's stakes in the game. The outcome was that Hardin shot and killed Bradley and Moore "vanished". {An 1877 account claims Hardin admitted killing two men in Hill County; Hardin was indiated in October 1873 for Bradley's killing but never tried. {Daily Democrat Statesman August 30, 1877; see also Newspaper accounts from the "Dallas Morning News" of March 6, 1892 and "Dallas Morning News August 31, 1895"; an additional refence to Bradley Killing can be found in the following : Parson, Chuck "Tell Wes to be a Good man-examing an early Hardin killing" NOLA {National Outlaw and Lawmen Association} Quarterly 6 April 1981 .pp.3-8}

Hardin claimed after killing Bradley that when a posse of 15 men came after him that he captured two of them and took a shotgun; two six shooters; a rifle and two derringers from his captives and ordered the two men to join the other members of the posse at Jim Pages and that they should wait for him to come along-"...I reckon they are waiting for me yet.."{Hardin Biography .p.22}

On January 20, 1870 in Horn Hill, Limestone County Texas Hardin claimed to have killed a circus roustabout and about a week later killed a man in Kosse Texas.{Hardin Autobiography .pp.23-24} In regard to the alleged circus killing -On February 12, 1870 a variety newspaper reported that:

"The Orton Brothers Circus had a "cleaning" match on Jan 21st at Union Hill, Texas. Some roughs tried to pass into the show without paying, but the canvas boys went for the crowd and "cleaned" them. After the concert at eight three roughs returned and commenced firing on the canvasmen. None of the circus boys were hurt, but one of the roughs was reported to have died the following day."

In regard to the Kosse killing-Hardin claimed that it happened when a young man burst into a room where Hardin was with a Saloon girl and demanded money from Hardin. Hardin dropped money on the floor and shot the man through the head.

On January 9, 1871 in Harrison County Texas Hardin was arrested by Constable E.T. Stakes and 12 citizens on four murder charges and one horse theft charge. He was imprisioned in Marshall Texas where he secretly purchased a pistol and a overcoat. Hardin was being taken back to Waco Texas on a charge of having killed Waco City Marshal Laban John Hoffman January 6, 1871 {a charge he denied committing} in the company of Captain Stakes and Texas State Policeman Jim Smalley. On Janaury 20, 1871 when Stakes was foraging, Hardin killed Smalley and escaped [1]. {Up to November 13, 1872, the Grand Jury of Freestone County, Texas had not filed an indictment against Hardin for the killing of Smalley {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877}. He later claimed to have been arrested by three men named Smith; Jones and Davis-but escaped again after killing them in Bell County Texas. { Hardin Autobiography .pp.28-32}{This last triple killing is not confirmed}

In February 1871 when Hardin deceided to enter the cattle trade (and reportably cattle rustling as well { {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877} he became a trail boss. When a freeman named Bob King ignored Hardin's order not to cut out a beef cow, Hardin hit him over the head with a pistol. Hardin then got into a argument with three mexicans over a Three-card_Monte game in which he hit one over the head with a pistol; shot one man in the arm and shot the third through the lung.

On the cattle trail Hardin claimed to be in two gunfights with Indians-when a Indian tried to shot an arrow at him on the South Canadian River Hardin shot him and then had the body buried to avoid retrobution from the man's tribe; in the second incident at Bluff Creek Kansas, when Indians would collect a "tax" on the cattle, he hit an Indian over the head who Hardin claimed had stolen a silver bridle from him and then forced a war party to flee after Hardin shot an second Indian who killed a beef cow {.Hardin Autobiography .pp.28-37}

In June 1871 Hardin claimed in a gunfight that he killled a Mexican trail boss named Hosea and four other vaqueros when the Mexicans tried to mix their herd with Hardins. Hardin Autobiography .pp.38-42 .Hardins cousin James "Jim" Clements mortally wounded a sixth vaquero. In fact according to a contemporaty newspaper account, only three Mexicans were killed in Park City, Shedgwick County Kansas. {Saline County Journal June 8, 1871}

On arrival in Abeline Kansas Hardin claimed to be friends with City Mashal James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickcock-even after Hardin outdrew the celebrated gunfighter. However Hardin had to leave Abeline twice after shooting incidents- the first time was a gunfight in a Abeline resturtrant when Hardin and a companion named Pain were involved in a gunfight with a anti Texan; the result was that Pain was shot in his one arm while Hardin shot the anti-Texan in the mouth with the bullet exiting under his left ear {Hardin Autobiography .p.46}(Although there are no contemporary newspaper accounts of this shooting, there is partical confimation in a 1924 account of Texas cattleman, George N. Steen, who reported that in Abeline "...While we were there one night, a man was drinking at a bar in a saloon, and somebody fired in from outside, the bullet striking him in the mouth and instantly killing him...;

On July 4, 1871, a Texas trail Boss named William Cohron was killed on the Cottonwood trail 40 miles south of Abeline by a Mexican who south fled but was killed in a Sumpter City, Sumpter County Kansas resturant by Hardin on July 20, 1871.

For Hardin's version see {Hardin Autobiography .pp.46-47 Note-Hardin claimed the trail boss was named "Billy Coran" killed June 26, 1871; the mexican was called "Bideno" and that Hardin was appointed a Deputy Sherriff and riding with "Coran's" brother for 36 hours that he shot the Mexican in a Bluff City, Harper County Kansas resturant after giving him a chance to surrender. This is one of the few killings by Hardin that can be confirmed although contemporary records difer from Hardin's version of events. {Abilene Daily Chronicle August 17, 1871} ; this gunfight is also mentioned in the Steen account although his chronology is somewhat confused-he mentions the killing of a Abeline "policeman" by a stray bullet while "Wild Bill" {Hickcock} was marshal as happening before the saloon shooting and the killing of the mexican Bandit by Hardin {The Trial Drivers of Texas .p.140}; in fact the accidental death of Special Deputy Marshal Mike Williams by Hickcock occured October 5, 1871 }.

The second Incident involving Hardin was while he was staying in the Abeline American House Hotel when on August 6, 1871 he shot through the wall and killed a guest named Charles Couger who was reading a newspaper in bed. Hardin later claimed he was shooting at a man in his room who was either trying to rob him or stab him with a knife and that this occured July 7, 1871 {Hardin biography .p.53}; however contemporary newspaper accounts do not confirm Hardin's claim of self defense. {See Attachments "The Kansas Commonwealth Daily " August 8, 1871 and the "Abilene Chronicle"Augsut 10, 1871.} A Coroner's Jury found that Hardin-under an alias of "Wesley Clements"- was guilty of killing Couger. {See Abilene Daily Chronicle August 17, 1871.} A newspaper account claims that Couger was "Arkansas" {Hardin alias} sixth victium. {Sabine County Journal August 10, 1871} A garbled version of this killing apparently gave rise to the story that Hardin once shot a man for snoring too loud.

Hardin later claimed that 35 miles from Abeline at a Cowboy camp that he ambushed lawman Tom Carson and two Depuites-but he did not kill them; he only humilited them by forcing them to remove all their clothing and walk back to Abeline. {Hardin biography .pp.59-60} However this is not confirmed ({Lawman Thomas Carson career}

On October 6, 1871 Texas State Policemen Green Paramore and John Lackey tried to arrest Hardin on Gonzales Texas; Hardin killed Paramore and wounded Lackey. Hardin later claimed to have killed four men after this shooting; when a Africain Amerian posse from Austin came after him for Paramore's killing, he forced them to flee after ambushing three of them. About 45 miles outside Corpus Christi, Texas he was being followed by two Mexicans, and that he shot one off his horse while the other "quit the fight." {Hardin Autobiography.pp. 61-64} {This last four killings are not confirmed} 1872Edit

Between June and July 1872, at Wilis, Montgomery County Texas, Hardin claimed that some men tried to arrest him for carrying a pistol "...but they got the contents instead." {Hardin Autobiography .p.65

On July 26, 1872 Hemphill Texas, Hardin wounded a Texas State Policeman named John Henry Hopkins "Sonny" Speights -whom Hardin called "Spites"- in the shoulder. {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877} with a derringer pistol. {Hardin biography .pp.65-67}

In August 1872 Trinity, Trinity County Texas Hardin was wounded by a shotgun blast in a gambling dispute by Phil Sublett, after he had lost money to Hardin in a poker game. Hardin Autobiography .pp.65-70

In September 1872 in Trinity Texas Hardin would claim that he either killed one of two Texas State Policemen that came after him or drove them away. Hardin Autobiography .p.72 Hardin only killed two Texas State Policemen {Smalley and Paramore} but was indiated for an August 1872 murder in Trinity County. {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877}{Gunfight report{?}

On September 4, 1872 Hardin-after allegedly killing four black men {Spartacus.schoolnet}- surrendered to Sheriff Richard Reaganof Cherokee County Texas but while giving up his pistol was accidently shot in the right knee by a nervous deputy{Hardin Autobiography .p.73}; he escaped in October 1872.{ Handbook of Texas article}

On November 19, 1872, Hardin, despite a guard of six men, mysteriously escaped from the sheriff of Gonzales County, Texas. A reward of $100.00 was offered for his re-capture. {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877} 1873-1874 Sutton-Taylor FeudEdit

During this period occured the Sutton-Taylor feud {See excerpt on Sutton taylor Feud {reference only}Hardin was related and allied to the Taylor family.


On May 15, 1873, Jim Cox and Jake Christman were killed by the Taylor faction at Tomlinson Creek. {The Texas Vendietta or the Sutton-Taylor Feud .pp.29-30} Hardin admitted that there were reports that he had led the fights in which these men were killed, but would neither confirm nor deny his involvement: "...but as I have never pleaded to that case, I will at this time have little to say."Hardin Autobiography .p.81

In Cuero, Dewitt County Texas in May 1873, Hardin killed J.B. Morgan {The Texas Vendetta or the Sutton-Taylor Feud .p.30who reportably served under Dewitt County Sheriff, Jack Helm a former captain in the Texas State Police who is alleged to be alligned with the Suttons. {Later Hardin in prison would plea bargain to Morgan killing in 1892 and serve an additional two years}.

On May 17, 1873 in Albuquerque, Wilson County Texas, Hardin and Jim Taylor killed Sherriff Jack Helm . Hardin was apparently indiated for this murder in July 1873. {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877}

On June 17, 1873 Hardin broke his brother-in-law Joshua "Brown" Bowen out of the Gonzales County Jail. Bowen was charged with the killing of Thomas Holderman December 17, 1872-a killing for which Hardin was implicated as well. {Brenham Weekly Banner June 13, 1879}

The feud culminated with Jim and Bill Taylor gunning down William "Billy" Sutton and his friend Gabriel Slaugther as they waited on a steamboat platform, in Indianola, Calhoun County Texas on March 11, 1874. Ironically Sutton was planning to leave the area for good. Hardin admitted in his biography that he and his brother Joseph had been involved along with both Taylors in Sutton's killing. In revenge the Suttons lynched three members of the Taylor fraction on June 22, 1874 in Dewitt County Texas-John Alfred "Kute" Tuggle; Rufus P. "Scrap" Taylor and James White {Hardin biography .p.107} -although not on June 30.

On May 1, 1874, while he was in Gainsville, Alachua County Florida Hardin (under the alias of James W Swain} caclaimed that he had knocked a black man down and shot another during a disturbance outside the Alachua County jail. A black prisoner named "Eli" - who was held on a charge of attempted assault of a white woman - was killed when the jail was burned down by a mob. Hardin claimed to have been part of the mob as well as the county coroner, who afterward rendered a verdict that "Eli" had died after setting fire to the jail himself! {Hardin Autobiography .p.110}{Although there are no contemporary accounts to confirm Hardin, the first Alachua County Jail was apparenly suffered a "demise" in the late 1870's. Alachua COunty jail History .p.22}

The Alias of Swain was picked after town Marshal Henry Swain of Brenham Texas-who married a cousin of Hardin named Molly Parks {Hardin Autobiography .p.109}

On May 26, 1874 in Commanche Texas, Hardin shot and killed Brown County Deputy Sherriff Charles Webb a former Texas Ranger. Two of Hardin's accomplices in the shooting were a cousin, Bud Dixson, and Jim Taylor. Hardin escaped but his parents were placed in protective custody while Joseph Hardin J and "Bud" and Tom Dixson were arrested on outstanding warrents; in July 1874 a mob lynched Joseph Hardin Jr and the Dixson brothers. State seals were found to have been in Joseph hardin Jr possesion-apparenly he had forged Bills of Lading so as to help his brother sell stolen Texas cattle in Kansas. {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877}

After his brother's lynching Hardin claimed to have drove off a squad of men that came after him when he killed one of them. {Hardin autobiography .p.105}

On July 1, 1874 Hardin claimed that after being trailed by 17 Texas Rangers that he drove them off after killing one of them. .Hardin Autobiography.p.107 However this never happened-Hardin killed no Texas Rangers

Shortly afterward, Hardin and a new companion, Mac Young, were suspected of horse thievery, and were pursued by a posse near Bellville, in Austin County, Texas. Hardin pulled his pistols on Austin County Sheriff, Gustave Langhammer, but did not shoot him, while separately Young was arrested and fined $100 for carrying a pistol. Hardin Autobiography.pp.107- 1875-1877Edit

On January 20, 1875 a reward of $4,000 was authorized by the Texas legislature for Hardin's arrest.

Between April and November 1876 Hardin claimed in Jacksonville Florida he was tipped off by local law officers that the Pinkertons Detective Agency was after him and that on the Florida-Georgia Border he was involved in a gunfight with the Pinkerton "Gang" in which two of them were killed. Hardin Autobiography.p.111 This did not occur-the Pinkertons were never after John Wesley Hardin. {Pinkerton Agency Archives}. However reportably just before his capture Hardin was apparently involved in a gunfight with two men-they were two ex-slaves of his father named "Jake" Menzel and Robert Borup who had tried to capture Hardin in Gainsville, Florida. Hardin killed one and blinded the other. New York Tribune October 14, 1900

In November 1876 on election night in Mobile Alabama Hardin claimed that he and an ex Jacksonville Policeman named Gus Kennedy were involved in a Saloon gunfight with Mobile Police in which one person was killed and two wounded and that although they were both arrested-they were soon freed. Hardin Autobiography .p.112 This did not occur exactly the way Hardin wrote about it-in fact -Hardin {under his alias of Swain} and Kennedy were arrested and driven out of town for gambling with a deck of marked cards! (See article "A brace of Swindlers" Mobile Daily Register November 12, 1876 p.1 col 2}

On August 24, 1877 in Pensacola Florida Hardin aka "James W. Swain" was captured on a train by Texas Rangers. A companion of Hardin named Mann who fired on the rangers was killed.


The only crime Hardin was tried for was Deputy Sherriff Webb for which he was sentenced to the Hunstville State Prison for 25 years. A december 1877 account reports that besides Inditments for murder in Trinity, Comanche and Wilson Counties, Hardin was also indiated for assaualt with intent to murder in Navarona and Smith Counties Texas. {Daily Democratic Statesman August 30, 1877}. During his inprisonment Hardin claimed that a cellmate was western outlaw Johnny Ringo {Hardin .p.124} however this never happend Ringo had been acquiited in May 1877! texas on Handbook article 1894-1895Edit

Hardin was released February 17, 1894 and pardoned March 16, 1894. On July 21, 1894 Hardin passed the Texas bar exam to become a lawyer. Allegedelly Hardin committed his last murder after his release when to win a $5.00 bet he knocked a mexican off a box with a pistol shot -even though allegedly the man died from the fall and not the pistol shot!. {New York Tribune October 14, 1900}

By this time he was a widower his wife Jane Bowen having died November 6, 1892 and he remarried again on January 9, 1895 to Carolyn "Callie" Lewis age 15; however they soon seperated.

In July 1895 Hardin was fined $25.00 for gaming after using a pistol to get back $100.00 he had lost at El Paso Texas "Gem Saloon" some weeks before; .{The Daily Herald July 9, 1895 .p.4}; his pistol was confiscated Footnote # 58

In August 1895 El Paso Policeman John M. Selman Jr arrested Hardin's girlfriend M'Rose for branishing a gun in public. Hardin argued with both Selman and his father El Paso Constable John Selman Sr. After an arguement with the senior Selman August 19, 1895 Hardin went to shoot dice at the Acme Saloon. Selman Sr came up behind Hardin and shot him in the back of the head and through the chest. Hardin's last words were "Four Sixes to beat"; an urban legend is that supposedly there was a question as to weather Hardin was shot shot first in either the head or the chest-"If he was shot in the chest it was good markmanship; if he was shot in the back of the head it was good judgement."

Hardin is buried in El Paso Concorida Cemetery- as is John Selman Sr who was killed in a gunfight with US Deputy marshall George Scarborough April 6, 1896.

Among his papers Hardin's son found and published his father's autobiography "The Life of John Wesley Hardin}

A possible relation was a Will Hardin] who killed a negro cowboy in a gunfight in Indian Terrority. (Unkown if he was related to John Wesley Hardin)


One member of Hardin relations was killed in the line of duty as a law officer:

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