The First Known Murder In Harvey County
The first known murder in what was to become Harvey County was related to the cattle trail connecting Texas with Abilene, Kansas. This shootout took place early in April of 1871. John Wesley Hardin, the well-known Old West outlaw, gunfighter, and cowboy from Texas, wrote about this shootout in his autobiography:
“Leaving Park City, we started out again for Abilene. We were now on the Newton prairie and my herd was right in front of a herd driven by Mexicans. This Mexican herd kept crowding us so closely that at last it took two or three hands to keep the Mexican cattle from getting into my herd. The boss Mexican got mad at me for holding, as he said, his cattle back. I told him to turn to the outside of the trail, as he did not have to follow me.
This made him all the madder. He fell back from the front of his herd and quit leading the cattle. The result of this was that no one being in front of them they rushed right into my herd, so I turned them off to the left. The boss Mexican rode back up to where I was and cursed me in Mexican. He said he would kill me with a sharpshooter as quick as he could get it from the wagon. In about five minutes I saw him coming back with a gun. He rode up to within about 100 yards of me, got down off his horse, took deliberate aim at me, and fired. The ball grazed my head, going through my hat and knocking it off.
He tried to shoot again, but something got wrong with his gun and he changed it to his left hand and pulled his pistol with his right. He began to advance on me, shooting at the same time. He called up his crowd of six or seven Mexicans.
In the meanwhile Jim Clements, hearing I was in a row, had come to my assistance. I was riding a fiery gray horse and the pistol I had was an old cap and ball, which I had worn out shooting on the trail. There was so much play between the cylinder and the barrel that it would not burst a cap or fire unless I held the cylinder with one hand and pulled the trigger with the other. I made several unsuccessful attempts to shoot the advancing Mexican from my horse but failed.
I then got down and tried to shoot and hold my horse, but failed in that, too. Jim Clements shouted to me to ‘turn that horse loose and hold the cylinder.’ I did so and fired at the Mexican, who was now only ten paces from me. I hit him in the thigh and stunned him a little. I tried to fire again, but snapped. The Mexican had evidently fired his last load so we both rushed together in a hand to hand fight….
Jim and I went straight to camp and loaded two of the best pistols there. While we were doing this a message came from the Mexicans that time was up and they were coming. Presently the boss, Hosea, my old foe, with 3 men, came around to the east side where we were. I had changed horses, so I rode to meet him. He fired at me when about 75 yards away, but missed me.
I concluded to charge him and turn my horse loose at him, firing as I rode. The first ball did the work. I shot him through the heart and he fell over the horn of his saddle, pistol in hand and one in the scabbard, the blood pouring from his mouth. Hosea fell to the ground.
The other Mexicans kept shooting at us, but did not charge. They wheeled and made a brave stand. We were too quick for them, however, in every way and they could not go our gait. A few more bullets quickly and rightly placed silenced the party forever.”
“One night in a wine room in Abilene George Johnson introduced me to Marshal Wild Bill Hickock and we had several glasses of wine together. He asked me all about the fight on the Newton prairie and showed me a proclamation from Texas offering a reward for my arrest.
I was charmed with his liberal views, and told him so. We parted friends.” The Life of John Wesley Hardin, by John Wesley Hardin (1896). Pages 38-44.