Tag Archives: John Wesley Hardin

Troublemaker ~ John Wesley Hardin ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ Week #33

John Wesley HardinOver 6 years ago I wrote a very short blog about one of my ancestors who was the troublemaker in his family. By association, that would also make him part of my family also. He is my 2nd cousin 3 times removed and his name is John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895), the infamous outlaw. Hardin was one of the West’s most vicious and notorious gunfighters and outlaw.

He was born near Bonham, Texas, on May 26, 1853, the second son of James Gibson “Gip” Hardin (1823-1876) and Mary Elizabeth Dixon (1826-1885). His father was a Methodist Preacher, and John was named after the founder of the Methodist Denomination, John Wesley. It is really difficult to write an accurate account of his life because every biography I have read about him gives differing “facts” about what he did. I will try to give only the information I have verified. In his autobiography, John states that he was 15 years old the first time he killed a man. Over the course of his life, he killed approximately 42 men, one just for snoring!

John’s father traveled over most of central Texas on his preaching schoolcircuit until 1869, eventually settling in Sumpter, Texas, in Trinity County, where he taught school, and established an institution that John Wesley and his brother, Joe, would later attend. At that school, a boy named Charles Sloter accused Hardin of scrawling some graffiti on the schoolhouse wall that was insulting to a girl in his class. Hardin denied it and accused the other boy of being the author. Sloter attacked Hardin with a knife, but before he could strike Hardin, Hardin drew his own pocket knife and stabbed Charles twice in the chest and throat, almost killing him. Hardin was nearly expelled over the incident, even though it was his father’s institution.

john-wesley-hardin-historicalAt the age of 15, John challenged an ex-slave named Mage to a wrestling match. He won, but during the match, he badly scratched Mage’s face. The following day a vengeful Mage hid by a path and attacked Hardin with a large stick as he rode past. Hardin drew his revolver and told Mage to back off, but Mage grabbed the reins of Hardin’s horse and threatened to kill him. Hardin fired his revolver into Mage five times before he finally dropped the reins. Hardin then rode to get help for the wounded ex-slave, who ended up dying from these wounds three days later. Heeding the advice of his father he then went into hiding.

At age 17, while working as trail boss for a Texas cattle ranch, Hardin got into an argument with some Mexican cowboys when they tried to cut their herd in front of his. The argument soon got out of hand, and within minutes, he had killed six of the Mexicans. While at Abilene, Kansas, he made friends with the local sheriff, “Wild Bill” Hickok. The friendship ended when Hardin shot a hotel guest in the room next to him for snoring too loudly, thus waking him up. As Hickok came to arrest him for murder, Hardin stole a horse and escaped.

In 1871, he married his hometown sweetheart, Jane Bowen, a Jane Bowenrespectable girl whose father owned a general store in town. They had three children, John Wesley Hardin (born in 1876), Jennie Hardin (born in 1877), and Mary Elizabeth Hardin. Jane remained true to her husband despite his constant absences from home to avoid the law. After killing Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb (his 40th victim) in Comanche, Texas, Hardin and his wife left Texas. They hid in Florida under an alias of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Swain for two years before Pinkerton detectives found them. This time they fled to Alabama, where Hardin was finally caught in 1877. Tried in Austin, Texas for the death of Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

callieJane died in 1892 while Hardin was still in prison. He was pardoned by Texas Governor Jim Hogg after serving 15 years of his sentence. Hardin was released from prison on February 17, 1894, and promptly returned to Gonzales, Texas. He was a 41-year-old widower who had three children who did not even know what he looked like. Having studied law in prison, Hardin opened a law practice in El Paso, Texas. On  January 9, 1895, Hardin married 15-year-old Carolyn “Callie” Jane Lewis, although they quickly separated. Neither stated a reason for the sudden breakup of their marriage and they had no children.

When his friend, Mrs. McRose, widow of another outlaw, was arrested john-wesley-hardin HSfor illegally carrying a pistol, Hardin made threats against the arresting police officer, John Selman. Several days later, on 19 August 1895 Selman observed Hardin playing dice in the Acme Saloon with another man. Selman walked up behind Hardin and shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Hardin was 42 years old.

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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My Outlaw Cousin – John Wesley Hardin -This Apple Fell Far From The Tree!

John Wesley Hardin

John Wesley Hardin

A few months ago one of my cousins and I were having a conversation about the Hughes/Hayes family history. We were discussing how we had diverse characters that made up that history. Not only do we have Revolutionary War heroes, pioneers, and indentured servants but we have whiskey makers, bigamists, and outlaws. Last year I had discovered that the Outlaw part was more than just an inside joke about one of our cousins.

John Wesley Hardin was one of the West’s most vicious and notorious gunfighters and outlaw. He was also my 2nd cousin 3x removed. He was the son of James Gibson “Gip” Hardin who was a Methodist Preacher. He was named after the founder of the Methodist Denomination, John Wesley.

John Wesley Hardin was born May 26, 1853 in Bonham Texas. In his autobiography John states that he was 15 years old the first time he killed a man. Over the course of his life he killed approximately 42 men, one just for snoring! He was killed August 19, 1895 while in a Saloon in El Paso, TX.

Picture taken after his death.

Picture taken after his death.

If I were to write about all the things John Wesley had done it would fill a book. As a matter of fact it has filled several books. If you would like to read more about him, just Google his name and there will be plenty of information about him.

It makes one wonder how this young man of whom people have said “had no soul and showed no remorse for what he had done” could descend from men of true character and virtue. As stated above his father was a Methodist Preacher. His Grandfather, Benjamin P. Hardin, was the Justice of the Peace and 1st Sheriff of Wayne County, TN. He was also a General Assemblyman for the State of Tennessee and a founder of Wayne County, TN.

Colonel Joseph Hardin

Colonel Joseph Hardin

I think the one of the most interesting facts about him is that he was the Great Grandson of Revolutionary War hero Colonel Joseph Hardin, who was a legislator from North Carolina, the “lost” State of Franklin, and the Southwest Territory before its statehood as Tennessee. He was a signer of the Tryon Resolves, an Assemblyman for the North Carolina Colony, a pioneer, a Patriot and a Patriarch.

I guess John Wesley Hardin is living proof that sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

15 Comments

Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, John Wesley Hardin, Outlaw, Texas