John Wesley Hardin

John Wesley Hardin

John Wesley Hardin, Sr.
John Wesley Hardin.gif
This ferrotype photograph is a mirror image of John Wesley Hardin.
Born May 26, 1853 Bonham, Texas, United States[1]
Died August 19, 1895 (aged 42) El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Other names
  • "Little Arkansaw"
  • "J.H. Swain"[2]
Occupation Gambler/card sharp, School teacher, Cowboy, cattle rustler, Lawyer
Known for Very young outlaw and prolific gunfighter
  • Jane Bowen
  • Carolyn Jane "Callie" Lewis
Parents Father: James Gibson "Gip" Hardin
Mother: Mary Elizabeth Dixson
John Wesley Hardin (May 26, 1853 – August 19, 1895) was an American outlaw, gunfighter, and controversial folk icon of the Old West. Hardin found himself in trouble with the law at an early age, and spent the majority of his life being pursued by both local lawmen and federal troops of the reconstruction era. He often used the residences of family and friends to hide out from the law. Hardin is known to have had at least one encounter with the well-known lawman, "Wild Bill" Hickok. When he was finally captured and sent to prison in 1878, Hardin claimed to have already killed 42 men,[3] but newspapers of the era had attributed only 27 killings to him up to that point.[4][5] While in prison, Hardin wrote a factually slanted autobiography, and studied law. He was released in 1894. In August 1895, Hardin was shot to death by John Selman, Sr. in the Acme Saloon, in El Paso, Texas.

Early life

Hardin was born in Bonham, Texas, in 1853 to Methodist preacher and circuit rider, James "Gip" Hardin, and Mary Elizabeth Dixson.[1][6] He is named after John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination of the Christian church.[7] In his autobiography, Hardin described his mother as "blond, highly cultured... [while] charity predominated in her disposition.[8]:5 Hardin's father traveled over much of central Texas on his preaching circuit until, in 1859, he and his family settled in Sumpter, Trinity County, Texas. There, Joseph Hardin taught school, and established a learning institution that John Wesley and his siblings attended.
John Wesley Hardin was the second surviving son of 10 children. His brother, Joseph Gibson Hardin, was three years his senior. Hardin was a direct descendant of Revolutionary War hero, Col. Joseph Hardin, who was a legislator from North Carolina, the "lost" State of Franklin, and the Southwest Territory.[9] The Hardins were a politically prominent family; among his relatives were Congressmen Martin Davis Hardin, John J. Hardin, Henry Clay and Benjamin Hardin Helm. Another relative was Colonel John Hardin.
In 1861, according to his autobiography, Hardin' writes that his first exposure to violence came when witnessing a man named Turner Evans being stabbed by John Ruff.[10] Evans died of his injuries and Ruff 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."[8]:10-11[11]
In 1862, Hardin tried to run off and join the rebel army.[8]:10-11

Trouble at school

While attending his father's school, Hardin was taunted by another student, Charles Sloter. Sloter accused Hardin of being the author of graffiti on the schoolhouse wall that insulted a girl in his class. Hardin denied writing the poetry, claiming that Sloter was the author.[9] Sloter charged at Hardin with a knife but Hardin stabbed him with a knife of his own, almost killing him.[6][12] Hardin was nearly expelled over the incident.[9]

First killing

At the age of 15, Hardin challenged his uncle Holshousen's former slave, Mage, to a wrestling match that Hardin won.[3] According to Hardin, the following day, Mage hid by a path and attacked him as he rode past. Hardin drew his revolver and fired five shots into Mage. Hardin wrote in his autobiography that he then rode to get help for the wounded ex-slave (who died three days later) and that his father did not believe he would receive a fair hearing in the Union-occupied state where more than a third of the state police were ex-slaves. His father ordered Hardin into hiding.[3] Hardin claims that the authorities eventually discovered his location, and sent three Union soldiers to arrest him, at which time he "chose to confront his pursuers" despite having been warned of their approach by older brother, Joseph:[13][14]
...I waylaid them, as I had no mercy on men whom I knew only wanted to get my body to torture and kill. It was war to the knife for me, and I brought it on by opening the fight with a double-barreled shotgun and ended it with a cap and ball six-shooter. Thus it was by the fall of 1868 I had killed four men and was myself wounded in the arm.[8]:14

A fugitive from justice

Hardin couldn't return home. As a fugitive from justice, Hardin initially traveled with outlaw Frank Polk in the Pisgah, Navarro County, Texas area. Polk had killed a man named Tom Brady. A detachment of soldiers sent from Corsicana, Texas pursued the duo.[15] Hardin escaped the troops, but Polk was captured.[8]:16[16] Hardin briefly taught school in Pisgah. While there, he claimed he shot a man's eye out to win a bottle of whiskey in a bet.[8]:16 Allegedly Hardin killed a Negro in Leon County Texas[17]
On January 5, 1870, Hardin was playing cards with Benjamin Bradley in Towash, Hill County, Texas. Hardin was winning almost every hand, which angered Bradley, who then threatened to "cut out his liver" if he won again. Bradley drew a knife and a six-shooter. Hardin claimed he was unarmed and excused himself, but claims that later that night, Bradley came looking for him. Bradley allegedly fired a shot at Hardin, which missed. Hardin drew both his pistols and returned fire—one shot striking Bradley's head and the other his chest.[8]:20Dozens of people saw this fight and from them there is a good record of how Hardin had used his guns. His holsters were sewn into his vest, with the butts pointed inward across his chest. He crossed his arms to draw. Hardin claimed this was the fastest way to draw, and he practiced every day. A man called "Judge Moore" who held Hardin's stakes of money and a pistol but refused to give them up without Bradley's consent[8]:20 "vanished."[18] Later Hardin admitted killing two men in Hill County Texas.[19]
On January 20, 1870 in Horn Hill, Limestone County, Texas, Hardin claimed he killed a man in a gunfight after an argument at the circus.[8]:23 Less than a week after this incident, in nearby Kosse, Hardin was accompanying a saloon girl home when they were accosted by a man demanding money. Hardin threw money on the ground and shot the would-be thief when he bent over to pick it up.[8]:24[13]

Arrest and escape

Hardin was arrested in January 1871 for the murder of (Waco, Texas city marshal) Laban John Hoffman[20] which he denied having committed.[8]:30 Following his arrest, Hardin was held temporarily in a log jail in the town of Marshall, awaiting transfer to Waco for trial. While locked up, he bought a revolver from another prisoner. Texas State Policemen, Captain Edward T. Stakes, and a police officer, Jim Smalley, were assigned to escort Hardin to Waco for trial. According to Hardin, they tied him on a horse with no saddle for the trip. While making camp along the way, Hardin escaped when Stakes went to procure fodder for the horses. According to Hardin, he was left alone with Smalley, who began to taunt and beat the then 17 year-old prisoner with the butt of a pistol. Hardin says he feigned crying and huddled against his pony's flank. Hidden by the animal, he pulled out the gun; fatally shot Smalley; and used his horse to escape.[8]:30-32
After this incident, Hardin found refuge among his Clements cousins, who were then living in Gonzales (in south Texas). They suggested he could make money by driving cattle to Kansas. Thinking he could get out of Texas long enough for his pursuers to lose interest, Hardin worked with his cousins, rustling cattle for Jake Johnson and Columbus Carol.[21][22] Hardin was made trail boss for the herd.
Hardin claims that in February 1871 while the herd was being formed up for the drive to Kansas, a freedman, Bob King, attempted to cut a beef cow out of the herd. When he refused to obey Hardin's demand to stop, Hardin hit him over the head with his pistol. That same month, Hardin possibly wounded three Mexicans in an argument over a Three-card Monte card game.[8]:33-34
Summer: 1871. While driving cattle on the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas, Hardin was reputed to have fought Mexican vaqueros and cattle rustlers.[13] Toward the end of the drive, a Mexican herd crowded in behind Hardin's and there was some trouble keeping the two herds apart. Hardin exchanged words with the man in charge of the other herd. Both men were on horseback. The Mexican fired his gun at Hardin, putting a hole through Hardin's hat. Hardin found that his own weapon, a worn-out cap-and-ball pistol with a loose cylinder, would not fire; he dismounted and managed to discharge the gun by steadying the cylinder with one hand while pulling the trigger with the other. He hit the Mexican in the thigh. A truce was declared and both parties went their separate ways. However, Hardin borrowed a pistol from a friend and went looking for the Mexican, this time fatally shooting him through the head. A fire fight between the rival camps ensued. Hardin claimed six vaqueros died in the exchanges (five of them reportedly shot by him),[7][8]:39-42[23] but this claim appears exaggerated[24] Hardin also claimed to have killed two Indians in separate gunfights on the same cattle drive.[8]:33, 36-37
After arrival in Abilene Hardin claimed that he and a companion named Pain got into argument in a restaurant with an anti Texan in which the result was that Pain was wounded in one arm and Hardin shot the stranger in the mouth with the bullet exiting under the man's left ear. Hardin fled Abilene to the Cottonwood Trail.[8]:46[25]
On July 4, 1871, a Texas trail Boss named William Cohron was killed on the Cottonwood Trail (40 miles south of Abilene) by an unnamed Mexican, who "fled south"[26] and was subsequently killed by two cowboys in a Sumner County, Kansas restaurant on July 20, 1871.[27][28] Hardin admitted to being involved in the shooting of the Mexican.[8]:46-49[29]
A Texas Historical Marker notes that in the 1870s, Hardin hid out in the Pilgrim area specifically.[citation needed]

Encounters with "Wild Bill" Hickok

Austin City Marshal Ben Thompson, 1881–1882


The Bull's Head Tavern, in Abilene, had been established by partners, Ben Thompson and gambler, Phil Coe. The two entrepreneurs had painted a picture of a bull with a large erect penis on the side of their establishment as an advertisement. Citizens complained to town marshal, "Wild Bill" Hickok. When Thompson and Coe refused his request to remove the bull, Hickok altered it himself. Infuriated, Thompson tried to incite his new acquaintance, Hardin, by exclaiming to him: "He's a damn Yankee. Picks on Rebels, especially Texans, to kill." Hardin, then under the assumed name, "Wesley Clemmons" (but better known to the townspeople by the alias, "Little Arkansas"), seemed to have had respect for Hickok, and replied, "If Bill needs killing why don't you kill him yourself?"[8]:44 Later that night, Hardin was confronted by Hickok, who told him to hand over his guns, which he did. Hickok had no knowledge of Hardin being a wanted man, and he advised Hardin to avoid problems while in Abilene.

J.B. "Wild Bill" Hickok
Hardin again met up with Marshal Hickok, while on a cattle drive in August 1871. This time, Hickok allowed Hardin to carry his pistols in Abilene —something he had never allowed others to do. For his part, Hardin (still using his alias), was fascinated by Wild Bill and reveled at being seen on intimate terms with such a celebrated gunfighter.[8]:50-51

The shooting of a "snoring" man

Hardin and several of his fellow cow herders had put up for the night at the "American House Hotel". Sometime during the evening, Hardin, and at least one other cow hand, began firing bullets through the bedroom wall and ceiling, in an attempt to stop the snoring which was coming from the next room. A sleeping stranger, Charles Cougar, was killed. (In his autobiography, Hardin claimed he was shooting at a man who was in his room to rob or kill him, and that he did not realize they had accidentally killed a man in the other room until much later.) Hardin realized he would be in trouble with Hickok for firing his gun within the city limits. Half-dressed, he and his men exited through a second story window and ran onto the roof of the hotel —just in time to see Hickok arriving with four policemen. "Now, I believed," Hardin wrote later, "that if Wild Bill found me in a defenseless condition he would take no explanation, but would kill me to add to his reputation."[8]:45-58 A contemporary newspaper report of the shooting noted: "A man was killed in his bed at a hotel in Abilene, Monday night, by a desperado called "Arkansas". The murderer escaped. This was his sixth murder."[30] Hardin leaped from the roof into the street and hid in a haystack for the rest of the night. He stole a horse and made his way back to the cow camp outside town. The next day, he left for Texas, never to return to Abilene. Years later, Hardin made a casual reference to the episode: "They tell lots of lies about me," he complained, "They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. Well, it ain't true. I only killed one man for snoring."[7] In his autobiography, Hardin claimed that following this shooting, he ambushed lawmen Tom Carson and two other deputies at a cowboy camp 35 miles outside of Abilene. He did not kill them, but he did force them to remove all their clothing and walk back to Abilene.[8]:60
In October 1871, Hardin was involved in a gunfight with two Texas State Policemen, Green Paramore and John Lackey, in which Paramore was killed and Lackey wounded. After this, Hardin claimed that about 45 miles outside Corpus Christi, Texas he was followed by two Mexicans, and that he shot one off his horse while the other "quit the fight".[8]:63-65

During the Sutton-Taylor feud

In early 1872, Hardin was in south central Texas, in the area around Gonzales County. There, he reunited with some of his Clements cousins, who had become allied with the local Taylor family, which had been feuding with the rival Sutton family for several years.
In June 1872, at Willis, Texas, Hardin claimed that some men tried to arrest him for carrying a pistol "...but they got the contents instead."[8]:63-65[31]
On August 7, 1872, Hardin was wounded by a shotgun blast in a gambling dispute in Trinity, Texas. He was shot by Phil Sublett, after he had lost money to Hardin in a poker game. Two buckshot pellets injured Hardin's kidney, and for a time it looked like he would die.
While recuperating from his wounds, Hardin decided he wanted to settle down. He made a sick-bed surrender to law authorities, handing over his guns to Sheriff Reagan of Cherokee County, Texas, and asking to be tried for his past crimes "to clear the slate." However, when Hardin learned of how many murders Reagan was going to charge him with, he changed his mind. A relative smuggled in a hacksaw, and Hardin escaped after cutting through the bars of a prison window.[32]
On May 15, 1873, Jim Cox and Jake Christman were killed by the Taylor faction at Tomlinson Creek. Hardin, having by then recovered from the injuries from Sublett's attack, 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."[8]:81
In Cuero, Texas in May 1873, Hardin killed Dewitt County Deputy Sheriff, J.B. Morgan, who served under County Sheriff Jack Helms (a former captain in the Texas State Police). Both were Sutton family allies.[8]:79[33]:30
Hardin's main notoriety in the Sutton-Taylor feud was his part in the assassination (on the afternoon of May 17, 1873, in Albuquerque, Texas) of Sheriff Helms.[34]
The feud culminated with Jim and Bill Taylor gunning down Billy Sutton and Gabriel Slaughter[35] as they waited on a steamboat platform in Indianola, Texas, on March 11, 1874. Tired of the feuding, the two were 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.[8]:86-87
Hardin (who had re-settled his family—living under the assumed name of "Swain"—in Florida) later admitted that he had knocked a black man down and shot another during a disturbance outside the Alachua County jail on May 1, 1874, while he was in Gainesville, Florida. A black prisoner named "Eli" - who was held on a charge of attempted assault of a white woman - was lynched when the jail was burned down by a mob. Hardin claimed to have been part of the mob, as was the county coroner, who afterward rendered a verdict that "Eli" had died after setting fire to the jail himself.[8]:110
Hardin returned to Texas, meeting up on May 26, 1874 in a Comanche saloon with his "gang" to celebrate his upcoming 21st birthday. Hardin spotted Brown County Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb entering the premises. He asked Webb if he had come to arrest him. When Webb replied he had not, Hardin invited him into the hotel for a drink. As he followed Hardin inside, Hardin claimed Webb drew his gun, and one of Hardin's men yelled out a warning.[8]:92 However, it was reported at the time that Webb was shot as he was pulling out an arrest warrant for one of Hardin's group.[36] Either way, in the ensuing gunfight, Webb was shot dead. Two of Hardin's accomplices in the shooting were a cousin, Bud Dixson, and Jim Taylor.[8]:92
The death of the popular Webb resulted in the quick formation of a lynch mob. Hardin's parents and wife were taken into protective custody; and his brother Joe and two cousins, brothers Bud and Tom Dixson, were arrested on outstanding warrants. A group of local men broke into the jail in July 1874 and hanged Joe,[37] Bud and Tom.[8]:101[38] After this, Hardin and Jim Taylor parted ways for good. After this, Hardin claimed that he twice drove away men who had come after him after killing a man in each encounter.[8]:105-107
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.[8]:107-108


John Barclay Armstrong
On January 20, 1875 the Texas Legislature authorized Governor Richard B. Hubbard to offer a $4,000 reward for the apprehension of John Wesley Hardin.[39]
The Texas Rangers finally caught up with Hardin when an undercover ranger, Jack Duncan, intercepted a letter that was sent to Hardin's father-in-law by his brother-in-law, the outlaw Joshua Robert "Brown" Bowen. The letter mentioned Hardin's whereabouts as being on the Alabama/Florida border under the assumed name of "James W. Swain". On August 24, 1877,[4] Hardin was arrested on a train in Pensacola, Florida, by the rangers and local authorities. The lawmen boarded the train to arrest Hardin. When Hardin realized what was going on, he attempted to draw a gun, but got it caught in his suspenders.[40] Hardin was knocked out, and two others arrested. During the event, Texas Ranger John B. Armstrong shot and killed one of Hardin's companions, named Mann.[41] who had a pistol in his hand[42]
Just prior to his capture, two black men (and former slaves of his father's), "Jake" Menzel and Robert Borup, had tried to capture Hardin in Gainsville, Florida. Hardin killed one and blinded the other.[43]

Trial and imprisonment

Hardin was tried for the killing of Webb, and was sentenced to Huntsville Prison for 25 years on June 5, 1878. During his prison term, he was convicted of another manslaughter charge and sentenced to a two-year sentence to be served concurrently with his unexpired 25-year sentence on February 14, 1892.[44][45]
In 1892, Hardin was described as being 5 feet, 9 inches tall, 160 pounds, fair complexion, hazel eyes, dark hair and wound scars on his right knee, left thigh, right side, hip, elbow, shoulder and back. Hardin early-on made several attempts to escape, but he eventually adapted to prison life. He read theological books; became superintendent of the prison Sunday School; and studied law. Hardin was plagued by recurring poor health in prison, especially when the wound he had received from Sublett became re-infected in 1883, causing Hardin to be bedridden for almost two years. During Hardin's stay in prison, his wife, Jane, died (November 6, 1892).[46]

After prison life

Hardin was released from prison on February 17, 1894, after serving seventeen years of his twenty-five year sentence.[43] He was forty years old as he returned to Gonzales, Texas. Later that year, on March 16, Hardin was pardoned; and, on July 21, he passed the Texas state's bar examination, obtaining his license to practice law.[9] According to a newspaper article in 1900, shortly after being released from prison, Hardin committed negligent homicide when he made a $5 bet that he could "at the first shot" knock a Mexican man off the soap box on which he was "sunning" himself, winning the bet and leaving the man dead from the fall and not the gunshot.[43]
On January 9, 1895, Hardin married a 15-year-old girl named Callie Lewis.The marriage ended quickly, although it was never legally dissolved.[9]:214-217 Afterward, Hardin moved to El Paso, Texas.


Hardin's post mortem photo
An El Paso lawman, John Selman Jr., arrested Hardin's acquaintance and part-time prostitute, the "widow" M'Rose (or Mroz), for "brandishing a gun in public". Hardin confronted Selman, and the two men argued. Selman's 56-year-old father, Constable John Selman, Sr., (himself a well-known gunman) approached Hardin on the afternoon of August 19, 1895, and the two men exchanged heated words.[43] That night, Hardin went to the Acme Saloon, where he began playing dice. Shortly before midnight, Selman Sr. walked into the saloon. Without a word,he walked up behind Hardin, and shot him in the head, killing him instantly and before he could return fire. As Hardin lay on the floor, Selman fired three more shots into him.[47] Selman Sr. was arrested for murder and stood trial. He claimed he had fired in self-defense, and a hung jury resulted in his being released on bond, pending retrial. However, before the retrial could be organized, Selman was killed in a shootout with US Marshal George Scarborough on April 6, 1896, following a dispute during a card game.[48]{Ironically Scarborough died of wounds April 5, 1900 after serving as a range Detective on the anniversary of the death of his friend Bass Outlaw who had been killed by John Selman and the killing of Selman by Scarborough}


Hardin is buried in Concordia Cemetery, located in El Paso, Texas.[49]

Cemetery controversy

The grave of John Wesley Hardin
On August 27, 1995, there was a graveside confrontation between two groups. One group, representing the great-grandchildren of Hardin, sought to relocate the body to Nixon, TX, to be interred next to the grave of Hardin's first wife. A group of El Pasoans sought to prevent the move. At the cemetery, the group representing the descendants of John Wesley Hardin presented a disinterment permit for the body of Hardin, while the El Pasoans presented a court order prohibiting the removal of the body. Both sides accused the other parties of seeking the tourist revenue generated by the location of the body. A subsequent lawsuit ruled in favor of keeping the body in El Paso.[50]

Known contacts with the law

Hardin had several confirmed clashes with the law:
  • On January 9, 1871 he was arrested by Constable E.T. Stakes and 12 citizens in Harrison County, Texas on a charge of four murders and one horse theft.[51]
  • On January 22, 1871, Hardin killed Texas State Police officer, Jim Smalley and escaped.[52] Up to November 13, 1872, the Grand Jury of Freestone County, Texas had not filed an indictment against Hardin for the killing of Smalley[53]
  • On August 6, 1871, in Abilene, Dickinson County, Kansas, Charles Cougar was killed in the American House Hotel. Hardin, aka "Wesley Clemens", was found guilty by a coroner's jury of the killing.[54]
  • On October 6, 1871, in Gonzales County, Texas State Policemen Green Paramore and John Lackey tried to arrest Hardin. Paramore was killed and Lackey wounded.[55]
  • On July 26, 1872, Texas State Policeman Sonny Speights was wounded in the shoulder by Hardin in Hemphill, Texas[8]:65-67[56]
  • In September 1872, Hardin surrendered to Sheriff Reagan, but escaped in October 1872.[57]
  • On November 19, 1872, Hardin mysteriously escaped from the sheriff of Gonzales County, Texas, despite a guard of six men. A reward of $100.00 was offered for his re-capture.[53]
  • In May 1873, Hardin was involved in the killing of Deputy Sheriff J.B. Morgan of Cuero, Texas; and on August 1, 1873, of Dewitt County Sheriff, John Helms.[58] These killings were during the Sutton-Taylor Feud.
  • On June 17, 1873, outlaw Joshua "Brown" Bowen was broken out of Gonzales County jail by his brother-in-law, John Wesley Hardin. (Bowen had been charged with the killing on December 17, 1872, of Thomas Holderman.[59] After Bowen's execution in the summer of 1878, Hardin was implicated in Holderman's death as well).[60]
  • In October 1873, Hardin was indicted in Hill County, Texas, for the 1870 death of Benjamin Bradley, but was never tried.[61]
  • On May 26, 1874 Hardin killed Deputy Sherriff Charles Webb in Commanche Texas.[62]
  • In November 1876, Hardin (under the alias of "Swain"), and Gus Kennedy, were arrested in Mobile, Alabama and ordered to leave town.[63][64]
  • In August 1877, Hardin was reported to have been under indictments in five Texas counties on three separate murder charges and two separate charges of assault with intent to murder.[5]
  • In July 1895, he was fined $25.00 for gaming after using a pistol to get back money (this was after losing $100.00 at the Gem Saloon some weeks before).[65] His gun was confiscated.[66]

Unconfirmed claims

In his autobiography, Hardin made several claims to have been involved in events which either cannot be confirmed, or which have proven to be unreliable or fabricated:
  • Hardin's claims to have shot three Union soldiers of the US 4th Cavalry in 1868 at a creek crossing at Logallis Prairie (now Nogalus Prairie, Trinity County, Texas).[8]:14 In none of the military records is Hardin named as a suspect nor do any facts agree with his claims.[67] Circumstantial evidence is that a murder was committed here—but the names and numbers of victims are unknown.[68]
  • Hardin said he shot one of the two soldiers killed in 1869, in "Richland Bottom", the other having been shot by his cousin, Simp Dixson,[69] a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a man who hated Union soldiers. Hardin claims they each had killed a soldier.[8]:17 The record does show that a Sgt. J.F. Leonard of Company B, 6th US Cavalry, was wounded at Livingston Texas on May 7, 1869.[70]
  • Hardin claimed in January 1870 that he killed a circus hand at Horn Hill, Texas. A contemporary newspaper account did report a fight in Union Hill, Texas between Circus "canvasmen" and "roughs" who tried to get in without paying, although the outcome did not conclude the way Hardin claimed it did.[71]
  • A week after the Circus incident in January 1870 Hardin claimed to have killed a man in Kosse, Texas. No contemporary newspaper accounts but partially confirmed [72]
  • Hardin claimed that during his January 1871 escape from Stakes and Smalley, he killed a Mr. Smith, a Mr. Jones, and a Mr. Davis in Bell County, Texas.[8]:32 No contemporary newspaper accounts from Bell County confirm these additional killings.
  • Summer 1871 Hardin claimed to have killed a man in Abilene Kansas. No contemporary newspaper accounts but partially confirmed[25]
  • He claimed that after killing Paramour in October 1871, he forced an African-American posse to flee after killing three of them.[8]:63 There are no contemporary accounts to confirm this claim.
  • June 19, 1872 Hardin claimed that in Willis Texas, some men who tried to arrest him got the contents of his gun instead. Hardin was involved in a gunfight and wounded-but with one man! [73]
  • After being wounded by Sublett in August 1872, Hardin claimed that in September he either killed, or drove off, one or two members of the Texas State Police in Trinity, Texas.[8]:72 Hardin gave different versions of the event at different times. Although Hardin had killed two members and wounded two members of the Texas State Police, these shootings had not occurred in Trinity County. In 1877, Hardin was indited for an August 1872 murder in Trinity County[74]
  • May 1874 Hardin claimed to have knocked a negro down, shot another one and then participated in destroying a county jail and the lynching of a negro prisoner in Florida. No contemporary newspaper accounts but the first Alachua Jail suffered a "demise".[75]
  • Hardin claimed that on July 1, 1874 he drove off 17 Texas Rangers that had been trailing him, killing one of them.[8]:107 This alleged shooting happened after a triple lynching of Hardin's cousin and two ranch hands.[76] He also claimed to have driven off a group of men after killing one of them. There are no contemporary reports to confirm these stories. However on June 1, 1874 a Texas Rangers company did kill Hardin's cousins Alexander Barekman and Alexander Anderson in a gunfight and claimed to have wounded Hardin as well. Hardin wrote about the killings of his cousins but doesn't confirm that he was wounded at all-in fact he claimed to have heard about their deaths later[8]:102
  • He claimed to have been involved in the killing of two Pinkerton agents on the Florida/Georgia border sometime between April and November, 1876, after a gunfight with a "Pinkerton Gang" who had been tracking him from Jacksonville, Florida.[8]:111 This confrontation never happened, as the Pinkerton Detective Agency never pursued Hardin.
  • Hardin claimed that in a saloon on election night of November 1876, he and a companion, Jacksonville, Florida policeman Gus Kennedy, were involved in a gunfight with Mobile, Alabama policemen in which one person was wounded and two killed. He further claims that he and Kennedy were arrested and later released.[8]:111-112 Again a case of an encounter-{which resulted in Hardin and Kennedy were arrested and driven out of town for cheating at cards} [77] in which Hardin's version does not fit contemporary records.[64]
  • Hardin claimed to have met two fellow outlaws during his life-in 1870 he gambled with Bill Longley[8]:25-27 {It is possible they could have meet-although after both were sentenced for their crimes-Hardin receiving 25 years and Longley execution-Longley {who boasted of having killed as many men as Hardin} was outraged at the different degrees of sentenceing[78]} and after being sentenced in September 1878 a fellow convict was Johnny Ringo[8]:125 in an Austin Texas Jail-in fact although Ringo had been jailed he had been acquitted in May 1877!


Hardin's autobiography was published posthumously in 1925 by the Bandera publisher, historian, and journalist, J. Marvin Hunter, founder of Frontier Times magazine and the Frontier Times Museum.[79]

Guns and effects

Court records show John Wesley Hardin was carrying a Colt "Lightning" revolver.[80] He also had an Elgin watch,[81] when he was shot and killed on August 19, 1895. The revolver and the watch had been presented to Hardin in appreciation for his legal efforts on behalf of Jim Miller at his trial for the killing of ex-sheriff, George "Bud" Frazer. The Colt, (with a .38 caliber, 2½" barrel) is nickel-plated, with blued hammer, trigger and screws. The back-strap is hand-engraved: "J.B.M. TO J.W.H." and it has mother-of-pearl grips. His autobiography reports that Hardin had two .41 Colt pistols on him when he was killed.[8]:142 This gun and its holster were once sold at auction for $168,000. Another Colt revolver (known as a .41 caliber "Thunderer"), which was owned by Hardin and used by him to rob the Gem Saloon, was sold at the same auction for $100,000.[66][82]
In 2002, an auction house in San Francisco, California auctioned three lots of John Wesley Hardin's personal effects. The lot containing a deck of his playing cards, one of his business cards, and a contemporary newspaper account of his death sold for $15,250. The bullet that killed Hardin sold for $80,000.[83]