Texas John Slaughter
(October 2, 1841 – February 16, 1922)
Born John Horton Slaughter in Louisiana, this was the exact type of individual that the wild west celebrated. He was at times, a cattleman, lawman, gunman, gambler, politician, and builder of empires. He was elected sheriff of Cochise County in 1886, and was a good and tough sheriff who would rather arrest a man than kill him.Nonetheless, he killed in the line of duty when necessary including the bandit Guadalupe Robes, and as late as 1900 he killed gambler Bob Stevens after he held up a gambling game and ran off with the money.
He was appointed deputy sheriff again, and held the post until he died in 1922 in his sleep in the town of Douglas, Arizona, that he helped found.BackgroundJohn Slaughter was born in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, on October 2, 1841. His parents were Benjamin and Minerva (Mabry) Slaughter.Slaughter was a member of the famed Texas Rangers, before becoming a cattle business man around 1874. He and his brother formed a cattle-transporting company that took cattle to Mexico, California, Kansas and New Mexico.
It was in California that Slaughter became an avid poker player. He began to gamble in a compulsive way while in California.Slaughter married Eliza Adeline Harris on August 4, 1871. Of their four children, only two, a son and daughter, survived until adulthood.In 1876, Slaughter caught a poker rival, Barney Gallagher, cheating on the poker table. Gallagher won the game, held in San Antonio, Texas, but Slaughter pointed his gun at him as he collected his earnings. Gallagher became enraged and followed Slaughter's trail to Slaughter's South Springs, Texas home, where he told a foreman to call Slaughter out, intending to kill Slaughter. The foreman gave Slaughter the message and Gallagher fire a shot as soon as Slaughter walked up to the door, but he missed. Slaughter, on the other hand, killed Gallagher with a shot to the heart.His wife died of smallpox in Tucson, Arizona, in 1877. On April 16, 1878, Slaughter married sixteen-year-old Viola Howell at Tularosa, New Mexico.
As Viola was very young, her mother disapproved of their relationship, but her father was more consenting. Although the Slaughters did not have any children of their own, they adopted several children, one of them being Apache May, whom Slaughter had run into while running after Apaches in Mexico in 1896. On the other hand, his gambling habit became such an addiction that Ms. Viola threatened to leave him.In November of 1886, he was elected sheriff of Cochise County, near Tombstone, Arizona. One of his chief detectives was Jeff Milton. Slaughter and Milton fought the Jack Taylor Gang, travelling to the home of Flora Cardenas, back in Mexico. The bandits, however, had been tipped off that the American police were after them and they left before Slaughter and Milton could get to Cardenas' home.Back to Arizona, the two lawmen travelled to Wilcox, then to Contention, where they found Manuel Robles and one of the escapees asleep. When Slaughter shouted at them to get up with their hands up, a gun battle ensued. Guadalupe Robles, Manuel's brother, joined the gun battle, but he was killed quickly. Manuel Robles and Nieves Deron tried to run away and while still firing back, one of their bullets hit Slaughter's ear. Slaughter's next bullet killed Deron, but Manuel Robles escaped.Soon, Jack Taylor was arrested in Sonora, and Robles, along with Geronimo Miranda, were killed by the Mexican police at the Sierra Madre mountain area.
Slaughter was widely criticized for his hiring of Burt Alvord as chief deputy of the police. Inexperienced in police activities, Alford was a friend of one of Slaughter's cattlemen, and someone known for having run off with dangerous men.Ranch ManA drought between 1892 and 1896 caused many cattle to die, and bones to be shipped to the East. Slaughter decided then to move to Douglas, Arizona. Nevertheless, he bought a large area of land there, 60,000 feet at $1 dollar and twenty five cents for each foot. This became known as the San Bernardino Ranch, which had a particular characteristic: the home in the ranch, much to Viola Slaughter's enjoyment, was located over the U.S.-Mexico border lines; therefore, half of the house was in the United States, the other half in Mexico.Slaughter's health began to decline deeply as the years went by.
He suffered of foot swelling, eczema on hands and feet, and high blood pressure.He died in his sleep at Douglas, Arizona, on February 16, 1922, after complaining of a headache the previous evening. Slaughter's Ranch has been renovated as a museum and is open to the public.TV ShowWalt Disney ran a television series called Texas John Slaughter in 1958, starring future novelist Tom Tryon as Slaughter. The show ran as part of the Wonderful World of Disney until 1961.