As we said in Part 3, Jo Hardin moved to the frontier town of Comanche, Texas in 1871. I have no knowledge of exactly what his relationship was with his younger brother, but I do know that between 1870 and 1872, Wes Hardin killed at least twelve men. (I also hope you understand that this story is huge, and I am condensing greatly!)
Jo was impressed enough with the town of Comanche that he soon began to write his parents* about the possibility of their moving to the little town. As it happened, there was soon to be a job for Mr. Hardin.
Because there was still no system of education in post-war Texas, the Masons of Comanche took it upon themselves to build a school in the town, and quite a school it was, standing on the spot where eventually the gym where I played many a basketball game would stand. It is my belief that the rock work that surrounds the property today actually is made of rocks from the old college (as it was called); of course, we already know that College Street, which runs in front of the property, was named for the school.
Construction on the huge old rock building, which housed both the school and the Masonic Lodge, was completed in 1872, and by then, the reverend had indeed been coaxed to Comanche where he served the school in several capacities.
It was also in 1872 that John Wesley Hardin met a young woman by the name of Jane Bowen, the woman who became the young killer’s bride, and I have to insert here that as much as I have searched for it, I have found nothing that leads me to believe that Jane Bowen did not remain the only love in JWH’s eyes.
Jane eventually persuaded her husband to turn himself in to the law. Hardin did so in Gonzales, Texas. However, jail was not for John Wesley Hardin, and it wasn’t long before he had made his way out of it.
Then, in April of 1874, JWH drove a herd of range cattle into the town of Hamilton, Texas, where the herd was to be held until time to push it on north to market. Being so near Comanche where his family now lived, Hardin decided to visit, leaving part of his crew in Hamilton. I have no knowledge as to whether he had been in Comanche before this, but my thought is probably not.
Once he learned that there was to be a day of races in Comanche at the end of May, JWH decided to stay in town for the fun, knowing that he, Jo, and his cousins had some of the fastest horses in the state. The Hardins and extended family just made a family reunion of it, so to speak, including the Andersons, Barekmans, and Dixsons.
It was a decision those who survived would regret for the rest of their lives.
*The thing I hope you take away from this story is that the Hardins and their extended family were a normal family for the day. They had their problems like anyone else, but they also were real people. They married, had children, believed in education, went to church, cooked dinner, and went about their daily lives just like their neighbors.
And then…their young fifteen year old killed a man, and the world as they knew it turned upside down…I’ve seen it in my own life, and I’m betting that many of you have as well….