John Wesley Hardin – An After The Fact Post Script

The Comanche County courthouse in which Hardin was tried. The stair 1877 stair railing can be viewed in the Comanche Museum.

The Comanche County courthouse in which Hardin was tried. The stair 1877 stair railing can be viewed in the Comanche Museum.

As we have discussed, while the rest of the world seems to have a fascination with JWH, the subject has been taboo for years in Comanche County…not really because JWH killed Charlie Webb…I can cite you way, way too many other instances of people in the county killing, shooting, stabbing, etc. each other to believe that.

No, the story became taboo because of the men involved in the events that came after the killing.

This many years removed, I think it is safe to say that historians who have studied the events that happened Comanche in 1874  and who have been willing to look at the big picture, not just the fact that Hardin killed Charlie Webb in Comanche, Texas, have pretty much all come to the conclusion that it is completely possible that very little of this whole series of events had a lot to do with the younger brother, Johnny.

No, many believe that the young John Wesley Hardin just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the fact that he was a known killer provided the smoke screen that quite a few men needed to accomplish something else entirely. It is also very possible that it is no accident that brother Jo Hardin settled in Comanche, Texas, and it is also extremely possible that he and Sheriff John Carnes had a little land operation working for them. These are not simply my thoughts but the thoughts of many who came before me.

It is also no accident that the Masonic records for the evening in question appear to have been entered after the fact…something that only happened once in all the years that the lodge was active. This I have seen for myself.

Long ago, I had a friend who was able to give me some info contained in the Brown County Masonic records. It too adds up to me if I was informed correctly. Think about it: What would cause a group of men…Masons at that…from Brown County, Comanche County, or any other county…to turn on a brother Mason? And Jo Hardin was a brother Mason.

And with that question, I think I will leave the story where it lies, shrouded in mystery and covered with the fears that one day someone will tell the entire story…

And now, although I’ve finished with the JWH story per se, I want to throw in a couple of bits of humor surrounding the story before I leave it for good.

The following is from a 1903 issue of the Comanche Chief. To understand the setting for the story, you will have to remember that in 1874 there was no actual jail in Comanche, Texas. Prisoners were kept in a building on the square that was used as a make-shift jail, and individual citizens were expected to take turns guarding the prisoners.

You also have to feel the hysteria that covered the town after Hardin was long gone and five of his family members dead. And finally, you have to remember that people haven’t changed a whole lot down through the years…most of us would have been just as scared as the man in the story below!

“…as told to the Chief reporter by Mr. G.A. Beeman, one of the oldest and most respected citizens of the county.

“The whole town of Comanche was under arms, the citizens being organized into companies with a captain and other officers. They were scouring the county for Hardin, and were in a state of alarm over the report that was current, that John Wesley Hardin would burn the town and annihilate the citizens thereof, for the killing of his brother.

“Mr. Chilton says that Hardin was at that time in Florida, [I’m not sure this is correct.] but the people knew it not, and he, as one of the minutemen had orders to arrest any stranger and bring him before the commanding officer.

“Mr. Chilton was stationed near the northwest corner of the square one stormy night. The rain came down in torrents. Suddenly on the rain-soaked air came the noise of approaching feet. Slowly, with measured tread, came the slosh, slosh, slosh—it was without doubt Hardin or one of his men coming in to spy out the ground.

“Mr. Chilton’s knees began to shake from the cold night air; he raised his gun as deliberately as he could and placed the muzzle to his shoulder—that was his favorite way of holding a gun under such circumstances. He was perfectly cool and collected, especially cool. He resolved, however, not to shoot if he could possibly avoid it, as he did not relish the shedding of blood.

“He then made up his mind to halt Hardin, or his confederate, drop his gun and run around the corner, or two corners, if necessary to capture the desperado. That would be better than to shed the blood of a fellow man.

“Slosh, slosh, slosh, came the night prowling murderer. Mr. Chilton’s knees began to shake more violently from the cold rain. His teeth likewise began to chatter from the cold. Ditto all over. He tried to halt the villain, but something caught in his throat as it often does in the throat of brave men who are trying to do their duty.

“He tried again, and the words rang out like thunder on the night air, ‘Halt!’ At the same time the militiaman’s foot slipped as the feet of the brave men frequently slip on such occasions, and he fell flat on his waistband behind a goods box. The stranger halted promptly, and the gallant private behind the goods box continued to tremble from the severe cold.

“Not a word was spoken by either party. The silence was ominous, for blood was almost certain to be shed now that two fearless antagonists were in twenty feet of each other.

“The militiaman raised up on one arm cautiously and with one eye reconnoitered the situation. As he did so, the stranger spoke in terms that could be heard for half a mile. And this is what the stranger said: ‘Moo-oo.’”

Don’t you just LOVE this story!?? And can’t you just put any of us in it and see how scared we would everyone have been??

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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