Legendary Lawman Dallas Stoudenmire

I spend a great deal of time searching used bookstores and cruising the Internet for the odd article on some noteworthy lawman or gunslinger. Lately, I've found an inordinate number of Texas Rangers that were also members of the Free Masons. In fact, the history of Texas is inundated with the contributions of many a great lawman that also called themselves Masons. One such noteworthy individual is Dallas Stoudenmire.

Dallas Stoudenmire was born December 11, 1845 in Aberfoil, Bullock County, Alabama. Details are often sketchy, but at the tender age of 15 the nearly six foot tall Stoudenmire enlisted in the Confederate Army. When his commanding officer learned of his age he was discharged. Apparently young Dallas didn't agree with the age limitation and he reenlisted twice more. According to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system there was a Private D. Stoudenmire, Co. F of the 17th Alabama Infantry and a Private D. Stowdemire, Co. C, 6th Alabama Cavalry. It's possible that the second one wasn't the same Dallas Stoudenmire, but I wouldn't bet anything on it. Stoudenmire was eventually allowed to serve in Company F, 45th Alabama Infantry Regiment and according to Civil War records was wounded several times.

Following the war Stoudenmire found himself heading west and would eventually become a member of the Texas Rangers. Stoudenmire served as a Texas Ranger in Colorado County, Texas, charged with protecting settlers from renegade Indians. It is here that Stoudenmire began his reputation as a gunfighter, having "killed a few men." Finally, after being a Ranger for three years, he would disappear for several years and finally resurface in Socorro, New Mexico as the town marshal. Stoudenmire's brother-in-law, Stanley "Doc" Cummings, persuaded him to travel to the town of El Paso, Texas to fill a vacant marshal position. El Paso was in the middle of a lawless stretch and the city council was looking for someone outside of the city with a reputation as a tough gunfighter. Dallas Stoudenmire was, perhaps, more than they counted on.

On April 11, 1881, Stoudenmire was appointed Marshall of El Paso and tasked with the job of cleaning up the city. The Deputy Marshal was one Bill Johnson, also known as the town drunkard. Apparently, the first day on the job Marshal Stoudenmire humiliated Johnson and set the tone for the remainder of his tenure in office. Only three days into his new job, Stoudenmire was involved in one of the most famous gunfights in western history, the Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight.

Historic details regarding the story behind the shooting are varied (odd how that statement keeps popping up) but the eyewitness accounts were fairly consistent. Having heard gunfire, Marshal Stoudenmire enters the street to find George Campbell and his buddy John Hale standing over the body of Constable Gus Krempkau (1). Apparently Campbell and Hale had been drinking heavily (odd how that statement keeps popping up... oops, sorry). Stoudenmire's first shot at Hales misses the mark and kills a bystander (2), his second kills Hale (3) and his third shot dispatched Campbell (4). Having seen their new Marshal in action the city Board of Aldermen upped his salary to $100 a month.

Peace in El Paso would be short lived however. Deputy Johnson, still holding a grudge from being humiliated, attacked Stoudenmire while he was walking with "Doc" Cummings. Apparently Johnson tried to ambush the Marshal but in his drunken state fired both barrels of his shotgun into the sky. Stoudenmire fired eight or nine times from his pistols to dispatch Johnson (some accounts say his shooting removed Johnson's testicles... I can't verify this, but it does add color to the tale). It seemed that the more people Stoudenmire killed in an effort to clean up El Paso, the more people wanted him dead.

Accounts of Stoudenmire's term in office were not without bad press. He would occasionally use the bell of St. Clement's Church for target practice while out on patrol and was accused of using city funds without authorization. Stoudenmire also had a drinking problem. When he caught wind the City Aldermen were meeting to discuss discharging him from his position he walked into the meeting and shouted, "I can straddle every damned alderman here." Upon sobering up the Marshal resigned on his own on May 29, 1882. The city council would eventually become afraid of him.

Stoudenmire would finally lose a gunfight on Septmber 18, 1882. Having signed a "peace treaty" with the Manning family, Stoudenmire would begin to argue with Doc Manning and both would pull their pistols. Stoudenmire's body was shipping back to Columbus, Texas for burial. The Masonic lodge No. 130 would pay for all expenses to include $4.50 for lumber and $11.55 for his burial suit.

While not as famous as many of his contemporaries, Dallas Stoudenmire was one of the most legendary lawmen of his day. So prolific are his exploits that he is the subject of a biography, Dallas Stoudenmire: El Paso Marshal, by Leon Metz (University of Oklahoma Press, 1993). Eugene Cunningham also devoted a chapter to Stoudenmire in Triggernometry: A Gallery of Gunfighters, his now classic 1934 book on Western gunmen. The space here doesn't allow the detail that Dallas Stoudenmire deserves. While clearly not without fault, he was truly a legend of the west.



Loading