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from the jail and fell dead, riddled with a charge of buckshot, besides having
a few stray Winchester balls in various parts of his body.

Wheeler, Smith and Wesley were taken by the crowd to an elm tree in the
bottom east of town, and told if they had anything they wished to say, now
was their time to say it, for their time of life was short. Wheeler at the last
showed great weakness, and begged piteously for mercy. Wesley was also


shaken, but managed to answer, in reply to inquiry, that he was born in Paris,
Texas, in 1853, and requested that word of his fate be sent to friends in
Vernon, Texas. Smith displayed great nerve, and gave directions coolly, to
sell his horse and saddle and some few other trinkets, and send the money
to his mother, in Vernon, Texas.

After the remarks the ready ropes were fastened on the necks of the rob-
bers, the end tossed over a limb, and in a moment more their bodies swung in
the wind. So ends the chapter. Mob law is to be deplored under almost
any circumstance, but in this case the general sentiment of the community
will uphold the summary execution of justice by the taking of these murderers'


Of the deceased, who was shot down in such cold blood, we have not space
to speak in fitting eulogy. He has been a resident of our town for some four
years past, and was widely known and universally respected by all his acquaint-
ances. A man of excellent business capacity, he had already accumulated a
handsome competence. In the prime of life and vigor of his manhood, with
a most comfortable home and a pleasant family, the future seemed to have
in store for him abundant years filled with golden fruitage of happiness. The
respect of his fellow citizens was shown by the fact that the business houses
of the town, we believe withou[t] an exception, were draped in mourning.
His death has aroused the deepest and most general sympathy. We have lost
a most excellent man, a kind husband and father, and one of our most enter-
prising citizens.

This ends all there was known Thursday morning. While in jail at the
Lodge Brown wrote a letter to his wife. We reproduce it below, only leaving
out such parts as are of a purely business character and of no interest to
the public. They contained minute directions how to dispose of his property
and as to the payment of some debts.


MEDICINE LODGE, April 30, '84.

DARLING WIFE: I am in jail here. Four of us tried to rob the bank here,
and one man shot one of the men in the bank, and he is now in his home.
I want you to come and see me as soon as you can. I will send you all of
my things, and you can sell them, but keep the Winchester. This is hard
for me to write this letter but, it was all for you, my sweet wife, and for the
love I have for you. Do not go back on me; if you do it will kill me. Be
true to me as long as you live, and come to see me if you think enough of
me. My love is just the same as it always was. Oh, how I did hate to
leave you on last Sunday eve, but I did not think this would happen. I
thought we could take in the money and not have any trouble with it; but
a man's fondest hopes are sometimes broken with trouble. We would not
have been arrested, but one of our horses gave out, and we could not leave
him alone. I do not know what to write. Do the best you can with every-
thing. I want you to send me some clothes. Sell all the things that you do
not need. Have your picture taken and send it to me. Now, my dear wife,
go and see Mr. Witzleben and Mr. Nyce, and get the money. If a mob does
not kill us we will come out all right after while. Maude, I did not shoot


any one, and did not want the others to kill any one; but they did, and that is
all there is about it. Now, good-bye, my darling wife.


This shows that he anticipated the doom which awaited him, and realized
in his calmer moments the awful atrocity of his crime.

Mrs. Brown is also in receipt of a very kind letter from Sheriff Riggs of
Barber county, of which the following is a verbatim copy.

MRS. H. N. BROWN, Caldwell, Ks.

Madame: It becomes my painful duty to inform you of the death of your
husband, H. Newton Brown, at the hands of an infuriated mob. Your husband
and three others attempted to rob the Medicine Valley Bank, and in so doing
killed Mr. Geo. Geppert, the cashier, also wounding the president, Mr.
Payne, from which wounds he will surely die. I wish to say that in my
capacity as sheriff of this county I did my best to protect my prisoners; but
by being overpowered I was forced to submit. Perhaps it will be some
satisfaction to you to know that his death was instantaneous and quite pain-
less, being shot two or three times, dying instantly, while his comrads in crime
were taken some distance from town and hung. There are some effects in
this town the property of your husband, and as soon as I can get them together
I will forward them to you. I also send to you a letter written by your hus-
band and handed to me to send to you. He wrote it a little before dark last
evening. C. F. RIGG,


Friday morning last Messrs. Ben. S. Miller, John A. Blair, S. Harvey Horner
and Lee S. Weller started over to the Lodge, Messrs. Miller and Blair to give
their sympathy to the bereaved families, and Messrs. Weller and Horner to
look after property that belonged to them. From them we learn the full
details, and give them below as nearly as possible:

Mr. Payne and Mr. Geppert had been warned of the attack, and had agreed
to surrender. When Brown and Wheeler entered the bank, the positive char-
acter of Mr. Payne asserted itself and to defend his property he reached for
his revolver. This was his death warrant. Brown shot him, and Wheeler
immediately shot Geppert while that gentleman had his hands up! Wesley,
thinking to add to the terrible work already done, shot him again to make
assurance doubly sure. After being shot twice, Mr. Geppert, true to his trust,
staggered to the vault and threw the combination lock on, and then sat down
in front of the vault a corpse, the contents it guarded safe from the profaning
hands of his murderers.

The story of the capture is briefly told. Nine men were the principles
in it. Barney O'Conner was the first man to mount his horse and start in
pursuit, and in all of the short, final run guided the pursuing party to ultimate
success. After the failure the robbers were completely demoralized. They
had not taken failure into consideration in their plans. They were without
an appointed leader, and all wanted to lead; hence the capture. One horse
began weakening, and they left the main road and turned into a canyon in
the gypsum hills. This led into a small pocket thirty or forty feet deep, with
only one exit, that by which they entered. The bottom of the canyon was


covered with water from a foot and a half to two feet deep, and it was raining
hard and water running down the sides. Here resistance was kept up for
two hours, many shots being exchanged but no one hit, all having to shoot
at a disadvantage. The cold water was the greatest friend the pursuers had.
It cooled the ardor of the pursued, and in two hours after they entered this
place they surrendered. Brown was the first to lay down his arms and
walk out, and was followed by the rest. When they rode into the city the
people were wild, and loud threats of lynching them were made; but not until
night were they put into execution. In the afternoon comparatively good
pictures of the band were taken, and also of the captors. They ate two
hearty meals while in the jail, and Brown wrote the above letter. Wheeler
tried to write, but broke down.


Henry Newton Brown is the only one of the band who has achieved any
notoriety as a desperado. He was a native of Rolla, Phelps county, Missouri,
but at an early age left his home for the West. He went first to Colorado,
and from there drifted into a cow camp in Northern Texas, where he killed a
man after firing three shots at him. He shortly went into the band of the
celebrated "Billie the Kid," and participated in many of his most daring
exploits. In the Lincoln county war he was with the Kid's party when they
lay ambushed for Sheriff Brady's party and killed him and nearly all of his
men. In the fall of 1878 he was at Tuscosa, Texas, with the Kid with be-
tween 75 and 100 stolen horses. In a short time he went to New Mexico and
was employed as boss of a ranch, but owing to a shooting scrape there he
left for Texas, having been among the number pardoned by the governor of
that State for participation in the Lincoln county war. He was appointed
deputy sheriff of Oldham county by Capt. Willingham in 1880, but only held
the office a short time, when he started up the trail and came to Caldwell.
Batt Carr was then marshal of this city, and having known Brown as deputy
sheriff in Texas, had him appointed as his deputy marshal in the summer
of 1882. In the fall of that year, Carr having resigned, he was appointed
marshal, and has since held that position, being reappointed the third time
only four weeks ago. Since in office he has killed two men. The only fault
found with him as an officer was that he was too ready to use his revolver
or Winchester. He had gained the entire confidence of the people however,
and had conducted himself in such a manner that the doors of society were
always open to him. He neither drank, smoked, chewed nor gambled. In
size he was rather under the medium, but compactly built, and such a man
as would be supposed capable of great physical endurance. He was very
light complexioned, blue eyes and light mustache. He was twenty-six years
old last fall. He leaves relatives in R[o]lla, Missouri, and a sister in Iowa.
Only six weeks ago he was married to a most estimable young lady in this
city, Miss Alice M. Levagood.

Ben Robertson, alias Ben F. Burton, alias Ben F. Wheeler, was a native of
Rackdale, Milam county, Texas, where he was born in 1854, and where he
has a number of relatives who are most estimable people. One of his brothers
was at one time general land agent of the State of Texas. Wheeler, as he was
known here, left Texas about six years ago on account of a shooting scrape in
which he severely wounded a man. He went to Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory,


where he stayed for some time and then started south again with cattle. At
Indianola, Nebraska, he met Miss Alice M. Wheeler. In November, 1881,
they were married under the name of Burton, at her parents' residence in that
place, where they lived happily together until the next spring. He then left
and came to this place, where he was soon appointed deputy marshal. She
came in a few months, but he refused to keep her here, and told her if she
would go away he would support her. She stayed away most of the time, but
last winter spent several weeks here. Her father died last December, and she
is left alone to support her aged mother and one sister, and also her eighteen-
months-old child. She is willing and anxious to work for their support, and in
her brave resolution she will no doubt meet with ready help from the kind-
hearted ladies of this city.

Of Smith and Wesley little is known other than that they were natives of
Texas, one of Vernon and the other of Paris. Smith was employed on the T5
Range, and had just been given charge there. He was about 28 years of age.
Wesley has been employed on Treadwell & Clark's ranch all winter, and when
he left Sunday afternoon he stated he was going to meet Smith in Kansas. He
was always considered a hard citizen, but a good hand about the ranch. He
always carried his six-shooter, and never retired at night without his Win-
chester was within his reach. He was about thirty years old.

Wheeler is said to also have a wife and four children in Texas, under the
name of Robertson.

There was another heavy sound,

A hush and then a groan,
And darkness swept across the sky,

The work of death was done.

The tragic death of the robbers has already been told. That it was just,
all know; that it was a terrible penalty for their crime, visited on them by the
iron hand of judge lynch, all admit. There have been cases before where it
was surely justifiable and there will be others to come. The near relations
which two of the principals bore to the citizens of this city made it doubly
horrible. They had made many warm friends in this city, and while here had
made two as good officers as the city has ever had. They had been given credit
for honor and bravery, and while here no man can say, and say truthfully,
that they had not been worthy this trust. That they have brought disgrace
on the city, no one can help; and that they met their just deserts, all rejoice.
But let the mantle of charity fall over their memory, and like the tear of the
repentant sinner which the peri brought to the gates of heaven, let it obliterate
them as it did the sins of the penitent, blot them out from existence, and let
them be judged by the Higher Court where we are taught to believe that all
shall receive justice. Let them fall into the past as beings that are gone and
forgotten; and while the dark cloud that obscures the final ending is rent by a
few rays of golden light, let no rude hand be stretched passionately forth to
close forever from sight those redeeming glimmerings.

1. Caldwell tost, September 28, 1882. 2. Caldwell Commercial, November 9, 1882.
3. February 1, 1883. 4. Caldwell Commercial, April 5, 1883. 5. "Police Docket," Rec-
ords of the City of Caldwell, July, 1882-May, 1884. 6. Caldwell Journal, April 10, 1884.




For several days following the August 15, 1873, shooting of
Sheriff Chauncey B. Whitney, the city of Ellsworth had police
problems. The men on duty at the time of Whitney's death were
summarily dismissed by the mayor and not until August 27 did
the police force assume any semblance of permanence. On August
28, 1873, the Ellsworth Reporter gave the names of the new officers
in this article: "The entire police force was changed at a special
meeting of the City Council yesterday, Richard Freeborn was ap-
pointed City Marshall, with power delegated to select two police-
men. He selected J. C. Brown and DeLong."

In September Brown shot and killed John Morco, a former Ells-
worth policeman, for wearing weapons within the city limits. "The
coroner's inquest over the body of 'Happy Jack* decided that 7 onn
Morco came to his death from the effects of two bullet wounds, dis-
charged from a six-shooter in the hands of Chas. Brown, a police
officer of the city of Ellsworth, in self defence, while in discharge
of his duty, and was justified in the act," said the Reporter, Septem-
ber 11, 1873. The article which reported the shooting may be found
in the section on Morco.

Marshal Freeborn resigned on November 18 and apparently
Brown was then promoted to the higher position for on December
11, 1873, the Reporter, in its "City Officers'* section, began to list
him as marshal.

Several months later Charles Brown assisted the Ellis county
sheriff to arrest "Dutch Henry," a widely known horse thief. The
Ellsworth Reporter carried this article on June 18, 1874:


Last Monday afternoon an arrest was made near this city that occasioned
considerable stir among our population. Sheriff Ramsey came down from
Ellis county, and armed with a United States warrant and revolver proceeded
to obey orders, having called to his assistance under-sheriff Stephens of this
city. About five miles from town as they were riding horseback they dis-
covered their man riding across the prairie. Riding after him Ramsey ordered
him to surrender in answer Born raised his revolver. Ramsey and Stephens
dismounted from their horses and each fired at Born. Born galloped off to
Oak creek where he secreted himself in the bushes. Ramsey ordered Stephens
to ride to Ellsworth for more men and some guns. Stephens returned with
City Marshal Brown and S. G. John, each being armed with guns. Arriving
at the creek it was found that Born had hid himself in a cave and had after-
wards crept up a ravine. He was soon found by the party, hid in the grass.


Not answering the sheriff's orders to give himself up, a shot from that officer's
revolver, which inflicted a slight wound on his face, and the presentation of
three long guns in different directions, brought him to terms and he was
disarmed, brought into the city and lodged in jail. The people here mean-
while knew what was going on and were out en masse watching the result.
When the party rode in, a great crowd of men and boys gathered at the
jail to see the prisoner. He was wounded in three places but none of the
shots were dangerous. He was cared for by our physicians. Sheriff Ramsey
took his prisoner up to Hays City on the 10:35 train and will duly hand him
to the U. S. authorities at Topeka. The prisoner was arrested for stealing
mules from the Government. He was once before arrested by Sheriff Whitney,
but there being some informality in the arrest he was released. Born and his
brother have had a claim on Oak creek for two years though it is said that
they have never entered their claim at the Land Office.

Nothing more was found concerning Marshal Brown until July 22,
1875, when the following appeared in the Ellsworth Reporter:


At a regular meeting of the city council, held July 20th, Mr. Beebe intro-
duced the following resolution:

WHEREAS, Our Marshal, J. C. Brown, having resigned his position to fill
one of like character on the frontier. Be it

Resolved, That in severing the connection of the Marshal with this city, Mr.
J. C. Brown, has for the past two years, performed his duty to the entire
satisfaction of our citizens.

That we cheerfully recommend him as an officer who is fearless, prompt,
honest, and always on hand to attend to his duty and equal to any emergency.

That a copy of these resolutions be signed by the mayor and, with the
seal of the city attached, be presented to Mr. J. C. Brown.

On motion of Mr. Montgomery, the above resolution was adopted and
ordered spread upon the record, and the minutes of this meeting containing
such, ordered published in the Ellsworth REPORTER. M. NEWTON,

Attest: Mayor

W. F. TOMPKINS, City Clerk.


The Dodge City Times, April 13, 1878, reported that "Joseph
Mason and John Brown have been placed on the Police force to
serve temporarily." On May 7 Brown was paid $52.50 for "salary
as Ass't Marshal," according to proceedings of the city council pub-
lished in the Times on May 11, 1878. Also it reported that on
"motion of C. M. Beeson the appointment of John Brown as police-
man was confirmed." The Times, from its issue of April 20 through
the issue of May 11, 1878, listed Brown as assistant marshal in its
"Official Directory."


Brown served as policeman under Marshal Charles E. Bassett
and Assistant Marshal Wyatt Earp. "Dodge City is practically
under an efficient guard/' wrote the editor of the Dodge City Times,
May 18, 1878. "The city fathers have wisely provided for the honor,
safety and character of the city by the appointment of an excellent
police force. We believe no better men for the positions can be
found anywhere."

In May, June, and July Brown remained on the police force. At a
city council meeting held August 6, 1878, it was decided that "the
police force [should] be reduced; and the clerk be instructed to
notify Policeman John Brown that his services would no longer be
required." l

A few weeks later Brown was taught a lesson in etiquette, Western
style. The Ford County Globe reported the affair on September
24, 1878:


A man named Brown, formerly one of our policemen, spat at Al Manning's
face last Wednesday. Al very promptly responded to this insult by emptying
a six-sho[o]ter at Brown, who being an expert runner and dodger, evaded the
bullets. We are, however, sorry to say that a young man by the name of
Wm. Morton caught one of the bullets in his foot. He is at present confined
to bed nursing his wounded foot. While we regret very much to hear of the
use of the revolver where innocent parties are liable to be hurt, we are glad
to believe that Mr. Brown has learned a lesson he'll not forget soon.

The last mention found of Brown in Dodge City was in the pro-
ceedings of the city council meeting of December 3, 1878, as re-
ported in the Times, December 7. At this meeting Brown was paid
$12.50 for "balance of salary," perhaps for the six days he had served
in August.

1. Dodge City Times, August 10, 1878.



James Masterson and Neil Brown were appointed marshal and
assistant marshal of Dodge City on November 4, 1879. These "off
season" appointments were occasioned by the recent resignations
of Marshal Charles E. Bassett and Assistant Marshal Wyatt Earp.
In reporting the appointments, the Dodge City Times, November
15, 1879, concluded with the statement that "these men make good
officers." Brown and Masterson each received $100 per month for
their police services. 1

On March 30, 1880, the Ford County Globe reported that "Capt.
Dan Gardiner officiated as police officer yesterday in the temporary


absence of the marshal. He succeeded in steering another weakneed
rooster over to the dog house, but his courage failed when police-
man Brown arrived and proposed to put the two in together/'

Both James Masterson and Neil Brown were reappointed by the
city council on May 4, 1880. 2

In June Brown arrested one of Dodge's first citizens and roughed
him up somewhat in the process. The Globe reported the incident
on June 8, 1880:


Dr. Galland and Capt. Howard, proprietor and clerk, respectively, of the
Great Western Hotel, were, after a short preliminary skirmish, in which the
Doctor received a patronizing welt or two from the festive revolver of Police-
man Brown, arrested and locked up in one of the dismal cells of the bastile,
where they remained until the Policeman saw fit to kindly liberate them. The
cause of the arrest was for a failure to pay hotel license. Yesterday the two
culprits were brought before Judge Weaver who fined the Doctor one dollar
and cost and dismissed the case against Howard. The Doctor and his friends
claim that he was mistreated and abused by the policeman, and that the affair
was caused by the Doctor's resignation last week as a member of the Council.
Such cases of "unpleasantness" are not proper amusements for Christians to
indulge in, and our voice is for peace.

Action was brought against Brown for his method and the trial
was reported in the Ford County Globe, June 15, 1880:

The case of the State of Kansas vs. Policeman Brown, charged with a
felonious assault upon Dr. S. Galland, late member of the City Council, was
called last Saturday in Chief Justice Cook's court. Nelson Adams, of Lamed,
appeared for the defendant and Jones and Frost for the State. The court
took the case under advisement until Monday, and when Monday came he
took the case under advisement for another week. In the fullness of time
we presume the judge will render an elaborate opinion.

The case was finally concluded in January, 1881. Brown was
convicted and fined $10 and costs. 3

In August, 1880, Brown wounded a man while making an arrest.
The Globe, August 24, 1880, reported:

Policeman Brown undertook to disarm a stranger last Friday, who was
carrying a pistol in his pocket. The stranger refused to disgorge and started
to run, whereupon the policeman gave chase and fired two shots, one of them
passing through the stranger's foot and bringing him to a stand-still. He
was taken to the calaboose and fined eight dollars, which he paid and took
his departure from this beautiful city on the first train, taking with him quite a
severe wound.

The city council, at a meeting held October 5, 1880, decided
to reduce the salaries of the marshal and his assistant. The Dodge



City Times reported the action on October 9: "On motion of W. C.
Shinn, seconded by T. J. Draper, that after the 31st of October
1880, the expense of Marshal and Assistant be reduced to one hun-
dred dollars per month, which passed; the mayor will take notice

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 20 of 59)