No one was tougher than John Horton Slaughter, or Texas John as he was called, and before he reached his prime, he became known as the “baddest good guy that ever lived.”
He was born in 1841 and set out to prove himself, possibly because he only stood 5’6” tall. But small stature aside, he made quite a name for himself as a Texas Ranger and then a fighter for the Confederate army. During this time, he showed himself adept with weaponry and his fiery temper was legendary. Everyone learned to stay clear of him when he was angry. Outlaws often froze when they stared into his hard eyes.
Among those who admired his guns were Wild Bill Hickok, Big Foot Wallace, King Fisher, Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, and Pat Garrett.
He was equally admired for his ranching ability. When he developed a successful ranching operation in South Texas in the 1870s, he inspired loyalty from those who worked for him. Two were ex-slaves who were loyal their entire life. John made no distinction in the color of a man’s skin and he treated them well.
In 1871, he married Eliza Harris but she died of smallpox a few years later.
One lawman who chased outlaws with John remarked, “He was like a spider spinning his web for the unwary fly.”
And when he ordered a man, “to lay down or be shot down,” his lips barely moved. One thing for sure, you’d best move fast and oblige.
But John Slaughter had a bad vice—he loved to gamble, sometimes for three or four days straight before finding his way home. That didn’t set too well with his, second wife, sixteen-year-old Cora Viola Slaughter, and they had some mighty big fights. She threatened to leave him on more than one occasion, although she never did.
He moved his ranching operation to Cochise County, Arizona and in November 1886, he was elected sheriff, only the third one they had. Shortly after, the lawless men decided it was a good time to leave the territory or be killed. His gun became a symbol of the law during his Tombstone days. He was quick with his wits, fast on the draw with his pearl-handled revolver, and doggedly determined to clean up Tombstone. He was absolutely fearless because he was convinced he had a guardian angel and would never die from a bullet. He didn’t hesitate to ride off alone into the vast six thousand square miles of Cochise County in pursuit of a bad man and he never returned until he’d dealt with him.
In 1896, he and Cora adopted a baby girl they named Apache May after he found her while chasing Apache Indians in Mexico. Shortly after, he bought a large ranch called the San Bernardino at Douglas, Arizona and it had an unusual feature. Half of the house was located in the U.S. and half in Mexico.
The Slaughters loved Apache May or “Patchy” as they called her. When she was a young girl, she was playing near a scalding pot in the yard and fell into it. She was too badly burned to survive and was buried on the ranch.
Texas John lived to be the ripe old age of 81. True to his lifelong belief, he died in his sleep on February 15, 1922 and was buried in the cemetery at Douglas, Arizona. Cora outlived him by nineteen years.
He’d cleaned up Arizona Territory more than any other single lawman and carved his name in history.
I wonder if you’ve ever heard of him. Have you ever felt you have a guardian angel watching over you?