Texas Ranger Dallas Stoudenmire stepped out of the stage coach and stood in the street of the rough, remote, boomtown of El Paso Texas in 1881. This wasn’t the first lawless town the 6’4” tall Ranger had seen. El Paso was looking for a town marshal, an outsider with a “rough reputation.” Stoudenmire was the man for the job. He would be the town’s sixth marshal in eight months. El Paso-called "Hell Paso” by some- had a reputation as a wild and violent town was about to end.
As a former Judge, I was known for handing out unique public punishments, and it seems that Stoudenmire employed a few shame tactics of his own. As he began his tenure as Marshal, he was asked to relive the deputy marshal and town drunkard, Bill Johnson, of the city jail keys. It is said that Stoudenmire approached a rather intoxicated Johnson and requested the jail keys. Johnson mumbled under his breath and attempted to give him the runaround. Stoudenmire became impatient and demanded Johnson hand over the keys immediately. Johnson still demurred, and the marshal took matters into his own hands. He picked Johnson up, flipped him upside down, grabbed the keys, threw him to the ground and walked away. Public humiliation goes a long way, Mr. Speaker.
Stoudenmire was revered as a strong shot, deadly and fast. His service began as a young boy in the Confederate Army. At 15 years of age, he volunteered in the 45th Alabama Infantry Division and left the war with two bullets embedded in his body that he carried inside him for the rest of his life. When the war ended, he moved to the Great State of Texas and originally settled in Columbus, where he was said to have killed a number of men.
On April 14, 1881, three days into the job in El Paso, Stoudenmire became party to one of the most legendary gunfights in the history of the old Wild West, famously called “Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight.” A group of heavily armed Mexican cowboys rode into town in search of 30 head of rustled cattle and two Mexican Vaqueros that had gone looking for them in Texas. But the Vaqueros had been murdered
The bodies of the two men were found out near Johnny Hale’s ranch about 13 miles northwest of El Paso. Two outlaw cattle rustlers, Peveler and Stevenson, who stole the Mexican cattle and took them to Hales ranch, were foolishly overheard bragging about murdering Vaqueros. They were charged with the homicides. Chaos broke out in the streets of El Paso after the Mexicans showed up for the trial
Animosity and worries from the Americans about the heavily armed and enraged Mexicans spread a heavy tension over El Paso. Constable Krempkau was fluent in Spanish and was required to interpret for the town judge. Peveler and Stevenson were officially charged with murder but found not guilty. After the trial, Constable Krempkau made his way from the courthouse to the saloon to retrieve his rifle and pistol.
Marshal Stoudenmire was enjoying his dinner at the restaurant across the street. He was known in Texas as a handsome man, a sharp dresser and a gentleman around the ladies. Despite his outward appearances, he had a deadly reputation and was involved in more gunfights than most of his better-known contemporaries, including Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson or John Selman. He was known for his habit of wearing two guns and being equally accurate with either hand.
That evening an argument erupted with George Campbell over comments he allegedly made about Krempkau. Crooked as the Brazos, and heavily intoxicated John Hale snatched one of Campbell’s two pistols and shot Krempkau who fell to the floor, wounded. Hale scurried to a post in front of the salon as Stoudenmire seemingly flew to the scene, pistols raised.
The marshals first shot went wild, accidently hitting an innocent Mexican bystander. His second shot hit Hale dead center. When Campbell saw Hale fall, he ran from the saloon waving his gun and shouting “Gentlemen, this is not my fight!” However, wounded Krempkau was out for vengeance and fired at Campbell, striking him. Marshal Stoudenmire spun around, firing three bullets straight into Campbell’s stomach. As the dusty street of El Paso cleared, four men lay dead. The Hollywood style series of events took place in less than five seconds. The gunfight was so well publicized that newspapers in cities as far away as San Francisco and New York, making Stoudenmire a living legend.
Despite Stoudenmire’s success in drastically dropping the crime rate in El Paso, he had an extremely bad temper, especially when intoxicated, which ultimately led to his downfall. After a series of events that lead to Stoudenmire drinking heavily, he was asked to step down as town marshal. He infamously confronted the town council while inebriated, and dared them to take his guns or his job. The fearful council quickly backed down. However, two days later a sober Stoudenmire offered his resignation and began running the Globe Restaurant. Later that July, he accepted and appointment as a U.S. Deputy Marshal. He continued to use his remarkable marksmanship skills to settle arguments.
Stoudenmire was killed during his ongoing feud with the Manning Brothers when he was shot during an argument. Even during his final moments, he continued fighting for his life. Doc Manning pulled his gun and fired first, hitting Stoudenmire in the left arm, causing the gun to fall out of his hand. Doc’s second shot hit the marshals’ pocket filled with papers. The wild shot didn’t break through the skin, but forced him backward through the saloon doors, into the street. Stoudenmire pulled his second gun and shot with his other hand, hitting doc in the arm. Doc’s brother Jim followed and fired, hitting Stoudenmire behind the ear, instantly killing him. The brothers had ended the feud, killing one of the most impressive gunslingers of the day.
Stoudenmire was honored with a funeral at El Paso’s Masonic Lodge before his wife had his body shipped to Columbus, Texas for the burial. Marshal Stoudenmire was a member of the thin blue line, the line that keeps us safe from evil doers and outlaws. His success in taming the wild and violent town of El Paso was truly a credit to his outstanding marksmanship. 6’4” Dallas Stoudenmire was a larger than life Texan who kept other Texans safe from harm.
And that’s just the way it is.