Spiritual Lessons From The American West
The Bad Guys - Wes Hardin
(Volume 28, April 2011)
John Wesley Hardin was born May 26, 1853, in Bonham, Texas. Though undocumented, rumor had it that he was so mean, he once shot a man for snoring.
John's father, James G. Hardin, was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher, as well as part-time lawyer and school teacher. Wes, as he was commonly known, began his career of infamy early in life by stabbing a school mate at the age of fourteen. At the age of fifteen, he shot and killed his first man. While fleeing from the law for that murder, he killed at least one, and maybe four soldiers as they attempted to arrest him.
The year 1871 found young Wes living the life of a cowboy on the Chisolm Trail. It was there that he killed seven men. Upon arriving in Abilene, Kansas shortly thereafter, he killed three more, making his stay in Kansas very short. After fleeing back to Texas, he had a run-in with the State Police, a product of Carpetbag rule.
Wes finally got married, settled down in Texas, and had three children. However, it wasn’t long before he killed four more men. In September of 1872, he then surrendered to the sheriff of Cherokee County. He only spent a few weeks in jail, however, before breaking out and, once again, going on the run.
Next to go down before Hardin’s gun was Jack Helm, a former State Police captain who led the fight against those who took a stand against the unfair practices of the reconstructionists.
In 1873, Hardin became a supporter of Jim Taylor in the Sutton-Taylor Feud and In May of the following year, killed a deputy sheriff in Brown County.
This caused Wes to flee to Florida with his family, but on July 23, 1877, he was captured by Texas Rangers in Pensacola During. This was not without cost to the Rangers, however, for in that flight, Harden killed at least one Ranger, and perhaps as many as five other people.
On September 28, 1878, Hardin was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for murdering the Brown County deputy , but, having been a model prisoner and even studied law while in prison, was pardoned on March 16, 1894. Soon after his release, Hardin was admitted to the Texas bar and, in 1895, began a law practice in El Paso.
When he seemed to finally be going straight, Hardin became involved with a married female client. Her husband found out about it, and Hardin hired some law officials to kill him.
Things didn’t turn out right for Wes Hardin this time, for on August 19, 1895, he was shot and killed by one of his own hired killers while throwing dice in the Acme Saloon in El Paso, thus ending the career of one of the most deadly gunslingers the Old West ever knew; one who was credited with killing over thirty men.
In the life and death of John Wesley Hardin, son of a Methodist circuit-riding preacher, can be seen the fulfillment of the Scripture that declares, “All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, 'Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’” (Amos 9:10).