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Atascosa County, Texas and started the San Antonio Ranch Company. They became well known as cattle transporters for other ranchers as well as their own business. He was one of the earliest ranchers to drive the Chisholm Trail and to take herds to Kansas and New Mexico as well as California. On one trip to California, Slaughter was introduced to poker and it became a passion that he never lost. While playing in San Antonio he caught a man named Barney Gallagher cheating. Slaughter challenged him at the point of a gun, took back his money and left the game, returning to the ranch. Gallagher followed him and when he got to the ranch, he called him out. He shot fi rst and missed and Slaughter shot second and didn’t—Gallagher fell in the dirt, mortally wounded. Slaughter made Eliza Harris his wife in 1871 and they had four children, two living to adulthood. Near the end of the 1870s, “Texas John” decided that the Lone Star state was becoming too crowded and went to look for land in the New Mexico Territory. Although he bought cattle there he was still searching for better land. He moved on to the Arizona Territory and found suitable ground in Cochise County, near Tucson. Shortly after they settled Eliza died of smallpox. In 1868, John, now twenty- nine, married a sixteen year old named Viola Howell and moved her family to live on the Arizona ranch with them. In 1884, Slaughter bought 65,000 acres of the original Perez land grant. Called the San Bernardino Ranch, it lay across the U.S. / Mexican border - half in both countries. John and Viola and their family lived on the ranch and managed as many as 500 people working and living on the property, including many adopted and foster children. One of these was an Apache infant that had been abandoned by her family when Slaughter was hunting down a band of Apache killers. Named Apache May Slaughter, she died in a freak accident at age six. The Slaughters loved children and had quite a few on the ranch, enough that they built a school for them called Slaughter School District No. 28. In 1886 John was elected Sheriff of Cochise County, just fi ve years after the famous gunfi ght at the OK Corral. He brought back law and order to the town and the Tombstone jail was respectfully nicknamed Hotel de Slaughter. One of his fi rst jobs was to bring in the Jack Taylor gang. After robbing a train near Nogales, Slaughter and his men caught up with them in Contention. Finding them asleep, he ordered them up. Instead they reached for their weapons and gunfi re erupted. In a scene made for a Hollywood movie, two of the outlaws were killed outright, and Slaughter caught a bullet to the edge of his ear. One other member was wounded by a deputy and escaped. Jack Taylor was arrested in Sonora, Mexico and the rest of the gang was killed by the Mexican police. As much as anyone before him, he was the driving force behind the settlement in that part of the country and brought many outlaws to justice, in the courts or out. Slaughter became the symbol of a lawman not to be trifl ed with, often riding out into the desert by himself, not returning until the offender was dealt with. Viola loved the ranch and the children and the time John spent at home, but she hated the marathon poker sessions that took him away from the family for days at a time and threatened to leave him more than once. In 1906 Slaughter was elected for a term as representative in the territorial assembly. He bought two meat markets and a butcher shop to sell his own product and often loaned people money to get started. John Slaughter’s resume documents one of the most impressive lives a man of that time could ever live. Cattle rancher by trade, his path took him to some of the wildest places in the Southwest, chasing some of the baddest men ever seen. As a Texas Ranger, he chased outlaw Comanches. In the Civil War he fought the North as a Confederate. He drove cattle on all of the famous trails and was a much-feared sheriff. Moving to Arizona, he chased outlaws like Taylor and helped capture Geronimo on his own San Bernardino Ranch. His friend and fellow man hunter Judge Clayton Baird wrote of Slaughter: “Unlike squalid old badge wearers such as John Selmon and Wild Bill SLAUGHTER RANCH MUSEUM Hickok, John Slaughter was basically a very reserved sort of man. Nobody who wished to keep on calling terms with him overstepped that boundary,” In his lifetime Slaughter met and worked with many of the great lawmen like Wild Bill Hickok, Ben Thompson and Wyatt Earp, and dealt with some of the worst of the criminals of the time like Billy the Kid, Sam Bass and King Fisher—all in a day’s work for this 5’ 6” giant of a man. Bert Entwistle’s web page is www.blackmulepress.com. looking back Continued from page 154 The Slaughter Ranch is a private museum open to the public Wednesday – Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Go to www.slaughterranch.com for directions and more info; the outfi t is located about 15 miles east of Douglas, AZ. APRIL / MAY 2016 I WORKING RANCH I 153


Working Ranch April/May 2016
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