|The Kosse Echo
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Reprinted with permission of Kosse Echo Publisher Nell McKinney
By Edgar Kling
Originally published in January 1986 and copied exactly as written.
John Wesley Hardin Slept Here
John Wesley Hardin was born in Bonham, Fannin County, Texas, on May 26, 1853,
the son of James G. Hardin, a frontier Methodist preacher. The proud parents
christened the boy with the name John Wesley in honor of the founder of their
He grew up in a typical frontier lifestyle and received an average education for that
era which followed the Civil War when Texas was still filled with hatred and strife.
His first serious crime was committed in 1868 when he shot a black man that he said
was trying to bully him.
Those were the early days of the Reconstruction period when Texas was ruled by
hated Union forces and a State Police composed mostly of freed slaves. John
Wesley was 15 years old at that time, and his father believed that under the
circumstances, it would be impossible for his son to get a fair trial. Therefore, the
young boy became a fugitive.
In the next ten years (1868-1878) he killed 27 men. According to his
autobiography, Hardin killed the aforementioned man, his first, while visiting an
uncle near Livingston in Polk County. He then fled a few miles north to the rural
community of Logallis Prairie where an elder brother taught school. Here he spent
his time hunting wild cattle and game. A short time later his brother warned him the
United States soldiers had learned of his whereabouts and were coming after him.
Hardin then started hunting the soldiers. He located them in a deep creek bed, and
after the ensuing gun battle two white soldiers lay dead, and one black man was
dying. He started the battle with a double-barrelled shotgun, and ended it with his
In January, 1869, he went with his father to Navarro County and taught school near
Pisga for one term and then became a cowboy and drove cattle to shipping points.
On cattle drives he became an expert gambler playing poker, seven-up, eucher, and
betting on any kind of horse racing.
The main thing that would rouse his hatred in those days was the way Northern
carpetbaggers treated old Confederate soldiers. According to his autobiography,
Hardin heard of an incident in a neighboring town where disabled Confederate
veterans were being harassed by a recently freed slave. Hardin then dressed
himself as an old man and met him on the road to town. As the man approached
him and ordered him out ot the road, he stopped and began popping his whip at
the disguised Hardin and began calling him vile names. As the whip finally hit him,
Hardin jerked off his mask and pointed his pistol straight into the man's face.
Speaking slowly and with a trace of a smile on his face, Hardin told him he intended
to kill him for his cruelty to old men, but that first he would give him a chance to pray
and make things right with his Maker. The terrified man dropped to his knees and
began praying for his life. During this time, Hardin fired his gun near the man's head
and let him go. Hardin arrogantly said that the man then became a fine and
respected man in the community.
In this same area, Hardin killed many men, and fled first to Horn Hill in Limestone
County on his way to Brenham in Washington County. When he arrived in Horn Hill,
a circus was in progress.
In Hardin's own words as taken from his autobiography:
"About 55 miles from Pisga a circus was going on at a place called Horn Hill. One of
the circus men had had a row with some of the citizens, resulting in some men being
shot. We knew nothing about this and upon getting to town went to a hotel to get
The circus people had all the beds engaged, so we could not get one. About 10
p.m. we went out to the circus campfires. It was quite cold and while we were all
standing round the fire I accidentally struck the hand of a circus man who was
lighting his pipe with a fagot from the fire. I begged his pardon at once and assured
him it was a pure accident. He, however, just roared and bellowed and swore he
would smash my nose. I told him to smash and be damned, that I was a kind of
smasher myself. He said, 'You are, are you?' and struck me on the nose, and
started to pull his gun. I pulled mine and fired. He fell with a .45 ball through his
After this episode, Hardin came to Kosse. It was here that history records another
infamous incident from the exploits of this notorious criminal. Quoting again from
"I was young then and loved every pretty girl, I met, and at Kosse I met one and
we got along famously together. I made an engagement to call on her that night
and did so. I had not been there long when someone made a row at the door of
the house. She got scared and told me it was her sweetheart, and about this time
the fellow came in and told me he would kill me if I did not give him $100.00. I told
him to go slow, and not to be in such a hurry; that I only had about $50.00 or
$60.00 in my pocket, but if he would go with me to the stable I would give him more
as I had the money in my saddle pockets. He said he would go, and I, pretending
to be scared, started for the stable. He said, 'Give me what you have got first.' I
told him all right, and in so doing, dropped some of it on the floor. He stooped down
to pick it up and as he was straightening up I pulled my pistol and fired. The ball
struck him between the eyes and he fell over, a dead lobber. I stopped long
enough to get back most of my money and resumed my journey to Brenham."
He arrived there the end of January, 1870 and went to his uncle Bob Hardin's home
where he farmed with him a short while. The next several years of his life were
spent in a turbulent fashion, gambling and killing men. He was finally captured in
July, 1877, and sentenced to the Huntsville penitentiary for 25 years. He served 17
years and was pardoned February 17, 1894. During his incarceration in the
penitentiary, Hardin studied law and after his release was admitted to the bar. He
went to El Paso, then a wild town, to set up his law practice but then returned to
his old life of ambling and drinking and was killed August 19, 1895, in the Acme
saloon by the famous lawman John Selman.