Tom Horn: Last of the Bad Men

Tom Horn: Last of the Bad Men

Tom Horn: Last of the Bad Men

Tom Horn: Last of the Bad Men


"The last great folk tale of the last American frontier" - that's how Jay Monaghan describes the crimson career of Tom Horn, defender of property rights, soldier of fortune, range detective, professional killer. Tom Horn, who had chased after Geronimo and ridden the trains as a Pinkerton operative, was drawn to wherever the action was - ultimately to Wyoming as a hired gun for the cattle barons. Finally he went too far - and paid at the end of a rope in 1903. For years afterward, whenever a man was found murdered on the high plains, people said, "Somebody tom-horned that fellow".


Larry D. Ball

Few frontier personalities have aroused such interest as Thomas H. Horn, the former army scout who died on the gallows in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1903 for the murder of a young boy. Horn packed many experiences into his short life. In Arizona, he served as a scout in the Apache wars and participated in the bloody vendetta known as the Pleasant Valley War. As a Pinkerton operative, he pursued train robbers in Colorado. On the northern ranges, he served the great cattle interests as detective and hired assassin. This talented frontiersman also found time to become a pioneer rodeo star and to participate in the Spanish-American War. Horn abetted the growth of his own legend by producing a selective and boastful autobiography, The Life of Tom Horn, Government Scout and Interpreter, just before he was executed. However, this book only initiated a lengthy list of writings about this mysterious and lethal frontiersman.

Tom Horn was born on a farm near Memphis, Scotland County, Missouri, on 21 November 1860. At fourteen, young Tom, who was big for his age and would eventually exceed six feet in height, sought his fortune in the West. He worked at various jobs--as a railroad laborer, teamster, livery man, and cowboy. While prospecting around Leadville, Colorado, in 1879, he reportedly signed on as a gunhand for the Denver, Rio Grande, and Western Railroad in its struggle with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe for control of the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River.

While employed by a stagecoach line in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Horn had occasion to drive a herd of company livestock to Prescott, Arizona. This remote frontier territory became his home, after a fashion. He resided there longer than in any other place. Horn dabbled in mining and claimed to have been a member of Ed Schieffelin's party that discovered and named the mining camp of Tombstone. At some point he met Al Sieber, a noted army scout, who introduced the young rover to Apache life at the San Carlos and other reservations in southeastern Arizona. Horn probably took a native wife and learned some Apache and Spanish.

In his autobiography, Horn not only accords himself the position of army scout and interpreter but says that he was in the thick of the fighting in several Apache campaigns. Although he was present in some engagements, Horn's position was much more modest: army packer. The . . .

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