Hoodoo Browns' "Dodge City Gang"
Hanging Windmill, Las Vegas, NM
Las Vegas Saloon, 1870's
The "Dodge City Gang,” was a mob of ruffians, outlaws, gamblers bunko artists, murderers, thieves, and criminals of every unsavory sort who arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico in the summer of 1879. They had earned the nickname since so many of them had reputations for violence and running afoul of the law in western cow towns of Kansas.
Many members of the gang were recruited from the recent Railroad Wars of Raton, New Mexico and Royal George, Colorado. The gangs’ leader was Hyman Neill, better known as “Hoodoo Brown.” who had wangled a position as Justice of the Peace for East Las Vegas. Neill, hailed from a good traditional southern family in Lexington, Missouri. Also serving as coroner and mayor, Hoodoo soon gathered several former gunfighters from Kansas and established a police force.
The Dodge City Gang included a judge, a group of peace officers, and several known outlaws with ties to Dodge City who were giving the citizens in the area a hard time. In addition to Hoodoo Brown, the gang consisted of:
· City Marshal Joe Carson
· Deputy U. S. Marshal and later Las Vegas Marshal, ‘Mysterious Dave Mather,’
· peace officer Tom Pickett
· policeman John Joshua (J.J.) Webb
· ‘Dirty Dave Rudabaugh’
· Selim K. ‘Frank’ Cady
· Dutch Henry Borne
· William P. "Slap Jack Bill" Nicholson
· John ‘Bull Shit Jack’ Pierce
· Jordan L. Webb
· and various other disreputable hard cases.
'Mysterious Dave Mather'
Those members holding official capacities in the group, were suspected of covering up any evidence of wrong doing on the part of the others.
At that time, Las Vegas had a rough reputation which attracted all kinds of seedy characters. It was said ‘Billy the Kid’ and Jesse James both passed through in 1879, though neither was ever a part of the gang.
The gang somehow managed to get local law enforcement positions filled by people of their choice. The idea was to control gambling establishments and get rich off the profits. And over the next two years, the gang took part in several stagecoach and train robberies, rustled cattle and said to have committed multiple murders and hangings.
From 1879 through early 1880, Hoodoo and his gang terrorized the area with stagecoach and train robberies, murder, thievery, and other sleazy crimes. Since Hoodoo was also Coroner, he positioned his people on the "Coroner’s Jury,” which came in handy when determining whether a killing was a homicide or self-defense and covering up their crimes.
But by summer 1880, the law abiding citizens of Las Vegas had finally had enough A party of vigilantes were assembled who posted this notice in the Las Vegas Optic on April 8, 1880:
“To Murderers, Confidence Men and Thieves:
The citizens of Las Vegas have tired of robbery, murder, and other crimes that have made this town a byword in every civilized community. They have resolved to put a stop to crime, if in attaining that end they have to forget the law and resort to a speedier justice than it will afford. All such characters are therefore, hereby notified, that they must either leave this town or conform themselves to the requirements of law, or they will be summarily dealt with. The flow of blood must and shall be stopped in this community, and the good citizens of both the old and new towns have determined to stop it, if they have to HANG by the strong arm of FORCE every violator of the law in this country. " Signed, Vigilantes.
Eventually Brown and the rest of his gang were driven from the state. Hoodoo was said to have stolen money from a dead man before moving on to Houston, Texas. Therefore, shortly after his arrival he was arrested and jailed. While incarcerated, he was visited by the widow of a former Las Vegas deputy who had been killed two months earlier. Apparently, there was more to the meetings than met the eye. Tongues began to wag about a possible affair.
The Chicago Times reported in part that Brown and the widow who had visited him "…have been skylarking through some of the interior towns of Kansas ever since."
Another newspaper, the Parsons Eclipse, wrote "The offense committed at Las Vegas, as near as we can gather the facts relating to it, was murder and robbery, and the circumstances connected with the arrest here would indicate that the lesser crime of seduction and adultery was connected with it."
While the gossips were having a field day, Hoodoo hired two local attorneys and was released when the Texas authorities were unable to establish charges against him.
According to reports from a Hoodoo descendent, Hyman G. Neill died in Torreon, Mexico, where he left a common law wife and a son. Hoodoo was buried in the family plot in Lexington, Missouri under the name of Henry G Neill.
Some years later records listed a Mrs. Hoodoo Brown living in Leadville, Colorado. Reports indicated Elizabeth Brown was a hard drinker and a well-known practitioner of the black arts. She was also said to have married a gambler named Hoodoo Brown, who was shot and killed in a gambling dispute. Was this Hoodoo's common law wife?
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