Cold Blooded Outlaw Sam Brown
Sam Brown was said to be the meanest, cold blooded killer ever to set foot in Nevada Territory. He was known to have killed between 15 to 20 odd men, some for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Brown drifted into Virginia City during the 1850s from parts unknown. He was easily recognized by his fringed buck skin coat and long unkempt brown hair and mustache. He was described as standing nearly six feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds.
Although he wore a revolver slung low, his weapon of choice was said to be a Bowie knife he kept prominently displayed stuck in his belt. He once repeatedly stabbed a man to death then carved the corpse to pieces in a gaming house just because he felt like it.
Sam Brown was generally called just "Long-Haired Sam” and people gave him wide berth. He was a pure unholy cuss who constantly spouted profanity and was basically loathed by all who knew him. You didn’t have to see Brown coming. He could be heard long before he arrived by loud obscenities and the distinctive jangling of his Spanish spurs…at which time people suddenly decided they needed to be somewhere else. He was well at home pushing around unarmed men and those unable to defend themselves against someone of his broad stout build. But it was an entirely different story when confronted by someone pointing a pistol at him.
There’s a well documented case about Brown and his bullying tactics. He had heard a man was being tried for murder and although he didn’t know the fellow, bragged he could go to court and clear the man of all charges by giving false testimony. He went to court but it didn’t turn out quite the way he expected.
Because he had bragged so much about his intentions, court officers were expecting him. But the spectators weren’t. When Brown barged into the court room some hid behind benches while others jumped out the window, expecting at any moment the air would be filled with flying lead.
The only man in the room not impressed by Brown’s presence was Senator William M. Stewart, who was assisting the District Attorney in prosecuting the case. Stewart calmly pulled his two revolvers and ordered him to the witness stand to be sworn in. Following that, Stewart informed Brown he had heard all about his brag and if he attempted any gun play or gave false testimony he would blow his brains out. With the guns still pointed at him Brown told the court the defendant had a bad reputation but he didn’t know him personally.
Smarting from the public humiliation, Brown later rode out of town toward the residence of Henry Vansickle, a German rancher, who also had a small inn for travelers. When he reached the inn Brown greeted Vansickle by pulling his gun and firing a few shots at him. Fortunately, Brown had been drinking and his shots missed their mark. Vansickle took refuge inside his establishment and armed himself with a double-barreled shotgun. After his offensive visitor had left with a man named Henderson, Vansickle saddled his horse and as the old western movies referred to it, he “headed them off at the pass.”
As Brown and his companion rounded a turn the pair was confronted by Vansickle and his double-barreled shotgun. He ordered Henderson to get out of the way as he was going to kill Sam. Vansickle unloaded both barrels at Brown who was still at a distance where the blasts only wounded him. Brown went for his gun and returned fire. Not knowing Vansickle was out of ammunition he spun his horse and fled towards a nearby house where he took cover. Vansickle followed.
By this time word had gotten around Vansickle was engaged in an all out war with the despicable Brown and several people brought him more ammunition. Vansickle kept the house under surveillance waiting for Brown to make his move. Brown finally made a break for it and Vansickle followed in hot pursuit. Vansickle, however, had a faster horse and he quickly overtook his quarry.
Vansickle fired his shotgun but missed. Brown fired several shots in return and took off again. Brown was dumbstruck. No one had ever dared to stand up to him, much less tried to kill him. Brown was now in mortal fear from this otherwise peaceful maniac who was bound and determined to send him to hell.
Terrified, Brown took cover in the nearest home he could find as darkness fell and once again Vansickle took up a position and waited for him to come out. But unbeknownst to Vansickle, Brown had escaped out the back. When he realized Brown had flown the coop the lone vigilante rode on searching for Brown who had shown his true colors as being nothing more than a bully and a coward.
Not long after Brown’s favorite spurs gave away his position as Vansickle heard them jangle in the darkness. Vansickle followed the telltale sounds and caught Brown as he was dismounting his horse. Brown, pleaded for his life, to no avail. Vansickle blew his head off with a double blast of buckshot.
It was July 6th 1881 and Nevada Territory breathed a collective sigh of relief. Vansickle was exonerated of any charges and was generally thanked for performing a public service.
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