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Henry Newton Brown: Rogue Lawman

Updated on December 3, 2011

Henry Newton Brown

In July 1882, a man named Henry Newton Brown rode into Caldwell, Kansas, a wild, lawless cow town known as the Border Queen. Shortly after his arrival, he stopped by City Hall and applied for a job as a lawman. Since, there were few others beating down the door for the position he was quickly hired. Brown pinned on a deputy marshals’ badge, strapped on his two ivory handled six-shooters, took his worn Winchester rifle and went to work. Little did the town of Caldwell realize to who they had just entrusted the public safety of their citizens.

Henry Brown was well known in Texas and New Mexico as an outlaw and one of the fastest gun hands in the territory. He rode with Billy the Kid during the infamous Lincoln County War of 1878. He was also known to steal a horse or two down in the Pecos Valley.

Brown was born around 1858. However, his parents died when he was very young, so he and his sister were raised by an uncle near Rolla, Missouri.

Sometime in the early 1880s he wangled a job as a deputy sheriff of Oldam County in Texas. But the hot tempered Brown was soon fired because he was always getting into fights. He lost several jobs because of his surly disposition. But when he drifted into Caldwell that summer he thought he had found a home.

Brown soon became well respected by the townspeople and within a year had worked his way up to being the town marshal. He became a pillar of the community who didn’t drink, gamble or even use tobacco. But the job wasn’t easy. In the course of his duties he had to dispatch two trouble makers to their early graves.

Caldwell, Circa 1880

From L to R: John Wesley, Henry Brown, Billy Smith and Ben Wheeler
From L to R: John Wesley, Henry Brown, Billy Smith and Ben Wheeler

One was Spotted Horse, a Pawnee Indian who had come into town with his squaw and was demanding food from several local business establishments and generally being an all around nuisance. He had words with a few proprietors even though he had managed to wheedle groceries out of them. It was reported he drew his revolver at one place and threatened the owner.

When news of the incident reached Brown he immediately went to take care of business. When he confronted the big Indian, Spotted Horse went for his gun. The marshal fired a volley of shots, one which struck the Indian in the head. Spotted Horse died shortly afterwards.

It became apparent Brown was going to need help in keeping the peace. He hired a huge Texan named William Sherod Robinson, better known as Ben Wheeler as his deputy.

The next ruffian to disturb the peace was Newt Boyce, a Texas gambler who had cut two men in a local saloon. Brown and Wheeler threw Boyce in jail for the night. He was released the next morning and he spent the rest of the day drinking and making threats against the two lawmen. Wheeler informed Brown about the threats who picked up his Winchester and went after the inebriated Boyce. He found him standing outside of a saloon. When Boyce saw him he foolishly drew on the marshal who instantly cut him down with his rifle. Boyce managed to stagger into the saloon where he collapsed. He was carried to a nearby warehouse while a doctor was summoned. Boyce died several hours later.

The citizens of Caldwell felt they had a good man in Brown and to reward him for his exemplary public service they presented him with a new engraved, gold-mounted Winchester rifle. The inscription read "For valuable services rendered the citizens of Caldwell."

Then, in April of 1884 Brown and Deputy Wheeler left town in search of a murderer in Oklahoma. Somewhere along the line the two decided to turn in their badges and become outlaws again. No one knows why. The pair joined two acquaintances from Texas, Bill Smith and John Wesley and headed west towards the small town of Medicine Lodge. Medicine Lodge was about 55 miles from Caldwell and had a small bank which they felt would be easy pickings.

They were wrong and botched the whole affair. None of the hastily formed gang had ever robbed a bank before. With Smith keeping a lookout, the others entered the bank shortly after it opened. Inside was the bank president, E. W. Payne and a cashier, George Geppert. Payne went for a gun and Brown fired fatally wounding him. Geppert immediately raised his hands but Wheeler and Wesley shot him several times anyway. But, before Geppert died he managed to close and lock the vault.

With nothing to show for their efforts the gang fled town with a posse in hot pursuit. But, since they were in unfamiliar territory they were soon trapped in a box canyon where they continued to fight off the posse. Eventually they realized they were battling a lost cause and surrendered.

Back in Medicine Lodge the prisoners were met by a mob of angry townspeople who wanted to lynch them on the spot, but the authorities managed to get them under lock and key and put under guard. However, it was a moot point as the mob returned later that evening bent on a hanging. The sheriff and guards were overpowered. Having no other alternative the four made a valiant attempt to escape. Brown was immediately shot and killed before he had barely crossed a few yards. The other three were hauled off to an Elm tree east of the town and unceremoniously lynched.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Rod Cook, I'm not writing a history book here, just a short essay. And as you point out "...obscure and heretofore unpublished information and revelations of many previously unknown aspects of the Medicine lodge affair." My story was written with information most researchers deemed correct, up until now. Is the information the author of this book refers to correct? Was he there when these events took place? Many authors write books and claim many things. Perhaps he is correct, and then the evidence he offers as proof may be falsified. In any case, my story stands. I have written professionally for many years, and I take exception to your comment my narrative is loosely written. But, you're entitled to your opinion.

    • profile image

      Rod Cook 6 years ago

      The narative is very loosely written and strays from true nonfiction (no primary source aludes to him having "two ivory handled six-shooters.") Please check out a book titled "William Sherod Robinson alias Ben Wheeler." Wheeler was Brown's assistant. The book includes the most throughly researched information about Henry Brown and the Medicine Valley Bank robbery. It is throughly documented and includes obscure and heretofore unpublished information and revelations of many previously unknown aspects of the Medicine lodge affair. It refutes the long standing ledgend of Brown killing Payne.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I appreciate your comments. I work hard on my hubs.

    • JCielo profile image

      JCielo 6 years ago from England

      Enjoyed the story very much. I too thought it was well written.

    • gunsock profile image

      gunsock 6 years ago from South Coast of England

      What an interesting story and well written. Thank you.