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Legendary Lawman Dallas Stoudenmire
Dallas Stoudenmire, an Old West lawman, was involved in more gunfights than the majority of his contemporaries, yet he never became as well known. At first glance he appeared to be a dandy, dressed to the nines in fashionable clothes and standing about 6’ 4”. The ladies described him as a dashing figure of a man, polite and well mannered. Men saw him as a quick tempered man with a fast draw who had killed more than his fair share of men.
He probably seemed oddly out of place when he drifted into the lawless boom town of El Paso, Texas in 1881. However, Stoudenmire was to leave an indelible mark on the town’s history and would later become known as the man who tamed El Paso.
Stoudenmire was born in Aberfoil, Alabama, December 11th 1845. In 1862 he joined the Confederate Army at the age of 15. At 6’ tall it was easy to convince recruiters he was older. However, twice his commanding officer discovered his true age and discharged him. Apparently, the 3rd time he enlisted he must’ve been of age and was allowed to serve in the 45th Alabama Infantry. Stoudenmire was wounded numerous times and carried two bullets in his body the rest of his life.
Following the war Stoudenmire was said to have killed a number of men around 1867 in Texas. Not much is known about his whereabouts for the next few years. He is next seen in 1874 as a member of the Texas Rangers and a few years later as a marshal in Socorro, New Mexico.
Stoudenmire didn’t arrive in El Paso by accident. His brother-in-law, Stanley "Doc" Cummings, lived there. Doc figured if anybody could clean up the outlaw infested town it was Dallas. He knew the man wore two pistols, was quick on the draw and could shoot equally well with either hand. He suggested Dallas should apply for the job of town marshal. Perhaps Doc had forgotten to mention the town had lost six marshals in the last eight months. But in any case he was hired immediately.
Stoudenmire began making enemies from the start. His first order of business was to get the keys to the city jail from Deputy Marshal Bill Johnson. Johnson was also the town drunk and took Stoudenmire’s presence in town as a threat to his job. Johnson stalled and made excuses not intending to give him the keys. The man found himself instantly turned upside down and shaken until the keys fell out of his pocket.
A few days later El Paso was the scene of one of Texas’s most famous gunfights…the “Four Dead in Five Seconds” gunfight. It took place in Keating’s Saloon, the seediest hangout in town, with Stoudenmire cast in the leading role.
The event happened on April 14th when ConstableGustav Krempkau got into a heated argument with former town Marshal, George Campbell. Also involved was John Hale, Campbell’s friend. Hale, unarmed and obviously inebriated, pulled one of Campbell’s twin pistols and shot Krempkau. Krempkau was wounded but still not out of action. Hale quickly sobered up after realizing what he had just done and ran outside.
He took cover behind a post in front of the saloon just as Marshal Stoudenmire appeared with pistols drawn. Stoudenmire fired once but the bullet must have ricocheted. It struck and killed an innocent Mexican bystander. Hale snuck a peek from behind the post and was instantly killed with a neatly placed bullet between the eyes from Stoudenmire’s gun.
When Campbell saw Hale fall he decided he wanted no dealings with a man that fast and accurate with a pistol. Campbell exited the saloon with his gun raised over his head and claiming he had no part in the argument. The wounded Krempkau disagreed and fired on Campbell hitting him in the wrist and toe. Not sure of whom was shooting at whom, Stoudenmire whirled and rapidly put three bullets into Campbell’s abdomen. Campbell sprawled into the dusty street dead.
Three days later, violence erupted again. After wealthy James Manning and his brothers discovered Stoudenmire had killed their close friends Hale and Campbell, they convinced former Deputy Marshal Bill Johnson to kill him. Johnson, who was still smarting from Stoudenmire’s public humiliation of him, gladly accepted the proposition.
The former deputy, drunk as usual, hid behind a large brick pillar and lay in ambush for the marshal. Shortly, he heard Stoudenmire and "Doc” Cummings approaching. As he took aim, the drunken would-be assassin stumbled and fell down, discharging both barrels into the air. The marshal’s pistols seemed to instantly materialize in his hands and a number of rapid shots left Johnson lying dead on the street.
The Manning brothers were not pleased with this turn of events, but they were bound and determined to exact their revenge. In the meantime the Stoudenmire legend continued to grow between April and the next February as he put another six outlaws in their graves. The city's crime rate also dropped to an all time low.
In February, 1882 Dallas briefly left town to marry Isabella Sherrington in Columbus, Texas. When he returned he discovered James Manning had killed "Doc" Cummings during a gunfight at the Coliseum Saloon, which was owned by Manning. Manning was arrested but it was determined he had acted in self defense. That should’ve been expected in a town filled with sympathetic friends of the Manning’s. Although Stoudenmire was well respected by other lawmen he actually had few friends in El Paso.
Stoudenmire was enraged by the decision. He began to drink heavily and often confronted those he felt responsible for Manning’s acquittal. Many residents avoided coming into town and steered clear of saloons for fear of running into him. Stoudenmire continued to drink and his actions became more violent and strange. Sometimes, he used the church bell for target practice and argued constantly with city officials.
In May of 1882, the city council decided to fire the marshal. Stoudenmire decided he didn’t want to be fired and barged into their city hall office drunk and dared them to take his guns or his job. They wisely backed down. However, two days later Stoudenmire resigned anyway.
The former marshal took over the Globe Restaurant, formerly owned by Cummings. The next month, he also accepted an appointment as a U.S. Deputy Marshal. However, he hadn’t forgotten about the Manning’s.
The residents of El Paso finally got fed up with the ongoing feud and demanded the two factions make peace. But, Dallas continued to drink and make threats against the Manning’s.
However, on September 18, 1882, Stoudenmire and the Manning brothers did meet to sign a “peace treaty” in one his saloons. James Manning left believing things had been settled. Shortly after “Doc” Manning and Dallas became embroiled in another argument and bullets began flying. Manning fired first, shattering Stoudenmire's left arm which caused him to drop his gun. A second bullet was deflected by papers stuffed in Stoudenmire’s shirt pocket. He was knocked backwards out on to the street. Dallas pulled his other gun and shot Doc coming out of the saloon, hitting him in the arm. Jim Manning fired two shots from behind, one which hit Stoudenmire behind his left ear, killing him instantly. Although Dallas was dead, Doc proceeded to pistol-whip him.
James and Doc Manning were arrested but acquitted with a ruling of self defense…by a jury made up of their friends
Stoudenmire’s funeral was held at El Paso's Masonic Lodge #130 and his wife Isabella shipped his body to Columbus, Texas for burial. He is interred at the Alleyton Cemetery.