John Wesley Hardin
John Wesley Hardin [May 26, 1853 – August 19. 1895] was an American outlaw, gunfighter and controversial folk icon of the Old West. He was born near Bonham, Texas to Methodist preacher and circuit rider James “Gip” Hardin and Mary Elizabeth Dixson. Hardin shot through this playing card and signed it afterward. Visit The Bryan Museum to see this card and Hardin’s business card. Both cards succinctly illustrate both sides of the famous Texas outlaw’s life; a man who established his own law practice in El Paso, but also a man with the reputation of being a sharpshooting murderer who loved to gamble.
Hardin was named after John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination of the Christian church. In 1862, at the age of nine, Hardin tried to run off and join the Confederate army.
His first killing was at the age of 15. After challenging his uncle’s former slave to a wrestling match that Hardin won, he was ambushed by the slave. Hardin fired five shots killing his attacker.
Hardin spent most of his life pursued by both local lawmen and federal troops during the Reconstruction Era. By the end of 1871, Hardin had boasted the killing of numerous blacks, Mexicans, cowboys and Indians, the law and the lawless. Hardin had also encountered the legendary J.B. “Wild Bill” Hickok twice and lived to tell about it.
When finally captured and sent to prison in 1878, Hardin claimed to have already killed 42 men, but newspapers of the day had attributed only 27 killings to him up to that point. While in prison, Hardin wrote a factually slanted autobiography and studied law. He was released in 1894.
In August 1895, Hardin was shot to death by John Selman, Sr. in an El Paso saloon and was buried the following day in Concordia Cemetery, in El Paso, Texas.