Western Life

Famous Lawmen in Western History

The era of the Wild West is remembered in part for the numerous outlaws that plagued the towns. Although less of them are idolized, there were brave lawmen that were responsible for the downfall of many of these criminals. These included:

  1. Pat Garrett

The legendary Patrick ‘Pat’ Garrett started his career as Lincoln County Sheriff ,during the 1880s. Although greatly respected from the start of his appointment, Garrett cemented his reputation by hunting down and killing one of the most notorious outlaws of the era, William H. Bonney, better known as ‘Billy the Kid.’ Before he became sheriff, Garrett was known to gamble alongside Bonney. To fulfil his duty of protecting his people from the outlaw, Garret waited for the Kid outside his hideout, shooting him in the chest as he emerged.

  1. Bill Tilghman

Notably one of the longest careers as a lawman in western history, Bill Tilghman’s began at age 21 when he became deputy sheriff and only ended with his death at 70. He was well respected amongst his peers, some of who referred to him as ‘the greatest of us all.’ The gunslinger only resorted to violence when necessary, and still managed to receive more reward money than any other lawman of his time. His most publicized arrest was that of Bill Doolin, the leader of the Doolin Gang aka The Wild Bunch. In opposition to all credible advice, Tilghman went against Doolin in a standoff and eventually convinced him to surrender.

  1. Bat Masterson

Masterson first served as a deputy in Dodge City, alongside his two brothers, and was subsequently elected sheriff due to his outstanding ability to uphold the law. His most well-known gunfight was The Battle of the Plaza in 1881. While in Tombstone, Arizona, Masterson was told that two men were threatening his brother’s life. He returned to Dodge City and confronted them, which led to a battle in which one of the men and a bystander were injured. The battle was judged to have been a fair fight and Masterson’s only punishment was an $8 fine, which he paid before leaving the city.

  1. Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp was arguably the most outstanding lawman of the Wild West, as well as the most feared. His long term career included positions in several towns, with the most notable as sheriff in the lawless town of Tombstone, Arizona. Earp is remembered for the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which he and other lawmen confronted a gang of cowboys. During the fight, three of the cowboys were killed and everybody except Earp injured. In the aftermath of the incident, friends of those that had died retaliated, killing one of Wyatt Earp’s brothers and wounding the other. Earp and Doc Holliday led a ‘Vendetta Ride,’ which resulted in the death of several of the outlaws responsible for the attack, after which the two lawmen fled the area.

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