Jeff Carroll - Legendary Texas

Now, its not every conversation that gives you the opportunity to discuss the old-time gunfighters. Sometimes they just aren't pertinent to the discussion like when you are debating the pros and cons of a new automobile or world politics or what you're planning to have for supper.


But, sometimes they do come up and when that happens someone is bound to start comparing one with another and tell you which one was "best" (whatever that signifies).

How would you go about rating a gunfighter? There are a lot of variables such as: How fast was he? How often did he hit what he shot at? How many recorded shoot-outs did he survive? How many people did he kill? What kind of gun did he use? and so forth, and so forth. The one thing that you really shouldn't pay much attention to was what they said about themselves. They seemed to have a slight tendency to exaggerate. Take Wyatt Earp, for instance. We've all heard of what a great gunfighter he was. But, the records just don't bear that out , When you get right down to it, there is no record that he ever, singlehandedly, killed anyone. He's credited with five assists but, being "brave, courageous, and bold", he seemed to like lots of help.

But, what we're trying to work around to is that if you use individual results as a yardstick, then the one that tops the list is a fellow you probably never heard of -- a fellow named James Miller.

Jim Miller, who was known variously as "Killin Jim", "Killer Miller", or, simply, "Deacon' was born in Van Buren, Arkansas in 1866 but moved out to Franklin, Texas when he was a year old. When his folks died, he was sent to live with his grandparents up in Evant and, when he was eight he was arrested for their murder. They never brought him to trial for that but when he killed his brother-in-law he was tried and acquitted on a technicality.

Somehow, he wasn't too popular in the community and soon went to work for Mannen Clements on his big McCulloch County ranch. That's when his education really started. You see, all of the Clements brothers were involved in the Sutton-Taylor feud along with their nephew John Wesley Hardin and from time to time the ranch was home for such friendly folks as John Ringo, Bill Taylor, and most of the Sam Bass Gang.

Jim learned his lessons well. When Clements was killed in a fracus with a political rival, Jim shot the perpetrator and then went for a tour of the Mexican border until things cooled down. Down in San Saba he ran a saloon for awhile and then got himself hired as a Deputy Sheriff in Reeves County. That didn't last too long because he never brought in prisoners. They were always killed while trying to escape.

After marrying Clements-daughter Sallie, Jim talked his way into the Texas Rangers and became so active in the Methodist Church that he took the name of "Deacon". A few killings later Jim and Sallie found themselves in Fort Worth where Sallie ran a boarding house and Jim became a hired killer at the bargain rate of $150 a head. In between jobs he reportedly held prayer meetings and attended to the other business of the church.

Jim ranged far and wide. His favorite weapon was a shotgun and his usual tactic was to shoot from ambush. In face-to-face confrontations his life was saved more than once by a steel plate that he wore under his shirt on a strap hung around his neck. If you're keeping score, he was credited with a round dozen killings (one more than either Wes Hardin or Bill Longly) and he claimed that, "I have Lost my notch stick on Mexicans that I killed out on the border."

In 1909 Jim killed his last man, a rancher up in Ada, Oklahoma. He was tracked to Fort Worth, extradited back to Ada and, along with the three men who hired him, lynched in a livery stable. Killer Jim, the Deacon, didn't "die by t h e sword" but the rope served just as well.

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