Friday, October 2, 2015

George Scarborough - Lawman/Outlaw

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
Recently I became aware of a dear friend's family connection to George Scarborough, one of the more modest frontier gunmen who helped tame the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. George was born in Louisiana October 2, 1859. He had quite a bit of gunplay and excitement in his limited career as a lawman. He had a considerable reputation among his peers and the outlaws he tracked throughout the southwestern wilderness.
The son of a Texas homesteader and parson, George knew firsthand the unsettled conditions of the southern frontier after the Civil War ended. His family moved to Texas where he worked as a cowboy for a while. After riding the range, he decided he'd rather deal with men than cattle. In 1885, when he was 26 years old, he took his first job as sheriff of Anson, Texas, then moved onto to work as deputy US Marshal in untamed El Paso, and finally worked as a private detective for the New Mexico Cattlemen's Association in the 1890's. At the time, El Paso was a rough town isolated from any nearby American towns. It was filled with gambling halls, bordellos, and unsavory characters, including John Wesley Hardin and John Selman.
Scarborough became well known for the unusual tactics he used while tracking a wanted outlaw. Often, he would disguise himself as an equal to those he pursued. He found this tactic extremely effective. He became hated and feared among lawbreakers. There have been many accusations that he was actively and ambitiously involved with outlaw gangs that he later betrayed, but no one could ever conclusively proved he was involved in unlawful actions.
In 1895 John Wesley Hardin claimed that he paid Scarborough and Jeff Milton, the El Paso Chief of Police, to kill outlaw and cattle rustler, Martin McRose. Milton and Scarborough were arrested but Hardin later withdrew his comments and the men were released. Later that year, gunslinger and latter-day lawman John Selman shot John Wesley Hardin in the back of the head while the man stood at the Acme Saloon Bar. On April 6, 1896, John Selman was murdered by Scarborough. George was put on trial for Selman's murder, but was acquitted.
Public opinion after his trial forced him to leave for the New Mexico Territory. He spent the rest of his days hunting down cattle rustlers and train robbers throughout the territory.
George had little appreciation for the overstated news reports of his exploits. In those days, the most effective lawmen had a dark side, but few were foolish enough to draw attention to themselves. In fear of revealing too much about his methods, George refused interviews by journalists. On April 5, 1900, Scarborough was involved in a shoot-out with George Stevenson and James Brooks. He was shot in the leg and taken back to Deming, where his leg was amputated. He died the following day.
After his death, the mysteries and legends surrounding George Scarborough were largely forgotten.


  1. What a painful end to his life. Interesting article, Paisley. I hadn't heard of this man, which is bad since he was in Texas for quite a while.

  2. Thank you, Caroline. I was really excited to learn the history of this man since I know his family. :)

  3. Replies
    1. Why thank you very much. Cowboys are always awesome and the wild west a great backdrop for them. Thank you for stopping by.

  4. Anson, Texas? Wow, hitting close to home. I appreciate your telling us about George. Poor George. You have told me about something and someone I never heard. Thanks, Paisley! You're a real Sweetheart.

    1. Thank you, Celia. I love learning about these cowboys of the west. Texas seems to be the center of most of those wild west days.

  5. There sure was a bunch of accusations without any real resolution back then. I feel kind of sorry for George. He sure went through the grinder. That sure must have been some amputation to end up with him dying the next day.
    Enjoyed your article, Paisley.

    1. I was thinking the same thing, Sarah. I imagine that saw against bone must have been horrifying. Thanks for stopping by.


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