The outlaws in the Wild West have been credited with incredible, heroic deeds, as well as brutal, unnecessary killings. Like everybody else during the era, many of them were trying to survive in the best way they knew how. A dangerous lifestyle often leads to a quick death, and leaving many loved ones behind. A few of these outlaws include:
- Clay Allison
Clay Allison served in the army during the Civil War, where he received a head injury which resulted in unpredictable and violent behaviour. After being discharged he resorted to a life of crime, and became notorious for his cruelty. Allison was involved in numerous gunfights, but one of his most shocking acts was killing a suspected murderer and cutting off his head. The gunslinger then casually sat in his favourite bar, having a drink with a severed head for company. Allison died uneventfully, in 1887, after he fell off his wagon and broke his neck. His family honoured him with a headstone reading, ‘Clay Allison. Gentleman. Gun Fighter. He never killed a man that did not need killing.’
- James ‘Killer’ Miller
A paid assassin, James ’Killer’ Miller has been confirmed to have killed at least 14 people, although several historians believe this number to be significantly higher. He declared that he would kill anybody, once the price was right, and reportedly earned between $150 and $2000 per assassination. Despite his profession, Miller went to church frequently, did not drink or smoke and earned himself the nickname, ‘Deacon Jim.’ ‘Killer’ Miller was eventually caught by lawmen and locked up in an Oklahoma jail where vigilantes, unable to wait for a trial, broke in, removed the murderer and delivered justice by hanging him in a barn.
- James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok
Regarded as one of the most skilled gunslingers of the western era, ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok was known for participating in ‘quick draw’ duels. His reputation was cemented after he killed another outlaw, David McCanles from 75 yards with a single bullet. A man of many talents, Hickok was an actor, lawman, gambler and gunfighter. He met his end during a poker game, where he was shot in the back of the head.
- Jesse James
The most infamous member of the James-Younger gang, Jesse James earned his criminal reputation from robbing trains, stage coaches and banks. A wanted man, James was killed in cold blood by a friend, Robert Ford, on April 3, 1882. Ford snuck up and shot the outlaw in the back of the head, hoping to collect the reward money.
- Sam Bass
After a short stint as a cowboy, Sam Bass became a career criminal and began robbing stagecoaches and trains. Along with his gang, Bass conducted the biggest robbery of the Union Pacific gold train from San Francisco. The men reportedly stole at least $60,000, which is the largest amount recorded for a single Union Pacific robbery. Bass was wounded by Texas Rangers in Round Rock, and died two days after on his 27th birthday.