Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos

Langtry, Texas-Pop. 30

Judge Roy Bean, the self-appointed “Law West of the Pecos”, became a saloonkeeper and Justice of the Peace on the Rio Grande in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of SW Texas. He brazenly held court when the Texas Rangers weren’t around.

Roy Bean found himself in trouble most of his life from Texas to California. He killed, stole, cheated, swindled, and abused his wife.

Young women considered Bean handsome, and often competed for his attention. In San Diego, a Scotsman named Collins challenged Bean to a pistol shooting match on horseback. He allowed Bean to choose the target, and Roy Bean decided they would shoot at each other. Bean shot Collins in the arm. The sheriff arrested both men and charged them with attempted murder. During the two months in jail, Bean received many gifts of flowers, food, wine, and cigars from the ladies of San Diego. The last gift included knives encased in tamales. He used the knives to dig through the cell wall.

In Southwest Texas by the Rio Grande, the small town of Langtry was established as a construction junction from east and west during the building of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway. Two origins of the town’s name are under dispute. One claim says the town was named for a civil engineer named Langtry who directed a group of Chinese laborers in the railroad construction. The other more popular and accepted claim is that Judge Roy Bean, an eccentric, colorful character, insisted he named the town after his idol, English actress Lillie Langtry, the “Jersey Lily.”

Today, a Texas Visitor’s Center sits next to the preserved 150-year-old-saloon in Langtry, Texas. The center is well maintained, with clean restrooms, a snack area, landscaping, and a gift shop.

Celia Yeary
Texas Blue—now available

1 comment:

Paty Jager said...

The judge was definitely a real life character whose real life is stranger than fiction! Fun post.