Four Dead in Five Seconds By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
May 16, 2014
On April 11, 1881, Dallas Stoudenmire became the sixth man in eight months to hold the office of El Paso Marshal. Stoudenmire was thirty-six years old, and had spent the previous years using his gun fighting talents on both sides of the justice system. His time as the law in El Paso would be just as checkered. Three days into his tenure he would be at the center of one of the most notorious gunfights. On that day, seventy-five Mexican men rode into El Paso looking for two of their vaqueros who had gone missing while searching for thirty head of stolen cattle. The mayor of El Paso made an exception for these men, allowing them to enter the city limits with their guns. The El Paso county constable accompanied the posse to the ranch of Johnny Hale, a local rancher and suspected cattle rustler. The corpses of the two missing men were located near Hale’s ranch, and were carried back to El Paso. A court in El Paso held an inquest into the deaths where the verdict was that Sanchez and Juarique had been in the vicinity of Hale’s ranch looking for their stolen cattle. The court deemed the American rustlers, Hale among them, had feared that they would discover the cattle and return with a larger force. Two American cattle rustlers, Pervey and Fredericks were accused of the murders after they were overheard bragging about killing two cowboys. Meanwhile a large crowd had gathered in El Paso, including John Hale and former Marshall George Campbell. Campbell insulted the Constable, Gus Krempau, for sympathizing with the Mexicans. The two traded words, and Hale grabbed Campbell’s gun and shot Krempkau. Meanwhile, three days into his tenure, Marshal Stoudenmire was eating lunch at a nearby restaurant when the gun fire erupted. He pulled out his Colt 45’s and ran towards the gunfight. He fired first at Hale, but hit an innocent Mexican bystander. Stoudenmire’s second shot killed Hale, and he then killed Campbell. Thus ended the “Four Dead in Five Seconds” gunfight. A few days after the fight, friends of the men Stoudenmire had killed hired the town drunk to assassinate him. Dallas was able to get the drop on him and supposedly shot the man eight times, killing him. Less than a year after these incidents, he would kill as many as six more men in gunfights, gaining him the most feared lawman in Texas title. His luck would eventually run out in 1882. He was killed when a discussion between he and a bunch of his enemies escalated into a gunfight in which he was shot three times.
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