8 December 2010
John Wesley Hardin
John Wesley Hardin, Texas’ most notorious gunfighter, was the son of a Methodist preacher that was growing up during the Reconstruction Era. But instead of saving souls he sent them on to meet their Maker, via bullet train express. So was John Wesley Hardin a cold blooded killer or a product of the times? John Wesley Hardin, who was named after the founder of the Methodist church, was born 26th May 1853 in Bonham, Texas. He was the son of James Gibson Hardin Sr. and Mary Elizabeth [Dixson] Hardin who were married 19th May 1847. He was the second surviving son of ten children. His father James Gibson Hardin was a Methodist preacher, circuit rider, schoolteacher and lawyer. His mother Mary Elizabeth [Dixson] Hardin was the daughter of a highly respected Indiana doctor and was described by John Wesley as being, “blond, highly cultured…with a charitable disposition, a model wife and helper to his father.” (Hardin) At the age of 12, he saw the Confederate soldiers returning home from the Civil War. This was also the beginning of the Reconstruction Era. During the Reconstruction period, the South lay beaten down, the people were filled with hate and vengeance, and the Negro slaves were freed. Many of the Negroes joined the Union army as soldiers or state police. It was during this time that John Wesley developed a deep hatred of the Union and the freed Negroes. “In his mind, he had seen Abraham Lincoln burned and shot to pieces. So often he thought of him as a demon that was waging a relentless war on the South to rob her of her most sacred rights.” (Hardin) John Wesley was raised with deep religious beliefs and Christian virtues. He had a fierce fire and brimstone religiosity, a strong code of family loyalty and an indelible sense of honor that was a part of the lives of all Southerners, rich or poor. An old Civil War song can be said to accurately reflect the mind of a youth like John Wesley. “ Oh I’m a good ol’ rebel, now that’s just what I am, For this fair land of Freedom, I do not care a damn,
I’m glad I fit against it; I only wish we’d won
And I don’t want no pardon for anything I’ve done.
I hates the constitution, this great Republic, too,
I hates the Freedman’s Bureau and uniforms of blue,
I hates the nasty eagle with all it brags and fuss,
The lyin’ thievin’ Yankees I hates them worse and worse. Three hundred thousand Yankees is still in Southern dust,
We got three hundred thousand before they conquered us;
They died of Southern fever and Southern steel and shot,
I wish there were three million instead of what we got.
I don’t want no pardon for what I was and am’
I won’t be reconstructed and I don’t care a damn.” (Metz) In 1865 John Wesley and his family moved to Sumpter, Texas where his father established a school which he and his siblings attended. But it was here in 1867, at the age of 14; John Wesley would have his first encounter with the law. While preparing for a test in school, a classmate named Charles Sloter and John Wesley got in a fight over some graffiti that Charles had written on the wall about a girl in their class named Sal. Charles accused John Wesley of writing it and he denied it. Charles punched John Wesley and attacked him with his pocketknife. John Wesley drew his pocketknife and stabbed him twice, once in the chest and once in the back, almost killing him. The boys’ parents wanted John Wesley expelled from school, but after hearing the facts in the case, the trustees exonerated him and the courts acquitted him. Charles Sloter recovered from his wounds. In November of 1868, John Wesley went to visit his uncle Barnett Hardin, who lived about 4 miles away, to watch them make sugar from the sugar cane. It was during this visit that John Wesley’s’ life was about to change forever at the age of 15. When John Wesley a arrived at his uncles him and his cousin Barnett Jones got into a playful wrestling match with a...