WHATEVER BECAME OF
TEXAS BILLY THOMPSON
by TOM BICKNELL
Billy Thompson, Ellsworth, Kansas, 1872
troops were still garrisoned in Austin, Texas three years after the end of
the Civil War. One of these soldiers was Private William Burk, who was
serving as chief clerk in the United States Adjutant General’s office.
Burk was a drinking man with a quick temper, and it is these attributes
that introduced him to Billy Thompson.
They met on a
Tuesday afternoon, when both men stopped to watch a fistfight between a
Negro civilian and a white soldier. The townspeople watching favoured the
Negro over the hated bluebelly, and one called out encouragement. Private
Burk accused Billy Thompson and was ready to fight until another man
confessed to the deed. Burk apologized and offered to buy Billy a drink.
They spent several hours drinking together before deciding to visit a
nearby bordello. As they approached the house they discovered three
drunken soldiers passed out in the yard. Billy wanted to play a trick and
strip the soldiers and take their uniforms, however Burk angrily prevented
they separated, and Billy went upstairs to sleep. When Burk discovered
Billy gone, his tempered flared for the last time. Incensed, he hunted for
Billy through the house screaming threats. Finding the room that Thompson
was sleeping in, Burk kicked in the door and drew his revolver.
Shots rang out and the small room filled with gunsmoke. Hastily pulling on
his clothes, Billy stepped over the dying Burk and fled. It was March 31,
1868 and Billy Thompson just began his life as a fugitive from justice.
Billy and his
older brother Ben were born in the English riverport town of Knottingley,
and immigrated to Central Texas in 1851. While they may have been born
Englishmen, the brothers grew to manhood in Austin and no one would ever
deny that they were thoroughly western in their ways.
brothers bore a strong family resemblance, however Billy was slightly
lighter in complexion and taller than Ben. Both were very sociable. Ben’s
charm and manners enabled him to mix with all classes of society but Billy
was a "willing slave to the worst passions," and spent his time
with gamblers and whores.
Ben and Billy
Thompson earned their living as professional gamblers. They were
reckless and headstrong, and it was decidedly dangerous to have a
difficulty with them. Both killed men, but the words, "cool and
brave," applied only to Ben. He never shot another man in the back,
knowing a fair fight would give him the strong argument of self-defence
before a jury. Billy preferred to seek an advantage and he was known to
take an opponent unaware. He always fled from authority and though he and
his brother Ben tried to prevent it, at least twice he was forced to have
his day in court.
BURK DIES FROM HIS WOUNDS
died the next morning, and Billy went into hiding in the hills west of
Austin. Without money or a strong mount, he was unable to continue his
flight. So he sent for his brother.
ninety miles away playing monte in the railroad town of Bryan. He rushed
back to Austin, but soldiers followed him everywhere, making it impossible
for him to see his brother. A deadly cat and mouse game ensued.
Eventually, however, with the help of friends and his brother, Billy
escaped into the Oklahoma Territory but Billy did not remain there for
long. Two months to the day Private Burk died, Billy was in the gulfport
town of Rockport, Texas. Once again, he held a smoking pistol and a dying
man lay at his feet. An Aransas County grand jury approved an arrest
warrant for first-degree murder. The indictment papers accused Billy of
firing two pistol shots into one Remus Smith. One newspaper later called
the shooting "wholly unprovoked." Smith was an eighteen-year-old
stable hand who "chunked" Billy Thompson’s horse when it tried
to nose in on some feed. A furious Billy threatened the young stable hand
for abusing his horse. Smith replied, "Lay off the pistol and come
on." It was then that Billy drew and fired twice. Aransas County
officials thought enough of Smith to spend the next fifteen years trying
to bring Billy Thompson to justice.
THE THOMPSON BROTHERS MEET IN KANSAS
Billy kept on
the move and out of trouble for five years. Then on April 18, 1873, he
checked into the Grand Central Hotel at Ellsworth, Kansas. His brother Ben
joined him about a month later and they set themselves up as house
gamblers in the back room of Joe Brennan’s saloon.
the crown prince of Kansas’ cattle towns in 1873. Both city and county
law officers kept the peace and at mid-season the editor of the
Ellsworth Reporter boasted at the top of the paper’s local column
"Nobody Killed Yet."
Whitney, the county sheriff was both popular and effective. Over the
summer, he became a good friend of the Thompson brothers. Ben and Billy
were not so lucky with John "Happy Jack" Morco, a city
policeman. Morco was a swaggering braggart who claimed to have shot down
twelve men, and his heavy-handed enforcement of the law made him unpopular
with the visiting Texans. On June 30th Morco arrested Billy for carrying a
pistol and for being drunk and disorderly. Billy grudging paid the fines
but his troubles with Morco were just beginning.
A GAMBLING ROW LEADS TO A KILLING
On August 15,
Billy Thompson was drunker than usual. Sheriff Whitney had been planning
to picnic out of town that day with his family and a group of friends.
Aware of how drunk Billy Thompson was he chose to stay in town to prevent
trouble and trouble was not long in coming. Ben Thompson introduced a
gambler named John Sterling into a high stake monte game. Sterling
promised Ben he would share any profits from the game with him but after
winning almost $1,000 he left Brennan’s saloon without settling up. Ben
found Sterling in another saloon down the street with Happy Jack Morco,
and demanded his cut. Knowing he was unarmed, Sterling struck Ben
Thompson. Morco then pulled his pistol and forced Ben to back away. Later,
as Ben was back at Brennan’s saloon discussing the incident with
friends, Sterling and Morco stood outside and yelled, "Come out and
fight you Texas sons of bitches."
Ben pleaded for arms, and not finding any rushed out the back door to
where his weapons were checked. Learning that Ben was facing a fight,
Billy hurried to help his brother. He found Ben stuffing a revolver into
his belt and loading a rifle so he grabbed Ben’s double-barrelled shotgun. Satisfied,
the Thompson brothers stepped into the street.
Word of the
impending gunfight spread through town and Sheriff Whitney unarmed and in
his shirtsleeves rushed to the railroad tracks where Ben and Billy now
stood. Whitney implored them to put up their arms, and return to Brennan’s
saloon with him for a drink and to talk about how to resolve the
situation. Ben agreed, and all three walked back towards the saloon.
Watching from down the block, Sterling and Morco, with guns drawn, moved
to intercept the Thompson's. Another Texan yelled a warning; Ben stopped
at the door of the saloon and fired a rifle shot that missed. Behind him
Billy’s shotgun roared. Ben turned to see his friend, Sheriff Whitney,
withering on the ground his blood soaking into the dust.
carried Whitney home and sent for a doctor. Ben seated Billy on a horse
and pleaded with him to flee. Slowly riding out of town, Billy kept
cursing for a fight. With the help of other Texans, Ben prevented any
pursuit for over an hour. Billy hid in the cattle camps outside town, and
returned to Texas with some drovers. Sheriff Whitney died a few days
later; Billy soon had a price on his head. The governor of Kansas offered
a $500 reward for his arrest and conviction.
BILLY THOMPSON REMAINS ON THE RUN
was over, and no one seemed to care about the death of Private Burk, but
Billy Thompson was forced to remain on the dodge. For the next several
years Aransas county officials sent out warrants to the Texas sheriffs of
Travis, Galveston and Atascosa counties. In every instance, the sheriffs
failed to find him within their jurisdiction. In June 1874 he eluded a
city policeman after starting a row in an Austin saloon. Later that summer
the law briefly caught up to him in Mountain City, Texas, but he escaped
and went to San Antonio where, with a friend, he visited a brothel named
the Long House and struck one of the prostitutes across the face with his
quirt. Two San Antonio policeman chased Billy and his friend but withheld
firing their pistols because of the danger of hitting innocent parties.
Billy kept on the run for two more years.
TEXAS RANGERS FINALLY CATCH UP WITH BILLY THOMPSON
October 1876, a Texas Ranger patrol lead by Captain John Sparks rode
towards Austin in search of a drove of stolen cattle. A Travis county
deputy told Sparks a small herd was grazing just thirteen miles northeast
of the city near a ranch owned by Neal Cain, a friend of the Ben and Billy
Thompson. The next day, the rangers swept down on Cain’s ranch and
recovered the stolen stock. Neil Cain escaped, but several men were
arrested in the raid, including Billy Thompson. Billy had been at
the ranch three weeks, and the rangers knew he had nothing to do with the
stolen cattle. But Sparks also knew of the Kansas reward of $500 for
Billy, and brought him to Austin. Arriving close to midnight, Sparks
placed Billy in the Travis county jail and wired Kansas. Meanwhile Ben
Thompson was alerted of Billy’s arrest and he hired lawyers to free his
brother and prevent his extradition to Kansas.
morning a county judge ordered Billy set free because no charge had been
brought against him. Captain Sparks had not yet heard from Kansas, so he
re-arrested Billy on a bogus rustling charge before he could leave the
courtroom. A second judge freed Billy because there was no evidence of
rustling. By now Sparks had learned the Kansas reward was still being
offered so he again arrested Billy.
question was so confused that rangers escorting Billy Thompson back to
jail actually freed him when the Travis county sheriff refused to take the
prisoner on the authority of telegraphed papers. Billy set off at a run
and was mounting a horse when Captain Sparks overtook him and arrested him
a fourth time. This time he was closely guarded until a district court
judge ordered Billy held in the county jail. Desperate to keep his brother
in Texas, Ben tipped off officials in Aransas county of Billy’s
incarceration. They sent a warrant to Austin demanding his return to their
jurisdiction to answer for the death of Remus Smith.
two murder warrants, the district judge sought the guidance of the
governor and on November 15, he ruled the Kansas requisition had
precedent. The following day, Sparks and a shackled Billy Thompson were on
a train bound for Ellsworth. Billy wasn’t in Kansas yet and Ben moved to
just south of Dallas, a group of suspicious acting men boarded the train.
When the train stopped in Dallas, these men approached a local judge and
asked for an arrest warrant be issued charging Captain Sparks with
kidnapping. The judge refused, but Sparks now feared a violent attempt to
free his prisoner, and he asked the Dallas county sheriff for additional
guards. The sheriff called upon a number of his regular deputies and jail
guards, plus a squad of city police, and members of the Lamar Rifles
militia. This overwhelming show of force ended all rescue attempts, and
Billy was remanded into the custody of the Ellsworth county sheriff. On
his way back to Texas, Captain Sparks stopped in to see the governor of
Kansas about the reward.
didn’t have a jail worthy of holding Billy Thompson, so he was
transferred to Salina. His friends followed him there and the fear of a
jailbreak convinced officials to lodge Billy in the state penitentiary. He
entered Leavenworth on December 5 and he would remain there until the
FORCED TO FACE A JURY
When his life
or freedom was to be decided by a jury, Ben Thompson always hired the best
legal talent available in the area. He realized an outsider, no matter how
skilled, could never be as effective as a respected local attorney.
Instead of going to Kansas, Ben stayed in Texas to earn the money to pay
for Billy’s defence. The Thompson brothers enlisted their
brother-in-law, Robert Gill, a respected merchant from Bastrop, Texas to
go to Kansas and help Billy select his defence council. Gill and Billy
Thompson chose wisely, retaining A. H. Case of Topeka and Phillip T.
Pendelton of Ellsworth. Pendelton, a former Ellsworth county attorney had
drawn up the original indictment papers against Billy. Later they added
Captain J. D. Mohler, called "a Napoleon among lawyers" by the
Reporter, to the defence team. Their initial tactics were to delay the
trial, and, if possible, have it thrown out of court.
The fall term
of the Fourteenth Judicial District Court of Kansas convened at Ellsworth
on Monday, September 3 with John Prescott presiding. The first order of
business was to consider two motions filed by Billy’s defence team. They
first asked for a continuance, stating they needed more time to gather
witnesses. Judge Prescott denied the motion stating that the defence had
had plenty of time. The second motion asked the judge to quash the
indictment because it, "does not contain a statement of the facts of
the case as constituting the offence, in plain and concise language
without repetition." Prescott refused to free a prisoner accused of
murdering a law officer during performance of his duty, and Billy’s
arraignment took place immediately. He pled "not guilty" and
jury selection began.
prosecution and defence took great care in selecting twelve acceptable men
from the forty-eight in the jury pool, and the editor of the Ellsworth
Reporter admitted that "some of the best citizens of Ellsworth
County" made up the jury. The trial started the next day. Everyone
knew Billy fired the fatal shot. It would be ridiculous for his attorney’s
to argue otherwise. Their strategy was to admit that Billy did fire, but
that he did so unintentionally, and without motive. Their evidence was the
testimony of eyewitnesses and a sworn statement sent from Texas by Ben
well-prepared prosecution presented a list of more than three dozen
witnesses. The defence had only six. Just one hailed from Texas. The other
five were residents of Kansas.
of defence witness William Purdy, a resident of Atchison county Kansas,
established what happened in the moments after Ben Thompson fired on the
advancing John Sterling and Happy Jack Morco. Purdy stated, "…[Billy]
was standing still or trying to do so, being at the time intoxicated, He
… had his eyes fixed on the two parties advancing on him [and] Ben, …
the shot of Ben did not stop them, they continued to advance the same as
before [and] when within about twenty feet of Billy Thompson, his gun
being down below his breast, it went off, one barrel of it only, and the
shot took effect in the shoulder and side of Whitney, … Billy’s gun
was cocked … he took no aim, did not bring the gun up, nor was he
looking at Whitney, who stood at his left … As the gun discharged Ben
said ‘My God Billy you have shot your best friend,’ … Billy replied,
‘I am sorry,’ Whitney said, ‘He did not intend to do it, it was an
accident, send for my family’… There was no indication at any time …
that Whitney [and] the Thompson’s were not on the best of terms."
testified that Whitney exclaimed after being shot, " … he did not
intend to shoot me, send for my wife and child." The prosecution often
objected, calling many statements of defence witnesses incompetent,
irrelevant, immaterial and hearsay. But they made no objection to Sheriff
Whitney's dying declaration.
lasted nine gruelling days, and the jury finally began deliberation on
Friday, September 14. They reached a verdict one hour later. The Reporter
stated "…When they came back with their verdict the courtroom was
full and every one but the prisoner seemed intensely interested to learn
the result. Thompson came in with the Sheriff and Deputies smiling as if
he was sure that his bonds were about to be loosed. The clerk commenced
reading and just as we expected to hear ‘guilty’ pronounced he read
‘not guilty,’ … all decorum was forgotten by the friends of the
prisoner who congratulated him on his escape."
The editor of
the Reporter astutely complimented Billy’s attorneys for their efforts
stating "… Messrs. Case and Mohler … are very able men, and they
used all their eloquence and ingenuity to save their client."
Thompson and Robert Gill boarded a train for Texas the next day, and for
three years Billy Thompson’s whereabouts are again mostly unknown. A
Dodge City newspaper mentioned his arrival in that city during May 1878.
That same year, his name appeared on the Texas Rangers’ List of
Fugitives. Aransas county still sought him.
ANOTHER SHOOTING SCRAPE
In June 1880,
Ben Thompson was in Dodge City and his brother Billy was three hundred
miles north, at the westernmost terminus of the cattle trail, Ogallala,
Nebraska. Billy had visited Ogallala before and had some hard
feelings for a saloon owner there named Bill Tucker. The source of their
dislike was rivalry over the affections of a woman commonly called
"Big Alice", a well-known member of the demimonde. On Monday,
June 21, as Tucker was pouring drinks for customers, a drunken Billy
Thompson positioned himself in front of the building and fired two shots
into the barroom. The second struck Tucker in the left hand cutting off
one finger and mutilating the others. Enraged, the rather game
Tucker grabbed the shotgun he kept under the bar and took off after the
retreating Billy. Tucker fired both barrels at long range missing
Billy. He reloaded as he continued the chase, and again fired both
barrels. This time Tucker riddled Billy’s backside with buckshot from
his neck to his heels. A doctor attended to both combatants. Billy was
arrested, but allowed to convalesce at the Ogallala House Hotel rather
than in the county jail. The Keith county sheriff knew Ben Thompson’s
reputation and fearing his arrival hired extra deputies to guard Billy and
help keep the peace.
word of Billy’s predicament by telegraph, and fearing a lynch mob if he
attempted a rescue, asked his friend, Bat Masterson, to go to Ogallala in
his stead. Masterson complied and travelled to Ogallala on July 6. After
conferring with Billy, he paid a visit to the ailing Tucker at his home.
Tucker was bitter, but willing to drop the matter for the right
inducement. Unfortunately the sum he demanded was more than the Thompson's
could raise. The only alternative was escape. With the help of a bartender
friend, Masterson slipped a Mickey Finn to Billy’s guard, and with the
guard out of the way hoisted Billy on his shoulder and carried him to the
train station. Masterson’s timing was perfect, they caught the
Union Pacific eastbound flyer which made a water stop daily at midnight.
With two new passengers comfortably seated, the flyer clicked along at
forty miles per hour leaving pursuit far behind.
pulled into North Platte, Buffalo Bill Cody’s hometown, at 2a.m.
Masterson carried Billy from the train to the saloon – the only building
in town still ablaze with lights. Inside, they found Buffalo Bill relating
stories to about a dozen friends. After hearing Billy’s story, Cody
promised them a safe refuge from the Ogallala authorities and help in
continuing their flight.
day, the two men left in Mrs. Cody’s expensive new carriage. For the
next two hundred miles they rode through a driving rainstorm to Dodge
City, and arrived dogged tired, filthy and soaked to the skin. Masterson
wanted a hot bath and a bed but Billy insisted on stopping at the
telegraph office first where he wired Ogallala to notify the sheriff of
his safe arrival and invite him to visit Dodge City. The sheriff made no
reply. But a Keith county grand jury indicted Billy, charging him with
assault with intent to kill.
BEN THOMPSON KILLS HIS MAN
1881, Billy was briefly held in Harris County, just north of Houston,
until he escaped the jail and fled. Once again his whereabouts remain
unknown, however his brother Ben was making headlines. Ben Thompson was
twice elected city marshal of Austin and proved to be an excellent
officer. On July 10, 1882, he travelled to San Antonio and the next evening
shot and killed a man named Jack Harris with whom he had a gambling
dispute of some years standing. Harris was one of the owners of the
Vaudeville Theatre and a leading member of San Antonio’s sporting
fraternity. Ben surrendered to authorities and spent six months in the
Bexar county jail awaiting trial. For the first time, he would not be able
to help Billy if the need arose.
ONCE AGAIN, TEXAS RANGER ARREST BILLY
October 23, 1882, the Aransas County sheriff received a tip that Billy
Thompson was hanging around El Paso’s tenderloin district. He
immediately telegraphed the adjutant general in Austin asking him to
direct the rangers in El Paso to arrest Thompson for the murder of Remus
Smith. The adjutant general complied, and sent a wire ordering Captain
George W. Baylor to find and arrest Billy. Baylor took him into custody
without incident, but he could spare no one to escort Billy back across
the state. Baylor turned Billy over to the El Paso county sheriff who in
turn assigned Deputy Sheriff Frank Manning to return Billy to Aransas
County. It may have been due to Billy’s own resourcefulness or just an
incredible stroke of good fortune, but Billy's new guard had been a warm
friend of his for the past sixteen years.
Manning and his prisoner arrived in Austin on Thursday night the 26th.
Billy asked Manning for his liberty while in his hometown and pledged to
return to Manning’s custody on Saturday morning. He told his friend he
wanted to confer with his lawyers, have his picture taken and arrange
other business. Trusting him Manning set him loose. Billy spent Friday
drinking in saloons and visiting the Capitol State Fair grounds. Late
Saturday morning, an embarrassed Manning reported Billy’s
"escape." The Travis County sheriff and Austin city marshal made
a search for Billy but he was nowhere to be found.
20, 1883, Ben Thompson’s jury returned a not guilty verdict and he again
avoided the hangman’s noose. Ben’s lawyers proved that Jack Harris
held a cocked shotgun in his hands when Ben fatally shot him. That was
good enough to gain an acquittal from any jury in Texas.
BILLY FACES A JURY FOR SHOOTING REMUS SMITH
never-ending problem with Aransas County rose up and bit him again.
Spotted across the state line in Arkansas, the Aransas County Sheriff,
P.P. Court acquired the proper extradition papers and travelled to Arkansas
where he arrested Billy and returned him to Texas on May 10, 1883.
brothers’ first move was to hire the finest, most influential legal
talent in southeast Texas. They approached State Senator Rudolph Kleberg
and United States Congressman William Crain who agreed to handle the case.
trial judge, Henry Clay Pleasants, was famous for keeping a shotgun
resting on his lap as he held court. He listened closely to the facts
surrounding Billy Thompson’s case, and when a $5000 bail was posted
released Billy from custody. Kleberg and Crain then moved for a change of
venue from Rockport, Aransas County to nearby DeWitt County. The
prosecution agreed, and the trial was scheduled for December.
11, Billy’s attorneys filed a motion to quash the murder indictment,
claiming it was improperly written. Judge Pleasants ruled against the
motion, and the trial proceeded. The prosecution faced the unenviable task
of arguing a case fifteen years after the crime occurred. They called
eight witnesses but the trial lasted only one day, and the jurors reached
their verdict without leaving the box. Once again, Billy Thompson smiled,
as he heard the words, "not guilty".
For the first
time in many, many years both of the Thompson brothers were free and
uncharged of the crime of murder. They returned to Austin where the
opportunity to shun old vices and begin a new, respectable life lay before
them. Ben considered purchasing a ranch, but old habits die-hard.
Instead, he and Billy drank harder and gambled more than ever. Beginning
in January 1884 Ben Thompson’s life became more and more
desperate. Drunk, he roamed the streets of Austin late at night,
firing his pistol and threatening people. The newspapers of Texas spent
many a column inch complaining of his behaviour in article after article.
DEATH OF BEN THOMPSON
On March 11,
Ben Thompson headed for San Antonio. Billy was already in the Alamo City
when Ben stepped off the train. The brothers met and had a short
conversation. Billy left Ben and returned to a gambling hall. Ben,
accompanied by the greatly feared Neuces River valley gunman John King
Fisher visited a number of attractions, ending up at the Vaudeville
Theatre. Minutes after entering the building, Ben and Fisher lay dead on
the floor. A later autopsy performed in Austin proved that Ben Thompson
had been shot down from behind. The friends of Jack Harris had their
Word of Ben’s
death spread like wildfire, and thousands swarmed the plaza in front of
the theatre hoping for a glimpse of the famous gunman’s body. A weeping
Billy paced the boardwalk in front of the Vaudeville for hours. The next
day, he returned to Austin with his brother’s remains where his hometown
gave him a monumental farewell. People attending the funeral service
overflowed Ben Thompson’s home on University Avenue and sixty-two
carriages followed his coffin to the grave site. For several weeks
Billy tried to find witnesses to his brother’s murder, but the San
Antonio authorities showed no interest in prosecuting anyone for the
newspapers speculated that Billy would seek revenge on his brother’s
killers, but he never made a move. Tucker’s shotgun blast and years of
heavy drinking had shattered his health. He eventually moved to Houston
and continued to earn his living as a professional gambler, but he never
again showed the violent streak so prevalent in his youth. Most likely he
learned a lesson from his older brother’s sudden death. At least one man
who claimed a close acquaintance with Billy during his remaining years
stated that he "… was a mild man who never got into any
BILLY THOMPSON ROAMS THE WEST
years of running from the law, Billy Thompson drifted into Arizona and in
Tombstone made friends with Wells Fargo agent Fred Dodge. In January 1892
Dodge was in Houston investigating the late night robbery of the Wells
Fargo office there. Billy gave Dodge his first tip as to who pulled off
the heist. Within days, Dodge knew the identities of all the men involved,
but was unable to recover any of the stolen money, the robbers having lost
it all playing faro.
Thompson tried Cripple Creek, Colorado, however Houston and occasionally
Galveston remained his home until the late summer of 1897. Sick and ailing
from an abscess in the stomach he was taken to a Catholic hospital in
Houston named Saint Joseph’s. Even with this care, the end came quickly.
On Monday afternoon, September 6th, at the age of fifty-two he
died, and later that evening by telephone his brother-in-law Robert Gill
was notified of his passing. Gill directed that Billy’s remains be
shipped to Bastrop for interment. With his two younger sisters among the
mourners, Billy Thompson’s funeral services were officiated by Rev. D.
H. Hotchkiss of the Bastrop Methodist Church. A long cortege of friends
and relatives followed the hearse to Fairview Cemetery where his body was
consigned to the earth. Probably out of respect for his sisters, the
Bastrop Advertiser made no mention of his violent past. The Austin
Statesman published nothing about his life or passing, but other Texas
newspapers drew attention to the event. Remembering Billy Thompson with a
memory fonder then the facts would suggest the San Antonio Express wrote
"…though no means recognized as hard a citizen as his elder
brother, [Billy Thompson] was still a man who carried half a dozen notches
on his gun. His career as a gambler is hard to follow, it was one of
travel and adventure. He had a roving spirit and in his ramblings travelled
from the California slopes to the Mississippi river. Those were wild days,
and a rover must have met with many thrilling incidents. He could have had
a much longer record as a killer than he achieved, if he so desired as
several men tried him out at different times, but were allowed to go after
Thompson could have killed them."
later one expert on western gunfighters expressed the following opinion of
Billy Thompson. "Mean, vicious, vindictive and totally
unpredictable, Billy’s survival was remarkable."
to dodge the law for so many years and escape from custody at least four
times was indeed remarkable. Chuck Parsons, another prominent western
history researcher and author of a dozen books, offered up this
explanation on how Billy Thompson lasted so long. "He must have been
everybody’s pal, how else could he have survived to die with his boots
off in a nice clean hospital bed." His older brother’s help and a
tremendous amount of luck must have been part of it too.
[Historic People Index]
[Ben Thompson Index]