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John Wesley Hardin,
Jane Bowen Hardin & Joshua "Brown" Bowen.

John Wesley HardinJohn Wesley Hardin was one of the most prolific American killers living in the wild and lawless days of Texas. Hardin was born in 1853, killed between thirty and forty men which allegedly included a poor soul in wild Bill Hickock's Abeline Kansas, who's only crime was snoring. But when you live by the gun you die by the gun and John Wesley Hardin was shot dead in 1895 shot in the back of the head by John Selman Sr. a man himself off much ill repute.
While John Wesley was not related to my Bowen clan, he did marry a 15 year old Jane Bowen of the Alabama and Escambia County, Florida Bowen clan in the year of 1872 at Riddlesville in dusty Gonzales County, Texas, where Jane's father Neill was the proprietor of a mercantile store in Nopal.
Jane's brother Joshua Robert "Brown" Bowen joined up with the infamous group of desperados led by Hardin, and under his murderous influence ended up killing another member of the Hardin gang,Thomas Holderman, who John Wesley thought had become a spy for the state police. Brown was arrested but was broken out when the Hardin gang sprung him from the jailhouse and they eventually fled to Florida and then on to Alabama.
Hardin and his men were often aided by the locals citizenry, as he was considered by some as a hero for standing up and dealing out his brand of Texas frontier justice to the carpetbaggers and reconstructionists that infested the Lone Star State after the end of the War of Northern Aggression.
Hardin was an enigma, the handsome gentleman killer considered himself a pillar of society and maintained that he never killed anyone who did not need killing. Hardin claimed that he only shot in order to save his own life. Many people who knew him or his family regarded him as a man more sinned against than sinning. Wild Bill Hickock of Ablene who called Hardin "Little Arkansas" and once said he never met a man that needed more self defending than Hardin.

When Brown Bowen wrote a letter to his pa back in Texas, sending Janes good wishes and tellin' that John Wesley and Jane were living in Pollard Alabama on the Florida border under the assumed name of
James W. Swain. Texas Ranger John Duncan who was working undercover at Neill Bowen's ranch was determined to get the murderous outlaws back to Texas to face justice found the evidence and along with John B. Armstrong, a second Lieutenant in the Special Force set out to capture the wanted men. On a train between Florida and Alabama and after a gunfight in which an innocent man that was accompanying hardin was shot dead by the rangers,Hardin was captured when drawing his gun it became tangled in his suspenders and he was beaten unconscious ,brought back to Austin and kept under heavy guard. Bowen also would eventually be brought back to Texas for trial.
Joshua "Brown" Bowen was tried and convicted for the murder of Thomas Holderman and four thousand watched as he hung by his neck in May of 1878.
In Comanche County, Hardin was convicted in September of 1877 for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb of Brown County in 1874 . Hardin appealed the verdict, but after the verdict was upheld Hardin was sent up to Huntsville prison on October 5, 1878. Whilst in Prison Hardin's loyal wife and mother of three Hardin chillin' , Jane Bowen Hardin died in November, 1892.
Hardin was released from prison February 17, 1894 after 15 years and 5 months. Hardin petitioned the Governor and received a full restoration of citizenship on March 16, 1894.
Hardin had studied law whilst in prison and attempted to establish a practice back in Gonzales, after some difficulties in an election for sheriff, Hardin left Gonzales and moved his practice to Junction but Hardin could not in the end escape his violent past, after attempting to help a kinsman Jim Miller with legal troubles in Pecos, Hardin ended up in El Paso and was back to his old ways of drinkin' and gamblin' . On August 19, 1895, John Selman Sr., a lawman / desperado and known associate of Hardin, fearing repercussions from Hardin because of an argument between Hardin and Selman's son, and probably feeling a bit hostile toward Hardin for not being paid for a job of murdering Martin Morose one of Hardin's law clients that had found out Hardin was having an affair with his wife, shot Hardin in the back of the head as he threw dice with a local furniture dealer named Henry Brown at the bar of the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas. The legend has it that Wes's last words were, "Four sixes to beat, Henry Brown.".

: Summary :

Hardin's GunHardinI have gathered some information concerning John Wesley Hardin, his wife Jane Bowen Hardin, and Joshua "Brown" Bowen. There is a vast quantity of books written about Hardin and the wild frontier days.
There is also quite a lot of good ( and not so good ) info available on-line both about the history of the man as well as genealogy of both the Hardin and Bowen clans as well as the many collateral lines. I am providing links to some of the pages and information sources that I have gathered on the wacky wide web, some of these pages have obvious errors and some of the pages "facts" contradict one another. I am not attempting to correct the original authors work, but I am supplying them as sources.
When available I have provided a link to the original authors web site or e-mail address and all questions concerning their information should be directed at them. Information concerning your Bowen clan can be sent to me at


Be advised that if you send me info, I might just incorporate it into the web site, so let me know if you don't want your name cited or your e-mail contact address included.


Hardin shot dead

Hardin shot dead

Subject: John Wesley Hardin
Date: Sat, 03 Apr 1999 22:20:11 -0600
From: john corder <>

My grandmother was JWH's granddaughter, Edith Adele Billings Spellmann. My mon Audrey Spellmann Corder has an orig. biography book on JWH interesting reading. JWH wasn't too well thought of according to my mom..her grandmother would only rarely speak of JWH but she left many letters etc to my grandfather Elmer Spellmann who in turn left them to my mother and her brother ( Ernest) who left them in the archives of Southwest Texas State University San Marcos, Tx. My twin and I sat at Elmers feet as he relayed his rememberances to L Nordyke at the ranch in Burnet, Tx when we were very young

John T Corder (10-19-44)


Subject:John Wesley Hardin
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 15:39:09 -0600 (CST)
From: "Emily A. Painton" <>

Dear Mr. Bowen,

Thank you for your interest in our John Wesley Hardin Archives. The Hardin Archives is located at the Southwestern Writers Collection on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library. Parking is available at the LBJ Student Center garage,next to the library. Our hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,except Tuesday when we are open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. You are welcome to visit our collection, and view the John Wesley Hardin Archives any time during these hours. We will also be happy to make photocopies of most of the materials, as long as they are in good condition and will not be harmed by being copied.

The Hardin collection contains two boxes of letters dated from 1874 to 1931. Most of these letters cover Hardin's arrest and imprisonment. The collection also includes handwritten legal exams and papers, as well as some family photographs.

Feel free to contact us at (512) 245-2313 for further information, and we look forward to your visit.

Thank you, Emily Painton, Assistant Archivist


: JWH related information available on the Bowen family web :


"John Wesley Hardin, the noted Texas desperado, is no more"
Newspaper article from 1895 for the Gonzales Texas Inquirer and the San antonio express
+ The Killing of John Wesley Hardin a story by Murray Montgomery

[ Story of the hanging of Brown Bowen with a picture of Brown Bowen & Black Tom Caffall ]

[ John Wesley Hardin Biography by Leon Metz for the Texas State Historical Association ]

[ Spellman Collection at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos Texas : The Hardin letters index.]

[ 1874 : David Holderman letter concerning Brown Bowen & John Wesley Hardin written to Texas Governor Coke ]

[ John Wesley Hardin's restoration to citizenship certificate.]

[ Captor of John Wesley Hardin : John B. Armstrong / Killer of John Wesley Hardin :John Henry Selman and the Border Roll Incident]

[ Misc. Info about John Wesley Hardin,Jane Bowen Hardin and her brother, Joshua Robert "Brown" Bowen. ]

[ Asher Cemetery,Burial Spot of Jane Bowen Hardin ]

[ Gravesite of J.W. Hardin in El Paso Texas ]

[ Hardin & Bowen & The Billings family connection ]

[ Index of the Bowen family web site ]



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