Do not go where the path may lead, go where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Friday

Dirty Dave Rudebaugh

From High Noon


Continuing to look at the wildest town in the wild west, Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the wildest bunch of outlaws the frontier ever saw, The Dodge City Gang...

Born in Fulton County, Illinois in July, 1854, after his father was killed in the Civil War, Dave (born David Rodenbaugh) grew up in Kansas, then followed the cattle trail west to Colorado. At one point his family had to move from Ohio back to Illinois and it is suspected that the move was because of a train robbery committed there by Dave.

It's said he got the nickname “Dirty Dave” because he rarely bathed and wore filthy clothes, (but maybe it was because he had a tendancy to do people dirty). He gained notirity as an outlaw in the 1870s when he headed of a gang of thieves and rustlers in Texas who robbed and participated in cattle rustling along with Milton Yarberry and Mysterious Dave Mather.

The three were suspected in the death of a rancher and fled the state. By some accounts all three went to Decatur, Texas, but other accounts say Rudabaugh headed to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where he became a stagecoach robber. Sometime around 1876, Rudabaugh joined Mike Roarke and Dan Dement to form the outlaw band known as the "Trio."

When he and his gang robbed a Santa Fe Railroad construction camp in Kansas in November, 1877, Wyatt Earp was issued an acting commission as a U.S. Deputy Marshal to pursue them.

Following Rudabaugh and his boy's trail for 400 miles to Fort Griffin, Texas, Earp met Doc Holiday for the first time when asking after Dave at Shanssey’s Saloon. There is a disputed story from around this time that Rudabaugh had taught Doc Holliday to use a pistol while Doc taught him the fine points of playing cards.

The owner told him Dave had been there earlier in the week, but didn’t know where he was. He said Doc had played cards with Dave and might know. It was well known that Doc hated lawmen, so Wyatt was reluctant to ask him. However, when Wyatt found him that evening at Shanssey’s, he was surprised by a talkative Holliday.

Doc told Wyatt that he thought Rudabaugh had headed back to Kansas. Wyatt wired this information to Bat Masterson and the news was instrumental in apprehending Rudabaugh. Nonetheless, Wyatt's time in Fort Griffen hadn't been wasted, he'd befriended Doc and his girlfriend, Big Nose Kate.

Trying to stay one step ahead of Wyatt, Rudabaugh had in fact returned to Kansas and made an unsuccessful attempt to rob another train before being caught. He and an accomplice named Edgar West were caught within days by Sheriff Bat Masterson and his posse, which included John Joshua Webb (J.J.). When Rudabaugh went for his gun, Webb stopped him and forced him to surrender.

When his four other four accomplices were arrested, Rudabaugh informed on everyone and promised to go “straight.” He was soon released and the other men were sent to prison. Dave didn't reform but went on to New Mexico and resumed robbing. Shortly following his release, Rudabaugh accepted an offer from Bat Masterson to join a group of gunfighters, which included Mysterious Dave Mather and Hoodoo Brown, to fight for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in the Railroad Wars. In 1879 he travelled to Las Vegas where joined the Dodge City Gang there, along with another former enemy, now City Marshal John Joshua Webb.

On October 14, 1879, a train was robbed in the Las Vegas area by masked men. The robbers made off with $2,085, three pistols, and all the lanterns on the train. Two years later, when Rudabaugh was finally arrested, he would confessed to participating in the robbery.

Rudabaugh was also involved in the gunfight that killed Marshal Joe Carson, along with the rest of the Dodge City Gang. He was part of the possee that surrounded the ranch that housed Carson's killers and called for their surrender as well. The men were ultimately gunned down by Carson's widow and Rudabaugh was cleared, along with other gang members, of wrongdoing. They continued to rob and commit other crimes until the murder of Mike Kelliher on March 2, 1880. A lynch mob formed to get gang member J.J. Webb but were the Dodge City Gang held them off, with "Dirty Dave" at the helm.

On April 30th, Rudabaugh, along with a man named John Allen burst through the Sheriff's office to free Webb, (again, his former enemy who got him to surrender/turn in his gang). The jail break was unsuccessful but Rudabaugh murdered jailer Antonio Lino in the process. Webb’s sentence was appealed and commuted to life in prison.

I guess figuring he'd done all he could, Rudabaugh, along with Dodge City Gang member, Tom Pickett fled to Fort Sumner and joined Billy the Kid there. According to some sources, Billy the Kid was afraid of only one man and that man was Dave Rudabaugh.

On November 30, 1880, Billy the Kid, David Anderson (aka: Billy Wilson,) and Rudabaugh rode into White Oaks, New Mexico. There they ran into Deputy Sheriff James Redman. They shot at him and, while he hid behind a saloon, several local citizens ran into the street, chasing the outlaws out of town.

As a posse gave chase, they hid out at the ranch of a man named Jim Greathouse, holding him hostage. They traded him to a posse at dawn for Deputy Sheriff James Carlyle who had been volunteered to negotiate with the outlaws in attempt to give themselves up. Surrounding the house, the posse waited for hours. Around midnight, they called out that they were going to storm the house. Just then a crash came through a window and a man came tumbling out. Shots ripped through the air and Carlyle lay dead. No one is sure if the bullet came from the outlaws or the posse, but it's generally suspected that the posse killed their own man. Probably because of that accident, they gave up the siege and the outlaws escaped. Whatever the truth, Billy the Kid was, of course, blamed for killing Carlyle.

Now trailed by Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid, Billy Wilson, Rudabaugh, Tom O'Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, and Tom Pickett rode into Fort Sumner, New Mexico on December 19, 1880 and were confronted by Garrett's posse. Pat Garrett, Lon Chambers, and several others leaped from cover as Garrett ordered the outlaws to halt. Several of the posse members didn’t wait for the outlaws to respond to Garrett's demand, and instead opened fire on Pickett and O'Folliard, who were riding in front and were shot from their saddles. Rudabaugh's horse caught a bullet and collapsed but he managed to jump onto Wilson’s horse and he and the other outlaws escaped. They hid out in an abandoned cabin near Stinking Springs, New Mexico .

Soon, Garrett and his posse tracked them down there. They surrounded the hideout. Inside were Billy the Kid, Charlie Bowdre, Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett and Billy Wilson.
When Bowdre passed before an open window, he was shot in the chest. The siege continued until the next day, when Rudabaugh finally waved a white flag and Billy the Kid's gang surrendered. They were taken to Santa Fe, New Mexico .

Rudabaugh was taken to Las Vegas to stand trial. He attempted to avoid being charged with a capital offence, by pleading guilty to the Las Vegas train robbery in October, 1879. However, his attempt was unsuccessful and he was sentenced to hang for murder. He was taken to the Las Vegas Old Town Jail to await his execution, where he was united with J.J. Webb, still serving time for the offense Dave had tried to help him with.

In the meantime, Billy the Kid was jailed at Lincoln, New Mexico where he escaped on April 28, 1881 only to be tracked down and killed by Pat Garrett that July.

Rudabaugh, Webb, and two other men, Thomas Duffy and H.S. Wilson tried unsuccessfully to shoot their way out of jail on September 19, 1881. Duffy was mortally wounded in the attempt. Webb, facing life in prison, and Rudabaugh the threat of hanging, were determined to try again and to not fail the next time.

Two months later, Webb, Rudabaugh and five other men, chipped a stone out of the jail wall and escaped out of a 7"x19" hole. Rudabaugh and Webb went to Texas and then to Mexico where Webb disappeared.

Rudabaugh then fled to Arizona where he joined the Clanton faction in their feud against the Earps. Dave may have even participated in the murder of Morgan Earp and the attempted murder of Virgil Earp, and he was present at the fight in which Curly Bill Brocius was killed.

There are two stories as to what became of Rudabaugh after that, the most common is:

As the Clanton gang broke up, Rudabaugh headed down to Mexico where he worked as both a cowboy and a rustler. On February 18, 1886, Rudabaugh was involved in a gunfight with locals in Parral, Chihuahua over a card game. Rudabaugh and a Mexican man faced off and Rudabaugh shot him through the head. When another player drew and fired, Rudabaugh put a bullet into his heart. Having killed two men and wounded another, the then unarmed but unable to find his horse, Rudabaugh returned to the cantina, which was now in total darkness. On entering he was shot several times from the shadows and decapitated with a machete, then his head was paraded around around town on a pole.

That on February 18, 1886, Rudabaugh was involved in a cantina card game in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico which broke up after accusations of cheating. Rudabaugh and a Mexican man faced off and Rudabaugh shot him through the head. When another player drew and fired, Rudabaugh put a bullet into his heart. Unable to find his horse, Rudabaugh returned to the cantina, which was now in total darkness. On entering he was jumped and decapitated. For the next several days, his killers were said to have paraded through town with his head on a pole. A few photos were taken of the event, (there's one on-line of someone's head anyway). The body and head were then either buried in an unmarked grave "fit for a rabid dog", or left on a hillside for the vultures.

Another story tells that Rudabaugh finally left Mexico with a heard of cattle headed to Montana where he lived a normal life, married and fathered three daughters. Those who support this claim say that he ultimately died, a destitute alcoholic rancher in Oregon in 1928. He was the only man to have ever been captured by both Bat Masterson and Pat Garrett.

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