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Lot #113
John Wesley Hardin Autograph Letter Signed from Jail: "It is true that I am convicted for 25 yr...there is no evidence there"

Incredibly rare handwritten letter by gunslinger John Wesley Hardin, written from jail while appealing his fate: "It is true that I am convicted for 25 yr...there is no evidence there"

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Estimate: $15000+
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Incredibly rare handwritten letter by gunslinger John Wesley Hardin, written from jail while appealing his fate: "It is true that I am convicted for 25 yr...there is no evidence there"

Legendary Old West outlaw and folk icon (1853–1895) who claimed to have killed 42 men, well known for exaggerating and fabricating stories about his life. ALS signed “J. W. Hardin" and "John W. Hardin,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 5 x 8, February 21, 1878. Handwritten letter from jail in Austin, Texas, to his uncle, R. E. Hardin, and his cousin Mat. At this time, Hardin was twenty-two years old and awaiting a hearing to appeal his conviction in the murder of Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb. In part (spelling and grammar retained): "I now Seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I am injoying Good health through the Blessing of the all ruling power above. I am Doing as well as could be expected. Am Still being treated well by my Keepers. They are very kind & and attentive to me although there has been many (lies) told to them on the out-Side as well as the in Side (even, by men that some would deem my friends) Some of whom would like to Lay there crimes on me…my Load is heavier enough without being made a Scape goat for others to ride of on. It is true that I am convicted for 25 yr but nevertheless I have never took that which I could not Give without first being in emminent danger. but you Bet I have always tried to protect my life and person when imposed on. Alltho the chances have often times being against me which I hope you are well aware; but uncle it's every hit on its own bottom…I have sent you 4 or 5 of Scot's & S.H.R. letters. I have never heard whether you got them or not…Scot Says that he Has wrote to my uncle Thomas Hardin at Brenham…Scot & Rennick think that they will reverse my case as for Hil C. the Shariff has been to see me he says the evidence is Good that there is no evidence there…as for my South west Troubles I will have plenty of assistance there no not Dread them in the Least. But if possible deliver me from commanchie if possible…I believe I will yet be free…I do hope that you will see that my case is properly attended to in the apelit court if posible. Joe C. says he will be here and will assist in any legal way…M[anny]. Clements tries for bond today in Gonzales. I think he will be allowed Bond he will be able to give bond. he staid here with me 6 wk [waiting?] to go to Gonzales on charge of murder in '72…they have got no case against him in the end…he says he has yet got some friends there besides Joe, Jim & Gip….he says…he will be by to see me…and help me in the apelit court…Remember me to all the family…Jane has left Florida…for Texas…Ma said that she would be here."

At the conclusion, he pens a separate note to his "Cousin Mat," in part: "I have not heard from you in some time…Cousin, I got the Bass letter the other day. It was from Bill Longley of Gb. He says it is true he has never formed my acquaintance but that sympathizes with me besides he says there is a hope for me but as for himself that he has give up but will die game. It is well composed. Cousin write me at once let me know the news Love to all good by." In very good condition, with light staining and soiling, and splitting along the fragile intersecting folds.

In May 1874, former Texas Ranger Dep. Sheriff Charles Webb came looking for Hardin in Comanche, Texas. Hardin left a card game and walked outside to meet him. There are conflicting accounts of what happened next, but in the end, Hardin was wounded in the side and Webb took a bullet to the face from one of Hardin's two associates. Following the murder, Hardin's wife, parents, brother, and cousins were taken into protective custody, but a large group of Texas Rangers broke into the jail and hanged several of the family members. Hardin, with a $4,000 bounty on his head, fled to Florida with his wife Jane and daughter.

In August 1877, he was finally arrested for the crime after yet another bloody gun battle in Pensacola. At appeal proceedings in Comanche in 1878, Hardin lost his case and was moved to Huntsville Prison to serve his 25-year sentence. In this historic letter, Hardin mentions many who affected his life and career. Bill Longley, a fellow fugitive who Hardin had met on a cattle drive, was in prison in Giddings for murder. Shortly after meeting Longley, Hardin had killed another man and fled to his uncle's farm near Brenham, also mentioned in this letter. "Jim, Gyp and Joe" (along with Manny), were the infamous Clements Brothers of Texas. They were Hardin's cousins and had hidden Hardin while he was on the run. Hardin also mentions Sam Bass, a bank and train robber who was forming a new gang at this time after former members had been apprehended. Bass was shot and killed in Round Rock, Texas, just five months later. Hardin's wife Jane would bear three children and would die in 1892, two years before Hardin's release.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts Featuring Animation
  • Dates: #688 - Ended March 13, 2024

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