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ECV® CHAPTER 1841




HISTRORIANS REPORT

CHAPTER #1841

October 15, 2015

JUDGE ROY BEAN

click on pictures to enlarge

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

In 1825 in Mason County, Kentucky "Phantly Roy Bean Jr" was born. Hating his first name, he went by Roy Bean. He had 3 brothers and 1 sister. Since his family was extremely poor, Roy at age sixteen, took a flatboat ride to New Orleans to find a job. After getting into some trouble, Roy fled to San Antonio, Texas to see his older brother Sam. Originally, Sam left home to live in Independence, Missouri. There he became a teamster and a bullwhacker. He hauled freight to Santa Fe and then to Chihuahua, Mexico. After Sam fought in the Mexican-American war, he freighted out to San Antonio, where Roy joined him.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

In 1848, Roy and Sam opened a trading post in Chihauhua, Mexico. Roy shot and killed a Mexican "desperado" who had threatened "to kill a gringo." To avoid being charged with murder, both Roy and Sam fled west to Sonora. By 1849, Roy moved to San Diego to live with his other brother Joshua, who got elected mayor in the following year.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Considered handsome, Roy Bean would often compete for a ladies "affections." A Scotsman named Collins challenged Bean to a pistol shooting match on horseback. Roy was to choose the targets, but decided to shoot Collins instead. On February 24, 1852, Collins lost the duel being wounded in his right arm. Bean was fine. Both men were immediately arrested, charged with "assault with the intent to murder," and convicted. In the 2 months that Bean was in jail, he was showered with gifts of flowers, food, wine, and cigars from his "lady companions." His last gift contained knives hidden in tamales. Bean successfully dug a hole in the wall and escaped.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

On April 17, Bean moved to San Gabriel, California, where he became a bartender at the "Headquarters Saloon," owned by his brother Joshua. In November Joshua was murdered, and Roy inherited his "first saloon."

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

In 1854, Roy courted a young woman, who got kidnapped and forced to marry a Mexican officer. Bean challenged him to a duel and killed him. Six of the Mexican's friends put Roy on a horse, tied a rope around his neck, and left him to hang. The horse did not move. At the brink of time, the bride who was hiding behind a tree, rushed out and cut the rope. Roy had a permanent rope burn as well as a permanent stiff neck. Roy left California and moved to New Mexico to live with his brother Sam, who had just been elected the first Sheriff of Dona Ana County.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

In 1891, Sam and Roy operated a store and saloon on Main Street in Pinos Altos (just north of Silver City) now known as Grant County, New Mexico. It advertised "Liquor and a Fine Billiard Table." A canon, belonging to Bean sat in front of it. The canon actually got used to repel an Apache assault on the town years later.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

The Civil War erupted and the Confederate Army invaded New Mexico. In 1862, at the "Battle of Glorieta Pass," the Confederates lost all of the their supply wagons and were forced to retreat to San Antonio. After "borrowing" money from his brother's safe, Roy joined the Confederates and ran a blockade by hauling cotton from San Antonio to British ships off the coast of Matamoros, and then returning with the much needed supplies.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

For the next 20 years, Bean lived in San Antonio, working as a teamster. He attempted to run a firewood business, by cutting down his neighbor's timber. Later he tried to run a dairy, but got caught "watering down the milk." Bean also worked as a butcher, rustling "unbranded cattle" from local ranchers. Roy Bean was a daring and lucky "crook."

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

On October 28, 1866, Roy married 18 year old "Virginia Chavez." Within a year, he was arrested for aggravated assault and threatening her life. Despite their horrible marriage, they had 4 children and lived in a poverty stricken Mexican slum area called "Beanville" (centered near the corner of South Flores Street and Glenn Avenue) now Burbank High School.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

By the late 1870's, Bean ran a saloon in Beanville. He heard that several railroad construction camps were being built nearby. A female store owner and previous companion, wanted the potential sales for herself. She bought all of Bean's possessions for $900 so he would leave San Antonio. Bean divorced his wife, left his kids with friends, got ready to head west.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Bean purchased a tent, some supplies to sell, and 10-55 gallon barrels of whiskey. By the spring of 1882, he established a small saloon near the Pecos River in a tent he named "Vinegaroon." This was strategically placed because 20 miles away were 8,000 railroad workers. The nearest court was 200 miles away at Fort Stockton. A Texas Ranger requested that "local law" be set up in Vinegaroon. On August 2, 1882, Roy Bean was appointed "Justice of the Peace" for the new Precinct 6 in Pecos County. Bean tried his first case on July 25, 1882. Texas Rangers brought Joe Bell to be tried for stealing. He was promptly fined and released.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

One of Bean's first acts was to shoot up the saloon shack of a Jewish competitor. Bean then turned his tent saloon into a "part time courtroom" and began calling himself "Judge Roy Bean the Law West of the Pecos." As judge he relied on a single law book, "The 1879 Edition of the Revised Statutes of Texas." Whenever new law books arrived, he used them for "kindling."

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Judge Roy Bean did not allow hung juries or appeals. Jurors were selected from his "best bar customers" and were "required to buy a drink during every court recess." Bean was known for his unusual rulings. One time an Irishman named Paddy O'Rourke shot a Chinese laborer. A mob of 200 Irishman surrounded the courtroom and saloon, and threatened to lynch Bean if O'Rourke was not freed. After consulting his law book, Bean ruled that "homicide was the killing of a human being. However, he could find no law against killing a Chinaman." Bean dismissed the case.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

By December 1882, railroad construction moved further west, so Bean moved his courtroom and saloon 70 miles to Strawbridge. He sent for his children to live and help work at the saloon. His youngest slept on the pool table.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

A well established competitor in the area, laced Bean's whiskey with kerosene. Unable to attract customers, Bean left Strawbridge and moved to Eagle Nest which was about 20 miles west of the Pecos River. The original owner of the land and a saloon keeper had sold 640 acres to the railroad on the condition that "no land could be leased nor sold to Roy Bean." O'Rourke, the Irishman whose case was dismissed, told Roy to use the "railroad right-of-way" which was not covered by contract. He declared that this town now be know as "Langtry", after Lillie Langtry the famous singer. For the next 20 years, Bean "squatted" on the land illegally. He named his new saloon "The Jersey Lily" in honor of Lily Langtry.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Langtry did not have a jail, so all cases were settled by fines. Bean refused to send any part of the fines to the state, so he kept all of the money. In most cases the amount of the fine was based on how much money the accused had on him. Bean is known to have sentenced only 2 people to hang and one escaped. Horse thieves in other jurisdictions would have been hung, but in Bean's court they were freed as long as the returned the horses. Bean also granted divorces at $10 per case and weddings for $5. He ended each marriage ceremony with "May God have Mercy on your Souls."

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Roy Bean won re-election as Judge in 1884, but was defeated in 1886. The next year a new Precinct was created and Bean was appointed as the new "Justice of the Peace." In 1896, the Judge was defeated again. Bean refused to surrender his seal and law book, and continued to try all cases "North of the railroad tracks."

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

In 1890, Bean heard that Jay Gould, a famous railroad developer and speculator was planning to pass through Langtry on a special train. Bean flagged down the train with a "Danger" signal. Thinking the bridge was out the engineer stopped the train. Bean invited Gould and his daughter to visit his saloon as his guests. They stayed for 2 hours which caused a brief panic on the New York Stock Exchange when it was reported that Jay Gould was killed in a train crash.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

In the last years of his life, Bean surveyed 165 of the 254 Texan Counties primarily in Amarillo and also in Austin.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

In 1896, Bean organized a World Championship boxing title between Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher on an "island" in the Rio Grande because boxing matches were illegal in both Texas and Mexico. The fight lasted 1 minute and 35 seconds by knock out and Fitzsimmons won. This fight made Judge Roy Bean famous throughout the United States.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Bean spent most of his profits helping the poor in the area and always made sure the school house had free firewood in the winter. Roy died peacefully in this bed on March 16, 1903, after a bout of heavy drinking in San Antonio. He and his son Sam Bean are interred in Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio.

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Judge Roy Bean was quite a character. He bent laws to suit his wants and desires. He enjoyed liquor, women, and a good time too. It makes me wonder if he was a clamper...What say the bretheren?

Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"
  Judge Roy Bean
"Judge Roy Bean"

Gary "Colonel Klink" Klinke
John A. Sutter-Historian