Top Ten Wild West Gangs Including the Outlaw “three-fingered Jack”

David Goran
6. Five Joaquins Gang
Photo Credit: nickcarcano.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: nickcarcano.wordpress.com

Joaquin Murrieta (1829-1853), a Mexican-born man, moved to California in 1849 to seek treasures from the Gold Rush. He had come to California with a gang of family and friends who soon become known as “The Five Joaquins“ (Joaquin Murrieta, Joaquin Botellier, Joaquin Carrilo, Joaquin Ocomorenia and Joaquin Valenzuela.) With the help of their three-fingered friend, Jack Garcia, they decided to stop their dreams of striking gold and choose a different path by 1853. The gang is believed to have killed up tp 28 Chinese and 13 Anglo-Americans. Joaquin Murrieta is known to be one of their most ruthless bandits for stealing cows, horses and also attacks on wagons, many which resulted in several murders.

The state compensated the California Rangers (veterans of the Mexican-American War) $150 a month and promised them $1000 if they captured the wanted men. In July of 1853, the rangers finally caught them, three of the Mexicans were killed, two others were captured.

As proof of this, the hand was cut off of “Three Fingered Jack“. They even cut off Murrieta’s head and put it in a jar of alcohol so members of the public could see it.

In 1919, Johnston Mc Culley supposedly received his inspiration for his fictional character Don Diego de la Vega better known as Zorro from the 1854 book entitled ”The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murreta, The Celebrated California Bandit ” by John Rollin Ridge. John heard about a Mexican miner who had turned to banditry and was intrigued by the story.

7. Soap Gang
Soapy Smith (inset) and his gang of con men. Photo credit: True West Archives

Soapy Smith (inset) and his gang of con men.
Photo credit: True West Archives

The lure of gold brought more than honest miners and foolish adventurers to the North. It also brought con men, thieves and opportunists who got rich by preying on gullible miners. Notorious among them was Jefferson “Soapy” Smith (Jefferson Randolph Smith II). His most famous scam, the prize package soap sell racket, presented him with the sobriquet of “Soapy”, which remained with him to his death. The gang of over 100 ruffians ruled Skagway in 1897 and 1898. They ran crooked gambling halls, freight companies that hauled nothing, telegraph offices that had no telegraph link.

In Denver, Soapy began to make a name for himself across the country as a bad man. Denver is also where he entered into the arena of political fixing, where, for favors, he could sway the outcome of city, county, and state elections. By 1887, he was reputedly involved with most of the criminal bunko activities in the city.

On the evening of July 8, the vigilance committee organized a meeting on the Juneau wharf. With a Winchester rifle draped over his shoulder, Soapy began an argument with Frank H. Reid, one of four guards blocking his way to the wharf. A gunfight, known as the Shootout on Juneau Wharf began unexpectedly, and both men were fatally wounded. Soapy died on the spot with a bullet to the heart.

The rest of the gang soon drifted apart.

8. Rufus Buck Gang
The only known photograph of the Rufus Buck gang, taken in the summer of 1895 in Indian Territory. Buck is in the middle. Photo credit: Leonce Gaiter

The only known photograph of the Rufus Buck gang, taken in the summer of 1895 in Indian Territory. Buck is in the middle. Photo credit: Leonce Gaiter

The Buck Gang was an outlaw multi-racial gang of members who were part African American and part Creek-Indian. The gang rose to prominence in July of 1895. Named after their leader, Rufus Buck, the gang had a total of five members. Sam Sampson and Maoma July were both Creek Indians. All of them had been apprehended on minor offenses and served time in the Fort Smith jail prior to their crime spree that summer.

The Buck Gang went on a vicious two-week spree of robbery, rape, and murder. The apparently random violence terrified not only the local white settlers but also the neighboring Indians and African-American freedmen. the gang began holding up various stores and ranches in the Fort Smith area. But the violence wasn’t random. The gang’s leader, Rufus Buck, the 18-year-old son of a black mother and Creek father, burned with a zealot’s passion: he dreamed that his gang’s spree would trigger an Indian uprising that would expel the illegal white majority and reclaim the whole Territory for its native people.

They were finally caught up with outside Muskogee, Oklahoma by a combined force of U.S. Deputy Marshals and the Creek Lighthorse police, led by Marshal S. Morton Rutherford on August 10th. The execution of the five members of the Rufus Buck Gang on July 1, 1896 was the second to last execution to occur at Fort Smith. The Buck Gang were the only men to die on the gallows in Fort Smith for rape.

9. Daly Gang
John Daly Photo credit: cheddingtonmailvanraid.blogspot

John Daly
Photo credit: cheddingtonmailvanraid.blogspot

John Daly (1839-1864) and his gang were known for terrorizing townspeople with the violent treatment of those who resisted their thievery. Though called the Daly Gang, the mastermind behind the group was actually “Three-Fingered Jack“ Mc Dowell, who, along with John Daly, operated an Aurora, Nevada saloon The saloon quickly became known as a place where beatings, gunfights, mayhem, and murder were the norm.

They operated without interference until the gang murdered a man named William R. Johnson on February 1 1864, who had killed one of their associates named Jim Sears when he was attempting to steal a horse the previous year.Slitting Johnson’s throat and setting him on fire, they left the gruesome sight for all to see.

Fed up, the horror-stricken citizens soon formed a vigilante group and attacked McDowell’s saloon on February 5, 1864. Dragging McDowell, Daly, Buckley, and Masterson from the saloon they locked them up while they quickly constructed a gallows.

A short time later, all for men were hanged outside Armory Hall in Aurora.

10. Dodge City Gang
Hoodoo Brown and the Dodge City Gang Photo credit: List25.com

Hoodoo Brown and the Dodge City Gang
Photo credit: List25.com

The Dodge City Gang was a group of Kansas gunfighters and gamblers, led by Hyman G. Neill, better known as Hoodoo Brown, who dominated the political and economic life of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Other members of the gang were John Joshua Webb, “Dirty“ Dave Rudabaugh and Mysterious Dave Mather From 1879 through 1880, Hoodoo led the Dodge City Gang on stagecoach and train robberies, murders, thievery and municipal corruption. Hoodoo’s position as Coroner enabled him to install the gang as the “Coroner’s Jury”, which they used to determine whether or not killings were in self-defense. This position enabled Hoodoo’s gang to cover up most of their crimes. The Dodge City Gang was firmly in control of a criminal cartel bent on sticking their fingers up  at the law. The gang participated in several stagecoach and train robberies, organized cattle rustling, and were said to have been responsible for multiple murders and lynchings.

By the summer of 1880, the citizens of Las Vegas, New Mexico organized a team of vigilantes against the gang. Webb, Mather and Rudabaugh were arrested. Hoodoo Brown was not killed but instead driven from the state. Many other members of the organization left town. The power of the gang lasted only a matter of months. It was doomed by the greed and excesses of its members, and their inability to disguise their acts.

Reports from a descendant of Hyman G. Neill indicate that Hoodoo Brown died in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico.

 

sources: Wikipedia, Legendsofamerica.com