Wild West


“Gentlemen, we want your money.” In retrospect it was an unnecessary statement, as their masks and guns made manifest the men’s intentions. Anyway, passengers had heard the gunshot from up toward the express car. It had been the last sound the unfortunate express messenger would ever hear.

Will Chadburn (see related story, P. 50) was on the dodge by late August 1893. He’d committed a string of crimes in and around his hometown of Sedan, Kan., apparently seeking to justify his adopted nickname, “Billy the Kid.” In quick succession he’d robbed a train conductor of a fine watch and chain, stolen a horse, held up a store, shot up the town, robbed two more citizens along the road, then fled east into neighboring Montgomery County. While lying low outside Coffeyville, waiting for pal Bob Dunn (his probable partner in the store holdup) to return with supplies, Chadburn happened across fellow fugitives Hance Hydrick and Claude Shepherd.

They were on the run from Pine Bluff, Ark., where Hydrick had bludgeoned a livery stable owner to death and Shepherd had been pinched for burglary. The pair had escaped from the Pine Bluff jail along with four other inmates on August 15, leaving a note in their cell warning they were “heavily armed” and promising a “warm reception” for any lawmen who dared pursue them.

Recognizing kindred spirits, Chadburn asked Hydrick and Shepherd if they’d like to “turn a trick” that would bring them cash. According to a later confession by Shepherd, the partners were intrigued, so Chadburn suggested they all meet a few days later at Caney, some 18 miles west, to go over the details. Chadburn and Dunn then left. Hydrick and Shepherd, with only a .32 pocket revolver between them, felt woefully undergunned for what Chadburn had in mind, so they slipped into Coffeyville to

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