AN OLD TIME WILD WEST HITMAN
The worst outlaw and psychopathic killer of the wild west was undoubtedly a man by the name of James Brown Miller alias Killin Jim and Deacon Jim. Miller was feared throughout parts of Texas and Oklahoma, not as a fast on the draw gunfighter but rather as a mean, low down, back shooting assassin.
He was born in 1861 in Van Buren, Arkansas where he spent most of his growing years. Much later he relocated to Coryell County, Texas with his widowed mother as is shown in the 1880 census records. It is rumored that Miller killed both his grandparents at the age of eight, but it couldn't be proved so Miller was not prosecuted.
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It was in 1884 when Miller was 24 years old that he killed his sisters husband John Coop with a shotgun blast whilst he was sleeping. Miller was caught and convicted for the murder but after an appeal he was later acquitted for lack of evidence.
Miller travelled to San Saba County, Texas after his release and he put it about that he was a killer for hire, no job to big or too small for the right price. His fee for assassination ranged between $150 up to $2,000. There were actually quite a few takers and it has been alleged that Miller killed eight persons via a contract. Miller also killed for free, this normally happened over arguments during gambling games or trouble in saloons where Millers answer every time was to shoot whoever it was that was upsetting him. Six people were to upset him in saloons, they all paid with a bullet or shotgun blast in the head or heart.
Miller married Sarah Francis Sallie Clements in McCulloch County, Texas in 1888 and later had four children. She was the cousin of outlaw and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin. Miller regularly read the Holy Bible, was a church goer and he didn't drink or smoke, but behind this innocent façade lay an icy cold persona, a killer with a passion for death...mostly other peoples!
It has been estimated that Miller killed about fifty men during the late 1880's and 1890's and that he killed because he liked to. He liked the adrenaline rush and the feelings of euphoria and elation knowing that he was going to snuff a man out, it must have been like a drug to him. And he was an addict.
Millers reputation exceeded him as a man who would always stand and shoot, he was an efficient killer, going about his trade with professionalism. As a hired assassin he would prefer to kill with a shotgun blast at close range, the power of which guaranteed instant death to the unfortunate victim receiving it. His victims were generally shot in the back and at night after Miller waylaid them at the road side or in an alley.
Miller prided himself on keeping up the best appearances, he was always immaculately dressed, he joined church congregations and rubbed shoulders with the rich, noble and most reputable citizens. All this was part of his "front" so no-one would suspect him of being the psychopath he really was.
Miller always wore a long thick black drifters coat over a heavy waistcoat and there was a reason for this that became apparent on April 12th 1894 in Pecos, Texas. As a deputy Sheriff, Miller had just killed a rancher by the name of Con Gobson and the local sheriff Bud Frazer went to confront him about it.
As Frazer was walking up to him, Miller reached for his gun but the sheriff did a fast draw with his .45 Colt and shot Miller several times, Miller collapsed in a heap. From the ground Miller started reaching for his gun again, with his left hand as a bullet had gone through his right arm and as he attempted to pull the gun, Frazer shot him again the bullet slamming into Millers side.
He lay there motionless and the sheriff who thought he was dead, walked away back to his office as the crowds emerged. Some of Millers friends and associates lifted him up and dragged him away off the street and it was then they discovered a big heavy plate of steel under his waistcoat, with several bullet dents in it...yes...Miller was wearing body armor!
Miller had only been bruised with the bullets initial impacts and he recovered quickly, got on a horse and left town, but was later arrested for the murder of Gobson. Miller got his cousin John Wesley Hardin who was now a lawyer to represent him in court, Miller was finally acquitted.
Miller ambushed and killed Joe Earp, who had testified against him in court. Also the trials presiding council Judge Stanley, who suddenly died in Memphis, Texas, of food poisoning, although there was widespread speculation that Killin Jim Miller had slipped him arsenic.
Miller now wanted to kill Frazer, he heard he was in Toyah county, Texas so off he went to get him. He found him playing poker in a saloon and walked up behind him, he called out his name and Frazer looked around, Miller then blasted him to death with both barrels of his shotgun. Miller was later confronted by Frazer's sister who pulled a revolver on him, Miller responded by pointing his revolver back at the trembling frightened woman, and snarled: "If you try to use that gun, I'll give you what your brother got...I'll shoot you right in the face!" The girl cried and put the gun down and ran off back home, lucky to be alive.
Whilst Miller was Deputy he killed a few people, one in particular was a Mexican who he had arrested, Miller took his handcuffs off and shouted " Ok greaser, run for it " the Mexican ran for his life and then Miller shot him in the back after he had got only a few feet away. Miller often boasted "...I have lost my notch stick on the amount of Mexicans that I killed out on the border...ha-ha"
Miller also applied to be a US Marshall as some point in his murderous career. It is thought that he yearned for a bigger badge so he could have killed more people and had less questions to answer.
Miller somehow managed to join the Texas Rangers, as a ranger in the county of Memphis, Tennessee. Later he served as a ranger in Hall County, and while there, he killed a man in Collingsworth County and later two more in Midland county.
On August 1st 1906, Miller was in Oklahoma to pay a visit to the home of lawman Ben C Collins who was working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It was over the killing of one of Millers associates friends and Miller had been paid an alleged $2,000 to kill Collins. Miller called Collins out to his front door and as he stood there with his wife enquiring what this strange man wanted, Miller shot him dead with a shotgun blast and then calmly walked away leaving Collins wife screaming over the blood bespattered body.
Miller was identified and later arrested for this murder but was not convicted of it and was eventually released, again he had gotten away with cold blooded murder.
Pat Garret is one of the most famous names of the old west as it was he who killed Billy the Kid and on February 28th 1908, he himself was gunned down near Las Cruces in New Mexico apparently over a land dispute. Miller is alleged to have been the trigger man who killed him for a pretty sum, even though some strange and weird man by the name of Jesse Wayne Brazel later confessed to the crime, it is still thought that Miller was the real killer.
Oklahoma adjutant General Frank Canton stated that, "to the best of his personal knowledge" Miller had killed at least thirteen men in Texas, so the question naturally arises as to how many men Miller may have killed in his theater of operations that were primarily Oklahoma and New Mexico.
In 1909, Millers talents as a hit man were again called for, this time by three crooked ranchers Jesse West, Joe Allen and Berry Burell. They paid Miller $1,700 to kill former Deputy US Marshal Allen Augustus Bobbitt, who resided in Ada, Oklahoma. It is speculated that the three ranchers wanted him dead either over a personal grudge against him or a land and money issue.
Miller paid $50 to a cowhand
by the name of Oscar Peeler to take him to Bobbitt's where about's and
point him out. On February 27th 1909 after Bobbitt was
successfully located Miller went and collected his shotgun and went up
to Bobbitt and with both barrels, blasted him at close range with
powerful 00 buckshot. Bobbitt was dead before he knew what hit
Miller had made a mistake in not killing Oscar Peeler as dead men tell no tales, and was later arrested after being identified as the killer by him. Miller was arrested by a Texas ranger whilst he was actually out on another killing contract in Texas and was extradited to Oklahoma to stand trial. Also there were the three ranchers who arrested on their suspected involvement in the murder.
Miller was again looking for a successful appeal as evidence was not looking strong enough for a conviction. Friends and associates of the murdered Bobbitt knew about Millers past and how he had been acquitted of previous murders, they were determined that Miller was not going to get away with it again. So decided to take the law into their own hands.
On the morning of April 19th 1909 an angry lynch mob of about 50 men ( initially reported numbering over 200 ) stormed their way into the jail where Miller and the three ranchers were languishing. They bullied and threatened the jailers into handing over the keys to their cells and dragged the culprits outside, whilst locking the jailers in their cells. Miller and the ranchers knew what was install for them and whilst Miller was stoical the three ranchers started to plead for their lives but the lynch mob was not listening.
They were manhandled to a deserted livery stable behind the jail house were their hands tied behind their backs with wire cables. Miller remained quiet and indifferent whilst the other three continued begging and imploring, only to fall on deaf ears, however two requests were made by Miller, 1. that his diamond ring be sent to his wife, and 2. that he could wear his back Stetson hat. Miller whom had resigned himself to his death, stood there quietly watching the events unfold.
Both requests were accepted and Miller put on his Stetson hat and took off his ring and handed over to the ringleader. They had nooses put around their necks and were hoisted up one at a time. The 48 year old Miller being the last to go, and after watching the others dance on the end of their ropes is reported as saying " let er rip " just before he hung.
The bodies of all four men were left hanging for several hours until a photographer was called in to take their picture. This photo is pictured below and apparently many copies of it were sold for quite a while after in Ada.
Miller was buried in Oakwood Cemetery Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas. A monument was built close to the livery stable in 1997 commemorating what was termed The End of the Old West as it was stated that with the death of Miller and his cohorts in 1909 that the days of the Wild West were finally over as they were the last of the real bad men, all others having passed away.
A controversial venue was staged on April 19th 2009 at the monument to celebrate the passing of the four men whose deaths exactly 100 years earlier had marked the end of the old wild west and brought in the new west with a new prosperous era.
Page created August 1st 2009. Updated August 18th 2012.