Researched By Shotgun Bo Rivers @shotgunborivers
El Paso was in the grip of change from a frontier border town to a major stopping point for the railroads. The town fathers recognized a need to realign their town’s image from that of a lusty, violent, and crime ridden backwater to a modern thriving city. After much in the way of trouble hiring and keeping a town marshal, they went national in their search for someone up to the task of taming the miscreants and insuring the money kept flowing into both the hands of local merchants and the out of town investors bringing yet more wealth into the area. Globe Restaurant owner Stanley “Doc” Cummings, who lived in El Paso, Texas convinced his Brother-in-law Dallas Stoudenmire that he should come to El Paso and take up the marshal’s position. Stoudenmire fit the bill to tame the tough town of El Paso. In early April, 1881, Stoudenmire traveled to El Paso and was hired almost immediately, starting his new position on April 11th. He was the sixth town marshal in just eight months.
It was only three days later that the “Four Dead in Five Seconds” gunfight happened. Sometimes referred to as the “Battle of Keating’s Saloon,” the “Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight” occurred on April 14, 1881. The events that led up to the gunfight began when the Manning Brothers had stolen a herd of of about 30 head of cattle in Mexico and drove them into Texas to sell. When Texas Ranger Ed Fitch and two Mexican farmhands by the names of Sanchez and Juarique investigated, the two Mexican men where killed in an ambush, said to be Johnnie Hale’s men that killed them. This led to a Mexican posse of more than 75 men to cross into Texas seeking an investigation.
At the request of the Mexican posse, Gus Krempkau, an El Paso constable, accompanied the posse to the ranch of Johnny Hale, a local ranch owner and known cattle rustler. There, they found the bodies of the two Mexican farmhands. The El Paso Court soon held an inquest into the deaths of the two men, with Krempkau acting as an interpreter.
Afterwards, Constable Krempkau went next door to Keating’s Saloon to retrieve his rifle and pistol, where he’d left it while appearing in court. It is speculated that Krempkau exited the saloon and placed his rifle in a saddle holster. A confrontation erupted between Krempkau and ex-City Marshal, George Campbell, who was a friend of John Hale’s. Also in the saloon was Hale himself, who was unarmed, heavily intoxicated, and also upset with Krempkau, because of his involvement in the investigation, and poor interpretation. Suddenly, the drunken Hale, pulled one of Campbell’s two pistols, shouting, “George, I’ve got you covered!” Hale then shot Krempkau, who fell wounded against the saloon door, or in the street, the story becomes contradictory at this point, because It was also said that this portion of the event may have happened outside, where hale jammed a six-gun into Krempkau’s chest and shot the lawmen in the lungs.
Bringing himself to a sobering reality, Hale had realized what he did, and ran behind a post in front of the saloon just as Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire appeared with his pistols raised. Stoudenmire then shot once but the bullet went wild, hitting an innocent Mexican bystander. in my research I also discovered that the Mexican bystander, may have also been a fruit peddler. When Hale peeked out from behind the post, Stoudenmire fired again, hitting Hale between his eyes killing him instantly. In the meantime, Campbell saw Hale go down, and exited the saloon, waving his gun yelling, “Gentlemen, this is not my fight!” However, the wounded Krempkau disagreed, even though mortally wounded and down, Krempkau managed a shot at Campbell, striking him in the wrist and in the toe. At the same time, Stoudenmire whirled and also fired on Campbell, pumping three bullets into his guts. Campbell crashed to the dusty street, shouting at Stoudenmire, “You big Son of a Bitch, you have murdered me!” When the dust cleared, both George Campbell and Constable Krempkau lay dead.
In less than five seconds in a near comic opera gun battle, four men lay dead, and Dallas Stoudenmire the only living man left in the gunfight. In other contradictory research I also learned that Gus Krempkau may not have been the first shot. However, the majority can agree that the event was very quick; Stoudenmire was the only survivor, Hale was drunk, and Campbell indeed proclaimed the before stated words.
At the time, the gunfight received a lot of national publicity, reaching newspapers as far east as New York city, and as far west as San Fransisco. It is also rumored that years later, an author in search of a story contacted one of the living participants of the incident. The ailing gentleman refused to speak, and the author elected as a second choice to interview Wyatt Earp, and went on to write a best-selling book. Thus, the Gunfight at the OK Corral became a well recognized event, whereas the Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight has been on a back shelf awaiting our Hollywood enthusiast’s portrayal.
What do you think, would the story of this famous, and contradictory gunfight be a good film? and how would you capture just five seconds in an epic film? The only way I see it happening would be starting the film with a build up story before the gunfight, and the aftermath which ultimately ended former Texas Ranger Dallas Stoudenmire’s life. What are your thoughts? feel free to comment and thank you for stopping by the Old West in the 21st Century’s blog.