George Scarborough was a tough and deadly lawman—until he ran into members of the Wild Bunch.
He and a compatriot were trailing rustlers in southeast Arizona on April 3, 1900 when they ran into their quarry. A gunfight ensued. Scarborough is on his horse when outlaw Tom Capehart put a bullet through his thigh at 350 yards.
Scarborough was eventually evacuated back to his New Mexico home but medical attention was too late. He died on April 5—the fourth anniversary of his killing of John Selman, the man who killed John Wesley Hardin.
Early life, controversial killing
Scarborough was born in Louisiana. His family moved to Texas, where for a while he worked as a cowboy. In 1885, he was appointed sheriff for Jones County. He would later work as a Deputy US Marshal in and around El Paso, Texas. On June 21, 1895, while working alongside El Paso police chief Jeff Milton, Scarborough shot and killed Martin McRose, a Texas rustler. McRose is buried near John Wesley Hardin, and Texas Ranger Ernest St. Leon. Jeff Milton was Chief of Police in El Paso at that time, and Scarborough was a US Marshal. McRose had been captured, and was killed while being brought back from Mexico by the two lawmen on an outstanding warrant. Outlaw and gunman John Wesley Hardin claimed that he had paid Scarborough and Milton to kill Martin McRose. Milton and Scarborough were arrested, but Hardin later withdrew his comments and the men were released.
Scarborough became well known for his unusual tactics when tracking a wanted outlaw. Often, he would drop himself down to the level of those he was pursuing. This tactic was extremely effective, and made him a hated and feared man among the outlaw element. There are many accusations that he was actively and ambitiously involved in outlaw gangs which he betrayed, but no one ever conclusively proved he was involved in unlawful actions. In July, 1898, Scarborough and Milton tracked, shot and captured outlaw “Bronco Bill” Walters, killing another member of Walters gang, and scattering the rest from their hideout near Solomonville, Arizona. In late 1899 and into 1900, Scarborough pursued the Burt Alvord gang. The beginning of the gang’s end came during a February 15, 1900, gunfight between five of the gang members and Jeff Milton in Fairbank, Arizona, during which gang member “Three Fingered Jack” Dunlop was killed, and both gang member Bravo Juan Yaos as well as Milton were wounded.
Killing of John Selman
On August 19, 1895, lawman/outlaw John Selman shot and killed John Wesley Hardin at the Acme Saloon Bar in El Paso. Scarborough had long been feuding with Selman. Selman had, as Constable of El Paso, shot and killed a former Texas Ranger named Bass Outlaw on April 5, 1894, who was a close friend to Scarborough. Selman had been tried for the shooting, and found not guilty.
In reality, Bass Outlaw was not innocent in his own death that night. Intoxicated, and having already been ordered by Selman, a constable at the time, to return home and sleep off his intoxication, after he had verbally threatened to kill a local judge, Outlaw instead visited a brothel then a saloon. He became involved in an argument with Texas Ranger Joe McKirdict, who was attempting to talk him into leaving. Outlaw shot and killed Ranger McKirdict, then turned on Selman, who engaged him in a gunfight. Constable Selman was wounded twice, in the thigh, and Outlaw was killed. The shooting of Bass Outlaw was found justified by the court.
On the second anniversary of his friend’s death, Scarborough called Selman into the back alley behind the Wigwam Saloon, the two men argued and began fighting. Scarborough claimed both drew their guns, and Scarborough fatally shot Selman. However no gun was found on Selman’s body. Conveniently, a thief was arrested before the trial, who claimed to have stolen Selman’s gun immediately after the supposed gun fight. Therefore, Scarborough was acquitted at his murder trial. Scarborough then moved to Deming, New Mexico, where he worked as a gunman for the Grant County Cattlemen’s Association. He was also associated with the arrest of Pearl Hart.
On April 1, 1900, Scarborough was involved in a shootout with George Stevenson and James Brooks. He killed one of the men, but during the shootout he was shot in the leg and was taken back to Deming where he had his leg amputated. He died four days later – coincidentally six years to the day after the death of his friend Texas Ranger Bass Outlaw, and four years after he shot Bass’ killer, John Selman.