The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945

THE SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. XLVIII JANUARY, 1945 No. 3
Che IIso/led murder of
Hea thom1pson
Pistoleer Extraorditary
PAUL ADAMS
BEN THOMPSON was only thirteen when he deliberately shot
and wounded his playmate, Joe Brown. Thereafter until
his own melodramatic end by lead-poisoning on the night of
March 11, 1884, Ben Thompson of Austin dispatched an un-
counted but startling number of victims of his fatal marks-
manship.
Of the more notorious gunmen of the western and south-
western frontier, Thompson was the most interesting, colorful,
and dangerous. As to his prowess with a revolver, let us hear
from a contemporary expert. "Bat" Masterson, a famous pistoleer
himself and marshal of Dodge City, Kansas, in its tumultuous
days during the great cattle drives, wrote the following tribute
to Ben:
It is doubtful if in his time there was another man living who equalled
him with a pistol in a life-and-death struggle. Thompson, in the first place,
possessed a much higher order of intelligence than the average man-killer
of his time. He was absolutely without fear and his nerves were those
of the finest metal. He shot at an adversary with the same precision and
deliberation that he shot at a target. A past-master in the use of the
pistol, his aim was as true as his nerves were strong and steady.
Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Billy Tilghman, Charley Bassett, Luke
Short, Clay Allison, and Jim Curry were all men who . .. played their
part on the lurid edge of our western frontier at the same time Ben was
playing his, and it is safe to assume that not one of them would have de-
clined the gage of battle had he flung it down. However, I am constrained
to say that little doubt exists in my mind that Thompson would have been
the winner.
Ben Thompson's biography appeared as long ago as 1884.
The book, entitled Life and Adventures of Ben Thompson, the
Famous Texan, was written by W. M. Walton of Austin, better

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146055/. Accessed December 20, 2014.