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Tom Horn : biography

21 November 1860 - 20 November 1903

Thomas "Tom" Horn, Jr. (November 21, 1860 – November 20, 1903) was an American Old West lawman, scout, soldier, hired gunman, detective, outlaw and assassin. On the day before his 43rd birthday, he was hanged in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the murder of Willie Nickell.



Early life

Born to Thomas S. Horn, Sr. and Mary Ann Maricha (née Miller), in rural northeastern Scotland County, Missouri, on the family farm of 600 acres (bisected by the South Wyaconda River) between the towns of Granger and Etna, he was the fifth of twelve children.


At sixteen, Horn headed to the American Southwest, where he was hired by the U.S. Cavalry as a civilian scout under Al Sieber and became involved in the Apache Wars, aiding in the capture of warriors such as Geronimo. On January 11, 1886, he was involved in an expedition into Mexican territory in the pursuit of Geronimo as a packer and interpreter. During the operation, Horn's camp was attacked by Mexican militia and he was wounded in the arm.Carlson.(2001) p.33. Horn allegedly killed his first man in a duel — a second lieutenant in the Mexican Army. Horn was present at Geronimo's final surrender, acting as an interpreter under Charles B. Gatewood.

Later, hiring out his skills with a gun, he took part in the Pleasant Valley War in Arizona between cattlemen and sheepmen, but it is not known for certain with which side he was allied, and both sides suffered several killings for which no known suspects were ever identified.Carlson.(2001) p.36.

Career as a detective and lawman

He worked in Arizona for a time as a deputy sheriff, where he drew the attention of the Pinkerton Detective agency due to his tracking abilities. Hired by the agency circa late 1889 or early 1890, he handled investigations in Colorado and Wyoming, in other western states, and around the Rocky Mountain area, working out of the Denver office. He became known for his calm under pressure, and his ability to track down anyone assigned to him.

On one instance, Horn and another agent, C. W. Shores, captured two men for robbing the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (on August 31, 1890) between Cotopaxi and Texas Creek in Fremont County, Colorado. Horn and Shores tracked Thomas Eskridge (aka "Peg-Leg" Watson) and Burt "Red" Curtis to a house (the home of a man named Wolfe) in either Washita or Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, along the Washita River, without firing a shot. In his report on that arrest, Horn stated in part "Watson, was considered by everyone in Colorado as a very desperate character. I had no trouble with him."

His termination from employment, however, was not as a result of his killings. In Charlie Siringo's book, "Two Evil Isms: Pinkertonism and Anarchism", he wrote that "William A. Pinkerton told me that Tom Horn was guilty of the crime, but that his people could not allow him to go to prison while in their employ." More likely than not, this was due to the agency's desire to avoid negative press. Siringo would later indicate that he respected Horn's abilities at tracking, and that he was a very talented agent but had a wicked element. at at

Horn resigned from the agency, under pressure, in 1894. Over the course of the late 1890s he hired out as a range deputy US marshal and detective for various wealthy ranchers in Wyoming and Colorado, specifically during the Johnson County War, when he worked for the Wyoming Stock Grower's Association; and is alleged to have been involved in the killing of Nate Champion and Nick Ray on April 9, 1892. In 1895, Horn supposedly killed a known cattle thief named William Lewis near Iron Mountain, Wyoming. Horn was exonerated for that crime and for another six weeks later, the murder of Fred Powell. In 1896, a ranchman named Campbell who had a large stock of money was last seen with Horn and "disappeared."

Although his official title was always "Range Detective," he actually functioned as a killer for hire.The History Channel, "Cowboys and Outlaws," 2009 In 1900, he was implicated in the murder of two known rustlers and robbery suspects in northwest Colorado. Just prior to the killings, Horn had begun working for the Swan Land and Cattle Company, He had killed the two rustlers, Matt Rash and Isom Dart, while he was following up on what became known as the Wilcox Train Robbery, and he was possibly working freelance for the Pinkerton Agency when he did so.. - at

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