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Published: September 11th 2019
WHERE THE JAIL ONCE STOODDEACON JIM MILLER
The city jail where Deacon Jim Miller was taken to be lynched by the angry Masons was situated on the corner where that little bank building now stands.
For such a deeply religious man Deacon Jim had some serious pathological deviations. Both of his parents went up the flume when he was a child and he went to live with his grandparents. At the age of eight years he murdered them in their sleep and went off to live with a married sister. At the age of seventeen he murdered his brother-in-law, J. E. Coop, who was also sound asleep. He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison but was released on a technicality. He then went to work as a ranch hand for Mannen Clements over in McCulloch County. Mannen was killed in 1887 and soon thereafter the killer was dry gulched in the Miller style. Deacon Jim married Mannen’s daughter, Sally, in 1891 and got religion. The happy couple settled in Reeves County and Deacon Jim became a deputy for Sheriff Bud Frazer in Pecos. Bud soon had to fire Deacon Jim when it became apparent that Jim had stolen a mule. The ill feelings led to gunplay on April 12, 1894. Bud opened fire without warning and hit Jim in the right arm. Jim pulled his six-shooter with
WHERE THE BARN ONCE STOOD
The barn where the lynching took place was situated where the parking lot now stands a block west of where the jail was.
his left hand and wounded an innocent bystander named Joe Krans in the hip. Bud then emptied his six-shooter into Jim’s chest and thought it was a good day’s work. Jim had taken to wearing a steel plate under his jacket and the bullets did not kill him. On December 26, 1894 Jim was outside the blacksmith shop in Pecos when Bud opened fire again. Once again Jim was hit in the right arm and the left leg and took two more shots to the steel plate. Seeing that Jim could not be killed Bud lost his nerve and scampered off to New Mexico. On September 14, 1896 Bud returned to Toyah for a visit with his mom and sister. Jim located him in a saloon, snuck up from behind and blew off most of Bud’s head with a shotgun blast. Bud’s sister roundly cursed him for it, and Jim threatened to shoot her too. In the meantime Bud had a brother-in-law named Barney Riggs who took his side in the feud with Deacon Jim. A new saloon had just opened in Pecos attached to the Orient Hotel near the train depot. Barney stopped by for a little bracer in
WHERE THE MASON HALL ONCE STOOD
The Masonic Temple is still there. It is two blocks east of where the jail was. None of the masons were charged in the lynchings.
April of 1897 and encountered a couple of gun thugs named Denson and Earhart who were partisans of Deacon Jim. When they braced Barney he killed them both with head shots right there in the new saloon. They had him in a crossfire too. It was remarkable gunplay and is still bragged about in Pecos. In 1899 a fellow named Joe Earp, no relation to Wyatt, testified against Deacon Jim in the murder of Bud Frazer. Deacon Jim was acquitted in those proceedings because, after all. Bud tried twice to ambush Jim in Pecos. Three weeks after the trial Joe Earp was ambushed and killed by shotgun and Deacon Jim had to gallop off in the darkness on a grueling hundred mile trip to establish an alibi. Deacon Jim was once again arrested for murder in the dry-gulching of a guy down in Collingsworth County. Jim was with a henchman named Lawrence Angel. They were acquitted because Angel swore that he was the one who did the killing, and Deacon Jim swore that it was done in self-defense. Deacon Jim did more killing in 1902 and 1903 but slipped through the claws of justice again because there were no survivors willing to testify against him. By then he had become adept at presenting himself before a jury as an upstanding Methodist churchman. Deacon Jim had been a hired killer for years. In 1904 he was hired to kill a lawyer named James Jarrott in Lubbock. James had won several cases on behalf of area nesters. Deacon Jim ambushed Jarrott with his shotgun as he was watering his horses. The shotgun blasted him, but did not kill him, so Deacon Jim shot him again with a rifle. Still it did not finish Jarrott so Deacon Jim let him have another shotgun blast, and finally finished him with another rifle shot. Deacon Jim later bragged that Jarrott was “the hardest damn man to kill I ever tackled”. Those who hired him made sure that Deacon Jim was never indicted in the killing of Jarrott. Deacon Jim next murdered a man named Frank Fore in the men’s room of the Hotel Westbrook in Fort Worth, and then tried to surrender to Marshal Dee Harkey, but Harkey wanted nothing to do with it. He happened to be chatting with a couple of guys downstairs named Jinx Clark and Tom Coggins at the time of the shooting. Clark and Coggins testified that they had both witnessed the killing and it was self-defense. Of course they were downstairs talking to Harkey at the time. A Deputy U S Marshal named Ben Collins, from Emet, Oklahoma was next to go down before Deacon Jim’s shotgun. Back in 1903 Collins had shot a miscreant named Port Pruitt and partially paralyzed him. His family swore revenge, and Deacon Jim gave it to them. Once again it took two shotgun blasts to finish Collins and in between Collins got off four shots of his own. The fired chambers were enough to get another self-defense acquittal for Deacon Jim. His luck finally ran out when Deacon Jim murdered a man named Gus Bobbitt up in Ada, Oklahoma on February 26, 1909. Gus was a well -respected rancher in those parts and a member of the Masonic Lodge. After the killing Deacon Jim made it back to Fort Worth and thought he was home free again, but he was extradited back to Ada and held for trial along with the three guys who hired the job done. When it began to look like they might escape justice the Masonic brothers stormed the jail and lynched all four suspects from the rafters of a nearby barn. Deacon Jim was widely suspected of killing Pat Garrett on Feb 29, 1908 up near Las Cruces too, but he didn’t do it. Wayne Brazile killed Garrett just like he said he did in his confession. The judicial system acquitted a guilty man, just like it often did, and the fingers began to be pointed at Deacon Jim Miller.
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