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U.S. Marshal John Cahill (left), with two other 
unnamed lawmen. Somewhere in east Texas, circa 1884.

Marshal John Cahill was famous enough in his day, but John Wayne revived his memory in the film Cahill, US Marshal. Westerns are not the popular films that they once were, and John Wayne’s legacy is lost in the present day to the up-and-coming generation. Frankly, I think that John Wayne would be disgusted by the up-and-coming generation. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Marshals then as now, served processes of the court which included arrest warrants which directed them to bring a person before the court. Circuit courts would have a United States Marshal and he would hire deputies to work for him. Again, it’s not all that different today. 
The names, styles of clothing, etc. have changed, but the requirement of having lawmen working to bring wanted subjects before the court hasn’t changed.

13 thoughts on “Lawmen

  1. Texas was pretty lawless and parts are today. I know this because you can read the arrest/sentencing reports in the local newspaper.

    Message to market — DO NOT get arrested in Hill County. For example, the neighbor's girl made the mistake of attacking a policeman the other day.

    Bad error. 20 years and given a beating to boot. Mind you, she was a menace.

  2. The difference between the lawmen and the outlaws back then was at best iffy. The method a sheriff or marshall was selected usually consisted of how well they handled a six shooter, and how good they were with a knife or their fists. Nothing was ever mentioned about criminal justice, knowledge of the legal system, and the interview more likely than not took place at the poker table, shots of whiskey prudently placed in front of the job candidates and civil leaders.

    Ah, the criminal justice system of the days gone by, a bygone era.

  3. Background checks back in the day weren't considered important as well. It wasn't unusual to find someone with a record enforcing the law.

  4. Yes, that’s true. The Earps are examples of people who walked on both sides of the law.

  5. True, depending on the circumstances. It’s said to still be that way in Chicago

  6. Locally the law is more about social stability, on a micro level, than process; until a community reaches a macro size and lack of process begins to impinge on stability. People will tolerate the devil they know. Once the community reaches a level that most do not know the devil then process is the recourse to establish trust, even if it's a demons process. The Old West was actually a much more closely knit community than one would surmise just looking at all that empty space on the map.

  7. Brings to mind wise NCOs putting troublemakers in charge of details.

  8. Stood SP with a contingent of Her Majesty's Royal Australian Navy once in Subic. The Aussies always sent the biggest bruisers on the ship out on SP the first night in port. Each night after that the assignment went to whom ever was returned to ship for fighting the night before. If you liked fighting wearing whites with an SP brassard when the lights went out would be your cup of tea, otherwise get low and get out because at least a half dozen San Magoo bottles had already launched!

  9. Abe Fraser really scared the shit out of Danny and little Billy Jo didn't he? I always liked that movie.

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