Texas Pecos Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Law and Disorder West of the Pecos

The Pecos Trail Region today has much of the same characteristics as it did one hundred years ago – big skies, small communities, and as much sunshine as you can take. Fortunately, a few things have changed including deference to the rule of law, something not altogether popular during the area’s frontier heyday. Perhaps the closest adherent to the law of the land was legendary lawman Judge Roy Bean. Bean often made up his own laws when it suited him and passed judgment on criminals according to his own interpretation of the facts. Nonetheless, he was a larger-than-life character on the frontier. His legacy can be explored in Langtry where visitors may tour a reproduction of Bean’s Jersey Lilly Saloon (which also served as his courtroom). The Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center also offers interpretive exhibits and a nature trail. Another Jersey Lilly replica is located at the Whitehead Memorial Museum in nearby Del Rio where artifacts are on hand to help tell the Judge Roy Bean story. Bean (or at least what’s left of him) is buried in the museum’s grounds.

A third replica of the Jersey Lilly is located on the grounds of the West of the Pecos Museum where gunslinger Clay Allison spends his eternal resting days (also in the ground). Along with Allison, William Carver, a member of Butch Cassidy’s gang, represents the opposing end of the Pecos Trail Region’s tour of law and disorder. You can find his story at the Old Sonora Ice House Ranching Museum in Sonora. After Carver and fellow gang members Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid robbed a Union Pacific train of $30,000 they split up and Carver headed south. He would be dead within a year, ambushed by Sonoran Sheriff E. S. Briant and his deputies. Many criminals in the Pecos Trail Region who were caught (and survived) spent time in the Old Pecos County Jail, one of the oldest surviving structures in the state, built in 1883 and located in Fort Stockton. At the other end of the Region, the Old Guardhouse Museum on the grounds of Fort Clark in Brackettville maintains the military post’s original jail cells, designed to keep rowdy cavalry soldiers in line. The museum is an excellent source of archived documents about the frontier, an era of law and lawlessness.

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