Jack Johnson (posseman)

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"Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson (c.1847– c.1887) was an American bookkeeper, lawyer, cowboy and lawman. He rode with Wyatt Earp as a member of the posse during the Earp Vendetta Ride.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was thought to be a former bookkeeper and lawyer, coming from Missouri. Wyatt Earp believed that Johnson's real name was John Blunt, but there is no evidence to support this and Blunt was not a gunman. And it is known that in 1881 he was 34 years of age. He and his brothers are alleged to have fled Missouri after being involved in a violent street clash in the mining town of Webb City, Missouri. His supposed brother, Bud Blunt, a known drunkard who had killed a man in Tip Top, Arizona in 1881, was sent to Yuma Prison. Johnson was not actually a "gunman" in the traditional sense, as most history books note him as, inaccurately portrayed in Stuart N. Lake's mostly fictional book. Earp claimed to use him as an informer on the "Cowboys".


Johnson supposedly spent some time in Deadwood in the Dakota Territory in 1876. He is said to have participated in a gunfight in 1876, where he calmly and slowly used two pistol shots to kill two men at a distance of 30 yards after allegations of cheating were charged following a game of poker. They were both trying to kill him with multiple pistol shots - their mistake was trying to use a "quick draw" while moving towards Johnson. Their spray of shots went wild. Johnson simply turned sideways to make himself a smaller target, raised his opposite arm to use as a gun rest and took a bead on each man, killing them with one shot apiece. It is debated as to whether this actually occurred, but town historians and modern day event enactors stated publicly in August, 2013 that there were not one but two separate stories published about this gunfight in the Deadwood town newspaper in the days following its occurrence. There is also a record of a Marshal named Jack Johnson who killed a desperado named Mike Fitzgerald in a gunfight in 1872, in Nebraska. This same man named John Johnson was possibly in Tombstone according to the 1880 Census and may have ridden with Wyatt Earp, indicating "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson and John Johnson, the marshal, are likely one and the same.

Johnson is believed to have later spent time in Dodge City, Kansas. Little is known about exactly when he met Wyatt Earp. It could have been during Wyatt's buffalo hunting days, in Deadwood, or during the time that both were in Dodge City. He is believed to have first ventured into Arizona Territory while working in a cattle drive, alongside Sherman McMaster, "Curly Bill" Brocius, and Pony Diehl, in late 1878. Brocius and Diehl had only recently left the "Murphy-Dolan" faction, having both taken part in the Lincoln County War, opposite Billy the Kid and his "Regulators". There is no evidence that Johnson took part in that range war, nor that he knew Brocius or Diehl prior to the cattle drive.

Earp Vendetta[edit]

Writer John H. Flood, in his unpublished 1926 manuscript Wyatt Earp biography (for which many details came from Wyatt himself) said that Johnson was an old friend of the Earps when they came to Tombstone, and this fits with the fact of Johnson's presence on the train to protect Virgil as he left Tombstone for the last time, March 20, 1882.[1]

As a posseman in the Earp posse which protected Virgil on the train, Johnson (as "John Johnson") was co-indicted in absentia with Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, and Sherman McMaster in the killing of Frank Stilwell in Tucson, March 20, 1882. Johnson returned with the others to Tombstone on a freight train that night, and the next day (now joined by Texas Jack Vermillion) rode out in the Earp vendetta ride of 1882, by which time he was a wanted man in the territory for the killing of Stilwell.


After the Earp vendetta ride, Johnson escaped through Colorado, then Texas. According to the Flood manuscript, Johnson died of tuberculosis in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, in 1887, survived there by a widow.[1]

The Flood manuscript biography states that Johnson was a member of the masonic lodge in Salt Lake City, and estimated that his age at death was about 35 (this last information has been used to estimate the birthdate given above; however it is heavily suspect, as Flood's information on the death age of Vermillion is very erroneous).[1]

In popular culture[edit]

Played by Lonny Chapman in Hour of the Gun starring James Garner and Jason Robards.

Played by Buck Taylor he appears as a minor character in the movie Tombstone, starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.


  1. ^ a b c Carter, Zack. ""Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson – Gunfighter, Peace Officer and Freemason" (PDF). Letters from District No. 10. Whatcom Lodge No. 151. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Roy B. Young (1999). Cochise County Cowboy War. Young and Sons Enterprises, Apache O.K. ISBN not assigned. A self-published but useful compendium of bio information on minor Tombstone characters.

External links[edit]