Jim Miller (outlaw)

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Jim Miller
Killin jim.png
Born James Brown Miller
(1866-10-25)October 25, 1866
Van Buren, Arkansas
Died April 19, 1909(1909-04-19) (aged 42)
Ada, Oklahoma
Cause of death Hanged
Nationality American
Other names

Killin' Jim
Killer Miller

Deacon Jim
Occupation Cowboy, lawman, saloon keeper, assassin

James Brown Miller (October 25, 1866 - April 19, 1909), also known as "Killin' Jim", "Killer Miller" and "Deacon Jim", was an American outlaw and assassin of the American Old West said to have killed 12 people during gunfights - perhaps the most of his era.[1] Miller was referred to by the alias Deacon Jim by some because he regularly attended the Methodist Church and he did not smoke or drink. He was lynched by a mob of angry citizens because of his assassination of a former Deputy U.S. Marshal.

Miller was married to the cousin of another famous old west outlaw, John Wesley Hardin.

Early life[edit]

Miller was born in Van Buren, Arkansas but moved with his parents to Franklin, Texas at one year of age.[1] Miller's father, Jacob, was born in Pennsylvania in 1801, was a stonemason, and helped build the first capitol building in Austin, Texas. Miller's mother, Cynthia Basham, was born in Tennessee in 1827.[citation needed] Just a few years after the move both of Miller's parents died and he was sent to Evant to live with his grandparents. At the age of eight, Miller was again orphaned after his grandparents were found murdered in their home. Miller was arrested but was not prosecuted for the crime.[1][2]

His sister, Georgia and her husband, John Thomas Coop, accepted him onto their farm at Plum Creek near Gatesville.[1] The 1880 census records him as being nineteen years old, living in Coryell County, Texas with his siblings and widowed mother. On July 30, 1884, Miller approached his brother-in-law, with whom he had an argument, while he was sleeping on his porch. Miller shot him in the head. Miller was arrested for the murder which was performed with a shotgun. Miller was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; however, the conviction was overturned on a technicality.[1]

After leaving the Coop farm, Miller became a hired hand on the McCulloch County ranch of John Wesley Hardin's cousin Emanuel "Mannen" Clements.[3] Clements was killed by Ballinger City Marshal Joe Townsend on March 29, 1887, during Miller's time of employment at his ranch. Townsend would be later ambushed by an assailant wielding a shotgun, Miller's signature style. Townsend would survive but lose his arm to amputation.

Pecos lawman[edit]

Miller and his family, c.1890s

Over the next couple of years, Miller traveled the Texas-Mexico border region and operated a saloon in San Saba County. In Reeves County, Miller became a deputy sheriff and he would later become town marshal in Pecos. During this time he gained a reputation for killing Mexicans claiming that they were attempting escape.[1]

Miller would marry Sallie Clements, daughter of Mannen Clements, in 1891. Assuming the appearance of a devout Methodist he would earn the nickname Deacon Jim.[1] He was well liked by the townspeople because he was polite and an avid member of the church. Regardless of the weather outside he would wear a large black frock coat.[4]

Miller would become involved in a feud with Pecos Sheriff George A. "Bud" Frazer. While Frazer was out of Pecos, on a trip to El Paso, he was informed that Miller had allowed criminals to gain greater control over Pecos.[4] Frazer would enlist the help of Texas Ranger John R. Hughes to, once again, secure Pecos. Frazer immediately jailed Miller upon his return to Pecos on a charge of murder. A jury would later release Miller.[4] Frazer believed that Miller had stolen mules - he had Miller arrested.[1]

On April 12, 1894, in Pecos, Miller was confronted by Frazer about his involvement in the murder of cattleman Con Gibson. Frazer did not wait for Miller to go for his shotgun, shooting him and hitting him in the right arm.[4] While Miller was attempting to fire his gun with his left hand, hitting a bystander, Joe Krans, Frazer fired again, hitting Miller in the groin, which finally put him down. Frazer emptied his six-shooter into Miller's chest.[1] After Miller's friends had rushed him to a doctor, his frock coat was removed to reveal the large steel plate that Miller wore under his clothes, which resisted most of the bullets from Frazer's gun, saving the assassin's life. Miller would recover[4]

On December 26, 1894, Miller was standing outside of a blacksmith's when Frazer began to fire at him. Frazer hit Miller in the arm and leg. Rushing in to finish him Frazer tried to shoot Miller in the chest but the iron plate in Miller's coat saved him again. Frazer, demoralized, quickly retreated.[1] Miller had Frazer charged with attempted murder. The case, heard in El Paso, ended with a hung jury.[4]

Frazer would lose his reelection to Sheriff and leave town for Eddy, New Mexico. Just a few months later, however, he would return to the Pecos area to visit his mother and sister. The feud ended on September 13, 1896, when Miller learned of Frazer's presence in the area. Frazer was at a gambling table in Toyah, Texas. Miller opened the saloon's swinging doors levelling his shotgun onto of one of them. He shot Frazer, who was dealing, removing most of his head. Frazer's sister, irate, confronted Miller, who threatened to kill her as well.[1] A jury would not convict Miller.[4]

Miller muttered threats towards Joe Earp, who was a witness that testified against him. Just three weeks after the trial, Earp was killed by a shotgun blast.[4] To secure an alibi, Miller spent the night riding his horse on a grueling 100 mile journey. The prosecuting District Attorney, Judge Stanley, would later die of food poisoning in Memphis, Texas.[1]

Professional assassin[edit]

Jim Miller gambling

Miller would become a Texas Ranger, despite his legal issues, working as a resident ranger in Memphis. Later he served in Hall County, killing a man in a neighbouring county of Collingsworth. The Miller family moved to Fort Worth in 1900 and Sallie would open a boarding house. It is here that Miller would advertise himself as a professional assassin, charging $150 for each murder.[1]

Miller would kill two men near Midland that year. Miller was arrested for the murder of one of them. Miller's partner on the trip, Lawrence Angel, was convinced to take credit for the killing. Miller, now as a witness, claimed that Angel acted in self-defence.[1]

During the summer of 1902, Miller claimed that he caught three men stealing cattle in Ward County. He would kill two of them using his Winchester but one escaped, shot, by clinging to his horse. Miller killed lawyer James Jarrott[5] August 28, 1902, who was successful at working cases for area farmers that were raising fences that disrupted the business of ranchers near Lubbock.[4] Those ranchers hired Miller for the murder paying $500. Miller caught Jarrot while watering his horses near his farm. Miller had to shoot Jarrot four times: "He was the hardest damn man to kill I ever tackled."[1]

In 1904 Miller took a contract for the murder of Frank Fore. He would follow him to the Westbrook hotel. Miller had been accompanied to the hotel by three other lawmen: Dee Harkey, Jinx Clark and Tom Coggins, whom he left in the lobby. Miller would shoot Fore in a restroom upstairs. Immediately after the shooting Miller attempted to surrender to Harkey, but the latter refused to participate. Clark and Coggins would later claim that they witnessed the shooting and that Miller acted in self-defence.[1] Fore was shot on March 10, 1904 and died March 13, 1904[6][7]

On August 1, 1906, Miller killed the Bureau of Indian Affairs Lawman Ben C. Collins in Oklahoma as retribution from a man called Port Pruitt, who had been shot and crippled by Collins in 1903 while resisting arrest.[4][8] Pruitt had already hired another gunman for $500, but the gunman took the $200 advance, told Collins, and left the territory.[9] Miller was reportedly paid $2,000 for that murder,[citation needed] which he carried out in front of Collins's home in front of Collins's wife.[8] Miller shot Collins with No. 8 buckshot, Collins returned six shots but was hit in the face by a second No. 8 ball.[1] Miller was arrested for the murder,[8] but he was never convicted and was eventually released.[4]

On February 28, 1908, ex-lawman and killer of Billy The Kid, Pat Garrett, was killed near Las Cruces, New Mexico, ostensibly because of a land dispute. Miller was alleged to have committed the murder[10][1] and to have been paid to do so, but this is unlikely since Jesse Wayne Brazel confessed to the crime.[4] Brazel was tried and released on the grounds of self defense. Carl Adamson, who was married to a cousin of Miller's wife, was also with Garrett when he was killed, which most likely led to the rumors that Miller was involved. Historians still disagree over the ultimate facts of Garrett's murder, but the consensus is that it happened without Miller's involvement.

Bobbitt assassination[edit]

'Killer' Jim Miller, far left, wearing black hat, hangs from a livery stable rafter after lynching in Ada, Oklahoma, 1909. The others are Allen, Burrell & West

Miller was contracted by local ranchers Jesse West and Joe Allen, through middleman Berry B. Burell (though there is controversy over the spelling of the man's name), for the murder of Oklahoma cattle rancher and former Deputy U.S. Marshal Allen Augustus "Gus" Bobbitt of Ada, Oklahoma, either to acquire his land after his death or because of a personal grudge against the man, accounts vary.[11] The fee was $1,700.

On February 27, 1909, Miller carefully chose his point of ambush, concealing himself near Bobbitt's ranch house. Bobbitt and his hired man Bob Ferguson arrived with their supply wagons from town. Miller shot Bobbitt in his side with both barrels from his shotgun. Bobbitt fumbled out of the lead wagon and then Miller escaped the scene on his way to Fort Worth passing by Ferguson. Bobbitt's wife dashed out to check on her injured husband. Before dying Bobbitt was able to confirm the identity of his assailant.[1] The murder was also witnessed by Oscar Peeler, the 19-year-old cowhand who accepted $50 to lead Miller to Bobbitt. Miller was arrested in Texas by a Texas Ranger and extradited to Oklahoma to stand trial alongside Jesse West, Joe Allen and Berry Burrell.

The evidence against the four suspects, however, was not considered strong, leaving open the chance for an acquittal. Only weeks earlier a man named Stephenson, a suspect in the November 3, 1907, murder of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, Town Marshal Rudolph Cathey,[12] had been acquitted on murder charges, which possibly motivated the citizens' ensuing actions against Miller.

A mob, reported by The Daily Ardmoreite as 200, and by Associated Press as "estimated from 30 to 40 in number" — broke into the jail "between two and three o'clock" on the morning of April 19, 1909. The mob dragged the four men outside to an abandoned livery stable behind the jail. Miller remained stoic while the other three reportedly begged for their lives. Miller made two final requests: that his diamond ring be given to his wife, and that he be permitted to wear his black hat while being hanged. Both requests were granted. He also requested to die in his black frock coat, this request was denied.[13] Miller is reported to have shouted "Let 'er rip!" and stepped voluntarily off his box. Ironically two prisoners who had killed Allen, Oklahoma Town Marshal Zeke Putnam[14] were not lynched.

The bodies of all four men were left hanging for several hours while a photographer could be brought in to immortalize the moment. These photos were sold to tourists in Ada for many years.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The lifestyle and dress of Miller parallels that of gunslinger Ray McCall from the Call of Juarez series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s O'Neal, Bill (1979). Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 230–233. ISBN 0-8061-1508-4. 
  2. ^ "James Brown "Killing Jim" Miller". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  3. ^ "Emanuel D Clements". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Metz, Leon Claire (2003). The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters. Checkmark Books. pp. 172–173. ISBN 0-8160-4543-7. 
  5. ^ "James Jarrott". Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  6. ^ "Frank Fore". The Daily Ardmoreite. 11 March 1904. p. 1. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  7. ^ "Frank Fore Dead". The Daily Ardmoreite. 14 March 1904. p. 5. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  8. ^ a b c "Police Officer Ben C. Collins". The Officer Down Memorial Page. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  9. ^ Bill O'Neal, Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991, p.72.
  10. ^ See: Bullis, Don (2007) New Mexico; Biographical Dictionary 1540-1980 Rio Grande Books, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico, p. 165, ISBN 978-1-890689-60-5, for a discussion.
  11. ^ "Four Men Pay Price of Bobbitt's Death Miller, Allen, West and Burrell are Lynched by Mob at Ada this Morning". The Daily Ardmoreite (oklahomahistory.net). 19 April 1909. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  12. ^ "Assistant City Marshal Randolph W. Cathey". The Officer Down Memorial Page. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  13. ^ Metz, Leon Claire. The Shooters. p. 159. 
  14. ^ "City Marshal E. M. "Zeke" Putnam". The Officer Down Memorial Page. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 

Further reading[edit]

  • James, Bill (1989). Jim Miller, The Untold Story of a Texas Badman. Henington Publishing Company. 
  • Nash, Robert (1994). Encyclopedia of Western Lawmen & Outlaws. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80591-X. 
  • Farris, David A., 2011 Oklahoma Outlaws, Spooky Stories and all around folklore | publisher=Little Bruce | isbn=0-9646922-4-4

External links[edit]