Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Judge Roy Bean & Jellyfish

For [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, I'm going to be posting a photo I've already posted before, but I only have so many "J" themed photos in my repertoire!


This second photo, however, has not been posted before:

The obvious topic for today was probably the James Brothers, Jesse and Frank, and while they were interesting fella's, I thought I'd cover someone less well known, who was still an interesting guy.

udge Roy Bean was called "The Hanging Judge" after his time as a Justice of the Peace, despite the fact that he only sentenced two men to hang. Quite possibly, this was due to the same phenomenon that caused men who had killed one or two people to be attributed with hundreds of kills.

Phantley Roy Bean was born in Mason County, Kentucky. His exact birthdate is unknown, with sources saying it was anywhere between 1816 and 1825, with most citing 1825 as his birth year. He was the youngest child in a poor family, and ended up leaving at age fifteen or sixteen to find work. He killed a man in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1848, because the man, a Mexican, had threatened to kill a gringo. He ended up having to run to San Diego to avoid punishment. A few years later, in 1852, he dueled a man on horseback. Neither killed the other, and both were arrested for attempted murder. Two months later, a female admirer snuck him a couple knives hidden in her homemade tamales, allowing him to escape through the prison wall.

A free man, he went to San Gabriel, California, where he ran a saloon left to him by his brother. In 1854, he got into a fight with a Mexican officer, who had kidnapped the woman Bean loved and forced her to marry him. He won, killing the other man, but his rival's friends lynched him, dragging him out to the desert where they hanged him as he sat atop a horse and left him to die. The woman in question rescued him before the horse could take off, and he was able to escape the area, complete with a lovely rope scar around his neck that would last the rest of his life, as well as a stiff neck.

He bounced around over the years, working in saloons, as a teamster, running a dairy, running a firewood business, acting as a butcher and briefly joining the army. He married Virginia Chavez during this time, who was either fifteen or eighteen, depending on who you ask. They had four children and an unpleasant marriage, with him being arrested as an abuser. They split up, with her taking the children, and he headed out on his own again, eventually setting up another saloon in a tiny town called Vinegaroon, a lawless place no one wanted to mess with. When asked for volunteers to be a Justice of the Peace, he immediately volunteered his services and was sworn in August 2, 1882.

Judge Roy Bean referred to himself as "The Law West of the Pecos. He followed one book of law statutes, refusing to take on any updated versions. He also refused to allow hung juries, hand selecting his own juries from among his bar customers. The courtroom being a part of his saloon, he required them to buy drinks during recesses. If someone wanted to appeal their ruling, they were out of luck; Judge Bean never allowed it.

He was forced to move in 1882 due to the railroad coming in, and ended up taking over land that wasn't his own, setting up his saloon and courtroom once again. He wasn't officially elected or appointed in that area, so everything he did ended in a fine, which he then kept. Technically, many of his rulings were illegal, during this time, whether they were criminal proceedings, marriages, divorces or property issues. In 1884 he was officially re-elected, holding his office until 1896, minus the year 1886, where he was defeated, gaining his place back one year later. In 1896, he once again practiced illegally, taking all cases north of the tracks.

Judge Roy Bean died March 16, 1903 from "lung and heart ailments." During his lifetime, he went from being a swindler and murderer to a judge who did much for the poor, helping those in need around him. He also helped out the local schoolhouse, insuring they had firewood and other needs met.

1. He ended his wedding ceremonies with "May God have mercy on your souls."

2. He arranged a title bout between boxers Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher in the middle of the Rio Grande River, boxing being illegal in Texas and Mexico. It was a short fight that bought him fame around the country.

3. In 1890, he flagged down a train, the engineer thinking there was an emergency. He then boarded the train and asked Jay Gould to come visit his saloon. When he did, hanging around for a couple hours, a panic occurred on the New York Stock Exchange, word having gotten out that Gould had died in a train accident.

4. He would often fine those who ended up in his court for the exact amount of money they had on them. One time, he found a dead man, charged him with carrying a concealed weapon, and took the $40 he had in his possession.

5. His first judicial act, after being made Justice of the Peace, was to try Joe Bell on July 25, 1882. This was several days before his official appointment as Justice of the Peace. His second judicial act was to shoot up a competitor's saloon.

6. At one point he was called out to the site of a bridge collapse. He officially declared all ten injured men dead, despite the fact that three were still alive. He stated that they were bound to die from their injuries, and he didn't feel like riding back out to declare them dead when it happened. All three lived.

7. He was quite the swindler when trying to create his own businesses. His dairy was known to have watered down milk, while the cows he sold as a butcher had been stolen from other properties.

Had you heard of Judge Roy Bean? Think he was a little off his rocker?

May you find your Muse.

*Dotted Letter J courtesy of Mohamed Ibrahim via
**Super Letter J courtesy of Arjan via
***Judge Roy Bean, standing, See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, Scanned from Lucky Luke #13, Le Juge (German edition) by Schnee (talk)
****Bean's saloon, "Judge Roy Bean, the `Law West of the Pecos,' holding court at the old town of Langtry, Texas in 1900, trying a horse thief. This building was courthouse and saloon. No other peace officers in the locality at that time.", Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. (09/18/1947 - 02/28/1964), Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), Wikimedia Commons
*****Roy Bean bust, By Wiki name at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons


Jo said...

I don't think he was off his rocker but can you imagine anyone getting away with everything he did and becoming a judge today. What a story. Thanks for telling it. I had heard of Judge Bean but knew nothing about him.

Unknown said...

I remember the movie with Paul Newman as Judge Roy Bean. I think he was supposed to have been involved with Lily Langtry -- or maybe that was Paul Newman.

Gossip_Grl said...

Have never heard of him but enjoyed reading your post about him. He sounds a bit crazy- like the law(s)around here

Annalisa Crawford said...

I've never heard of Judge Roy Bean, so I'm going to comment on the jellyfish - they are so beautiful, when they're not stuck to your leg, of course!

Unknown said...

Judge Roy Bean. I remember seeing the movie with my Dad years ago...for some reason I believe it was Paul Newman? Anytime I can have a sweet memory of my time with my dad is a good day, so thank you!

50 foot QE said...

I think even today when an individual feels that he or she has the right to break the law the chances of them doing so is much more likely.
There are many in this country and all over the world that do many such things and it has become commonplace but sadly it is on a much grander scale affecting many more people.

cleemckenzie said...

Now there's a guy who could write a book! Good grief. He did everything except become president.

You've piqued my interest. I'll have to find out more about this "colorful" judge.

I'm making my way around the A to Z Challengers to say hi. Glad to read your blog.

Sarah Allen said...

I love jelly-fish :) So cool! And great story, I love learning awesome new things from history. Very fun.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

D.G. Hudson said...

I liked the movie 'Judge Roy Bean' that I think Paul Newman starred in. He was a character in that movie, but in real life, it seems the man, Bean, was OTT.

Very interesting post, Shannon. Enjoyed it. Hubby's grand-dad was a native tracker who helped find criminals up here in Canada (I'm on the wild West Coast.)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Your jellyfish shots are amazing!

Sherry Ellis said...

Judge Roy Bean was definitely a colorful character! I had never heard of him. I'm glad though, that he ended his life on a positive note.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jelly fish are so ethereal! Gorgeous :)

loverofwords said...

Oh the Days of the Wild West! I think they had to be tough to survive, but the line between being fair, honest
and on the wrong side of the law was thin.

Nick Wilford said...

Tough times in those days. He was a law unto himself it seems!

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

I loved the way Judge Bean ended his wedding ceremonies. That is so funny but oh so true. LOL

Chuck said...

So much more than I ever knew about the ol' Judge. I did knoe about the Rio Grande fight and wedding finale. But I never knew about the lynching...that was a little startling. Great history lesson

Think Positive, Be Positive said...

Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z Challenge. Lovely blog...good luck with the challenge!

Donna L Martin

Think Positive, Be Positive said...

Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z Challenge. Lovely blog...good luck with the challenge!

Donna L Martin

Matt Conlon said...

I used to really think Jellyfish were pretty awesome, until some years back I noticed how many of them there were in Boston's Fort Point Channel, and was told that it was because the water was so disgusting...

Still though, they are pretty interesting creatures.

The Brew Newb

Sabrina A. Fish said...

Interesting fellow. Until you mentioned he helped people at the end, I thought he was a little insane. I still think he could have used a psych eval, but am glad that he managed to be lucid enough to help others.

Great ~J~ post. Checking in from A to Z. SabrinaAFish

soggy in the corner said...

Hahaha...that was interesting. My husband always has been fond of the movie about Judge Roy Bean. Your post was informative. What about his love for Lili Langtry? That was in the movie. What a character.

Unknown said...

This was interesting. I had heard of the name from western films. Nice history/biography of a character that I was not sure really existed.
Best wishes,
Anna's A-Z, the letter K

Karen Baldwin said...

Interesting guy, that Judge Roy Bean. Great post.

Cat Lavoie said...

Beautiful pictures! I had no clue who Judge Roy Bean... thanks for another interesting post! :)

Andrew Leon said...

I'm pretty sure there's a roller coaster named after him at Six Flags; although, I'm not remembering the exact name of it, at the moment.

Beverly Diehl said...

Colorful doesn't seem like a strong enough word to describe him.

Crazy but charismatic, perhaps. He must have been personable, or he wouldn't have been able to get away with the things he did.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Jo, I was going to say no way, but then I thought about some of the stuff modern day judges DO get away with. My brother is a police officer, and they have to handle issues with judges veerrrrrryyyy carefully.

Kathleen, the Judge had a crush on Lilly Langtree. He kept trying to get her to come visit. After he died, knowing of his feelings for her, she did finally come out to visit the town he'd last served in, even visiting his saloon/courtroom, I believe. I was going to include that info, but I'm so wordy as it is that I had to trim that part.

Ms Hatch, I haven't seen the Judge Roy Bean movie(s?), but I'm betting like most of other folks from this time, the treatment was much more honorable than the reality.

Gossip Grl, I do think he was, at the very least, eccentric.

Annalisa, I can certainly back that up! I had two clinging to my leg in Florida last summer!

Meloday-Mae, I'm definitely glad to help with that!

50 foot QE, I agree, definitely.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Clee, he was certainly colorful!

Sarah, me, too! This has been far too fun!

D.G., oh that is so cool! I had a relative, on my mother's father's side, who was a Territorial Marshal in Indian Territory. I have not yet been able to figure out if he was on the white side or the Indian side, but I'd figure white.

Alex, thank you so much!

Sherry, I am, too. He didn't really harm anyone else, and I believe the folks around him appreciated him.

Jemi, they are, aren't they?

Loverofwords, I think you put it just right. He took over an area that had no law, and he did it in his own way.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Nick, I agree, but he was actually providing a valuable service, and he kept the law (despite his little side issues) where no one else was willing.

Debra, I thought that was pretty hysterical! Messed up, but valid.

Chuck, it's fun to know I could give you a little extra info!

Donna, thanks for stopping by! Good luck to you.

Matt, interesting. So they are drawn to the filth?

Sabrina, oh I agree on the psych eval. I feel like he redeemed some of his lackluster methods a bit by helping others, but it doesn't necessarily make him sane, haha.

Soggy, a bunch of people have mentioned that movie, and I feel like I need to check it out! No one has mentioned a title yet, though? He did so love Lilly Langtree. It's sad he couldn't meet her before his death, but maybe somewhere up there he knows she came around after he died.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Anna, I had no idea he popped up in so many different movies, but it seems like he did!

Em, thanks, he was!

Cat, I'm having fun writing them! And thank you on the pictures!

Andrew, that's interesting. Which Six Flags? Or is there only one Six Flags with that name still? Our amusement park in Denver was Six Flags, but is now Elitch's.

Beverly, I agree! If he'd gotten to meet the actress he had a crush on, I'm sure he could have won her over. People certainly didn't complain about him.

Andrew Leon said...

The original Six Flags in Dallas. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm pretty sure the ride is called the Judge Roy Scream.