If You Can’t Lynch a Cattle Thief, There’s Always Plan B

john-larn
John Larn

If there was anything unforgiving in the old west, it was cattle stealing. (Unless you were one of the big outfits that could get away with anything, but that’s another story.) And if you were a Texas sheriff and exposed as a dirty rustler, well, things were going to go from bad to worse for you.

But to start at the beginning, John M. Larn was elected Shackelford County Sheriff in Texas in April of 1876. Didn’t last quite a year because of his extracurricular activities. Seemed the good sheriff also had a contract to deliver three steers a day to the military garrison. With the help of his newly-sworn deputy, John Selman, they held up their end of the contract. Although he had a herd of his own, he favored his neighbor’s steers for the delivery—when their herds diminished and his didn’t, the rustling scheme was discovered and he was forced to resign as sheriff on March 7, 1977. But no charges were filed against him at that time.

On June 22, 1878, he wounded a local rancher named Tredwell who may have been the one who uncovered the rustling. Larn was arrested on June 22, 1878 and ensconced in the jail he once ran by his successor, Sheriff William Cruger. The new sheriff hired the local blacksmith to shackle Larn to the floor of the jail to prevent a breakout.

On June 23, vigilantes arrived at the jail at midnight to lynch Larn. But they were not able to release him from his shackles, so they formed a firing squad and killed him in his cell. Plan B.

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