What happened to real-life saloon owner Al Swearengen, famously portrayed in HBO’s Deadwood?

Johnny “Arizona” Crawley
Salem, Oregon

Al Swearengen was a pretty unsavory character with few redeeming qualities. Born in Iowa in 1845, he showed up in Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1876. He opened the Gem Variety Theatre the next year, which featured entertainment, female companionship (for a price) and boxing matches. Al stayed on until 1899. At that point, he headed back to Iowa.

In October 1904, Al’s twin brother, Lemuel, was shot five times in his home in Oskaloosa, but lived to tell about it. Some believed the gunman had been aiming for Al and got the wrong Swearengen. If true, that mistake would be rectified soon enough.

Al immediately left town and moved to Denver. He was found dead on a local street near his home that November—beaten over the head with a blunt object.

Nearly the same thing happened to Lemuel. In the summer of 1910, in Oskaloosa, somebody bashed his head in.

Bad ends for some bad characters.

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