Have you heard of West Texas badman Charlie Small?


Have you heard of West Texas badman Charlie Small?

George Cross
Atlanta, Georgia

You’re not going to believe this but Charlie Small was my grandfather’s half brother.

My father’s family lived in Del Rio and Langtry, Texas, for many years. Charlie was a notorious character on both sides of the border, according to family history. A hired gun for ranchers, he was to some a Robin Hood and to others a paid assassin. He was suspected of participating in the Doc Smart Gang’s holdup of the Southern Pacific at Pantano, near Tucson, Arizona, in September 1887. He was also suspected of leading a gang of rustlers around Langtry.

Charlie was killed by two Texas Rangers in Langtry on July 22, 1893, after picking a fight with the lawmen. Ranger Sgt. K.L. Musgrave’s report to headquarters stated, “This morning we were fired on by Chas Small a noted desperate character and he was killed by me.”

The Trimble family version differs somewhat. My grandfather stated that Charlie was sleeping off a drunk spell under a railroad water tank in Langtry when Musgrave walked up and shot him. Full of remorse, Musgrave apologized to my grandfather. Regardless, Charlie Small lived by the gun and died by the gun.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His books include The Arizona Trilogy and Law of the Gun.

If you have a question, write:

Ask the Marshall

PO Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327

or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@sccmail.maricopa.edu

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