Wanted, Dead or Alive

Tiburcio Vasquez true west
Tiburcio Vasquez

It may have been the name of a TV Western, but few officials actually used “wanted, dead or alive” rewards to track down criminals.  Money was generally paid out only for the capture and conviction of hard cases.

There were exceptions.  In 1874, the governor of California put a bounty on the head of famed criminal Tiburcio Vasquez: $6,000 dead or $8,000 alive.  In May of that year, a posse arrested Vasquez—alive.  They split the bulk of the money, although an estimated $2,000 went to gang associate/informant “Greek George” Caralambo.

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Mark Boardman

Mark Boardman is the features editor for True West Magazine, a former managing editor for Western Shooting Horse Magazine and the chief purveyor of ScarletMask Enterprises.