Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Law West of the Pecos

On our trip along highway 90 we stopped in Langtry, once the home of Judge Roy Bean, known as the Law West of the Pecos.

Judge Bean became a legend in his own lifetime.  His law library consisted of a single volume of an 1879 copy of the Revised Statues of Texas but it was rarely consulted.

Shortly before his death he presented the book to his friend W H Dodd, with a comment saying that they sent him a new book every year or so but he used it to light the fires with.

Judge Roy Bean was an ardent admirer of the famous English actress Lily Langtry, he named his saloon the Jersey Lily in her honour.   He wrote to her regularly and invited her to visit Langtry. 

Dispensing justice from the porch of the Jersey Lily, the Judge broke off every now and then to serve customers.   As there was no jail in Langtry, drunks were usually handcuffed to a tree until they sobered up and a lot of offences resulted in a fine which went straight into the Judge’s pockets.

The original Jersey Lily saloon, billiard hall, courtroom and Judge’s home burned in 1896, after which the Judge rebuilt this smaller version.

Inside the Jersey Lily.

In 1896 Judge Bean staged the Fitzsimmons - Maher heavyweight title fight on a sand bar in the middle of the Rio Grande.   As the fight was banned in the USA Texas rangers were sent to stop it, but as it was held on the Mexican side of the river there was nothing they could do and the Judge made a tidy profit on the fight.

This adobe building, Roy Bean’s Opera House, Town Hall and Seat of Justice, was actually the Judge’s home and he lived there until his death in 1903.

Lily Langtry was finally able to visit to Langtry in 1904, but sadly Judge Roy Bean never met her as he died the year before. 

She wrote this letter from San Francisco expressing her thanks to W H Dodd, who was then Justice of the Peace, to express her appreciation of the welcome she received from the people of Langtry.

As we left Langtry we saw a truck, the bonnet of which was covered in pock marks from the hail in the storm last night.   What a relief that Del Rio didn’t get hail that size! 

Have fun, we are!

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