John Horton Slaughter was a frontier lawman, poker player, and full-time rancher in Texas and Arizona in the latter part of the 19th century. He served in the Confederate Army between 1861 and 1865 before he migrated west to Texas. Here he learned to handle two guns at the same time – one in each hand. With that skill he fought hostile Indians, Mexican and American outlaws.
In 1874 John and his brother became cattle drivers south of San Antonio, Texas. They formed the San Antonio Ranch Company and helped carve the Chisholm Trail.
John enjoyed playing poker, and was known as one of the best “bluffers” in the west. His games with John Chisholm, the noted cattle baron for whom the trail was named are legend in Texas.
And John was no fool when it came to the game. One night in San Antonio, he was cheated out of his winnings by cattle rustler Bryan Gallagher. Once he found out about the rouse, John rode his horse all the way to New Mexico looking for the gambler. He found him on Chisholm’s new ranch and shot him down.
When the railroads came into Texas, John decided to move westward to New Mexico and get his own ranch. Once on the trail he just kept going and ended up in southern Arizona.
He built a strong reputation as a rancher – working his San Bernardino ranch in Cochise County – currently the spread is a well-preserved National Historic Landmark near the southern border of
When the battles between the Clanton family and the Earp brothers culminated in the gunfight at the OK Corral, John, like most citizens of the area, followed the conflict, but didn’t take sides. He was a strict law-and-order man, but felt this one fell outside the law. His lofty position in that affair earned him the respect of the Tombstone citizenry. Although he had little experience as a lawman, the people of the area insisted that he run for the office of Sheriff. He agreed to take on the job, but only until the area could establish a recognizable and trained Marshall.
He was elected sheriff of Cochise County five years after the gunfight at the OK Corral and was re-elected to a second term. While he was in that job, he helped track down Geronimo, the Apache chief. Interestingly enough the Indian leader was captured on the San Bernardino Ranch spread.
Whether in office or not, Slaughter could be counted on to fight for justice in the wild areas of southern Arizona. He always carried his six-shooter on his waist, a personally designed repeating 12-guage shotgun, and a trusty Henry rifle nestled in a scabbard on his saddle. With those three guns he arrested desperados like the Jack Taylor Gang and saw that they served sentences. John Slaughter lived to the ripe old age of 81 – never having received a gunshot wound. Not many men would challenge another who was armed with three loaded weapons by his side.