134 years ago today: Judge Roy Bean’s court is in session

This image from the Library of Congress shows what was later known as the "Judge Roy Bean Horse Thief Trial."

This image from the Library of Congress shows what was later known as the “Judge Roy Bean Horse Thief Trial.” That’s Bean, sitting on the barrel on the left side of the porch.

On this day in 1882, a 57-year-old fellow by the name of Phantly was appointed justice of the peace by Pecos County commissioners. You might know him better as Judge Roy Bean.

The Kentucky native was most recently of San Antonio, where he had left behind a wife and kids. Earlier, he had survived several close calls in Mexico, a duel in San Diego and a near-hanging in San Gabriel, California. He arrived in Vinegaroon, near the Pecos River, with 10 55-gallon barrels of whiskey and set up his own saloon, which quickly became a part-time courthouse as well.

It would take two moves before he was in his now-historic Jersey Lilly saloon in Langtry, where he was (with some brief interruptions) the “Law West of the Pecos” until shortly before his death in 1903. His death at the age of 78 is said to have come after a drinking spree in San Antonio.

Here are 7 completely random facts about Judge Roy Bean

  1. From the Handbook of Texas Online: “When a man carrying forty dollars and a pistol fell off a bridge, Bean fined the corpse forty dollars for carrying a concealed weapon, thereby providing funeral expenses.”
  2. In 1896, Bean organized a heavyweight boxing match to be held on a sandbar in the Rio Grande as boxing was illegal in Texas and Mexico at the time. The fight lasted less than two minutes, but the event had a much longer effect on Bean’s notoriety.
  3. Paul Newman starred in the 1972 film “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,” but it was nearly as fictional as the 1940 film “The Westerner.” In the earlier film, Walter Brennan won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Bean.
  4. From Wikipedia: In 1890, Bean received word that railroad developer and speculator Jay Gould was planning to pass through Langtry on a special train. Bean flagged down the train with the danger signal. Thinking the bridge was out, the train engineer stopped. Bean invited Gould and his daughter to visit the saloon as his guests. The Goulds visited for two hours, causing a brief panic on the New York Stock Exchange when it was reported that Gould had been killed in a train crash
  5. Bean was infatuated with British actress Lillie Langtry. He named his saloon after her, though the town was actually named after a railroad foreman. They never met, but exchanged gifts. Lillie would visit the saloon only 10 months after Bean’s death.
  6. From desertusa.com: Bean “spent most of his days sitting on the porch of his saloon, with rifle handy. In his spare time, he served customers. His favorites were railroad passengers, desperate for something to drink while the train took on water. Bean served them quickly, then lingered before giving them their change. When the train’s warning whistle blew, customers swore and demanded their change. Roy then fined them the exact amount and sent them cursing back to their railroad cars.”
  7. When performing marriage ceremonies, it is said that Bean would always end with the benediction “and may God have mercy on your souls.”

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