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Dan Bogan Facts

Dan Bogan was a famous gunslinger of the Wild West. He did not become well-known until later in the 20th century when folks began looking into his exploits and crimes. He was born in Alabama and died in an undisclosed location. 

Early Life

Dan Bogan

Dan Bogan was born in Alabama in 1860. His family moved when he was a boy to Hamilton County, Texas. It is uncertain why his family moved, but the move did not go well for his family.

Shortly after the move, his father died and his mother struggled to provide and find a suitable spouse. She married twice and divorced each of them. His brothers felt the sting of his father’s untimely death and his mother’s struggles. They turned to crime and stole horses.

This resulted in one of them being shot and killed by the Hamilton County Sheriff, and the other receiving a prison term.

Young Dan Bogan did not have many good influences growing up. He was a cowboy at an early age and although he avoided the mishaps of his brothers he did seem to have a mean streak in him. He was short-tempered and got into many fights.

On May 2, 1881, Dan Bogan and his friend Dave Kemp were frequenting various Hamilton saloons. A drunk Bogan began challenging others to a fight.

Kemp, managed to get Bogan to leave the saloons and when they went behind the local General Store they came across a local farmer named F. A. “Doll” Smith, who had arrived in Hamilton for supplies.

Bogan began to taunt Smith and call him names asking him to step down and try and shut him up. Smith did not respond at first, but eventually, the words began to wear on him. Bogan then took a chair out of Smith’s wagon and began beating it on the ground. Smith still did not react and Bogan then dropped the chair and began taunting Smith some more. 

Smith, an even-tempered man, simply responded, “I do not whip dogs, otherwise I’d step down and whip you.”

Bogan continued to escalate the confrontation. Smith then stepped down and Bogan tried to pull a pistol out of his coat to shoot him. Smith knocked Bogan to the ground and had him subdued until Kemp pistol-whipped Smith and pulled a handgun out of his own. 

Kemp’s pistol backfired and he fled the scene. Smith then picked up Bogan’s pistol and turned it over to the town marshal.

Dan Bogan Turns Outlaw

Shortly after the incident with F. A. Smith, Dan Bogan left Hamilton and began working on ranches around the Texas Panhandle.

In 1884, he and fellow cowboys went on strike for better wages. Bogan was one of the leaders of this union. It ended with all who took part being blacklisted and unable to work anywhere in the Panhandle. 

Bogan then moved to Wilbarger County, Texas where he joined up as a driver for a cattle drive. He found work at the Worsham R-2 Ranch. He earned a reputation as a reliable hand to have and showed much resourcefulness when he held 600 cattle during a storm when a lesser hand would have allowed them to go into a stampede.

The cowboys drove the cattle to Dodge City, Kansas, were paid, and then hit the bars. They began to get out of hand and were told to leave the town which resulted in a gunfight.

During the gunfight, John Briley, a cowboy was killed. Bogan and the others fled the town and did not retaliate for the death of their friend.

After returning to the Panhandle, Bogan learned that things had gotten worse for the blacklisted cowboys. He joined up with cowboy Tom Harris, who had organized what was called the “Get Even Cattle Company”, which was taking to the practice of placing their own brand on already branded calves owned by the ranchers.

Bogan was by this time going by the name Bill Gatlin, and he registered two brands in his own name. The ranchers and county officials commissioned former Lincoln County, New Mexico, and killer of Billy the Kid, Sheriff Pat Garett to stop the cowboys, and in doing so it was insinuated he either “should” or “could” kill the main ring leaders, which included Bogan.

At one point, Garrett and his followers rounded up 30 head of cattle bearing Bogan’s brand, stating they were stolen, whereas Bogan claimed they were mavericks. Bogan approached lawyer H. H. Wallace, who demanded that Oldham County, Texas officials pay $25,000 in damages, and fearing Bogan might have a case, the county settled for $800.

By the fall of that year, indictments had been handed down against 159 cowboys, Bogan being one, and Garrett and his men set out to round them up. Garrett, however, did not disguise his movements, as he did want to avoid trouble if possible and would be satisfied if the cowboys merely left.

In February 1885, Garrett and Oldham County Sheriff Jim East learned that three of the holdouts, those who refused to leave the Panhandle, were hiding out at the Howry Cattle Company headquarters. Riding all night through a snowstorm, they reached the house in which the cowboys were believed to be located.

Cowboy Bob Bassett was outside the house gathering firewood, and spotted the posse, alerting the others. Tom Harris then yelled out to Garrett as to what his business was, to which Garrett announced he had warrants for Woods, Bogan, and Thompson, but had no issues with anyone else.

Nine cowboys then filed from the house, leaving only Thompson and Bogan inside. Woods was not present. Bogan and Woods, however, refused to surrender, and a shootout erupted, during which Bogan was able to make his escape, while Woods was killed. Three posse members were wounded during the exchange.

By 1886, Dan Bogan had left Texas and headed northeast towards Wyoming. There he found work at the Vorhees Ranch. By this time it is believed that Bogan had already killed three men and had taken the alias of Bill Gatlin. 

Bill Calkin, the editor of the local newspaper, wrote that Bogan was possibly a cowboy wanted in Texas, and who had gone by at least two other names in the past. Bogan was infuriated, and Bogan set out looking for him, accompanied by cowboy Sterling Balou.

The two entered the Cleveland Brothers Saloon, at which point Bogan drew his pistol calling for Calkin, and daring any of his friends to challenge him. One of the Cleveland brothers was able to bring a sawed-off shotgun to bear on the two cowboys, and seconds later Constable Charles S. Gunn entered with his own pistol drawn, backing Cleveland. Bogan and Balou retreated and fled.

A few days later, while Gunn was out of town, Bogan again went on a rampage. When Gunn returned and learned of this, he went looking for Bogan and warned him that if this happened again, he would arrest Bogan. To this, Bogan replied that he would do as he pleased.

Constable Gunn had a reputation, which he had shown on several occasions, as a man who would not back down nor be intimidated, and was known to have killed two men while holding that office. Gunn was a former Texas Ranger, who’d made his way up to Wyoming from Texas.

Bogan hated Gunn, who had reprimanded him on several occasions by this point.

Murder of Charles Gunn

On January 14, 1887, Bogan again was causing a disturbance, this time in the dance hall. Gunn entered, yet again to stop him. Bogan, as he had on many occasions prior, backed down when confronted by Gunn. However, evidently, Bogan was beginning to tire of the embarrassment of having been slighted so many times by Gunn.

The following morning, January 15, 1887, Bogan was waiting inside the Jim Waters Saloon for Gunn to make his usual rounds. When Gunn entered, Bogan stated to him, “Charlie, are you heeled?”, the meaning was he armed.

Gunn replied that he was always armed.

Bogan then yelled, “then turn her loose!” and quickly whipped his gun around and shot Gunn in the stomach.

Gunn fell to the ground and began to draw his own gun, however, Bogan quickly ran up to him and shot him at point-blank range in the head.

Dan Bogan ran out of the saloon and jumped on a horse belonging to someone else and started to ride out of town. Deputy Marshal John Owens met him at the edge of town and blocked his exit. 

He fired a shot in the air warning Bogan to stop and when Bogan continued riding forward he shot him in the shoulder knocking him off the saddle and to the street.

Bogan was placed in the back room of a local saloon, as there was no jail at the time, but before his shotgun wound had healed, the next day, in fact, he took advantage of the poor security and made an escape during a roaring blizzard. Owens, knowing that Bogan was badly wounded, believed he could not go far.

He was right, as two weeks later Bogan, burning up with a fever and with his wound infected, sent word to Owens that he wished to surrender and receive medical attention. Bogan met with Owens sixteen miles outside of Lusk and voiced to Owens that he feared a lynch mob would be waiting for him when they reached Lusk, as Gunn was extremely well-liked and respected in the town.

As they entered the town, Owens backed down a mob that was intent on hanging Bogan, then Owens shackled Bogan in the back of the Sweeney Saloon. The next day, Owens left with Bogan en route to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and by February 4 he had him secured in the Laramie County jail.

On September 7, 1887, Dan Bogan was convicted of the murder of Charles Gunn and sentenced to death. 

However, Bogan had friends in unique places. One friend named Tom Hall paid a professional safecracker, James Jones, to commit a minor crime and get caught in Cheyenne. He was then placed in the same jail as Bogan. Jones concealed saw blades in his shoes and one evening he and Bogan were able to saw through the bars of the cell and escape. 

Within hours a posse was organized in one of the largest manhunts in Wyoming history

Laramie County Sheriff Seth Sharpless led the posses, which separated into groups of fifty men each. In addition to this, a $1,000 reward was placed on Bogan, dead or alive. When the manhunt did not produce Bogan, Charles Siringo (famous Wild West Detective), acting on information he had received from sources, went undercover and was able to gain the confidence of Hall and his cohorts.

Bogan, however, was no longer riding with them and had made his way toward Utah. Siringo was able to produce evidence for indictments against Hall and several others for their having assisted Bogan, resulting in their arrests.

Disappearance

Charles Siringo continued to track Bogan through Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. However, Bogan stayed a step ahead and managed to vanish. The last known word from Bogan was that he sailed from New Orleans to Argentina. 

Bogan was never seen again, however, in Charles Siringo’s book A Lonestar Cowboy, He makes an argument that Dan Bogan returned from Argentina and lived on a small ranch, with a wife and kid, in New Mexico. This was never proven and Siringo did not mention his source. 

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