One of the most interesting stories of the Old West involves a man named D. L. “Doc” Anderson. Anderson was born in Ohio, in 1861, but moved to Texas as a child. As a young man around Uvalde, Texas, Anderson began rustling cattle. Things got so hot for him that he changed his name to Billy Wilson and fled the state to avoid a trip to Huntsville.
As Billy Wilson, he soon started running with the outlaw Dirty Dave Rudabaugh and ended up in New Mexico Territory. The pair finally cast their lot with Billy the Kid in the days following the end of the Lincoln County War. With the Kid, they holed up in a cabin at Stinking Springs to avoid Pat Garrett’s posse. On Dec. 23, 1880, Garrett found the gang’s hideout and captured them after a deadly shootout and siege. Wilson was convicted but escaped from custody in 1884.
Returning to Texas, Wilson changed his name back to D.L. Anderson, got married, and got a job as a Mounted U.S. Customs Inspector. Forerunner to the U.S. Border Patrol, the Mounted Customs Inspectors patrolled the Rio Grande, dealing with smugglers and outlaw bands. Pat Garrett soon discovered Anderson and assisted him in getting a presidential pardon for his youthful crimes.
In 1905, Anderson was elected the Sheriff of Terrell County, Texas, with Sanderson being the county seat. By all accounts, Anderson did a good job as sheriff, being re-elected and serving the county for a dozen years.
In June of 1918, a cowboy named Ed Valentine started shooting up the Harrell Saloon, in Sanderson, and folks decided that the Sheriff really ought to take a hand and put a stop to such foolishness. Remembering his own troubled youth, Anderson cautioned the people not to kill young Valentine. Instead, Anderson entered the saloon, alone, to try to talk some sense into the kid. He was shot down for his trouble and died within a matter of minutes. Valentine’s death, at the hands of other lawmen, soon followed.
Only in America could an outlaw turn his life around and become a valued part of society. People who knew D. L. Anderson agreed that he had more than paid for his youthful crimes. He died as an honorable Texas lawman.