Henry Newton Brown was one of those guys on the western frontier who just couldn’t make up his mind which side he was on. Brown was born about 1857, a product of Missouri. In the mid-1870’s, he followed every young man’s dream and headed west, a cowboy-to-be. After a gunfight in which he killed a man, Brown wandered down into New Mexico and straight in to the Lincoln County War.
This is where his lack of decision-making skills began to show up. First, he worked for the Murphy–Dolan crowd that held the economic choke hold on Lincoln County. But, before the feud was over, he had changed horses and began riding for the McSween–Tunstall side of things. Some believe that he was in the party that killed Sheriff Brady and also with the bunch that took the life of Buckshot Roberts. Somewhere in all of that, he became buddies with Billy the Kid.
1878 found Brown, in the company of the Kid, selling a herd of stolen cattle in the Texas Panhandle town of Tascosa. When the Kid and the boys headed back to New Mexico, Brown stayed in Texas and ultimately became an Oldham County deputy sheriff. However, he soon got fired and some say that it was because he was always looking for a fight.
By 1882, Henry Brown had wandered into Kansas and gotten a job as a deputy marshal in the town of Caldwell. It looked like Brown had decided to put his outlaw past behind him and, in just a short while, he was promoted to the job of City Marshal. He did such a good job of cleaning up the town that the citizens presented him with an engraved Winchester rifle. But, for Henry Brown, the old ways died hard.
In 1884, Brown, his deputy and two other men, were caught robbing the bank in nearby Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Two citizens were killed in the robbery.
The night of the robbery, a crowd of upset citizens stormed the jail. Somehow or another, Brown broke loose from the lynch mob and ran for it. However, he just couldn’t outrun a load of buckshot that cut him nearly half in two. His three pals were successfully lynched.
Was Henry Brown a good man turned bad, or a bad man turned good? I guess we’ll never know, and the lynch mob didn’t care.
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