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Sunday, 28 June 2009


The current issue of Wild West magazine features an article on Jessie Evans (sometimes spelt Jesse). Now my knowledge of the Old West badman was vague. I knew he'd ridden both with and against Billy the Kid - the pair having rustled together and then joining opposite sides in the Lincoln County War.

The article by David S. Turk and Rick Parker was very enlightening and amazed me with some of the details - I didn't realise how well known a desperado Jessie had been - back in the day the young outlaw was as well known and feared as Billy himself. The article is accompanied by a group picture of Evans and among others, a man identified as Billy the Kid. If this is the actual Kid in the photograph then is is sensational - as far as anyone knows there is only one positive image of the kid. The photos, sepia, aged, smudged identify a short, maybe pudgy man as Billy the Kid and I suppose it could maybe be the same man as in the verified Kid picture. The picture is marked Texas Rangers 1878 and was printed in the L A Times in January 1950. And given the time it was taken there is no reason to not believe the man in the image is Billy the Kid but most historians dispute the picture.

The article informs us that Evans was 5 feet, 8 inches and weighed only 150 pounds. He had gray eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. He had a criminal record of length, several times serving prison time, and used several alias and that historians can not even be sure that Jessie Evans was actually his real name.

The WIKI tells us he was the leader of The Jessie Evans Gang and that he was born in 1853 and died - well, that's not certain. There is also a link to details of Evans' possible real identities and his connection with the dreamscape desperado himself, Billy the Kid.

Images of Jessie Evans on the web are also scarce so these two here are the best of a small selection. But anyone wanting to know more should pick up the current issue of Wild West Magazine for a interesting and detailed article. And so much more - it's my favourite magazine in the whole world.


Kerby Jackson said...

Too good. I'll have to pick that up.

It's kind of a pity when you consider that most of what we know about Old West history has more to do with western fiction and western films than it does actual history. Men like Jesse Evans, Hank Vaughan, Ferd Patterson, Tom McCarty (who was Butch Cassidy's mentor), Matt Warner, Bill Miner, Charles Boles (Black Bart), Boone Helm and others who were widely known during their own time, are only known by a few today.

This has only to do with the fact that unlike Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, etc. these men were not commonly immortalized in the Western film or the Western novel, despite having been famous during the time of their activities.

Hence Jesse Evans and others are mostly reserved to the dust bin of history.


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm one of those who didn't know about Jessie Evans. I used to read Wild West mag in the library but I haven't been able to do that lately.

Becky said...

I agree, it is a shame that we don't hear more about these great men. I love to hear great stories about the old wild west- just finished reading "The Shopkeeper" by James D. Best. Although it is a historical fiction book I felt that the author did a great job describing the way life was back in the late 1800's. Can't get enough and want to learn more about the actual history.