Henry Newton Brown


Henry Newton Brown

Henry Newton Brown (1857-April 30, 1884) was a 19th century gunman who played the roles of both lawman and outlaw during his brief life.

An orphan, Brown was raised in Rolla, Missouri, by relatives until the age of seventeen, when he left home and headed west. He drifted through various cowboy jobs in Colorado and Texas, supposedly killing a man in a gunfight in the Texas Panhandle.

Lincoln County War

Newton then moved to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where he became involved in the Lincoln County War as one of the Regulators fighting on behalf of the rancher faction alongside Billy the Kid, among others.

On April 1, 1878, Brown, Billy the Kid, Jim French, Frank McNab, John Middleton and Fred Waite ambushed and murdered Lincoln sheriff William Brady, a partisan for the opposition (the Murphy-Dolan faction, or "The House") who was indirectly responsible for the death of the Regulators' employer, John Tunstall. Three days later, Brown and the Regulators tracked down Buckshot Roberts, another man they believed involved in Tunstall's murder. Roberts managed to kill the Regulators' nominal leader, Richard Brewer before Brown and the other Regulators chased him into an outhouse and riddled it with bullets, killing him.

The Regulators--fugitives now for the Brady killing--spent the next several months in hiding, and were trapped, along with one of Tunstall's partners, Alexander McSween, in McSween's home in Lincoln on July 15, 1878, by members of "The House" and some of Brady's men. Henry Brown was one of three Regulators not actually in McSween's house at the time, instead sniping at Brady's men from a nearby storage shed. He escaped with Billy the Kid and the others when the siegers set fire to the house. McSween was shot down while fleeing the blaze, and his death essentially marked the end of the Lincoln County Cattle War.

Life After the War

In the fall of that year, Brown, Billy the Kid and a few of the remaining Regulators traveled to the Texas Panhandle, mostly to rustle horses. Eventually the Regulators returned to New Mexico, but Brown remained in Texas, eventually securing a job as deputy sheriff in Oldham County, Texas. He was quickly dismissed for fighting with drunks.

Brown thereafter drifted through Oklahoma and Kansas, working on ranches, until he settled in Caldwell, Kansas--a rough cattle town comparable to Dodge City and Abilene--where he was appointed City Marshal. Brown deputized his friend, gunman Ben Robertson, and the two effectively cleaned up the town, dispensing swift, often lethal justice.

In 1884, Brown and Robertson appear to have decided their sheriff wages were no longer sufficient. Using the cover story of having to travel to Oklahoma to hunt a murderer, Brown and Robertson allied themselves to outlaws William Smith and John Wesley. The four men rode to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, and attempted to rob the Medicine Valley Bank, where Brown murdered the bank's president. Another gunman murdered the bank's chief cashier, who with his dying breath sealed the vault, preventing the robbers from escaping with any money.

Brown and the outlaws fled Medicine Lodge pursued by a gang of vigilantes, one of whom, Barney O'Connor, knew and recognized Brown. The four men trapped themselves in a box canyon and eventually surrendered to the vigilantes. They anticipated a lynch mob, and the outlaws were told to write letters to their loved ones. Brown wrote a letter to his wife, which said, simply, "It was all for you. I did not think this would happen."

During the night Brown somehow managed to escape his handcuffs, and when the lynch mob came at 9pm and opened his cell, Brown raced past his jailors, right through the startled lynch mob to an alley alongside the jail. A quick-thinking farmer shot Brown as he ran past, with both barrels of his shotgun at almost point blank range, killing Brown, nearly tearing him in half. Disgusted that he had cheated them out of a hanging, various members of the lynch mob contented themselves with pumping bullets into Brown's mangled corpse.

The other three outlaws were hanged by the mob as planned.

Other Media

In the film Young Guns II, Henry Brown was combined with fellow Regulator Jim French, and presented as a composite named Hendry French. Timid and clumsy, the film's portrayal of French, by actor Alan Ruck, bears little actual resemblance to either outlaw.

ources

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*. See Bill O'Neal.
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