LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
INTRODUCING YOU TO THE FAMOUS
Tom Horn was a Pinkerton detective, and range detective. Born in Memphis, Mo. 1860. He worked on the railroad, drove wagons for a freight company, and later became a stagecoach driver. He became a scout for the army at age sixteen . In 1885, he replaced Al Sieber as chief of scouts in the Southwest and he was involved in the historic Geronimo campaign in 1886. As chief of scouts, he tracked Geronimo and his band to his hideout in the Sierra Gordo outside of Sonora, Mex. He rode into the Indian camp alone and negotiated Geronimo's surrender. Geronimo, with Horn guiding him and his tribe, crossed the border, officially surrendering, and ending the last great Indian war in America. He entered the rodeo at Globe, Ariz., in 1888 and won the world's championship in steer roping. Horn joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1890 . He worked out of the agency's Denver offices, chasing bank robbers and train thieves throughout Colorado and Wyoming. He had reportedly killed seventeen men as an agent. Horn hired out as a gunman in 1892 to the Wyoming Cattle Growers' Association. In 1894, Horn was working as a horse breaker for the Swan Land and Cattle Company. His duties were to track down and kill rustlers and hector settlers homesteading on the range. He demanded and got $600 for each rustler he shot and killed. Horn proved to be a ruthless killer. He would spend several days tracking a rustler, learning the man's habits and observing him as the rustler made camp. He killed from hiding and he killed often. Beneath each man's head that he killed was a large rock. This was Horn's trademark. "Killing men is my business," he always said. He was known to be a fearsome murderer, one who killed with the law behind him and one who apparently enjoyed taking lives. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Horn left the West and joined the cavalry. He served with distinction in Cuba but saw little action, being in charge of Teddy Roosevelt's pack trains. Following the war, Horn returned to Wyoming and once again a hunter of rustlers . Typical of Horn's techniques was the manner in which he killed rustler Matt Rash. He tracked Rash to his cabin near Cold Springs Mountain , Colo., pretending to be a prospector named James Hicks. Rash invited him to dinner and following the meal, Horn excused himself and went outside. He hid behind a tree, and when Rash stepped outside, Horn shot him. Horn then rode to Denver to set up an alibi. Rash lived long enough to try to write the name of his killer with his own blood, but wrote the alias Horn had given him and Horn was not immediately identified.
He had perfected the art of long-distance murder, using powerful weapons that could bring down a target at a distance of hundreds of yards. On the morning of July 18, 1901, on the Powder River Road near Cheyenne, Wyo., Horn lay in wait for rancher Kels P. Nickell, who had been marked for death by competing ranchers. He had only seen Nickell once from a distance, so Horn did not recognize Willie Nickell, the rancher's tall 14-year -old son, who appeared that morning, driving his father's wagon out of the ranch yard. Willie wore his father's coat and hat and when he got down from the wagon to open a gate, Horn fired a shot that struck the boy. Willie Nickell staggered to his feet and tried to get back to the wagon but Horn fired another shot, striking him in the back of the head and killing him.
Though this killing was immediately attributed to Horn because of its method, no real proof could link him to the murder. Joe Lefors, one of the great lawmen of the West, resolved to uncover the truth and bring Horn to justice. He rode to Denver and there got Horn drunk in a small saloon. While using a crude listening device, Lefors' deputies hid in a back room while Horn talked about the Nickell killing, describing it in such detail that his words amounted to a confession. Lefors arrested Horn for the killing and returned him to Cheyenne where he was later tried and condemned to death. Horn resigned himself to his death, spending his last months writing his memoirs and weaving a rope that was later used to hang him. The hired killer mounted the gallows in Cheyenne on Nov. 20, 1903. His sweetheart, and his employer John Coble stood by as witnesses. Tom Horn looked down at them and then turned to the executioner, telling him to "hurry it up. I got nothing more to say." He was promptly hanged.