Photograph - Digital Photography
Judge Roy Bean was quite a colorful character, who considered himself the "Law West of the Pecos" amongst other things, and this image in black and white is part of his saloon/courthouse/billiard hall. Here's an account from Wikipedia that tells more.
One of his first acts as a justice of the peace was to "shoot[...] up the saloon shack of a Jewish competitor". Bean then turned his tent saloon into a part-time courtroom and began calling himself the "Law West of the Pecos." As judge, Bean relied on a single lawbook, the 1879 edition of the Revised Statutes of Texas. If newer lawbooks appeared, Bean used them as kindling.
Bean did not allow hung juries or appeals, and jurors, who were chosen from his best bar customers, were expected to buy a drink during every court recess. Bean was known for his unusual rulings. In one case, an Irishman named Paddy O'Rourke shot a Chinese laborer. A mob of 200 angry Irishmen surrounded the courtroom and threatened to lynch Bean if O'Rourke was not freed. After looking through his law book, Bean ruled that "homicide was the killing of a human being; however, he could find no law against killing a "chinaman". Bean dismissed the case.
By December 1882, railroad construction had moved further westward, so Bean moved his courtroom and saloon 70 miles (110km) to Strawbridge. A competitor who was already established in the area laced Bean's whiskey stores with kerosene. Unable to attract customers, Bean left the area and went to Eagle's Nest, 20 miles (32km) west of the Pecos River. The site was soon renamed Langtry. The original owner of the land, who ran a saloon, had sold 640 acres to the railroad on the condition that no part of the land could be sold or leased to Bean. O'Rourke, the Irishman Bean had previously acquitted, told Bean to use the railroad right-of-way, which was not covered by the contract. For the next 20years, Bean squatted on land he had no legal right to claim. Bean named his new saloon The Jersey Lilly in honor of Lillie Langtry who recounted how she visited the area following the death of Roy Bean in her autobiography. He sent for his children to live with him at the saloon, with youngest son Sam forced to sleep on a pool table.
Langtry did not have a jail, so all cases were settled by fines. Bean refused to send the state any part of the fines, but instead kept all of the money. In most cases, the fines were made for the exact amount in the accused's pockets. Bean is known to have sentenced only two men to hang, one of whom escaped. Horse thieves, who were often sentenced to death in other jurisdictions, were always let go if the horses were returned. Although only district courts were legally allowed to grant divorces, Bean did so anyway, pocketing $10 per divorce. He charged only $5 for a wedding, and ended all wedding ceremonies with "and may God have mercy on your souls" (traditionally the end of a death sentence).
Bean won re-election to his post in 1884, but was defeated in 1886. The following year, the commissioner's court created a new precinct in the county and appointed Bean the new justice of the peace. He continued to be elected until 1896. Even after that defeat, he "refused to surrender his seal and law book and continued to try all cases north of the tracks".
March 18th, 2013
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