A Guide to the James H. East Papers, 1882-1931
Cowboy and lawman James H. East was born on a farm near Kaskaskia, Illinois (1853-1930). Inspired by stories about Davy Crockett and the battle of the Alamo, he moved to Texas at the age of sixteen where he worked for John Files Tom on cattle ranges near Seguin. In 1870, East made his first long cattle drive to the New Orleans market. He spent the next ten years as a South Texas cowboy, occasionally coming into contact with Native Americans and Mexican bandits.
In 1880, East moved to the Texas Panhandle where he worked on the LS Ranch with “Outlaw Bill” Moore and Charles A. Siringo. He was a member the posse, led by Patrick F. Garrett, that trailed and captured outlaw Billy the Kid and killed Kid cohorts Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre in November 1880. Elected sheriff of Oldham County in 1882, East aided Garrett’s Home Rangers and restored order to Tascosa after the “Big Fight” shootout on March 21, 1886, which left four dead. During his time in Tascosa, married Nettie S. Boulding of Virginia and purchased and operated both the Equity Bar and Cattle Exchange Saloon. After his tenure as sheriff, East worked as range foreman of the LS Ranch and continued to serve the county as a deputy. On May 12, 1889, he killed gambler Tom Clark in a shootout.
The Easts left the Panhandle in 1903, moving to Douglas, Arizona, where James served as city marshal, police chief, and police judge until his retirement in the 1920s. In 1928, he collaborated with Viola Vivian on the play Billy the Kid, which was performed in Tuscon.
Anderson, H. Allen. “East, James H.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed November 19, 2010.
Consisting of photocopies of letters and other documents, the James H. East Papers document East’s life and career as a merchant, ranch foreman, lawman, and judge. The collection includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, maps, receipts, literary productions and financial papers related to East’s work in law enforcement, East family activities, cattle ranching and brands, the LS ranch, East family wills, and the capture of Billy the Kid, among other topics.
This collection is open for research use.
James H. East Papers, 1882-1931, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers