Jim McIntyre & Jim Courtright

As unlikely as it might seem, the Saturday, May 16, 1885 edition of the Stratfordshire (England) Sentinel Daily and Weekly carried an article with the title “A Pair of American Desperadoes” about the search for two criminals, Jim Courtright and Jim McIntyre, the latter of whom had just been apprehended.

When McIntyre was captured, his valise contained a large caliber revolver, ammunition, numerous small saws with fine teeth capable of cutting through iron bars. The saws could be taken apart and fitted with handles to be used as knives. The kit also contained three decks of monte cards, a device for marking cards for cheating purposes, a bottle of chloroform and a scrapbook where he kept a record of his winnings and his location on various days. Monte is a card game used in swindles where the dealer finds a victim who tries to pick a favored card from those that are displayed. It is an old confidence scam that dated back decades or centuries even in McIntyre’s day.

The newspaper article continued on to recount that both men had once been appointed deputy marshals in New Mexico and that Courtright had also previously been accused of murder while serving as head guard at a mine.

An unrelated case was referenced in which the two and were accused of carrying out a murder while they were working as marshals. A widow named Clotilde Grossetete in New Mexico had set up a sheep farm with her sons. It was located northwest of Roswell, angering the cattle ranchers who were already established there. McIntyre and Courtright were accused of executing Clotilde’s son Alexis Grossetete and his partner Robert Eisinger (also referred to as a brother of Grossetete) while several associates rode on ahead. The suspects allegedly threw the bodies of Grossetete and Eisinger over a cliff and turned loose the team that the victims had been driving. The bodies of the victims were later found. McIntyre fled while Courtright remained for a while and was questioned as a potential witness. A warrant was issued for McIntyre’s arrest and later Courtright was also sought in connection with the crimes.

Both suspects were eventually arrested in Texas in separate locations. Courtright had been living at the time in Fort Worth and McIntyre had been residing in Wichita Falls. After his arrest, Courtright escaped in Fort Worth with assistance from accomplices. His friends knew that it was the custom of the jailers to take the prisoner out for dinner, so they strategically placed weapons under the table at the restaurant where he was to eat. Courtright obtained the weapons, pulled them on the surprised officers and was able to make good his escape. McIntyre escaped from jail in Decatur along with several other prisoners. He remained free until he was captured again in New Orleans in 1885.

Both suspects were later returned to New Mexico and were tried in separate cases for the murders. Each was acquitted, primarily due to a lack of witnesses, the accounts said, and no one was ever convicted for the crimes. Courtright returned to Fort Worth where within two years, he was shot and killed by gunfighter and gambler Luke Short.

The generally accepted tale is that Courtright was running a detective agency and protection racket for saloons and gambling houses in Fort Worth. His company would provide protection for the businesses in exchange for a slice of their profits. Short ran a local saloon called the White Elephant and Courtright sought to engage Short with his protection business. The two argued and arranged a duel on the night of February 8, 1887. Accounts say that Courtright drew first but was mortally wounded from one of two rounds from Short’s pistol. One round supposedly hit Courtright in the thumb and the next hit near his heart. Short survived the conflict but succumbed to some form of kidney disease in 1893. Short had been taken to Kansas for treatment where he later died. Both he and Courtright are buried fairly close to one another in the old Greenwood Cemetery in Fort Worth.

McIntyre (sometimes spelled McIntire) published a book of his memoirs and exploits in 1902 called “Early Days of Texas: A Trip Through Hell and Heaven.” In it, he recounts his experiences in the early years of Texas in such places as Mobeetie, Forts Griffin and Belknap, Jacksboro and other locations, including some in New Mexico. According to his account, he either came across or met others who were closely associated with such people as Wyatt Earp, Dave Rudabaugh, Bat Masterson, Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, “Mysterious Dave” Mather, Pat Garrett and others. The book was not known to be a big seller at the time, but was later edited and reprinted and can still be found.

He tells of coming to Texas as a youth and working as a cowboy on the Loving ranch near Jacksboro during the years when attacks from the area tribes were still common and could happen any time. The beauty of the frontier and hard ranch work would be interrupted by attacks from the tribes. An acquaintance could be alive one minute and dead the next. Bison could still be found roaming the prairie and wolves were still a menace. From this job he went on to serve for a short while as a Texas Ranger in the same general area. He tells of owning a saloon for a while before going into law enforcement at which time he became acquainted with Courtright.

McIntyre told a number of incredible stories including his claim while serving as deputy sheriff to have run two gunmen (Earp and Mather) out of town (Mobeetie) for trying to pull off the sale of fake gold bricks from a fabled Spanish gold mine. McIntyre also claimed once to have been seriously ill during an epidemic and having a near death experience, viewing Heaven and conversing with Christ before being allowed to return to life. Some of his revelations seem far-fetched, but the book has been around and excerpts quoted and referenced for many years.

After the book was published, McIntyre seems to have faded from view. There are some theories that he settled down and lived thereafter in Oklahoma. A James and Catherine McIntire are listed in the 1900 census in Ponca City, but it is unknown if this McIntire is the same individual. There do not appear to be any reliable records to tell the rest of his story, such as when he died nor where he might be buried.

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