The People of the Pecos-Part 2- The Old Settlers, Langtry, Val Verde County, Texas

Seminole Canyon got it’s name not from the Indian Tribe, they lived in Florida, but from soldiers. The Seminole Nation, while in Florida, welcomed runaway slaves into their tribe. When the Seminole people were forced west many of those who were black Seminole relocated to Mexico so they would not be captured and sold as slaves. The U.S. Army asked them to come north as scouts, promising them safety, land and opportunity. Stationed nearby at Fort Clark in Brackettville Texas, Black Seminole soldiers and scouts were instrumental in ending the Texas-Indian Wars. Known also as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” they were given that name by the Native Americans who said their hair was kinky like a bison. This is where Seminole Canyon got it’s name.

After the Indian Wars the Southern Pacific routed it’s tracks near the canyon.

Brick oven from the railroad workers

If you are into old movies, Paul Newman did a great one near here. Based on a true story.

As I was planning this trip I noticed that Langtry Texas was nearby Seminole Canyon.

What happened at Langtry? Have you ever seen the movie the Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean? Roy Bean did actually found and live in Langtry Texas in the late 19th and early 20th century. And Roy Bean, although just a notary, acted as judge and jury………. the only “Law West of the Pecos”.

Roy Bean was also a squatter. He set up his town on land owned by the railroad, although in his defense, they were looking for someone to bring law and order to the area.

On the way to Langtry we came across a rest area with a view. That view was of the US 90 bridge over the gorge of the Pecos River. This is considered one of the most photogenic places in Texas.

Pecos River Bridge
The Pecos River near it’s confluence with the Rio Grande

After spending some time here it was on to Langtry.

Roy Bean was a bit of a peculiar and pathetic character. Roy Bean had a lifetime infatuation with British actress Lilly Langtry, although he had never met her. It is believed he named his town Langtry to honor her. He named his saloon in Langtry “the Jersey Lilly” which was a moniker hung on Lilly Langtry as she was from the island of Jersey. Bean founded his town not as a land deed owner, but as a squatter on the railroad right of way.

The Jersey Lilly

The Jersey Lilly was not only a saloon it was also the law office of the Judge and the courthouse. Roy Bean was known as the “hanging judge”, but he only hanged one man. His usual punishment was a fine, labor- helping him maintain the town, and then getting drunk with him. All of this absolutely true and happened in this very building. Roy Bean’s juries consisted of his best saloon patrons who were expected to buy a drink during any court recesses of which there were many. One stranger got off the nearby train, came to the Jersey Lilly and ordered a drink. He gave Bean a $20 gold piece which Bean refused to change. When the stranger protested Bean fined him $19.95 for contempt of court! Many times the fines levied by Bean ironically totaled the exact amount of cash the defendant had in his pockets. He charged $5 for a wedding and $10 for a divorce, unless you were Mexican it was then $10 to marry and $40 to divorce! He used one book, the 1879 statutes of Texas, as his legal guide. Any newer books that were sent to him were used as kindling for the wood stove. Unbelievably he was officially appointed as a judge at the railroad’s request as there was no law in the area.

“I know the law…….I am it’s greatest transgressor.

Roy Bean

Roy Bean also built the Langtry Opera House. While not an opera house at all, it was his home. He just called it an opera house thinking that maybe Lilly Langtry would visit if the town actually had an opera house.

Remarkably, a few years after Roy Bean died, Lilly Langtry passed through Langtry Texas on her way to a performance.

” You wouldn’t believe how the town was named for me. I was met by the whole population, headed by the mayor.

Lilly Langtry

Langtry is the last stop on U.S. 90 before you hit the Big Bend Area and Marathon Texas.

Notice the gunshot holes in the chimney

To be continued…………………

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