1901 Autograph Letter Signed by James Bean, Brother of Legendary Judge Roy Bean—“The Law West of the Pecos.”
“I regard Chapman as one of the worst common thieves I ever knew…”
Saloon-keeper and Texas Justice of the Peace Roy Bean (ca. 1825–1903) —who styled himself “The Law West of the Pecos”— conducted an unconventional, sometimes extra-legal, and legendary court in frontier Texas.
Here in 1901, Roy Bean’s older brother, James Bean (ca. 1821–?), writes to New Mexico attorney H.B. Holt from El Paso. Bean describes a theft and his dealings with the Chapman family:
You speak of the Chapman acct & refer to statement made by his son that he hired a Mexican for me. The fact is I never saw young Chapman but once in my life & never had a cents worth of business in connection with him directly or indirectly. I had his father with me at White Oaks a short time & he drew about $180.00 while I was away not due him stealing it. I should have prosecuted him but the rest of our Company preferred I should not. ... He located some oil lands in connection with some other parties about White Oaks & think he has an interest in them… I told the Mexican I would do anything I could to help him collect his money & will still do anything that lays in my power for I regard Chapman as one of the worst common thieves I ever knew. (pp1–2, 3)
Accompanying Bean’s letter is a 1972 letter from Donna Adams of Billings, Montana. She refers to James Bean as a friend of Oliver Lee (1865–1941), a suspect in the disappearance and probable murder of Albert Jennings Fountain:
Enclosed is a letter (I believe) from Roy Bean’s brother [James Bean and Roy Bean were the sons of Phantley Roy Bean (1779–1844)]. He was a friend of Oliver Lee who when Oliver Lee was charged with the murder of Albert Fountain [Texas Lieutenant Governor Albert Jennings Fountain (1838–1896), perhaps best remembered for unsuccessfully defending Billy the Kid]. Bean had it transferred to another county and he was never convicted. (This was in Sonnichen’s [sic] book “Tularosa”) [Tularosa: Last of the Frontier West by C.L. Sonnichsen].
A good letter.
Description: 1901 Autograph Letter Signed by James Bean, Brother of Legendary Judge Roy Bean—“The Law West of the Pecos.”
El Paso, Texas. August 12, 1901. pp. ALS. On rectos of stationery of the Hotel Sheldon; pages stapled together. Folds; brief separation at one fold; very good. Accompanied by a 1972 four-page ALS by Donna Adams of Billings, Montana; folds, very good.