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Pale Horse Revelations #25 - Doc Scurlock

Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations. This week’s entry will continue the recently established trend of focusing on a significant person, place, or event in Old West history. While I make no promises, don't be surprised if some of these places, people, or events find their way into future Pale Rider adventures.

This week's edition will introduce you to the "real" Doc Scurlock. His name is known to most only because he was featured in the films "Young Guns" and Young Guns 2." Played by a young Kiefer Sutherland the character was a central figure in both films. Sadly, the films failed to tell the real Doc Scurlock's story accurately. For example, the second film depicts him being killed in a gunfight with a posse led by Sheriff Pat Garret, while in reality Scurlock lived to the age of eighty. Scurlock is portrayed playing second fiddle to the much more famous Billy the Kid, but he was a fascinating character in his own right and deserves to have his story told accurately.

Josiah Gordon Scurlock was born in Tallapoosa County, Alabama on January 11, 1849. He was the sixth of eleven children. He allegedly picked up the nickname "Doc" as a result of studying medicine in New Orleans. Little is known of his early life.

In 1870 Doc traveled to Mexico. It was there that his first recorded gunfight occurred. He and another man became embroiled in an argument over a card game, and both drew their pistols. The other man, whose name is unknown, fired first. Doc was struck in the mouth. The bullet knocked out his front teeth before exiting through his neck. Amazingly, Doc survived with no long-term effects from the wound. Doc quickly returned fire and killed the other man.

A year later Scurlock turned up in New Mexico territory where he worked as a line rider for John Chisum. He and the other riders were also used to defend Chisum's cattle from rustlers. In 1873 Scurlock and his partner, Jack Holt, were surprised by a band of Native Americans. Holt was killed in the initial ambush while Scurlock was able to find cover and engaged the attackers in a prolonged firefight, eventually killing the band's leader. He then slipped away under cover of darkness, walking twenty miles in search of help.

In 1875 Scurlock would lose another riding partner, Newt Higgins, to an attack by Native Americans. Distraught over Higgens' death Scurlock informed Chisum of his desire to quit. Chisum sought to discourage him by refusing to pay Scurlock. In response, Scurlock absconded with three horses, two saddles, and a rifle and traveled to Arizona. An infuriated Chisum sent men in pursuit but when they caught up with Scurlock, he explained that he took the items only because Chisum refused to pay him. The men decided that Scurlock was in the right and let him go.

In Arizona, Scurlock met Charlie Bowdre (also featured in "Young Guns") and the two opened a cheese factory. Descendants of the two men allege that their first employee was none other than Billy the Kid. The cheese factory was a failure and closed in the spring of 1876. Scurlock and Bowdry, who had become best friends, returned to Lincoln County, New Mexico where they bought a ranch on credit from L.G. Murphy.

Both men would become participants in the infamous Lincoln County War. In fact, Scurlock was one of the founding members of the Regulators, After John Tunstall, an economic rival of James Dolan and L.G. Murphy, was murdered by three men deputized by Sheriff William Brady in February of 1878, Tunstall's ranch hands, including Scurlock, formed the regulators to avenge his murder. The Regulators were sworn in as Special Constables by Lincoln Justice of the Peace, John B. Warren, who issued warrants for Tunstall's killers.

Contrary to popular opinion, Bily the Kid, never led the Regulators. Their first leader, Richard "Dick" Brewer, was killed by Buckshot Roberts at the Battle of Glazer's Mill on April 4, 1878. Scurlock was also shot in the leg by Roberts, who was eventually killed by the Regulators. Frank McNab would succeed Brewer as the Regulator's leader but was subsequently killed by members of the Seven Rivers Warriors. Doc Scurlock would become the third, and final, leader of the group.

Scurlock also served as Deputy Sherriff under Sherriff John Copeland, a Tunstall and Mcsween partisan who replaced the murdered Sheriff Brady. On May 14, 1878, Scurlock led a raid on Murphy-Dolan partisans that ultimately resulted in Copeland being removed from office by the Territorial Governor and replaced with Murphy-Dolan supporter George Pippin.

After the conclusion of the Lincoln County War new territorial Governor, Lew Wallace, attempted to restore peace by offering pardons to the various participants. When Billy the Kid made such a deal Scurlock was arrested and held in custody with him. Wallace, however, failed to provide the promised pardons. When Billy the Kid and Scurlock were informed that they were going to be charged, the two simply rode out of Lincoln. The sheriff made no attempt to stop them.

In August of 1878 Billy, Scurlock, and others stole a large number of cattle from John Chisum. Chisum sent a large posse in pursuit and Scurlock decided it was time to part ways with his former associates. He traveled to Texas where he settled down and became a respected citizen. He and his wife, Maria Antonia Miguela Herrera, whom he married in 1876 had ten children. Scurlock lived to the ripe old age of eighty before dying from a heart attack in Eastland, Texas. He is interred in Eastland City Cemetery.

Almost as interesting as Scurlock's real story is the account of how the film got it so wrong. Interestingly enough, reports indicate that Kiefer Sutherland had a great deal to do with it. The original screenplay for "Young Guns 2" accurately portrays Scurlock heading off to Texas with his wife. However, Sutherland, as a result of scheduling conflicts, refused to return to the role unless the character was killed off during the film's "Stinking Springs Shootout" scene. Although writer John Fusco opposed this, he ultimately gave in to accommodate Sutherland's schedule. The death depicted in the film was actually based on the historical death of Charlie Bowdry in an ambush led by Pat Garrett. Ironically, Bowdry was inaccurately portrayed as dying at the conclusion of the Battle of Lincoln in the first film.

This brings us to the end of another edition of Pale Horse Revelations. I hope you found it to be both interesting and entertaining. As usual, I have tried to provide some interesting historical information while trying not to bog the casual reader down with too much detail. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to dig in and do a little research of their own.

As a reminder, I would love to hear your suggestions for topics to focus on in future editions of Pale Horse Revelations. If there's a particular location, person, or event that you would like to know more about, please let me know. Just fill out the Contact form found near the bottom of my home page ( and indicate your desired topic in the message box at the bottom of the form. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Please be sure to check back next week for the next installment of Pale Horse Revelations and thank you for your continued interest and support.

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