Pale Horse Revelations #30: John "Pink" Higgins
Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations. where we explore significant people, places, and events 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.
In last week's edition of Pale Horse Revelations readers were introduced to John Higgins as we explored the Horrell-Higgins feud. While that bloody feud was the end of the story for all but one of the Horrell brothers, it was just the beginning of the story for John Higgins. This week we'll delve deeper into his interesting story.
Born John Pickney Calhoun Higgins in Macon, Georgia, he would become better known as "Pink" Higgins. The nickname was acquired early in his life and was derived from his first middle name. Shortly after his birth Higgins' family relocated to Lampasas, Texas.
Higgins father became a rancher and, as a teenager, John took part in numerous cattle drives into Kansas. Too young to enlist and fight during the Civil War, he spent his youth working as a cowboy. As we learned last week, he was involved in numerous skirmishes with hostile Native Americans and participated in the hanging of several cattle rustlers. These violent experiences, no doubt, served him well during his bloody feud with the Horrell brothers.
It wasn't long after the feud concluded that Higgins again found himself resorting to violence. In 1877 he caught a cowboy by the name of Ike Lantier rustling cattle. Lantier went for his gun, but Higgins was faster. He shot and killed Lantier. Like the killings he committed during the feud with the Horrell's, this one was deemed to be a case of self-defense.
The next few years were relatively quiet ones for Higgins. But in 1882 he was once again involved in a violent altercation. In May of that year, he and two of his ranch hands traveled to Mexico to purchase horses. While there Higgins and the man he was purchasing the horses from became involved in a squabble over the previously agreed upon price. Higgins shot and killed the man. He and his companions then fled toward the Rio Grande. They were pursued by a posse of twenty men and one of Higgins' men was wounded in the running gun battle that ensued. Nonetheless all three men made it safely across the river.
It was about this same time that Higgins relocated to Spur, Texas, located in the Texas Panhandle. There he was hired as a protection man on the Spur Ranch. In that capacity Higgins was involved in several gunfights with rustlers. He is also known to have lynched several of those that he was able to capture.
In 1882 he divorced his first wife, Delliah (whom he married in 1875), due to her infidelity. A year later he married Lena Rivers Sweet. Together they had seven children (six daughters and a son) although one of the daughters and his son died in infancy. It worth noting that his first marriage produced two sons and a daughter. Both sons grew up to become prominent lawyers.
In 1900 Higgins became involved in a simmering feud with a man by the name of Bill Standifer. Standifer was also a range detective and a former sheriff. Both men ended up working as protection men for the Spur Ranch and were known to work together productively. Thus, the exact cause of the bad blood between the two men is unknown.
As mentioned previously, Higgins two sons became prominent lawyers. One of them, Cullen Higgens, was eventually appointed district attorney for Scurry, Stonewall, Kent, Fisher, Jones, Throckmorton, and Haskell counties. In that capacity Cullen found himself handling a legal matter that involved Standifer's wife. Some allege that the feud with Higgins began when Standifer threatened Cullen over that legal matter. Another contributing factor may have been the fact that Standifer was connected through family to the Horrell brothers.
Whatever the cause, the tension escalated when Higgins accused Standifer's friend, Bill McComas, of rustling. Although unconfirmed, Standifer believed that he, too, had been named in the accusation. He confronted Higgins and the two men began arguing. The owner of the Spur Ranch, Fred Horsburgh, fired both men as a result. Higgens, however, managed to talk Horsburgh into letting him stay on for a couple of months so that he could make arrangements for his family. This only served to further infuriate Standifer.
On October 4th, 1904, Standifer spoke publicly about ending the feud with Higgins once and for all. The two men agreed to a duel. That same day, Standifer rode out to Higgins' ranch. Upon seeing Standifer approaching, Higgins armed himself and rode out to meet his nemesis. No one knows what was said between the two men, but Standifer drew his pistol as he was dismounting. Higgins reacted by drawing his rifle and shooting Standifer dead. The only witnesses were Higgins' daughter and brother-in-law. Based on their account the killing was ruled an act of self-defense and Higgins was never indicted.
All told, Higgins is credited with killing fourteen men during his lifetime. His own demise came on December 18, 1913. On that day he suffered a fatal heart attack. It was a relatively peaceful ending for a man who lived such a violent life.
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 (www.bmiltonhyde.com) 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.