Pale Horse Revelations #31 - Jim Leavy
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.
This week's edition will introduce you to one of the few true quickdraw artists of the Old West. Modern western historians site at least two verifiable quickdraw duels in which this man participated. Sadly, he is practically unheard of today (which is why I chose to share his story). Without further ado, let me introduce you to Jim Leavy.
James H. Leavy (Jim) was born in Dublin Ireland in 1842. Despite claims by some historians that Leavy was of Jewish decent, no proof exists to substantiate such claims. At some point during his childhood, Leavy's family immigrated to the United States, taking the youth with them.
Little is known of his early life as he first appears in the history books in 1871. It was then that he showed up Pioche, Nevada, working as a miner. Pioche had a well-earned reputation as the "toughest town." Between 1871 and 1872 over 60% of the murders in Nevada took place in or around Pioche. While there Leavy became embroiled in a dispute with a man named Michael Casey.
Casey had previously been involved in a gunfight with a local miner named Tom Gossen. Casey was the victor in that battle, though it took a day for Gossen to die from his wounds. Gossen used his last hours on earth to divide his stake (worth $25,000.00) among his friends. In the process Gossen set aside $5,000.00 to be paid as a reward to anyone who killed Casey.
Gossen's friends lacked the metal to go after Casey themselves but did their best to ensure that Casey did not leave town. The residents of Pioche were outraged by Gossen's death. Many insisted that it was Casey who shot first while Casey maintained that it was Gossen who took that first shot. Among those who disagreed with Casey was Jim Leavy.
The two men encountered one another in Felsenthal's store and began arguing over the matter. Casey was outraged by Leavy's refusal to believe that he had shot Gossen in self-defense and began to verbally abuse the Irishman. Leavy accused Casey of having the courage to abuse him only because Casey was armed while he, himself, was not. The infuriated Casey told Leavy to go get his gun and come back shooting.
This is exactly what Leavy did. He retrieved his gun from his cabin and returned to the store only to find a friend of Casey's, David Neagle, waiting for him on the porch in front of the store. Leavy avoided the man and surprised Casey by traveling up a side ally. The two exchanged fire and Casey was hit in the neck. As Casey fell to the ground Leavy rushed in a finished him off with a blow to the head using the butt of his pistol (known in the day as buffaloing). At this point, Neagle got into the action by shooting Leavy through both cheeks. Leavy managed to crease Neagle's forehead with his return fire, but Leavy would be disfigured for life.
Leavy was arrested and tried for killing Casey but was ultimately acquitted. Upon his release Leavy claimed his reward and skipped town. Over the next ten years he would travel extensively through the west spending time in Virginia City, Nevada, Chyenne, Wyoming, Deadwood, South Dakota, Leadville, Colorado, and Tombstone, Arizona Territory. It was reported that he was involved in another gunfight in 1873 but few details about the incident are known. Some claim Leavy was involved in and survived a total of sixteen shootouts during that time period.
Leavy's next documented duel occurred in 1877 in Chyenne, Wyoming where he faced off with Charlie Harrison. The dispute between the two began at Shingle & Locke's Saloon when Leavy overheard Harrison make a disparaging remark about another Irishman. Leavy took offense and went for his pistol. Harrison halted Leavy by declaring that he wasn't heeled. Levy allowed Harrison to go arm himself after Harrison promised that he would return to give Leavy his chance.
True to his word, Harrison retrieved his pistol from his hotel room and headed back to the saloon. The two men met again in front of Frency's Saloon. At the time Harrison was known among the locals as a deadly gunman, himself. The men drew at the exact some moment and a total of seven shots were exchanged. One of Leavy's rounds struck Harrison in the chest. Leavy then rushed in and shot the already wounded man in the stomach. It took a week, but Harrison eventually died as a result of the wounds. Once again, Leavy was acquitted.
Leavy's final gunfight took place in Tuscon, Arizona in 1882. Leavy became involved in a dispute over Faro (a popular game of chance during the period). Leavy arrived at the Fashion Saloon already drunk and quickly lost $100.00. He accused the dealer, Tom Moyer, of cheating. The owner of the table, John Murphy, was furious over the accusation and insisted that Leavy return and apologize.
Leavy did indeed return but he hardly apologized. He instead threatened both Moyer and Murphy. As the war of words escalated Leavy told Murphy that he was going to the Mexican border where he would await Murphy's arrival so that the two could settle the dispute once and for all. Murphy agreed.
The fight at the border never happened, however. By this time Leavy's reputation as a deadly gunman was well established. Given that reputation Murphy decided it would be safer to ambush Leavy. He recruited two friends and they killed Leavy as he was leaving the Palace Hotel.
The three assailants were immediately arrested and held in the Pima County Jail. At some point all three co-defendants managed to escape. Murphy and a man named Gibson were later discovered in California living under assumed names. They were retried and acquitted. Moyer was captured in Denver and given a life sentence at Yuma Territorial Prison. However, he was pardoned in 1888. And thus ends the story of one of history's most overlooked gunfighters.
And That 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.