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Pale Horse Revelations #46 - "Dangerous" Dan Tucker

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.

Today's journey into the past will introduce you to a prolific gunfighter that you've almost certainly never heard of. Although little known today, many historians have gone on record stating that Dan Tucker was one of the most dangerous gunmen in the history of the Old West. Author Bob Alexander, who penned Tucker's biography, proclaimed that Tucker was a more dangerous and effective lawman than such notable figures as Bill Hickock and Wyatt Earp. After learning of his many exploits, you just might find yourself in agreement.

Dan Tucker, later known as "Dangerous Dan" was born in Canada in 1849. His journey into the history books began with his arrival in New Mexico Territory in the early 1870s. He has been described as being soft-spoken and laconic with a slight accent often mistaken for being Southern. In 1875 Tucker crossed paths with the famed New Mexico sheriff Harvey Whitehill in Silver City, New Mexico. Whitehill took an immediate liking to Tucker and hired him as a deputy sheriff.

The first of what would become many violent encounters occurred in 1876. A violent encounter between two Mexican men in Johnny Ward's Dance Hall in Silver City ended when one of the men stabbed the other and attempted to flee. Just as the fleeing assailant rounded the corner of Broadway Street, he was gunned down by Tucker in plain view of a group of citizens that included Sheriff Whitehill's son, Wayne Whitehill. Tucker fired a single shot that struck the fleeing man in the neck, dropping him like a sack of potatoes.

A year later in 1877, Tucker would again find himself resorting to violence. He was responding to complaints about an intoxicated Mexican man throwing rocks at pedestrians along a side street in Silver City. According to eyewitness accounts, Tucker tracked the man down and shot him without uttering a single word. It was after this event that Tucker earned the moniker "Dangerous Dan."

Later that year "Dangerous" Dan became involved in the Salt War. He was appointed captain of a group of thirty mercenary gunmen from Silver City that were hired to fight for Sheriff Charles Kerber of El Paso County. They were funded by mining interests seeking a reliable source of salt for refining their silver ore. Among the men under "Dangerous" Dan's command was the outlaw, John Kinney. Dan was involved in fighting at San Elezario where he and his men killed suspected members of the Anti-Salt Ring and sent many of the citizens fleeing across the border into Mexico. Shortly thereafter the mercenaries were disbanded, and Dan returned to his position of deputy sheriff.

In 1878 Dan was involved in multiple gunfights. First, he shot a fleeing thief. Later that year he encountered three suspected horse thieves in a Silver City Saloon. A gunfight ensued and Tucker killed two of the men and wounded the third. In November of that year, he was wounded in a shootout with a cowboy named Caprio Rodriquez. Rodriguez was killed in the exchange. Also in 1878, Tucker was appointed the first town marshal in Silver City's history. By all reports he quickly brought the town's violent crime rate under control.

In 1880 Dan was dispatched to track down two suspects accused of breaking into a prospector's cabin and stealing the man's goods and personal property. He returned two days later with all of the stolen property along with the horses, saddles, and weapons of the two suspects. According to Tucker he encountered the two men at a nearby ranch and killed them both. The rancher agreed to bury them.

Two days later, Tucker responded to a domestic dispute in which a man allegedly clubbed his wife and child near to death. As Tucker entered the home the man struck him with the club and knocked Tucker's gun from his hand. In the ensuing altercation, Tucker was somehow able to recover his gun and subsequently shot and killed his attacker.

In September 1881 "Dangerous" Dan, after accepting the position of Marshal in Shakespeare, New Mexico, shot and killed rustler Jake Bond. In November of that year, he arrested the notorious outlaw, Sandy King. A few days later, he captured a cattle rustler known as "Russian Bill" Tattenbaum. Both men were subsequently hung by the town's vigilance committee on the same day.

Later in November of 1881, Tucker was sent to Deming, New Mexico to deal with a group of outlaws that had taken over the town. He immediately began patrolling the streets armed with a shotgun. According to a journalist who was in town reporting on the Southern Pacific Railroad, Tucker killed three men and wounded two more within a three-day period.

In 1882 Tucker was involved in the controversial killing of fellow lawman James D. Burns. Tucker was eventually charged with murder but was acquitted as a result of the trial. Despite being cleared of any wrongdoing, Tucker's reputation suffered as a result of his involvement. Later that year Sheriff Whitehill lost the election and Tucker was dismissed by his successor. After this, "Dangerous" Dan Tucker spent some time as a shotgun messenger for Wells Fargo and was involved in several gunfights while performing his duties in this role.

On December 14, 1882, while serving as a lawman in Deming, New Mexico, Dan was summoned to a local brothel to investigate an unspecified complaint. The complaint turned out to be a ruse designed to lure the lawman into an ambush. Tucker was shot in the shoulder as he entered the building but still managed to shoot and kill his attacker and one of the two prostitutes that were assisting with the assassination attempt.

After recovering from his wound, Tucker accepted a position as a Special Officer for the Southern Pacific Railroad. In this role he led a posse in pursuit of bandits that derailed and robbed a train near Deming. He also arrested an outlaw by the name of York Kelly who killed three men and a pregnant woman while robbing a bank in Bisbee, Arizona. After this, Tucker took a brief break to run a saloon in Deming until he was appointed U. S. Deputy Marshal in 1885. In November of that year, he and his friend William Graham were involved in a gunfight with raiding Apachee warriors eleven miles outside Deming.

In 1888 Tucker resigned his position and moved to California. Tucker's story ends in mystery with his disappearance. The last time anyone saw him was 1892 when he made his last visit to Grant County. What happened to him after that is unknown. There was a 1931 newspaper article that claimed that he died in a hospital in San Bernardino California, but modern research cannot confirm this claim.

And so ends the story of one of the most dangerous, and least known, gunmen of the Old West. And so too does this 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 on the "Contact the Author" page of this website 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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