Dutch Henry Born: Wild West legend

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Judd Hallet was Archuleta County’s first sheriff, serving in the 1880s. He undoubtedly kept his six-gun oiled and his trigger finger limber and ready for action.

Dutch Henry was lounging in a Trinidad, Colo., bar, his eyes fixed on a rackety old pool table and his ears tuned to what might have been a bragging contest between Charley Morrow, Mysterious Dave Mather and several other frontier hardcases whose facial features splattered across wanted posters decorating dozens of bulletin boards throughout the West. Anybody willing to chance donating his bullet-riddled carcass to a cranky old undertaker could grab hold of a sizable retirement and reputation by cashing in on the rewards advertised on those posters — if he was man enough.
Nobody was watching the entrance when suddenly the bar room doors swung open and the silhouette of a man well-built, well-dressed, well-armed and well-known to Dutch filled the door.
“Howdy, Bat,” Dutch greeted the lawman whose piercing eyes searched the room, one hand hovering over his six-shooter. Other hands in the room inched toward worn leather holsters. There was enough see you in la-la land firepower in the room to bring down a sizable posse.
“Bat, what took you so long?” Dutch asked while glancing around the room with an icy stare. “You all know my friend with the badge don’t you? This here is Bat Masterson.” Eyes around the room shifted back to decks of cards and an assortment of drinks leaving the sheriff and the West’s most notorious outlaw to manage their business without interference.
Eyewitnesses later reported that Dutch was calm and level-headed and for reasons unknown and inconsistent with his reputation unbuckled his pistol belt and handed the arsenal over to the approaching lawman.
The others in the room didn’t realize that Dutch had reached a deal with Uncle Dick Wooten, the sheriff in Trinidad, to surrender to Masterson and return with him to Dodge City to stand trial for horse rustling and a few other incidental crimes. All that remained was to establish bail and reward money. Wooten was a famous frontiersman in his own right and had built the toll road across Raton Pass.
Dutch’s surrender and submission seemed to mark a turn in his career. A good guess would be that he’d had time to weigh his past occupational endeavors against his heartfelt desire to wed his childhood sweetheart, Ida Dilabaugh. In any case, after taking care of business in Dodge, He turned from outlaw to prospector and headed for the San Juan Mountains, searching for gold and a chance to win the heart of his lifelong love.

This story was posted on January 20, 2019.