Ben Thompson was a top gunfighter and a good one to observe strong hunches. Had it been otherwise he would have died in error or judgment.
His birthplace had been set at Lockhard, Texas, in 1843. As a young man he was a printer but had a hankering for something more exciting and found it in New Orleans, when he killed his first man over a woman.
Ben’s pace led him directly into gambling and he was a common figure to be seen about town in many of the big saloons. He had taken to carrying a pistol or two on his person.
Ben went to the Civil War in Baylor’s Confederate regiment but fought a gun battle with his sergeant, whom he cut down instantly and then deserted. In Austin he killed a badman named Coombs and then shot up three Mexicans at Nuevo Laredo. He drifted into Old Mexico and joined up under Emperor Maximilian but quit when the Emperor was executed, and then rode back into Texas and stood trial for the Coombs killing, for which he was acquitted.
This gunfighter swaggered about dressed in his high silk hat and walking stick. He and his brother Bill roamed far and wide and raised nelly-hell every inch of the way. Shooting their way out of tight spots.
At this time, Wild Bill Hickok was marshal of Abilene and made the town toe the mar. Ben and a man named Phil Coe opened the Bull’s Head Saloon and Ben displayed what Wild Bill thought was a pornographic sign, and so down came the sign. Then Ben left for Kansas City, but while he was gone Wild Bill shot Coe and left him lying dead in the street. Although Ben never saw Wild Bill again, he said he ought to look him up and cut him down.
By this time it is said that Ben and his brother Bill had shot down 25 men. Bill was gun-happy and for this reason he killed Sheriff C. B. Whitney in cold blood; with a couple loads of buckshot; in the plaza at Ellsworth. While Bill escaped, Ben stood off the town with peace officers hiding behind buildings and out of sight. When Ben called out once too often for them to come out and fight, the figure of a single man appeared who had just borrowed a badge and a couple of pistols from the mayor. This man was young Wyatt Earp and he told Ben to either throw down the shotgun or he’d kill him. Ben had a strange hunch and threw down the gun. He was fined $25.00 for disturbing the peace and his brother Bill was acquitted when tried. Earp took off the badge as he frowned on this type of justice.
Ben drifted into Colorado and was hired as a gunman in the Santa Fe, Denver and Rio Grande Railroad fight. No gunsmoke ensued, as Ben took $20,000 from the D&RG to throw up the fight for the pass.
Ben got the job as city marshal for the city of Austin, but he killed one too many men and was let out. Then in San Antonio he shot down saloon owner Jack Harris, met gunslinger dandy-boy King Fisher, another reputable gunhand, and the two of ’em ambled into the Harris place before, one might say, the body was cold. For this brazen act they received blasts from several guns which sent them into the next world. He was 41 years of age when he was cut down and had killed over 40 men. His funeral stretched for blocks and his tall silk hat was placed atop the coffin.