• Dennis McCaslin

Chronicle of the Old West: "The dirty coward who killed Mr. Howard..."


The subject of today’s story killed a famous outlaw, but, unfortunately, it didn’t make him a hero. It was because of the way he killed him, and that the outlaw happened to be a cult figure.

It was 1882. Two of Jesse and Frank James’ cousins, Robert and Charley Ford were applying for a job. What Jesse didn’t know was that the governor had offered the Ford brothers $10,000 for Jesse, dead or alive.


Bob and Charley weren’t about to take the chance of trying to bring him in alive. So, on that fateful day Bob Ford shot Jesse in the back of the head.

Bob became known as “the dirty, rotten coward who shot Mr. Howard.”…The alias Jesse was using at the time. For a while Bob toured with a play depicting Jesse’s death. The reaction of the audience was usually resounding “boos.” And it wasn’t just because of poor acting. Finally, Bob spent two years with P. T. Barnum’s freak show.

Then Bob met and fell in love with Nellie Waterson, a dancehall girl and soiled dove. Eventually they opened a saloon in Creede, Colorado. Bob handled the booze and gambling, and Nellie handled the girls.

Jesse James and Robert Ford

One day Bob’s diamond ring was missing, and he accused Ed O'Kelley of taking it. Of course, Ed denied it. But he did nothing about the acquisition until Bob started telling other people about it. So, on June 8, 1892, Ed went into Bob’s saloon to confront him. Bob had him thrown out. Ed returned with a shotgun, and settled the matter with two blasts.

Interestingly, not only did Bob Ford’s life not turn out the way he had hoped, his brother Charlie, eight years earlier, almost to the exact date of Bob’s death had committed suicide. And ten years after Bob’s death, Nellie Waterson, his girlfriend, also committed suicide.


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