What does my title for this entry mean, anyway? Does Langtry mean anything to any of you? (If you said that Langtry was a coach for the Dallas Cowboys for many years, that's good, but I'm talking about the town) What about Justice in Texas? Hint - ever hear of Judge Roy Bean?
Langtry had it's 15 minutes of fame when a silver spike was hammered into the tracks of the Southern Pacific's Sunset Route on Jan. 12, 1883, which made it go from New Orleans to San Francisco. Actually, that occurred nearby at Dead Man's Gulch! But Judge Roy Bean really put it on the map because he was the "law west of the Pecos". The railroad needed help with all the lawlessness going on in their camps, so they asked the Texas Rangers to appoint a Justice of the Peace. They appointed Roy Bean, a proprietor of a "store" in a camp called Vinegroon, on Aug. 2, 1882. The new judge tried his first case the week before oficially assuming the post. That was the first sign that he would become infamous.
Bean moved his court to the new town of Langtry and established a colorful brand of justice that made him the "Law West of the Pecos". He owned one law book but mostly based his rulings on his own sense of frontier justice, backed up by the six-shooter on the table beside him. He called a jury from his customers at the time an accused was brought to him.
There is no record that he ever sentenced a man to be hanged. But he often imposed the sentence of expulsion from the area after fining him every cent and valuable he owned, including his horse and gun - and treatened him with a noose if he ever appeared again. That sentence was "enough to convince the toughest character of the error of his ways".
He did one other thing that helped his notoriaty and made him legendary. He promoted and staged a boxing match in February, 1896 on a sand dune in the middle of the Rio Grande in defiance of U.S., Mexico, and Texas Ranger authority. The fight was won a couple of minutes into the first round! (I wonder if Tyson beat or tied that record?)
Mr. eccentricity (my description of him) had an admiration for a famous English actress named Lillie Langtry (funny about that last name, eh?), also known as "the Jersey Lily" (I never found out why). He named his establishment after her, but the painter misspelled her name so it became "The Jersey Lilly". His establishment consisted of a bar and billiard room and notary service. He also named his own home "Opera House, Town Hall and Seat of Justice" hoping to lure the actress to come and perform for him at his place! He wrote her numerous letters but she didn't respond until he wrote that he name the town for her. She visited in 1904, months after Judge Roy Bean died.
No wonder his wife left him soon after he became a judge!
As you can see, I enjoyed seeing the place and learning all this trivia. I had only heard of his name before and didn't pay much attention to that or lots of western stories. The bar is pretty much left as it was built but his home has been renovated and its fresh coat of paint detracts from the authenticity of it for me. If the house looks like it did back then and it looks so new, how about his Jersey Lilly? Incongruous to my sense of logic.
btw - the MH started up just fine after visiting this tourist location.