Roy Bean

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Judge Roy Bean
BirthplaceMason County, Kentucky, USA
Justice of the Peace; Saloonkeeper

Bean, Roy

Bean, Roy, c.1825–1903, legendary American frontier judge, b. Mason co., Ky. He left Kentucky in 1847 to seek his fortune in California. Soon, however, he was managing a trading post in Chihuahua, Mexico. In 1849 he was chased back into U.S. territory for cattle rustling. During the Civil War, Roy Bean aided the Confederate cause by joining a band of lawless irregulars. After the war he followed the construction camps of the Southern Pacific RR as a saloonkeeper and gambler. In 1882, Bean settled at the Texas camp of Vinegaroon, had it renamed Langtry (for the English actress Lillie Langtry), named himself justice of the peace (to which he added the title “the law west of the Pecos”), and set up court in his saloon, the Jersey Lily. He there began to dispense justice with the aid of one law book and a six-shooter. As a judge, Bean rendered arbitrary and unorthodox decisions, usually tempered with wit and common sense.


See biographies by C. L. Sonnichsen (1943, repr. 1953) and E. Lloyd (rev. ed. 1967).

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Bean, “Judge” Roy

(?1825–1903) frontier figure; born in Mason County, Ky. He left Kentucky for California in 1847, and seems to have spent the next 15 years in such enterprises as goldseeking and cattlerustling. He joined a band of Confederate irregulars during the Civil War and then followed the railroad construction crews as a saloonkeeper and gambler. In 1882 he settled in the Texas camp of Vinegaroon; he had it renamed Langtry after his idol, the English actress Lillie Langtry, then set himself up as justice of the peace, "the law west of the Pecos." Holding court in his saloon, "The Jersey Lily," he threatened to use his six-shooter to enforce his notion of justice. In 1898 he gained national attention for staging a boxing match on a sandbar in the middle of the Rio Grande (to avoid the ban on boxing in Texas), featuring the heavyweight champion, Bob Fitzsimmons.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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