Hello Mr. History
My Name is Jonathan and I’m 13 years Old. I Love the history of the Old West and my Question is:
Did Wild Bill Longley really kill 32 men?
I think He was a liar but what is your opinion?




Dear Jonathan,

Born in Austin County, Texas, on October 15, 1851, William Preston Longley made a lot of claims in his last years to matching the notoriety of the likes of John Wesley Hardin, but biographers have only found evidence of a psychopath whose multiple murders were nothing more than shootings of whoever touched off his quick temper, whether they were armed or not. Although he claimed to have killed 32 people at one point, while awaiting hanging he stated the actual number to have been eight. The one that led to his final arrest involved shooting Reverend William Roland Lay, who he had blamed for getting him in trouble with the law earlier, with a shotgun while he was milking a cow. Bill Longley converted to Catholicism just before execution, smoked a cigar prior to being hanged on October 11, 1878, and went off confident that he would be forgiven with a quick, relatively painless death. The noose proved to have been too long, however, and when the trap opened his feet hit the ground, necessitating the lawmen to hoist him up—it took 11 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

The bottom line is that Longley was about the last source of accuracy concerning a status among Western gunslingers that was anything but legendary. A biography of him appeared in the February 2002 issue of Wild West.



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History


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