Last Train to El Paso: The Mysterious Unsolved Murder of a Cattle Baron, by Jerry J. Lobdill, Cross Timbers Press, Fort Worth, 2014, $24.95
Texan James B. Miller is well known in Western circles for killing people and for his most accurate nickname, “Killin’ Jim.” Another Texan cut from the same unholy cloth—both were paid assassins—was Felix Robert Jones, who, according to a great-grandnephew, “would have killed his mother for a dime.” Jones is not well known and lacks a catchy nickname (“Felix the Killer Cat” might have to do), but he conspired with some of the same men as Miller and killed for hire at least four people, as Jerry Lobdill writes about in the June 2015 issue of Wild West. His best-known victim, though still no household name, was No. 4, Thomas Lyons, the cattle baron of the book title.
Lyons and partner Angus Campbell grazed some 60,000 head on their southwest New Mexico cattle empire. That story is well documented in the 2003 book Triumph and Tragedy: A History of Thomas Lyons and the LCs, by Ida Foster Campbell and Alice Foster Hill. They refer to Lyons’ 1917 murder in El Paso as “one of the great unsolved mysteries of the old Southwest.” Well, Felix Jones did the dirty deed, according to Lobdill, but knowing that won’t spoil this fascinating tale based on the author’s detective work. The murder weapon was a hammer blow to Lyons’ head, and it was a contract hit arranged by two other questionable characters. Only Lyons was convicted; he did time in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville starting in July 1919 but was pardoned in 1926. All the juicy details unfold in fine fashion in this well-researched book. Jones lived until 1951 and apparently didn’t resume his old assassin job or other criminal activities. “Of course if he did,” writes Lobdill. “He got away with it, and we would not expect to find any written trace of it.”
Originally published in the June 2015 issue of Wild West.