Share This Article

A Rough Ride to Redemption: The Ben Daniels Story

 by Robert K. DeArment and Jack DeMattos, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2010, $29.95.

 Ben Daniels (1852–1923) did a lot of living in his 70 years. Buffalo hunter turned horse thief (and probably even murderer and back-shooter). An ex-con who became a lawman in wild and woolly towns including Dodge City and Cripple Creek. A Rough Rider and friend of Teddy Roosevelt who landed positions as prison superintendent (at Yuma) and U.S. marshal of Arizona Territory. Yet he’s almost completely forgotten. Robert K. DeArment and Jack DeMattos, both known for their outstanding biographies of gunfighters, resurrect Daniels in this easy-to-read account of the life and times of an overlooked Westerner.

The Illinois-born Daniels was hunting buffalo in 1878 before he joined up with noted horse thief Dutch Henry Born. Arrested for stealing government mules in Wyoming Territory, Daniels was sentenced in 1880 to 31⁄2 years in prison in Laramie. It could have been better— in his first trial he was sentenced to only two years. It could have been worse—an 1874 murder charge, for killing an Army officer, was dropped. Released in 1883 (his sentence was reduced four months for good behavior), Daniels landed in Dodge City and was eventually appointed to the police force. He didn’t always live by the law, however. In 1886 he shot and killed Ed Julian, an “all-around tough character.” The authors call the shooting“a deliberate and cold-blooded murder,” but the jury voted to acquit Daniels. The biography makes great reading. As the authors write: “He had gone from horse thievery to being an honored guest in the White House and a particular protégé of the president, and from being a wanted outlaw to the highest federal law enforcement officer in Arizona. It was a remarkable story.”


Originally published in the February 2011 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here