"C.C.'s other brush with death and the district court involved another gambling affair. This time he was only a witness but it was to one of the most notorious killings in cowtown history -- Billy Thompson's shooting of Sheriff C.B. Whitney, August 15, 1873, in Ellsworth. Although C.C.'s testimony favored the Texas faction, he indicated that he was then a resident of Sun City, but he could not have been more than months away from his trail-herding days. His testimony followed fairly the closely the events as described by others, with an emphasis on the careless handling of the gun by Thompson and the assailant's contrition once the deed was done. Much to the surprise of the roused citizenry of Ellsworth, the final verdict was not guilty. C.C.'s testimony must have played a large role in convincing the jury of the accidental nature of the killing."
-- C. Robert Haywood, "Comanche County Cowboy: A Case Study of A Kansas Rancher", Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, Autumn, 1981, page 185.
By C. C. Peppard (sic), my name is C. C. Peppard (sic), I am a resident of Sun City in the County of Barbour (sic - should be "Barber"), State of Kansas, I was present at the shooting of C. B. Whitney by William Thompson on the 15th day of August 1873 at Ellsworth, Kansas. I was then acquainted with both said parties & with Ben Thompson = shortly before the shooting took place, perhaps fifteen or 20 minutes, maybe longer, Happy Jack and John Stirling said to Ben Thompson & other Texas men there, "get your guns you damned Texas sons of bitches." (-- Objected to by State _______, incompetent, irrelevant, ______ & hearsay. Objection overruled & _____ Prescott Judge.) Ben Thompson at that went and got his gun up at Jake News place & went north of the railroad, near the depot, about this time Billy Thompson went across the street with another gun towards Ben Thompson, about this time C. B. Whitney went to where Ben Thompson was standing after Billy Thompson came up all there in a friendly way & manner crossed the railroad to the south side & went to Jr. Brennan's Saloon, just after they got to the saloon, some one calls out "here they come, look out," or words to that effect. The ones referred to as here they come, were Happy Jack & John Stirling, they Jack & Stirling were then coming rapidly down the street towards Jr. Brennan's saloon with arms. Ben Thompson stepped on to the side walk __ as Happy Jack and Stirling were advancing upon him with weapons in a threatening manner, Ben __ towards Jack , just there Whitney was on the walk towards towards the alley near B_bes store & Billy Thompson was at or near the Saloon door & had his gun in his hand down below his ____ as I thought at or about as low as his hands would allow the gun to be held, he then was standing __ (stricken out )______________, at that time Happy Jack had his pistol out in his left hand & was advancing toward Bill & Ben Thompson in a threatening manner, Billys eyes were fixed on Happy Jack & at that moment Billys gun exploded or went off. The parties Billy Thompson, Whitney & Jack were then in a triangle. As the gun went off, Ben exclaimed something about shooting best friend, just what I did not fully understand. Billy said "I know it, I am so sorry." Whitney said, "He did not intend to shoot me, send for my wife & child." At the time the shooting took place Whitney was looking towards Jack & Stirling & not towards the Thompsons.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the document to this web site!
Shirley noted when sending this document: "Jerry, this is my transcription, perhaps you can make out the rest of the words. I don't think the gun was held at his breast, if it was "just about as low as his hands would allow the gun to be held" It doesn't appear to be crotch. I think the name is Jr. Brennan, the o's the writer makes are very clear o's. I couldn't get the whole page in the scanner with the objections. I'm sending 6 scans. These are overlapping pages. To get the whole case is about 183 pages at 25 cents each. Source: Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas MS 173 - Kansas District Court (Ellsworth County) Records 1868-1898. This case began in Dec 31, 1873."
Christopher Carson "Cap" PEPPERD
Confederate Civil War Veteran, Cowboy, Bronc Buster, Trail Driver & early (1874) Comanche County rancher. Founder of the city of Wilmore, Kansas. He lost his fortune in the 1887-1888 Coal Mining Fever in the county. Also see: A Chronology of the Life & Times of Christopher Carson Pepperd, State of Kansas vs. C.C. Pepperd, 1876, Testimony of C.C. Pepperd: State of Kansas vs. William Thompson, The Death Certificate of C.C. Pepperd. and The Gravestone & Burial of C.C. Pepperd.
Photo at right: Wyatt Earp, courtesy of "Legends of the American West" web site.
Wyatt Earp is not historically known for being a reliably truthful source of information. For documentation of this statement, see: Wyatt Earp's Ben Thompson Claim", which details historian Floyd B. Streeter's research, published in Ben Thompson: Man With A Gun, which disproves Earp's claim, made 50 years after the killing, that he was present on the occasion and arrested Ben Thompson in front of a crowd of 100 hostile Texas cowboys.
"Floyd B. Streeter, historian and librarian of Hays City Kansas State College, began an intensive search to find evidence of Earp's claim. He looked at newspapers, court documents, and every available source (including conducting interviews with people that witnessed the incident), and could not find any supporting evidence for the claim. No contemporary newspaper accounts, court records, diaries, or any other source can even place Wyatt in Ellsworth in August 1873. To this day, there is not a single shred of contempory evidence that Wyatt Earp arrested Ben Thompson. Over the years the Thompson story was repeated in many books and articles but it was largely discredited by the 1960s." -- Wyatt Earp's Ben Thompson Claim"
For a sensational, inaccurate, undocumented, ridiculous and spurious (compared to the court documents) version of this incident, see: Ellsworth: chapter 3 of "Wyatt Earp: Knight With A Six-Shooter.
Another account of the killing of Sheriff Chauncey B. Whitney by Billy Thompson, an incident which became part of the "Wyatt Earp Legend": Wyatt Earp: Frontier Lawman of the American West. This account also obviously relies on Wyatt Earp's own self-serving "memories". The photos of Wyatt Earp and Billy Thompson are reproduced here, with thanks, from the aforecited web page according to the terms of permission stipulated thereon.
Photo at right:Ben Thompson, brother of Billy Thompson, photo courtesy of Legends of the American West web site.
Ben Thompson: "In the summer of 1873 Thompson was working as a house gambler in an Ellsworth, Kansas, saloon with his younger brother Billy. On August 15, during a drunken altercation with other gamblers, Billy shot and killed Ellsworth sheriff Chauncey B. Whitney, a friend of the Thompson brothers. Billy Thompson fled Kansas and avoided authorities until 1876, when he was returned to Ellsworth, stood trial, and was acquitted. The jury ruled that the shooting was an accident."
The Legend of Ben Thompson. An undocumented account of the life of Ben Thompson.
Chauncey Belden Whitney: Biography.
Happy Jack: Der Wilde Westen: Read a rough google.com translation of this German web site about Happy Jack.
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