Dallas Stoudenmire stood 6' 4" and was both athletic and fast. He was at times a good man and at times a bad man. He was smart. He was always well dressed. But above all he was tough and he had a mean streak. It reared it's head in his all too often drinking bouts (eventually his drunkenness led to his undoing).
Stoudenmire had been born in Alabama in 1845 and had entered the civil war as a 16 year old. Stoudenmire was rumored to have killed at least two men in gunfights during the 1870s. He moved to Texas and even did a stint with The Texas Rangers. He landed in El Paso. . .
In late 1880 a Kentuckian named George Campbell was given the job as El Paso City Marshal. A man noted for bravery and honesty in prior law enforcement work. However, he resigned in January 1881 over a pay dispute. However, he stuck around El Paso as he liked the place. . . On April 11, 1881 Dallas Stoudenmire took over the position of City Marshal. George Campbell would soon wish he left El Paso.
The newest Marshal took over a rowdy town replete with pimps, gamblers gunmen, lots of rustlers, plenty of whiskey and plenty of "soiled doves". He would within a short time make a great ways toward both cleaning it up and slightly contributing to it. Texas was a tough place and El Paso was a darned tough place. But Stoudenmire literally cast a giant shadow and a town full of gunmen, and outlaws watched him very carefully.
A civil war veteran with more than one gunshot wound and having likely three dead men to his credit. Dallas Stoudenmire knew that all eyes were on him from the outset. In three days he would deliver an object lesson.
Bosques, dark and foreboding, lined the Rio Grande and those along with briar encrusted thickets and scruff provided cover for the ever plentiful rustlers mostly but the occasional murderer/robber. Contemporary newspapers have stories of screams echoing from the area. Dead men that originated here were rarely identified. The rustlers were bold here and operated rather openly. Posses if small met with shotgun blasts when they entered this area and if large the outlaws just hid and waited. The biggest outfit of rustlers was run by the Manning brothers, Frank, John, and James. An adjacent ranch, that of John Hale, together with the Manning spread was the center of rustling operations. Hale was a tree tall man of English parentage and evidently also a hard case. The rustling enterprise had numerous gunmen associated with it, it seems George Campbell may have been one of them. An ironic twist. . .
The germ for what was to become known as "Four Dead in Five Seconds" involved two vaqueros. No! Not those kind. But hardworking Mexican cow-hands. To wit, "Sanchez and Juarique". These men had come across the border in search of 30 head of rustled cattle. They had involved the authorities and everyone knew where to begin the search. They had gone almost directly to the Hale ranch and within a short time had located three head of the stolen cattle at which time Hale began a vitriolic defense saying he had purchased the cattle from Don Ynocente Ochoa. A blatant lie. The couple of officers who had accompanied Sanchez and Juarique, eventually turned back since only three of the missing thirty head were located along with Hale's vociferous defense. The two vaqueros stayed to search further. Long story short they were ambushed and slain by two of the Hale/Manning men, Stevenson and Peveler. Shortly a contingent of 80 Mexican cowboys come across to get their friends bodies. The men asked one George Krempkau to accompany them to the ranch where they already knew they were. They located the bodies, loaded them in a buckboard, and drove them back, this was long about daylight on the 14th of April. A private Fitch (lawman of some type) seems to have understood clearly that the vaqueros were ambushed and that Stevenson and Peveler were the culprits, he probably had inside information. Fitch went out straight away and arrested the two and put them in jail and released them under bond.
Now in a two room adobe shack with Krempkau acting as interpreter the men of both races gathered, both inside and outside, for an inquest. . .