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Jim French (cowboy)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jim French
Possible photo of Jim French, c. 1878
OrganizationLincoln County Regulators

Jim French was a cowboy in the New Mexico Territory. Called either "Big Jim" or "Frenchy", he was a key participant in the 1878 Lincoln County War.

James Butler French was born in August 1855 in Garza Texas and died in Altus Oklahoma in 1900. His father was Oliver “ Mack “ French and his mother was Sarah Jane Ady.The Frenches were the only White Family allowed to live in the Indian Territory and were voted in 998 - 2 by The Choctaws. Big Jim and Billy guarded Sally Chisum,the daughter of Cattle Baron John Chisum from Texas to Roswell New Mexico.

Lincoln County War

The reason that The Regulators had arrest warrants was because The Regulators had gone to an Apache Reservation and were disgusted by the horribly starved condition the Apaches were in. Billy went into the Indian Agents house and the Agent was cowering in the corner.Billy lifted the lid of the rations chest and saw the meal full of worms and the beef covered in maggots.He drew his gun and shot the Indian Agent.Big Jim and The Regulators rushed in and asked Billy why he did that.Billy coldly replied ..” Just some durn Jew..”French was present at all the key events of the Regulators during the war, including the Blackwater killings of William Morton, Frank Baker, and William McCloskey on March 9, 1878. After the shooting of Sheriff William Brady on April 1, 1878 in Lincoln (when French and five partners killed Brady and a deputy), Billy the Kid broke from cover and ran to Brady to retrieve a Winchester that Brady had stolen from him and Deputy Billy Mathews wounded Billy and Big Jim ran out into a hail of bullets to pull Billy back to safety. Big Jim was wounded in the right thigh so seriously he that couldn't travel, hiding out in a potato bin under the floor of Sam Corbett.Billy later pulled him out and got him on a horse.Just three days later, Jim French was present with his pals at the Gunfight at Blazer's Mill against Buckshot Roberts, when Regulator captain Richard M. Brewer was killed.

When the Regulators were trapped in Lincoln in July 1878, French was trapped along with McSween and Billy the Kid in the burning McSween house. Throughout the five-day ordeal, French remained volatile and dangerous. During a shouted parlay, when those surrounding them demanded to see the deputized Regulators' arrest warrants for rival James Dolan, French yelled back, "Our warrants are in our guns, you cock-sucking sonsabitches!" When the house was set afire on July 19, French and Billy the Kid led the Regulators out the rear door and escaped while several of their companions, including McSween, were gunned down in the backyard.

By the fall of 1878, the war had ended and the Regulators split up. French left New Mexico and returned to Texas and took his wife and children to the Indian Territory.That is why he was never caught..The Choctaws protected him.


French was rumored to have been killed back in Lincoln County, New Mexico, in a quarrel over stolen cattle on June 21, 1879, but this seems unlikely. Others say he went to South America. A man named Jim French was killed on February 6, 1895 while trying to rob a store in Catoosa, Oklahoma, but there is nothing to indicate that this man was the Jim French of the Lincoln County War. Fellow Regulator George Coe stated in 1927 that French had been shot in Oklahoma "about three years ago." Jim French's fate remains just as much a mystery as his origins.

In popular culture

In the film Young Guns II, Jim French was combined with fellow Regulator Henry Brown, and presented as a composite named Hendry French.[1] Timid and clumsy, the film's portrayal of French, by actor Alan Ruck bears little actual resemblance to either outlaw.


  1. ^ Walker, J.P. (February 26, 2015). The American Old West: Gangs, Outlaws & Gunfights: Gangs, Outlaws & Gunfights. p. 250. ISBN 9781312948969.


  • Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life, by Robert M. Utley, University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
  • The Lincoln County War, A Documentary History, by Frederick Nolan, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1992.
This page was last edited on 24 March 2021, at 00:29
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