The Blackwater Ledger – August 15th, 1911
Legendary Gunslinger Arrives in Armadillo. Exhibits strange behaviours!
The God-fearing citizens of Armadillo, New Austin, were confronted last week by the strange and erratic behaviour of notorious bandit and murderer John Marston – formerly of the Van Der Linde gang who were responsible for the Great Steamboat Massacre of 1906.
Rumours of Mr. Marston’s arrival had circulated the township for several weeks prior, with local residents speculating that the outlaw would bring his legendary penchant for violence, gambling and solicitation upon their community.
Among his famed dexterities, Mr. Marston is said to own the steadiest gun hand in the Frontier; be an uncannily able horseman, and have a hustler’s knack for backroom card games. Armadillo business owners and residents alike however, have reported Mr. Marston’s behaviours to be quite discordant with his rumoured proclivities.
Though Mr. Marston repeatedly engaged in gun-battle, his aptitude in dealing with armed opponents has been reported as unwieldy. Shopkeep Mr. Herbert Moon describes how “Mr. Marston repeatedly discharged his revolver way off centre… then mounted his house and galloped directly into the Armadillo station front office.”
Saloon proprietor Mr. Walton Josephs was similarly befuddled by Mr. Marston’s deportment: “I had thought Mr. Marston would excuse the game room of a whole night’s takings, such was his reputation for three-card brag. Rather, he accumulated forty dollars debt.”
The notion of Mr. Marston’s stopover in Armadillo has also been the cause of local bafflement. Both residents of Armadillo and close-by Hennigan’s Stead describe conversations with Mr. Marston, in which he expressed a strong desire to locate and arrest the outlaw Bill Williamson, also formerly of the Van Der Linde gang.
His deliverance into the custody of Blackwater law officials would supposedly guarantee the safekeeping of Mr. Marston’s wife and only son, who are being held on the dependence of Mr. Williamson’s capture. But despite Mr. Marston frequently and publicly declaring his desire to capture Mr. Williamson as soon as possible, New Austin settlers reportedly witnessed Mr. Marston engage in a series of desultory and unrelated tasks.
For days at a time, Mr. Marston would camp in the New Austin wilderness, returning to town only when he had obtained precisely ten Red Sage flowers, or five Wild Feverfew. He was also rumoured an avid gatherer of animal pelts; Armadillo gunsmith Mr. Jeb Murphy would trade raccoon hide with Mr. Marston in exchange for weapon cartridges: “I’d hear Marston mouthing off about Bill Williamson, the Federal Government, his wife, his son. But then he’d turn in with a full saddle bag of weeds and carcass that must have taken him days to round up…all this from a man so-called eager to catch Bill Williamson. It makes no sense!”
Queerest and most confounding was Mr. Marston’s violent behaviour on Armadillo’s thoroughfare. Alongside proclamations against the outlaw Williamson, Mr. Marston would speak with residents about his past, displaying apparent compunction and discomfort when discussing his former criminal persuasions. But despite repeat assurances to Armadillo residents and town officials that he had concluded his illegitimacies – and that he would soon retire as a rancher – Mr. Marston shot to death no less than twenty-five men and women during his tenancy at the Armadillo saloon. On no motivation, Mr. Marston would launch violent rampages, ostensibly just for pleasure.
“He’d return from his work deputising the sheriff” construes telegram operator Pratt Root “and just drain his pistol into anything moving. Then he’d hightail to his bedchamber, sleep a short while and the town would go on as if nothing had happened.
“It’s his friendliness with Marshal Johnson that confounds me most” continued Mr. Root. “How is it that John Marston can kill folk all day, firebomb our workplaces and steal our horses, and still get made deputy?” Mr. Marston and Armadillo Marshal Leigh Johnson have worked together the past month to lawfully dissolve the Walton gang, which has long held home in New Austin. The duo was also instrumental in leading an assault on gang-held Fort Mercer last week, which has driven the outlaw Williamson into hiding. Mr. Marston and Marshal Johnson have formed an unfaltering partnership, despite Mr. Marston’s exotic and sustained violent behaviour.
“It just doesn’t seem right” said Mr. Root. “I’ve seen Marston kill, burgle and kidnap all in the same day, and all in Armadillo, yet him and the sheriff – and Mr. West Dickens and Miss Macfarlane for that matter – treat him like as if he’s done nothing wrong. Last week I saw Marston toss a stick of dynamite through the sheriff’s window. Not ten minutes later they were riding out north, talking like friends as always. I mean, it makes no sense. It makes absolutely no sense.”
Mr. Marston has reportedly left New Austin for Mexico. His erratic behaviour remains unexplained.