— A DANGEROUS LIFE —
The two men playing cards in a Mexico saloon spent most of the game trading angry remarks until the tension got so thick they stood up, kicked their chairs back, and went for their guns.
One man fired first. The bullet shattered the two front teeth of 20-year old Josiah “Doc” Scurlock, went through his mouth, and came out the back of his neck—but caused no serious damage.
Scurlock staggered back a few steps but managed to snap off a couple of shots and killed the other gunman.
Born in Tallapoosa, Alabama, in January 1850, Doc Scurlock received a good education and could speak five languages. He reportedly studied medicine in New Orleans before heading to Mexico.
Scurlock returned to the U.S. in 1871 and went to work for wealthy cattle baron John Chisum in New Mexico as a line rider, guarding against cattle rustlers. But the work proved dangerous.
In 1873, Scurlock and Jack Holt came under attack from a group of Indians. Holt died in the attack. Scurlock ended up killing the Indian leader and then managed to slip away for help after dark.
A couple of years later, an Indian raiding party killed Scurlock’s riding partner, Newt Higgins. This second brush with death prompted Scurlock to reconsider his future.
He told John Chisum he wanted to call it quits, but Chisum insisted he stay on the job and refused to pay him.
Scurlock decided to leave anyway. He stole three of Chisum’s horses, a couple of saddles and a rifle, and headed for Arizona Territory. When some of Chisum’s men caught up to him, he explained his situation and they let him go.
He settled in Lincoln County in 1876 and shared an interest in a cheese factory with Charlie Bowdre but closed shop in the spring and bought a ranch.
They obtained credit and, inadvertently, became victims of the corrupt L.G. Murphy & Co., which monopolized the commercial trade in Lincoln County.
Over the next couple of years, Scurlock rode for several posses. tracking down horse thieves, hanging most of them. He also got married in October 1876.
When rancher John Tunstall and lawyer Alexander McSween went into business to provide area ranchers and businessman an alternative to the Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking Company, Scurlock backed them, openly opposing Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan.
On February 18, 1878, Dolan led a posse that killed John Tunstall, an event that triggered the Lincoln County War.
Scurlock joined Billy the Kid, ranchers George and Frank Coe, and forty others to exact revenge, calling themselves, the Regulators.
After being wounded in the Battle at Blazer’s Mill on April 4, 1878, Scurlock became the third leader of the Regulators.
When the Lincoln County War ended, all those involved received pardons from the governor, except for Billy the Kid.
Scurlock decided he had enough living the life of a cowboy, gunman, and outlaw.
He got rid of his weapons, except for a squirrel gun. He and his wife Antonia moved to the Texas panhandle to seek a more peaceful way of living.
Scurlock eventually relocated to Eastland, Texas, where a heart attack claimed his life in 1929.
According to his great-grandson Harold Stewart, “He came to Texas, kept a low profile. He turned down many, many interviews and offers for his story. He rarely talked about it, even to his family,” he said. “He was afraid of revenge” for the role he played in the Lincoln County War.