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Vol. 5 - No.02 February, 2023 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
The Regulator
A Dangerous Life
The two men playing cards in a Mexico saloon in 1870 spent most of the game trading angry remarks. Then, one of them stood up, kicked his chair back, drew his gun, and fired at the man across the table.

The bullet shattered 20-year-old Josiah “Doc” Scurlock’s front teeth and tore through the back of his neck. He staggered back a few steps, pulled his gun, and snapped off a couple of shots, killing the gunman.

Born in Tallapoosa, Alabama, in January 1850, Doc Scurlock was well-educated and proficient in several languages. He reportedly studied medicine in New Orleans before heading to Mexico.

After the shooting, Scurlock returned to the U.S. in 1871. He 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 skirmish. 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 and told Chisum he wanted to call it quits.

But the cattle baron pushed back. Chisum* refused to pay him and insisted he stay on the job.

Scurlock decided to leave anyway. He stole three of Chisum’s horses, a couple of saddles, and a rifle, and headed for Arizona Territory.

After settling in Lincoln County in 1876, Scurlock shared ownership in a cheese factory with Charlie Bowdre, but they closed shop in the spring and bought a ranch.

The partners obtained the credit they needed but, 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 joined several posses to help track down horse thieves, many of whom were hanged for their crimes.

Rancher John Tunstall* and lawyer Alexander McSween* went into business to provide area ranchers and businessmen an alternative to the Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking Company.

Scurlock backed them and openly opposed Lawrence Murphy* and James Dolan.

On February 18, 1878, a posse killed John Tunstall, presumably on the orders of Dolan.* The event 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.

At that point, Scurlock decided he had enough to live the life of a cowboy, a gunman, and an outlaw and got rid of his weapons, except for a squirrel gun.

Scurlock and his wife Antonia moved to the Texas panhandle to seek a more peaceful way of living.

He eventually relocated to Eastland, Texas, where he died of a heart attack 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,” Stewart said, adding Scurlock was afraid of possible revenge for his role in the Lincoln County War.
About the Author
A passion for 19th century American history, Tom’s novels include elements of historical fact. His writing journey has taken him from radio and television news reporting to The Associated Press, where he worked as a correspondent, followed by several years in advertising and public relations. You can find his books on
Written by Tom Rizzo of
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