The Life and Times of Lawman Joe Thralls


Were there really lawmen like those portrayed on TV? Were there others besides the handful mentioned in Wild West books and movies? Yes! Joe Thralls was the unflinching model of what a peace officer should be: reserved, steady, and consistent. Joe Thralls spent his entire career as a lawman and town leader in Wellington, a much-traveled area of the west situated near the Chisholm Trail in Sumner County, Kansas. Joe Thralls was a respected member of Wellington from his arrival in 1871 till his death nearly fifty-seven years later. That span saw him as a constable, city marshal, deputy sheriff, sheriff, deputy U.S. marshal, a successful cattleman, real estate salesman, and a city mayor. Thralls tangled with outlaws, cowboys, and cattlemen. He dealt with horse thieves, vigilantes, and necktie parties. Records seem to indicate he often faced danger calmly. Few today recognize his name though he played a crucial role in taming this part of the West. The cattle trade brought with it characters with money to burn, liquor to drink, guns to shoot, and women to visit. But cowboys weren't the only actors on this stage. With all the money, cattle, horses, and business going on, this couldn't help but attract a darker side. Horse and cattle thieves, train and bank robbers, claim jumpers, card sharks, and other sorts of shady characters found opportunities around them. To control them, law-abiding citizens formed vigilante committees and posses to hunt down and hang the culprits. Eventually the legal system became more organized and played a larger role in controlling the outlaw element. But it was rough going in the early years. Sumner County between 1870 and 1885 probably saw as much Wild West action as anywhere in the country. Cattle herds from Texas reached their zenith the year Joe Thralls came to Sumner County. A fullname plus subject index augments this well-documented narrative.

Tom S. Coke

(2006), 2008, 5½x8½, paper, index, 206 pp. 

ISBN: 9780788435614