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Local woman's ancestor a legendary Old West lawman

Local woman's ancestor a legendary Old West lawman

LeFors' participation in the pursuit of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid commemorated on Union Pacific coin

May 26th, 2018 by Karl Richter in Texarkana News

Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe LeFors, far right, poses for a photograph with the posse that set out to capture outlaws Butch Cassidy, Harry "the Sundance Kid" Longabaugh and the rest of the Wild Bunch gang after their robbery of a Union Pacific Railroad train in 1900 near Tipton, Wy. This image is engraved on a commemorative coin marking the 150th anniversary of the Union Pacific special agent force. Texarkana, Texas, Parks and Recreation Department employee Tammie Moore, LeFors' great-great-niece, recently found out about the coin when someone happened to give her supervisor one for his collection.

An unexpected bit of Tammie Moore's family history recently turned up at her workplace—in shiny metal form.

When someone gave Moore's supervisor in the Texarkana, Texas, Parks and Recreation Department a commemorative coin, she soon discovered that one of her great-great-uncles, noted Old West lawman Joe LeFors, is depicted on it.

The souvenir coin marks the 150th anniversary of Union Pacific Railroad's special agent force, the company's security arm. A UP special agent acquainted with Parks Department Recreation Specialist Eddie Aulds, Moore's boss, stopped by Aulds' office at the Southwest Center last week to give him one of the coins. A former Arizona trooper, Aulds collects law enforcement memorabilia including such coins and various badges.

When Moore saw the coin she called the special agent, Darin Archer, curious whether there was any connection to LeFors. Archer knew immediately who she meant.

"He said, 'Well, your uncle's right in the middle of that coin,'" Moore said. "What are the chances of that happening?" Archer told her LeFors was instrumental in the development of the UP special agents force.

On one side of the coin is an engraved reproduction of a photograph that shows LeFors, then a deputy United States marshal, and other members of a posse that set out to capture outlaws Butch Cassidy, Harry "the Sundance Kid" Longabaugh and the rest of the Wild Bunch gang after their robbery of a UP train in 1900 near Tipton, Wyoming.

The posse posed in front of the rail car it used in a tactic that was dramatized in the 1969 film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The posse traveled to train robbery scenes in the car to get there fast enough to track and chase the criminals.

"They would open the doors, and the marshals would come out on their horses," Moore said.

LeFors was born in Paris, Texas, in 1865 and went to Montana and Wyoming as a cowboy 20 years later. There he began his law enforcement career chasing cattle rustlers. In 1899, he took part in a posse hunting the Wild Bunch gang after it robbed a train near Wilcox, Wyoming, and thereafter the Marshals Service deputized him.

LeFors is best known for extracting a disputed murder confession from Wyoming gunman Tom Horn, which resulted in Horn's 1902 execution by hanging. After eight years as a marshal, LeFors did business in the mining, livestock and textile industries in Central and South America.

"Mr. Le Fors was a brave and fearless man, faithful to duty, never sparing himself when there was something to be done and to his efforts and accomplishments much credit is due for the suppression of lawlessness in this part of the west," said his October 1940 obituary in the Buffalo, Wyoming, Bulletin.

LeFors inspired the character Whispering Smith, protagonist of a 1906 Western novel, its 1926 and 1948 film adaptations, and a 1961 television series.

Moore said she was happy to know that her relative was remembered with respect and she is thankful to have learned more about him than the stories her grandmother told.

"I just always heard about him, and I wanted to find out," she said.

On Twitter: @RealKarlRichter

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