Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Thomas "Black Jack" Ketchum

 

(October 31, 1863 - April 29, 1901)

 

Born in Texas, Thomas Ketchum drifted through the west eventually joining up with his brother Sam Ketchum.

 

The Ketchums associated with members of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch (Will Carver, Elza Lay and Ben Kilpatrick). Only Will Carver is known to have accompanied the Ketchums in their two year span of robberies. Elza Lay participated in one train robbery.

 

Later, Thomas Ketchum attempted a train robbery in one of the Ketchum's favorite places, Twin Mountains near Folsom, New Mexico. The circumstances, however, were different this time. Thomas Ketchum was alone. The robbery failed when during the confusion, a conductor wounded Thomas in the arm. He was captured the next day.

 

A trial for the crime found Thomas Ketchum guilty and he was to be hanged. During judicial delays, Thomas Ketchum, already a tall and big man, began to put on weight. These added pounds were not used in the calculation by the hangman for the correct rope size and drop. When the day came and the drop fell, Thomas Ketchum was decapitated.

 

The decapitation was, probably, appropriate for this moody and sullen man. A loner much of his life, it is rumored (although not substantiated) that Thomas Ketchum would hit himself in the head with the handle of his six-shooter when he did something wrong.

 

Thomas Ketchum is buried in the Clayton Cemetery in Clayton, New Mexico.

 

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

Drawing by Richard Florence

 

Books About Thomas Ketchum

 

Dynamite and Six-Shooter by Jeff Burton

 

This is the definitive biography of Thomas and Sam Ketchum. Well written, documented sources and great photos make this the best study of the Ketchums. Also, I feel this is one of the best western history books ever.

 

Black Jack Ketchum: Last of the Hold-up Kings by Ed Bartholomew

 

I have not read this book. I have found, however, that Ed Bartholomew's other books can contain unreliable information. This book was published about 1955.

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org