Gunfighter & Friend of Billy the Kid

 Doc Scurlock was once a resident of Granbury

Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock was born at Tallapoosa, Alabama on January 11, 1849. He was about 10 years older than Billy the Kid. His nickname was come by honestly: he is believed to have studied medicine in New Orleans. He was a most unusual gunfighter: a doctor, farmer, poet, teacher, later a linguist and reader of the classics.

At the age of twenty he went to Mexico. Fearing tuberculosis, he returned to the states in 1871 and worked for John Chisum in Texas. By May 1875 he was working for Chisum in New Mexico. When his line-riding partner, Newt Higgins, was scalped by Indians “in the fall of 1875 or the spring of 1876,” Scurlock rode sixty miles to South Springs (Chisum’s headquarters on the Pecos River near present-day Roswell) and told Chisum he wanted to quit. Chisum refused to let him go or pay him off, whereupon Scurlock stole some of Chisum’s horses, two saddles, and a gun and left for Arizona. Chisum sent a couple of fighting men after him. When they caught him Scurlock told them that he’d taken the animals as Chisum hadn’t paid him, and they told him “he had done the right thing.”

He was described as being “five feet eight or ten inches tall, light hair, light complexion, front teeth out, quick spoken.” The missing teeth were the result of a shootout over a card game: the bullet took out Doc’s teeth and came out the back of his neck without serious damage. The man who fired the shot was not so lucky.

Scurlock family tradition has it that he and Charles Bowdre operated a cheese factory on the Gila River (in New Mexico) and that one of their employees was Henry “Kid” Andtim. With financial assistance from L.G. Murphy & Co., Bowdre and Scurlock went into partnership on a Ruidoso ranch. On October 19, 1876, just a few weeks after accidentally killing his good friend Mike Harkins, Scurlock was married to sixteen-year-old Antonia Miguela Herrera. Altogether they had ten children. Scurlock was active in posses pursuing, – and in some cases lynching – the horse thieves infesting the Lincoln area in 1875-76. (Yes, Scurlock was a member of the Regulators!)

After the Lincoln troubles he left New Mexico for Texas, lived awhile in the LX ranch headquarters in Potter County, Texas (near Amarillo), drifted on to teach school in Vernon, Texas, moved on again to Cleburne, near Fort Worth, then to Granbury, then Mabank, near Dallas. Throughout the rest of his life Scurlock adamantly disassociated himself from his past; his reluctance to discuss his early life suggests he might have had something to hide. In 1919 the Scurlocks moved to Eastland, Texas (a few miles east of Abilene). There he died July 25, 1929.

Photo courtesy of Mike and Harold Stewart, grandsons of Doc Scurlock.

From Lincoln County War – A Documentary History, by Frederick Nolan, p. 484-5. Nolan’s sources were: Haley, “Interview with Frank Coe,” March 20, 1927; Santa Fe New Mexican, May 15, 1875; Haley, “Horse Thieves”; Rasch, Buckbee, and Klein, “Many Parts.”