(Rare photo of Tom Horn from the Wyoming State Museum)
Tom Horn is buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery which is part of the Columbia Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado
Tom Horn was born November 21, 1860 in Memphis, Scotland County, Missouri where he learned to hunt and use his rifle. Very little is known of his early days (Civil War era) but by piecing together his ancestry, it is believed that his father, Thomas Horn was the brother of Margaret Horn (1837-1863) who married Cornelius James Van Patten (1828-1901). The parents of Thomas Horn and Margaret (Horn) Van Patten were Martin (1772-1856) and Drucillia (Melick) Horn of Knox County, Ohio.
Martin Horn, father of Thomas and Margaret, migrated from Washington County, Pennsylvania to Knox County, Ohio. Thomas Horn, Tom's father, migrated from Knox County, Ohio to Scotland County, Missouri during the early 1850's.
Tom ran away from home at the age of 16 (some say 14), traveling to the southwest where he became an indian scout and interpreter during the Apache Indian Wars. Tom was called "the talking boy" by the great Apache chief, Geronimo, who would allow no others to interpret. Tom was involved in the surrender of Geronimo, as well. He was also a Pinkerton Railroad Detective, a prospector, and even joined Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders in Tampa, Florida, serving as a packmaster during the Spanish-American War.
In his thirst for excitement, he was led to Wyoming during the cattle wars of the 1890's and served as Stock Detective for the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association. It was here that he became infamous as a 'hired gun'. He was hired by the wealthy ranchers to "persuade" rival ranchers, rustlers, squatters and the like to leave the area - perminetly. He was not a gunslinger but more of a bushwacker, lying in wait behind a boulder or tree and shooting his victims unaware. In order to be paid for his work, he came up with a trademark so his employers knew it was Tom Horn who did the deed - Tom put a stone beneath the head of all his victims.
It was during this time that he shot and killed 14 year old, Willie Nickell, mistaking Willie for his father (Tom's intended victim). Willie was wearing his father's coat and hat and was riding his father's horse.
Mistaken identity is not a just defense and many historians doubt that he was ever guilty of the crime. In 1901, Tom was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Tom was hung in Cheyenne, Wyoming - November 20, 1903. His body was taken to Boulder, Colorado for burial by his brother Charles. It has been reported that an entourage of 2,500 people made the journey to Boulder, led by his brothers Charles and Martin. Tom was well liked and considered a friend by many who knew him.