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Jack Helm

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Subject: John Helm, Texas Special Police, Sutton–Taylor feud, Texas State Police, Albuquerque, Texas
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Jack Helm

Jack Helm
Born John Jackson Helm
Died May 17, 1873(1873-05-17) (aged 33–34)
Albuquerque, Texas
Cause of death killed by Jim Taylor and John Wesley Hardin
Occupation Lawman

John Jackson "Jack" Helm (sometimes Helms) (c.1839–05/17/1873), was a lawman, cowboy, gunfighter, and inventor in the American Old West. He fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, but worked as a lawmen for the Union during Reconstruction. He was an active participant in the Sutton–Taylor feud in and about Dewitt County, Texas, and eventually lost his life to it when ambushed by Jim Taylor and John Wesley Hardin.


  • Early life and family 1
  • War years 2
  • Post-war and Reconstruction Era 3
  • Ambushed in town 4
  • Burial 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life and family

John Jackson Helm was born in 1837, the son of George Helm and Ruth Mayo [nee Burnett] Helm.

War years

Helm fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, enlisting as a private with Company G, Texas Calvary, CSA. It is reported that during the war he killed a black man just for whistling a Yankee song.[1]

Post-war and Reconstruction Era

Immediately after the war, Helm worked for rancher "Shanghai" Pierce rousting cattle.[1] During this time, he functioned as the leader of the Goliad County Regulators, a group of vigilantes, who cruelly but successfully restored order to the area.[2]

In June, 1869, Helm was appointed a 'special officer' by Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds to assist Capt. C. S. Bell in subduing the outlaw "Taylor Party"[3] in neighboring DeWitt County, drawing him into the Sutton–Taylor feud. Helm now found himself aligned with the Sutton faction.[4] Helm was also sworn as a Goliad County deputy sheriff, based out of Middletown (now Weesatche) at this time.[2] On August 23, 1869, Bell and Helm led an attack on the Taylor brother's ranch. In the ensuing gun battle, Hays Taylor was killed, and Doby Taylor was wounded.[3]

Helm and Goliad County Sheriff Andrew J. Jacobs, were successful in the capture of a Creed Taylor ally, Jim Bell, wanted on warrants. Jacobs, however, was shortly thereafter killed by the Peaces brothers, also Taylor family allies.[5] Afterward, Helm became relentless in hunting down members of the Taylor faction. Helm had by now developed a reputation for bringing in wanted men more often dead than alive.[1] At this time, the Galveston Daily News reported that Helm and his men had killed more than 20 men in two months, while his force had handed over just ten men to civil authorities.[5]

On July 1, 1870, Helm joined the Texas State Police. With Governor Edmund J. Davis's approval, Helm held the rank of captain, and was tasked with patrolling the Texas counties of Wilson, Nueces, DeWitt, Bee, and Goliad during the Reconstruction.[1] On August 26, 1870, Captain Helm and his men attempted to arrest brothers Henry and William Kelly (relatives by marriage of Creed Taylor's brother, Pitkin), on a trivial charge. During the attempted arrests, the Kellys were killed (although Kelly family witnesses claimed they were outright murdered).[6][3] Mainly due to his decidedly heavy-handed methods, and the public outrage following the deaths of the Kelly brothers, Helm was suspended the following October.[3] Governor Davis dismissed him from the State Police Force in December 1870. He was, however, legally cleared of any wrongdoing.[1]

After his dismissal from the Texas State Police Force, Helm continued to serve the area, as sheriff of DeWitt County.

Ambushed in town

On May 17, 1873, the outlaw, John Wesley Hardin, an ally of the Taylor family, played a part in the death of Helm in Albuquerque, Texas.[5][7] Reportedly, Hardin, Helm and Sam McCracken, an acquaintance of Helm and Albuquerque's first settler, were talking in front of a blacksmith shop. Helm had recently moved to area in order to perfect a cotton-worm destroyer which he had invented. He was living at a boarding house, and found himself unarmed when confronted by Hardin, having left his guns in his room while working on his invention at the blacksmith shop.[3]

While being distracted by Hardin, Jim Taylor crept up on Helm from behind and attempted to shoot him, but his revolver misfired. As the startled Helm turned, Taylor managed to get off a shot, striking Helm in the chest. Helm rushed Taylor, but Hardin shattered Helm's arm with a shotgun blast.[8] Helm then attempted to flee into the blacksmith shop. While Hardin held the townspeople at gunpoint, Taylor chased down Helm and unloaded the remaining five bullets into his head.[9] As Hardin and Taylor mounted their horses and prepared to ride away, they boasted that they had accomplished what they had set out to do.[5]


Helm was buried in a shallow grave[10] in the McCracken Family Cemetery, in rural Gonzales County.


  1. ^ a b c d e Old West Lawmen - H-I; Legends of America online; "The Complete List of Old West Lawmen;" accessed September 2015
  2. ^ a b Weesatche, TX; "Handbook of Texas" online; Texas State Historical Association; accessed September 2015
  3. ^ a b c d e Helm, Jack; article; Handbook of Texas online; accessed September 2015.
  4. ^ Parsons, Chuck (2009). The Sutton-Taylor Feud: The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas. University of North Texas Press.  
  5. ^ a b c d Rose, Victor (1880). The Texas Vendetta, or, the Sutton-Taylor Feud. J.J. Little & Co. Retrieved September 2015. 
  6. ^ The Sutton-Taylor Feud of DeWitt County;; accessed September 2015
  7. ^ Deputy Helm; article; Handbook of Texas online; accessed September 2015.
  8. ^ Hardin's Deadly Tools; March 12, 2012; article; by Spangenberger Phil; "True West Magazine" (online); accessed September 2015
  9. ^ Wise, Ken (September 2015). Hunter, Michelle, ed. "The Trial of John Wesley Hardin". Texas Bar Journal (Austin, TX: State Bar of Texas) 75 (9): 202. Retrieved September 2015. 
  10. ^ Note: The grave was intentionally shallow in case his wife wished to have Helm interred elsewhere.

External links

  • Jack Helms at Find a;
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