Thomas Bowe's killings were both dismissed

Dakota Livesay

Joking around is part of being friends. But, mix that with alcohol, poker and a pistol, and that joking can become deadly.

Thomas Bowe was a slightly built man, who stood about 5 foot 6 inches. He had a hair trigger, both personally and gun-wise. With a mysterious background that supposedly included murder and stagecoach robbery, Tom showed up in Silver City, New Mexico, during the winter of 1874.

In Ward’s Dance Hall, Tom entered into an argument with a Jack Clark. Tom evidentially wasn’t getting the best of the situation, because he pulled his pistol and shot Jack on the spot. Although Tom escaped to the hills, he later returned. Eventually all charges were dropped.

Tom struck up a friendship with Dick Howlett, the owner of the Silver City Saloon. On the evening of Oct. 5, 1877, the two friends, Tom and Dick, decided to play some poker. They were joined by two other men, one was Sheriff Richard Hudson.

As the evening progressed, Tom’s stack of chips got smaller. And Dick’s got larger. Dick started ribbing his buddy about his card playing ability. Sheriff Hudson, sensing Tom’s building anger, cautioned Dick to lighten up.

In desperation, Tom tried a bluff for a big pot. But Dick had a good hand and he called Tom. This was just too much for Tom Bowe. He stood up, pulled his gun and killed his friend Dick Howlett.

Tom again fled to the hills. He went down to Mexico and finally to New York City. Not able to take the city life, Tom eventually went back out west to Montana, where extradition papers caught up with him and he was returned to New Mexico for trial. Seven years after the shooting, Tom faced justice and his case was dismissed. It seems that in Silver City, New Mexico, making fun of one’s poker playing ability is justification for murder.

Dakota Livesay is the editor of the Chronicle of the Old West. For more information about the Old West, visit You can hear Dakota 10 a.m. each day on KZUZ 93.5 in Show Low and KZUA 92.1 in Holbrook.

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