The legendary ‘Dutch’ Henry Born

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Dutch Henry Born, wife and children in front of their homestead cabin at Born’s Lake around the corner from Wolf Creek Pass.

There was a time when the name “Dutch” Henry Born was known throughout the West. The facts of Dutch Henry’s life are interspersed with a considerable amount of questionable information.
It is a known fact that Dutch Henry was born at Manitawoc, Wis., on July 2, 1849, but moved with his parents at an early age to Montague, Mich.
It is a known fact that Dutch Henry died from the effects of pneumonia Jan. 10, 1921, in Pagosa Springs.
It is a known fact that between the dates already mentioned, Dutch Henry was one of the legendary figures of the Old West and was acquainted with such other legendary figures as Gen. George Custer, Bat Masterson, Arkansas’s “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker, Oklahoma lawman Bill Tilgham, Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight and others.
At an early age, Born left home intent on seeking his fortune in the then youthful American West. It is said he showed up in Kansas in 1869 where he served a spell as a scout for Custer.
A short time later, he was hunting buffalo in eastern Colorado when he was injured in a fight with some Indians. He dragged his bleeding body into a nearby Army fort hoping to get some medical help. The fort commander turned him away and locked the gate. The now embittered young man nursed himself back into a life in which he turned outlaw to gain revenge on his two favorite enemies, the Indians and the Army. Revenge was accomplished by stealing horses from the Indians and selling them to the Army, and then stealing horses from the Army and selling them to the Indians.
His fame soon spread across the West and he acquired the moniker “Dutch” Henry Born because of his German ancestry. Among the many stories attributed to his life was that he controlled a large gang of gun-toting outlaws who held up Army supply wagons, among other things. The threat of his outlaw presence led to a meeting with Charles Goodnight which resulted in a peace treaty: if Dutch Henry would leave Goodnight’s cattle alone, Goodnight wouldn’t round up his drovers and come after Dutch Henry. From then on, neither man trifled with the other.
Dutch Henry, Billy Dixon and several other buffalo hunters took part in the Second Battle of Adobe Walls which erupted on the Texas Panhandle in 1874. Several hundred Comanche warriors, maybe a thousand, led by the legendary Chief Quanah Parker, surrounded the buffalo hunters in the remains of the old fort and for awhile it looked as if the camp cook wasn’t going to have anybody left alive to gobble down his grub. Then, a long-distance shot, almost a mile, squeezed off from Dixon’s 50-90 buffalo rifle, killed a chief standing next to Quanah. The unbelievable shot convinced the Comanches that their medicine wasn’t that good on that particular day and they turned tail and disappeared into the sunset.
Dutch Henry spent a lot of his life in the Old West town of Dodge City, Kan., at a time when Dodge City was the hub of buffalo hunting and the destination of many a Texas trail drive. Television has painted those days with a glamorous paint brush by featuring such Dodge City sheriffs as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and others. When Dutch Henry got out of Dodge with a warrant for horse rustling inscribed with his name on it hanging from a peg in the sheriff’s office, it seemed the time had come for him to find a new place to hang his hat.
Next week, we’ll talk about how Bat Masterson got the drop on Dutch Henry in Trinidad, Colo., and later ended up in Pagosa Springs.