John Slaughter was born in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, on October 2, 1841. His parents were Benjamin and Minerva (Mabry) Slaughter. In later years, he was described as follows; “Slaughter, with penetrating black eyes, was only 5 feet 6 and often stuttered. But he wore a pearl-handled .44 and carried a 10-gauge, double-barreled, sawed-off shotgun, ‘which was an equalizer.’”
After serving during the Civil War, in the army of the Confederacy, Slaughter was a member of the famed Texas Rangers, before becoming a cattle business man around 1874. He and his brother formed a cattle-transporting company that took cattle to Mexico, California, Kansas and New Mexico. It was in California that Slaughter became an avid poker player. He began to gamble in a compulsive way while in California.
Slaughter married Eliza Adeline Harris on August 4, 1871. Of their four children, only two, a son and daughter, survived until adulthood. In 1876, Slaughter caught a poker rival, Barney Gallagher, cheating on the poker table. Gallagher won the game, held in San Antonio, Texas, but Slaughter pointed his gun at him as he collected his earnings. Gallagher became enraged and followed Slaughter's trail to Slaughter's South Springs, Texas home, where he told a foreman to call Slaughter out, intending to kill Slaughter. The foreman gave Slaughter the message and Gallagher fired a shot as soon as Slaughter walked up to the door, but he missed. Slaughter, on the other hand, killed Gallagher with a shot to the heart.
His wife died of smallpox in Tucson, Arizona, in 1877. On April 16, 1878, Slaughter married sixteen-year-old Viola Howell at Tularosa, New Mexico. As Viola was very young, her mother disapproved of their relationship, but her father was more consenting. Although the Slaughters did not have any children of their own, they adopted several children, one of them being Apache May, whom Slaughter had run into while running after Apaches in Mexico in 1896. On the other hand, his gambling habit became such an addiction that Ms. Viola threatened to leave him.
- John Horton Slaughter from the Handbook of Texas Online.
- John Horton Slaughter by Bill Kelly at DesertUSA.