"No law west of..."
SClements at NEO.RR.COM
Sat Jan 10 23:46:34 UTC 2009
I suggest reading Barry Popik's blog,
where there is a Washington Post 1892 cite which says "The bonanza days of
‘49 developed some very queer characters in the West and Texas comes in for
her share of them. Most of these old-timers are under the sod long ago, but
there are a few of them left, and about the most original is old Ray Bean,
“Law West of the Pecos,” as he called himself"
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jonathan Lighter" <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
To: <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2009 15:32
Subject: "No law west of..."
Have read or heard this formula more than once, but how "common" any version
of it was in the Wild West is anybody's guess.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the exx. are related to Kansas or Texas.
The 1902 ex. seems to be the first appearance in print of Judge Roy Bean's
famous motto, "Law West of the Pecos," as well as the seemingly older
negative version. Bean (1825-1903) was appointed Justice of the Peace for
Precinct 6, Pecos County, Tex., in 1882.
1874 _Wichita Weekly Beacon_ (Oct. 28), cited in Joseph G. Rosa _They
Called Him Wild Bill_ (Norman: U. of Okla. Press, 1964) 135: [I]t was Wild
Bill who said there was "no Sunday west of Junction City, no law west of
Hays City, and no God west of Carson City."
1874 _Scribner's Monthly_ VIII (July) 280: Kansas City...was graceless
enough to be thus touchingly characterized by one of the rude men of the
frontier: "There's no railroad west of Junction City, no law west of Kansas
City, and no God west of Hays' City."
1893 _Idaho Daily Statesman_ (Boise, Ida.) (Aug. 30) 6: The fugitives used
to say there was no Sunday west of the Sabine, no law west of Trinity [sic],
and no God west of the Brazos.
1898 _Evening News_ (San Jose, Calif.) (Aug. 27) 7: This...reminded me of
the formula in use in Texas when I was there in 1867: "There is no Sunday
west of the Trinity, no law west of the Brazos and no God west of the
1902 _Fort Worth Telegram_ (Nov. 23) 17: So long have conditions of outlawry
existed in certain parts of the west, that it has passed into a proverb that
"there is no law west of the Pecos" - a river in Texas that marks the
boundary line between "God's country" and that of the "Greasers." But...now
there is a law west of the Pecos, and Justice Roy Bean is that law.
ca1902 in James D. Horan & Paul Sann _Pictorial History of the Wild West_
(N.Y.: Crown, 1954) 139 [clearly legible signs in photo of Roy Bean's saloon
in Langtry, Tex.] : JUDGE ROY BEAN Notary Public LAW WEST OF THE PECOS.
1907 _ N.Y. Times_ (Oct. 26) BR684: [W]hen there was no law west of
Independence and no God west of Dodge City.
1929 W.J. Ghent _The Road to Oregon_ (London: Longmans Green) 109: The old
saying of trapper days that there was "no law west of Leavenworth" had no
application to these moving communities.
1931 Stuart M. Lake _Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal_ (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin) 3: Wyatt Earp, of the sixth American-born generation of his family,
was destined to a time and territory of which it was written that there was
no law west of Kansas City and, west of Fort Scott, no God.
1936 Lorrin A. Thurston _Writings_ (Honolulu: Advertiser Pub. Co.) 7:
There was "no God and no law west of Cape Horn."
1936 Waldemar Young, Harold Lamb, & Lynn Riggs _The Plainsman_ (film):
[Wild Bill Hickock *loq*.:] Well, there's no Sunday west of Junction City,
no law west of Hays City and no God west of Carson City.
1939 Robert Buckner _Dodge City_ (film): They say there's no law west of
Chicago. And west of Dodge City, no God!
1955 _Kansas Historical Qly._ XXI 588: [T]here was no law west of Dodge
City and no God west of Fort Worth.
1959 Richard O'Connor _Wild Bill Hickock_ (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday)
145: Highhanded, yes, but there was "no law west of Abilene and no God west
1964 Irvin M. Peithmann _Broken Peace Pipes_ (Springfield, Ill.: Charles
C. Thomas) 139: And so did the reminders of the days epitomized by the
slogan, "West of Dodge City, no law— west of Virginia City, no God."
1966 Clark C. Spence _The American West_ (N.Y.: Thomas Y. Crowell) 404: The
old adage "no law west of Abilene; no God west of Dodge City" is hardly an
accurate description of conditions in the West.
1966 _Florence (S.C.) Morning News_ (June 3) 2-A: West of St. Louis Was No
Law - West of Dodge Was No God.
1969 Marshall Fishwick _The Hero American Style_ (N.Y.: David McKay) 147:
Everyone knew there was no law west of the Mississippi and no God west of
1970 Andrew J. Fenady _Chisum_ (film): You know, there's an old saying, Miss
Sally: "There's no law west of Dodge and no God west of the Pecos."
1970 _ Time_ (Aug. 3)
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,876710,00.html : "Well,"
says one character, "everybody knows there's no law west of the Pecos and no
God west of Dodge."
1970 LeRoy R. Hafen, W. Eugene Hollon, & Carl Coke Rister _Western America_
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall) 370: Then the mines were reopened
and the settlers who returned helped Arizona to establish its reputation as
the toughest territory in the West. There was "no law west of the Pecos and
no God west of Tucson."
1976 _Centralia (Wash.) Daily Chronicle_ (Apr. 24) W-7: And it was agreed
that "There's no law west of Ellsworth - and no God west of Hays."
1983 Michael T. Kingston, Ruth Harris, & Erma Bailey _The Texas Almanac
and State Industrial Guide 1984-1985_ (Dallas: A.H. Belo) 42: Legend held
that there was no law west of the Pecos, and there was no God west of El
1985 Rodney Stark & William Sims Bainbridge _The Future of Religion_
(Berkeley: U. of Calif. Press) 73: There is a saying from frontier times
that "There's no law west of Dodge City, and no God west of Laramie.
Frisco's west of both of them."
1986 Archie P. McDonald_The Texas Experience_ (Texas A&M Press) 72:"West
of Kansas City there is no law; west of Dodge City there is no God" is a
saying from the era of the Texas cattle drives.
1988 Michael Wallis _Oil Man_ (Rpt. N.Y.: Macmillan, 1995) 56: The common
saying of those turbulent years in the territory was: "There's no God west
of St. Louis and no law west of Fort Smith."
1992 in Annie Dillard _The Annie Dillard Reader_ (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 1994)
94: He knew that forty years ago in the west they used to say, "Ain't no
law west of Saint Louis, and no God west of Fort Smith."
2000 Sara R. Massey _Black Cowboys of Texas_ (Texas A& M Press) 149: As one
writer noted, there was "no law west of Kansas City [and] no God west of
1997 Matt Braun _Doc Holliday: The Gunfighter_ (N.Y.: St. Martin's) 55: No
law west of Fort Worth, and no God in west Texas.
2003 Warren Getler & Bob Brewer _Shadow of the Sentinel_ (N.Y.: Simon &
Schuster) 4: The ill-defined border between frontier Arkansas and the Indian
Nations territory to the west was a haven for every fugitive from justice,
giving rise to the maxim, "There is no law west of Little Rock, and no God
west of Fort Smith."
2003 Cecil L. Milliner _Ports of Call_ (Lincoln, Neb.: iUniverse) 132: It
was said there was "No law west of Abilene and no god west of the Pecos."
2003 Bill Harvey _Texas Cemeteries_ (Austin: U. of Texas Press) 112:
Rangers were summoned to provide law enforcement in an area of which it was
said, "West of the Pecos there is no law; west of El Paso, there is no God."
2006 Chris Enss _How the West Was Worn: Bustles and Buckskins on the Wild
Frontier_ (Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press) 64: I heard someone say
that there was no Sunday west of Independence, no law west of Dodge City,
and no God west of Fort Bridger.
2008 _Real Estate Blog_ [
am reminded of an old wild west philosophy: there's no law west of the
Missouri and no God west of Texas.
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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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