Next to cowboys, the lawmen of the Old West probably have been more glamorized and romanticized more than any other public figures. Western lawmen were the “good guys” who kept the peace and administered justice. According to the standard mythology of the American West, they never faltered (or rarely faltered anyway) and they were larger than life heroes. But in real life, it was sometimes hard to tell lawmen who were “good guys” from those who were the “bad guys.” In fact, some of the most prominent and heroic legendary Old West lawmen played the role of “bad guys” at some point in their lives. Click on any of the article links below to look through our ever-growing library of tales and tall tales about the lawmen of the West.
If you’ve ever wondered why stories of the Old West speak of lawmen who are sheriffs and others speak about marshals, and in both cases the nature of the job is unclear, you’re not alone.
Although the local citizenry throughout the West understood the necessary distinctions, time has somehow blurred the lines of authority and the setup of the law in ways that might be confusing today. Modern society and modern law enforcement has its own twists and turns, yet most of us know pretty clearly who to call when we need “the police.” (You must remember, too, that there was no “9-1-1” available in the Old West; heck, even telephones were few and pretty far between.)