Showdown. Shootout. Shoot ’em up cowboy.
The picturesque wild west, was well – wild.
An ideal “wild west” scenario probably wouldn’t be complete without a duel. Dueling, imported to America from Ireland and England, was a common way to handle many situations including neighbor quarrels, gambling disputes, or libel.
It seems barbaric in our day. However a lot of people viewed it as honorable. Contrary to popular belief, the point of a duel was not “shoot to the death,” although that was frequently the outcome.
For example, in the code of dueling or the “Code Duello” “Any wound sufficient to agitate the nerves and necessarily make the hand shake, must end the business for that day.”
Benjamin Franklin Morris was born deep in the heart of Texas.
Later, in 1851-1852 his family settled in the Bakersfield area. They came to San Luis Obispo, California around 1854 and went into cattle ranching. The Morris’s had their own stables and were breeders of fine horses. He was also listed as being a “Justice of the Peace” in the Coulterville Mariposa Newspaper.
When Benjamin was 26 he married Emmaline “Emma” Jane Monroe in San Luis Obispo, California on March 16, 1870. They had three daughters together. Sarah Amelia, Elizabeth (Etta) and Rebecca Marion. Emma died in 1877 during childbirth when Rebecca was born. Emma who was married at 16, passed away when she was 23.
With a newborn in the house, it was only a short two months later when Benjamin married Amanda Allen Laird.
With his second wife Amanda, Benjamin has four more children. Benjamin Jr. (born 1879), Mary Jane (born 1880), Josephine Goldie (born 1882), and John A. T. (birth date unknown).
It is ironic that Benjamin Franklin Morris was named after a founding father who were among some of the most noticeable Americans to condemn dueling. Franklin called duels a “murderous practice… they decide nothing.”
Family history tells that Benjamin. F. Morris was killed by George W. Walker on Higuera Street in front of the Central Hotel in San Luis Obispo. They were friends at one time, but a dispute over a horse and then Benjamin be-friended Walker’s ex-wife after their divorce, and this led to bad feelings and consequently a confrontation ending with Benjamin getting killed. Benjamin rode into town on Higuera St., in front of the Central Hotel, dismounted and seeing Walker said “look out!”. Both drew their pistols and fired at each other. Morris shot Walker in the thigh Walker shot once and Benjamin shot 2-3 times, one being a shot near the heart. “San Luis Tribune, 02-1884
“My grandfather [Benjamin Sr.] was shot and killed on the street, Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo. My grandfather had a contest with another man whose name was Mr. Walker. This Mr. Walker stepped out of a building and as my grandfather dismounted to tie his horse to the hitching rack, he shot him from under the horse’s neck twice. Hitting him near the heart once and a little higher on the shoulder the second time. My grandfather was not aware that this man was anywhere near, of that he was in this temperament. My grandfather, as he fell, drew his gun and shot Mr. Walker, but hit him too low, near the groin. They rushed Mr. Walker to the hospital, but he was crippled to the extent that he limped after that but he didn’t harm him in any other way. After this happened to my grandfather and his burial in the old Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Luis Obispo, Amanda (Ben’s wife) bought a stone for his grave [a huge stone as I have seen] paid $1,500 for it which was a lot of money in that day and age, and then the family broke up and . . . . “[the story she tells was that Mr. Walker and Benjamin had a horse race and Mr. Walker lost. “Grandfather had his own stables, raised his own horses and had some that was pretty good. This Mr. Walker came after my grandfather to race him. Race on of the horses he felt he could be at. I don’t know what the wager was or whether there was a wager. I don’t know but anyway my grandfather beat him in this horse race. And so my mom tells me that that’s what it was all about”] Source of the following information: Memories of the Benjamin F. Morris Family, as told by Hazel M. Finley Guy (his granddaughter), recorded by Terry Guy (Hazel’s grandson) in 1981 and text edited by Wayne T. Scott, my brother:
When he died his three daughters Sarah, Elizabeth and Rebecca were made wards of the court and put in a San Luis Obispo convent for 3 years. (They were taken care of by nuns at the girls school).
Philip Kaetzel was appointed administrator of the estate. When Ben died two brothers [Joseph Morris Jr. & Elijah Morris] living in Wyoming came down. One (Uncle Joe) was a foreman for Kern County Land and Catte Company (several years before and after 1900) . He bought a cattle ranch consisting of 999 thousand acres. Lester Guy (my dad) wondered why he didn’t buy one more acre.” – http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=tcbjammon&id=P136
Benjamin Franklin Morris died on March 2nd 1884. He is buried in the San Luis Obispo Cemetery (Lady Sutcliff, section 5, lot 5, plot 3).