Langtry, Texas is a tiny settlement of around 30 people next to the Rio Grande. There is a small RV site and some photogenic old ruined buildings. The chief point of interest, and probably the only reason for the town to stay in business is the Judge Roy Bean Visitor's Center which preserves a saloon and other relics associated with the judge,
"Tens Things You Should Knw About Judge Roy Bean
-Roy Bean married 15 year-old Virginia Chavez in San Antonio on 10-28-1866. Their union brought forth four Beanitos: Roy Jr., Sam, Laura and Zulema. They also adopted a son named John. It was Roy's first and last marriage. They divorced around 1880 and Roy left her in San Antonio while he went South.
-In the pre-Langtry days in San Antonio, Roy Bean used to haul and sell milk. In order to increase profits, he added creek water to the milk. When the buyers started noticing minnows in the milk, Roy seemed as surprised as the buyers. "By Gobs," he said, "I'll have to stop them cows from drinking out of the creek."
-In 1882 Roy Bean was appointed Justice of the Peace for Precinct 6, (then Pecos - now Val Verde County). Roy Bean may have been a heavy drinker and a shady character, but he came highly recommended by Texas Rangers, who felt he "had what it would take" to bring the law "West of the Pecos."
-Bean enjoyed his tough reputation and he kept his kindness hidden. Throughout the years, he took some of the fines and much of the collected goods and gave them to the poor and destitute of the area, doing so without it being known. He even took monies collected in the Jersey Lilly, - his own trackside saloon and used them to buy medicine for the sick and poor in and around Langtry.
-Explaining why he had helped so many people, Roy Bean explained it this way to his friend: "Well Dodd, I haven't been any gol-dang angel myself and there might be a lot charged up to me on Judgment Day; and I figure what good I can do-the Lord will give me credit when the time comes." He was very sincere in this belief and it was the sum and total of any religious statement from Roy Bean.
-An owner of a Langtry restaurant owed Bean money and when he didn't pay, Bean waited until the restaurant was full, then he then took his place by the door and had each customer pay him for their meal. The last few customers paid the interest.
-Bean has often been confused with "hanging judge" Parker of Ft. Smith - (perhaps because their slightly unorthodox or creative sentencing). Bean never actually hanged anyone, although he occasionally "staged" hangings to scare criminals. Bean would prepare a script with his "staff" - if they were sober enough - which allowed for the prisoner to escape. Given this "second-chance" - the culprits never appeared before the court again.
-Bean never sentenced anyone to the penitentiary. If ANYTHING needing doing in Langtry - the prisoner would do it. If there was nothing to be done, the prisoner could take it easy by simply being staked out in the sun.
-Nearly everyone has heard the story of Bean fining a dead man $40 - the exact amount that in the corpse's pocket. Less known is the fact that the $40 bought a casket, headstone and paid the gravedigger's labor. He did, however, keep the man's gun for use as a gavel.
-Roy Bean died at 10:03pm March 19, 1903 after a heavy drinking spree in Del Rio. He returned home at 10 a.m. and died that night at 10 p.m. The real reason he died, was he simply lost the will to live. Bean could not adjust to modern times. The thing that sent him on his binge was the start of construction on a power plant on the Pecos River. He used to say that times were changing and he was being left behind."
Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center
Langtry is located in southwest Texas on U.S. 90 West, 60 miles west of Del Rio,. The visitor center features rustic saloon, courtroom, billiard hall and the opera house of Judge Roy Bean, the colorful and controversial “Law West of the Pecos” in 1880s. The center preserves historic site where Judge Bean ruled with high-handed brand of homespun law, outrageous humor and six-shooter justice.
"BEAN, ROY (ca. 1825–1903). Roy Bean, a frontier justice of the peace known as the "Law West of the Pecos," was born in Mason County, Kentucky, the son of Francis and Anna Bean. The only sources of information about his boyhood and youth are stories told by friends in whom he confided and the reminiscences of his older brother Samuel, published in the Las Cruces, New Mexico, Rio Grande Republican in 1903. Sam came home after serving in the Mexican War and took Roy with him down the Santa Fe Trail to Chihuahua, Mexico, where the brothers set up shop as traders. Roy got into trouble, however, and had to make a quick exit; he turned up a short time later in San Diego at the home of his oldest brother, Joshua, who was mayor of the town and a major general of the state militia. Roy was jailed for dueling in February 1852 but broke out and moved on to San Gabriel, where Joshua by this time had established himself as owner of the Headquarters Saloon. Roy inherited the property when Joshua was murdered in November 1852, but made another hasty departure after a narrow escape from hanging in 1857 or 1858.
His next stop was Mesilla, New Mexico, where Sam was sheriff of a county that stretched at that time all the way across Arizona. Roy arrived destitute, but Sam took him in as partner in a saloon, and he prospered until the Civil War reached the Rio Grande valley. Bean may have had some unofficial military experience, but he found it prudent to leave the country and began a new life in San Antonio. In an area on South Flores Street that soon earned the name of Beanville, he became locally famous for circumventing creditors, business rivals, and the law.
On October 28, 1866, he married eighteen-year-old Virginia Chávez, who bore him four children. The couple were not happy together, however. Early in 1882 Roy left home, probably at the suggestion of his friend W. N. Monroe, who was building the "Sunset" railroad toward El Paso and had almost reached the Pecos. Moving with the grading camps, Bean arrived at the site of Vinegarroon, just west of the Pecos, in July. Crime was rife at the end of the track; it was often said, "West of the Pecos there is no law; west of El Paso, there is no God." To cope with the lawless element the Texas Rangersqv were called in, and they needed a resident justice of the peace in order to eliminate the 400-mile round trip to deliver prisoners to the county seat at Fort Stockton. The commissioners of Pecos County officially appointed Roy Bean justice on August 2, 1882. He retained the post, with interruptions in 1886 and 1896, when he was voted out, until he retired voluntarily in 1902.
By 1884 Bean was settled at Eagle's Nest Springs, some miles west of Vinegarroon, which acquired a post office and a new name, Langtry. Bean claimed credit for naming the town after English actress Emilie Charlotte (Lillie) Langtryqv, whom he greatly admired. Actually, railroad records indicate that the town was named for George Langtry, a railroad construction foreman. Bean's fame as an eccentric and original interpreter of the law began in the 1880s. There was, however, a sort of common sense behind his unorthodox rulings. When a track worker killed a Chinese laborer, for example, Bean ruled that his law book did not make it illegal to kill a Chinese. Since the killer's friends were present and ready to riot, he had little choice. And when a man carrying forty dollars and a pistol fell off a bridge, Bean fined the corpse forty dollars for carrying a concealed weapon, thereby providing funeral expenses. He intimidated and cheated people, but he never hanged anybody. He reached the peak of notoriety on February 21, 1896, when he staged the Fitzsimmons-Maher heavyweight championship fight on a sandbar just below Langtry on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, where Woodford H. Mabry's rangers, sent to stop it, had no jurisdiction. Fitzsimmons won in less than two minutes.
Bean died in his saloon on March 16, 1903, of lung and heart ailments and was buried in the Del Rio cemetery. His shrewdness, audacity, unscrupulousness, and humor, aided by his knack for self-dramatization, made him an enduring part of American folklore.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Everett Lloyd, Law West of the Pecos (San Antonio: University Press, 1931; rev. ed., San Antonio: Naylor, 1967). C. L. Sonnichsen, Roy Bean, Law West of the Pecos (New York: Macmillan, 1943; rpt., Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986).