Born, Henry (1849–1921)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: September 30, 2020

Henry Born (Dutch Henry), outlaw, was born to German immigrant parents on July 2, 1849, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. In the 1860s he moved with his family to Montague, Michigan, where he worked as a lumberjack. The most reliable accounts indicate that Born moved to Kansas about 1869 and for the next six years engaged in buffalo hunting and freighting in Kansas and eastern Colorado. He was one of the hide men who entered the Panhandle of Texas from Dodge City in the spring of 1874, and was among the participants in the second battle of Adobe Walls (see RED RIVER WAR) on June 27. At the time of the Indian attack, Born was in the Myers and Leonard store, along with Fred Leonard, Charley Armitage, Bartholomew (Bat) Masterson, and several others. One account of the battle credits him with killing the black bugler who was fighting with the Indians. Afterward Born served briefly as a civilian scout for the army. He was reportedly assigned to Gen. George A. Custer but soon quit, declaring that Custer was the "meanest man" he ever knew.

The story of how Born became the outlaw known as Dutch Henry is filled with legend. According to W. M. Tilghman, Born began working in the early 1870s as a cook for Mark Bedell, who bought hides and ran a warehouse at Kit Carson, near Fort Lyon, Colorado. Tilghman related how Born filed a claim in Kansas and with his savings bought a team and wagon, hired a helper, and began his own hide-hunting operation, intending to go back for his sweetheart in Michigan after the season was over. However, a party of Cheyennes raided his camp and stole the horses, leaving Born and his helper wounded and on foot. After taking his companion to town, Born told the commandant at Fort Lyon about his loss and asked to borrow a team to bring in his hides. The commandant refused and reportedly threatened arrest when Born persisted. Subsequently, Born helped himself to several army mules and the commandant's best horse, hauled his hides, sold the mules, and declared in a letter that he was going to "collect one hundred Indian ponies and one scalp." Although Tilghman implies that the episode took place before Adobe Walls, other sources agree that it occurred sometime after the battle.

Soon after the close of the Red River Indian War in 1875, Dutch Henry emerged as the leader of a horse-stealing ring operating in a vast area from Kansas to eastern Colorado and New Mexico and including the Texas Panhandle. Although the actual number of Born's followers is disputed, Charles A. Siringo claimed that he had as many as 300, including several who acted merely as fences. W. E. Payne, a member of a military surveying party from which Dutch Henry's gang stole horses near Fort Elliott in the fall of 1875, recalled that six men committed the theft. Bill Tilghman claimed that Born "played a lone hand" and "specialized in Indian ponies and government mules," for which he found a lucrative market. Indeed, Born once declared that he had never taken "a White man's horse." Nevertheless, newspaper reports embellished his reputation as a "road agent and murderer." In 1877, after establishing the JA Ranch, Charles Goodnight met with Dutch Henry and eighteen members of his band camped on Commission Creek near Fort Elliott. They made a pact, sealed with a drink, that bound the outlaw leader not to raid below the Salt Fork of the Red River, the northern boundary of Goodnight's range. Born remained true to his word, and Goodnight left him alone.

Demands that Dutch Henry be brought to justice increased. More than once he had managed to escape from jails and elude law officers, but in December 1878 the Las Animas county sheriff, R. W. Wootton, arrested him at Trinidad, Colorado. There Born was tried for stealing mules and ordered transferred to the Bent County Jail. Instead, Masterson took him to Dodge City under warrant as a fugitive from justice to stand trial for grand larceny. Although Born was acquitted in January 1879, he was subsequently arrested by a deputy United States marshal and taken to Arkansas to finish a prison term. Though his time behind bars apparently was brief, Born declared that he was "even with the Indians and the Government."

In the 1880s he took up prospecting and lived for a time at Summitville, Colorado. Later he opened the successful Happy Thought Mine at Creede. In the 1890s he filed on 160 acres on the West Fork of the San Juan River twenty miles from Pagosa Springs. He successfully disputed a rival claim and was issued a patent in 1903. The place subsequently became known as Born's Lake.

Born married Ida Dillabaugh in July 1900 and fathered four children. In his later years he talked little about his past and for seven years did not even keep a gun in his house, claiming that he had "had all of the killing that he wanted." Charles Siringo and Bill Tilghman were among the old friends who had a standing invitation to come and fish with Born at the lake. Born died of pneumonia on January 10, 1921, and was buried at Pagosa Springs.

T. Lindsay Baker and Billy R. Harrison, Adobe Walls: The History and Archaeology of the 1874 Trading Post (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986). Zoe A. Tilghman, Marshal of the Last Frontier: Life and Services of William Matthew Tilghman (Glendale, California: Clark, 1949).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Outlaws, Criminals, Prostitutes, Gamblers, and Rebels

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Born, Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

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November 1, 1994
September 30, 2020