Lumberjack, buffalo hunter, freighter, Indian fighter, cavalry scout for General Custer; Henry Borne (or Bourne) finally found his true calling by becoming the greatest horse, mule and cattle thief in the wild west.
German immigrant parents gave birth to Henry in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on July 2, 1849. He joined the Seventh Cavalry at an early age but quit late in the 1860s. Apparently, he developed a liking for Army mules during his time in the cavalry. Shortly after quitting, Dutch Henry “persuaded” 20 army mules to quit with him. He was caught with the purloined government property and sentenced to jail. He escaped 3 months into his sentence and managed to stay out of the hands of the law for the next several years.
By 1875, Dutch Henry was the leader of an estimated 300 rustlers operating throughout a huge area encompassing eastern Colorado, Kansas, the Texas panhandle and New Mexico. He retained his liking for government mules and those, along with Indian ponies, made up the majority of his thefts.
Dutch Henry was so influential in his field of operations that he even brokered a deal with the famous Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight. Dutch Henry agreed not to raid Goodnight’s ranch and, in exchange, Goodnight and his cowhands wouldn’t come after the gang.
After years of evading one posse after another and several jailbreaks, Dutch Henry was arrested for the final time in Trinidad, Colorado in December, 1878. He apparently served only a relatively short term in prison because he was operating a successful mine in Creede, Colorado by the late 1880s.
In the 1890s he was homesteading 160 acres near Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where he married in 1900 and had four children. The greatest horse thief of the wild west died peacefully of pneumonia in 1921 and was buried in Pagosa Springs. It’s unclear whether he retained his passion for mules to the end.
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