John Slaughter was an Arizona lawman, rancher, cowboy, and a hard-to-beat poker player. Born in 1841 on a Southern plantation in western Louisiana, he went to Texas where he learned how to herd cattle and speak Spanish as he worked with the Mexican vaqueros (cowboys). In the early 1860s Slaughter protected European settlers against hostile Comanche native Americans as a Texas Ranger. He fought on the Confederacy side during the Civil War. At the age of 41, he decided to start ranching in Arizona purchasing the San Bernardino Rnach on the U.S.-Mexico boarder near Douglas, Arizona.
It was here where he became legendary as a lawman and a prominent poker player.
In 1886, Slaughter was elected sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, five years after the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He was later re-elected to a second term. As sheriff, he helped track Geronimo, the Apache chief who was caught on the San Bernardino Ranch. Slaughter fought for law and order with his six-shooter, a repeating shotgun, and a Henry rifle. He arrested desperados like the Jack Taylor Gang and brought them to justice.
He also became a prominent poker player, often playing all night long. He was reportedly good at bluffing. He often played with the cattle baron John Chisum. Once, in San Antonio, Texas, he was cheated out of his win by cattle rustler Bryan Gallagher. To retrieve his money, Slaughter went all the way to New Mexico, where he found Gallagher on Chisum's ranch and shot him down.
Slaughter married Eliza Adeline Harris on August 4, 1871. Of their four children, only two, Addie and Willie, survived until adulthood. Eliza died in 1877 of smallpox in Tucson.
On April 16, 1879, Slaughter, at the age of thirty-seven, married eighteen-year-old Cora Viola Howell at Tularosa, New Mexico Territory. The Slaughters had no children of their own, but they adopted several children, including Apache May, whom Slaughter encountered in 1896 while chasing the Apache Kid in Mexico.
Years later, when he became ill, the Slaughters moved to an apartment on Twelfth Street in Douglas, Arizona. Slaughter was found on the morning of February 16, 1922, in his Douglas apartment, having died sometime during the previous night.