Society

Lawman turned outlaw profiled in new biography

Wheeler (Robinson) Wheeler (Robinson) Milano native James Williams is one of three authors who have written a biography of old west outlaw “Ben Wheeler.”

Ja me s Wi lliams of Milano, Len Gratteri of Sisters, Oregon, and Rod Cook of Caldwell, Kansas, have teamed to write William Sherod Robinson, Alias Ben Wheeler.

“Ben Wheeler” was an alias used by Robinson, a former Milam County deputy sheriff who turned to a life of crime.

Robinson, a native of Mississippi, spent most of his life in the area around Rockdale. Unlike most old west outlaws, he was born into a wealthy family.

His father, Lafayette Robinson, was a member of the Texas legislature and also held elected offices in Milam County including county judge.

He also had a brother who was chief clerk in the Texas General Land Office in Austin.

During the 1870s, was a deputy sheriff in Milam County and was also reported to have been a deputy marshal in Rockdale.

Robinson tried farming for a year or two but gave it up.

In 1879, Robinson organized a small gang of outlaws with himself as leader. He and his men started out rustling horses in the area northwest of Rockdale. Then they turned to robbing stores in other counties.

The gang was soon captured and Robinson was faced with a long term in prison. After managing to get out of jail on bond, Robinson left Milam County for good, deserting his wife and four young children

As a fugitive from justice, he spent some time in Wyoming and Nebraska. In the latter place, he married again, neglecting to tell his bride that he had a wife in Texas.

After a few months, Robinson abandoned his new wife, too, and took up residence in Caldwell, Kansas, considered to be the rowdiest cattle town on the Chisholm Trail.

It was in Kansas that Robinson used the alias, “Ben Wheeler.” There he got a new start and was soon appointed deputy city marshal.

The marshal was another reformed outlaw, Henry Newton Brown, who had been an associate of Billy the Kid. Together, Brown and Wheeler cleaned up the town and won the admiration and respect of its citizens.

After a year and half of exemplary service, Brown and Wheeler reverted to their criminal ways.

Joined by two cowboys, they attempted to rob the bank in Medicine Lodge, Kansas on April 30, 1884. During the botched holdup, the cashier was killed and the bank president was mortally wounded.

The robbers fled without getting a cent. After being captured in a box canyon the same day, they were brought back to Medicine Lodge and killed by a lynch mob that night.

William Sherod Robinson, Alias Ben Wheeler, is available from Nortex Press of Waco.


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2010-08-12 digital edition



The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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