American Western Frontier Outlaw. He was an undistinguished western outlaw until writers and Hollywood motion pictures created a character that was at best a facsimile that barely resembled the actual frontier lawbreaker who operated the southwest. Born John Peters Ringo (sometimes mistakenly given as Ringgold) in Greens Fork, Wayne County, Indiana the eldest of a family consisting of two boys and three girls, his family moved to Gallatin, Missouri when he was six where he received his meager schooling which amounted to an elementary school education. His father was fighting tuberculous and decided to move his family to San Jose, California in his desire for a dryer climate. A perilous five-month trip that had devastating effects on young John Ringgold, as he sustained a serious foot injury, the family wagon was attacked by Indians and then he witnessed the murder of a man, a member of the wagon train. An accidental shotgun misfiring took the life of his father forcing the family to bury him by the side of the trail. Upon arrival in San Jose, the family stayed at the ranch of an aunt for a time before moving into the village. At nineteen, John Ringgold left home, turning up in Mason County, Texas and promptly becomes a member of the Scott Cooley gang involved in the Mason County or Hoodoo War, a conflict over cattle ownership between German settlers and American born men. From his activities during the Range War came many charges and he was arrested and lodged in jail, only to be set free by area ranchers. He was caught again and re-arrested by Texas Rangers and local lawmen, and incarcerated in the state prison at Austin. Two years later with all charges dismissed, he was elected Constable of Llano County. After only a year, he pulled left and moved to the Arizona Territory, where for the rest of his life, rustled cattle, committed robbery, participated in murders and attempted murders of Morgan, Virgil and other Earp sympathizers. When Wyatt Earp and John "Doc" Holliday of Tombstone fame began their odyssey of vengeance with him number one on the list, Johnny Ringo fled to Mexico. After weeks of heavy drinking upon his return to Arizona, his body was found a few days after his death in West Turkey Creek Canyon located near Tombstone. He was sitting at the base of a tree at age 32 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the side of his head. The coroner declared the act a suicide and ordered him quickly buried a few feet from the spot of the deed. He became the subject of many books, some even considered non-fiction, and his actual exploits were greatly fictionalized and exaggerated into a legendary cowboy whom writers romanticized to the point that he was considered one of the deadliest and fastest guns of the old west. His actual renown resulted mainly from his confrontations with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. He was their chief antagonist accusing them of killing his friends then seeking revenge. A television show "Johnny Ringo" based on Ringo's life aired in 1959 featuring Don Durant where he portrayed Ringo as an ex-gunfighter now the sheriff of a small western town and his attempts to keep the peace dubbing him the "Fastest gun that ever lived." Today the actual tree where he is buried is still in existence, only much larger and the grave is graced by a nearby Arizona Historic Marker. After his death, his family would disown him and never acknowledge nor dispute the stories which grew up around his name.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield