The Ice Mallet That Won The West

By Nolan Moore on Friday, November 22, 2013
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“If the workers took a notion / They could stop all speeding trains; / Every ship upon the ocean / They can tie with mighty chains.” —Joe Hill

In A Nutshell

Ben “The Tall Texan” Kilpatrick was an infamous outlaw who made his living robbing trains. When he held up the Southern Pacific Express, he met his match in David Trousdale, a Well Fargo manager armed with an ice mallet. Trousdale killed Kilpatrick with his hammer and was rewarded for his heroism.

The Whole Bushel

When people think of the Old West, they usually think of weapons like the Colt .45 and the Winchester ’73. But sometimes all you needed to take on a deadly outlaw was something simple like an ice mallet. Ben Kilpatrick found that out the hard way.

Nicknamed “The Tall Texan,” Kilpatrick was not a man to be trifled with. He rode with some of the most notorious gangs in the Old West including the infamous Wild Bunch. The law eventually caught up with Kilpatrick, and he spent 10 years behind bars. When he was finally released, he went back to what he knew best: robbing trains.

Kilpatrick and his new partner, Ole Hobek, planned to rob the Southern Pacific Express in grand style. After leaping from their horses onto the train, Hobek went to deal with the engineer while Kilpatrick went to the baggage and mail car to look at the safe. It was there that he ran into Wells Fargo manager David Trousdale. Trousdale was in charge of all the mail, baggage, and valuables on the train, and he was out of his league against a criminal like Kilpatrick. However, Trousdale had the element of surprise on his side. As the Tall Texan rooted through the safe, Trousdale grabbed an ice mallet and hid it in his coat. When Kilpatrick had finished collecting the goods, Trousdale pointed out he’d missed a package, and it was lying on the ground. Kilpatrick bent down to pick it up, and then Trousdale whipped out the mallet and bashed the outlaw’s head three times, breaking his neck, crushing his skull, and coating the wall of the baggage car with his brains.

But the fight wasn’t over yet. Trousdale ditched the mallet and picked up Kilpatrick’s rifle. When Hobek came back to see what was taking his partner so long, Trousdale shot him dead. Trousdale became a hero and was given a gold watch and over $2,500 in rewards. Even the ice mallet was honored for its role in Kilpatrick’s death. If you stop by the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C., you can see Trousdale’s deadly weapon on display.

Show Me The Proof

Crime Library: Ice Mallet
Baxter’s Curve: The Last Train Robbery in Terrell County