The Shootout

The Shootout

In 1867, several business men including Fountain, formed a company and obtained title to the remaining salt beds 100 miles east of El Paso at the base of Guadalupe Peak and would collect a fee for salt taken out. These beds had been on public lands and natives from all over the El Paso District from as far away as Chihuahua and Sonora to Guadalupe would come to gather their annual supply of salt. Fountain’s partners in this company included W. W. Mills, collector of customs, Frank Williams, former confederate lawyer and converted Republican, and Gaylord Clarke, a lawyer from New York. Strong resentment against this company and plan began to build among the Mexicans living close to the salt beds. Fountain, concerned for the local citizenry, his political future and the danger of alienating the all-important Mexican vote, proposed to his partners that they abandoned the project. Fountain was soon elected State Senator and actually introduced legislation to transfer ownership of the salt beds to the citizens of El Paso County. Frank Williams was not happy with Fountain’s position and began talking harshly of Fountain and the recently appointed Judge Clarke.

A confrontation occurred at Dowell’s Saloon between an unarmed Fountain and an armed Williams. Williams would pull his derringer on Fountain who then rushed him with a cane, delivering several blows and attempting to deflect his pistol. Williams successfully shot Fountain three times, striking Fountain in the left arm, in the scalp, and in his chest, penetrating his coat, five letters in his pocket, and striking his watch. The watch saved his life. Fountain staggered from the saloon to the street where he met Judge Clarke. With the help of a quickly formed posse, Fountain and Clarke chased down Williams who had left Dowell’s Saloon. Judge Clarke was the first to encounter Williams who shot Clarke at point blank range, mortally wounding Clarke. Fountain, seeing Clarke fall, pulled up at fifty yards, aimed and fired a shot, hitting Williams who then fell to the ground. A wounded Williams was finished off with a shot to the head by a member of the posse. Fountain would recover from his wounds. The bullet intended for his heart, glanced downward, gashing his side and breaking a rib. His scalp wound near the left temple, grazed a nerve and slight paralysis would develop in his right leg.(2)

The Shootout