History Features

The Real Rooster Cogburn

Remembering my great-grandfather’s role in the creation of a classic Westerns character.


Click image above for larger view

John Franklin Cogburn, nicknamed “Rooster” by his Uncle Page, was my great-grandfather.

While he never packed a badge, Franklin was quite familiar with the operations of the deputy U.S. marshals riding out from Fort Smith, Arkansas. On June 21, 1888, Franklin, with the aid of his cousin Fayette, attacked a posse of those stalwart lawmen during a raid on moonshiners near Black Springs. Deputy Marshal J.D. Trammel was killed in the gunfight that followed.

Six foot three, dark eyed and a dead shot with a rifle, Franklin was as hard as the rocky mountain ground which reared him. The only authority the Cogburn clan recognized was God and a gun. Governments didn’t build your home, make your clothes, hunt your meat or defend your life. When it came to the Law, a man rolled his own from the makings of his individual ideas of right and wrong.

Franklin had lost his father from a disease incurred in a Confederate prison camp. As a teenager he fell under the influence of his Jayhawkeruncle, Henry Page Cogburn, the man who ran Gen. Albert Pike out of Arkansas in an attempt to steal the gold the general was said to have embezzled from the Confederacy.

Bad blood already existed between the Cogburns and Deputy Trammel long before that fatal morning in 1888. Trammel had been working undercover to identify moonshiners and...

The full text of this article is available to True West Magazine subscribers only.

Get instant access to subscriber content on TrueWestMagazine.com!

When it comes to keeping the lore of the West alive, nobody does it better. True West readers get the no-holds-barred, straight shootin' facts about the West from our staff of experts and historians.

Save up to 67% off the newsstand cover price!

1 year (12 issues) - only $29.95
(Newsstand cover price--$71.88)

For even greater savings:

2 years (24 issues) - only $49.95
(Newsstand cover price--$143.76)

3 years (36 issues) - only $69.95
(Newsstand cover price--$215.64) BEST OFFER!

After subscribing, just come back here and register with us by clicking on the register link below.

True West Site Guide


True West captures the spirit of the American West with authenticity, personality and humor by linking our history to our present. Whether you call it the Wild West, the Old West or the Far West, America's frontier history comes to life in True West, the world's oldest, continuously published Western Americana magazine.

Western movie fans, re-enactors, history buffs and road warriors, we got your history covered: outlaw, cowboy, Indian, lawman, gunfighter, fur trapper, miner, prospector, gambler, soldier, entertainer and pioneer. Check out these True Westerners now!

Product of the Month

The Illustrated Life and Times of Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp

"Your book is fascinating, coupling your powerful illustrations [and] tracking...from birth to Tombstone to the legend [Wyatt] had become;...even Wyatt would approve." --By Hugh O'Brian, of the TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp

"Hands down the definitive books on Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday." --By Allen Barra, New York Newsday