From Wikipedia:John Wesley Hardin (May 26, 1853 – August 19, 1895) was an American outlaw, gunfighter, and controversial folk icon of the Old West. Hardin found himself in trouble with the law at an early age, and spent the majority of his life being pursued by both local lawmen and federal troops during theReconstruction Era. He often used the residences of family and friends to hide out from the law. Hardin is known to have had at least one encounter with the famous lawman "Wild Bill" Hickok.
When he was finally captured and sent to prison in 1878, Hardin claimed to have already killed 42 men, but newspapers of the day had attributed only 27 killings to him up to that point. While in prison, Hardin wrote a factually slanted autobiography, and studied law. He was released in 1894. In August 1895, Hardin was shot to death by John Selman, Sr. in an El Paso saloon.
When Bret Jr. rode his ass into that newly formed excuse for a town still clinging to the 19th Century, he soon found himself in a poker game with a young man who claimed to be Johnny Hardin. At first Bret Jr. (and probably everybody else in the room) were cowed by the reputation this young man supposedly had with a gun. But then Bret Jr. easily diffused the situation by showing that he was even faster with his own gun.
Bret Jr. might never have heard the story about how his father and his Uncle Bart performed a little stunt in the town of Sundown in order to prove the town bully, Red Hartigan, was actually a coward. Bret Sr. was supposed to have a duel with Hartigan but ended up gunning down the legendary gunfighter John Wesley Hardin instead. Once Red saw that, he slinked (slunked?) out of town, nevermore to be making advances on the daughter of Bret's friend.
As it turned out, Hardin was no more than Bret's brother Bart in disguise.
On the way out of Sundown, Bret and Bart met a man who claimed to be the real John Wesley Hardin. And he was planning to hunt down the man who claimed to have killed him.
The Mavericks did the neighborly thing by pointing the way to Sundown, and then once Hardin was out of sight they bolted in the opposite direction.
That man was not John Wesley Hardin. But then neither was the "Johnny Hardin" who accused Bret Jr. of cheating.
This is the real John Wesley Hardin:
And while Johnny Hardin may have had a passing resemblance to the gunfighter of the Trueniverse, there was a good reason why he couldn't be the same guy - the real John Wesley Hardin had been dead for at least ten to fifteen years.
As I stated in an earlier post, the movie "Maverick" should be taking place in a year that is roughly equivalent to the age of actor James Garner as Bret Maverick. The movie was released in 1994, when Garner was 66 years old. Bret Maverick was born in 1847, so he was 66 years old in 1913.
Like I said, I'd be happy to shave off a few years from Maverick's age and the timeline. This would mean that "Maverick" had to be taking place at some point between 1905 and 1910.
And Hardin was dead by 1895.
The man who claimed to be Hardin outside Sundown had to be an imposter, a dangerous profession in those days but quite likely to be lucrative: claim to be a famous gunfighter and rake in what money that you could by carrying out the ruse. (This would sometimes require an actual gunfight so the impersonator had better be skilled enough to back up his claim.)
That "Duel At Sundown" had to have taken place sometime after 1878 - most of the stories can be accepted as being from 1874 to 1881. So this gunfighter probably knew that John Wesley Hardin would be no threat to him while he was incarcerated.
Apparently he took the role too seriously and wanted to protect his claim to being the Number One John Wesley Hardin Impersonator in the Old West. And so every other wannabe was in danger of being gunned down.
And there were quite a few of them as we'll see in another post about this outlaw. But we'll save that for next year!
As for Johnny Hardin? I believe he was actually the son of John Wesley Hardin. A theory of relateeveety that probably existed only in Toobworld......
Happy trails to you!