History

Man in the Long Black Coat: Jim Miller, the Old West’s Deadliest Psycho

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Deacon Jim Miller, the man in the long black coat, was the deadliest gunman of the Old West, though he never achieved the same level of fame as many of his contemporaries like John Wesley Hardin or Billy the Kid. Miller’s body count was somewhere between 20-50 men. Miller was a psychopathic hitman. His bloody deeds are said to have begun when he murdered his grandparents at the tender age of eight. He went on to leave a trail of death and grief across Texas and surrounding states.

James Miller was born on October 25, 1861, in Van Buren, Arkansas. His parents moved to Franklin, Texas, when he was just a year old. Miller’s father was a stonemason who helped construct the first capitol building in Austin. Only a few years after the move to Texas, Miller’s father died, and Cynthia Miller took the children and moved to her parents’ place in Evant, Texas. In 1869, when young Jim was eight-years-old, the bodies of his grandparents were discovered in their home. Though he was never prosecuted for the crime, locals always believed the boy had killed them.  Following the double homicide, Miller and his mother went to live with his sister Georgia and her husband John Thomas Coop on their farm at Plum Creek not far from Gatesville.

Man in the Long Black Coat: Jim Miller, the Old West's Deadliest Psycho
Photo: Wikipedia (public domain)

There was trouble between Miller and his brother-in-law from the start. Though he kept a calm exterior, inside Miller was a seething mass of rage. When he was 17 years-old, Miller decided to murder Coop. On July 30, 1884, while Coop was sleeping on his porch, Miller killed him with a shotgun blast. Though arrested and convicted for the murder, Miller ultimately went free when his conviction was overturned on a technicality.

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