Judge Roy Bean's saloon and "courthouse"
If Roy Bean were a judge today, he’d probably be kicked off the bench faster than you could say “the law west of the Pecos.”
He held court in his saloon, the Jersey Lilly, or outside the porch. He would interrupt court sessions to serve customers drinks. His decisions were often quirky, such as fining an offender $30 and a round of drinks for the house, with the admonition to pay for the drinks first.
Judge Roy Bean
After his death, he was nicknamed “the hanging judge,” though he only sentenced two men to hang. Perhaps the moniker is due more to his almost having been hanged
But Roy Bean also had a softer side. For years he corresponded with the British actress and femme fatale, Lilly Langtry. He named his saloon, Jersey Lilly, after her, He also claimed to have named the town where he lived, Langtry, after her, though other accounts suggest it was named for a railroad employee with the same last name. He was always inviting her to visit “her” town, but she never made it until a few months after he died.
Bean was born in 1826 in Kentucky and died in 1903 in Texas.
The saloon where he held court can be visited in Langtry. It’s located behind a Texas tourism office and shares space with a garden devoted to Southwest desert plants. A small museum about Bean shares space with tourism information. The site is open daily; from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
The bar where Roy Bean dispensed booze and justice
Photos by Cheryl Probst and Jon Teal