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Judge hears dispute over Hardin's grave

EL PASO, Texas, Jan. 30 -- A state judge in El Paso heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could land the late outlaw John Wesley Hardin in a new resting place. Several of Hardin's descendents want his remains moved from El Paso, where he was gunned down in 1895, to a cemetery in Nixon, Texas, which was Hardin's home for most of his life. State District Judge Kathleen Olivares will likely take several weeks to decide the case. The dispute arose when a historial association, the Concordia Heritage Association, tried to block Hardin's descendants from exhuming his remains and moving them to Nixon, in central Texas about 45 miles east of San Antonio. Fred Billings of Houston represented the family at Tuesday's court hearing. Billings said the association has no legal right to block the family's efforts. 'The group from Nixon did everything legal,' said Billings. 'They had a valid state permit when they came to El Paso. A majority of the descendants had agreed that Hardin's remains should be taken home to Gonzales County.' Chris Johnston, an attorney for the association, countered that Hardin's own children made no attempts to move the body during their own lifetimes. Johnston also told the judge that all of Hardin's heirs, not just a majority, must agree to moving the body. Hardin was shot in the Acme Saloon on Aug. 19, 1895, and while the motive for the shooting remains a mystery, many Old West historians believe he was killed in an argument over his mistress, Beulah M'Rose.

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M'Rose paid to have Hardin buried at the Concordia Cemetery in El Paso. Hardin, a notorious gunslinger, was separated from his wife and children in Gonzales County for many years due to a lengthy prison term. He reformed in prison and became a lawyer, but returned to a life of drinking and gambling and was killed within a few years of his release from prison. Both sides argued that the other was primarily interested in using Hardin's grave as a tourist attraction.

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