Hell's All Over

The term "Hell's Half Acre" is of uncertain origin but best sources indicate it began in south Texas before the Civil War, was used in that conflict to describe hellish situations and then reapplied to wild and lawless areas afterwards by cowboys and others. The term could be used to describe harsh environments such as in Arkansas, Alabama and Wyoming.  

It could be termed to describe places that sprang up and functioned outside of the normal range of civilization with free for all gun fights, knife fights, brawling, bagnios, drunkenness, gaming and other horseplay. These area often had little or no law.   The longer an area remained outside of the control of lawmaking society the wilder it became.  

Thus, Fort Worth by virtue of its geographic placement, larger population and current events emerged post Civil War and peaked, like many of them, by the 1890's.  Oklahoma City exploded in the 1889 Land Run but came at a time when the forces of civilization and the old order of the west were beginning to play a balancing game on the teeter-totter of social  change.  As a place it was done by 1900 but it spread out.to pop-up in mini-hell's across the city.  Perry was whipped into shape soon because it was near the center of jurisdiction of the United States Marshal's and, at that time, had some of the legends all working in the same area: Heck Thomas, Charles Colcord, Frank Canton, and many others.

Identified areas earning the label include:

Ft. Worth (ca 1870's)
Oklahoma City (1889)
Perry, Oklahoma (1893)

Really, the earmarks of a "Hell" could be applied to any of the many boom mining towns of the Rockies, Wyoming, and Alaska.  They could applied to rail-head towns and fast growing urban centers where the law was always short-handed, the drinks flowing too freely and people being people...

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