From 'History of Montana', published 1894, Joaquin Miller
James B. Hawkins, the present Sheriff of Custer County and residing at Miles City was elected on the ticket of the People's party in 1892 and is a model Sheriff. He neither drinks intoxicants nor uses tobacco in any form; nor did he use a dollar in his campaign for office, while his opponents both Democratic and Republican, spent money liberally and called our subject the "ghost dance" candidate. Yet he was elected and his fidelity to his official duties proves the wisdom of the majority of voters in the county as all now agree that he is the right man in the right place. He is both vigilant and wisely courageous and withal a genial gentleman.
He had served as Deputy Sheriff under J.W. Johnson for two years in 1882 and 1883 and Deputy Sheriff and Jailer under Sheriff Irvine for three years, from December 1886 to November 1889. In the fall of 1892 he was elected by a majority of the fifty-eight over the Republican candidate and 113 over the Democratic.
Mr. Hawkins was born in Utica, New York, July 10, 1849, a son of Martin and Harriet (Ballou) Hawkins. His mother was a relative of President Garfield's mother and her ancestry were early settlers in Connecticut, her remoter ancestry being French Huguenots. Mr. Hawkins paternal ancestry was Irish. His father as for several years engaged in the livery business in Utica, and died when the son was seven years of age. After that event the mother moved with her children to McHenry County, Illinois where they resided two years and then moved to DeKalb County, where James grew up on a farm receiving a common school education. There were four children in the family. Thomas B, the eldest enlisted before he was sixteen in the fifty-second Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in Company G, and served under General Sherman until June 1865. He was in the famous battle of Alatoona, Georgia and in all the battles from Chattanooga to the surrender of Johnston and was in the grand review at Washington, D.C. and now resides in Texas. James B., our subject is the next in the order to birth. Sarah Ellen, the next died in 1885 and William is the present jailer under the authority of his brother.
In 1869 Mr. Hawkins started to explore the great west intending first to join a friend, James Ashbaugh, then in the live stock business near Bannack, Montana; but on reaching Omaha he turned to Achison Kansas where he remained until the Spring of 1870 when he went to Abilene and engaged with a cattle outfit which was his beginning as a cowboy.
That summer he spent in herding cattle, taking one herd to the Platte River. For two years he was engaged in driving cattle from Texas to Kansas and one season he followed farming in Blanco County Texas.
At Blanco City, May 25, 1874 he enlisted in Company D of the frontier forces known as the Texas Rangers under Captain Rufus Perry. It was a state military organization formed for the purpose of suppressing the outlaws who were so numerous and active at that time, and also for the purpose of guarding against the hostile invasion of Indians, who sometimes made raids into the state stealing horses. The company was mounted on their own horses, which were paid for by the state if lost in service. The company went out with seventy-five men with Mr. Hawkins as Sergeant,which position he filled during his term of service. He was in the saddle about half the time - 2-1/2 years -- scouting and sometimes skirmishing with the Indians. On one of these expeditions they encountered Indians, and in exchanging shots Mr. Hawkins was wounded in the knee by a shot from an Indian. While engaged as scout for the U.S. Government the two Cheyenne Indian scouts with Mr. Hawkins were killed. This was in 1880 on the Rosebud in Custer County Montana. Many thrilling adventures he experienced which gave lessons of value to him in his responsibilities as Sheriff. He was discharged from his duties in Texas November 6, 1876.
During the following winter he spent most of the time traveling in New Mexico. He reached Custer City, South Dakota, March 11, 1877 in company with Doc Long and Andrew Wilson, comrades from Texas. In May of that year they went to the BigHorn River where there was a mining excitement. Not finding the field very promising and meeting twoold Montana prospectors near Deadwood, they were induced to come to Bozeman in the Gallatin valley, but at the Little Horn River on the way they met a company of soldiers, the caption of which advised them to halt at the present site of Miles City where he was confident that they could procure employment in the construction of Fort Keogh.
They accordingly stopped there, but instead of engaging in fort-building they cut grass, which was then abundant in the valley and made hay which they sold to the Government at $25/ton for use at the fort and they cleared $1,200 thus netting $400 to each of the party in one month.
Soon thereafter Mr. Hawkins located a ranch on Graveyard Bottom twenty miles above Miles City on the south side ofthe Yellowstone River. The name of this place is derived from an Indian graveyard in the vicinity and is now owned by W.S. Snell. On this ranch Mr. Hawkins began raising livestock at the same time working for wages and hunting buffalo, then numerous; he turned every possible honest way to earn something. In the winter of 1880 he and a brother killed 1,146 buffalo and while on the ranch about 3,500; also many deer and antelope. Much of the time he was also engaged in herding cattle, while acting as Deputy Sheriff and up to the time he was elected Sheriff in 1892. He has traversed Montana from the Wyoming line on the south to Milk Riveron the north and from the eastern border of the state to Yellowstone County both in wagon and on horseback.
He is a member of Custer Lodge, No. 13, I.O.O.F., Miles City and has filled the chair of Vice Grande three terms. Politically he has always acted with the Democratic Party until 1892; he is now for the "entire populace" without respect to party affiliations. Mrs. Hawkins is a member of the Presbyterian Church.
In 1888 Mr. Hawkins married Nannie Watson, a daughter of William M. Watson, who was a machinist and served in the late war in a Connecticut battery. Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins have two children -- Maisie and William W.