Hyman G. Neill, better known as Hoodoo Brown, was the leader of the Dodge City Gang in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1879 and early 1880. According to Harold Thatcher, curator of the Rough Rider Museum in Las Vegas, Hoodoo was “the baddest cowboy of them all”. He was described as tall and thin, with light hair, a rakish look, and a small moustache.
Neill hailed from a traditional Southern family from Lexington, Missouri. His father had come to Lexington from Lee County, Virginia in the 1830s. Hyman’s father, Henry Alexander Neill, practiced law and would have joined the Confederacy when the American Civil War began, however, he decided he could not disavow his oath to support the Constitution and ended up joining the Union. This choice, coupled with his wife’s death, caused him to move his family to Warrensburg, Missouri after the war. His date of birth is possibly unknown.
Hoodoo became a printer’s devil when he was a teenager, until one day he was asked to retrieve rags needed for printing. Young Neill jumped on a freight train going by the back door of the office, saying he was leaving to “get your durn rags”.
He was hunting American bison and hauling lumber in 1872. At the time, he was known to be a small-time gambler and confidence trickster. He eventually went to Colorado, working in silver mines with a friend. Hoodoo and his friend ended up in Mexico to form an opera company.
When Hoodoo arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico, he found it was developing a reputation as a lawless place, filled with outlaws, confidence tricksters, murderers and thieves. His displeasure with this led to his election as Justice of the Peace for East Las Vegas. He also served as coroner and mayor of the town, and recruited several former gunfighters from Kansas to form a police force. However, the force was as lawless as the criminals they were supposed to be policing. Called the “Dodge City Gang”, the force included J. J. Webb as the town marshal, Mysterious Dave Mather, Joe Carson, “Dutchy” Schunderberger and Dave Rudabaugh.