Joel Fowler was born in Maryland, and he later migrated down to Texas. He spent some time on the stage as an actor and entertainer. Not able to earn much of a living at this profession, he tried his hand as a law attorney. Running abreast of the law, in 1879 Joel headed up to New Mexico. But this was still not someone who one would think would end up on the wrong end of a vigilante hanging.
In Santa Fe Joel Fowler spent some time on both sides of a bar, as well as on stage. One time while wildly drunk he shot up the town. Luckily, no one was hurt. Over the next couple of years Joel gave up the thespian life in favor of taking lives. While on a posse he killed a man. Later in a shootout with supposed rustlers, he killed two more men. In September of 1883 he shot a man, and caused another to commit suicide.
In November of the same year he sold a ranch he had owned for a considerable amount of money. Following the sale he went on a drunk in Socorro, and ended up knifing a man. For the citizenry this was just too much. So Joel was arrested and within a month tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. Joel was able to use his training as a lawyer, and got a stay of execution from the New Mexico Supreme Court. But the locals weren’t happy about this. And on January 22, 1884 they broke into the jail and took him out for a old-fashioned vigilante hanging.
Although Joel Fowler wasn’t a religious man, with the noose around his neck, Joel started calling on heavenly angels. This prompted one of the vigilantes to say, “It’s a cold night for angels, Joel. Better call on someone nearer town.”