Book Review: Last of the Old-Time Outlaws

Last Of OutlawsLast of the Old-Time Outlaws; The George West Musgrave Story, Karen Holliday Tanner and John D. Tanner, Jr., University of Oklahoma Press, (405 325-3200),$21.95 Paper, 388 Pages, Illustrations, Maps, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

“He had a reputation as a cardsharp, cattle rustler, bandit, and killer,” and if George Musgrave had had a more romantic-sounding name, Hollywood might have cashed in on this amazing Old West character.

George West Musgrave was born May 27, 1877 in Atascosa County, Texas.  His family ran a thirty-five hundred acre cattle outfit, and baby George was surrounded by tough people earning a hard living.  The boy grew up surrounded by work, horses and guns.  The Musgrave family consisted of various characters involved in gambling, horse rustling, and cattle theft which resulted in arrests and jailhouse stints.  George even had a grandfather who had a long history of dueling, fights with Comanche, feuds with neighbors and “an inclination toward larceny.”

Excuses can be made for these influences on George, however, he began his career as a cowboy who could ride, rope, shoot and show off.  He was known for “putting on shooting displays with a number of revolvers.”  Soon he became involved in rustling with a devil-may-care attitude.  He seemed always ready with a string of wisecracks.  His popularity among his pals and cohorts became legendary.

His adventures led him back and forth from Texas into Old Mexico, then to New Mexico and sometimes Arizona.  He joined what was known as the High Five or Black Jack gang.  They spent years holding up stores, rustling cows, stealing horses, robbing banks and even trains.  Musgrave was one of the gang members who took part in the first bank robbery in Arizona Territory.  They also held up stagecoaches, and eventually pulled off the largest heist in the history of the Santa Fe railroad.

Musgrave was arrested and tried for the shooting death of a former Texas Ranger.  When he miraculously avoided conviction, he migrated to South America where he took up his same old ways, now getting involved on a large scale with some big ranchers and South American politicians.

George was tail, handsome, soft spoken and popular with the ladies, too.  During a trip back to Wyoming, Musgrave met an adventurous young woman named Jeanette “Jano” Magor.  Twelve years younger than George, Jano was known for her smarts and toughness.  Smitten with one another, the pair eloped. Jano followed Musgrave back to South America where she joined his dubious lifestyle.  One photo shows the beautiful brunette dressed like a gaucho complete with her own shootin’ iron.  She eventually grew weary of her husband’s philandering, and returned to the U.S. for a divorce.

After this, Musgrave had a succession of South American wives who produced children, all eventually either leaving him or hating him for his cavalier treatment of marriage vows.

Whether Musgrave was cheating at cards, robbing a bank, or shooting alligators, he joked about it all.  He died in South America at age 70 of natural causes.

The Tanners have written a compete and thoroughly researched book about a tough, strong-willed man who could not resist danger and deviltry.  The authors have a keen eye for unusual facts combined with a subtle and wonderful sense of humor that results in bringing the character of George Musgrave back to life.  Readers will enjoy this book.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Death For Dinner, the Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434. www.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Chuckwagon: Pickled Eggs

Because it was difficult to keep eggs fresh without refrigeration, pickled eggs were a delicacy while on the trail. Once a cowboy got into town, he was able to get pickled eggs at his favorite tavern to add a little solid food to offset the beer and whiskey.

1-cup tarragon vinegar.                        ½ tsp celery seed.
1-cup water.                                               1 clove garlic, minced.
2 Tbs sugar.                                                2 bay leaves.
½ tsp salt.                                                   12 shelled, hard-boiled eggs.

Combine all ingredients in saucepan, except eggs. Simmer 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Cool. Pour over eggs in a crock or jar. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 days before eating.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Lone Survivor Of Little Big Horn

Following George Custer’s defeat at the Little Big Horn the military was looking for a bright spot. That bright spot was the lone survivor on the battlefield, Comanche. Now, I said Comanche, not a Comanche. For Comanche was the name of Captain Myles Keogh’s horse. Let me explain.
It all started on April 3, 1868 when the army purchased a 15-hand bay gelding. The horse was taken to Fort Leavenworth and received a “US” brand. Captain Keogh, looking for a backup mount, bought the horse for $90.
In September of 1868, Captain Keogh was involved in the Sand Hills battle with Comanche Indians. Keogh rode his backup mount during the battle. The horse was shot with an arrow in the right hindquarter, but showed no signs of the injury, which wasn’t discovered until after the battle. Keogh immediately made his backup horse; his primarily mount, and named him “Comanche.”

Keogh rode Comanche until the Battle of the Little Big Horn where he was killed. Following the battle, Comanche was found casually drinking water from the Little Bighorn River. He had seven wounds.

The Indians had either killed or taken all the military horses, but not Comanche. The reason was that during the battle Keogh had dismounted, holding the reigns in one hand as he shot his pistol with the other. When Keogh was killed he maintained a hold on the reigns. And no Indian would take the horse when a dead man was holding it.

Becoming a symbol of the men who had fallen, Comanche was retired and spent time at various military posts, until his death at the age of 29. He was then stuffed and put on display at the University of Kansas.

The Death of Lawman Ed Crawford

Not much is known about Ed Crawford before he came to Ellsworth, Kansas.  In 1873, he was serving off and on as an Ellsworth policeman.  The sheriff was Chauncey Whitney.  On August 15, brothers Ben and Billy Thompson were in town.  Both were outlaws.  But Billy was a crazy outlaw.  Although Sheriff Whitney was a friend of the Thompsons, on this day Billy got mad at him and shot and killed him.  Obviously, Billy hightailed it out of town.
The incident, and Billy Thompson’s escape so infuriated the Mayor that he fired the entire police force.  Since, at that time, Ed Crawford wasn’t on the force, the mayor hired him as a replacement.  Because the Thompsons were Texans, and Texans were notorious for causing problems, there were hard feelings against any Texan in town.  There was even talk about forming a vigilante group.  One of the people supposedly on the vigilante’s list was a Cad Pierce.
On August 20, 1873 the new sheriff, Ed Crawford and some other men were lounging in front of the general store, when Cad Pierce and some other Texans came by and started badmouthing Crawford and the others.   Before long, Crawford and Pierce were facing it off.  Crawford ended up shooting and then clubbing Pierce to death.  The mayor didn’t like what happened, so he fired Crawford.
Under threats from the Texans, Crawford left town, for three months. When he returned, Crawford was a different man. Drinking heavily, one night he fired into a room that contained Cad Pierce’s brother-in-law. Wounded in the hand, the brother-in-law empted his pistol, hitting Crawford four times. But, that wasn’t enough. Other Texans joined in, and Crawford ended up with thirteen slugs in his body. Now, that’s really getting fired.

Chuckwagon: Brown Gravy

      The following is a farm recipe for gravy from the late 1880’s.

       This gravy may be made in larger quantities, then kept in a stone jar and used as wanted.
        Take two pounds of beef, and two small slices of lean bacon.  Cut the meat into small pieces.  Put into a stew-pan a piece of butter the size of an egg, and set over the fire.  Cut two large onions in thin slices.  Put them in the butter and fry a light brown, then add the meat.  Season with whole peppers.  Salt to taste.  Add three cloves, and pour over one cupful of water.  Let is boil fifteen or twenty minutes, stirring it occasionally.
         Then add two quarts of water, and simmer very gently for two hours.  Now strain, and when cold, remove the fat.  To thicken this gravy, put in a stew pan a lump of butter a little larger than an egg, add two teaspoonfuls of flour, and stir until a light brown.   When cold, add it to the strained gravy, and boil up quickly.  Serve very hot with the meats. 

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

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