A STRONG MAN & HORSE

Horse Ride

In the Old West men and horses were called upon to perform great feats.  But no man and horse did more in a short period of time than John Phillips and a big gray thoroughbred.

It was a cold December in 1866. Fort Phil Kearny was being harassed by Red Cloud and his band of Sioux.  On the 21st of December Captain John Fetterman and 80 men left the fort to chase after a small group of Indians.  The Indians were decoys, and Fetterman’s command was ambushed.  Within minutes everyone was killed.

It was necessary for someone to travel to Horseshoe Station, 190 miles away, and telegraph Fort Laramie for reinforcements.  That responsibility fell on John Phillips.  He wasn’t a member of the military, but a local prospector who had brought his family to the fort for protection.

Riding a big gray thoroughbred, given to him by the fort commander, John started on the trip wearing a buffalo coat to protect him from the severe cold spell they were having.

Hiding during the daylight hours, John still ran into war parties, but the long legged thoroughbred was able to outrun the smaller Indian ponies.  On December 24th John arrived at Horseshoe Station, but they were unable to send a telegraph to Laramie, because the line was down…either the result of Indian activity or the weather.  Jumping back on his horse, he rode the remaining forty miles to Fort Laramie.  A Christmas party was in progress when John arrived.  A half frozen John Phillips entered the hall, told his story, and collapsed on the floor.  Early Christmas day a column headed for Fort Kearny.

Although, at the time no one thought the 230-mile ride from Fort Kearny to Fort Laramie was anything more than a long cold ride, but shortly afterward it reached the level of myth…a man and horse enduring devastating weather and wild Sioux to save a beleaguered garrison.

SLOW

Sitting Bull copyAs a young boy his father gave him the name “Slow”.  But during a raid against the Crow, at the age of 14, Slow raced ahead of his fellow warriors, and made the first kill.  His father immediately changed his name.  You may be surprised when you learn his new name.

His father gave him the name of “Slow”…not because he wasn’t bright…but because he was deliberate.  But his “deliberateness” never stood in the way of him taking action.  At the age of 14 he made his first kill, and his father changed his name to…Sitting Bull.

 Sitting Bull is best known for his victory at Little Big Horn against George Armstrong Custer.  As strange as it may seem, his victory directly resulted in his defeat.  But I get ahead of myself.

 Because of his braveness in battle Sitting Bull was soon made the leader of the Strong Hearts, a special society of warriors…and later he became the chief of his Hunkpapa division of the Sioux.

Sitting Bull had special abilities as a leader and organizer.  Even though the Federal Government had ordered the Indians to relocate to a reservation, Sitting Bull was able to convince more than 10,000 Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne to leave the reservation, and band together…and it was a part of this group that defeated General Custer.

Because of Little Big Horn, the government made an all out effort to defeat the Plains Indians.  Finally, with less than 200 followers Sitting Bull and his ragged band surrendered.

On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull was living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  Because of fears of an Indian insurrection, about 40 Indian policemen rushed Sitting Bull’s home to arrest him while he was asleep.  In the confusion a fight broke out and the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was shot twice…by a Sioux Indian policeman.  Incidentally, the 59-year-old Sitting Bull had previously indicated he had no interest in the insurrection.

ELFEGO BACA

BacaThe subject of this story had more grit that the most famous heroes of the Old West.  But chances are you’ve never heard of him.

Although the Mexican people had traditionally occupied the southwest, by the 1880’s it comprised primarily of Angelo cattle ranches and towns…some, of whom, considered the Mexicans second-class citizens.  A ranch owned by John B. Slaughter occupied the area around what is now Reserve, New Mexico.  Now, John B. Slaughter isn’t to be confused with the famous rancher and lawman John Horton Slaughter.

The Slaughter cowboys were known to use the Hispanics in the area for target practice.

A young 19-year-old Mexican by the name of Elfego Baca got tired of this harassment, and got commissioned as a deputy sheriff to do something about it.  One of the Slaughter cowboys, Charles McCarthy, shot at Baca.  So, Baca arrested him.  That evening some of the Slaughter cowboys tried to spring McCarthy loose.  During the gunfight a falling horse killed one of the cowboys.  The cowboys now felt justified in killing him.

On December 1, 1884 about 80 cowboys came after Baca.  By now Baca had taken refuge in a tiny shack.  For 36 hours the cowboys, surrounding the shack, filling it with bullet holes.  They literally fired thousands of rounds at the shack.  Supposedly, many as 400 bullets struck the door alone.

By nightfall Baca had killed a cowboy and wounded several others.  By now the cowboys were sure Baca was dead.  But they decided to wait until morning to go in after him.  In the morning, the cowboys caught the smell of food cooking.  It was Baca, cooking breakfast in what was left of the cabin.

Fortunately, for the cowboys, two deputies and several of Baca’s friends showed up, and they retreated.  Elfego Baca was tried for killing one of the cowboys, and found innocent.  He returned home, an obvious hero to the Hispanics of the area.

GOLD MINE SCAM

GoldOne of the keys to a great scam is for the scam artist not to appear to be as smart as the victim.  This week’s story is about a couple of con men who were dumb like foxes.

With the discovery of gold in California fake gold and silver mines became common.  Swindlers and con men fooled many a greenhorn with “salted” mines.  But there were few con men who did as great a job as two cousins from Kentucky named Philip Arnold and John Slack.

In early 1872 Arnold and Slack showed up in a San Francisco bank attempting to deposit a bag of uncut diamonds.  When questioned about the diamonds, the two men immediately left with the diamonds.  Curious, the bank’s director, William Ralston later found Arnold and Slack, and discovered that the diamonds came from a mine the men had found.  The banker, assuming he was dealing with a couple of country bumpkins, schemed to take control of the mine.

A mining expert looked at the mine, and he reported back that it was rich with diamonds and rubies.  The banker, Ralston, formed a mining company and capitalized it to the tune of $10 million.  He was able to buy the country cousins off with a meager $600,000.

A young geographical surveyor by the name of Clarence King was suspicious of the stories he heard about the mine.  It took him one visit to the mine to realize it had been salted…Some of the gems he found had already been cut by a jeweler.

On November 26, 1872 the whole scheme collapsed.  Banker Ralston had to refund the investors, with much of the money coming from his own pocket.  The two country bumpkins?  They disappeared back in Kentucky, along with the meager $600,000 they had been given.

Incidentally, the young man who exposed the fraud, Clarence King, ended up becoming the first director of the United States Geological Survey.

CARRY MOORE VS JOHN L. SULLIVAN

Carry Moore, the subject of today’s story was the only woman to be challenged by famous boxer John L. Sullivan, and accept that challenge.  The outcome of that confrontation is interesting.

 John L. SullivanOn November 21, 1867 Carry Amelia Moore married Dr. Charlie Gloyd.  The marriage didn’t start out well, because the groom arrived drunk.  And it seems he stayed drunk most of their marriage, which, incidentally, only lasted a year and a half.  However this failed marriage ended up affecting a large portion of the population of this country.

After the death of Dr. Gloyd, Carry Gloyd married a David Nation.  Although David neither drank nor smoked, Carry found he had his share of problems, and he and Carry had a rocky marriage, with a number of separations.

By now Carrie Nation decided that a number of activities that men participated in were not good, including membership in the Masonic Order, sex, and especially strong drink.  Even though Kansas was a dry state, there were a number of bootleg outlets.  And Carrie took it on herself to “harass these dive-keepers.”  The first place she attacked was actually a drug store, where she destroyed a barrel of “medicinal” whiskey.

Getting rid of her second husband, Carry was now free to spread her word beyond Kansas.  She traveled the nation lecturing and destroying.  When Carry was lecturing in New York, boxing champion John L. Sullivan, the owner of a beer joint said that if she ever entered his place he would “push her down the sewer.”  Taking up the challenge Carry went to his place, and chased Sullivan into hiding in the men’s room where Carry refused to follow.  A sign in another New York bar read, “All Nations Welcome Except Carry!”

Although Carry Nation was not able to see the ultimate fruit of her work, in 1919, just 8 years after her death, Prohibition became the law across the nation.

OLD WEST NEWSPAPER

PrinterWith frontier towns springing up over night, and disappearing as fast, an Old West newspaper had to be on the move to keep customers. This week’s story is about one such newspaper.

Following the Civil War two brothers, Legh and Fred Freeman, were hired to publish a newspaper out of Fort Kearney, Nebraska.  During this time the railroad passed through the area.  While the railroad was being built in the area things boomed.  As the railroad moved on, taking the workers with it, there was a bust.

 The Freeman brothers hit on the idea to create a newspaper that would move along with the railroad.  So, they bought a hand press, type, ink and paper, named their newspaper the Frontier Index, and hired wagons to take them to the next town where the railroad was to arrive.  As the crews arrived with men anxious to read the latest news, they did a booming business.  Merchants were willing to pay outrageous prices for advertising, and marked their goods up accordingly.

The masthead of the Index changed each time they moved to a new town.  During its existence the Index was published in 25 different cities.  Sometimes the Freeman brothers moved so fast that they outran their supplies.  One time they had to print the newspaper on wrapping paper.

 The Index came to an end in Bear River City.  As the population of the city grew, the lawless element started arriving along with the railroad workers.  The Index wrote an editorial stating, “Bear River City has stood enough of the rowdy criminal element.”  The next day, November 15, 1868, some of “the rowdy criminal element” grabbed a rope, and headed to the tent that headquartered the Index newspaper.  The Freeman brothers were able to escape, but when they returned nothing remained of the Index but ashes.  The lifespan of the Frontier Index was but two years.  Which, incidentally, was a long time for a frontier newspaper.

Death of Ned Christie

Ned ChristieMore firepower was used to kill the subject of today’s story that any other single man in the Old West. When you’re finished I think you’ll agree.

            Ned Christie was a well-respected member of the Cherokee National Council. But he enjoyed his drink. And in May of 1887, after one such drinking spree, he was accused of killing Marshal Dan Maples. Ned protested his innocence. But, realizing he was getting nowhere, lit out on the run.

For about 6 years Christie was on the lamb. With the exception of one close call, the law just couldn’t catch him.

During this time virtually every crime that took place in the Indian Territory was blamed on him. Dime novels built his reputation to that of the most vicious man to ever raise a gun in the Indian Territory. He was reputed to have engaged in everything from peddling whiskey, to horse thievery and banditry. In the process, he was reputed to have killed as many as 11 people.

With a reward of $1,000 on his head, it was only a matter of time until someone collected it. And it happened on November 3, 1892. Marshal Heck Thomas trailed Christie to a log fort that he had built. Realizing the place was almost impregnable, Thomas sent for reinforcements. As well as plenty of ammunition, the reinforcements also brought along a three-pound field cannon.

During the assault more than 2,000 small-arm rounds were fired. They also shot 38 cannon balls. But they just bounced off. A heaver charge was used. It only succeeded in blowing up the cannon. Finally a dozen sticks of dynamite were placed next to the house. This did the trick.

With black smoke enveloping the area, Ned Christie came out of the house firing his rifle. The deputies returned fire, riddling Christie’s body. It may have taken as much armament as used in a major battle, but the law got their man.

DON’T KILL A MINISTER

ATobinAs we all know, if someone kills a lawman, he’ll draw the attention of lawmen everywhere until he’s caught.  In the Old West the same was true of ministers.  And, that ain’t good.

 Reverend F. J. Tolby was a Methodist circuit minister, who, in September of 1875, was traveling between Elizabeth and Cimarron in the New MexicoTerritory when he was waylaid and killed.  Suspicion fell upon a mail carrier by the name of Cruz Vega.  Cruz was arrested, and later, because of the lack of evidence, released

Friend and fellow minister, O. P. Mains was sure Cruz was the villain.  So, he persuaded Clay Allison to talk to Cruz about the murder.  You may remember Clay Allison being the subject of a couple of earlier stories.  If not, just let me say that Allison was a maniacal killer.  Using his own special method of persuasion, Allison was able to get Cruz to spill his guts.  In the spilling, Cruz indicated that a Manuel Cardenas actually did the killing.

But, Allison and friends wanted someone to pay for the killing of Reverend Tolby, and unfortunately, Cardenas wasn’t around.  So, on October 30, they decided to hang Cruz Vega.  But, Clay Allison was a companionate person.  So, while Cruz was choking to death, Allison shot him in the back, according to Allison “to put the poor Mexican out of his misery.”  And even though Allison wasn’t a religious man, he evidently felt it was important to show people that no one should mess with a man of the cloth, so Allison cut Cruz down from the tree and drug him through town.

Manuel Cardenas was arrested and about ten days later vigilantes shot him to death.

I wonder if the following Sunday’s sermon of Reverend O. P. Mains, the man who started the killing spree, was on the sixth commandment.

A TOWN TREED

JuanHunters are known to tree a mountain lion or a bear now and then, but in 1859, a gang of thugs treed a whole town. That’s right, a whole town.

It was the mid 1800’s. Anglos from other parts of the United States were coming to Texas in groves, and taking over land previously owned by Mexicans.

Juan Cortina, saw his family’s land holdings shrink. When he became a man, Juan put together a gang of disgruntled Mexicans and started taking back some of the land. In mid September of 1859 one of Juan’s men was arrested in Brownsville, Texas. Juan and his men shot the Marshal and freed the gang member. This, of course, infuriated the citizens of Brownsville. For days they talked about putting together a posse and getting revenge. But it seems that talk was all they were want to do.

Juan Cortina, on the other hand, wanted action, and getting tired of waiting for the posse to come after him, on September 27 he led a thousand cutthroats into Brownsville, captured Fort Brown, and took over the town. After killing anyone who had previously caused him grief, Juan demanded one hundred thousand dollars in gold or he would burn down the town.
News of the Brownsville situation got out and a contingency of men came to the rescue. Unfortunately, for them, news of what Cortina was doing also reached his friends and his gang had grown to a much larger size. After defeating the relief column, Cortina went after Edinburg, Texas and then took on Rio Grande.

Cortina then wisely retreated back to Mexico where for 15 years he made raids across the border. Finally in 1875, the Texas Rangers decided to put an end to Juan Cortina’s shenanigans, and went down to Mexico and kicked his butt. From then on Juan stayed south of the border and played politics there.

BATTLE OF BEECHER’S ISLAND

Beecher's IslandThe summer of 1868, Indians were conducting major raids on railroad work camps and homesteads. Major George Forsyth was ordered to put together a detachment of 50 volunteer frontiersmen to teach the Indians a lesson.

The first part of September they arrived at Kansas’ Fort Wallace, and immediately took after a group of Indians who had stolen some stock. On September 16, Forsyth and his men, low on rations, camped on the banks of the Arikaree River.

Unknown to Forsyth 4,000, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux had been following him for three days. The morning of September 17 Major Forsyth and his men were awaken by the sounds of war cries. The 50 volunteers, with their animals, retreated and dug into a 40-yard by 150-yard sandbar.

By 9 A.M. the Indians had killed all of the volunteers’ horses and mules. Now there was no way of escape. A half hour later 300-mounted warriors, headed directly for the 50 volunteers. But, what the Indians didn’t realize was that all of Forsyth’s men were equipped with Spencer seven-shot repeating rifles and Colt pistols. Waiting until the last second to start firing, the charge was broken.

For eight days the Indian attacks continued, and the Spencer rifles kept them away from the volunteers. Two of the volunteers were able to get away and make it to Fort Wallace for help. By the time reinforcements arrived, the bulk of the Indians had left, with only a small contingency staying to starve out the volunteers.

Technology had made it possible for 50 men to face and essentially defeat a force of 1,500 warriors. During the battle, 10 of the volunteers were killed, and 20 wounded. But Indian causalities were estimated to be around 50 killed and as many as 200 wounded.

 Page 1 of 21  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last » 

Bad Behavior has blocked 1835 access attempts in the last 7 days.