Valentine T. McGillycuddyValentine T. McGillycuddy; Army Surgeon, Agent to the Sioux, Candy Moulton, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 325-3200, $26.95, Paperback.  Biography/U.S. History, 292 pages, Map, Illustrations, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

Valentine Trant McGillycuddy was born in 1849 in Racine, Wisconsin.  His parents were shopkeepers.  The boy had several siblings, and even as a child was drawn to healing the sick, practicing on the family pets.  He entered the University of Michigan at age seventeen, and became a doctor at age twenty, completing medical school at the Marine Hospital of Detroit.  The young doctor treated a variety of ailments from accidents and injuries to the hopeless mental conditions of patients at the Wayne County Insane Asylum.

Soon McGillycuddy’s own physical and mental conditions began to fail, and by 1870 he took some engineering courses and joined the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers.  He headed Out West into the great outdoors to recover his health.  Soon he became a cartographer and surveyor as well as physician.  Tall and thin, McGillycuddy had a short beard and sharp eyes.  He became a rugged outdoors man, good with fractious horses and able to withstand harsh weather conditions as he worked with various surveying crews, and to “keep warm” he became a hard drinker.

A member of the Boundary Commission in 1874, he entered the Northern Plains Indian Territory.  From here it was on to the Black Hills where he met eccentric characters such as Calamity Jane tagging along with the Black Hills Expedition.  In later years McGillycuddy wrote about Jane’s involvement with the expedition and we see how her imaginative legend was perpetrated as she told many whoppers to anyone who would listen.

McGillycuddy’s adventures led him deeper and deeper into the Territories where he would eventually meet Chief Red Cloud and many of the other important Indian leaders.  His had dealings with General George Crook, including events swirling around the days of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  In time he was federally appointed Indian Agent to the Sioux

For a while this book concentrates mostly on all the politics surrounding the Sioux wars, military people, harangues between the generals and politicians in Washington D.C., treaties made and promises broken.  All of this information is found in books written with greater detail than found here, but this one gives a quick and easy to understand evaluation of the Indian Wars problems.  We wish this were told from McGillycuddy’s point of view, since many pages sometimes go by when he is not mentioned, thus he drifts into the background.

McGillycuddy had a wife named Fanny Hoyt whom he met early in his career, and who traipsed along with him as much as possible keeping a diary about army life and loneliness for a woman in the wilderness.  She seemed to be a good sport however, learning to ride horseback and keeping the home fires burning.  Rough housing, few female companions and harsh living conditions could not have been easy.

McGillycuddy was present at Camp Robinson the day Crazy Horse was murdered at the fort, where he demanding the dying chief be put into the adjutant’s office rather than the guardhouse.

After Fanny’s death from stroke, McGillycuddy married a second time to a woman much younger than himself who had a daughter with him and wrote his biography.  McGillycuddy died in 1939.  His cremated remains are buried on Harvey Peak in the Black Hills.  He is much to be admired for his hard work, gumption, and straightforward dealings with those around him.  He was a good husband and father.

This is a good, well-written book about a fascinating character who has been mostly overlooked by historians until now.  Kudos to Candy Moulton for bringing this man to our attention. You can grab this book HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including The Apache Kid, published by Westernlore Press, P.O. Box 35305, Tucson, Arizona 85740.

Wrong Men Hanged From The Gallows

It was 1864 in Jackson County, Missouri.  Two men, Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp had murdered a horse trader by the name of John Bascum.  The two men were arrested and put on trial.  The jury found them guilty.  The judge sentenced them to be hanged from the gallows.  And, he said it must be done within twenty-four hours…There wasn’t much of an appeals process in the Old West.

So, on September 6, the townspeople frantically started building a gallows.  Just before the twenty-four hour deadline was up, the two men were grabbed, sacks were put over their heads, and they were led to the gallows.  Ropes were placed around their necks.  The trap door sprung.  Before the deadline, their lifeless bodies were hanging from the end of ropes.  The townspeople congratulated themselves on a job well done.

Sheriff Clifford Stewart went back to his office to take care of the final paperwork.  But, when he stepped inside his office, Sheriff Stewart had the surprise of his life.  There in the cell were the murders Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp.  At first, he thought it surely was a mirage.  But it wasn’t.

Within a matter of hours, the situation had been sorted out.  It seems that the night before two men had been arrested for drunkenness, and the anxious citizens had grabbed them by mistake.  The men were still to drunk to protest, and Merrick and Sharp sure weren’t going to tell anybody they had the wrong men.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Since the judge had required the sentence be carried out within twenty-four hours, and it wasn’t, the two killers were set free.

This story should persuade any person of the merits of living a temperate life.

Chuckwagon: Calf’s Head Soup

Calf’s Head Soup: From an 1879 cookbook.

Chuckwagon: Calf's Head SoupScald and clean the head, and boil in two gallons water with:

A shank of veal. A small piece of bacon.
2 carrots. A bunch of sweet herbs.
3 onions.

When boiled a half hour, cut meat off head and shank. Let the soup boil half an hour longer, and then strain it. Put meat back in the soup and season. Thicken with butter and brown flour.
Let boil an hour longer. Just before serving add tablespoon of sugar browned in frying pan and a half pint wine. Good substitute for turtle soup.

Cowboys Go On Strike

Cowboys Go On StrikeIn the late 1860’s and the 1870’s a cattle rancher’s life was simple.  He lived in a small cabin, and worked along side the cowboys on his ranch.  A cowboy respected his boss, and he would give his life for the rancher and his cattle.  As they phrased it, “They rode for the brand.” No one would have thought that cowboys go on strike.

By the 1880’s things were changing.  Ranch owners were now living in large homes or were absentee landlords…They were often Eastern, British or Scottish investors.  They had ranch foremen to work with the cowboys.  When these “foreign” owners did come out west, they brought with them customs unfamiliar to the cowboys.  The gap between the cowboy and the owner became wider and wider.

During the spring of 1883, the cowboys from three ranches in the Texas panhandle were rounding up strays together.  And, one evening while setting around a campfire, the cowboys were doing their usual griping about working conditions, when they decided to do something about it…to go on strike.

Their demands were simple.  Among them, a cowboy’s income would increase from $30 to $50 per month.  A cook would get $50 per month.  And the head of an outfit would get $75 per month.

Unfortunately, for the cowboys, they quickly drank and gambled away their strike fund, and the area was full of drifters looking for a job.  So the strike didn’t last more than a couple of weeks.  Some of the cowboys went back to work.  Others left the area.

This strike ended up being just one more nail in the coffin of the Old West cowboy as ranchers set up rules to confine even more their traditional activities.

Old West Wind Wagon

Wind WagonIn the 1860’s when a pioneer family headed out west, they usually did it in a covered wagon pulled by horses or oxen.  One man, Samuel Peppard, didn’t have horses or oxen, but that didn’t stop him. His idea was a Wind Wagon.

On May 9, 1860 Samuel Peppard headed out west.  This was during the time of the Pike’s Peak gold rush, and Samuel wanted to do some gold prospecting.  He didn’t have any horses or oxen, and he didn’t want the obligation and expense of taking care of them.

But, he did live in the Kansas Territory.  And anyone who has been through Kansas knows it’s pretty flat, and the wind tends to blow rather strongly.  Being a creative person, Peppard decided to take advantage of the resources at hand, and so he designed the world’s first wind-sailor.  Built like a small boat, it was about 8’ long and 3’ wide, and it had four large wagon wheels.  Weighing about 350 pounds, it was designed to hold 4 people.

The first time out, the wind blew the wagon over.  So Peppard reconstructed the sails, rudder and brakes.  By now everyone called it “Peppard’s Folly”.

With three of his friends aboard, Peppard raised the sails, and “Peppard’s Folly” took off across the prairie.  Depending on the strength of the wind, it got up to 30 miles per hour.

On days when there was no wind, Peppard and his three friends just sat back, smoked a cigarette, and swapped stories.

They traveled about 500 miles before a dust devil came along and turned the wind wagon into a pile of rubble.

Peppard and his friends finally made it to Denver, but like most seekers of gold, they didn’t find anything.

Peppard later went back to Kansas, and lived to the ripe old age of 82.  But he was always known as the guy who sailed to Denver.

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