The 1867 Hayfield Fight

The Hayfield FightThe Hayfield Fight: the year was 1867 and the Red Cloud War had been going on along the Bozeman Trail for almost two years. On August 1 some 500 Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho led by Dull Knife and Two Moon, attacked a small detachment of eight troopers and nine civilians that were led by Lieutenant Sternberg. At the time of the attack, Lieutenant Sternberg’s group was in the open crossing a hayfield. Fortunately, they were able to make it to the shelter of a nearby corral. Even more fortunately, the troopers and civilians had repeating rifles. 
 
The Indian’s traditional plan of attack against single shot, breech-loading rifles, would be to draw fire, and while the rifles were being reloaded, attack in force. But, with repeating rifles, the fire was constant. Stymied, the Indians decided to set fire to the hay field and burn out the whites. But it wasn’t to be. As the fire got close to the corral, a strong wind came up, and put it out.
 
By late afternoon, the Indians decided to take their fight elsewhere. During the Hayfield Fight, as it was called, 20 warriors were killed and more than 30 seriously wounded. For the other side, only Lieutenant Sternberg, two soldiers and one civilian were killed. 
 
The interesting thing about the conflict was that it took place near Fort C. F. Smith, where it could be seen and heard. Although Fort Smith contained a garrison of troops… none was ever sent. About seven months earlier at Fort Phil Kearny, Captain Fetterman and a command of eighty men were wiped out when they left their fort to help some woodcutters. It’s speculated that the commander was in fear of a repeat of the Fetterman Massacre. 

Orlando Robbins and the Star Spangled Banner

Orlando RobbinsBorn in Maine, Orlando Robbins left home at the age of seventeen and headed out west. Eventually ending up in the gold fields of Idaho, in 1864 he became the deputy sheriff of Idaho City. 
 
With the Civil War taking place in the east, the miners were polarized into Union and Confederate camps. Robbins’ major job was separating and arresting drunken miners supporting their individual cause.
 
As Independence Day approached, the Confederate supporters said they were not going to allow any Yankee sing the “Star Spangled Banner.” Now, Robbins, a Union supporter, was determined that no one was going to tell him what to do. So, on July 4, 1864 Orlando Robbins walked into a tavern crowded with southern sympathizers, climbed on a pool table, pulled his two pistols, and with the tavern in complete silence started singing, “Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light.” After finishing, he walked out, and the crowd parted like the Red Sea for Moses. 
 
From deputy sheriff of Idaho City, Robbins went on to be deputy sheriff of Boise, and then United States marshal. In 1868 a gun battle had been going on for weeks between two mining operations in Silver City. Sent by the governor to settle things, Robbins did it in one day. In 1876 six bandits held up the Silver City stage. Robbins had them all in jail within two days. At the age of 46, Robbins covered 1,280 miles in just 13 days to catch outlaw Charley Chambers. When he was in his 60’s he was still a lawman dealing with outlaws one third his age.
 
Truly, Orlando Robbins was as great a hero as any of the more famous Old West lawmen.

The Son of Sam Houston – Temple Houston

Son of Sam Houston - Temple HoustonTemple Houston was the son of Texas’ founding father Sam Houston. He was an independent young cuss… so independent that at the age of 13, as a rawboned boy with shoulder length hair, he became a cowboy on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. 
 
On his way back home, Temple ran into a friend of his father’s who talked him into going to Washington D. C. and becoming a Senate page. After three years as a page, Temple decided to study law. So, he went back to Texas, enrolled in Baylor University and at the age of 19 got a law degree. Within a year he was practicing law… Now, I think we can all agree that Temple Houston packed a heck of a lot of stuff in those first 20 years. And he did slow down afterward. 
 
On August 25, 1881, at the age of 21, Temple made a speech on the battle of San Jacinto, bringing tears to the eyes of the audience, and his first glimmer of fame. 
 
Temple became the prototype of the modern day celebrity lawyer. He had a shooting match with Billy the Kid, which, Bat Masterson promoted. And Temple supposedly won.
 
Temple was married and moved to Woodward, Oklahoma where he got into a courtroom row with Al Jennings, which resulted in his killing two of Al’s brothers in a saloon brawl. While defending a woman accused of operating a brothel, he drew the Biblical parallel by saying, “as your Master did twice, tell her to go in peace.” And they did.
 
Back in Texas, Temple Houston was a district attorney and served in the Texas state legislature. Until his death on August 15, 1905 at 45 years of age, Temple worked on only the most difficult cases. And there was the life of the son of Sam Houston.

Chuckwagon: Old Fashioned Shortcake

Old Fashioned Shortcake from an 1891 recipe book entitled “Palatable Dishes.”

Chuckwagon: Old Fashioned ShortcakeFor Old Fashioned Shortcake take one quart of nice buttermilk, add to it one teaspoonful of soda, quarter of a teaspoonful of salt, one tablespoonful of unmelted lard, then stir in enough sifted flour to make as soft a dough as can be handled. Roll out to about half an inch thick, cut into diamonds and bake quickly.

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

Murdered on the Streets of TombstoneMurdered on the Streets of Tombstone, Joyce Aros, Goose Flats Publishing, (520) 457-3884, $26.99, Paper. 340 pages, Author’s Notes, Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index.

Countess books, movies, magazine articles, radio programs and internet chat rooms have hashed and re-hashed the history of Tombstone, Arizona “The Town Too Tough To Die.”  The most important incident triggering all the excitement was a shootout that came to be known as “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”

So along comes Hollywood to tell about a huge band of outlaws and cattle rustlers known as “The Cowboys” who are terrorizing Cochise County.  But not to worry, in order to rid the Territory of these villainous, snaggle-toothed ruffians, the illustrious Earp boys arrive from Kansas to settle their hash.

And settle it they did!  On a cold and windy day in late October, 1881, things came to a head and when the smoke cleared, brothers Frank and Tom McLaury, and their young pal Billy Clanton lay dead in the street behind the O.K. Corral.

One hundred and thirty years later, why are we still worrying about it?  Everybody knows (Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Hugh O’Brien, and Rhonda Fleming told us) the Earps were the good-guy heroes, and the three dead cowboys had it coming.

But Wait!  Not so fast!  There is a lot more to the story, and Tombstone writer-researcher Joyce Aros gives us the benefit of her sleuthing.  She has tediously combed through courtroom testimony, oral history on file at the Arizona Historical Society, books, letters, interviews plus a good dose of horse sense to draw her conclusions.

Aros begins her book explaining the circumstances of life in the new Territory, and how the Clantons and the McLaurys fit into all this.  Aros allows the reader to become familiar with these men by putting faces on them.  They were living, breathing human beings who had struggles, hopes and dreams in a new land where hardworking, determined men built their ranches.

The fateful day they came to town, Tom and Frank McLaury had business to finish before heading to Iowa to attend their sister’s wedding.  Meeting with them was their friend Billy Clanton, a nineteen-year-old rancher who was on business of his own that day.

Aros is able to show the Earps were prepared to fight, but the young ranchers were not. Tom McLaury was not even carrying a gun, Frank McLaury was leading his horse, (who takes a horse to a gunfight?) and when confronted by the gun-wielding Earps, Billy Clanton shouted “I don’t want to fight!”  Even so, guns blazed and in less than thirty seconds three men were dead.

Tom, Frank and Billy were not outlaws.  They came to a sad and thunderous end behind a dusty corral on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona where they have been vilified for more than 130 years.  When you turn the last page of this book, the Earps might still be your heroes, but certainly Tom, Frank and Billy will become real people whose lives were taken far too soon.

We still do not know for sure what triggered the deadly hatred the Earps had for these three young ranchers.  However, through this detailed examination in Murdered on the Streets of Tombstone, Joyce Aros has done an incredible job of finally declaring balance to a tragedy that has gone unchallenged far too long.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including The Earp Gamble, published by Silk Label Books, P. 0. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434. Www.silklabelbooks.com

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

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