Samuel Maverick

Samuel MaverickIn 1835 Samuel Maverick moved to the San Antonio, Texas area, and started practicing law.  He was even one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

As the story goes, a neighbor owed him $1,200.  With no ready cash, the neighbor offered to pay him in cattle.  So, reluctantly Samuel agreed to take 400 head of cattle.  Not wanting to deal with the cattle, Samuel hired someone to take care of them.  At first the hired hand branded the calves with Samuel’s MK brand.  But soon things got out of hand, and many of the calves went unbranded.

By 1854 Samuel’s unbranded cattle were roaming all over the area, and his neighbors started complaining, stating that if Samuel didn’t do something about them, he wouldn’t have any.

Finally, in 1856, Samuel sold his cattle to another rancher.  The cattle were sold on the basis of “range delivery.”  This meant that the rancher bought an approximate number of cattle that happened to be located on the open range.  Whenever the new owner found an unbranded cow, he claimed them as Samuel Maverick’s cattle, or “Maverick’s”.  By 1857, people in the area were referring to unbranded cattle as “mavericks.”

But the term didn’t come into general use until after the Civil War, when the cattlemen returned to find tens of thousands of unbranded cattle roaming the plains.  It’s interesting to note that during this time, although taking a branded cow was a hanging offence, to take an unbranded calf that wasn’t following a cow, or a maverick, was not rustling.  And rounding up mavericks is the way many a cattle ranch started out.



Bert Murphy

Louis L'Amour

In five novels Louis L’Amour lets you experience Old California and the Pacific coast circa 1800 to 1880.  When the railroad reached California in 1869, it diminished the frontier period.  When it reached Los Angeles in 1876, the western frontier was essentially closed.  The cowards who never started and the weak that might have died on the way could now ride west on cushioned seats.

However, frontier pockets still remain. In my life, I have known many who have the frontier-pioneer spirit.  They are the few of the many, both men and women, who have the heart, nerve and sinew to push into the unknown of space or ideas.  They don’t particularly give a damn what their contemporaries think.  They are driven to see and know.  If they think of them at all, they scorn the historical revisionists who would deprive us of our heroes.  They joke about extreme environmentalists who are unreasoning obstructionists.  Yet they understand and protect the earth.  They love their country and despise these who are destroying it.  They support and defend our hard- won and kept Republic, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Those of the pioneer spirit drive on into the great unknown to make a better world.  Soon they will feel the snarl of the jets at their backs as they drive toward the frontier of space.  L’Amour recognized this final frontier.  There will be L’Amour novels tucked into cargo pockets of space suits.  There will be men like L’Amour, Service, London, Kipling, Grey, Clark, Asimov and Heinlein to tell their stories.  They will tell of courage, love, loyalty, survival and lonely death in the endless frontier of space.  The arenas will change.  Those frontiersmen and women of space will have the pioneer spirit L’Amour knew and wrote of.

The virtues and characteristics of pioneers and heroes will not change.  L’Amour’s main characters were people of stamina and intelligence.  They did not lie, steal or cheat.  They were independent and killed their own snakes.  They celebrate the free human spirit.

Many of the things that Louis L’Amour teaches in his writings are useful to any age.  Paleo hunters or spaceman must know that peripheral vision is the best to use at night.  Aim low at an uphill or downhill target.  Firearms are sighted horizontally above the target to allow for gravity drop.  Uphill or downhill the gravity vector is reduced or eliminated.  Weapons shoot high.  So, as L’Amour wrote, shoot low.  Read the signs around you. When did that horse go by-was he ridden?  The spaceship that landed-was it ours or theirs?  Carry a knife and fire maker-they will get you out of all kinds of trouble.  Know the place you are in.  Can you eat that plant?  Where is the water?  There is much field craft in L’Amour’s novels.

In Trailing Louis L’Amour in New Mexico, I quoted L’Amour as saying, “man is tracked in his mind.”  With his tenth-grade education, great intelligence, amazing memory, extensive travel, war experience and voluminous reading, L’Amour was as erudite a person as you will meet.  A reasonable estimate would be that he read seven thousand books and “dipped into” many more.  His amazing memory let him recall much of what he read and experienced.  He chose historical fiction as his genre, and he chose to be historically and geographically accurate.  He added much in the way of science to his novels.  He showed an extensive knowledge of the world’s odd corners, history, Indian lore, literature, field craft, botany, geology, geography, archeology, anthropology, psychology and other hard and soft sciences.  He wrote of and speculated on the paranormal.  Read Louis L’Amour for pleasure, knowledge or both. There is much to be gained.

A background and knowledge of the stage where the L’Amour novels play out adds to the enjoyment and understanding of his stories.  A knowledge of the land, people and forces that made California and the Pacific Coast what they were when L’Amour’s characters encountered them in the 1800’s will let you appreciate his marvelous research, accuracy and craft. You will enjoy his novels even more.

Read more about Louis L’Amour HERE.

Clay Allison – Old West Psychopath

Clay AllisonClay Allison can be truly called a psychopath. At the height of the Civil War when the Confederate Army was drafting into service anyone who could hold a rifle, Clay was released on a medical discharge because he was maniacal.     
Ending up in Cimarron, New Mexico in 1870 Clay and some other local citizens broke a man out of jail and lynched him in the local slaughterhouse. Not being satisfied, Clay grabbed a knife; cut the man’s head off; stuck it on a pole; and gave it to a local saloon owner to display in his establishment.          
In 1875 Clay became involved in another lynching. This time the man was hanged from a telegraph pole. Without butcher equipment around, Clay dallied the end of the lynch rope around his saddle horn and dragged the corpse around town.
A lot of Clay Allison’s strange actions could also be credited to his fondness for strong drink. It seems that when Clay was “under the influence” he was inclined to take off his clothes; jump on his horse; and Lady Godiva around town. Then he would invite everyone into the nearest saloon for a round of drinks… Such a party animal.
Although Clay shot more than his share of men… usually when the confrontation was decidedly to his advantage, and knifed at least one. He didn’t go down in a blaze of glory like most gun fighters.
Clay Allison moved to the Pecos, Texas area, took a wife, started a ranch, and, for the most part, settled down. On July 3, 1887 he went into town for supplies. While there he stopped at the local tavern, and imbibed a bit more than he should have, because on the way home Clay fell off the wagon. A wheel rolled over him and broke his neck. He was dead within an hour. 

The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland MailThe Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail 1858-1861, Glen Sample Ely, University of Oklahoma Press, $34.95, Cloth, 440 pages, Illustrations, Maps, Photographs, Notes, Index.

Anyone interested in early Texas history will find this book a fascinating journey across that state during the years prior to the Civil War.  While the Butterfield Overland Mail extended 2,795 miles from St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, California this book targets the 740 miles, border to border, across the Texas frontier.

The book combines Texas politics and intrigues while at the same time explaining the history and workings of the Butterfield stagecoach line.  Throughout the book readers find both early photos taken by original Butterfield researchers Margaret and Roscoe Conkling, with modern-day pictures taken by author Ely as he meticulously followed their trail.  Comparisons are made between Conkling photos taken 80 years ago, and the new pictures and how the sites look today.  Changes due to weather erosion and human agricultural disruptions are noted.

All of the stagecoach sites are pictured; the crumbling walls, rock foundations, and long-forgotten artifacts help tell the story.  Belt buckles, bullets, bridle bits, forks and knives plus various tools have been unearthed and on display here, including some graves with the stories of their occupants.  At the end of the book readers will find notes containing all of the information available regarding dates, locations, employees, station masters, Indian raids, and everything you could ever possibly want to know about these stagecoach station sites.

As the author and friends traipsed from one location to the next across Texas, he brings to us the stories of those people who braved this frontier at a time when great changes were occurring in our country.  Prospectors, adventurers, cattle ranchers, military men, schemers as well as honest pioneers tried to build and tame this unforgiving land.  Always the threat of murderous Indian raids loomed as hardy people determined to make homes for themselves.

Meanwhile, scattered throughout the book are wonderful paintings done by Frederic Remington showing the dangerous journey traveled by these coaches.  Butterfield crews, passengers, and hostlers alike braved this rugged road.  Indians lurked along the way, and the accommodations at home stations usually offered little more than poor food and scant lodging.  The coaches are described as rough-riding, jostling contraptions rattling over hard-packed roads or wallowing in muddy streams.

Apart from the actual everyday management of the stagecoaches, there were business executives back east busily working to make the enterprise financially lucrative.  Some joined with Texas politicians and businessmen to make decisions about everything from toll bridges to the establishment of small communities.

Readers are taken on a journey through a rough and tumble time in antebellum Texas, covering everything good and bad about people striving to settle a wild frontier.

This book is a huge project by author Glen Sample Ely, a Texas historian and documentary producer. His love for Texas history is proudly displayed here, along with his talent for careful research and dogged determination to get it right.  Readers will learn from the narrative, while being mesmerized by the haunting photographs showing what happened here.  He also authored the book Where the West Begins: Debating Texas Identity.

The book is a must for your Old West library if you are interested in Texas history and the Butterfield Overland Mail.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de Ia Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Charissa of the Overland, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434.

William Brazleton – Masked and Unmasked

William BrazletonWilliam Brazleton was about 6 feet tall, and weighed around 200 pounds. He was described as “a great big, good natured fellow who was as harmless as any man could be.” Little is known about his early life. He did tell a friend that he had robbed a couple of stages in northern Arizona, three over by Silver City, New Mexico, and four around Tucson.        
There were stage robberies in the vicinity of Tucson that mysteriously had two sets of horse tracks leading to the scene of the robbery, but none leaving it. These robberies were performed by a man who wore a mask over his head with holes cut in it for his eyes and mouth.              
Because of information received from a confederate of Brazleton’s, the sheriff set up an ambush. On August 19, 1878 Brazleton was shot down in a hail of bullets.     
At this time, the reason for two sets of horse tracks leading to the robbery scenes, and none leaving it, was the following. It seems that Brazleton had devised horseshoes that could be reversed in order to confuse trackers.  
Now, as to his fame after death… Brazleton was brought back to Tucson, propped up against a wall, with his guns on his lap. And, pictures were taken of him with and without his mask. Today, any series of outlaw photographs, either alive or dead, includes at least one of the two pictures of Brazleton.
Incidentally, taking pictures of dead outlaws wasn’t unusual. Quite often dead outlaws were displayed in public with photographers charging money for people to have their picture taken next to the local bad boy. That is, until he started stinking too much.        
 Page 1 of 86  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »