Sequohah, born in 1760 in Tennessee, grew up among his mother’s people, the Cherokee. He became a metal craftsman, making beautiful silver jewelry. As a young man he joined the Cherokee volunteers who joined Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. While with the American soldiers, he became intrigued with what he called “talking leaves,” or words on paper that somehow recorded human speech. Although Sequohah had no formal education, he somehow comprehended the basic nature of the symbolic representation of sounds.

In 1809 he began working on a Cherokee language. At first he tried picture symbols, but soon found them to be impractical. Then he started looking at English, Greek and Hebrew. He finally developed 86 characters that would express the various sounds in the Cherokee language. It was so simple in its concept that it could be mastered in less than a week.
In 1821 he submitted his new written language to the Cherokee leaders. As a demonstration Sequohah wrote a message to his six-year-old daughter. She read the message and responded in kind. The tribal council immediately adopted the system. And Cherokee of all ages started learning the written language.
The Cherokee were divided into two groups, Sequohah’s in Georgia and Tennessee, and the western Cherokee in Oklahoma. In 1822 Sequohah went to Oklahoma, and taught the alphabet to the Cherokee there.
 
Finally, on February 21, 1828 the first printing press with Cherokee type arrived in Georgia. Within months, the first Indian language newspaper appeared. It was called the Cherokee Phoenix.
Sequohah later went to Mexico to teach Cherokee there the language. While in Mexico he became ill with dysentery, and died. Great monuments to the man who developed the Cherokee alphabet stand today along the northern California coast. They are the giant redwood trees called the Sequoia.

Old West Book Review: Riding Lucifer’s Line

Riding Lucifer's LineRiding Lucifer’s Line, Ranger Deaths along the Texas-Mexico Border, Bob Alexander, University of North Texas Press, (1-800-826-8911), $29.95, Hardcover. Photos, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

Retired lawman and veteran writer of more than a dozen non-fiction books about Old West history, Bob Alexander again writes a hard-hitting book.  Riding Lucifer’s Line is a collection of 24 profiles about Texas Rangers who lost their lives on the Mexico-Texas border known as “Lucifer’s Line.”  The chosen time period covers the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century through the first quarter of the Twentieth Century.

Carefully researched including newspaper accounts, personal letters, courtroom papers and official Texas Ranger documents, Alexander shows how the hard riding, straight-shooting Rangers rode with boldness into mortal danger.  Their weapons of choice included Winchesters and the Colt’s .45 caliber six-shooters.  They relied on horses for transportation, and faced every weather condition while crisscrossing the vast and untamed land.  From choking dry desert and cactus-studded hills, to the swampy, mosquito infested marshes to the south, these men answered the call.

Alexander points out that Texas Rangers were sometimes hated and despised by the Hispanic population, even referred to as “devils”, by those who naturally resisted the new boundary after Texas split from Mexico.  And while not all of the Rangers were angels on horseback, they dealt with the harsh realities of an unforgiving adversary good at ambush and body mutilation.

Sonny Smith was the youngest Ranger killed in the line of duty.  At seventeen years he was shot down ambushed by a wounded desperado hiding in the weeds near a pond.  John McBride and Conrad Mortimer were caught in a crossfire, trapped inside a shack by a Mexican lynch mob.  Sam Frazier was killed by people he had threatened, and George R. “Red” Bingham was shot through the heart during a running gun battle with outlaws.  Frank Sieker’s death was the result of a “terrible mistake” when Rangers mistook two Mexicans as horse thieves who were really leading horses of their own that had escaped, but due to language differences, the fight was on.  Charles Fusselman was shot in the head during an ambush while chasing cattle thieves.  Grover Scott Russell was ambushed inside a grocery store by the mother of the man he was trying to arrest. The lady used an axe.

The list of murdered Texas Rangers goes on and on, as readers find out what happened to whom, who the killers were and if they were brought to justice.  These stories are real, and there are no happy endings when a young man in the prime of life is suddenly left dead riddled with bullet holes, or his skull crushed with an axe.

Two sections in the book provide photographs of many of these men and some others. A brief history of the Texas Rangers is explained in the book’s Foreword, and the Afterword gives yet another brief history lesson in what it took to be a Texas Ranger, details of their enlistment requirements and pay.  Bob Alexander also explains how life on the Texas-Mexico border continues to this day to be a dangerous proposition.  Horse and cattle rustling have now become mostly a war with drug cartels and human smugglers.

This book is a fast-paced, sentimental eye-opener into the lives of these twenty-four brave men who were determined to make Texas a safer place, but forfeited their own lives in the name of law and order.  The struggle continues to this day.

Bob Alexander’s vast experience in law enforcement, border issues, and his love of Texas history once again come through in this latest book.

Editor’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Silk and Sagebrush, Women of the Old West, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 www.silklabelbooks.com

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

Remember The Alamo

In the early 1830’s what is now Texas was part of Mexico. Wanting to settle the vastness of the territory, Mexico invited Americans to come south. Before long the approximately 20,000 Texacans became tired of the regulations put on them by Mexico, and wanted things to be done the way they were in America. So, in 1833 a convention took place that adopted a constitution for an independent state. Sam Houston took the request to Mexico, and ended up spending two years in jail for his troubles. When Sam Houston got out, the revolution was at hand.

The first confrontation in the battle was at the Alamo. As we know, Santa Anna and his 5,000 troops were victorious. The second strike came in March of 1836 when again Mexican troops were victorious, and the Texican survivors were shot near Golead.

 
Sam Houston and a rag-tag group of 900 men were all that was left of the Texican resistance. Santa Anna, with the smell of victory in his nostrils, starting burning everything in his path as he moved toward the final destruction of Houston and the revolution.
 
An overly confident Santa Anna with 1,400 men encamped in a poorly defended area near the San Jacinto River. Sam Houston, only a mile away, saw his opportunity. So, on April 21, 1836, during the Mexican’s afternoon siesta his much smaller band of Texas soldiers came down upon the Mexican regulars with screams of “remember the Alamo,” and “remember Golead”, and in just 18 minutes Sam Houston was victorious. In spite of Santa Anna’s past victories, and that it was only a few rag-tag rebels against a country, in about the time it takes for a coffee break, Mexico lost Texas.
 Artist: Henry Arthur McArdle

Chuckwagon: Stuffing For A Turkey

From an 1888 cookbook

Mix thoroughly a quart of stale bread, very finely grated; the grated rind of a lemon; quarter of an ounce of minced parsley and thyme, one part thyme, two parts parsley; and pepper and salt to season.  Add to these one unbeaten egg and half a cup of butter; mix all well together and moisten with hot water or milk.  Other herbs than parsley or thyme may be used if preferred, and a little onion, finely minced, added if desired.  The proportions given here may be increased when more is required.

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

The Crime of 1873

Prior to 1873, in addition to silver and gold coins, those two metals backed paper money printed by the government. A person could actually exchange a dollar bill for a dollar’s worth of silver or gold. But in 1873, following the lead of many European countries, Congress passed a law for the United States to stop producing silver coins, or using silver to back paper money.
 

 

When this happened a financial panic started taking place. Obviously the bottom fell out of the silver market. A man who was a wealthy owner of a silver mine one day, found himself the owner of a worthless hole in the ground the next day. In addition… farmers or anyone who carried a heavy debt load felt this bill made for a tighter supply of money, and therefore harder to pay off their debt. Congress’ bill became known as the “Crime of ’73.”

With the United States going through widespread financial difficulties, it was mystically thought that going back to both silver and gold would solve all problems.

The leader of the fight to go back to silver again was Congressman Richard Bland, an ex-miner and farmer. He was so tireless in his efforts that he received the nickname “Silver Dick.”  

Finally, five years after the Crime of ’73, on February 16, 1878, the Bland-Allison Act was passed. Although it didn’t return the usage of silver to the level prior to 1873, it did require the government to resume purchasing silver, and minting silver dollars. 

Unfortunately, those who found it difficult to pay off their debt prior to the Bland-Allison Act found it just as difficult afterward.

 

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