Last of the Old-Time Outlaws; The George West Musgrave Story, Karen Holliday Tanner and John D. Tanner, Jr., University of Oklahoma Press, (405 325-3200),$21.95 Paper, 388 Pages, Illustrations, Maps, Notes, Bibliography, Index.
“He had a reputation as a cardsharp, cattle rustler, bandit, and killer,” and if George Musgrave had had a more romantic-sounding name, Hollywood might have cashed in on this amazing Old West character.
George West Musgrave was born May 27, 1877 in Atascosa County, Texas. His family ran a thirty-five hundred acre cattle outfit, and baby George was surrounded by tough people earning a hard living. The boy grew up surrounded by work, horses and guns. The Musgrave family consisted of various characters involved in gambling, horse rustling, and cattle theft which resulted in arrests and jailhouse stints. George even had a grandfather who had a long history of dueling, fights with Comanche, feuds with neighbors and “an inclination toward larceny.”
Excuses can be made for these influences on George, however, he began his career as a cowboy who could ride, rope, shoot and show off. He was known for “putting on shooting displays with a number of revolvers.” Soon he became involved in rustling with a devil-may-care attitude. He seemed always ready with a string of wisecracks. His popularity among his pals and cohorts became legendary.
His adventures led him back and forth from Texas into Old Mexico, then to New Mexico and sometimes Arizona. He joined what was known as the High Five or Black Jack gang. They spent years holding up stores, rustling cows, stealing horses, robbing banks and even trains. Musgrave was one of the gang members who took part in the first bank robbery in Arizona Territory. They also held up stagecoaches, and eventually pulled off the largest heist in the history of the Santa Fe railroad.
Musgrave was arrested and tried for the shooting death of a former Texas Ranger. When he miraculously avoided conviction, he migrated to South America where he took up his same old ways, now getting involved on a large scale with some big ranchers and South American politicians.
George was tail, handsome, soft spoken and popular with the ladies, too. During a trip back to Wyoming, Musgrave met an adventurous young woman named Jeanette “Jano” Magor. Twelve years younger than George, Jano was known for her smarts and toughness. Smitten with one another, the pair eloped. Jano followed Musgrave back to South America where she joined his dubious lifestyle. One photo shows the beautiful brunette dressed like a gaucho complete with her own shootin’ iron. She eventually grew weary of her husband’s philandering, and returned to the U.S. for a divorce.
After this, Musgrave had a succession of South American wives who produced children, all eventually either leaving him or hating him for his cavalier treatment of marriage vows.
Whether Musgrave was cheating at cards, robbing a bank, or shooting alligators, he joked about it all. He died in South America at age 70 of natural causes.
The Tanners have written a compete and thoroughly researched book about a tough, strong-willed man who could not resist danger and deviltry. The authors have a keen eye for unusual facts combined with a subtle and wonderful sense of humor that results in bringing the character of George Musgrave back to life. Readers will enjoy this book.
Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Death For Dinner, the Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434. www. silklabelbooks.com.
*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.