Red Cloud

Red CloudAs you will see this week, one of the few times Red Cloud made a miscalculation in his fight with the whites was on August 2, 1867.

In July of 1867 civilian contractor J. R. Porter arrived at Fort Kearny in Nebraska with supplies. He planned on starting a logging operation. Among the supplies were 700 new breech-loading Springfield rifles and 100,000 rounds of ammunition. Until now the military had used muzzle-loading rifles. A Springfield used a manufactured cartridge, making it several times faster to shoot than a muzzle-loader.

Porter built his logging camp about six miles from the fort. To carry the logs he took the box beds off about 14 wagons, putting the four-foot high wagon boxes in a circular corral for protection.

At dawn of August 2, 1867 Red Cloud, with almost 1,000 braves, was poised for an attack against the 32 men inside the circle of wagon boxes. Even the women and children of the tribe, had come to observe the event.

At 9:00 500 warriors on horseback made the first charge. They circled the wagons expecting the spaced firing of a muzzle-loader. Instead it was the constant volley of the Springfield. The warriors retreated. Dead and wounded Indians and horses were everywhere. The next wave was 700 warriors on foot wearing nothing but war paint. The Indians got so close and the Springfields were so powerful that one shot often passed through two or three warriors.

For three hours the battle waged on. Then the sound of a howitzer was heard in the distance. A relief column was on its way. Red Cloud and his tribe retreated into the hills.

Miraculously, only 7 of the soldiers and loggers were killed. However, Red Cloud lost over 200 braves.

Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill CodyOne of the Old West’s most famous personalities quite possibly received his fame because someone else refused it.

 On July 24, 1869 Ned Buntline was looking for fresh material. Now Buntline was a prolific writer of fictionalized books about the Old West called “dime novels.” At $20,000 a year Buntline was by far the highest paid writer of his time…exceeding the income of such famous authors as Whitman, Twain and Melville.

Buntline came to Fort Larned, Kansas looking for a prospective subject…Major Frank North. When he found North and made his proposition, North explained that real men didn’t brag about themselves. “But,” he said, “If you want a man to fill that bill, he’s over there under a wagon.” Buntline went over to the wagon and saw to a young scout sleeping off a hangover.

The writer and the 23-year-old scout ended up spending 10 days together, drinking and swapping stories. Before the end of the year Ned Buntline had written and published “Buffalo Bill, King of the Border Men, The Wildest and Truest Story I Ever Wrote.”

The book was made into a stage production in New York. Incidentally, the New York press called it the adventures of “Bison William.” Buffalo Bill came to see the show, and was intrigued with performing on the stage…After all it was a less dangerous than fighting Indians.

So, they rewrote the show and named it “The Scouts of the Plains.” The opening night was in Chicago. Even though there were no professional actors on the stage, and no lines were delivered as written, the audience applauded it enthusiastically.

They went on to St. Louis and eventually New York where Buffalo Bill and Buntline had a falling out. Buntline then hired Wild Bill Hickok, who, incidentally maintained that Buntline’s original novel “King of the Border Men” actually contained his exploits, not Buffalo Bills.

Dodge City

  Dodge City 2 As the railroad headed west, towns grew up along side it. One of the more famous Western towns was named Buffalo City. However, that wasn’t the name under which it became famous.

   It was the middle of July 1872 when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad reached a peddler’s camp by the name of Buffalo City, Kansas, located about five miles from the military reservation of Fort Dodge. Almost overnight tent saloons and gambling dens sprang up. Within a matter of weeks it was a town of false-fronted buildings. And shortly afterward the Buffalo City town signs were taken down and replaced with signs reading, Dodge City, after the name of one of the town fathers, Colonel Richard I. Dodge.

   Because it was against the law to sell liquor in unorganized regions of Kansas, the Dodge City residents petitioned to organize the county of Ford. Interestingly, the petition contained the names of as many transients and railroad people as residents. Even though it was challenged, the state legislature, out of expediency, approved Ford County

   Dodge City started out as a hangout for buffalo hunters. Then when the cattle drives and cowboys started coming north, with twenty saloons, numerous dance halls and houses of ill repute, Dodge City became known as the “Queen of the Cow Towns.”

   Over the next few years the likes of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson and Belle Starr took residence there. But, they only stayed there temporarily, because fame had other places to go and other events in which to participate.

    Dodge City only had about 3,000 residents at the height of the population. By 1885, a little over 15 years after it became a town, the railhead had moved on to other towns. The Chisholm Trail was being plowed under by wheat farmers, and the law was maintaining order, so Dodge City settled down and became civilized.

Warren Earp

C2C Warren EarpAs we shall see this week, it’s tough being a little brother…Especially if your older brothers are famous, and you’re still living at home with mom and dad.

    Imagine you’re the youngest of five brothers living at home with your parents in Colton, California, while your older brothers James, Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt are having fun in a wild town named Tombstone. That was exactly Warren Earp’s situation.

But, in 1880, at the age of 25, he got a chance to go to Tombstone. Virgil was a lawman at the time, and Warren got to guard prisoners and join in posses. Unfortunately, in July of 1881 Warren got shot in a ruckus with some Mexicans, and went back to Colton to recuperate. And, wouldn’t you know it, while he was still at mom and dad’s, he missed out on the O. K. Corral shootout.

Warren returned to Tombstone after brother Virgil was shot, and was there when Morgan was killed. Warren finally saw action as he accompanied Wyatt seeking revenge against the cowboys. Bitter, disillusioned, and deep in the bottle, he returned to Colton.

With Warren regularly getting into trouble, his father got fed up with him and sent him packing. Warren ended up in Willcox, Arizona where he did a little cowboying and a lot of drinking. On July 6, 1900, Warren got crossways with a John Boyet. Some say it was because of a woman, others say it was a carry-over from the Tombstone days. In a confrontation, Warren kept pushing Boyet, until Boyet finally pulled his gun and killed him. This was a case of bringing a knife to a gunfight. For, it was discovered that Warren didn’t have a gun. But he did have a knife.

It seems that, to his dying day, Warren was trying to live up to the reputation of his brothers Wyatt and Virgil by being able to buffalo a man, and disarm him

Abel Head Pierce

Able Head Pierce“There aren’t any cowboys in Rhode Island,” said a friend recently. I had to correct him, for as we will see this week there was a great cowboy who came from Rhode Island.

Abel Head Pierce was born in Rhode Island on June 29, 1834. At the age of twenty he stowed away on a schooner and ended up in southern Texas. Abel took a job for a cattleman named Grimes. Starting out doing odd jobs, Abel worked his way up to trail boss, taking cattle to New Orleans.

Abel Head Pierce was a 6 foot, 5 inch bearded giant of a man who had a habit of wearing spurs with extra large rowels, and strutting around town. Someone remarked that Abel looked like a Shanghai rooster, and he became Shanghai Pierce. Now, that’s a name any cowboy would be proud of.

After serving in the Civil War, Shanghai returned to Texas and started accumulating cattle. Shanghai took a couple of years out in Kansas… supposedly to let things cool down in Texas after lynching a couple of rustlers.

He ended up with a 250,000 acre ranch appropriately called the Rancho Grande. Obviously, Shanghai was a major factor in the Texas cattle industry.

Looking for cattle that would be resistant to ticks that was causing problems with Texas cattle going north, and a breed that would produce more meat, Shanghai went to Europe and ended up bringing home some Brahma cattle, which he crossed with the Texas Longhorns.

By the end of the 19th century Shanghai Pierce’s Rancho Grande approached a million acres. When Shanghai felt his life was close to coming to an end he hired a San Antonio sculptor to make a larger than life statue of himself to be placed over his grave. Asked why, Shanghai responded, “I knew that if I didn’t do it, no one else would.”

Santa Anna

C2C Santa AnnaI’m aware of no one who had higher highs and lower lows than the subject of this week’s story did. Even though he wasn’t a citizen of the United States, his fate was important to our country.

He was born Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the son of middle-class parents in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Joining the military, he distinguished himself during Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain. In 1833, he won election to the presidency of Mexico. Within two years, he declared himself Mexico’s dictator.

This brought him into conflict with the Anglos who had settled in a northern part of Mexico, known as Texas. Determined to crush the rebellion, Santa Anna took personal command of the army that went to Texas. After the defeat of the Alamo, and the execution of 400 prisoners at Goliad, Santa Anna became overconfident, and in April of 1836, at San Jacinto, Santa Anna was captured. In exchange for his release, Santa Anna signed an order resulting in Texas becoming an independent republic.

White Santa Anna was in Texas, he was deposed in Mexico. Although he returned to Mexico powerless, Santa Anna took advantage of an unstable situation, becoming, once again, the dictator of Mexico…But an unstable situation is both good and bad. For, once again Santa Anna was overthrown. As a matter of fact, Santa Anna became the dictator of Mexico, and was overthrown eleven times.

Finally, overthrown in 1855, Santa Anna spent his last twenty years scheming with elements of Mexico, United States and France to get back on top. But it never happened. And, on June 22, 1876, this man who played a part in Mexico’s gaining its independence, and loosing a large part of its territory, died in absolute poverty.


GamblersMen who came out west gambled everything on the hopes of becoming prosperous and having a good life. That same spirit led them into gambling halls, and games of chance. One such game started on June 15, 1853 and ended 24 years later.

For people of the Old West gambling was a way of life. They risked their life by going into Indian Territory for furs, precious metal or land. They staked everything they owned on a herd of cattle being driven north. And for sure they enjoyed a game of chance.

There was faro, euchre, monte, casino, and, of course, poker…which, incidentally, was always dealt to the left of the player to make it easier to pull a gun with the right hand in case of irregularities. The origin of most games of chance came from Europe, with the exception of the old three walnuts and a pea, which started in America, probably on the streets of New York, where it still prospers.

Not only did cowboys loose their wages, but whole herds of cattle, and a cattleman’s entire wealth would change hands over night. A few wives were even offered to “match the pot.”

On June 15, 1853, in Austin, Texas Major Danelson and Mr. Morgan sat down to play poker, and evidentially with little to go home to, forgot to quit. The game went on for a week… then a month… a year became years. The Civil War broke out, was fought and lost, but these two Texas gentlemen still dealt the cards. Finally in 1872, 19 years after it started, both men died on the same day…but the game continued. Their two sons took over, and played for 5 more years.

Finally the game ended in 1877 when a railroad train killed one of the sons, and the other went crazy. Not that all of them weren’t crazy in the first place.


Billy the KidEarly in 1880, Sheriff Pat Garrett deposited Billy the Kid in jail, and left town thinking this would be the last he would ever see of “the Kid”.  But it wasn’t so.  Here is the story of what happened.

Pat Garrett was elected sheriff on the promise that he would bring in Billy the Kid.  And within a couple of months after being elected, he made good on his promise.  Feeling that chapter closed, Pat Garrett left to find other outlaws.

 Billy the Kid was transferred to the town of Messilla, New Mexico for trial.  Having a number of possible charges to place against him, they settled on the killing Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady three years earlier.

Billy the Kid was convicted of murdering Sheriff Brady.  In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Bristol said, “You are sentenced to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead.”  Billy the Kid comely responded, “And you can go to…” three times.  The hanging was set for May.

Billy the Kid was sent back to Lincoln, New Mexico. Lincoln didn’t have a formal jail so he was shackled, locked in a room on the second floor of the courthouse and placed under a twenty-four hour guard.

On April 28, 1881 Billy received a note with one word on it…“Privy”.  Understanding the meaning, Billy said he had to go to the outhouse.  Hidden in the outhouse was a pistol.  As Billy the Kid was returning to his room, he pulled the pistol and shot his escort.  Next he broke into the armory, and got a shotgun.  From a second floor window he yelled down to Robert Olinger, a guard that had been ragging on him.  When Robert looked up, he was sent to eternity by a blast from his own shotgun.

An hour later, with shackles still hanging from one leg, Billy the Kid rode out of town, once again escaping death.


Bob Paul

On March 15, 1881 the Benson-Tombstone stage was held up.  Although not intended as such, it ended up being one of the causes for the O. K. Corral shootout.  On the other hand, the two objectives of the hold-up were not accomplished.

The main objective was the assassination of Wells Fargo shotgun guard, Bob Paul.  As a Wells Fargo guard, Bob Paul had hampered the activities of the cowboys.  And, the word around town was that he was to become the Pima County Sheriff.  So the cowboys wanted to get rid of him.  The assassination failed because when the stage departed Tombstone, stage driver Budd Philpot had gotten stomach pains and Budd exchanged positions with Paul.  Orders were to kill the guard…which they did, but it was Philpot instead of Paul.

Paul was also responsible for the robbers not accomplishing their second objective…the theft of $26,000 in silver.  When Philpot was shot, Bob grabbed his shotgun and fired off both barrels.  One robber was killed and the noise of the shotgun spooked the horses.  As the stagecoach was careening out of control, Paul climbed down; secured the reigns of the runaway steeds; and brought the stage safely into Benson.

 Later, when he did became the Pima County Sheriff this 6’ 6”, 240-pound mountain of a man, typically using a shotgun, brought in bad guys, stopped lynchings, and hanged many a man legally.  It always seemed that he was able to dodge that fatal bullet…That is until 1893 when he couldn’t dodge the one called cancer, and he died on March 26, 1901.


During the Old West fortunes came and went.  Probably there is no better illustration of the gains and losses than the story of Horace Tabor and his wife “Baby” Doe.

 Baby DoeOn March 1, 1883 Elizabeth Doe, later known to the Colorado miners as “Baby” Doe, and Horace Tabor got married.  Baby Doe wore a $7,000 gown.  Her wedding gift from her husband was a $75,000 diamond necklace.

Five years earlier Horace Tabor was the owner of a general store.  He grubstaked a couple of prospectors to about $20 worth of merchandise in exchange for a third share of what they found…What they found was a mine called “Little Pittsburgh” that produced $20,000 worth of silver per week.  Horace Tabor decided his fortune was in silver mining.  Right after this Tabor bought a mine from a scam artist who had “salted” it with silver.  To the chagrin of the scam artist the new mine ended up out producing his first.

Following the wedding Horace and Baby Doe moved into a mansion and had two children.  Over the next few years they lived an extravagant lifestyle.  But by the late 1890’s, because of federal legislation, the market for silver took a dive.  Horace and Baby Doe ended up living in a hotel room.

In April of 1899 Horace Tabor died.  His last words to his wife were “Don’t give up the Matchless, for it will make millions again.”

Baby Doe moved to the Matchless Mine located at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, and for 35 years she lived in a shack.  She wrapped herself in burlap to keep warm.  Early in 1935, during a severe snowstorm, she froze to death.

What she didn’t know was that even if silver was discovered on the Matchless, it would have done her no good.  Her husband had lost the Matchless with his other assets before he died.

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