Monday, December 22nd, 2014 at 10:06 am
In the Old West men and horses were called upon to perform great feats. But no man and horse did more in a short period of time than John Phillips and a big gray thoroughbred.
It was a cold December in 1866. Fort Phil Kearny was being harassed by Red Cloud and his band of Sioux. On the 21st of December Captain John Fetterman and 80 men left the fort to chase after a small group of Indians. The Indians were decoys, and Fetterman’s command was ambushed. Within minutes everyone was killed.
It was necessary for someone to travel to Horseshoe Station, 190 miles away, and telegraph Fort Laramie for reinforcements. That responsibility fell on John Phillips. He wasn’t a member of the military, but a local prospector who had brought his family to the fort for protection.
Riding a big gray thoroughbred, given to him by the fort commander, John started on the trip wearing a buffalo coat to protect him from the severe cold spell they were having.
Hiding during the daylight hours, John still ran into war parties, but the long legged thoroughbred was able to outrun the smaller Indian ponies. On December 24th John arrived at Horseshoe Station, but they were unable to send a telegraph to Laramie, because the line was down…either the result of Indian activity or the weather. Jumping back on his horse, he rode the remaining forty miles to Fort Laramie. A Christmas party was in progress when John arrived. A half frozen John Phillips entered the hall, told his story, and collapsed on the floor. Early Christmas day a column headed for Fort Kearny.
Although, at the time no one thought the 230-mile ride from Fort Kearny to Fort Laramie was anything more than a long cold ride, but shortly afterward it reached the level of myth…a man and horse enduring devastating weather and wild Sioux to save a beleaguered garrison.
Monday, December 15th, 2014 at 3:11 pm
As a young boy his father gave him the name “Slow”. But during a raid against the Crow, at the age of 14, Slow raced ahead of his fellow warriors, and made the first kill. His father immediately changed his name. You may be surprised when you learn his new name.
His father gave him the name of “Slow”…not because he wasn’t bright…but because he was deliberate. But his “deliberateness” never stood in the way of him taking action. At the age of 14 he made his first kill, and his father changed his name to…Sitting Bull.
Sitting Bull is best known for his victory at Little Big Horn against George Armstrong Custer. As strange as it may seem, his victory directly resulted in his defeat. But I get ahead of myself.
Because of his braveness in battle Sitting Bull was soon made the leader of the Strong Hearts, a special society of warriors…and later he became the chief of his Hunkpapa division of the Sioux.
Sitting Bull had special abilities as a leader and organizer. Even though the Federal Government had ordered the Indians to relocate to a reservation, Sitting Bull was able to convince more than 10,000 Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne to leave the reservation, and band together…and it was a part of this group that defeated General Custer.
Because of Little Big Horn, the government made an all out effort to defeat the Plains Indians. Finally, with less than 200 followers Sitting Bull and his ragged band surrendered.
On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull was living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Because of fears of an Indian insurrection, about 40 Indian policemen rushed Sitting Bull’s home to arrest him while he was asleep. In the confusion a fight broke out and the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was shot twice…by a Sioux Indian policeman. Incidentally, the 59-year-old Sitting Bull had previously indicated he had no interest in the insurrection.
Monday, November 10th, 2014 at 10:22 am
With frontier towns springing up over night, and disappearing as fast, an Old West newspaper had to be on the move to keep customers. This week’s story is about one such newspaper.
Following the Civil War two brothers, Legh and Fred Freeman, were hired to publish a newspaper out of Fort Kearney, Nebraska. During this time the railroad passed through the area. While the railroad was being built in the area things boomed. As the railroad moved on, taking the workers with it, there was a bust.
The Freeman brothers hit on the idea to create a newspaper that would move along with the railroad. So, they bought a hand press, type, ink and paper, named their newspaper the Frontier Index, and hired wagons to take them to the next town where the railroad was to arrive. As the crews arrived with men anxious to read the latest news, they did a booming business. Merchants were willing to pay outrageous prices for advertising, and marked their goods up accordingly.
The masthead of the Index changed each time they moved to a new town. During its existence the Index was published in 25 different cities. Sometimes the Freeman brothers moved so fast that they outran their supplies. One time they had to print the newspaper on wrapping paper.
The Index came to an end in Bear River City. As the population of the city grew, the lawless element started arriving along with the railroad workers. The Index wrote an editorial stating, “Bear River City has stood enough of the rowdy criminal element.” The next day, November 15, 1868, some of “the rowdy criminal element” grabbed a rope, and headed to the tent that headquartered the Index newspaper. The Freeman brothers were able to escape, but when they returned nothing remained of the Index but ashes. The lifespan of the Frontier Index was but two years. Which, incidentally, was a long time for a frontier newspaper.
Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 at 5:30 am
The summer of 1868, Indians were conducting major raids on railroad work camps and homesteads. Major George Forsyth was ordered to put together a detachment of 50 volunteer frontiersmen to teach the Indians a lesson.
The first part of September they arrived at Kansas’ Fort Wallace, and immediately took after a group of Indians who had stolen some stock. On September 16, Forsyth and his men, low on rations, camped on the banks of the Arikaree River.
Unknown to Forsyth 4,000, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux had been following him for three days. The morning of September 17 Major Forsyth and his men were awaken by the sounds of war cries. The 50 volunteers, with their animals, retreated and dug into a 40-yard by 150-yard sandbar.
By 9 A.M. the Indians had killed all of the volunteers’ horses and mules. Now there was no way of escape. A half hour later 300-mounted warriors, headed directly for the 50 volunteers. But, what the Indians didn’t realize was that all of Forsyth’s men were equipped with Spencer seven-shot repeating rifles and Colt pistols. Waiting until the last second to start firing, the charge was broken.
For eight days the Indian attacks continued, and the Spencer rifles kept them away from the volunteers. Two of the volunteers were able to get away and make it to Fort Wallace for help. By the time reinforcements arrived, the bulk of the Indians had left, with only a small contingency staying to starve out the volunteers.
Technology had made it possible for 50 men to face and essentially defeat a force of 1,500 warriors. During the battle, 10 of the volunteers were killed, and 20 wounded. But Indian causalities were estimated to be around 50 killed and as many as 200 wounded.
Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 at 7:51 am
On April 8, 1875 four soldiers encountered 30 Comanche. Three of those four soldiers received the Congressional Metal of Honor. This was but one escapade in the life of a most unusual group of soldiers.
During the 1870’s there was a small group of men who guarded the Texas–Mexico border against Comanche Indians. These men were the Seminole-Negroes. They were runaway slaves who had gone to Florida and lived with the Seminole Indians. When the Seminole were chased west, the black families went with them.
In 1870, looking for extra help in fighting the marauding Comanche, the Seminole-Negroes were hired as a special unit to track down the Comanche Indians. Although the Seminole-Negroes were a rag-tag looking bunch with a combination of military and Indian attire, which even included war bonnets, they had the ability to follow trails that were weeks old and live on nothing but rattlesnakes.
The commander of this group was a white Lieutenant by the name of John Bullis. Lieutenant Bullis had the respect of the Seminole-Negroes, because he was willing to live and fight right along side of his men. One time while on a patrol Lieutenant Bullis and three of his enlisted men encountered some 30 Comanche. Being vastly outnumbered, the soldiers retreated. Unfortunately, in the process Lieutenant Bullis was captured. Not willing to leave their commander behind; the men changed into the midst of the Comanche, rescuing Lieutenant Bullis. Each enlisted man received the Congressional Metal of Honor.
For their service, the government had promised the Seminole-Negroes land, but, mysteriously, when it came time to pay up, the War Department had run out of land. But, living up to their commitment, and ever hopeful, they stayed on until their job was done.
Incidentally, as an indication of their skill as scouts and fighters, during the service of the Seminole-Negroes, not one was ever killed or injured in battle.
Friday, February 21st, 2014 at 6:11 am
The subject of today’s story was considered an ingenious natural mechanic…and his invention changed the life of his people forever.
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.
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 at 7:08 am
Current Newspaper, Carlsbad, New Mexico
February 13, 1896
Catnip – The leaves can be made into a tea and fed to babies with colic.
Chicory – Young leaves can be eaten as a spring green and the roots dried and roasted as a coffee substitute.
Dandelion – The leaves and small flower buds are a sought-after spring green. Dried and roasted roots make a coffee substitute. Can also be used as a remedy for dropsy.
Goldenrod – The flowers can be used for dying yarn. The leaves can be made into tea for nausea.
Milkweed – The “fluff” from this plant makes a great stuffing for mattresses and pillows. The leaves can be used to make chair seats; shoots, roots, and young lower buds are all edible.
Red Raspberry – The leaves can be dried and made into a tea for dysentery, to ease childbirth pains and as a wash for sores.
Rose Hips – Tea made from these berries can be used as a treatment for scurvy.
Sassafras – The inner bark of the roots can be boiled in water for a spring tonic and as a beverage with meals.
Willow – The inner bark can be used to make tea for reducing fever.
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 at 7:55 am
Pearl Grey was born on January 31, 1872. He was a talented baseball player, and played for the University of Pennsylvania while getting a degree in dentistry. Pearl was scheduled to follow in his father’s footsteps as a dentist. Looking for excitement, he played some semi-pro baseball. But that didn’t satisfy his need.
Incidentally, Pearl never liked his first name, which was thought by everyone to be a woman’s name. So he decided to change it to his mother’s maiden name, Zane.
Pearl, or as we know him now, Zane Grey never wanted to be a dentist. He wanted to be a writer. His first novel was a forgettable one about one of his ancestors. But his life was changed when in 1908 he met Colonel C. J. “Buffalo” Jones. Buffalo Jones convinced Zane to write his biography. So Zane could get a feel of the atmosphere of Buffalo Jones’ life, Jones took the 36-year-old writer out west.
While out west, Zane Grey experienced the excitement of the west, like roping mountain lions. Grey was fascinated with the people and landscape. The biography of Jones, “The Last of the Plainsmen” was completed that same year.
Although it got little attention, Zane Grey had found his calling.
About four years later Zane Grey published a novel that gained him lasting fame…Riders of the Purple Sage. This novel was about a weak easterner who became a man because of his exposure to the culture of the West. It was a theme that Zane would repeat in the almost 80 books he published during a life that lasted 64 years.
Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 at 10:01 am
On January 24, 1848, John Marshall and John Sutter discovered gold at a sawmill construction site near Sacramento, California.
When James Marshall told Sutter of the gold discovery, his first thought was not of the potential of vast wealth, but of how it would adversely affect an empire he was developing called New Switzerland.
Even though Sutter owned 50,000 acres of land, the mill was on public land. At that time, California was in the process of being transferred from Mexican to U.S. ownership. With no government authority, Sutter and Marshall exchanged clothing and other trinkets with local Indians for a lease of land surrounding the site. Even though they tried to keep the discovery a secret, in no time the whole world knew about it.
As men were panning for gold, Marshall was busy cutting lumber, and Sutter was tending his crops. Within a year, both of their businesses failed. Without a clear title, James Marshal was eventually run off the land where the mill was located.
John Sutter’s 50,000 acres came from two Spanish land grants. One was declared void, and squatters took over the other.
Eventually, both men tried mining for gold. But they failed. John Sutter died penniless in 1880…And James Marshall did the same in 1885.
Although Sutter and Marshall, the discoverers of gold, never saw a profit from the discovery, during the first 25 years following the discovery, over 978 million dollars worth of gold was taken from the area of Sutter’s mill.
Monday, January 20th, 2014 at 8:07 am
Do you think that rock stars are a creation of modern history? Not necessarily so. Back in 1877, the Old West had a rock star.
It was 1877, and Darwin’s theory of evolution was a hot topic of conversation. To support his theory, in March of that year, a giant petrified man was found in Colorado, along with a petrified turtle and fish. It was announced by its finders that, “We have found the missing link which Darwin claims connects mankind with the beast creation. It is certainly the petrified body of a man with a tail.”
It was named “The Solid Muldoon.” The Solid Muldoon made a tour of the United States ending up in New York. People stood in line to pay money to see this “missing link.” Although Darwin himself, only seeing pictures, felt the whole thing might be an imposture; others said it was definite proof of evolution.
It was February 15, 1878…less than a year after the Solid Muldoon was discovered, that one of the members of the exhibition company, feeling he wasn’t being paid enough, spilled the beans about the missing link.
It seems that back in 1877 two men met to see if they could make some money in connection with the excitement over Darwin’s theory of evolution. One of the men was George W. Hull. Eight years earlier Hull had made money by creating and exhibiting a Cardiff giant he had made with 2,900 pounds of cement. The other was a P. T. Barnum, the great showman and promoter. Hull took some cement and cast the Solid Muldoon along with the turtle and fish. Then they had it hid in the Colorado wilderness, so they could later find it.
With the exposure of the Solid Muldoon as only a piece of rock, this star of the Old West faded. But P. T. Barnum continued showing us just how gullible we really are.