Old West Book Review: Comanche Jack Stilwell

Comanche Jack StilwellComanche Jack Stilwell, Clint E. Chambers and Paul H. Carlson, University of Oklahoma Press, $24.95, Paperback, Non-fiction, 288 Pages, 2 Maps, 26 Illustrations, Notes, Index, Bibliography.

When Arizona history buffs hear the name “Stilwell,” we immediately think of Frank Stilwell, killed by Wyatt Earp at the Tucson, Arizona train station in 1882.  However, Frank had an older brother “Comanche Jack Stilwell” who led a far more productive and adventuresome life than his younger brother, but not in Arizona.

This book delves into the life and times of Jack Stilwell, beginning with his family history and looking into Jack’s running away from home in Kansas when he was thirteen years old.  Unhappy about the separation of his parents due to his father’s infidelity, young Jack decided to head West with a freight outfit lumbering along the Santa Fe Trail.  A family story says he went to the local water well where he met a group of lusty men with wagons filled with goods, and the boy signed on.

Thus began years of adventures first as a freighter crisscrossing the vast prairies, learning to speak Spanish as well as several Indian languages, including Comanche, earning him the nickname “Comanche” Jack.  He eventually found work as a civilian scout for the U.S. Cavalry.

The Battle of Beecher Island comes up frequently in Stilwell’s biography.  This event took place in September 1868 in northeastern Colorado.  The fight lasted nine days between Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho warriors against soldiers of the Ninth Cavalry.  During fierce fighting, Major Forsyth requested that Stilwell try to make the ninety-mile run for help to the closest army fort.  On foot, draped in blankets, living on raw horse meat, Jack somehow got through enemy lines and is forever remembered as the hero of the Battle of Beecher Island.

Stilwell met Custer and scouted for him, was a friend of Buffalo Bill Cody, and knew many other famous westerners including Quanah Parker and Frederick Remington.  Everyone seemed to like him, speaking and writing favorably about his willingness and good disposition.  When his health began to fail he quit scouting and became a cowboy for several years.

In 1882 his younger brother Frank, who lived near Tombstone, Arizona was shot and killed by Wyatt Earp.  Jack came to Arizona only long enough to settle his brother’s estate before returning home.  With his health deteriorating badly, but still determined, he studied law, became a sheriff, and eventually a judge.  Late in life he married a woman half his age.

His health continued to fail, and after a long series of painful issues related to his many years of hard outdoor living, he died February 17, 1903, probably of Bright’s disease.  Today he lies buried at Old Trail Town, on the west side of Cody, Wyoming, and is remembered as a true Old West frontiersman.

This book goes into great detail about this man’s personal history, and is a fitting tribute to Comanche Jack Stilwell, “army scout and plainsman.”

Publisher’s Notes. 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, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York, 10988. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

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

Medicine Lodge Treaty

Medicine Lodge Treaty
As the western part of the United States was being settled the Great Plains, known as the Great American Desert, was considered unsuitable for settlement. So, it was decided to make it one big reservation for all the Indian tribes to occupy. So came the Medicine Lodge Treaty.
 
But, by 1865 farmers had found a way to raise crops in this “desert.” And, railroads and telegraph lines were crossing the area, presenting tempting targets for the Indians. Something had to be done. Prior to this, under the direction of the government, various churches had tried to civilize the Indian by making him a farmer. These were met with mixed success. But, the government still felt that it was easier to civilize than to kill.
 
It was decided to abandon the idea of a giant continuous reservation, for one that had clear boundaries in Western Oklahoma. So, on October 21, 1867 a federal peace commission met with representatives from the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapahoe and other tribes at Medicine Lodge in Kansas to sign a treaty. 
 
The government would provide rations, clothing, housing and schools. In exchange, the Indian would become a farmer, stay on the reservation, and stop attacking whites. The object was to get the Indian to give up his traditional ways, and become civilized.
 
As with other treaties, the Medicine Lodge Treaty was a failure: The treaty was so complicated that most of the chiefs who signed it didn’t realize its implications. The chiefs who signed the treaty didn’t represent all the Indians. And, although Congress set up the terms of the treaty, they wouldn’t appropriate the rations, clothing and housing spelled out in the treaty. So, the Indian wars continued.

Cynthia Ann Parker Kidnapped Twice

In 1833, when she was a child, the family of Cynthia Ann Parker and several other families came to Texas. One day when the men were in the fields working, a Comanche raid took place. Seven residents were killed and five, including Cynthia Ann Parker kidnapped. They were able to find and rescue all of the captives… except Cynthia Ann Parker. 
               
Cynthia Ann Parker Kidnapped Twice
Cynthia Ann, kidnapped at the age of nine, became the wife of Peta Nocona, the tribal chief. Cynthia had three children by him. Now, normally a Comanche chief would have a number of wives. Peta Nacona was happy with only Cynthia Ann.
 
In 1860, while the men were out hunting, some Texas Rangers and military troops raided the tribe’s village, completely catching them off guard. Cynthia Ann was captured, along with her youngest child.
 
Cynthia Ann Parker didn’t feel as if she had been rescued, it seemed as the same ‘Cynthia Ann Parker kidnapped’ story once again. She often tried to leave the white society, and the daughter that Cynthia Ann had brought with her died. And in mourning, Cynthia Ann starved herself to death. In addition, her Comanche husband, Peta Nocona, also died in mourning.
 
Cynthia Ann’s oldest son, Quanah Parker became the chief of his tribe. By 1870 the Comanche had been defeated and were being relocated to the Fort Sill reservation… All that is except Quanah and his people. They were raiding settlements throughout the Texas frontier.
 
In his many battles with the army, Quanah was never defeated. Finally, in 1875, as if the anger was gone from his heart Quanah Parker gave up his fight against the army, relocated to a reservation, and started fighting for Indian rights in the political arena. On February 22, 1911 Quanah Parker died.
 
The question remains, would Quanah Parker have gone on the warpath if his mother had been allowed to stay with her Comanche family? Probably not. 

Old West Book Review: The Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame

The Ranger Ideal; Texas RangersThe Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, Volume 1, Darren L. Ivey, University of North Texas press $39.95, Cloth. 672 p.p., Photos, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

For anyone interested in the history of the Texas Rangers, this book is a must read.  It is the first of a three-book series telling about the lives of the most important men involved with the founding of the Texas Rangers.  The time period it covers is from 1823 – 1861, and includes Stephen F. Austin, John C. Hays, William A. A. “Big Foot” Wallace, Samuel H. Walker, John S. Ford, and Lawrence S. Ross.  All of these men have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and Museum at Waco, Texas.

The author points out in his Preface that several of these men are well-known, but the others have been mostly overlooked and do not have biographies or even extensive coverage in history books.  All of these men are honored in the Texas Ranger Museum at Fort Fisher located near the Texas city of Waco. Visitors to the museum find Ranger displays including guns, clothing, saddles, equipment and artwork.  The museum opened to the public in 1968, and continues its work educating the public about the important contributions Rangers made to Texas.

Readers find a timeline of Ranger history to help us better understand the enormous upheavals Texas went through beginning in 1821 when Americans established a colony on land that originally belonged to Mexico.  Political changes are explained as Texas went from Mexican control to annexation to the United States in 1845.

Each of the seven men featured here were vastly patriotic, and did not hesitate to join in any and all of the fights, shoot-outs, military campaigns, long marches, sometimes capture and imprisonment in Mexico, and including every hardship imaginable.  By the 1860s, two Rangers featured here joined the Confederate Army when civil war was declared and Texas went with the South.  The battle records of these men are shown here, their adventures and derring-do included a multitude of battles and skirmishes reminiscent of Bruce Catton’s Civil War books where readers follow the amazing courage these soldiers displayed under the most difficult circumstances.

In 1860 Ranger John Ford was involved in the recovery of the highly publicized white woman Cynthia Ann Parker who, when still a child, was taken captive by Comanches.  By the time she was rescued years later, she had mostly forgotten her white way of live, and even how to speak English.

Of the seven Rangers featured in the book, only three ever married while the others seem to have dedicated their lives to Texas.  Two of these men died fighting.

The author has done an impressive job of researching for truths related to this material. Anyone looking for information about the Texas Rangers will find this tome invaluable.

Darren L. Ivey is to be commended for his good writing and careful research into an important topic about the American West.  In addition to The Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame his writing includes a previously published book on this subject titled The Texas Rangers; A Registry and History.

Thus far, thirty-one individuals have been honored in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. If you are a Texas Ranger fan, you will want this one for your Old West library, and will look forward to reading the next two books in the series.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many books including Death For Dinner; The Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York, 10988-0700. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

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

Chief Geronimo and His Braves

Chief GeronimoSeptember 2, 1894, Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona – A dispatch sent out from Chicago is that old Geronimo and his band of Apache savages, who have been prisoners at Mount Vernon barracks, Alabama for a long time, are to be removed to Fort Sill, O. T.  Secretary Fairmont has ordered their return to the west, and Captain Marion T. Maus, one of the officers on duty at General Miles’ headquarters in Chicago, has gone, it is said, to Alabama to personally direct the transfer.  The Indians, to the number of nearly 300, will be taken to Fort Sill, and after a period of surveillance there, will be returned to their old reservation in the mountains of eastern Arizona.

The Indians, after their capture in March, 1886, by regular troops under General George Crook, escaped and were subsequently retaken by General miles, who had relieved Crook.  The cut throats, after their capture, were taken as prisoners of war to Florida.

They were confined there for sometime, but owing to the injurious effects of the climate upon the Indians they were removed to Mount Vernon barracks, about twenty-five miles from Mobile.  Here the climate was no better, and many of the Indians died from consumption and other pulmonary diseases.  They had been used to the dry air of the plains and the humidity and warmth brought on illness.  From 500 or 690 the band has been reduced to less than 300, and their removal is now made in the interests of humanity.

General Crook before his death made strenuous efforts to bring about the removal of these Indians to their new home, and he argues that long imprisonment and suffering had broken them in spirit and taken out of them all desire to renew their former savagery Four years ago a movement looking to their transfer was inaugurated, but the moment it became known the people of Arizona and New Mexico sent a delegation of citizens here to protest.  The attempt was then abandoned, and it was not renewed until lately.

The matter was called up in congress a few months ago and a provision was inserted in the Indian appropriation bill setting apart a sufficient sum for removal of these Indians to “one of the territories.”  No place was specified and the provision was passed, in spit of Delegates Smith of Arizona, Joseph of New Mexico and Flynn of Oklahoma.

It is in accordance with the provision of the recently approved Indian appropriation bill that Captain Maus, order direction of the war department, will now conduct the Indians from the scene of their long imprisonment.  They will be taken to Fort Sill, which is near the center of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservation in the southern part of Oklahoma Territory.  It is probable that the citizens of Oklahoma will protest, but as Fort Sill is pretty well garrisoned their need be no fear of an Indian outbreak, even with Geronimo’s band quartered there.  Some time this fall it is expected that the band will be returned to Arizona.

So far no action whatever has been taken by the people of Arizona with reference to the removal of Geronimo and his band to Fort Sill.  It is not likely that any protest will be made, that being the opinion of the oldest citizens interviewed on the subject that little is to be feared from the return of the band after so long an absence in the south.  None of theses oldtimers hesitated in saying that they do not apprehend that these Indians would make any attempt to reach their old haunts from Fort Sill.  Geronimo is an old man now and the time is not far distant when he will go to join on the happy hunting grounds the braves gone before him.  His hair is turning gray, his shoulders are stooped and his step far from being as firm as in the days he and his followers roamed over Arizona striking terror to the hearts of the settlers.  Then, again, it is said he has undergone a change of heart, the old renegade of late years having acted as superintendent of a Sunday school at the old historical Alabama fort.  But an Apache is an Apache; he’s not a good Indian till he’s dead.

 Page 1 of 5  1  2  3  4  5 »