Old West History Archives

Samuel Maverick

Samuel MaverickIn 1835 Samuel Maverick moved to the San Antonio, Texas area, and started practicing law.  He was even one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

As the story goes, a neighbor owed him $1,200.  With no ready cash, the neighbor offered to pay him in cattle.  So, reluctantly Samuel agreed to take 400 head of cattle.  Not wanting to deal with the cattle, Samuel hired someone to take care of them.  At first the hired hand branded the calves with Samuel’s MK brand.  But soon things got out of hand, and many of the calves went unbranded.

By 1854 Samuel’s unbranded cattle were roaming all over the area, and his neighbors started complaining, stating that if Samuel didn’t do something about them, he wouldn’t have any.

Finally, in 1856, Samuel sold his cattle to another rancher.  The cattle were sold on the basis of “range delivery.”  This meant that the rancher bought an approximate number of cattle that happened to be located on the open range.  Whenever the new owner found an unbranded cow, he claimed them as Samuel Maverick’s cattle, or “Maverick’s”.  By 1857, people in the area were referring to unbranded cattle as “mavericks.”

But the term didn’t come into general use until after the Civil War, when the cattlemen returned to find tens of thousands of unbranded cattle roaming the plains.  It’s interesting to note that during this time, although taking a branded cow was a hanging offence, to take an unbranded calf that wasn’t following a cow, or a maverick, was not rustling.  And rounding up mavericks is the way many a cattle ranch started out.

William Brazleton – Masked and Unmasked

William BrazletonWilliam Brazleton was about 6 feet tall, and weighed around 200 pounds. He was described as “a great big, good natured fellow who was as harmless as any man could be.” Little is known about his early life. He did tell a friend that he had robbed a couple of stages in northern Arizona, three over by Silver City, New Mexico, and four around Tucson.        
 
There were stage robberies in the vicinity of Tucson that mysteriously had two sets of horse tracks leading to the scene of the robbery, but none leaving it. These robberies were performed by a man who wore a mask over his head with holes cut in it for his eyes and mouth.              
 
Because of information received from a confederate of Brazleton’s, the sheriff set up an ambush. On August 19, 1878 Brazleton was shot down in a hail of bullets.     
 
At this time, the reason for two sets of horse tracks leading to the robbery scenes, and none leaving it, was the following. It seems that Brazleton had devised horseshoes that could be reversed in order to confuse trackers.  
 
Now, as to his fame after death… Brazleton was brought back to Tucson, propped up against a wall, with his guns on his lap. And, pictures were taken of him with and without his mask. Today, any series of outlaw photographs, either alive or dead, includes at least one of the two pictures of Brazleton.
 
Incidentally, taking pictures of dead outlaws wasn’t unusual. Quite often dead outlaws were displayed in public with photographers charging money for people to have their picture taken next to the local bad boy. That is, until he started stinking too much.        
 
 

William Johnson and an Old West “Romeo and Juliet”

Born and raised in Ohio, when the Civil War broke out, William Johnson became a Captain on the Confederate side. Following the Civil War, he mustered out in Texas.       
 
Deciding to do some ranching in New Mexico, Johnson picked up a small herd of cattle in Texas and drove them up to New Mexico. On the way up he ran into some Indians, and was wounded in both legs. He managed to make it to the Beckwith ranch in Lincoln County, New Mexico.             
 
During Johnson’s recuperation he fell in love with one of Hugh Beckwith’s daughters, Camellia. Although Beckwith was also a believer in the Confederacy, he was against Johnson marrying his daughter. Thinking love conquers all, the two got married anyway. And Johnson started a ranch near the Beckwith spread.    
 
The cattle on the Beckwith ranch seemed to grow beyond all proportion of normalcy. And neighboring rancher John Chisum felt the reason for this was that Beckwith was stealing some of his stock. So, in April of 1877, John Chisum and a bunch of his cowboys conducted a raid on the Beckwith ranch. As it happened, none of the Beckwith men were present. But son-in-law William Johnson was. And he engaged the Chisum men in a rifle shootout until Chisum decided to give up the cause. 
 
Now, you would have though old man Beckwith would have been pleased with the performance of his son-in-law. But it doesn’t seem he was, because their one-sided feud not only continued, it escalated, until on August 16, 1878 when Johnson was talking to Beckwith about ranching practices… quite possibly criticizing Beckwith’s practice of taking other rancher’s stock… when Beckwith grabbed his shotgun and fatally shot his son-in-law. And you think your in-laws are harsh.     
cowboy with rifle

David Neagle – Marshall of Tombstone

David NeagleOn July 15, 1880 David Neagle arrived in Tombstone, Arizona. If he had had the ability to see the future, he would probability have continued on down the road.       
 
 David had operated a mine in the past, and knowing many of the miners, thought he could earn a living in that business in Tombstone. But that wasn’t the direction fate took him. He signed on as county deputy sheriff under Sheriff Behan where he perused stage robbers and stock rustlers… one time alongside Wyatt and Morgan Earp.           
 
David Neagle was a man “credited with being one of the fastest pistol shots in the West, and of indisputable courage,” and was liked by both the Democrats and Republicans. 
 
After the O. K. Corral shootout and the ambush shooting of Virgil Earp, Neagle decided to run for town marshal as an independent and won. This was during a time when the conflict between the Earps and the Clantons, and the Republicans and the Democrats was at its worst. But Neagle serving both as the town marshal and deputy county sheriff was liked by everyone, yet not quite trusted by anyone because he seldom took sides.  
 
When County Sheriff Behan decided not to run for another term, Neagle, again as an independent, decided to run for county sheriff. But this time he was branded as a Republican friend of the Earps, which resulted in his being defeated. It also resulted in the Democrat vote being split, and a Republican elected.  
        
By now Neagle was wearing thin on everyone. So David quietly served out his term as town marshal, left Tombstone, and headed for Montana. 
 
David Neagle is a good example of how, in a polarizing situation, when you want to be everyone’s friend, you sometimes end up being no one’s friend. 

Cheyenne Dog Soldier Chief Tall Bull

Cheyenne Dog Soldier Chief Tall BullTall Bull was a fairly common name for the Cheyenne, had by several braves. But the Tall Bull known by the whites of the Old West was Cheyenne Dog Soldier Chief Tall Bull. And under his leadership, they became one of the toughest foes of the United States government in the bloody Plains Indian Wars.      
 
Tall Bull and his Dog Soldiers spent the winter and spring of 1867 attacking stages and stage stations. Although, in no way defeated, they agreed to talk peace that fall. Even though the treaty they signed stated differently, they had a verbal agreement to be able to hunt the grounds above the Arkansas River as long as there were buffalo there.          
 
The next spring Tall Bull took his warriors above the Arkansas to hunt, and while they were there, they also did some raiding. With soldiers pursuing him, Tall Bull was successful in attacking them on several occasions. So, the army put together a special force under General Eugene Carr to get Tall Bull.
 
On July 11, 1869, believing he had outdistanced the pursuing force, Tall Bull and his warriors made camp at Summit Springs, Colorado. But, Carr’s Pawnee scouts had found the village, and the soldiers were able to get next to the village, undetected, before attacking. 
 
During the battle Tall Bull, and many Dog Soldiers were killed. Although the Cheyenne fought for another ten years, because of this battle, the Dog Soldiers were never again a major force. 
        
Incidentally, even though, Carr’s civilian guide, Buffalo Bill Cody, claimed to have killed Tall Bull, others in the battle say there was no way to tell who killed him, because everyone was shooting at him.  
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