Old West History Archives

Republic of California

Republic of CaliforniaWe all know that Texas was an independent republic before becoming a state. But did you know that California was an independent republic too? Here’s more about the Republic of California.

Although owned by Mexico, back in 1846 there were very few Mexican settlers in California. In reality there American settlers comprised the largest segment of the population.

On June 14, 1846, anticipating a war with Mexico, 33 Americans lead by William Ide invaded the Mexican outpost of Sonoma, north of San Francisco. They surrounded the home of Mexican General, Mariano Vallejo. With a bloodless victory, the Americans took a cotton sheet and with red paint they made a flag of a grizzly bear and single red star…A reference to the Texas Republic…and printed the words on the flag “California Republic”. The revolt was known as the Bear Flag Revolt.

Three weeks after California became an independent republic; American forces took control of Monterey and officially raised the American flag over California. Since this was what the American rebels wanted, they dissolved their government.

Incidentally, that Bear Flag became the official flag of California.

Warren Earp – Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

Bringing a Knife to a GunfightWe’ve all heard about bringing a knife to a gunfight. Well, on this date back in 1900 that’s just what James, Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt’s little brother did.

After participating in Wyatt’s ride of vengeance because of the cowboy’s wounding of Virgil and killing Morgan, Warren went to live with his parents in Colton, California.

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 Warren. 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.

Old West Myth and Fact: Five Cartridges?

Here’s another Old West Myth and Fact. Tradition and the early Colt Pistol manuals says to load only five cartridges in a pistol and leave the empty cylinder under the hammer. The reason being if the hammer is accidently hit with a live cartridge under it, it could go off…Incidentally; modern pistols have a safety bar to prevent accidental firing.

So, did they load only five cartridges? Not always. Wyatt Earp’s pistol fell to the floor in a saloon and it went off. Lawman Dallas Stoudenmire was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter. During the interview Dallas showed his shooting skills. The reporter said all six shots hit the target. A couple of years ago we published an article in Chronicle of the Old West from 1898 where two men went into the back room of a saloon, and while there a pistol was fired. The people in the saloon though it was a gun fight. Actually, one of the men dropped their pistol.

My feeling is if you were an average Joe you probably loaded five cartridges, but if there was a chance of gunplay you wanted as much firepower as possible. And that extra cartridge could mean the difference between life and death.

Jesse Chisholm Died of Food Poisoning

Jesse Chisholm Died of Food PoisoningOn March 4, 1868 Jesse Chisholm died of food poisoning.

Even though the Chisholm Trail is known for its use during the cattle drive era, Jesse wasn’t a cattleman, but a frontier trader.  He had a great knowledge of the southwest that was valuable in trailblazing.

Because he was a trader, Jesse Chisholm’s trail was a straight road with easy river crossings and few steep grades so lumbering heavy freight wagons would have no trouble traveling it.

He had originally used this trail to supply his various trading posts among the Native American tribes in Indian Territory, what is now western Oklahoma. He worked with Black Beaver, a Lenape guide, to develop the trail. Chisholm died before the peak period of the cattle drives from Texas to Kansas; but he was important to numerous events in Texas and Oklahoma history. He served as an interpreter for both the Republic of Texas and the United States government in treaty-making with Native American tribes.

A year before Chisholm died; his trail also began to be used for cattle drives.  For five years, more than a million head of cattle traveled up the road, creating a path that was 200 to 400 yards wide.  Traces of the trail can still be seen to this day.

End of Kansas Trail Drives

Kansas Trail DrivesWhen it came to the Kansas Trail Drives, it seems that Kansas had a love-hate relationship with Texas cattle and the cowboys that brought them up.

The love part was the profits to be made providing supplies to the cattle drives and a good time to trail-weary cowboys.  Frontier struggling towns like Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top “Cow Town” of Kansas.

But, as Kansas started getting less “frontier” and farming became more important, residents, anxious to attract businesses other than saloons and places of ill repute, started getting less enamored with the Texas cattle industry.

Although the Texas cattlemen tried to stay away from cultivated farmland, according to one cowboy “there was scarcely a day when we didn’t have a row with some settler.”

In addition to this, the Texas cattle carried a tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease for which they were immune, but the Kansas cattle weren’t.

So, on this date back in 1885 the Kansas Legislature passed a bill that barred Texas cattle from the state between March and December 1.

This, along with the closing of open range with barbed wire fences, signaled an end to the cattle drives to Kansas.

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