Old West History Archives

Teddy Roosevelt’s Boat Thieves

On March 24, 1886, three hard cases were on the move. Unfortunately, an ice-swollen river stood between them and their destination. They came across a small rowboat, and decided to commandeer it. Now, normally the owner would chalk it off as a loss, but not this owner. He happened to be a tenderfoot easterner who had recently become the chairman of the Stockmen’s Association, a position that also carried with it the title of deputy sheriff. This easterner turned cowboy and rancher was a man of grit and determination who was later to hold the highest office in our land. His name was Theodore Roosevelt. This is the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s boat thieves.

Roosevelt had another boat made, and within a week, he and two cowboys were going after the thieves. After three days, they found them.

Because of the icy river, the group traveled eight days trying to get back home. With provisions almost gone, they finally came across a ranch. Roosevelt hired a wagon and driver to take him and the three ruffians the rest of the way. Roosevelt’s two companions remained with the boats.

It took two days and a night to get to the nearest town. Roosevelt stayed awake, with rifle at the ready, the whole time. To make sure he wasn’t jumped, Roosevelt had to walk along behind the wagon.

As deputy sheriff, Roosevelt received a fee for bringing in the men, and mileage for the over 300 miles he had traveled to retrieve them. It was a total of $50. But he had accomplished two things: First, he had upheld the law. Second, people would think twice before stealing anything from him again.
Teddy Roosevelt's boat thieves

Pony Bob

When the Pony Express was formed they advertised for “Young skinny wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Because of the amazing men who answered that ad, only one mail pouch was lost during the existence of the Pony Express. The most amazing of the riders was Bob Haslam, who was known as Pony Bob. In May of 1860 he rode horseback 380 miles in 36 hours. But that wasn’t his most amazing feat. 
Pony Bob & Robert Haslam in his later years
               
On March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the President of the United States. It was important that the people in California get Lincoln’s inauguration speech as soon as possible. Pony Bob was responsible for a 120-mile stretch in Nevada. He covered the 120 miles on 12 horses in about 8 hours. To give you an idea of how fast he traveled, a racehorse runs the short distance on a racetrack at a little over 25 miles per hour. Counting the time taken for changing horses and any other delays, Pony Bob traveled the 120 miles at approximately 20 miles per hour.
 
But Pony Bob had to contend with conditions no jockey has ever had to contend. Right after he left Cold Spring, Nevada he was surrounded by Indians riding stolen Pony Express horses. Pony Bob shot three of the Indians. Then he took an arrow in the left arm. He caught another arrow in his mouth that broke his jaw and knocked out five teeth.
 
Outrunning the Indians, at the next relay station he stuffed a rag in his mouth and successfully delivered this valuable document to the next rider.

Crime of ’73

Prior to 1873, in addition to silver and gold coins, those two metals backed paper money printed by the government. A person could actually exchange a dollar bill for a dollar’s worth of silver or gold. But in 1873, following the lead of many European countries, Congress passed a law for the United States to stop producing silver coins, or using silver to back paper money. When this happened a financial panic took place. Obviously the bottom fell out of the silver market. A man who was a wealthy owner of a silver mine one day, found himself the owner of a worthless hole in the ground the next day. In addition… farmers or anyone who carried a heavy debt load felt this bill made for a tighter supply of money, and therefore harder to pay off their debt. Congress’ bill became known as the “Crime of ’73.” 
               
With the United States going through widespread financial difficulties, it was mystically thought that going back to both silver and gold would solve all problems. The leader of the fight to go back to silver again was Congressman Richard Bland, an ex-miner and farmer. He was so tireless in his efforts that he received the nickname “Silver Dick.”
 
Finally, five years after the Crime of ’73, on February 16, 1878, the Bland-Allison Act was passed. Although it didn’t return the usage of silver to the level prior to 1873, it did require the government to resume purchasing and minting silver money.
 
Unfortunately, those who found it difficult to pay off their debt prior to the Bland-Allison Act found it just as difficult afterward. 
Crime of '73

Joel Fowler – A Vigilante Hanging

vigilante hangingJoel Fowler was born in Maryland, and he later migrated down to Texas. He spent some time on the stage as an actor and entertainer. Not able to earn much of a living at this profession, he tried his hand as a law attorney. Running abreast of the law, in 1879 Joel headed up to New Mexico. But this was still not someone who one would think would end up on the wrong end of a vigilante hanging.
           
In Santa Fe Joel Fowler spent some time on both sides of a bar, as well as on stage. One time while wildly drunk he shot up the town. Luckily, no one was hurt. Over the next couple of years Joel gave up the thespian life in favor of taking lives. While on a posse he killed a man. Later in a shootout with supposed rustlers, he killed two more men. In September of 1883 he shot a man, and caused another to commit suicide. 
               
In November of the same year he sold a ranch he had owned for a considerable amount of money. Following the sale he went on a drunk in Socorro, and ended up knifing a man. For the citizenry this was just too much. So Joel was arrested and within a month tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. Joel was able to use his training as a lawyer, and got a stay of execution from the New Mexico Supreme Court. But the locals weren’t happy about this. And on January 22, 1884 they broke into the jail and took him out for a old-fashioned vigilante hanging.
 
Although Joel Fowler wasn’t a religious man, with the noose around his neck, Joel started calling on heavenly angels. This prompted one of the vigilantes to say, “It’s a cold night for angels, Joel. Better call on someone nearer town.” 

Denver’s First Trial

When the cry of silver or gold goes out, immediately hundreds and even thousands of people flock to the area. Overnight, the area is dotted with crude structures called homes. And stores, restaurants and the mandatory saloons pop up right along with the homes. What doesn’t happen immediately is the town’s infrastructure… regulations to insure people are civilized, and a means of enforcement when people aren’t civilized. That’s what happened with Denver, Colorado. But, on January 13, 1859, some of the citizens of Denver decided it was time for law and order. This led to Denver’s first trial.
               
A makeshift court was assembled along the Platte River, which would always be known as the locale of Denver’s first trial. The hardened criminal was brought before the court. The man was charged with stealing… six cans of oysters. That’s right oysters. They were a delicacy to the miners. And, those six cans were probably the last oysters in town. Besides, they were valued at $30.
 
He was found guilty. And, since there was no jail in the area, his punishment was 20 lashes. However, there were those who thought he should be hanged.
 
When they discovered that he was drunk at the time he stole the oysters, and, since most of the jury were probably heavy drinkers themselves, the final verdict was amended. They decided the offender should be banned from the settlement.
 
However, realizing that the draw of gold might mean that he would sneak back, they added one more caveat to his sentence. That was that if he returned to the village anyone could shoot him on sight.
 
I understand he was never heard from again. 
Denver's First Trial - Six Cans of Oysters
 Page 1 of 49  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »