Old West History Archives

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

The Cowboy Kid

Johnny Baker was born on January 12, 1869. While still a young kid he met and became enthralled with Buffalo Bill Cody. At the age of 9 little Johnny would hold Buffalo Bill’s horse, and run errands for him. At this time Buffalo Bill was appearing on the stage and the subject of many a dime novel. About five years later Buffalo Bill came up with the idea of starting a Wild West show. Johnny Baker was only 14 years of age… but he talked both his parents and Buffalo Bill into letting him join up. It was discovered that Johnny was a pretty good shot. So he became the shows trick shot expert under the name “The Cowboy Kid.”
The Cowboy Kid, Johnny Baker
One of the features of the Wild West show was a shootout between Annie Oakley and The Cowboy Kid. Whether planned or not, the Cowboy Kid never won.
 
Even after the Wild West show closed, Johnny remained loyal to Buffalo Bill. And, after Buffalo Bill’s death Johnny tried resurrecting Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But it didn’t last long. Still wanting to be a part of the circus atmosphere, he went to work for the Miller 101 Shows, which were more like a rodeo. For a while Johnny was their arena director. And then they closed their doors.
 
Johnny still yearned for the excitement he experienced while traveling with Buffalo Bill. He started working with the town of Denver, Colorado to open a museum. And in 1921 the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was opened.
 
Johnny Baker ran the museum until his death. It stands today, not just a monument to a great showman, but also an indication of the love Buffalo Bill’s unofficial foster son had for the showman.

Christmas Day 1890

Christmas Day 1890. How the Various Churches Will Observe the Festival.
There will be Services Appropriate to the Season and in Most of the Churches Special Music.

Christmas Day 1890December 24, 1890, Daily, Woodland, California – In all of the churches of this city Christmas day will be fittingly observed. The sermons and in most of the churches there will be special musical service.

At St. Luke’s Church the quartette choir of St. Luke’s will give a full musical service appropriate to Christmas day, tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock. The choir is composed of Della Prior-Pierce, Minnie Prior, Wilbur Blair and C. W. Bush; Maggie Ellis, organist. Mrs. Pierce will sing the solo to the beautiful anthem of Williams’. “There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Fields,” and Adolf Adams’ famous “Noel” for the offertory.

Dudley Buck’s festival Te Deum will be a feature of the service.

All are cordially invited to be present. Sunday school at 10 o’clock.

There will be special services in the Congregational Church both morning and evening. Rev. Joel Martin will preach at 11 o’clock. Mr. Martin is well known in the East as an earnest, logical and attractive speaker. Since coming to this coast he has held very successful meetings in Oakland, where large audiences have greeted him in the several churches where he has spoken. At 7 p.m. there will be special children’s Christmas concert service in which the children will take an active part and Mr. Martin will speak. Special music has been prepared. On the afternoons and evenings of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Mr. Martin will also hold services in the church. A cordial invitation is extended to all to attend these services.

The services at the Christian Church tonight will be an old-fashioned Christmas tree. A short program will be given by the Sunday school at 7:30 o’clock. The tree will be beautifully decorated, as the young ladies of the church are sparing no pains to make it the most attractive and interesting that they have ever given. The service tomorrow will be of a special nature. Miss Mary Browning will sing “The New Born King” at the morning service. Special music by the choir in the evening. Subject of the morning sermon at the Baptist Church tomorrow, but there will be a meeting of the young people and Sunday school at the usual hours. The Sunday school children will give an entertainment this evening, after which a Christmas tree will be utilized to distribute the favors of good Santa Claus.

At the Church of the Holy Rosary the first mass will be celebrated at 8 o’clock and the second mass at half past 10. The pupils of Holy Rosary Academy will render appropriate Christmas hymns and carols.

At the M. E. Church Rev. J. A. Van Anda will preach Christmas sermons at 11 o’clock in the morning and 7:30 p.m. The music will be of an appropriate character. This evening there will be a Christmas tree in the church to which all friends are invited.
The pastor, Rev. C. O. Steele, will preach a Christmas sermon at the M. E. Church south at 11 a.m. There will also be other appropriate services. The Sabbath school will begin at 10 a.m. At 6:15 the league will meet.

The Second Christian Church will hold Christmas tree exercises next Monday evening.

At the German Church there will be a musical and literary program and a Christmas tree, and tomorrow Rev. J. Endter will preach a Christmas sermon and there will be special music.

Train – Oxcart Race

The coming of the railroad was considered one of the greatest things to happen in the Old West. It made possible the transportation of goods and people from the industrialized east to the frontier west. The train also was able to cut that travel time down considerably. But, there was one occasion on December 1, 1880 that a lowly oxcart beat a train in a race that quite possible only the oxcart occupants were aware. 
Oxcart
               
Just as the eastbound fast mail train was steaming out of town a hack containing three eager gentlemen drove up to the depot, only to be told the train they wanted had just rounded the bend. The hack they had rented had left the station, and the only transportation was a wagon and four-ox team.
 
The men sternly walked up to the owner of the rig. “Five dollars if you take us up the rail thirty miles,” said one man. “Another five if you get us there before 8 o’clock,” said the second. “Five dollars more if you get us there ahead of the train,” said the third man.
 
The driver looked at the team, thought really hard about the fifteen dollars to be made in two and a half hours, and said “I’m your man.”
 
The wagon road lay alongside the tracks. The first mile was slow, but soon the oxen warmed up. In an hour they had caught up with the train. In the darkness of the evening they could see the trains red light and fire from the smoke stack in the distance behind them.
 
The men finally arrived at their destination safely. After they had domiciled at the hotel, one of the men said, “Boys, we have beaten the train by twenty minutes; let us go to the depot and see it creep in.”

Women’s Suffrage

Although women had been instrumental the development of our country, as 1869 came to a close, they didn’t have the right to hold a political office, or even vote. But that changed on December 10, 1869 as the first state gave women the right to vote and hold political office. One would expect that it would be an eastern state. But that wasn’t so. It was one of the most frontier areas of that time… Wyoming. So, why were the men in the Wyoming Territory so progressive when it came to women’s suffrage?
women’s suffrage
               
One middle-aged territorial legislator by the name of William Bright backed the bill because his wife convinced him that “denying women the vote was a gross injustice.” Incidentally, his wife just happened to be about half his age. Then there was Edward Lee, the territorial secretary, who argued that if a black man can vote, why couldn’t his dear sweet mother. But most people supported the bill for another reason.
 
At the time the Wyoming territory had a population of about 6,000 men and only about 1,000 women. And most of the 6,000 men were lonely for a woman’s companionship. It was thought that if Wyoming gave women the right to vote, the territory would get national publicity, and in turn single women would come to this rugged, isolated area.
 
When Governor John Campbell signed the women’s suffrage bill one lawmaker gave the toast, “To the lovely ladies, once our superiors, now our equals.”
 
Did it work? Well, if you visit Wyoming today you’ll meet some of the handsomest, most strong-minded women, and happiest men.
An interesting side note: In ancient Athens, often cited as the birthplace of democracy, only adult, male citizens who owned land were permitted to vote. Through subsequent centuries, Europe was generally ruled by monarchs, though various forms of parliament arose at different times. The high rank ascribed to abbesses within the Catholic Church permitted some women the right to sit and vote at national assemblies – as with various high-ranking abbesses in Medieval Germany, who were ranked among the independent princes of the empire. Their Protestant successors enjoyed the same privilege almost into modern times.
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