Old West History Archives

Texas Ranger Frank Jones

Texas Ranger Frank JonesBorn in Austin, Texas in 1856, Frank Jones joined the Texas Rangers at the age of 17. He saw his first action when he and two other Rangers were sent after some Mexican horse thieves. In the process, the horse thieves ambushed the Rangers. Frank’s two companions were immediately taken out, but Frank was able to kill two of the bandits and capture a third.
Frank was promoted to corporal and later to sergeant. Once again while chasing a large gang of cattle rustlers, Frank and his six Ranger companions were ambushed. Three of the Rangers were immediately killed, and Frank and the other two Rangers were captured.
Now, it would have been much better for the rustlers if they had also killed Frank, for while the rustlers were congratulating themselves on their victory, Frank grabbed one of their rifles, and proceeded to kill all of them.
A few years later, now a captain, while traveling alone, Frank was again ambushed. This time by three desperadoes who shot him, and left him for dead. With a bad chest wound, Frank tracked the three men down on foot until he found their camp. He waited until dark; took one of their rifles; shot one and brought the other two back to stand trial.
Over the next few years Frank continued his confrontations and victories over outlaws. But on June 29, 1893 Frank went on his last mission. He and four other Rangers went after some cattle thieves on the Mexico border. This time they did the ambushing. But it didn’t turn out well for Frank. In the ensuing gunfight he was finally killed.
Now, I’m sure you agree that Captain Frank Jones definitely does typify the grit of the Texas Rangers.

Wilcox Train Robbery

In 1899, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch were going full tilt. The Wild Bunch may have even divided into two groups, one specializing in banks, and the other in trains. Whether it was by the whole gang or just the train specialists, on June 2, 1899 the Overland Flyer was stopped in the area of Wilcox, Wyoming. Therein lies the story of the Wilcox Train Robbery.

They placed a red lantern on the track just in front of a wooden bridge. Thinking the bridge out, the train ground to a halt. Now, if it were the “train specialists,” they needed more “training” so to speak… because from this point forward things didn’t go well.

They wanted the engineer to pull the train to the other side of the bridge, so they could blow up the bridge. He refused; was pistol-whipped… and still he refused. Finally one of the wild bunch had to do it. After blowing the bridge, they approached the express car. A messenger named Woodcock guarded the car. He refused to open the door.

A well-placed stick of dynamite blew off one side of the car, and rendered Woodcock barely conscious. With Woodcock unable to open the safe, another stick of dynamite was put to the safe. The safe blew apart sending $30,000 flying through the air, and the robbers scrambling after the money.

Now, about the marked money… As the Wild Bunch picked up the money, they noticed it had a red stain on it. At first they though it was blood. But, it turned out to be from a crate of raspberries that was next to the safe. I can only imagine the telegrams sent to banks in the area. “Be on the lookout for money with burnt edges and the taste of raspberries.”

Wilcox Train Robbery

Both Officer and Highwayman Shot to Death

highwaymanJuly 28, 1896, Record-Union, Sacramento, California – The daring and mysterious outlaw who has terrorized this section of the State for the past six weeks, holding up travelers, singly and in groups, in broad daylight and without any attempt at disguise, was run to earth by Sheriff Douglass of this city yesterday afternoon, and in the duel which followed both Sheriff and highwayman were shot to death. 

Posse after posse had been dispatched on the trail of the road agent, but he eluded them all and continued his work of impoverishing the traveling public day by day without molestation. Becoming discouraged over the failure of his deputies.  Sheriff Douglass determined to hunt the robber single handed.  Accompanied only by his dog, the brave officer set out yesterday morning.  Nothing was heard from him during the day.  This morning his dog returned home, and the Sheriff’s friends became anxious.  A search party was organized, and in a short time the officer’s horse and buggy were found by the roadside a few miles from the city.  Half a mile distant in the bushes the bodies of the Sheriff and the outlaw were discovered within a few feet of each other, both rigid in death. 

The robber had been shot three times, one of the bullets entering his heart.  Upon examination it was found that the brave officer had received his death wounds from the rear, evidently at the hands of the robber’s confederate.  The outlaw’s camp was discovered, and showed traces of having been occupied by two men.

Fresh posses were immediately organized, and late this evening word was brought to the city that the murderer had been carefully surrounded in the woods and would undoubtedly be taken.  Lynching is certain to follow his capture, as Sheriff Douglass was an exceptionally popular officer, and his friends are enraged and determined to avenge the assassination.

The dead outlaw has been identified by several of his victims, but otherwise his personality remains a mystery. 

LATER —No further advices have been received to-night from the numerous posses of Deputy Sheriffs and citizens engaged in the search tor Sheriff Douglas’ supposed assassin.  The city presents an unusually lively appearance tonight, the streets being thronged with crowds of anxious citizens, eagerly awaiting news from the scene of the tragedy.  The dead outlaw has been identified by M. L. Marsh as a man who worked in his sawmill during the month of May last.  While in Marsh’s employ he passed as C. Meyers. 

Under Sheriff Pascoe, who went out this morning to search for Sheriff Douglass, had not returned at 11 o’clock tonight, and grave fears are entertained that he may have been ambushed and slain.  A large posse has been formed to search for him.  It is hardly probable that Pascoe would have remained out so long if something had not happened. He is a son of the late W. H. Pascoe, who was killed by Fredericks three years ago while Sheriff of this county. 

Dr. Tricknell conducted a post-mortem examination over the bodies of Sheriff Douglass and the outlaw to night. He said the men had been dead fifteen hours. 

The rifle used by the robber was stolen from Grant Dart of Rough and Ready, eight miles from here. The dead robber worked for two days at Marsh’s sawmill in this town and also worked for two days at Lord’s livery stable in Grass Valley.  He was seen in this city last Friday evening.  He drank heavily.  No one identified him as the tool-taker.

The murderer of Sheriff Douglass had robbed both his victims and the dead outlaw of all their clothing had been turned inside out, and everything they contained removed.

Bloody Prize Fight in Dodge City

Bloody Prize FightJune 16, 1877, Times, Dodge City, Kansas – On last Tuesday morning the champion prize fight of Dodge City was indulged in by Messrs. Nelson Whitman and the noted Red Hanley, familiarly known as ‘the red bird from the South: An indefinite rumor had been circulated in sporting circles that a fight was to take place, but the time and place was known only to a select few.  The sport took place in front of the Saratoga, at the silent hour of 4:30 a. m., when the city police were retiring after the dance hall revelry had subsided, and the belles who reign there were off duty.  Promptly at the appointed time, the two candidates for championship were at the joint.  Col. Norton acted as rounder up and whipper-in for both fighters, while Bobby Gill ably performed the arduous task of healing and handling and sponging off.  Norton called “time,” and the ball opened with some fine hits from the shoulder.  

Whitman was the favorite in the pools, but Red made a brilliant effort to win the champion belt.  During the forty second round, Red Hanley implored Norton to take Nelson off for a little while till he could have time to put his right eye back where it belonged, set his jaw bone and have the ragged edge trimmed off his ears where they had been chewed the worst.  This was against the rules of the ring, so Norton declined, encouraging him to bear it as well as he could and squeal when he got enough.  About the sixty-first round, Red squealed unmistakably, and Whitman was declared winner.  The only injuries sustained by the loser in this bloody prize fight were two ears chewed off, one eye busted and the other disabled, right cheek bone caved in, bridge of the nose broken, seven teeth knocked out, one jaw bone mashed, one side of the tongue chewed off, and several other unimportant fractures and bruises. Red retires from the ring in disgust.

Old West Newspaper Battle

old west newspaper battle

William Byers

In 1859 the Pikes Peak Gold Rush was a bust. The settlements of Cherry Creek, Montana City and Denver City were on the verge of becoming ghost towns when another gold vein was discovered, and people came running. This set the stage for the first Old West newspaper battle.

           
John Merrick decided the area needed a newspaper. He bought an old press and headed to Cherry Creek. Not seeing any reason for haste, Merrick took his time putting his newspaper together.
               
But, four days after Merrick had arrived; William Byers arrived from Omaha, Nebraska also with a printing press and the same idea. Byers immediately located an office in the best building in town… It happened to be an attic of a tavern, and the roof leaked so bad a canvas had to be hung over the press to keep it dry.
 
old west newspaper battle

First Office of the Rocky Mountain News

A race was on. Bets were placed, and everyone cheered on their favorite editor. Finally, on Saturday evening, April 23, 1859, William Byers’ Rocky Mountain News hit the streets just twenty minutes before the first copy of John Merrick’s Cherry Creek Pioneer. In the news industry, a scoop of twenty minutes is like a lifetime. So, John Merrick sold out and left for the gold fields.

 
William Byers had the area to himself. However, his troubles weren’t over. There was a battle between two neighboring towns on either side of Cherry Creek. So that Byers couldn’t be accused of favoritism, he moved his equipment to a building that was virtually astride Cherry Creek. Not a good move. Four years after he started his newspaper, the area flooded, and washed away the building. His press wasn’t found until 35 years later. 
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