Old West History Archives

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

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.

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