Old West History Archives

History of Deadwood, South Dakota

history of deadwoodThe history of Deadwood centers around discovery of gold in the southern Black Hills in 1874. This set off one of the great gold rushes in America, and in 1876, miners moved into the northern Black Hills. That’s where they came across a gulch full of dead trees and a creek full of gold and Deadwood was born. Practically overnight, the tiny gold camp boomed into a town that played by its own rules that attracted outlaws, gamblers and gunslingers along with the gold seekers. Wild Bill Hickok was one of those men who came looking for fortune. But just a few short weeks after arriving, he was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights. This hand has come to be known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

Calamity Jane also made a name for herself in these parts and is buried next to Hickok in Mount Moriah Cemetery. Other legends, like Potato Creek Johnny, Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, created their legends and legacies in this tiny Black Hills town.
Deadwood has survived three major fires and numerous economic hardships, pushing it to the verge of becoming another Old West ghost town. But in 1989 limited-wage gambling was legalized and Deadwood was reborn.

Today, the town is booming once again. You’ll find modern-day casinos, resort hotels, full-service spas, big name concerts, and some of the best parties in the entire United States. You can walk in the footsteps of Deadwood’s legends and make history in Deadwood. They’ve been entertaining guests since 1876.

To get more information about Deadwood visit their web site: www.deadwood.com.

Old West Phrases

old west phrasesAt Cowboy to Cowboy we get intrigued with Old West phrases. Here are some of our favorite descriptive terms:

PRAIRIE TENOR – A coyote.

BARKIN’ AT A KNOT – Doing something useless.

WEARING THE BUSTLE WRONG – A pregnant woman.

ROUND BROWNS – Cow chips.

TEAR SQUEEZER – A sad story.

COLD AS A WAGON WHEEL – Dead

BEAR SIGN – Cowboy term for doughnuts. They were highly regarded.

SHAVE TAIL – A green, inexperienced person.

KICK UP A ROW – Create a disturbance.

THE WHOLE KIT AND CABOODLE – The entire thing.

BAZOO – Mouth as in “Shut your big bazoo.”

GONER – Lost, dead.

Kansas Trail Drives Come to an End

Kansas Trail DrivesIt 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 Kansas trail 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.

Battle of Palo Alto

Battle of Palo AltoOn this date back in 1846, Zachary Taylor led American forces against an attacking Mexican Army in the Battle of Palo Alto.

Mexico had never recognized the independence of Texas, and when the U.S. annexed Texas, Mexico sent troops into the disputed Rio Grande River area.

President Polk ordered General Taylor into Texas to defend the border. It was viewed by Mexico as a hostile invasion and the Mexican Army attacked the American forces. 

Taylor, however, was in no position to await formal declaration of a war that he was already fighting. In the weeks following the initial skirmish along the Rio Grande, Taylor engaged the Mexican army in two battles. On May 8, near Palo Alto, and the next day at Resaca de la Palma, Taylor led his 200 soldiers to victories against much larger Mexican forces. Poor training and inferior armaments undermined the Mexican army’s troop advantage. Mexican gunpowder, for example, was of such poor quality that artillery barrages often sent cannonballs bouncing lazily across the battlefield, and the American soldiers merely had to step out of the way to avoid them.

Although the Mexican forces were much larger in number, General Taylor was not only victorious in this battle; he won four additional battles and gained control over the three northeastern Mexican states.

Taylor emerged from the war a national hero. Americans admiringly referred to him as “Old Rough and Ready” and erroneously believed his military victories suggested he would be a good political leader. This eventually catapulted him into the Presidency. Unfortunately, he was a much better general than President. Elected president in 1848, he proved to be an unskilled politician who tended to see complex problems in overly simplistic ways. In July 1850, Taylor returned from a public ceremony and complained that he felt ill. He died several days later at age 65.

Description of Being Scalped

Description of Being ScalpedWhat follows is a December 20, 1883 article from the San Antonio Light newspaper.  It’s a description of being scalped, from the actual words of a soldier who had been scalped:

Quote…“Imagine someone who hates you grabbing a handful of your hair and giving it a sudden jerk upward, and a not particularly sharp blade of a knife being run quickly in a circle around your scalp in a saw like motion.  Also imagine what effect that a strong, quick jerk on your hair to release the scalp would have on your nervous and physical systems, and you will have some idea how it feels to be scalped.

“When that Indian sawed his knife around the top of my head, first a sense of cold numbness pervaded my whole body.  A flash of pain that started at my feet and ran like an electric shock to my brain quickly followed this.  When the Indian tore my scalp from my head it seemed as if it must have been connected with cords to every part of my body.”…Unquote

Following the attack, a friend of the scalped man killed the Indian who had done the scalping, but, according to the soldier, his scalp wasn’t returned.

After recovery he chose to muster out of the service…but his commanding officer called him into his office, and suggested that the soldier was making a mistake by leaving the army.  “Think,” said his commanding officer, “how surprised and disgusted some red devil of an Indian might be if you should stay with us and happen to fall into his hands.  When he went to raise your hair he would find that someone had been there before him.”

Incidentally, the man who was his commanding officer was General George Armstrong Custer whose command was wiped out shortly afterward at Little Bighorn.

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