Old West History Archives


On this day back in 1876 the United States was preparing to celebrate its 100th birthday when news came from the western frontier that much of the 7th Cavalry led by Colonel George Armstrong Custer had been wiped out by Indians led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
Custer had been told by his Indian scouts that he was about to attack a village of many thousand Indians…Some estimates say as many as 11,000 Indians. Dismissing his scouts reports Custer divided his 600 men into four battalions.
It didn’t take long for Custer to realize his scouts were right. Custer and his 215 men were attacked by about 3,000 Indians, and within an hour they were all wiped out.
This was the Indian’s greatest victory in the Plains Indian War. But the Indians weren’t able to enjoy it for long. The army accelerated their efforts against the Indian. Within five years virtually all the Sioux and Cheyenne would be on reservations.


We all know that Texas was an independent republic before becoming a state. But did you know that California was an independent republic too?

Although owned by Mexico, back in 1846 there were very few Mexican settlers in California. In reality there American settlers comprised the largest segment of the population.

On June 14, 1846, anticipating a war with Mexico, 33 Americans lead by William Ide invaded the Mexican outpost of Sonoma, north of San Francisco. They surrounded the home of Mexican General, Mariano Vallejo. With a bloodless victory, the Americans took a cotton sheet and with red paint they made a flag of a grizzly bear and single red star…A reference to the Texas Republic…and printed the words on the flag “California Republic”. The revolt was known as the Bear Flag Revolt.

Three weeks after California became an independent republic; American forces took control of Monterey and officially raised the American flag over California. Since this was what the American rebels wanted, they dissolved their government.

Incidentally, that Bear Flag became the official flag of California.



I had a couple of hours downtime yesterday and I decided to watch a western movie. I picked one from my collection of DVD’s that I hadn’t seen in a while…The Long Riders.

This movie was written and produced by Stacey and James Keach. It’s about the James-Younger gang. As far as I’m concerned it’s an extraordinary film. The unique thing is that actor brothers play outlaw brothers. The Carradines are the Youngers, and the Keachs are Jesse and Frank. Even Robert Ford and his brother are played by brothers.

Historically, it’s fairly accurate as well. Probably Bell Starr had a bigger role in the movie than she did in the life of Cole Younger.

What’s your opinion of the movie?


Just when everyone thought the wild Old West was gone, on this date back in 1899 a small slight woman by the name of Pearl Hart and her boyfriend held up a stagecoach in the Florence, Arizona area.

Their take was a little over $400. But they weren’t able to spend it, because in a short time they were captured and jailed.

Shortly afterward, with the help of some men, Pearl escaped. But, because of her fame, she was recognized and returned to jail.

Pearl and her boyfriend were tried and convicted. The boyfriend got 30 years and Pearl got 5.

Pearl’s life after she got out of jail is surrounded in myth. Some say she became “The Arizona Bandit” with Buffalo Bill and in vaudeville. Others say she married a Calvin Bywater and settled down to a life of domestic bliss.

Whichever one it was, Pearl never got crosswise with the law again.


Our good friend Michael F. Blake turned us on to some unbelievable Old West pictures that were taken between 1867 and 1884.

It’s just amazing the skill of photographers during this time. Especially when you consider if they can take a dozen pictures a day they’re working hard.

Here’s the link: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/05/the-american-west-150-years-ago/100304/

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