Old West History Archives

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.

The Intelligence of the Horse

The Intelligence of the HorseAugust 10, 1887, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona Territory – It always seemed to me that there was a great deal of superstition, I may say, about the intelligence of the horse.  Sauntering up to an express man at the corner of Monroe and Dearborn Streets the other day I said to him: “How much does a horse know?”

“A horse, sir?” he replied.  “A horse knows as much as a man – just exactly.  My horse there knows everything, just like a man.”

This is the way everybody talks who owns a horse or who tends horses, and it all seems to me to be nonsense.

I have seen horses walk around a post until they had wound up the bridle and then stand all day with their heads bound down to the post because they didn’t have sense enough to walk the other way and unwind the bridle.  I have seen them get a foot over the bridle, when tied to a ring in the pavement, and then go into fits because they didn’t have sense enough to lift their feet over the bridle again.  I have seen them prance around in a burning barn, with their tails and manes on fire, and burn to death, because they did not have sense enough to run out.

Anybody can steal a horse without any objection from the horse.  A horse will stand and starve or freeze to death with nothing between him and a comfortable stall and a plenty of oats except and old door that he could kick down with one foot, or that could be opened by removing a pin with his teeth.

If this is a high degree of intelligence, even for a brute, then I am lacking in that article myself.  Compared with the dog, the elephant, or even the parrot, the horse seems to me to be a perfect fool.

Wild Bill Hickok Married

Wild Bill Hickok had lived the life of a free-spirited man hunting buffalo, being a lawman, gambling and even a stint as an actor. By the time he was 38 Wild Bill’s eyesight was going bad. For his own safety and the safety of others, he gave up being a lawman. And his attempt to be an actor was a failure. About the only thing left for Wild Bill was gambling. So then Wild Bill Hickok, married? 
           
In 1871 Wild Bill met a widow named Agnes Lake. At the time Agnes was the owner of a traveling circus, in which she also performed as a trick rider.
               
Agnes evidentially sparked something in Wild Bill… Because, even though they went their separate ways, they continued corresponding.
 
The two of them met up in Cheyenne, Wyoming and decided to get married. As an aside, there are those who say that Wild Bill had earlier married Calamity Jane. But there is no evidence to confirm this.
 
So, on March 5, 1876 Wild Bill and Agnes Lake got married. Even though they had been corresponding for five years, the marriage surprised most of their friends. Even Reverend W.F. Warren, the Methodist minister who conducted the ceremony wrote in the church register, “I don’t think they meant it.”
 
They went to Cincinnati, Ohio for a couple weeks honeymoon. Alone, Wild Bill then headed for St. Louis. From there he went to Cheyenne, Wyoming and finally to Deadwood, South Dakota where he was killed.
 
In less than 6 months after their marriage, with them being together only 2 weeks of those 6 months, Agnes Lake Hickok was once again a widow.      
Wild Bill Hickok Married
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