Old West Myth & Fact Archives

Old West Women Dueling

Women Dueling - Mattie Silks - Cort ThompsonThe year was 1877. The location was Denver, Colorado. In May, the locals were entertained by midget Tom Thumb in P. T. Barnum’s stage show. Three months later, there was a performance of another type that entertained some of the Denverites. It was the first of its kind recorded in the Old West; one where there are women dueling.
           
Mattie Silks had a boyfriend named Cort Thomson. Now, Cort was a bit of a rounder. And he started sneaking off and seeing a Kate Fulton. When Mattie found out about it, she was upset. Many a woman would have gone into her room close the door and cry her eyes out. But not Mattie. She looked up Kate and challenged her to a fight to the death with pistols.
               
On August 25, the two women met on the street, each was given a single shot pistol. Of course, boyfriend and scoundrel, Cort Thomson, had to be there to glory in the whole affair. The two women squared off and fired. Neither woman hit their mark. In a strange twist of fate, the only person hit was boyfriend Thomson. But, it was only a flesh wound.
 
After missing each other, the women threw down their pistols and commenced a fight. In the process, Kate ended up with a broken nose. Realizing Mattie was not one to trifle with, the next day, Kate left town.
 
What is not known is whether Mattie Silks took Cort Thomson back and nursed him to health. But, I can assure you, if she did, Thomson’s eyes didn’t stray again. Incidentally, it’s not known which woman actually shot Cort. But, I would suspect that whichever one did it that was her aim.

History Of The Santa Fe Trail – Pt 2

Santa Fe TrailWho is it that has neither seen nor read of Pike’s Peak?  If he has not, he has neither traveled nor read the newspapers, and is therefore ignorant of the fact that, that prominent  bump (14,147 feet high) upon the earth’s face derived its name from that of Maj Zebulon M. Pike, an explorer, by authority the United States.  He was in Santa Fe in 1807.  His condition on the route (the future Santa Fe Trail), via the Conejos, across to the Chama, and down that stream past Ojo Caliente and San Juan to Santa Fe, may be inferred from inquiries concerning him and his party; whether those men ragged apparel consisting of overalls, breech cloth ­leather coats, and without covering for the head, were a tribe living in houses.  Pike was promoted to brigadier-general and lost his life in 1813, at the taking of Toronto.

It was a misnomer to call the Santa Fe road a trail.  On either side, for miles, a vast expanse of level greensward relieved the solitude that surrounded you – unless, indeed, there was visible a band of Indians, a herd of buffaloes, a prairie dog village, a bunch of antelope, a gray wolf, badger, or long-faced coyotes, with furtive glance, on a swinging trot, putting a deal of real estate between them and supposed danger.  A trip over the plains abounded in interest.  The rarity of the atmosphere lent en­chantment to the scene; the mirage so frequently seen was not the least interesting sight.  For hundreds of miles nature denied the wayfarer fuel, but the buffalo in the plentitude of its na­ture, supplied the omission and no one for the want of fuel was compelled to go supperless to bed.

Thirty-three years ago the incidents of the journey were being related by “a tenderfoot,” who had just arrived in Santa Fe “over land,” from the states.  Kit Carson and others were present, and among other astonishing things the newcomer related was, that he had been obliged to cook by a buffalo-chip fire.  When doubts were expressed as to the truth of his assertion, “Kit” came to his relief by stating that he had been so frequently reduced to the same necessity that he finally acquired such a taste for the chip that he was induced to throw away the mean and eat the chip.

The writer, the senior of the Belt, inasmuch as he has had some experience, can well credit the statement of the stranger and Carson.  The trail is now obliterated, the buffaloes are gone, chips are a thing of the past, railroad cars have superseded the prairie schooner and the carrion crow, on the trail, no longer revels upon the decaying flesh of an overworked ox or mule that fell from exhaustion upon the unfenced expanse west of the Missouri River and east of Santa Fe.

The Rufus Buck Gang

Rufus Buck was a Ute Indian living in the Indian Territory. The Rufus Buck Gang comprised of four Creek Indians and a combination Creek and black. All of them had served time in jail for minor offenses.
           
Buck supposedly boasted, “That his outfit would make a record that would sweep all the other gangs of the territory into insignificance.” And on July 27, 1895, the gang started a thirteen-day crime spree that did exactly that.
               
They killed Deputy Marshal John Garrett. They came across a Mrs. Wilson. She was kidnapped and violated. From there they saw Gus Chambers with some horses. When he resisted, the Buck Gang killed him. They next robbed a stockman, taking his clothes and boots. Fortunately, he was able to escape in a hail of bullets. Two days later, they invaded the home of Rosetta Hassan. She was violated in front of her husband and children.
 
The Rufus Buck Gang
The gang was arrested, and brought before Hanging Judge Isaac Parker, and they were sentenced to be hanged. He scheduled it for July 1, 1896 between nine in the morning and five in the evening.
 
Quite possibly Judge Parker should have stated an exact time, because, on the day of the hanging, one of the gang members said he wanted to be hanged at ten in the morning so his body could be on the 11:30 train. Rufus Buck protested, saying that if he was hanged that early, there would be a several hour delay before his body could be on the appropriate train. The Rufus Buck Gang then decided they wanted to be hanged separately.
 
Marshal Crump smiled, set the time for 1:00, and hanged them all at one time.

Wild Bill Hickok Fighting

Wild Bill Hickok fightingOn July 21, 1870 Deputy U.S. Marshal Wild Bill Hickok was in a bar in Hayes City, Kansas when two of a group of five Seventh Cavalry troopers suddenly attacked him from behind. It’s not quite clear what provoked the attack, but there is thought it might have had something to do with an encounter Wild Bill had seven months earlier with Tom Custer, brother of George Custer and a member of the Seventh. But one thing is clear, you didn’t want to be on the wrong end of Wild Bill Hickok fighting.
           
One soldier held Wild Bill’s arms so he couldn’t fight back. A second put the muzzle of his pistol to Wild Bill’s ear and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
               
Now Wild Bill is fighting with super human strength. He got one pistol unholstered and shot one of the soldiers in the wrist and the side. Finally able to point his pistol at the man holding him, Hickok shot him in the knee. Released, Wild Bill then did the old stuntman trick of jumping through the window, breaking glass, rolling on the ground outside, and hightailing it out of the area.
 
It was a good thing too, because when word of the shooting got back to the Seventh’s headquarters a number of soldiers headed into Hayes City looking for Wild Bill. General Sheridan even ordered Hickok’s arrested. But it never took place.
 
The event, just as it happened, was something most people would find an amazing feat. But as with most of Hickok’s adventures, it immediately took on even larger proportions. At first newspapers said all five soldiers attacked Hickok. And some ten years later Wild Bill had taken on 15 troopers, killing 3, and being wounded 7 times. Now that’s a story you could tell with pride.

Clay Allison Dies

Clay Allison DiesJuly 26, 1887, The Globe Live Stock Journal, Dodge City, Kansas – Reporting on Clay Allison Dies: Clay Allison, a brave, true-hearted and oft-times dangerously reckless man, when in his cups, has at last died with his boots on, but not by the pistol route. He fell from his wagon in Texas, some days ago, the wheels of the same running over his neck and breaking it. The career of Clay Allison is perhaps unparalleled in the western country and should be written up by some one conversant with it.

All of our old timers knew Clay Allison. He knew no fear, was a good looking man. To incur his enmity was about equivalent to a death sentence. He contended always that he had never killed a man willingly; but that the necessity in every instance had been thrust upon him. He was expert with his revolver, and never failed to come out first best in a deadly encounter. Whether this brave, genteel border man was in truth a villain or a gentleman is a question that many who knew him never settled to their own satisfaction. Certain it is that many of his stern deeds were for the right as he understood the right to be.

By 1883, Allison had sold his ranch and moved to Pope’s Wells (a landmark along the Goodnight–Loving Trail), purchasing a ranch near the Pecos River crossing of the Texas-New Mexico line (50 miles northwest of Pecos, Texas). Clay and his wife, “Dora,” had two daughters: Patti Dora Allison (born on August 9, 1885; Cimarron, New Mexico), and Clay Pearl Allison (born February 10, 1888; Pecos, Texas—seven months after her father’s death).

In a special ceremony held on August 28, 1975, Clay Allison’s remains were re-interred at Pecos Park, just west of the Pecos Museum. His grave marker (which has the incorrect birth date of 1840), reads:

ROBERT C ALLISON
CSA
CO F
9th TENN CAV
SEP 2 1840
JUL 3 1887
GENTLEMAN
GUN FIGHTER


A second marker was later placed at the foot of the grave (see below); with the added phrase: “He never killed a man that did not need killing”.

Clay Allison Dies

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