Old West Myth & Fact Archives

William Brady and Billy the Kid’s Regulators

Billy the Kid kills a sheriffThe Lincoln County War was going full tilt. William Brady was the sheriff of Lincoln County. Brady was known to be in the pocket of the Murphy-Dolan faction… the bad guys as far as Billy the Kid was concerned. The next sequence of events unfold as Billy the Kid’s Regulators come to the forefront.
           
During this time, Billy the Kid had formed his “regulators,” a semi-legal group to fight what he considered was the corruption in the county. And, for the most part, the average local looked favorably upon the regulators.
               
On the morning of April Fools Day 1878, Sheriff William Brady was walking down the Main Street of Lincoln with four of his deputies.
 
Then, from behind an adobe wall, guns started barking. It’s obvious that Sheriff Brady was the main target, because in a matter of seconds, he had more than a dozen holes in him.
 
Brady and Billy the Kid had history. Billy blamed Brady for the death of his friend John Tunstall, and in February of that year, Billy had tried to arrest Brady. But, Brady turned the tables on the Kid, and the Kid ended up in jail.
 
It was revenge through and through. When the shooting died down, Billy the Kid walked up to the body of Sheriff Brady. Some say Billy was looking for arrest warrants for Billy and the regulators. Others say Billy was looking for the Winchester rifle Brady had taken from him back in February.
 
When a bullet shot from hiding nicked Billy’s hip, Billy wisely returned to cover and the regulators left town.
 
Although Billy was able to get his vengeance, the outcome of the event wasn’t good for him. Because of the way it happened, Billy started losing the sympathy of the locals, and they began questioning the legality of his regulators. 

Dick Fellows – Bad Outlaw Horseman

Dick FellowsWe see outlaws in the movies riding at breakneck speed to chase down a stagecoach, and then jump from the horse to the stagecoach to encounter the driver and guard. All outlaws weren’t that good of horsemen. One such person got out of San Quentin Prison on this date back in 1881. His name was Dick Fellows.

Raised in Kentucky, Dick Fellows…An alias…came to California, and falling on hard times decided to rob stagecoaches. He picked the correct stage. It was carrying $240,000. However, as he was getting ready to go after the stage, the stolen horse he was riding threw him, and he was knocked unconscious.

Not one to give up, Fellows stole another horse and held up the next stage. He was successful. After the stage left, he tried to lift the strong box on his horse. The horse startled and raced off.

With night coming on he started walking with the strong box. Next he fell over a high bluff, knocking himself unconscious a second time. He woke up with a broken leg and foot.

Although the strong box has $1800 in it, he never got a chance to spend it, before Wells Fargo Detectives caught up with him.

When he got out of San Quentin, I believe most people would take the hint and go straight. But not Fellows. He went back to robbing stages, only to be caught again and sentenced to life in Folsom Prison.

Fellows devoted part of his time there to teaching a course in moral philosophy to his fellow inmates. Pardoned in 1908 at the age of 62, he returned to his home in Kentucky and faded from the historical record. It is tempting to lampoon Fellows for his inept horsemanship and astonishingly bad luck, but as one biographer noted, “For daring, he is the equal of any outlaws with whom I ever had dealings.”

Bloody Bill Anderson

"Bloody" Bill AndersonThe Anderson family resided in Jefferson County, Missouri. Although they were farmers, the Anderson men had a tendency to augment their income with armed robbery. From these family roots sprung Bloody Bill Anderson.
 
In 1862, Confederate Quantrill raided the town where the Andersons lived. As a result, Union troops came to the area, and four days later, two of the Anderson men were hanged as Confederate sympathizers. This angered 25-year-old Bill Anderson to the point that he dropped his plow and joined Quantrill’s raiders.  
 
Later Bill Anderson’s three sisters were arrested for being spies. And, while in prison, the building collapsed killing one of them. As you can imagine, this pushed an angry Bill Anderson over the edge. Any civility he had was gone to the point people started calling him “Bloody” Bill Anderson. Becoming one of Quantrill’s chief lieutenants, at the massacre of Lawrence, Kansas, the men under his command supposedly killed more people than anyone else. At a raid in Centralia, Missouri, he was responsible for prisoners being stripped and shot.  
 
October 27, 1864, just a year and a half after he joined Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson was shot and killed by Union soldiers. A silk scarf reportedly was found with 53 knots in it. Supposedly, the scarf belonged to the sister who was killed with the collapse of the jail. And each knot represented a person killed.  
 
But then there were other reports that someone else was riding Bloody Bill’s horse, and he was shot instead. Bloody Bill realizing this was a good opportunity to get the bloodhounds off his back, quietly went to Texas and then Oklahoma. I’m sure he met up with Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and all the other outlaws who were also fortunate enough to have had someone else die in their place.  

How Tombstone, Arizona Was Named

Ed Schieffelin - how Tombstone, Arizona was named.On April 1, 1877, a young prospector named Ed Schieffelin arrived at Fort Yachuca in southern Arizona. He told the soldiers he was going into Apache country and trying his hand at prospecting. They told him that the only thing he would find there would be his tombstone. That is how Tombstone, Arizona was named.
 
By October he had run out of supplies and money. Not willing to give up, he kept looking, and was finally rewarded with the discovery of a silver vein 7 inches wide by 50 feet long. Ed Schieffelin named his mine the “Lucky Cuss.” Remembering the remarks of the soldiers that all he would find would be his tombstone, Ed, along with his brother Al, founded the Tombstone Mining District.    
 
As soon as the word got out of a silver strike, prospectors came from everywhere. Next came the gamblers and ladies of the evening. Within 3 years the town comprised of almost 500 buildings, with more than 100 of them selling liquor, and half of these places were “houses of ill fame.”  
 
Tombstone did have two newspapers and a hall built to attract legitimate theatrical endeavors. There were also churches and schools that incidentally, were supported by a tax on the gambling halls and houses of ill repute.
 
Nine years after that first discovery of silver, water flooded the mines, and the population of Tombstone dwindled down to a few hardy souls. But, during that short period, the people who came through Tombstone read like a who’s who of the Old West. This was not only because of the attraction of silver, but the rest of the west was settling down, and this desert town in the Arizona Territory was the last hurrah for wild men looking for excitement.  

County Seat War

In October of 1887 a vote was held in Gray County, Kansas to determine the county seat. The winner was Cimarron. But the citizens of Ingalls weren’t happy with the outcome. And they took their case to the courts. For over a year the courts did nothing, which lead to the County Seat War.
           
County Seat WarFinally Asa Soule, from Ingalls, decided to take the situation into his own hands. He figured that as the crown or miter was the authority of a king, the records of a county were the authority of a county seat. So, on January 11, 1889 he deputized a group of men to steal the county records. These lawmen weren’t novices. They included Bill Tilghman, Neal Brown and two of Bat Masterson’s brothers, Jim and Tom.
               
Early Sunday morning the group rode quietly into Cimarron. Neal Brown and the two Mastersons started carrying out the records as the others stood guard. Then an alarm was sounded, and guns started firing. The three record carriers were caught inside the courthouse. The rest got away with the records. More than two hundred men started shooting at the courthouse. In the process, one citizen was killed.
 
For more than 24 hours the men were trapped inside. Then mysteriously a truce was called and the three men were allowed to leave town unscathed. What happened? Well, Bat Masterson heard about his brothers’ plight, and he telegraphed Cimarron stating, if either of his brothers were hurt he would “hire a train and come in with enough men to blow Cimarron off the face of Kansas.”
 
Oh yes, four years later another election was held and Cimarron again won.       
   
County Seat War
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