Old West Myth & Fact Archives

Rattlesnake Dick

As a teenager Dick Barter and two of his relatives went to the California goldfields to seek their wealth. Dick’s relatives found working a sluice box too tough and went up to Oregon. But Dick loved the possibility of becoming wealthy.

One of the richest areas was Rattlesnake Bar. Dick worked that area. He constantly told everyone how beautiful the area was and that Rattlesnake Bar would make him wealthy. So, people started calling him Rattlesnake Dick.
But it seems his personality was such that he irritated everyone around him. After working the area a couple of years, some cattle showed up missing. Although there was no proof, Rattlesnake was accused and arrested for stealing the cattle. Eventually he was found innocent. A few months later he was accused and arrested for stealing a mule. This time he was convicted. But, on his way to prison, another man confessed to the crime.
Dick decided he had no future at Rattlesnake Bar, so he left. For two years he prospected with no incidents. Then miner’s items started disappearing, and Dick was again accused of taking them. To complicate things, a miner who had known Dick at Rattlesnake Bar told everyone about Dick’s background.
At this point Rattlesnake Dick decided that if everyone thought he was a thief, that’s just what he would become. And for the next three years he and his gang stole cattle and horses, robbed miners and stages.
Then on July 24, 1859 he met the fate of most outlaws and was killed by the sheriff. One could say, Rattlesnake Dick lived down to the expectations of others. 

Gambler Charles Cora Lynched

Following the money, in 1851 professional gambler Charles Cora traveled to San Francisco. He brought with him his 22-year-old paramour, Bella.
Gambling being legal, and Charles being a good gambler, he did well. But, San Francisco’s high society looked down upon them because he and Bella weren’t married.
In November of 1855 Charles and Bella went to a play at the American Theater. Their attendance outraged many of the attendees, including Marshall Richardson and his wife. Marshall Richardson asked them to leave. But Charles and Bella refused.
Over the next couple of days Charles and the Marshall exchanged insults, until one evening a drunken Marshall Richardson called Charles out. Shots were fired, and Marshall Richardson was dead.
In the first trial of Charles, the jury failed to come to a decision. So a second trial was scheduled. Charles Cora was confident of an acquittal… That is until May 14 when James Casey joined him in jail.
James Casey had shot James King, a respected newspaper editor. Ten thousand people gathered outside the jail, seeking vengeance for the shooting of King. Finally, the sheriff handed Casey over to the vigilantes. But they weren’t satisfied. They also wanted Charles Cora.
For two days Cora and Casey were held by the vigilantes. When the newspaper editor died, Cora and Casey’s fate was sealed. On May 22, as the editor was buried, Cora and King were hanged.
Had Casey not killed the editor, Cora would have probably gotten off with a second trial. But that’s not the only point of irony. Just before Cora was hanged, he and Bella got married. Had they done this nine months earlier, Cora wouldn’t have even been in jail.

Who Coined The Phrase “Hold Up?”

As a young man Bill Miner tried his hand at mining gold in California and later had a mail delivery service in San Diego. Not doing well at either, he started looking for some easy money. So… Bill robbed his first stage. Not being a success at this either, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in San Quentin. While in San Quentin Bill Miner “got religion” and was released after serving 10 years.

Moving to Colorado, Bill left California and his religion behind. He robbed a number of trains and stagecoaches until he was captured and imprisoned. A jailbreak was followed by more robberies and another arrest. This time he was sentenced to a 25-year term in San Quentin. Again Bill Miner got religion and was released after serving 10 years.
A trip to Georgia for contributions from various trains and banks got him arrested again. This time he was sentenced to a life term.The religion ploy having run its course, Bill went back to the escape route. But he wasn’t any more successful with this activity than any other in which he engaged. He tried escaping three times, only to be captured and brought back to prison. Finally, in 1913, Bill Miner died in his cell.

Now, the phrase that Bill Miner coined that is used today took place on March 18, 1881. During a stagecoach robbery Bill made sure the passengers couldn’t go for their guns by telling them “hands up.” This was the first time this phrase was used. Later robbers varied the phrase by telling their victims, “hold your hands up” which later identified their activity as a “hold up.”

First Photo Of A Crime In Progress

Anton Veith was a Milwaukee newspaper editor traveling out West. On August 15, 1900, he was on a stage on its way to Yosemite. Carrying on idle conversation with fellow passengers, Anton asked them what they would do in the case of a holdup, and they had their entire fortune on them. One said he would give it up; he could make another fortune, but didn’t have another life. Another said that a bullet didn’t always hit its mark, and he would run the other way.
A little later that day the stage pulled to a stop, and Anton heard a voice say, “Get Down!” It was a holdup. The robber had a gun slung over his shoulder, and a pistol in his hand. No one on the stage had a gun, not even the driver and guard. Anton said the robber was careless, and on several instances, he felt he could jump him, but no one else was willing to help.
The robber was kind to the women, allowing them to stay in the stage. And most of the men were able to hide some of their money and valuables. The robber even gave Anton back his heirloom pocket watch.
Anton had his camera with him, and he brazenly asked the robber if he could take a picture of the robbery in progress. Amazingly, the robber agreed. The picture Anton took shows the robber, gun in hand, and the male passengers all in a line. Following the picture, the robber had everyone load up and told the stage to drive off.
A copy of the picture was turned over to the legal authorities. But, despite the picture, and an extensive hunt for the robber, as happens many times today, he was never found.

Teton Jackson – Killer

  Harvey Gleason was over six feet tall. He had a shabby beard, ruddy face with flaming red hair and black eyes. By his mid 40s, he had supposedly killed several soldiers and deputy marshals.

   But, people didn’t know him as Harvey Gleason, everyone knew him as Teton Jackson. He got his name from his favorite area, the Teton Mountains. For a living Teton Jackson stole horses… Not one or two at a time, but hundreds. For about eight years, Teton and his men stole horses during the summer and hid out among the Teton Mountains during the winter.

    While in Eagle Rock, Idaho, Teton killed a man. When the sheriff came to investigate the shooting, he found the victim frozen stiff on the ground. Needing evidence of the killing, and unable to transport the whole body, the sheriff brought in just the head.
Finally, livestock associations in Idaho and Wyoming started putting up rewards for Teton.  And, money talked.  A sheriff found Teton, and brought him in.  He was tried and on November 5, 1885, sentenced to 14 years in prison.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  But, relief was short lived.  For nine months later, Teton escaped from jail.  Even though Teton was free for two years before he was recaptured, few horses were stolen because his gang’s numbers were drastically reduced by posse bullets and jail.
   After four years in jail, Teton received a pardon for good behavior. He continued that good behavior for the next 35 years, marring a Shoshone woman, and doing some guiding, always riding a horse with his brand on it.


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