Old West Myth & Fact Archives

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

Wyatt Earp, Boxing Referee

Wyatt Earp, Boxing RefereeWyatt Earp had left behind his days in Tombstone. He was now living as a gentleman in San Francisco. Because of his interest in boxing and his celebrity status, on December 2, 1896, Wyatt was asked to referee a championship-boxing match between Fitzsimmons and Sharkey. The purse was $10,000. Winner take all. Here is the story of Wyatt Earp, Boxing Referee:
           
Things didn’t start out well for Wyatt. He arrived at the arena with a gun. It had to be taken away by the police.
               
Boxing was considered the sport of the common man… but this match was different. Prominent businessmen, police commissioners and superior court judges were there. Even women attended the event… Most wore veils, but some were brazen enough to go bare faced.
 
Fitzsimmons was the favorite, and most of the money was on him. Even though Fitzsimmons told his corner men at the end of the third round that he would finish Sharkey in the next round, it didn’t happen. Sharkey held up his side of the fight until the seventh. And then he started fading.
 
Now Sharkey had a reputation of sneaking in low blows, and maybe this experience was used to accomplish what happened next, because in the eighth round Sharkey, after a mix-up of blows, fell to the mat claiming a foul. Referee Earp, agreed, and declared Sharkey the winner.
 
No one in the arena saw the foul, and people started mumbling about a fixed fight. Fitzsimmon’s people took it to court. The judge declared that since boxing wasn’t legal, the courts were not in a position to make a determination on the outcome of the fight.
 
Proof of a fixed fight was never established. But right after the fight, Wyatt Earp chose to leave the city by the bay.        

Texas Rangers: Why Are They Called Rangers?

Texas Rangers: Why Are They Called Rangers?In 1826 Stephen Austin authorized a force of men to fight Indians. This group was the inspiration that inspired the Texas Legislature to form the Texas Rangers on November 24, 1835. They were formed, not as a law enforcement group, but to protect the Texas frontier from Comanche Indians and Mexican banditos crossing over the border. Why are they called Rangers? They were called Rangers because their job was to “range” over wide areas.
           
A private in the Texas Rangers would receive $1.25 per day. With this he took care of his food, clothing, ammunition and horse.
               
When the Civil War broke out, Texas went on the side of the Confederacy. Although the Rangers, as a group didn’t join the Confederacy, some of the members did. They formed a group called “Terry’s Texas Rangers.” And incidentally, this group was credited with originating the rebel yell.
 
After the Civil War; the conquest of the Indians; and Texas becoming a state, the Texas Rangers became the law enforcement agency of Texas.
 
Probably the most unique individual job the Rangers engaged in involved Judge Roy Bean, the law west of the Pecos. The Texas Rangers liked Roy Bean because he always handed down swift judgments. His justice may have been convoluted, but it was immediate, leaving the Rangers free to bring in more lawbreakers.
 
In 1896 Judge Bean was putting on a heavyweight prizefight, which was highly illegal in Texas. Although the fighters and the fans came from the U. S., the actual fight took place on a river sandbar just inside Mexico.
 
Making sure that all Texas laws were observed, a group of Texas Rangers stood on the Texas border, and observed the fight that, unfortunately, only lasted 90 seconds.        

California Joe

California Joe (Moses Embree Milner)Moses Embree Milner was a well-built man, more than 6 feet in height. Not only did he constantly smoke a pipe, he chewed tobacco at the same time. In 1849, at the age of 20, he went to California like everyone else… for gold. Then he moved up to Oregon, and then to Montana where he acquired the name California Joe.

He then started doing some scouting for the military. In 1868, George Custer made him chief of scouts for the Seventh Cavalry. But that job didn’t last long because California Joe went out the night of his appointment and got so drunk that he had to be hogtied and returned to camp lashed to a mule. The next day Custer fired him as chief, but kept him on as a regular scout.

In 1874 he accompanied Custer on his excursion into the Black Hills of the Dakotas where gold was discovered. Although the discovery was to be kept a secret, it was supposedly California Joe who let the word out. It was probably during a drinking spree the night of his arrival back to civilization.

A year later California Joe accompanied Walter P. Jenney’s expedition into the Black Hills to confirm the discovery of gold, and open it for settlement. California Joe was able to stake out a homestead on the future site of Rapid city, South Dakota.

While in Nebraska, California Joe got into an argument with Tom Newcomb, and on October 29, 1876 Tom found California Joe looking the other way and shot him in the back. Because there was no law in the area Tom Newcomb was never tried, but two years later a couple of California Joe’s friends shot Tom in the back.

Air Conditioning in the Old West – A Reader’s Question

Question:  It’s so hot in the West and the Southwest during much of the summer that even today with air-conditioning, it can get downright uncomfortable.  How did they beat the heat in the Old West?

Air Conditioning in the Old West Answer:  There were several things people on the frontier did to make the hot, dry summers more bearable.  In some cases they used ingenuity.  In others it came with the territory.  One that came with the territory was on the plains.  With no lumber for homes, but plenty of territory or sod, they cut it into one foot by two foot rectangles and used the sod to make their homes.  Although these “soddies” had a lot of drawbacks, they were warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Those frontiersmen who settled in areas with available lumber, built homes with overhanging porches on all sides.  That way no matter where the sun was located, the overhang shaded the windows.  The porch also provided a shady place to take a Sunday afternoon rest in a rocking chair.  And on hot nights a sleeping bag thrown on the porch provided an area with a cool breeze and protection in case of a midnight shower.  Cowboys living in bunkhouses often slept outside under the stars during the summer.

Even businesses found ways to keep their customers cool.  Back in 1880’s the town of Florence, in southern Arizona, bragged of having the coolest tavern in the southwest.  In the rear of the regular saloon, a tunnel had been dug in the ground.  That cool cave was called the Tunnel Saloon.

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