Old West Myth & Fact Archives

Wrong Men Hanged From The Gallows

It was 1864 in Jackson County, Missouri.  Two men, Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp had murdered a horse trader by the name of John Bascum.  The two men were arrested and put on trial.  The jury found them guilty.  The judge sentenced them to be hanged from the gallows.  And, he said it must be done within twenty-four hours…There wasn’t much of an appeals process in the Old West.

So, on September 6, the townspeople frantically started building a gallows.  Just before the twenty-four hour deadline was up, the two men were grabbed, sacks were put over their heads, and they were led to the gallows.  Ropes were placed around their necks.  The trap door sprung.  Before the deadline, their lifeless bodies were hanging from the end of ropes.  The townspeople congratulated themselves on a job well done.

Sheriff Clifford Stewart went back to his office to take care of the final paperwork.  But, when he stepped inside his office, Sheriff Stewart had the surprise of his life.  There in the cell were the murders Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp.  At first, he thought it surely was a mirage.  But it wasn’t.

Within a matter of hours, the situation had been sorted out.  It seems that the night before two men had been arrested for drunkenness, and the anxious citizens had grabbed them by mistake.  The men were still to drunk to protest, and Merrick and Sharp sure weren’t going to tell anybody they had the wrong men.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Since the judge had required the sentence be carried out within twenty-four hours, and it wasn’t, the two killers were set free.

This story should persuade any person of the merits of living a temperate life.

Old West Wind Wagon

Wind WagonIn the 1860’s when a pioneer family headed out west, they usually did it in a covered wagon pulled by horses or oxen.  One man, Samuel Peppard, didn’t have horses or oxen, but that didn’t stop him. His idea was a Wind Wagon.

On May 9, 1860 Samuel Peppard headed out west.  This was during the time of the Pike’s Peak gold rush, and Samuel wanted to do some gold prospecting.  He didn’t have any horses or oxen, and he didn’t want the obligation and expense of taking care of them.

But, he did live in the Kansas Territory.  And anyone who has been through Kansas knows it’s pretty flat, and the wind tends to blow rather strongly.  Being a creative person, Peppard decided to take advantage of the resources at hand, and so he designed the world’s first wind-sailor.  Built like a small boat, it was about 8’ long and 3’ wide, and it had four large wagon wheels.  Weighing about 350 pounds, it was designed to hold 4 people.

The first time out, the wind blew the wagon over.  So Peppard reconstructed the sails, rudder and brakes.  By now everyone called it “Peppard’s Folly”.

With three of his friends aboard, Peppard raised the sails, and “Peppard’s Folly” took off across the prairie.  Depending on the strength of the wind, it got up to 30 miles per hour.

On days when there was no wind, Peppard and his three friends just sat back, smoked a cigarette, and swapped stories.

They traveled about 500 miles before a dust devil came along and turned the wind wagon into a pile of rubble.

Peppard and his friends finally made it to Denver, but like most seekers of gold, they didn’t find anything.

Peppard later went back to Kansas, and lived to the ripe old age of 82.  But he was always known as the guy who sailed to Denver.

The Son of Sam Houston – Temple Houston

Son of Sam Houston - Temple HoustonTemple Houston was the son of Texas’ founding father Sam Houston. He was an independent young cuss… so independent that at the age of 13, as a rawboned boy with shoulder length hair, he became a cowboy on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. 
 
On his way back home, Temple ran into a friend of his father’s who talked him into going to Washington D. C. and becoming a Senate page. After three years as a page, Temple decided to study law. So, he went back to Texas, enrolled in Baylor University and at the age of 19 got a law degree. Within a year he was practicing law… Now, I think we can all agree that Temple Houston packed a heck of a lot of stuff in those first 20 years. And he did slow down afterward. 
 
On August 25, 1881, at the age of 21, Temple made a speech on the battle of San Jacinto, bringing tears to the eyes of the audience, and his first glimmer of fame. 
 
Temple became the prototype of the modern day celebrity lawyer. He had a shooting match with Billy the Kid, which, Bat Masterson promoted. And Temple supposedly won.
 
Temple was married and moved to Woodward, Oklahoma where he got into a courtroom row with Al Jennings, which resulted in his killing two of Al’s brothers in a saloon brawl. While defending a woman accused of operating a brothel, he drew the Biblical parallel by saying, “as your Master did twice, tell her to go in peace.” And they did.
 
Back in Texas, Temple Houston was a district attorney and served in the Texas state legislature. Until his death on August 15, 1905 at 45 years of age, Temple worked on only the most difficult cases. And there was the life of the son of Sam Houston.

Wyatt Earp Kills Cowboy in Dodge City

Wyatt Earp
In 1876, Wyatt Earp became a policeman in Dodge City, Kansas. A fellow policeman was Jim Masterson, Bat’s brother. On July 26, 1878, Wyatt and Jim were patrolling the streets. At about 3 o’clock in the morning three cowboys decided to head back to camp after a night of drinking. After picking up their pistols, they passed by the local dance hall. Thinking it would be a great joke, they fired several shots into the dance hall. Wyatt and Jim rushed to where the action was taking place. The cowboys immediately turned their guns on Wyatt and Jim. Had they not been plastered, they would have realized that up until then, what the cowboys had done would have just gotten them run out of town. However, with lead coming their way, both lawmen started shooting back. 
 
The cowboys made it to their horses, and as they rode away both Wyatt and Jim emptied their pistols in their direction. Thinking they had missed, the policemen started walking away when George Hoy, one of the cowboys, fell from his saddle. Hoy had been shot in the arm. Hoy was taken to a doctor, and then jail. Unfortunately for him infection set into the wound and he died four weeks later.
 
Many historians credit Wyatt Earp for the kill even though, with lead flying, it couldn’t be positively determined if Wyatt or Jim’s bullet did the damage. And, with Hoy dying, from what could have been considered a minor wound, quite possibly, it was the doctor that did the killing. But, then, as far as George Hoy is concerned, no matter who did the killing, the results were the same. 
 
 

The Doolin Gang and the OK Hotel Shootout

Bill DoolinIn the fall of 1892 Bill Doolin formed the Doolin gang that robbed trains and banks. He caused enough havoc to rile up the law in the area.  
 
On September 1, 1893, the Doolin gang was resting in Ingles, Oklahoma, when the marshal of Guthrie got information on their location.  
 
Disguised as hunters, about 13 deputies arrived in two covered wagons. Six of the Doolin gang were drinking and gambling in Murray’s Saloon. The seventh, Arkansas Tom, wasn’t feeling well, so he had retired to his room at the O.K. Hotel.  
 
As the two wagons converged on the middle of town, “Bitter Creek” Newcomb left the saloon and jumped on his horse. Thinking Bitter Creek might get away, Dick Speed, one of the deputies, took a shot. It splintered Bitter Creek’s rifle stock.
 
The gunshots caused the ill Arkansas Tom to come to the window of the O.K. Hotel. He put three slugs in Dick Speed. With Arkansas Tom shooting from the second floor of the hotel and the rest of the gang shooting from the saloon, the deputies found themselves in a precarious position… which resulted in the members of the gang in the saloon being able to make a dramatic escape on horseback. 
 
However, Arkansas Tom was still stuck in the hotel. After a threat to blow up the hotel with dynamite, Arkansas Tom surrendered on the condition he wouldn’t be lynched. Even though he had killed two of the deputies, the agreement was honored.
 
Although this shootout has since been known as the Gunfight at Ingalls, it could very well have been known as the gunfight at the O.K. Hotel. But then another group who had a shootout in Tombstone, Arizona eleven years earlier might have sued them for trademark infringement. 
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