Old West Myth & Fact Archives

The Masterson – Peacock Shootout

From 1879 to 1881 James Masterson, Bat Masterson’s older brother, was the marshal of Dodge City. However, on April 6, 1881, because of a change in city government, James was dismissed. However, this wasn’t James’ only income. He owned a piece of the Lady Gay Saloon. His partner was an A. J. Peacock. Now, theirs wasn’t the most cordial partnership. Peacock had hired his brother-in-law, Al Updegraph as bartender, and James didn’t like it. On April 9, the dislike turned to gunshots between James, Peacock and Updegraph. In this Masterson – Peacock shootout no shots hit their mark, but the damage was done. 
Like with many a schoolyard squabble, I’m sure James probably said something like, “I’m going to tell my brother, and he’ll beat you up.” Because right after the incident, Bat Masterson, who was in Tombstone, Arizona at the time, jumped on a train, and traveled the 1,100 miles to Dodge City to avenge his brother.      
Peacock obviously knew that Bat was coming, because Peacock and Updegraph were waiting for Bat when his train arrived on April 16. Guns were drawn, and bullets started flying. Soon more gunshots were heard from another direction as some of Peacock’s friends enter the fray. And then more shots as James Masterson and his friends joined into the rukus.    
As the shootout participants were reloading their empty guns, the mayor and the sheriff showed up with loaded shotguns, and demanded the shootout stop. Which it did. Unfortunately, brother-in-law, Updegraph was killed during the shooting. 
The outcome of the Masterson – Peacock Shootout was that Bat Masterson was arrested, and charged for discharging a pistol upon the streets of the city. He pleaded guilty, and was fined $8 in costs. Bat paid the fine, and the two Mastersons wisely left town on the next train, and onto more incidents to add to their legend.
Masterson - Peacock Shootout

Marion Hedgepeth and H.H. Holmes

Marion Hedgepeth was born and raised in Missouri. As a young man, he went out west to Montana, Wyoming and Colorado where he learned the art of rustling, robbery and killing. Afterward, Marion headed back to St. Louis where he formed a gang known as “The Hedgepeth Four.”    
Marion was one of the most debonair outlaws ever to appear on a wanted poster. He was always immaculately groomed with slicked down hair hidden by a bowler hat. He wore a well-cut suit with topcoat. His wanted poster noted that his shoes were usually polished.   
The Hedgepeth Four committed a series of train robberies. Eventually Marion was caught and put on trial. Because of his dapper dress and good looks, the courtroom was filled with women and his cell was filled with flowers. But he was still sentenced to 25 years in the state prison. 
While waiting for transfer to prison, Marion’s cellmate was a H. H. Holmes, who was awaiting trial for swindling. Holmes confessed to Marion that he had murdered several women. Marion shared the information with the authorities, hoping it would lighten his sentence. This, along with petitions from women, got him pardoned after 12 years.
Riddled with tuberculosis, Marion continued his life of crime, and was arrested in Nebraska, where he served two more years. Now a physical wreck, on the evening of December 31, 1910 Marion entered a Chicago saloon with the objective of robbing the cash drawer. Unfortunately, a policeman interrupted the robbery, and Marion was shot dead.
Hearing of his death, Allan Pinkerton said of Marion Hedgepeth, “He was a bad man clear through.”    
Marion Hedgepeth and H.H. Holmes

Texas Rangers Surrender

Texas Rangers SurrenderThe stories of the bravery of the Texas Rangers are legendary. However, there was one incident when a group of them were cowards.  It was when events made the Texas Rangers surrender.
About ninety miles east of El Paso, Texas, are salt beds where people went to gather this essential mineral, not only for food, but also for silver mining. In 1876, Charles Howard tried to get control of the salt beds by filing a land claim on them. The salt gathers living in the area didn’t like this. In a confrontation, Howard killed one of their leaders. This caused an uproar. Texas Ranger major John B. Jones was sent to investigate. Seeing the need for more help, he organized Company C of the Texas Rangers.  
To be fair, the men he recruited were toughs from Silver City, New Mexico, and the man he put in charge, John Tays, was no leader. Under normal circumstances, none of these men would have met the Texas Ranger standards. But, these weren’t normal circumstances. 
On December 12, Tays and the other Rangers entered San Elizario. As soon as they got there, the salt gathers knifed to death the local storeowner. The Rangers did nothing. The next morning a sniper shot their sergeant. With the Rangers under siege, they surrendered to the mob. 
The Rangers were locked up in a building and then the salt gathers killed anyone they thought was against them. After the killing was done the Rangers were released to return home the best way they could.
Within days military troops showed up, but by then all of the killers had fled south of the border.
Never before, nor since have the Texas Rangers stood by and watched crimes take place, or surrendered without a fight.    

Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill Cody was born William Frederick Cody, and at the age of 11 his father died. As the middle child of seven brothers and sisters, William Cody had to go to work to help support his family. His first job was carrying messages on horseback between wagon trains for a freight company. For a while he was a rider for the Pony Express where he became acquainted with his lifelong friend, Wild Bill Hickok.   
After failing at running a boarding house, he got a job killing buffalo to feed the workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. This is where he got his nickname “Buffalo Bill.” The railroad workers who called him by that name didn’t do so as a compliment. They got so tired of buffalo meat that when they saw him they would say, “Here comes that ‘Buffalo Bill.’”  
In 1872, now known as Buffalo Bill Cody, he starred in a play entitled “The Scouts of Prairie.” Although he had a couple more stints as a scout for the army, his head was in show business. In 1882 “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show” appeared for the first time. 
In 1887 he took the show to England. In 1889 he went on a tour of Europe… And again in 1891 his “Wild West Show” went back to Europe. The European citizens were enthralled with the Indians, the skills of the cowboys and wildness of the west.
Inspired by Buffalo Bill Cody, Europe has had a love affair with the Old West, even through two world wars. It’s interesting that although they were inspired by the theatrics of Buffalo Bill’s show, they, much more than American Old West re-enactors, strive for authenticity in their attire and reenactments.  
Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show - Europe

They Played Poker For Cattle

Poker For CattleMay 9, 1885, Arizona Champion, Phoenix, Arizona – The Kansas City Journal tells of a game of poker played recently in that city between a Texan and Major Drumm.  The Texan had no money, but plenty of cattle and an immense desire to play poker with the Major.  The latter is known around the stock yards for his great natural resources, and he swept away the seemingly insurmountable difficulty by proposing a game of one steer ante, two steers come in and no limit.  They played poker for cattle on this basis.

Major Drumm dealt and the gentleman from Texas anteed one steer.  Both came in and the game opened with four steers on the table.  Major Drumm drew two tens and caught an unexpected full, while the gentleman from Texas struck a bobtail snag and passed out.

The third was a jackpot and it took three deals to open it.  The gentleman from Texas finally drew two jacks and opened the pot with a fine breeding bull, which counted six.  Major Drumm covered this with five steers and a two-year-old heifer, and went him twelve better.  The gentleman from Texas, who drew another jack, saw the twelve cows and went him fifty steers, twenty two-year-old heifers, four bulls and twenty-five heifer calves better.  Major Drumm looked at his hand and placed upon the table six fine Alderney cows, five imported Durham bulls, one-hundred grass-fed two-year-olds, fifty prime to medium corn-fed Colorado half-breed steers, with a side bet of a Normandy gelding to cover the bar bill.  The man from Texas made his bet good with an even two hundred and fifty straight Kansas wintered Texas half-breeds and ten Scotch polled cattle, fourteen mustangs and the northeast ¼ of the southwest ¼ of section 10 of the Panhandle of Texas, and called.

Major Drumm held three aces, and put in his hip pocket 750 steers, heifers, etc., and a big stock ranch.

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