Old West Myth & Fact Archives

Indians and the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887

Stephen AustinBy the late 1880’s most Indians were living on reservations. The reservations were under tribal ownership, with a communal style of control and use. Since it was the custom of white people to desire individual ownership of land and since many people felt that land ownership promoted industriousness, it was decided that the tribal ownership concept should be changed.
 
So, on February 8, 1887, the Dawes Severalty Act was passed. It gave the government the power to divide Indian reservations into privately owned plots. Men with families would receive 160 acres, single adult men got 60 acres, and boys received 40 acres. Women received nothing.
 
Except for women receiving nothing, it sounds like a pretty good deal, right? There were two problems. First, Indian culture was such that land, like air and sunlight wasn’t something that individuals owned. But the even greater problem was that it was a thinly veiled attempt by the government to take reservation land out of the hands of the Indians. For once the allotments were divided among the eligible Indians there were 86 million acres of land, or 62 percent of their holdings, left over. This land was available to be sold to anyone.
 
Even though friends of the Indians supported the act, it never produced the desired effect of assimilating Indians into white culture. In addition to the loss of lands, the Indians lost tribal bargaining power, and resentment developed that the government was trying to destroy traditional cultures.
 
Few people felt the Severalty Act was accomplishing its purpose, but it continued as law for forty years. Finally, in 1934, the Wheeler-Howard Act was passed that ended further transfer of lands from Indian hands, and made possible communal ownership to any tribe desiring it.

The Shoes (Made) of Flat Nose George

George Manuse went under a number of aliases. They included “George Parrott,” “Flat Nose George” and “George Curry.” There are even those who confuse him with Harvey Logan, because Harvey used a couple of similar aliases.
 
But, our George operated in the Powder River region of Wyoming. He was the leader of a gang that attempted to rob a Union Pacific train by removing a length of railroad track. Unfortunately, the train was running behind schedule. And a railroad inspection crew happened onto the missing rails before the train arrived. The crew notified the sheriff. A posse arrived, and engaged the would-be train robbers. In the fracas, two of the posse were killed.
 
Realizing things would be hot for him, George laid low for a while. But like with many a man, George just couldn’t keep his mouth shut and in July of 1880 he was in a saloon in Miles City, Montana with too many whiskeys under his belt. And he started bragging about his escapades in Wyoming. It was only a matter of days, and George found himself in jail in Rawlings, Wyoming. By the end of 1880, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to be hanged.
 
Like kids and Christmas, the citizens of Rawlings just couldn’t wait, and on the night of March 22, 1881, George Manuse, was escorted out of jail and hanged from a telegraph pole.

But they weren’t done with George. A couple of “surgeons” pealed the hide off of him, and made a pair of moccasins and a tobacco pouch out of it. Incidentally, you can still view this “remembrance” in a museum in Rawlings.

Searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

When Jacob Waltz died on October 25, 1891, he became either the world’s greatest prankster or the world’s greatest secret keeper.   Although during his life his last name was spelled a number of different ways, we simply know him as “The Dutchman”… the man who discovered the “Lost Dutchman’s Mine” in the Superstition Mountains, just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
Actually, tales of the existence of treasurers in the Superstition Mountains go back to when Mexico owned the area.   Long before The Dutchman there were stories of others bringing out gold….and many other people disappearing, supposedly killed by Apaches, who were protecting a sacred area.
 
A variety of stories are told about how The Dutchman found the gold mine…. and each of them involves an Apache or Apaches taking him to the area.
 
Supposedly, Jacob Waltz went back into his mine on several occasions during his lifetime, each time being careful to cover his tracks.  Although The Dutchman lived a very modest life, any time he needed large sums of money, he seemed to be able to come up with tin cans full of gold nuggets.  Records show that he cashed in at least $250,000 worth of gold.
 
Even to this day, there are people who spend their whole life searching for the Lost Dutchman’s mine.  Maps guaranteed to be the location of the mine regularly appear.
 
Even in modern times, people who go into the Superstitions disappear.   And if their bodies are found, they’re often without a head.
 
The Superstition Mountains where the Lost Dutchman mine is located is now right next to freeways and housing developments, yet it remains one of the Old West’s most tantalizing mysteries.

They Had Three Shootouts!

At the ripe old age of sixteen, Texan Bud Frazer joined the Texas Rangers. Ten years later he was elected the sheriff of Reeves County.

One of his deputies was a man named Jim Miller. Miller is considered by some historians to be the deadliest gunman of the Old West. He was a dapper little man who was quiet and never cussed. Yet he usually operated as a hired gun killing nameless men who were buried in unmarked graves.
 
It seems that while a deputy under Frazer, Miller shot a Mexican prisoner. Supposedly the prisoner had information about Miller stealing a couple of mules. Sheriff Frazer fired Miller. Later Miller was appointed the city marshal of Pecos, Texas. A feud between Frazer and Miller went on for about two years when on April 12, 1894 the two men engaged in a shootout. In the process Frazer shot Miller in the arm, and unloaded his pistol in Miller’s chest. Miraculously, Miller survived.
Eight months later the two men met again. This time Frazer shot Miller in the right arm and left leg. Frazer then shot Miller two more times in the chest. But Miller didn’t go down, and Frazer ran off in confusion.
Bud Frazer began wondering what it would take to kill this man. After all he had shot him at least a half dozen time in the chest. Then Frazer discovered the reason Miller survived the shootings. Both times he was wearing a steel breastplate. 
 
Two years later the two men met a third time. This time Jim Miller got off the first shot… a shotgun blast to Bud Frazer’s face. I guess Miller was concerned that Frazer might have started wearing a breastplate.
At the ripe old age of sixteen, Texan Bud Frazer joined the Texas Rangers. Ten years later he was elected the sheriff of Reeves County.

One of his deputies was a man named Jim Miller. Miller is considered by some historians to be the deadliest gunman of the Old West. He was a dapper little man who was quiet and never cussed. Yet he usually operated as a hired gun killing nameless men who were buried in unmarked graves.
 
It seems that while a deputy under Frazer, Miller shot a Mexican prisoner. Supposedly the prisoner had information about Miller stealing a couple of mules. Sheriff Frazer fired Miller. Later Miller was appointed the city marshal of Pecos, Texas. A feud between Frazer and Miller went on for about two years when on April 12, 1894 the two men engaged in a shootout. In the process Frazer shot Miller in the arm, and unloaded his pistol in Miller’s chest. Miraculously, Miller survived.
Eight months later the two men met again. This time Frazer shot Miller in the right arm and left leg. Frazer then shot Miller two more times in the chest. But Miller didn’t go down, and Frazer ran off in confusion.

Bud Frazer began wondering what it would take to kill this man. After all he had shot him at least a half dozen time in the chest. Then Frazer discovered the reason Miller survived the shootings. Both times he was wearing a steel breastplate. 
 
Two years later the two men met a third time. This time Jim Miller got off the first shot… a shotgun blast to Bud Frazer’s face. I guess Miller was concerned that Frazer might have started wearing a breastplate.

Mountain Men Battle Indians

  In 1822 William Ashley advertised for men to go up the Missouri River and trap for pelts. The trappers were to spend the winter alone, and then Ashley would come back up river in keelboats, the next spring, and pick them up along with the furs.
  When Ashley arrived the next spring, on May 29, 1823, he was met by Jedediah Smith, and was told the trappers needed horses. On May 31 Ashley and his men went to a nearby Arikara Indian village in order to trade for the needed horses.
 
The next day Ashley got 20 horses from the Arikara in return for gun powder and shot… a trade they were later to regret. In the middle of the fourth night there, one of two men who were staying in the Indian’s village came running out screaming that his partner had been killed. It’s not known if it was part of a plan or there had been a problem, but at the break of dawn the air was filled with arrows and just traded bullets, fired from behind the stockade. The horses were the first to die. Using the dead horses as shelter, the mountain men yelled for the boats to come ashore and pick them up.

 
Finally, Ashley was able to get a couple of skiffs up to the shore. It was every man for himself. Those who didn’t make it in a skiff were washed downriver. Finally, with the survivors aboard the keelboats, they drifted downriver about 25 miles before they pulled ashore to take inventory.

  There were 13 men dead or missing. Eleven were wounded. Their horses were dead, and they had provided the local Indians with enough fire power to keep them out of the area for some time.

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