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Rattlesnake Dick

As a teenager, Charlie Lazure came out west to the New Mexico Territory where he got into a shooting fracas. It’s not known what happened to the other guy, but Charlie was shot in the leg, which resulted in his having a limp for the rest of his life.

Charlie stole a horse and mule, and before long there was a posse after him. He escaped to the Arizona Territory, eventually ending up in Tombstone, where his luck ran out. He was arrested and returned to New Mexico. But fortunately, for Charley, the complainant failed to show up, and he was released.
 
Two years later, in 1885, Charley got into another shootout in Silver City. Again Charley was arrested. But he was released on a bond posted by County Sheriff, Harvey Whitehill. Quite possibly Harvey stepped forward with the bond because he and Charley had been involved in some illegal dealings together… for later Harvey Whitehill was indicted on a number of crimes.
 
 
While out on bond, Charley again stole a couple of horses. And again, he was arrested and brought back to Silver City. This time the complainant showed up, and no one posted bond. As a result, Long Neck Charley spent two years at the Santa Fe Territorial Penitentiary. 

On May 4, 1887, Charley Lazure was released from prison. Not wanting to have anything to do with prison again, he dropped out of sight.Then again, maybe that’s how he picked up the nickname, Rattlesnake Dick. Charley Lazure mayhave just slithered under a rock somewhere.

The Oxbow Stage Route

By 1858, the population of California and the west had grown considerably, and there were a number of people traveling from the East to the West, and the West to the East. Stage routes were a series of undependable smaller lines. So Congress decided to pass legislation to authorize the establishment of one line that would transport passengers and mail from St. Louis to San Francisco.
As the Northern legislators saw it, the stage line would follow the great emigrant trail… a route that was a straight line between the two cities. However, the Southern legislators had a different view of the route. According to the legislation, the choice of the route was up to the Postmaster General. And the Postmaster General was from Tennessee.
 
The Postmaster General decided there would be two starting points… St. Louis and Memphis, his hometown. This was nearly 1,000 miles longer than necessary, and it lay across vast amounts of unsettled country. The press dubbed it “the oxbow route.”
 The contract, with a $600,000 a year subsidy, was given to John Butterfield. A lesser man would have failed… but not Butterfield. On September 15, 1858, the first stage started down the oxbow route. The route was to have been traveled in 25 days. But Butterfield scheduled his stages to make it in 24 days.


With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the oxbow route was suspended. However, by that time The Butterfield Overland Stage Line was delivering more mail to the West than all the ships at sea.

Black Faced Charlie & The Dalton Gang

It seems that everyone in the Old West had nicknames… And some of them were very strange. But, none was as strange as Charles Bryant’s. He was called “Black Faced Charlie.” It seems that he was shot point-blank in the face. The bullet just creased his cheek. But, the burnt powder coming out of the pistol imbedded in his face, giving him his nickname.
 

Later, Bryant joined the Dalton gang. And during the gang’s shootout with a posse was heard to say something like, “Me, I want to get killed in one heck of a minute of action.” Well, Bryant put it out there, and on August 23, 1891, he got his wish.
 
Being arrested, Bryant had to be transported to jail by Deputy U.S. Marshal Ed Short. Marshal Short was transporting the handcuffed Bryant in a train baggage car when he had to visit the john. Marshal Short gave his pistol to the railroad messenger and left. The messenger put the pistol in a desk drawer and went about his chores.
 
 
Unnoticed, Bryant moved around to the desk and got the pistol, just as Marshal Short entered the baggage car. Bryant placed one shot into Marshal Short’s chest. Short, carrying a rifle, shot Bryant…severing his spine. Bryant continued firing the pistol until it was empty. The rest of his shots went wild.
  

Bryant was killed in one heck of a minute of action just as he wished. Marshal Short helped the messenger pick up Bryant’s body. Marshal Short then laid down on the cot and died… also the victim of heck of a minute of action.
 
Both bodies were left on the train platform at the next stop.

Seth Bullock

   BullockIn the Old West there were men who seemed to be everywhere and do everything. This week you’re going to be introduced to one of those men. His name is Seth Bullock.
In 1867, at the age of twenty, Seth Bullock left Canada to come down to the Montana Territory and do some gold mining. Four years later he was elected to the territory’s state senate. Next Seth took a horseback ride around the Yellowstone area, and sent back reports that helped influence its becoming our first National Park.
Then he became a county sheriff and proceeded to face down a lynch mob, as well as legally hang the first man in the Montana Territory.
Deciding to move on to new territory, he went to Deadwood in 1876. With no law, and no official process of selecting a sheriff, by popular demand, he became the town’s first lawman.
Also being a good businessman, he served as the president of a mining company and a bank.
As a lawman, while trailing an outlaw named Crazy Steve, he ran into a posse led by a deputy U. S. Marshall from the Dakota Badlands who had just caught Crazy Steve. The U. S. Marshall and Seth became lifelong friends. Incidentally, the marshal’s name was Theodore Roosevelt.
Although Seth became a captain in Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, he was never sent to Spain.
After Roosevelt became the President, he sent for Seth, and told Seth that he was needed in Washington. Seth responded that, “There’s just one job that would get me to live in this town, and you’re filling it just fine.” Seth settled for the job of a U.S. Marshal.
Seth served with distinction until his death on September 23, 1919. Roosevelt had called Seth Bullock the ideal American. But he wanted only one word on his tombstone…Pioneer.

A STRONG MAN & HORSE

Horse Ride

In the Old West men and horses were called upon to perform great feats.  But no man and horse did more in a short period of time than John Phillips and a big gray thoroughbred.

It was a cold December in 1866. Fort Phil Kearny was being harassed by Red Cloud and his band of Sioux.  On the 21st of December Captain John Fetterman and 80 men left the fort to chase after a small group of Indians.  The Indians were decoys, and Fetterman’s command was ambushed.  Within minutes everyone was killed.

It was necessary for someone to travel to Horseshoe Station, 190 miles away, and telegraph Fort Laramie for reinforcements.  That responsibility fell on John Phillips.  He wasn’t a member of the military, but a local prospector who had brought his family to the fort for protection.

Riding a big gray thoroughbred, given to him by the fort commander, John started on the trip wearing a buffalo coat to protect him from the severe cold spell they were having.

Hiding during the daylight hours, John still ran into war parties, but the long legged thoroughbred was able to outrun the smaller Indian ponies.  On December 24th John arrived at Horseshoe Station, but they were unable to send a telegraph to Laramie, because the line was down…either the result of Indian activity or the weather.  Jumping back on his horse, he rode the remaining forty miles to Fort Laramie.  A Christmas party was in progress when John arrived.  A half frozen John Phillips entered the hall, told his story, and collapsed on the floor.  Early Christmas day a column headed for Fort Kearny.

Although, at the time no one thought the 230-mile ride from Fort Kearny to Fort Laramie was anything more than a long cold ride, but shortly afterward it reached the level of myth…a man and horse enduring devastating weather and wild Sioux to save a beleaguered garrison.

SLOW

Sitting Bull copyAs a young boy his father gave him the name “Slow”.  But during a raid against the Crow, at the age of 14, Slow raced ahead of his fellow warriors, and made the first kill.  His father immediately changed his name.  You may be surprised when you learn his new name.

His father gave him the name of “Slow”…not because he wasn’t bright…but because he was deliberate.  But his “deliberateness” never stood in the way of him taking action.  At the age of 14 he made his first kill, and his father changed his name to…Sitting Bull.

 Sitting Bull is best known for his victory at Little Big Horn against George Armstrong Custer.  As strange as it may seem, his victory directly resulted in his defeat.  But I get ahead of myself.

 Because of his braveness in battle Sitting Bull was soon made the leader of the Strong Hearts, a special society of warriors…and later he became the chief of his Hunkpapa division of the Sioux.

Sitting Bull had special abilities as a leader and organizer.  Even though the Federal Government had ordered the Indians to relocate to a reservation, Sitting Bull was able to convince more than 10,000 Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne to leave the reservation, and band together…and it was a part of this group that defeated General Custer.

Because of Little Big Horn, the government made an all out effort to defeat the Plains Indians.  Finally, with less than 200 followers Sitting Bull and his ragged band surrendered.

On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull was living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  Because of fears of an Indian insurrection, about 40 Indian policemen rushed Sitting Bull’s home to arrest him while he was asleep.  In the confusion a fight broke out and the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was shot twice…by a Sioux Indian policeman.  Incidentally, the 59-year-old Sitting Bull had previously indicated he had no interest in the insurrection.

OLD WEST NEWSPAPER

PrinterWith frontier towns springing up over night, and disappearing as fast, an Old West newspaper had to be on the move to keep customers. This week’s story is about one such newspaper.

Following the Civil War two brothers, Legh and Fred Freeman, were hired to publish a newspaper out of Fort Kearney, Nebraska.  During this time the railroad passed through the area.  While the railroad was being built in the area things boomed.  As the railroad moved on, taking the workers with it, there was a bust.

 The Freeman brothers hit on the idea to create a newspaper that would move along with the railroad.  So, they bought a hand press, type, ink and paper, named their newspaper the Frontier Index, and hired wagons to take them to the next town where the railroad was to arrive.  As the crews arrived with men anxious to read the latest news, they did a booming business.  Merchants were willing to pay outrageous prices for advertising, and marked their goods up accordingly.

The masthead of the Index changed each time they moved to a new town.  During its existence the Index was published in 25 different cities.  Sometimes the Freeman brothers moved so fast that they outran their supplies.  One time they had to print the newspaper on wrapping paper.

 The Index came to an end in Bear River City.  As the population of the city grew, the lawless element started arriving along with the railroad workers.  The Index wrote an editorial stating, “Bear River City has stood enough of the rowdy criminal element.”  The next day, November 15, 1868, some of “the rowdy criminal element” grabbed a rope, and headed to the tent that headquartered the Index newspaper.  The Freeman brothers were able to escape, but when they returned nothing remained of the Index but ashes.  The lifespan of the Frontier Index was but two years.  Which, incidentally, was a long time for a frontier newspaper.

BATTLE OF BEECHER’S ISLAND

Beecher's IslandThe summer of 1868, Indians were conducting major raids on railroad work camps and homesteads. Major George Forsyth was ordered to put together a detachment of 50 volunteer frontiersmen to teach the Indians a lesson.

The first part of September they arrived at Kansas’ Fort Wallace, and immediately took after a group of Indians who had stolen some stock. On September 16, Forsyth and his men, low on rations, camped on the banks of the Arikaree River.

Unknown to Forsyth 4,000, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux had been following him for three days. The morning of September 17 Major Forsyth and his men were awaken by the sounds of war cries. The 50 volunteers, with their animals, retreated and dug into a 40-yard by 150-yard sandbar.

By 9 A.M. the Indians had killed all of the volunteers’ horses and mules. Now there was no way of escape. A half hour later 300-mounted warriors, headed directly for the 50 volunteers. But, what the Indians didn’t realize was that all of Forsyth’s men were equipped with Spencer seven-shot repeating rifles and Colt pistols. Waiting until the last second to start firing, the charge was broken.

For eight days the Indian attacks continued, and the Spencer rifles kept them away from the volunteers. Two of the volunteers were able to get away and make it to Fort Wallace for help. By the time reinforcements arrived, the bulk of the Indians had left, with only a small contingency staying to starve out the volunteers.

Technology had made it possible for 50 men to face and essentially defeat a force of 1,500 warriors. During the battle, 10 of the volunteers were killed, and 20 wounded. But Indian causalities were estimated to be around 50 killed and as many as 200 wounded.

SEMINOLE-NEGROES

Seminole-NegroOn April 8, 1875 four soldiers encountered 30 Comanche.  Three of those four soldiers received the Congressional Metal of Honor.  This was but one escapade in the life of a most unusual group of soldiers.

During the 1870’s there was a small group of men who guarded the Texas–Mexico border against Comanche Indians.  These men were the Seminole-Negroes.  They were runaway slaves who had gone to Florida and lived with the Seminole Indians. When the Seminole were chased west, the black families went with them.

In 1870, looking for extra help in fighting the marauding Comanche, the Seminole-Negroes were hired as a special unit to track down the Comanche Indians.  Although the Seminole-Negroes were a rag-tag looking bunch with a combination of military and Indian attire, which even included war bonnets, they had the ability to follow trails that were weeks old and live on nothing but rattlesnakes.

The commander of this group was a white Lieutenant by the name of John Bullis.  Lieutenant Bullis had the respect of the Seminole-Negroes, because he was willing to live and fight right along side of his men.  One time while on a patrol Lieutenant Bullis and three of his enlisted men encountered some 30 Comanche.  Being vastly outnumbered, the soldiers retreated.  Unfortunately, in the process Lieutenant Bullis was captured.  Not willing to leave their commander behind; the men changed into the midst of the Comanche, rescuing Lieutenant Bullis.  Each enlisted man received the Congressional Metal of Honor.

For their service, the government had promised the Seminole-Negroes land, but, mysteriously, when it came time to pay up, the War Department had run out of land.  But, living up to their commitment, and ever hopeful, they stayed on until their job was done.

Incidentally, as an indication of their skill as scouts and fighters, during the service of the Seminole-Negroes, not one was ever killed or injured in battle.

SEQUOHAH

The subject of today’s story was considered an ingenious natural mechanic…and his invention changed the life of his people forever.

Sequohah, bSequohahorn in 1760 in Tennessee, grew up among his mother’s people, the Cherokee.  He became a metal craftsman, making beautiful silver jewelry.  As a young man he joined the Cherokee volunteers who joined Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812.  While with the American soldiers, he became intrigued with what he called “talking leaves,” or words on paper that somehow recorded human speech. Although Sequohah had no formal education, he somehow comprehended the basic nature of the symbolic representation of sounds.

In 1809 he began working on a Cherokee language.  At first he tried picture symbols, but soon found them to be impractical.  Then he started looking at English, Greek and Hebrew.  He finally developed 86 characters that would express the various sounds in the Cherokee language.  It was so simple in its concept that it could be mastered in less than a week.

In 1821 he submitted his new written language to the Cherokee leaders.  As a demonstration Sequohah wrote a message to his six-year-old daughter.  She read the message and responded in kind.  The tribal council immediately adopted the system.  And Cherokee of all ages started learning the written language.

The Cherokee were divided into two groups, Sequohah’s in Georgia and Tennessee, and the western Cherokee in Oklahoma.  In 1822 Sequohah went to Oklahoma, and taught the alphabet to the Cherokee there.

Finally, on February 21, 1828 the first printing press with Cherokee type arrived in Georgia.  Within months, the first Indian language newspaper appeared.  It was called the Cherokee Phoenix.

Sequohah later went to Mexico to teach Cherokee there the language. While in Mexico he became ill with dysentery, and died.

Great monuments to the man who developed the Cherokee alphabet stand today along the northern California coast.  They are the giant redwood trees called the Sequoia.

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