Chuckwagon: Old West Candy Recipe

Old West candy recipe - Chocolate Carmels Below is an Old West candy recipe from the October 23, 1893 Albuquerque Evening Citizen.

Chocolate Carmels – boil together a pound of white sugar, a quarter of a pound of chocolate, four tablespoons of molasses, a cup of sweet milk, and apiece of butter as big as a walnut.  When it will harden in water, flavor with vanilla and pour on a buttered slab.  When nearly cold, cut in squares.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

The Woman in Black in Sing Sing Prison

A Mysterious Woman Whose Repeated Visits
to the Famous Penal Institution Have
Excited Interest as to Her Identity.

Woman In Black in Sing Sing PrisonFebruary 9, 1894, Chief, Red Cloud, Nebraska
Sing Sing Prison has a mysterious woman visitor, but that is not remarkable, because seven-eighths of the visitors to the convicts there are women.  They all have burdens of sorrow to bear, but rarely of their own making, and they come and go year in and year out, to see beloved ones whom the world does not love and has put behind bars.  The gray prison walls hold all that is dear in life to these mothers, wives, sweethearts and sisters.

The husband who has committed crime that his wife may have luxurious surroundings usually retains the affections of that wife, even when he dons stripes and is close cropped.  The professional burglar often is a model family man and does not sever his family ties when he “does time.”  The man who kills his fellow man for the affections of a woman and is paying the penalty for that crime has surely a right to expect that that woman will care enough for him to remember and visit him while he is the servant of the state.

Then there is mother’s love, never failing, never even wavering in its unassailable constancy, and that accounts for one-half the visitors to the Sing Sing convicts.  Thirteen hundred men are confined at Sing Sing, and the army of women—sad women who are sad because of the thirteen hundred—must easily equal the convicts in number.

Many a romance brought to a tragic climax by the merciless hand of the law is suggested by these untiring visitors.  Even the ubiquitous hackmen who infest the Sing Sing railway station seem to appreciate this, for when these unhappy ones alight from the trains and look uneasily and self-consciously about, the drivers realize intuitively the nature of their errand and treat them with a deference rarely met within their class.  They approach respectfully, and in subdued tones say kindly, “To the prison, madam?” or, “Right this way to the prison.”

About one visitor only is there any mystery.  Others give their names and go to see some convict who is known to the keepers.  This one goes veiled, and no one knows who it is she goes to see.

A tall, lithe, graceful woman, attired all in black and wearing a heavy black veil, occupied a seat in a car directly in front of and opposite that of the writer recently.

She was uneasy and restless, though not obtrusively so; she carried herself with the fine reserve of a woman of breeding accustomed to do just such things.  Sometimes she would look anxiously about the car, as if in fear of being recognized, though with her veil recognition, even by an intimate friend, would have been clearly impossible.

An old-time hackman at the Sing Sing station approached her as she alighted.  She got into his ramshackle conveyance as if she had been in it before, and it rattled up the hill and over the stony road along the bluff to the prison a few hundred yards in advance of the equally noisy conveyance of the writer.

It was the hour at which the convicts, having finished their evening meal in the great feeding hall—it would raise the ghost of Brillat Savarin to call it a dining-room—march in lock-step to their cells, in long, single files.  They come through the stone-flagged prison-yard with a steady, machine-like shuffle of their heavy prison shoes.  Keepers stand about with heavy sticks in their hands.

By the entrance to the long granite building containing the tiers of cells are two great open boxes of bread.  Each striped miserable reach out and takes a piece with his left hand as he passes.  Slung on the right arm of each is an iron solp pail on which is painted the prisoner’s number.  The shuffle of the slowly-moving line continues for perhaps twenty minutes, at the end of which time each of the 1,300 has, with his supper in one hand and his slop-pail in the other, been locked in his cell.

The woman had been shown to the yard, and stood, a keeper by her side, under the portico of the inhospitable-looking hospital building.  The long lines of convicts marched toward her and turned not ten feet from where she stood, and marched past the bread-box into the building.  She supported herself with one daintily gloved hand against the stone wall, and, leaning forward in an attitude of eager interest, faced down the approaching line.

She tapped the pavement impatiently from time to time with the tow of her neat boot.

Some one in that long line riveted her attention; but there were hundreds there, and the veil prevented any one from seeing which striped one it was.

The prisoners all turned away their heads as they passed the woman.  Was it a prison rule that prompted this, or a sense of shame that has survived hardening crime?  Not one did otherwise.  Many faces flushed, and if any one in that line recognized the trim figure and graceful pose of the strange woman he could never be detected by the flush, for flushed faces were too numerous.

When the last man on the last line a Negro on crutches, who killed a policeman on Wall Street, had disappeared in the door, the woman was escorted out by the keeper.  She thanked Principal Keeper Connaughton for his courtesy, which to all visitors, men and women, is always the same.  Her voice was pleasant, and there were no tears in it.  Her manner indicated nothing in particular, and certainly not grief.  She was driven away to the station and returned to New York.

This woman’s visits occur once every two months.  Sometimes the interval between them is longer, and sometimes, but seldom, she misses one.

She has been coming for nearly three years, and her visits are always at the same hour.  She sees all the prisoners in their lockstep march, and no one connected with the prison knows her name.  No one in the prison has ever seen her face.

There are two ways of accounting for the periodical visits of this mysterious unknown.  She either loves or hates, with a greater love or a greater hate than ordinarily, someone of the Sing Sing convicts.  Perhaps it is love that impels her to remain veiled, and thus to spare the object of her affections humiliation and shame.  Unrequited love, perhaps, leads her to conceal her face.  Possibly her hate of some one in that long line of erring men derives a certain pleasure from the sight of him in the moment of his disgrace.

Who can tell why she hides her face?  Is it because of love or hate?

Dave MatherIt is said of Dave Mather that he spent as much time in jail as he did in the occupation of putting others there. Dave is known as “Mysterious” Dave Mather, because, supposedly little is really known about his life. But we know enough that if he notched his pistol each time he assisted in sending someone to their reward, he would have had to carry a couple of guns.   
In 1876 he assisted in the lynching of an innocent man. In January of 1880 he killed two men and seriously wounded another. Three days later he killed another man. February of that year he helped lynch three men. In 1884, during a stint as a lawman in Dodge City, he got crossways with Thomas Nixon and killed him. Dave was heard to mumble, “I ought to have killed him six months ago.”      
An example of the scrapes Dave got into and his method of getting out of them happened on May 10, 1885. Mather had been playing cards in Ashland, Kansas with a grocer named David Barnes. After Barnes won two out of three hands, Mather threw the cards at Barnes and picked up the pot of money. David Barnes pulled his gun and put a hole in Mather’s hat. Now, obviously, that wasn’t where he was aiming.       
Meanwhile, Mather’s brother, who happened to be the bartender, pulled his gun and started shooting. Dave Mather did likewise. When the shooting stopped, and the room cleared of gun smoke, David Barnes, the card player, was dead… and two innocent bystanders had holes in their legs. 
The Mather brothers were arrested. But, after posting a $3,000 bond, Dave mysteriously rode out of town to seek more notches for his gun. And so was born the legend of Mysterious Dave Mather into the lore of the Old West.

John Thompson – Old West Mail Delivery

John Thompson - Old West Mail DeliveryJon Torsteinson was born in Norway in 1827. At the age of ten he and his family came to the United States. Americanizing his name, he became John Thompson, and at the age of 29 moved to California, and became a rancher near Sacramento. He would probably have lived and died in obscurity had he not read an employment ad in the local newspaper. The advertisement was for a mail carrier to traverse the route between Hangtown, later to be known as Placerville, California and Carson City, Nevada… during the winter. So John entered into the history of Old West mail delivery.  
The route was 90 miles one way. But the main obstacle was the Sierra Mountains where it didn’t snow in inches, but feet. John made a pair of skies 10 feet long and 4 ½ inches wide. For balance, he carried a 12’ pole. The mail was carried in a backpack that weighed, depending on the amount of mail, from 60 to 100 pounds. It took three days to make the trip one way.      
John Thompson - Old West Mail DeliveryEven though he was traveling through blizzards and snowdrifts in subzero temperatures, because of weight and time considerations, John didn’t wear a jacket and didn’t pack a blanket. He didn’t even take a weapon, and took food that didn’t require cooking.        
It didn’t take long for him to pick up the nickname “Snowshoe” Thompson. Snowshoe did more than just carry the mail. He rescued people, and made emergency trips for medications. For recreation Snowshoe would ski-jump. Supposedly he could fly through the air over 185 feet.  
For twenty years of Old West mail delivery, Snowshoe faced the worst nature could throw at him and was victorious. But, on May 15, 1876, after four days of illness, this 49 year old man of steel died quietly in bed. 

Unsolved Arizona, A Puzzling History of Murder, Mayhem, & MysteryUnsolved Arizona, A Puzzling History of Murder, Mayhem, & Mystery, Jane Eppinga, History Press, $21.99. Paper, Photos, Bibliography, Index.

This book will entertain history-mystery buffs with thirteen true stories about unsolved, odd, and fascinating episodes pertaining to Arizona.

Readers will find the Glen and Bessie Hyde adventure ending in tragedy as the couple honeymooned for twenty-six days on the Colorado River rapids.  Their bodies were never found.

A chapter titled “Lust for the Dutchman’s Gold” takes the reader to Arizona’s Superstition Mountains where legends and scary stories abound. Spaniards, Apaches, Mexican miners, and American adventurers found, lost, hid, and died over golden treasure.  Secret maps, wandering gold-seekers, lies and wild tales still haunt these mountains where nobody has ever found the gold, but scattered throughout the hills are decapitated skeletons.  Lost treasure in the Superstitions has led more than one man to his death.

Here too you will find a chapter about the Wham paymaster robbery, a $28,345.10 loss of government funds.  It happened in May of 1889 at Cedar Spring, Arizona.  The military payroll consisting of $5.00, $10.00, and $20.00 gold pieces was stolen by a band of robbers as the payroll, carried in a wagon under escort, was ambushed and robbed.  The Wham robbery was named after Major Joseph Washington Wham whose personal history included previous robberies, thus he became one of the suspects.  In the end a variety of characters were arrested tried, and found not guilty.  Local ranchers made jokes, soldiers escorting the payroll were told to keep quiet, Wham himself was never held responsible, and after all the political hyperbole, court room haggling and wild newspaper accounts, the money has never been recovered.

A chapter about the missing evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson tells of an eccentric who led authorities on a wild chase during which she disappeared for five weeks.  Other chapters tell of a missing baby, a couple who vanished in the desert near Yuma, the mysterious disappearance of a Willcox rancher’s wife, and the kidnapping of a six-year-old girl, June Robles held in a cage in the desert outside Tucson.  One chapter dwells on the details of the frustrating saga concerning the disappearance of a National Park Service ranger, Paul Fugate.  In January 1980 Fugate walked away from his office in the Chiricahua National Monument in southern Cochise County, Arizona, and was never seen again.  The author takes readers on a trip this time, following Fugate’s activities for several days leading up to his disappearance.  Much of the information comes directly from Fugate’s wife.

The book is a mix of famous old-time mysteries and more recent crime investigations.  They are all about Arizona, and remind us of the harsh desert conditions people are faced with then and now.  Vast stretches of high desert offer scant vegetation, prickly cactus, little water and merciless heat.  Desert dwellers including rattlesnakes and coyotes, wolves and mountain lions sometimes figure into the conditions people face when finding themselves lost, alone, or abandoned.

The author Jane Eppinga has written a large number of books targeting Arizona subjects, with special interest in the macabre.  These include Arizona Twilight Tales: Good Ghosts: Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains.  She is a member of Arizona Professional Writers, and National Federation of Press Women.

Get your copy HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Widow’s Peak published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988-0700,

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