The Cornett-Whitley Gang; Violence Unleashed in Texas

Cornett Whitley gangThe Cornett-Whitley Gang; Violence Unleashed in Texas, David Johnson, University of North Texas Press, $29.95, Cloth. Non-fiction, 320 pages, Illustrations, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

The time period for this book is the late 1880s, the location is Texas, and the topic is about a gang of train robbers.  The names of these men are mostly unfamiliar to readers of today.  None of them stood out above the rest in romantic familiarity.  Don’t look for Butch and Sundance, or the James brothers.  These men came together in a secret hide-away, made their plans, and then held up the trains.  Afterwards they parted, at least for a while, and did a good job of fooling law enforcement.  Some were married with children, most were solitary drifters who kept low profiles.

There were three important train robberies that made headlines.  One at McNeal Station, another at Flatonia, and finally a third robbery at a place called the Verdigris Bridge.  All three robberies were daring, well-planned, done ruthlessly and with precision.  Some people got hurt, a few were killed, one lady passenger was pistol whipped for being too slow in turning over her valuables.  Money and personal items were grabbed before the gang mounted up and disappeared into the darkness.

The book tells how law enforcement was blamed and even chided in newspaper accounts, embarrassed by the Media for their inability to catch the bad guys right away.  The Texas train robberies made headlines all across the United States and even some foreign countries.  Newspaper editors were certain all the bad publicity would be detrimental to the financial growth of Texas.

Law enforcement entities such as the Texas Rangers, federal marshals, railroad detectives and Wells Fargo eventually worked together sharing information until most of the robbers were caught.  Some of this work remains in place even to this day.  However, in the old days before computers and telephones, news about the robberies moved laboriously via telegraph, word of mouth or riders on horseback.

Letters at the back of the book contain personal accounts from various individuals who were involved in all this.  Some romantic stories told were clarified.  It seems a lot of people had a lot to say as the robbing of trains made big news.  Eventually arrested, one robber, “Bud” Powell, alias John Thompson wrote a lengthy autobiographical account filled with original detail as he explains about some of his adventures after he left the gang.  He traveled for several years evading the law and claimed he tried to “go straight.” Words coming directly from the outlaw give readers much to think about.

The author of the book, David Johnson has penned other important nonfiction books including John Ringo, King of the Cowboys; The Mason County “Hoo Doo” War, and The Horrell Wars.  All of David Johnson’s books are well-researched, easy to read, and packed with plenty of information.  If you are particularly interested in Texas train robbers, this book is for you.

Publisher’s Notes: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including Death For Dinner, the Bender of (Old) Kansas.  Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York, 10988. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

Chuckwagon: Lazy Cobbler

Lazy CobblerHere is an updated version of an old cowboy dessert Lazy Cobbler, sometimes called dump cake.
Use a 12” Dutch oven. (Serves 12.)

Prepare 15 charcoal briquettes for the bottom and 10 for the top.
2 cans sliced peaches with syrup. (You can also use pineapple.)
1 package of white or yellow cake mix.
1/3 stick of butter.
Ground cinnamon.

Place oven over hot bottom briquettes. Pour contents of peach cans into oven. Spread dry cake mix evenly over peaches. Sprinkle on cinnamon. Cut butter into thin slices and place on top. Put lid on top of oven, add hot briquettes and bake for about 45 minutes or until done.

If you would like to mix the peaches into the cake, do so when the cobbler is about half done, and continue baking until done.

Wyatt Earp Kills Hoy?

James Masterson

Jim Masterson

In 1876, Wyatt Earp became a policeman in Dodge City, Kansas. A fellow policeman was Jim Masterson, Bat’s brother. On July 29 1878, Wyatt and Jim were patrolling the streets. At about 3 o’clock in the morning three cowboys, after picking up their pistols, 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, the cowboys would have realized that up until then, what they 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 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.

 

Wild Bill Hickok Shoots Soldiers

Wild Bill Hickok shoots soldiersOn July 17, 1870 Deputy U.S. Marshal Wild Bill Hickok was in a bar in Hayes City, Kansas when two of a group of five Seventh Cavalry troopers suddenly attacked him from behind. It’s not quite clear what provoked the attack, but there is thought it might have had something to do with an encounter Wild Bill had earlier with Tom Custer, brother of George Custer and a member of the Seventh. So here’s the story – Wild Bill Hickok shoots soldiers.
One soldier held Wild Bill’s arms so he couldn’t fight back. A second put the muzzle of his pistol to Wild Bill’s ear and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
Now Wild Bill is fighting with super human strength. He got one pistol upholstered and shot one of the soldiers. Finally able to point his pistol at the man holding him, Hickok shot him in the knee. Released, Wild Bill then did the old stuntman trick of jumping through the window, breaking glass, rolling on the ground outside, and hightailing it out of the area.
It was a good thing too, because when word of the shooting got back to the Seventh’s headquarters a number of soldiers headed into Hayes City looking for Wild Bill. General Sheridan even ordered Hickok’s arrested. But it never took place.
The event, just as it happened, was something most people would find an amazing feat. But as with most of Hickok’s adventures, it immediately took on even larger proportions. At first newspapers said all five soldiers attacked Hickok. And some ten years later Wild Bill had taken on 15 troopers, killing 3, and being wounded 7 times. Now that’s a story you could tell with pride.

Ella Watson – A Daredevil in the Saddle

Ella WatsonElla Watson has been described as “a dare devil in the saddle, handy with a six shooter and adept with the lariat and branding iron.” She has also been described as a homely prostitute who happened to take the wrong form of payment for her services.
In truth she was homely. Ella Watson secretly married a Wyoming Territory merchant named Jim Averill. Jim wasn’t liked by the cattle ranchers. That’s because Jim had acquired land traditionally used for grazing, and he rubbed salt in the wound by writing “anti-cattlemen” letters to the local paper.
Ella Watson filed for a homestead, and built a log cabin close to Jim Averill’s store where she started plying her trade as a soiled dove. She also started taking cattle as payment for her services.
The cattle ranchers accused Jim and Ella of cattle rustling. Now, quite possibly a cowboy or two may have paid her with cattle not belonging to him… but because the local authorities wouldn’t take action against them, the cattlemen kidnapped Jim and Ella and lynched them.
It was well known who did the lynching. There were even five witnesses. But they were all either shot or disappeared. So the trial never took place.
Now, most people have never heard of Ella Watson, because after her death she acquired another name.
The town’s people started protesting the lynching. So the cattlemen planted stories in local newspapers changing the homely prostitute Ella Watson into a gun slinging gang leader by the name of “Cattle Kate”. She became so famous her story was written-up in New York’s “Police Gazette.”
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