Charles GoodnightCharles Goodnight: Father of the Texas Panhandle, William T. Hagan, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 325‑3200, $19.95, Paperback. Illustrations, 168 pages, Maps, Bibliography.

Pioneer rancher and cattle baron of the Southwest, Charles Goodnight is known for his exploits as a Texas Ranger, scout, Indian fighter, and businessman.  This book only touches upon Goodnight’s early life, and is really aimed at the last 30 years of his life.  Complete biographies about Goodnight are written by J. Evetts Haley titled Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, and The No‑Gun Man of Texas, by Laura V. Hamner.

Born in Illinois in 1836, Goodnight’s childhood included hard work, poverty, and long hours of drudgery on a farm.  His education included only two years of school.  However, he grew into a man of sharp business ability combined with his dedication to hard work.  He blazed cattle trails in Texas, Colorado and Kansas but is best known for his exploits during the early days of Texas.  When Goodnight was 28 years old, he was a member of the Ranger unit who found the white Indian captive Cynthia Ann Parker.  Years later, Goodnight would become friendly with her son, Quanah who became a Comanche spokesman.

One incident in the life of Charles Goodnight is told about in the memorable Larry McMurtry Western movie “Lonesome Dove.”  During a cattle drive through Colorado, Goodnight’s business partner Oliver Loving was fatally wounded by Indians, and the dying man requested that his body be returned to Texas.  Goodnight made good on his promise, having Loving’s body packed in charcoal to make the long wagon journey back home.

This book covers the years spent building his ranches in the Texas Panhandle, with the financial banking of wealthy investors from as far away as Ireland.  Foreign speculators had the money, and Goodnight had the experience and guts.  Standing over 6 feet tall, weighing 200 pounds, a six‑gun on his hip and with grizzled beard and no‑nonsense steely eyes, Charles Goodnight seemed to fear no one.

Goodnight married a Texas school teacher named Mary Dyer, whose portrait shows her to be a thin‑lipped, cold‑eyed woman whose no‑nonsense demeanor seemed to match her husband’s.  The couple had no children.  After many years of hard ranch life, Goodnight described his wife as being a truly strong woman who even though living with no female companionship, and 75 miles from town, made married life cheery and pleasant.

Fights with partners, the railroad, encroaching neighbors, and politics are covered in this book. Goodnight remained sympathetic to the Indians’ plight, even though having been an Indian fighter in the 1870s with the Texas Rangers, he understood how these people had been forcibly removed from their land.

During the last year’s of Goodnight’s life, he sold most of his ranch holdings.  Mary died several years before Goodnight did, and he was about to spend the last few years of his life in lonely isolation when a 26‑year‑old lady named Corrine Goodnight showed up wondering if they were related.  The 91‑year‑old Goodnight enjoyed her company, hired her to be his secretary, and soon thereafter married her.

The couple traveled to Arizona, taking up residence first in Phoenix and then moving to Tucson where Goodnight died Dec. 12, 1929.  Corrine had him laid to rest beside his first wife Mary, in Goodnight, Texas.

Charles Goodnight out‑lived most of his friends, and all of his enemies.  He and Mary built a ranching empire in Palo Duro Canyon in the 1870s, and they are remembered for their contributions to the cattle industry, as well as being an inspiration to those dedicated to hard work, determination, and honest dealings. 

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale‑de la Garza is the author of many books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 Ph. (845) 726‑3434 www.silklabelbooks,com

Trailing Louis L’Amour in Southeast Arizona

LOUIS L’AMOUR IN SOUTHEAST ARIZONA

John Slaughter

Trailing Louis L’Amour in Southeast Arizona – Louis L’Amour chose to give his last look at Southeast Arizona in The Burning Hills.  It is a romance and adventure novel that acknowledges the Arizona pioneer ranches.  The novel occurs after 1891.  That was the year John Slaughter moved permanently to the San Bernardino Ranch.  The old Arizona was beginning to close, but the frontier still survived.  The novel begins in the New Mexico boot heel, travels through northern Mexico’s Embudo Canyon and concludes at and near the vicinity of Slaughter’s San Bernardino ranch.

John Slaughter came to Arizona in 1877 but did not establish his headquarters on the San Bernardino until 1891.  Slaughter had led a life of adventure as a Confederate soldier, Texas Ranger, and pioneer rancher before coming to Arizona.  His first wife died while coming west to meet him in New Mexico.  Slaughter married Cora Viola Howell, the daughter of a southeast New Mexico rancher.  It was a life-long love affair.  In later life as a Cochise County Sheriff, Slaughter cleaned up Southeast Arizona.  He may be numbered with Milton, Mossman and Tilghman as the last of the great, old, frontier lawmen.

L’Amour had told of the Apache reservation emeute of 1882 in Shalako.  The story occurs in the New Mexico boot heel just east of the Mesa.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 took many Cochise County men into the Rough Riders.  The Mexican Revolution had the people of Douglas hunting cover.  Poncho Villa raided Columbus to the east in the New Mexico boot heel in 1916.  The Mesa again was manned by troops.  The stone corrals are still there, probably built up again from the Apache wars and Mexican and Spanish redoubts.  The U. S. Army Signal Corps’ new aviation section would fly their first combat missions from the nearby New Mexico Boot heel.  Their underpowered Curtis JN-3 Jennies demonstrated that the U. S. needed better warplanes.  These underpowered scout planes probably looked down on or dropped dispatches to the Mesa outpost.

Myth, Memory and Massacre The Pearl River Capture of Cynthia Ann Parker

Students of Texas history are familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the nine-year-old white girl taken captive by Comanches, May 19, 1836.  For the next 24 years, Cynthia Ann lived with her Comanche captors, bore at least four children and somehow survived the rigors of life among the Indians until her rescue in 1860 by a troop of Texas Rangers in a fight known as “The Battle of Pease River.”

By now Cynthia Ann had been assimilated into the tribe, had forgotten most if not all of the English language, resisted parting with her Comanche children, and had become a hardened, sun-burned woman with huge work-worn hands, chopped hair and haunted eyes.

Ripped from her family at age 9, having witnessed the brutal murders of her parents and friends, faced with abuse and humiliation in a Comanche camp, Cynthia Ann Parker became the most famous of the white captives in Texas. There were many hundreds of other white girls and women taken captive by marauding Comanches, too.  Most were raped, tortured and killed.  Others traded back to their families were covered with scars and facial mutilation.  But what made Cynthia Ann different is that one of her children grew up to become Quanah Parker, famous in his own right as a chief and important negotiator between Indians and Whites.

After her rescue, Cynthia Ann never did adjust completely to return to White society. She died of a broken heart in 1870 and is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma between two of her Comanche children.

If you are interested in the complete history of the life and times of Cynthia Ann Parker, you must look elsewhere because there are many books available on the subject.  This book, Myth, Memory and Massacre delves mainly into events regarding the accidental rescue of Cynthia Ann by the Rangers at Pease River.  When the Rangers attacked a Comanche hunting party, they had no idea Cynthia Ann Parker was living with this clan.  The Rangers nearly killed her as she ran away clutching her baby, but one of the men realized she had blue eyes and correctly guessed she was a White captive.  It took a while to figure out who she was.

From here the authors begin their discussion of who, why, where and how.  They carefully dissect events beginning with the initial raid upon the camp, pointing out this was a hunting camp filled with women and children who had been butchering and preparing buffalo meat for winter.  Most of the Indians killed were women and children.  The surprise rescue of the white woman is what caused such a sensation throughout Texas since nobody thought Cynthia Ann could still be alive.  The publicity gave some individuals riding with the Rangers the opportunity for self importance and political gain.  Their actions, motives and self-promotion are exposed with regard to their showing the battle of Pease River had been a great victory with many more Indians killed, and at least one war chief taken out of action, which was probably not true.

The authors have done a great deal of careful research and tedious fact- finding.  Their conclusions are meant to clear up, in their opinion, many falsehoods regarding the rescue of Cynthia Ann that after many years of telling and re-telling has become folklore.  The authors aim to show how the rescue of Cynthia Ann Parker was eventually used for political advantage, and finally how the analyzation of these events historically have been misleading.  For those interested in “the rest of the story” concerning Cynthia Ann Parker, this book might help close the final chapter. You can tell for yourself and grab this amazing book HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 vvww.silklapelbooks.

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

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.

Old West Book Review: Captain John R. Hughes

John R. HughesThe true story of Texas Ranger Captain John R. Hughes is another splendid work of author Chuck Parsons who specializes in writing about the life and times of various outlaws and lawmen.  His non-fiction books are fast-paced, exciting Old West adventures.

This one begins with the early history of John R. Hughes’ ancestors with examination of his younger days leading up to his adventuresome life with the Texas Rangers.  Hughes was born in 1855, one of seven children.  His family was in the farming business in the Midwest.

Young John was adventuresome, and when he became curious about stories he’d heard about Indian Territory,” he ran away from home and worked at a number of jobs.  At one ranch he single-handedly recovered a herd of stolen horses from a band of outlaws.  His wandering led him all the way to Texas, where John and his older brother ran a horse operation for nine years known as the Long Hollow Ranch.

In time John Hughes joined the Texas Rangers, and author Parsons carefully follows the monthly return records that chronicle the unrelenting hunt for cattle rustlers, horse thieves, drunkards, embezzlers, smugglers, train robbers, and murderers.  Many photographs appear throughout the text of steely-eyed Texas Rangers packing plenty of iron, including one filled with more than thirty armed Rangers standing at the ready to prevent the Fitzsimmons-Maher prizefight in 1896. This event alone is worthy of a separate story.

Not all who dealt with the Rangers admired them.  Bat Masterson, who lived in Texas during his early career considered the Rangers little more than “a four-flushing band of swashbucklers.”  This statement is wildly hilarious when one considers that Bat Masterson was associated with the Earps who were hardly choir boys.

This biography of Capt. John R. Hughes is filled with hard riding, straight-shooting derring-do.  Hughes covered thousands of miles in all kinds of weather, recovering stolen stock while faced with sudden death in ambushes and shootouts.  Combined with this, Hughes as Captain dealt with personal problems of his men along with administrative concerns and political distractions.

One photo in the book shows Hughes with the beautiful and mysterious Elfreda Wuerschmidt taken near Rockport, Texas.  This twenty-year-old beauty, the love of Hughes’ life, died of unknown circumstances, leaving Captain Hughes a lifelong bachelor who often visited the lady’s unmarked grave.  He never shared his broken-hearted feelings with snoopy biographers, thus we do not know how she died.

By 1915, after 27 years of faithful service, Hughes retired from the Texas Rangers.  Nearing sixty, he spent his remaining years gathering honors, and resounding best wishes from his legions of grateful and admiring citizens of the Lone Star State.  He became a celebrity giving newspaper interviews and riding in rodeo parades.  He traded his horse for an automobile and even became the protagonist in a Zane Grey novel, titled Lone Star Ranger.

At age 92, wracked with illness and infirmity, white saddened by the gradual loss of friends and family, on June 3, 1947 Captain John R. Hughes took his own life with his pearl handled Colt 45.

Chuck Parson’s well-written, carefully researched and deeply sentimental tribute to this fascinating Texas Ranger belongs in your Old West library. Get your copy HERE.

Editor’s Note:  Reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de Ia Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including the novel Railroad Avenue, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988-0700.  www.silklabelbooks.com

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

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