Dick Fellows – Bad Outlaw Horseman

Dick FellowsWe see outlaws in the movies riding at breakneck speed to chase down a stagecoach, and then jump from the horse to the stagecoach to encounter the driver and guard. All outlaws weren’t that good of horsemen. One such person got out of San Quentin Prison on this date back in 1881. His name was Dick Fellows.

Raised in Kentucky, Dick Fellows…An alias…came to California, and falling on hard times decided to rob stagecoaches. He picked the correct stage. It was carrying $240,000. However, as he was getting ready to go after the stage, the stolen horse he was riding threw him, and he was knocked unconscious.

Not one to give up, Fellows stole another horse and held up the next stage. He was successful. After the stage left, he tried to lift the strong box on his horse. The horse startled and raced off.

With night coming on he started walking with the strong box. Next he fell over a high bluff, knocking himself unconscious a second time. He woke up with a broken leg and foot.

Although the strong box has $1800 in it, he never got a chance to spend it, before Wells Fargo Detectives caught up with him.

When he got out of San Quentin, I believe most people would take the hint and go straight. But not Fellows. He went back to robbing stages, only to be caught again and sentenced to life in Folsom Prison.

Fellows devoted part of his time there to teaching a course in moral philosophy to his fellow inmates. Pardoned in 1908 at the age of 62, he returned to his home in Kentucky and faded from the historical record. It is tempting to lampoon Fellows for his inept horsemanship and astonishingly bad luck, but as one biographer noted, “For daring, he is the equal of any outlaws with whom I ever had dealings.”

Description of Being Scalped

Description of Being ScalpedWhat follows is a December 20, 1883 article from the San Antonio Light newspaper.  It’s a description of being scalped, from the actual words of a soldier who had been scalped:

Quote…“Imagine someone who hates you grabbing a handful of your hair and giving it a sudden jerk upward, and a not particularly sharp blade of a knife being run quickly in a circle around your scalp in a saw like motion.  Also imagine what effect that a strong, quick jerk on your hair to release the scalp would have on your nervous and physical systems, and you will have some idea how it feels to be scalped.

“When that Indian sawed his knife around the top of my head, first a sense of cold numbness pervaded my whole body.  A flash of pain that started at my feet and ran like an electric shock to my brain quickly followed this.  When the Indian tore my scalp from my head it seemed as if it must have been connected with cords to every part of my body.”…Unquote

Following the attack, a friend of the scalped man killed the Indian who had done the scalping, but, according to the soldier, his scalp wasn’t returned.

After recovery he chose to muster out of the service…but his commanding officer called him into his office, and suggested that the soldier was making a mistake by leaving the army.  “Think,” said his commanding officer, “how surprised and disgusted some red devil of an Indian might be if you should stay with us and happen to fall into his hands.  When he went to raise your hair he would find that someone had been there before him.”

Incidentally, the man who was his commanding officer was General George Armstrong Custer whose command was wiped out shortly afterward at Little Bighorn.

 You Are Respectfully Invited to Attend My ExecutionYou Are Respectfully Invited to Attend My Execution, Larry K. Brown, High Plains Press, (1-800-552-7819), $11.95, Paperback.

Between 1871 and 1890, seven murderers were hanged in Wyoming Territory. Some others died (including one woman) in Wyoming at the hands of angry mobs, known as vigilantes.  However, this book concentrates on the seven legal executions.

Author Larry K. Brown has sifted through court documents, family histories, newspaper articles, and historic journals.  An astute observer of human nature, Brown’s research is aimed at presenting a chilling picture of each crime, both victim as well as perpetrator, the arrest, trial, incarceration and finally the last steps of the condemned as they mounted the scaffold.

There are no happy endings here for the victims or the killers.  Murder is murder.  The victim’s life ends suddenly and brutally, while the killer’s own days are then numbered whether they want to believe it or not.  We, students of Old West history, are left trying to understand what leads a person to carry out such evil deeds while thinking they will escape the consequences.

Wyoming Territory from 1871 to 1890 was filled with adventurers, trappers, hunters, homesteaders, ex-military men packing iron, and sometimes shady individuals who experienced hard times and long waits between meals.  While some looked for work, others looked for trouble and a fast dollar.  The author explains in his introduction the purpose of the book, giving a brief history of capital punishment, its purpose and methods.  Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with capital punishment, this fascinating little book gives insight into the Old Western laws and how people dealt with this problem in the building of the new nation.

Wyoming Territory had to find ways to enforce law and order to encourage new settlement. Highwaymen, cattle rustlers and horse thieves were unwelcome.  Drifters were not encouraged to stay long.  Seven men committed atrocities that led them to the gallows, and they paid with their own lives.

John Boyer shot and killed two men for raping his mother and sister.  William “Tousant” Kensler shot a man while the two argued over a prostitute.  John Leroy Donovan beat a barber to death while the man slept, then stole his life savings.  George Cooke shot and killed his brother-in-law during a drunken argument.  John Owens killed a man with an axe for the purpose of stealing his money.  Benjamin Carter was a bully who beat up, then shot a young cowboy during a cattle drive.  George Black shot an old hermit inside his cabin over a land dispute.

Once caught, some of these men admitted their deed, others denied it; all hoped for last-minute reprieves.  Asking forgiveness, too late they craved comforting words from loved ones they had not considered when they turned to murder.  Punishment in the Wyoming Territory was swift, the executions were carried out within a short time after sentencing.  The author follows each man’s thoughts and actions all the way to their last meal and beyond.

This is not a book you should read before going to bed at night!  It is less than 200 pages, but will cause readers to reflect upon choices we make, and the responsibility people must take for their own actions.  The reader is left to ponder what really lurked inside the hearts and minds of these killers as they acted upon their baser instincts.  For us, these stories should be lessons learned. 

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the non-fiction book about the Arizona outlaw titled The Apache Kid, published by Westemlore Press, P.O. Box 35305, Tucson, Arizona 85740.

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

The Intelligence of the Horse

The Intelligence of the HorseAugust 10, 1887, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona Territory – It always seemed to me that there was a great deal of superstition, I may say, about the intelligence of the horse.  Sauntering up to an express man at the corner of Monroe and Dearborn Streets the other day I said to him: “How much does a horse know?”

“A horse, sir?” he replied.  “A horse knows as much as a man – just exactly.  My horse there knows everything, just like a man.”

This is the way everybody talks who owns a horse or who tends horses, and it all seems to me to be nonsense.

I have seen horses walk around a post until they had wound up the bridle and then stand all day with their heads bound down to the post because they didn’t have sense enough to walk the other way and unwind the bridle.  I have seen them get a foot over the bridle, when tied to a ring in the pavement, and then go into fits because they didn’t have sense enough to lift their feet over the bridle again.  I have seen them prance around in a burning barn, with their tails and manes on fire, and burn to death, because they did not have sense enough to run out.

Anybody can steal a horse without any objection from the horse.  A horse will stand and starve or freeze to death with nothing between him and a comfortable stall and a plenty of oats except and old door that he could kick down with one foot, or that could be opened by removing a pin with his teeth.

If this is a high degree of intelligence, even for a brute, then I am lacking in that article myself.  Compared with the dog, the elephant, or even the parrot, the horse seems to me to be a perfect fool.

Wild Bill Hickok Married

Wild Bill Hickok had lived the life of a free-spirited man hunting buffalo, being a lawman, gambling and even a stint as an actor. By the time he was 38 Wild Bill’s eyesight was going bad. For his own safety and the safety of others, he gave up being a lawman. And his attempt to be an actor was a failure. About the only thing left for Wild Bill was gambling. So then Wild Bill Hickok, married? 
           
In 1871 Wild Bill met a widow named Agnes Lake. At the time Agnes was the owner of a traveling circus, in which she also performed as a trick rider.
               
Agnes evidentially sparked something in Wild Bill… Because, even though they went their separate ways, they continued corresponding.
 
The two of them met up in Cheyenne, Wyoming and decided to get married. As an aside, there are those who say that Wild Bill had earlier married Calamity Jane. But there is no evidence to confirm this.
 
So, on March 5, 1876 Wild Bill and Agnes Lake got married. Even though they had been corresponding for five years, the marriage surprised most of their friends. Even Reverend W.F. Warren, the Methodist minister who conducted the ceremony wrote in the church register, “I don’t think they meant it.”
 
They went to Cincinnati, Ohio for a couple weeks honeymoon. Alone, Wild Bill then headed for St. Louis. From there he went to Cheyenne, Wyoming and finally to Deadwood, South Dakota where he was killed.
 
In less than 6 months after their marriage, with them being together only 2 weeks of those 6 months, Agnes Lake Hickok was once again a widow.      
Wild Bill Hickok Married
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