Old West Women Dueling

Women Dueling - Mattie Silks - Cort ThompsonThe year was 1877. The location was Denver, Colorado. In May, the locals were entertained by midget Tom Thumb in P. T. Barnum’s stage show. Three months later, there was a performance of another type that entertained some of the Denverites. It was the first of its kind recorded in the Old West; one where there are women dueling.
           
Mattie Silks had a boyfriend named Cort Thomson. Now, Cort was a bit of a rounder. And he started sneaking off and seeing a Kate Fulton. When Mattie found out about it, she was upset. Many a woman would have gone into her room close the door and cry her eyes out. But not Mattie. She looked up Kate and challenged her to a fight to the death with pistols.
               
On August 25, the two women met on the street, each was given a single shot pistol. Of course, boyfriend and scoundrel, Cort Thomson, had to be there to glory in the whole affair. The two women squared off and fired. Neither woman hit their mark. In a strange twist of fate, the only person hit was boyfriend Thomson. But, it was only a flesh wound.
 
After missing each other, the women threw down their pistols and commenced a fight. In the process, Kate ended up with a broken nose. Realizing Mattie was not one to trifle with, the next day, Kate left town.
 
What is not known is whether Mattie Silks took Cort Thomson back and nursed him to health. But, I can assure you, if she did, Thomson’s eyes didn’t stray again. Incidentally, it’s not known which woman actually shot Cort. But, I would suspect that whichever one did it that was her aim.

History Of The Santa Fe Trail – Pt 2

Santa Fe TrailWho is it that has neither seen nor read of Pike’s Peak?  If he has not, he has neither traveled nor read the newspapers, and is therefore ignorant of the fact that, that prominent  bump (14,147 feet high) upon the earth’s face derived its name from that of Maj Zebulon M. Pike, an explorer, by authority the United States.  He was in Santa Fe in 1807.  His condition on the route (the future Santa Fe Trail), via the Conejos, across to the Chama, and down that stream past Ojo Caliente and San Juan to Santa Fe, may be inferred from inquiries concerning him and his party; whether those men ragged apparel consisting of overalls, breech cloth ­leather coats, and without covering for the head, were a tribe living in houses.  Pike was promoted to brigadier-general and lost his life in 1813, at the taking of Toronto.

It was a misnomer to call the Santa Fe road a trail.  On either side, for miles, a vast expanse of level greensward relieved the solitude that surrounded you – unless, indeed, there was visible a band of Indians, a herd of buffaloes, a prairie dog village, a bunch of antelope, a gray wolf, badger, or long-faced coyotes, with furtive glance, on a swinging trot, putting a deal of real estate between them and supposed danger.  A trip over the plains abounded in interest.  The rarity of the atmosphere lent en­chantment to the scene; the mirage so frequently seen was not the least interesting sight.  For hundreds of miles nature denied the wayfarer fuel, but the buffalo in the plentitude of its na­ture, supplied the omission and no one for the want of fuel was compelled to go supperless to bed.

Thirty-three years ago the incidents of the journey were being related by “a tenderfoot,” who had just arrived in Santa Fe “over land,” from the states.  Kit Carson and others were present, and among other astonishing things the newcomer related was, that he had been obliged to cook by a buffalo-chip fire.  When doubts were expressed as to the truth of his assertion, “Kit” came to his relief by stating that he had been so frequently reduced to the same necessity that he finally acquired such a taste for the chip that he was induced to throw away the mean and eat the chip.

The writer, the senior of the Belt, inasmuch as he has had some experience, can well credit the statement of the stranger and Carson.  The trail is now obliterated, the buffaloes are gone, chips are a thing of the past, railroad cars have superseded the prairie schooner and the carrion crow, on the trail, no longer revels upon the decaying flesh of an overworked ox or mule that fell from exhaustion upon the unfenced expanse west of the Missouri River and east of Santa Fe.

History Of The Santa Fe Trail – Pt 1

History of the Santa Fe TrailA party of young men, Hugh Stephenson, Lewis Dutton, Lucas Doane, Joshua Sledd, James Kirker, Robert McNight, Henry Corlew and Esteven Chushie, who in 1830, “made the Santa Fe trail and marked the route followed by thousands in after years.”  That they marked the route is contradicted by Gregg’s Commerce of the Plains, as also by Niles Register.  Fifteen thousand dollars worth of merchandise from St. Louis, Missouri, was delivered in Santa Fe in 1822, and the traffic had increased to $120,000 in 1830, the year in which the Las Cruces Republican claims Hugh Stephenson and others made the trail. All of this marks the history of the Santa Fe Trail.

Freight was carried by pack animals until 1824, when wagons were introduced as an experiment, and making the trip without difficulty, were used exclusively after 1825.  In January of that year, through the influence of Col. Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri, a bill was passed by congress authorizing the marking out a road.  Thirty thousand dollars was appropriated for that purpose and that of obtaining the Indians’ consent to the road and its unmolested use.  The U. S. Commissioners appointed to conduct the survey were Benjamin Reeves, George C. Sibley and Thomas Maher; and Joseph C. Brown as surveyor.

In 1825 a party left Santa Fe in June and in Franklin, Missouri, in August, with 500 mules and horses, and “the Santa Fe trade” continued to grow without intermission until the present time.  But not without interruption from the Indians, which caused the committee on military affairs to report to congress, in 1828, in favor of a movable escort rather than a fixed garrison.  The recommendation was given effect in 1829, and Major Riley, with four companies of the 6th infantry, from Fort Leavenworth, were detailed as the escort.  Protection was not continued the following year; never­theless, there was an increase in traffic of just 100 per cent over the preceding year.

In 1821 the Santa Fe trade may be said to have become a business proposition.  Captain Glenn, Mr. Bicknell and Stephen Cooper were the pioneers of that commercial enterprise, although small parties of trappers and traders had previously visited Santa Fe.  In 1815 Auguste P. Choteau and Julius de Mun formed a partnership and went with a large party Upper Arkansas to hunt, trap and trade with the Indians. The following year they visited Taos and Santa Fe, and were well received by Governor Mainez.  But there was a change of policy the following year on the part of Mexican government, perhaps for the reason that the “gringos” were becoming too numerous, monopolizing the fur trade, killing the buffaloes for their skins, and making merchandise of buffalo tongues, a luxury in the states, even then in the frontier village of St. Louis they commanded a dollar each.

Old West Book Review: Where the Bullets Fly, A Sheriff Aaron Mackey Western

Sheriff Aaron Mackey WesternWhere the Bullets Fly, A Sheriff Aaron Mackey Western, Terrence McCauley, Pinnacle Books, $7.99, Paperback. Western fiction.

The first book in the Sheriff Aaron Mackey series, this story introduces readers to Aaron Mackey, the sheriff of Dover Station in Montana Territory.  Mackey is an ex- cavalry officer, now sheriff.  His deputy is a black man who once rode with him in the cavalry.  Together, these men try to keep law and order, but when a crazy outlaw named Duramont, leading a band of killers, appears on the scene, Mackey has more than his share of trouble.

Dover Station is surrounded by the Duramont gang, a group of “soiled doves” become Duramont’s hostages along with Mackey’s mistress, who owns the local hotel.  The outlaws need guns, horses and supplies while they are on a ride through the west, murdering and robbing along the way.  Mackey must rely on a few faithful buddies for help since most of the townspeople understandably want to be left alone without losing their hides.  Meanwhile, Mackey’s wife, a beautiful young shrew who hates him, finds out about his mistress and the plot thickens.

Between the killers, the robbers, nighttime ambushes, flying dynamite, burned buildings, runaway stagecoaches and feuding women, the sheriff has more than his hands full.  And did I mention he is in the middle of all this while battling pneumonia?

If you like plenty of western action, this is the book for you.

Dark Territory, A Sheriff Aaron Mackey Western, Terrence McCauley, Pinnacle Books, $7.99, Paperback.  Western fiction.

This second book in the Aaron Mackey series finds Mackey once again keeping law and order in his old Montana home town of Dover Station.  This time a group of investors have descended upon the town with an eye on taking over the business interests of this booming community.  Mackey determines to defend his town, friends and relatives from those who are devious and have selfish interests in the local mining ranching, and railroads.

Shootouts, bad actors, murder, skullduggery and unresolved love interests all present a myriad of problems to be solved by the sheriff.  By now readers have become used to his hair-trigger temper and no-nonsense demeanor, and we can only wonder what will come next in the life of this hero if there is a Book Three.

Editor’s Notes: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel, Nine Days at Dragoon Springs, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York 10988 www.silklabelbooks.com

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

The Rufus Buck Gang

Rufus Buck was a Ute Indian living in the Indian Territory. The Rufus Buck Gang comprised of four Creek Indians and a combination Creek and black. All of them had served time in jail for minor offenses.
           
Buck supposedly boasted, “That his outfit would make a record that would sweep all the other gangs of the territory into insignificance.” And on July 27, 1895, the gang started a thirteen-day crime spree that did exactly that.
               
They killed Deputy Marshal John Garrett. They came across a Mrs. Wilson. She was kidnapped and violated. From there they saw Gus Chambers with some horses. When he resisted, the Buck Gang killed him. They next robbed a stockman, taking his clothes and boots. Fortunately, he was able to escape in a hail of bullets. Two days later, they invaded the home of Rosetta Hassan. She was violated in front of her husband and children.
 
The Rufus Buck Gang
The gang was arrested, and brought before Hanging Judge Isaac Parker, and they were sentenced to be hanged. He scheduled it for July 1, 1896 between nine in the morning and five in the evening.
 
Quite possibly Judge Parker should have stated an exact time, because, on the day of the hanging, one of the gang members said he wanted to be hanged at ten in the morning so his body could be on the 11:30 train. Rufus Buck protested, saying that if he was hanged that early, there would be a several hour delay before his body could be on the appropriate train. The Rufus Buck Gang then decided they wanted to be hanged separately.
 
Marshal Crump smiled, set the time for 1:00, and hanged them all at one time.
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