The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland MailThe Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail 1858-1861, Glen Sample Ely, University of Oklahoma Press, $34.95, Cloth, 440 pages, Illustrations, Maps, Photographs, Notes, Index.

Anyone interested in early Texas history will find this book a fascinating journey across that state during the years prior to the Civil War.  While the Butterfield Overland Mail extended 2,795 miles from St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, California this book targets the 740 miles, border to border, across the Texas frontier.

The book combines Texas politics and intrigues while at the same time explaining the history and workings of the Butterfield stagecoach line.  Throughout the book readers find both early photos taken by original Butterfield researchers Margaret and Roscoe Conkling, with modern-day pictures taken by author Ely as he meticulously followed their trail.  Comparisons are made between Conkling photos taken 80 years ago, and the new pictures and how the sites look today.  Changes due to weather erosion and human agricultural disruptions are noted.

All of the stagecoach sites are pictured; the crumbling walls, rock foundations, and long-forgotten artifacts help tell the story.  Belt buckles, bullets, bridle bits, forks and knives plus various tools have been unearthed and on display here, including some graves with the stories of their occupants.  At the end of the book readers will find notes containing all of the information available regarding dates, locations, employees, station masters, Indian raids, and everything you could ever possibly want to know about these stagecoach station sites.

As the author and friends traipsed from one location to the next across Texas, he brings to us the stories of those people who braved this frontier at a time when great changes were occurring in our country.  Prospectors, adventurers, cattle ranchers, military men, schemers as well as honest pioneers tried to build and tame this unforgiving land.  Always the threat of murderous Indian raids loomed as hardy people determined to make homes for themselves.

Meanwhile, scattered throughout the book are wonderful paintings done by Frederic Remington showing the dangerous journey traveled by these coaches.  Butterfield crews, passengers, and hostlers alike braved this rugged road.  Indians lurked along the way, and the accommodations at home stations usually offered little more than poor food and scant lodging.  The coaches are described as rough-riding, jostling contraptions rattling over hard-packed roads or wallowing in muddy streams.

Apart from the actual everyday management of the stagecoaches, there were business executives back east busily working to make the enterprise financially lucrative.  Some joined with Texas politicians and businessmen to make decisions about everything from toll bridges to the establishment of small communities.

Readers are taken on a journey through a rough and tumble time in antebellum Texas, covering everything good and bad about people striving to settle a wild frontier.

This book is a huge project by author Glen Sample Ely, a Texas historian and documentary producer. His love for Texas history is proudly displayed here, along with his talent for careful research and dogged determination to get it right.  Readers will learn from the narrative, while being mesmerized by the haunting photographs showing what happened here.  He also authored the book Where the West Begins: Debating Texas Identity.

The book is a must for your Old West library if you are interested in Texas history and the Butterfield Overland Mail.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de Ia Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Charissa of the Overland, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434.  www.silklabelbooks.com

William Brazleton – Masked and Unmasked

William BrazletonWilliam Brazleton was about 6 feet tall, and weighed around 200 pounds. He was described as “a great big, good natured fellow who was as harmless as any man could be.” Little is known about his early life. He did tell a friend that he had robbed a couple of stages in northern Arizona, three over by Silver City, New Mexico, and four around Tucson.        
 
There were stage robberies in the vicinity of Tucson that mysteriously had two sets of horse tracks leading to the scene of the robbery, but none leaving it. These robberies were performed by a man who wore a mask over his head with holes cut in it for his eyes and mouth.              
 
Because of information received from a confederate of Brazleton’s, the sheriff set up an ambush. On August 19, 1878 Brazleton was shot down in a hail of bullets.     
 
At this time, the reason for two sets of horse tracks leading to the robbery scenes, and none leaving it, was the following. It seems that Brazleton had devised horseshoes that could be reversed in order to confuse trackers.  
 
Now, as to his fame after death… Brazleton was brought back to Tucson, propped up against a wall, with his guns on his lap. And, pictures were taken of him with and without his mask. Today, any series of outlaw photographs, either alive or dead, includes at least one of the two pictures of Brazleton.
 
Incidentally, taking pictures of dead outlaws wasn’t unusual. Quite often dead outlaws were displayed in public with photographers charging money for people to have their picture taken next to the local bad boy. That is, until he started stinking too much.        
 
 

Chuckwagon – Curing Bacon

For curing bacon you will need one peck salt to five hundred pounds pork.  To five gallons water add:

4 pounds salt

1 pound sugar

1 pint molasses

 Mix, and after sprinkling the fleshy side of the ham with the salt, pack in a tight barrel.  Hams first, then shoulders, and middlings.  Pour over the brine; leave the meat in brine from four to seven weeks.

Curing Bacon

William Johnson and an Old West “Romeo and Juliet”

Born and raised in Ohio, when the Civil War broke out, William Johnson became a Captain on the Confederate side. Following the Civil War, he mustered out in Texas.       
 
Deciding to do some ranching in New Mexico, Johnson picked up a small herd of cattle in Texas and drove them up to New Mexico. On the way up he ran into some Indians, and was wounded in both legs. He managed to make it to the Beckwith ranch in Lincoln County, New Mexico.             
 
During Johnson’s recuperation he fell in love with one of Hugh Beckwith’s daughters, Camellia. Although Beckwith was also a believer in the Confederacy, he was against Johnson marrying his daughter. Thinking love conquers all, the two got married anyway. And Johnson started a ranch near the Beckwith spread.    
 
The cattle on the Beckwith ranch seemed to grow beyond all proportion of normalcy. And neighboring rancher John Chisum felt the reason for this was that Beckwith was stealing some of his stock. So, in April of 1877, John Chisum and a bunch of his cowboys conducted a raid on the Beckwith ranch. As it happened, none of the Beckwith men were present. But son-in-law William Johnson was. And he engaged the Chisum men in a rifle shootout until Chisum decided to give up the cause. 
 
Now, you would have though old man Beckwith would have been pleased with the performance of his son-in-law. But it doesn’t seem he was, because their one-sided feud not only continued, it escalated, until on August 16, 1878 when Johnson was talking to Beckwith about ranching practices… quite possibly criticizing Beckwith’s practice of taking other rancher’s stock… when Beckwith grabbed his shotgun and fatally shot his son-in-law. And you think your in-laws are harsh.     
cowboy with rifle

Shot His Wife Because She Loved a Second-Rate Barkeeper

April 9, 1889, Daily Record-Union, Sacramento, California – Mrs. Mary Sanders was shot and probably fatally wounded last Saturday night by her husband, who then attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the neck.  The couple were married about eighteen months ago at Whitesboro, Mendocino County, and they lived happily together until the wife became infatuated with Dan Callaghan, a Eureka saloonkeeper, and ran away with him about six months ago.  They were followed to this city by Sanders, who traced his wife to 508 Pine Street, where she was living with Callaghan.  He went there bent on killing Callaghan, but bloodshed was averted as Callaghan happened to be out at the time.  There was reconciliation between husband and wife, and the police say that they next heard of Mrs. Sanders was in a DuPont Street bagnio, where she was placed by her husband.  Sanders then commenced drinking heavily, and his wife left him.  He started in search of her but it was not until about 7 o’clock Saturday night that he found her, on Fourth Street, near Mission.  He asked her to return to him and she refused, whereupon he drew a revolver and fired three shots at her.  One of the bullets took effect above her right hip and ranged inwards, indicting a wound which it is believed will cause her death.  When she fell to the sidewalk Sanders, believing his murderous work complete, placed the muzzle of the pistol to his mouth and fired.  The bullet lodged in his neck, producing a painful but not fatal wound.

 Page 4 of 89  « First  ... « 2  3  4  5  6 » ...  Last »