The Transcontinental Railroad Challenge

In 1850 over 9,000 miles of track covered the Northeastern portions of the United States. By 1860 there were 30,000 miles, more than the rest of the world combined, and the tracks were extending to the Midwest.

As early as the 1840’s Congress began thinking about the possibility of constructing a transcontinental railroad. And then in 1848, with the discovery of gold in California, it became even more important.

Two companies got the contract. The California based Central Pacific started eastward, and the eastern based Union Pacific began in Omaha, Nebraska, moving west. In February of 1863 the great race began. For six years the two railroad giants headed toward each other. And on May 10, 1869 they met at Promontory, Utah.

Four special spikes were used for the ceremonial uniting of the rails…two gold, a silver, and one that was a blend of gold, silver and iron. The celebrities lined up to drive the spikes. After several misses, and several, not so subtle snickers from weather-hardened men who had been driving spikes for six years, at 2:47 p.m. the railroad was declared completed.
In Washington D.C. a magnetic ball on the Capitol dome fell. A 100-gun salute went off in New York City. The Liberty Bell rang in Philadelphia. 7,000 Mormons celebrated in Salt Lake City. And in San Francisco a banner waved, stating “California Annexes the United States.”
You may ask, “What happened to the ceremonial spikes?” Well, as soon as everyone left the area they were pulled and replaced with iron ones. Another interesting fact… the railroad wasn’t actually completed on that date. In order to meet the completion deadline they had skipped building a bridge over the Missouri River between Omaha and Council Bluffs.

Old West TV: Maurice Barrymore

On this episode of Chronicle of the Old West TV Dakota Livesay gives us a great Old West story that tells us how Drew Barrymore got her name!

King Fisher and Ben Thompson Killed Together

Although it wasn’t a relationship most people would expect, King Fisher and Ben Thompson were friends. The reason their friendship was unusual was that both men were hard cases.
King Fisher dressed in a flamboyant style. He wore a gold braided sombrero, silk shirts and gold-embroidered vests. His chaps were made of Bengal tiger skin. He didn’t get the tiger skin from a safari, but a raid on a circus.
Fisher traded in cattle. He took cattle that he had stolen in the United States to Mexico, and traded them for cattle that had been stolen in Mexico… And buyers didn’t care as long as the cattle didn’t have a brand from the country in which it was sold.
Ben Thompson’s reputation wasn’t much better. Ben didn’t care on which side of the law he walked, as long as he could use his pistol and intimidate people. Sensing the opportunity for a good fight, he even went to Mexico and joined Maximilian as a mercenary, rising to the rank of Colonel. Ben Thompson had also spent time as the city marshal of Austin, Texas.
These two hot heads met up in San Antonio on March 10, 1884, and decided to have an evening out. Celebrating, as friends do, they ended up going to the Vaudeville Variety Theater. Maybe because of too many drinks, or advancing age, Ben Thompson evidently didn’t remember that a couple of years earlier he had killed the proprietor of that establishment. Within minutes of their arrival four of the dead man’s friends, including the bartender and one of the actors, opened fire. Ben Thompson ended up with 9 slugs in him, and his friend King Fisher had 13. It was a tough night out for the boys.
Stephen Austin

Old West TV: The Bandit Queen Pearl Hart

On this edition of Chronicle of the Old West TV Dakota Livesay tells the story of the “Bandit Queen” Pearl Hart.

The Terror of Tiburcio Vasquez

Tiburcio Vasquez

 Supposedly, when Tiburcio was just 18, he killed a man. But since he was never arrested for this crime, it might be just a story he spread.
What is known is that at the age of 19 he was arrested for stealing cattle and sentenced to five years at San Quentin. The prison authorities probably should have designated a permanent Tiburcio Vasquez cell, for two months after he got out, Tiburcio was back at San Quentin on larceny charges. And almost as soon as he served his time for this crime, he was back, this time charged with armed robbery.
At the age of 32 Tiburcio got out of San Quentin. But he obviously had not learned his lesson, because he continued his life of crime. Two years after his last prison stretch, Tiburcio escaped a posse after being shot up following a stage robbery. Then a year later, while robbing a store with six cohorts, Tee-burr-see-o killed four unarmed men.
With a reward posted of $8,000 alive, or $6,000 dead, in 1874 Tiburcio was captured following a shootout in which he was shot six times. He was taken to San Jose, tried, convicted, and on March 19, 1875, this 5’ 7”, 130 pound terror of California was hanged.
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