Old West Book Review: Tracing The Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe TrailThis photographic journey along the Santa Fe Trail is a treasure of outstanding color photos combined with a detailed, step by step history of this important trail wending its way across the American West between the Missouri river valley and northern Mexico.

Readers turn the pages of history from 1821 through 1880, witnessing caravans of freight wagons, lumbering oxen, stoic Missouri mules, and faithful horses traveling this international route used by military men, hunters, pioneers, homesteaders, tradesmen, bullwhackers and every sort of adventurer.  By 1880 the railroads put the Santa Fe Trail out of importance but before trains on rails edged out horses and mules, this road seethed with adventure.

Maps inside the book give a detailed description of the trail running from St. Louis, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  As we turn the pages, magnificent photos combined with carefully written essays tell the story. Scenes of trapper’s tents along the Missouri River, historical markers explaining old battle scenes, patient oxen ready for work, military forts, restored buildings in Kansas boom towns, and haunting wagon ruts are still visible across the prairie.

The author takes us along this spectacular tour of historical places while explaining the importance of each scene. We get an emotional glimpse of what it must have been like to walk or ride along this trail. We imagine the squeak of freight wagons, the clank of trace chains, and can almost feel the lonesome prairie vastness surrounding brave travelers as they went along their way.

Every type of conveyance from buggies to huge Conestogas lumbered along.  Trade goods included salt, tools, furs, medicine for fever and malaria, castor oil and opium. Some packages contained wines and brandies, chess sets, violin strings, playing cards, cooking utensils, cloth and leather goods as well as silver and gold. Businessmen Russell, Majors and Wadell, who would eventually come up with the idea of a Pony Express, first ran a freight business that consisted of over 3,500 freight wagons carrying thousands of tons of material.

Fortunes were made and lost, armies tramped cross-country while cemeteries sprang up along the way.  This book is filled with surprising historical tidbits that we sometimes forget existed.  For instance, we see pictured the historical landmark of Fort Osage built to house soldiers guarding the new Louisiana Territory.  Pictures of the soldier’s quarters give us insight about how they lived.  Plank floors, spartan bunk beds and a wood kitchen counter remind us of days gone by.  Turning the pages we find everything from old adobe buildings to the Palace of the Governor in old Santa Fe. There are churches, Pueblos and Indian kivas inviting exploration.

Every page of this book causes the reader to reflect on the thoughtful and sentimental scenes chosen by the photographer. Faithful mules pulling a U.S. Army wagon, crumbling stone walls of an 1860 stage station, gushing water at a river crossing, remnants of two-hundred year-old cottonwood trees and historical grave markers show what lined the old Santa Fe Trail. We are filled with awe and admiration for the people who braved the new and dangerous land.  Photographer Ronald J. Dulle is to be congratulated for his beautifully orchestrated photography combined with this important history lesson.  This book belongs in your Old West library. You can grab this beautiful book HERE.

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

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

Old West TV – Apache Kid

Dakota Livesay tells the riveting story of the Apache Kid, who was a White Mountain Apache scout and later a notorious renegade active in the borderlands of the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico in the late 19th and possibly the early 20th centuries.

Henry Brown, The Criminal Marshal

Henry Newton Brown was born in Missouri in 1857. Migrating west, he did some buffalo hunting. At the age of nineteen he ended up in Lincoln County, New Mexico during the time of the Lincoln County War. Brown became a member of the Regulators, the quasi-legal group led by Billy the Kid. After being involved in a couple of the shootouts, he was indicted for murder. Before warrants could be served, Brown took off to Texas.

Henry Brown didn’t smoke, drink or gamble. He frequently dressed in a suit, and he could handle a gun…the perfect candidate for a lawman. So, he was appointed deputy sheriff of Oldham County. Shortly afterward he went up to Caldwell, Kansas where he became deputy marshal. And when the city marshal resigned, Brown stepped into that position. Brown did so well that the citizens of Caldwell gave him a handsomely engraved Winchester rifle.
 
On April 30, 1884, after his third appointment as marshal, Henry Brown and his assistant, Ben Wheeler took a few days off to go up to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. The purpose of their trip wasn’t to get in a few days of rest, but to rob the Medicine Lodge bank. In the process Brown killed the bank president and Wheeler killed the cashier.
 
The men were captured and locked away in jail. However, that night a mob stormed the jail with ropes in hand. Henry Brown tried to escape. But before he could get far, a shotgun blast ended the whole affair. The people of the Old West could accept their lawmen having a criminal background, but not committing crimes while wearing a badge.

Old West Book Review: The Lady Was A Gambler

Women GamblersThe stories in this book are about thirteen women gamblers who lived by their wits.  Some were the product of hard times; others chose their profession simply because they liked adventure.  The book is fun to read, the chapters are short with stories told right to the point.  A bibliography appears at the back of the book offering information about each lady if the reader is inclined to do additional research.  Unfortunately the bibliography regarding Calamity Jane omits the best biography written about her to date titled Calamity Jane, by James D. McLaird, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, 2005, and was reviewed in this column a while back.

In any case, this book, written for light entertainment, does a good job in picking out a variety of interesting women, albeit some better known than others.

Kitty LeRoy was a bigamist, cardsharp, and knife-wielding saloonkeeper who dressed like a gypsy.  She hailed from Dallas, Texas eventually making her way north to Deadwood Gulch, South Dakota where she ran a saloon, cheated at cards, and married multiple times without bothering with divorces.  Her last jealous husband shot her to death at the Lone Star Saloon before taking his own life.

Belle Ryan Cora was one of the most glamorous women gamblers, whose father was also a minister.

Abandoned by her first husband, the distraught Belle fled to New Orleans.  Here she worked as a prostitute, and met a handsome gambler.  The pair moved on to the California goldfields, settling in San Francisco where they ran a profitable brothel and gambling den.  When her lover was hanged by vigilantes, Belle died of a broken heart after giving most of her money to local charities.

Alice Ivers was known as Poker Alice, and worked the saloons in Deadwood, South Dakota.  An attractive blonde, she was an expert at five-card draw, faro, and blackjack.  After her husband was killed in a mine accident, she began earning her living exclusively at the gambling tables.  Alice traveled throughout many western states, where she gambled, drank whiskey, smoked cigars and swore mightily whenever she lost a hand.  A friend of Wild Bill Hickok, she was nearby the night he was killed. In her old age, she dressed like a man and sold bootleg whiskey.  Alice was reported to be worth millions in her youth, but died a pauper in 1930 after a short illness.

Gertrudis Maria Barcelo was a sultry vamp living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Born in Sonora, Mexico in 1800, her wealthy parents lavished their beautiful daughter with every gift including a good education.  To the dismay of her parents, Gertrudis married a gambler, and the pair headed north to Santa Fe where she spent her dowry on an elaborate gambling house and bordello known as The Palace.  Meanwhile, “Madam Barcelo” invested her money in mines, hotels and freight lines.  She worked as an American spy, supporting the U.S. in its interest to remain separate from Mexico.  Her affair with the governor of New Mexico led to the breakup of her marriage, but she remained a gambler to the end, becoming the richest woman in Santa Fe. When she died in 1852, her elaborate funeral was complete with music, cowboys, horses, speeches by church and city officials, barbecues, and merrymaking that was long remembered.

Women gamblers Belle Siddons, Lottie Deno, Belle Starr, Eleanora Dumont, Jenny Rowe, Minnie Smith and others are found in this entertaining book.  These true stories remind us that women were rough, tough and headstrong in the Old Days, and would have laughed at political labels such as “Women’s Lib” because even in the 1800s, nothing could stop a woman who really wanted to blaze her own trail. You can go all in and grab this book HERE.

Editor’s Note: The Reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many published books, including Silk and Sagebrush: Women of the Old West, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845-726-3434) www.silklabelbooks.com

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

Dave Rudabaugh and Billy the Kid

Stephen AustinDave Rudabaugh was born in Missouri in 1841. Early in life he moved to Kansas. At the age of 18, Dave started a gang that rounded up and sold other people’s cattle. By the age of 29 he and his gang moved on to robbing payroll trains and railroad construction camps.
 
Obviously, the railroad didn’t like Rudabaugh’s activities. So they hired Wyatt Earp to stop them. But Wyatt’s pursuit didn’t inhibit Rudabaugh’s activities. For in January of 1878 he and his gang robbed a pay train in Kansas. Unfortunately for Rudabaugh, this was an area protected by Bat Masterson. Before Rudabaugh’s gang had a chance to spend the rewards of others labors, they found themselves in jail. Being a man lacking in character, Rudabaugh turned states evidence against his comrades and gained his freedom.
 
During the summer of 1880 Rudabaugh joined the gang of a New Mexico ruffian by the name of Billy the Kid. About 6 months later Rudabaugh and Billy the Kid ran into a posse led by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Rudabaugh was arrested, tried and sentenced to hang.
 
Facing a rope, Rudabaugh went underground. He dug a tunnel and high tailed it to Old Mexico.
 
For 5 years Dave Rudabaugh created all kinds of havoc in Mexico. Then, finally, this man who had lived in the shadow of other more famous men got his moment of glory. For on February 19, 1866 the local Mexican villagers fed up with Rudabaugh’s escapades, killed him. They then cut off his head, stuck it on a pole, placed the pole in the center of the village and had a fiesta. For once Dave Rudabaugh or at least part of Dave Rudabaugh was the center of attention.
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