Mountain Men Battle Indians

  In 1822 William Ashley advertised for men to go up the Missouri River and trap for pelts. The trappers were to spend the winter alone, and then Ashley would come back up river in keelboats, the next spring, and pick them up along with the furs.
  When Ashley arrived the next spring, on May 29, 1823, he was met by Jedediah Smith, and was told the trappers needed horses. On May 31 Ashley and his men went to a nearby Arikara Indian village in order to trade for the needed horses.
The next day Ashley got 20 horses from the Arikara in return for gun powder and shot… a trade they were later to regret. In the middle of the fourth night there, one of two men who were staying in the Indian’s village came running out screaming that his partner had been killed. It’s not known if it was part of a plan or there had been a problem, but at the break of dawn the air was filled with arrows and just traded bullets, fired from behind the stockade. The horses were the first to die. Using the dead horses as shelter, the mountain men yelled for the boats to come ashore and pick them up.

Finally, Ashley was able to get a couple of skiffs up to the shore. It was every man for himself. Those who didn’t make it in a skiff were washed downriver. Finally, with the survivors aboard the keelboats, they drifted downriver about 25 miles before they pulled ashore to take inventory.

  There were 13 men dead or missing. Eleven were wounded. Their horses were dead, and they had provided the local Indians with enough fire power to keep them out of the area for some time.

Frank James Surrenders

   Six months after a member of his own gang shot Jesse James in the back, and after committing at least twenty robberies, on October 5, 1882, Frank James, Jesse’s brother surrendered to Missouri governor Thomas Crittenden.
   At the ceremonial surrender, Frank James said, “I want to hand over to you that which no living man except myself has been permitted to touch since 1861, and to say that I am your prisoner.” With that Frank James turned over his .44 Remington revolver, holster and cartridge belt.
   Now, prior to this Frank James had entered into negotiations that were to determine the outcome of his surrender and later trial. He had written Governor Crittenden asking for amnesty because the hardships he had endured as an outlaw were worse than a prison sentence. He also maintained that others committed many of the crimes of which he had been accused.
   Governor Crittenden had replied that he could not give amnesty… but if Frank James went on trial and was convicted, he could give him a pardon.
So Frank James went on trial for murdering Frank McMillan, a passenger who had been killed during a train robbery a year earlier. After seven days of witnesses, and two days of legal arguments, Frank was acquitted. It seems the case against him had mysteriously collapsed.
   After his acquittal, Frank James returned to a normal life and spent 32 years in a variety of jobs, including a four-year tour with a theater company, and six years as a doorman at a St. Louis burlesque house. His last years were spent on the Missouri homestead where he grew up, charging tourists 50 cents to view the cabin in which he and his brother were born.

Chuckwagon: Mormon Johnnycakes

        Here is a form of cornbread used not only by the Mormon immigrants, as the name indicates, but quite often by most of the immigrants traveling west.  Because of the inclusion of buttermilk, a source of fresh milk was a necessity.

        2-cups of yellow cornmeal.                        

        ½-cup of flour.      

        1-teaspoon salt.                                        

       1-teaspoon baking soda.                             

       Combine ingredients and mix in 2-cups of  buttermilk and 2-tablespoons molasses.                                                                                      

        Pour into a greased 9” pan and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  To get a lighter johnnycake include two beaten eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

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

William Becknell Creates the Santa Fe Trail

In the early 1800’s the Southwest was part of Mexico, and Mexico was under the domination of Spain. Because the Spanish were afraid of the expansion of the Anglos, they closed the area to anyone from the states. Any American trader they found in the area ended up in jail.
In 1821 William Becknell and four other men were doing some trading with the Comanche Indians on the American controlled side of the Rockies when they encountered some Mexican troops. The troopers told Becknell that Mexico had won their independence, and the area was once again open to Americans. Immediately Becknell headed for Santa Fe, where he was able to sell everything he had at an enormous profit.
Five months later he was back in Missouri looking for men “to go westward for the purpose of trading for horses and mules and catching wild animals of every description.” With less than half the volunteers he was looking for, on November 16, 1821 Becknell and three wagonloads of merchandise arrived in Santa Fe.
Becknell’s delivery of goods to Santa Fe was a feat to be admired, but the delivery was not what made him famous. It was the route he took to get there.
For decades Mexican traders had used a route that went over a dangerous high mountain pass. What Becknell did was to create a shortcut that led across the Cimarron Desert. The route created by Becknell became known as the “Santa Fe Trail”. It became one of the most important Old West trading routes used by merchants and travelers until the 1870’s with the arrival of the train.

Chinese Massacred at Rock Springs

Coal was very important for the operation of the railroad. And because of that, many railroads controlled their supply of coal by owning the coal-mining operations. One such mining operation owned by the Union Pacific Railroad was located in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
In 1885, the miners were trying to unionize. In order to break their efforts, the Union Pacific brought in Chinese laborers to work the mines. The Chinese were hard workers, but they neither understood the concept of unionizing, nor were they interested.
Frustrated, on September 2, the striking miners decided to strike out at the easiest and most visual target they could find. About 150 miners descended upon the Chinatown area of Rock Springs, with the objective of chasing the Chinese out of the area. When the miners started approaching, most of the Chinese abandoned their businesses and homes, and hid in the hills. Unfortunately, not everyone made it. Without weapons to defend themselves, 28 Chinese were killed, and 15 others wounded.
A week later, the U. S. Military arrived and escorted the remaining Chinese back from the hills. Many of them returned to the mines. Even though the identity of the participating miners was known, the local authorities took no legal action against them. However, the Union Pacific did fire 45 miners for their part in the massacre.
This was but one of a number of violent events that took place throughout the West. It was symptomatic of the hatred of the Chinese that three years earlier had resulted in the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited further Chinese immigration into the United States. Incidentally, the Chinese Exclusion Act remained the law until World War II when China joined on the side of the Allies.
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