Kansas Trail Drives Come to an End

Kansas Trail DrivesIt seems that Kansas had a love-hate relationship with Texas cattle and the cowboys that brought them up. The love part was the profits to be made providing supplies to the Kansas trail drives and a good time to trail-weary cowboys.  Frontier struggling towns like Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top “Cow Town” of Kansas.

But, as Kansas started getting less “frontier” and farming became more important, residents, anxious to attract businesses other than saloons and places of ill repute, started getting less enamored with the Texas cattle industry.

Although the Texas cattlemen tried to stay away from cultivated farmland, according to one cowboy “there was scarcely a day when we didn’t have a row with some settler.”

In addition to this, the Texas cattle carried a tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease for which they were immune, but the Kansas cattle weren’t.

So, on this date back in 1885 the Kansas Legislature passed a bill that barred Texas cattle from the state between March and December 1.

This, along with the closing of open range with barbed wire fences, signaled an end to the cattle drives to Kansas.

William Brady and Billy the Kid’s Regulators

Billy the Kid kills a sheriffThe Lincoln County War was going full tilt. William Brady was the sheriff of Lincoln County. Brady was known to be in the pocket of the Murphy-Dolan faction… the bad guys as far as Billy the Kid was concerned. The next sequence of events unfold as Billy the Kid’s Regulators come to the forefront.
           
During this time, Billy the Kid had formed his “regulators,” a semi-legal group to fight what he considered was the corruption in the county. And, for the most part, the average local looked favorably upon the regulators.
               
On the morning of April Fools Day 1878, Sheriff William Brady was walking down the Main Street of Lincoln with four of his deputies.
 
Then, from behind an adobe wall, guns started barking. It’s obvious that Sheriff Brady was the main target, because in a matter of seconds, he had more than a dozen holes in him.
 
Brady and Billy the Kid had history. Billy blamed Brady for the death of his friend John Tunstall, and in February of that year, Billy had tried to arrest Brady. But, Brady turned the tables on the Kid, and the Kid ended up in jail.
 
It was revenge through and through. When the shooting died down, Billy the Kid walked up to the body of Sheriff Brady. Some say Billy was looking for arrest warrants for Billy and the regulators. Others say Billy was looking for the Winchester rifle Brady had taken from him back in February.
 
When a bullet shot from hiding nicked Billy’s hip, Billy wisely returned to cover and the regulators left town.
 
Although Billy was able to get his vengeance, the outcome of the event wasn’t good for him. Because of the way it happened, Billy started losing the sympathy of the locals, and they began questioning the legality of his regulators. 

Chuckwagon: Old West Omelet

old west omelet

Here’s an 1883 receipt for making an old west omelet:

Break all eggs into one plate.  Stir rather than beat them.  For each three eggs add one teaspoon cold water.  The cold water makes the omelet light and moist.  Salt and pepper, and place finely chopped parsley on the eggs.

Put two ounces of sweet butter in pan.  When the butter is very hot, pour in the eggs.  The instant it is cooked on one side, turn it quickly and cook the other side.  Double it over when you serve it, on a very hot plate.  

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

Battle of Palo Alto

Battle of Palo AltoOn this date back in 1846, Zachary Taylor led American forces against an attacking Mexican Army in the Battle of Palo Alto.

Mexico had never recognized the independence of Texas, and when the U.S. annexed Texas, Mexico sent troops into the disputed Rio Grande River area.

President Polk ordered General Taylor into Texas to defend the border. It was viewed by Mexico as a hostile invasion and the Mexican Army attacked the American forces. 

Taylor, however, was in no position to await formal declaration of a war that he was already fighting. In the weeks following the initial skirmish along the Rio Grande, Taylor engaged the Mexican army in two battles. On May 8, near Palo Alto, and the next day at Resaca de la Palma, Taylor led his 200 soldiers to victories against much larger Mexican forces. Poor training and inferior armaments undermined the Mexican army’s troop advantage. Mexican gunpowder, for example, was of such poor quality that artillery barrages often sent cannonballs bouncing lazily across the battlefield, and the American soldiers merely had to step out of the way to avoid them.

Although the Mexican forces were much larger in number, General Taylor was not only victorious in this battle; he won four additional battles and gained control over the three northeastern Mexican states.

Taylor emerged from the war a national hero. Americans admiringly referred to him as “Old Rough and Ready” and erroneously believed his military victories suggested he would be a good political leader. This eventually catapulted him into the Presidency. Unfortunately, he was a much better general than President. Elected president in 1848, he proved to be an unskilled politician who tended to see complex problems in overly simplistic ways. In July 1850, Taylor returned from a public ceremony and complained that he felt ill. He died several days later at age 65.

Dick Fellows – Bad Outlaw Horseman

Dick FellowsWe see outlaws in the movies riding at breakneck speed to chase down a stagecoach, and then jump from the horse to the stagecoach to encounter the driver and guard. All outlaws weren’t that good of horsemen. One such person got out of San Quentin Prison on this date back in 1881. His name was Dick Fellows.

Raised in Kentucky, Dick Fellows…An alias…came to California, and falling on hard times decided to rob stagecoaches. He picked the correct stage. It was carrying $240,000. However, as he was getting ready to go after the stage, the stolen horse he was riding threw him, and he was knocked unconscious.

Not one to give up, Fellows stole another horse and held up the next stage. He was successful. After the stage left, he tried to lift the strong box on his horse. The horse startled and raced off.

With night coming on he started walking with the strong box. Next he fell over a high bluff, knocking himself unconscious a second time. He woke up with a broken leg and foot.

Although the strong box has $1800 in it, he never got a chance to spend it, before Wells Fargo Detectives caught up with him.

When he got out of San Quentin, I believe most people would take the hint and go straight. But not Fellows. He went back to robbing stages, only to be caught again and sentenced to life in Folsom Prison.

Fellows devoted part of his time there to teaching a course in moral philosophy to his fellow inmates. Pardoned in 1908 at the age of 62, he returned to his home in Kentucky and faded from the historical record. It is tempting to lampoon Fellows for his inept horsemanship and astonishingly bad luck, but as one biographer noted, “For daring, he is the equal of any outlaws with whom I ever had dealings.”

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