Denver’s 1863 Fire

 A constant fear for western towns was fire. The buildings were wood, and with the dry weather, they soon became kindling. During Denver’s 1863 fire that fear became a reality. A pile of garbage behind the Cherokee House Hotel ignited. A wind whipped up the flames into a citywide inferno. The resulting damage was estimated to be in the range of $350,000, which doesn’t sound like much, but in the 1860’s that was most of Denver.
               
As with most tragedies, it brought out the worst and the best in men. When it came time to rebuild the area the local Kountze Brothers Bank announced that they were willing to give loans to merchants… The best in men? Not really. The interest was a whopping 25% per year… And we think interest rates are high today.
 
Prior to the fire there was quite a bit of animosity between Denver City and neighboring Cherry Creek. With both cities adversely affected, they put aside their animosity and worked together… Truly the best in men.
 
One of the individuals who borrowed money from the Kountze Brothers Bank was a Black entrepreneur by the name of Barney Ford. He operated a barbershop that was destroyed in the fire. Barney borrowed $9,000 at the going rate of 25% interest.
 
But, Barney Ford didn’t use it to reopen his barbershop. He used it to open the People’s Restaurant. Along with great food, the restaurant advertised fresh oysters and Havana cigars. How did Barney Ford do? Well, even at the high interest rate, he paid off the loan in just 90 days. 
Denver's 1863 Fire

Teddy Roosevelt’s Boat Thieves

On March 24, 1886, three hard cases were on the move. Unfortunately, an ice-swollen river stood between them and their destination. They came across a small rowboat, and decided to commandeer it. Now, normally the owner would chalk it off as a loss, but not this owner. He happened to be a tenderfoot easterner who had recently become the chairman of the Stockmen’s Association, a position that also carried with it the title of deputy sheriff. This easterner turned cowboy and rancher was a man of grit and determination who was later to hold the highest office in our land. His name was Theodore Roosevelt. This is the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s boat thieves.

Roosevelt had another boat made, and within a week, he and two cowboys were going after the thieves. After three days, they found them.

Because of the icy river, the group traveled eight days trying to get back home. With provisions almost gone, they finally came across a ranch. Roosevelt hired a wagon and driver to take him and the three ruffians the rest of the way. Roosevelt’s two companions remained with the boats.

It took two days and a night to get to the nearest town. Roosevelt stayed awake, with rifle at the ready, the whole time. To make sure he wasn’t jumped, Roosevelt had to walk along behind the wagon.

As deputy sheriff, Roosevelt received a fee for bringing in the men, and mileage for the over 300 miles he had traveled to retrieve them. It was a total of $50. But he had accomplished two things: First, he had upheld the law. Second, people would think twice before stealing anything from him again.
Teddy Roosevelt's boat thieves

Chuckwagon Vocabulary

As with everything the cowboy did, when it came to eating, the cowboy developed his own chuckwagon vocabulary. Sometimes it was a perversion of a commonly used word. Other times it seemed to have no relationship to anything other than what was in a cowboy’s mind.
Here are a few of the terms cowboys used for various aspects of eating:

Airtights: Canned goods. Usually corn, peaches, tomatoes and milk.
Arbuckle’s axle grease: Arbuckle brand of coffee was the one most used on the range. Axle grease referred to the strength of the coffee.
Cow Grease: Butter.
Hen Fruit: Eggs.
Padding Out His Belly: Someone who eats anything, anytime.
Slow Elk: Someone else’s steer slaughtered for food.
Swamp Seed: Rice. A staple on the trail.
Texas Butter: Gravy made from steak grease and flour. If available, milk was used.

chuckwagon vocabulary

Judge Roy Bean

Before Judge Roy Bean became “The law west of the Pecos”, he had quite a life. He killed a couple of people, broke out of a jail where he was being held for attempting to kill another person, and he had a stiff neck with scars, the result of an unsuccessful hanging.
           
In 1882, at the age of 55, a bearded, rum-soaked, fat Judge Roy Bean purchased a tavern in a place on the Pecos River called Vinegaroon, Texas, and he got elected justice of the peace. 
               
Bean saw a picture of Lily Langtry, a stage performer from the east, and fell in love with her; changed the name of the town to Langtry; and the saloon, which was also his courthouse, to the Jersey Lilly.
 
His pronouncements as a judge were often unique to say the least. Finding a pistol and $40 on a dead man, he fined the man $40 for carrying a pistol, and confiscated the gun. He freed a man for killing a Chinese because the only law book he had didn’t say anything about a law against killing Chinese. Another time he let a friend off because, “the Mexican should not have gotten in front of the gun my friend happened to be firing.”
 
After a number of years handing down his unique brand of justice, Roy Bean was thrown out of office when the number of votes for him way exceeded the number of eligible voters.
 
During his time as a Judge, Roy Bean wrote Lily Langtry, asking her to visit him. Finally, in September of 1903 Lily Langtry came to Langtry, Texas. Unfortunately, Judge Roy Bean didn’t get to meet her… He had died six months earlier, on March 14, 1903.
 
Judge Roy Bean holding court in Langtry, Texas

Pony Bob

When the Pony Express was formed they advertised for “Young skinny wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Because of the amazing men who answered that ad, only one mail pouch was lost during the existence of the Pony Express. The most amazing of the riders was Bob Haslam, who was known as Pony Bob. In May of 1860 he rode horseback 380 miles in 36 hours. But that wasn’t his most amazing feat. 
Pony Bob & Robert Haslam in his later years
               
On March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the President of the United States. It was important that the people in California get Lincoln’s inauguration speech as soon as possible. Pony Bob was responsible for a 120-mile stretch in Nevada. He covered the 120 miles on 12 horses in about 8 hours. To give you an idea of how fast he traveled, a racehorse runs the short distance on a racetrack at a little over 25 miles per hour. Counting the time taken for changing horses and any other delays, Pony Bob traveled the 120 miles at approximately 20 miles per hour.
 
But Pony Bob had to contend with conditions no jockey has ever had to contend. Right after he left Cold Spring, Nevada he was surrounded by Indians riding stolen Pony Express horses. Pony Bob shot three of the Indians. Then he took an arrow in the left arm. He caught another arrow in his mouth that broke his jaw and knocked out five teeth.
 
Outrunning the Indians, at the next relay station he stuffed a rag in his mouth and successfully delivered this valuable document to the next rider.
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