Myth, Memory and Massacre The Pearl River Capture of Cynthia Ann Parker

Students of Texas history are familiar with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the nine-year-old white girl taken captive by Comanches, May 19, 1836.  For the next 24 years, Cynthia Ann lived with her Comanche captors, bore at least four children and somehow survived the rigors of life among the Indians until her rescue in 1860 by a troop of Texas Rangers in a fight known as “The Battle of Pease River.”

By now Cynthia Ann had been assimilated into the tribe, had forgotten most if not all of the English language, resisted parting with her Comanche children, and had become a hardened, sun-burned woman with huge work-worn hands, chopped hair and haunted eyes.

Ripped from her family at age 9, having witnessed the brutal murders of her parents and friends, faced with abuse and humiliation in a Comanche camp, Cynthia Ann Parker became the most famous of the white captives in Texas. There were many hundreds of other white girls and women taken captive by marauding Comanches, too.  Most were raped, tortured and killed.  Others traded back to their families were covered with scars and facial mutilation.  But what made Cynthia Ann different is that one of her children grew up to become Quanah Parker, famous in his own right as a chief and important negotiator between Indians and Whites.

After her rescue, Cynthia Ann never did adjust completely to return to White society. She died of a broken heart in 1870 and is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma between two of her Comanche children.

If you are interested in the complete history of the life and times of Cynthia Ann Parker, you must look elsewhere because there are many books available on the subject.  This book, Myth, Memory and Massacre delves mainly into events regarding the accidental rescue of Cynthia Ann by the Rangers at Pease River.  When the Rangers attacked a Comanche hunting party, they had no idea Cynthia Ann Parker was living with this clan.  The Rangers nearly killed her as she ran away clutching her baby, but one of the men realized she had blue eyes and correctly guessed she was a White captive.  It took a while to figure out who she was.

From here the authors begin their discussion of who, why, where and how.  They carefully dissect events beginning with the initial raid upon the camp, pointing out this was a hunting camp filled with women and children who had been butchering and preparing buffalo meat for winter.  Most of the Indians killed were women and children.  The surprise rescue of the white woman is what caused such a sensation throughout Texas since nobody thought Cynthia Ann could still be alive.  The publicity gave some individuals riding with the Rangers the opportunity for self importance and political gain.  Their actions, motives and self-promotion are exposed with regard to their showing the battle of Pease River had been a great victory with many more Indians killed, and at least one war chief taken out of action, which was probably not true.

The authors have done a great deal of careful research and tedious fact- finding.  Their conclusions are meant to clear up, in their opinion, many falsehoods regarding the rescue of Cynthia Ann that after many years of telling and re-telling has become folklore.  The authors aim to show how the rescue of Cynthia Ann Parker was eventually used for political advantage, and finally how the analyzation of these events historically have been misleading.  For those interested in “the rest of the story” concerning Cynthia Ann Parker, this book might help close the final chapter. You can tell for yourself and grab this amazing book HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 vvww.silklapelbooks.

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

Searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

When Jacob Waltz died on October 25, 1891, he became either the world’s greatest prankster or the world’s greatest secret keeper.   Although during his life his last name was spelled a number of different ways, we simply know him as “The Dutchman”… the man who discovered the “Lost Dutchman’s Mine” in the Superstition Mountains, just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
Actually, tales of the existence of treasurers in the Superstition Mountains go back to when Mexico owned the area.   Long before The Dutchman there were stories of others bringing out gold….and many other people disappearing, supposedly killed by Apaches, who were protecting a sacred area.
 
A variety of stories are told about how The Dutchman found the gold mine…. and each of them involves an Apache or Apaches taking him to the area.
 
Supposedly, Jacob Waltz went back into his mine on several occasions during his lifetime, each time being careful to cover his tracks.  Although The Dutchman lived a very modest life, any time he needed large sums of money, he seemed to be able to come up with tin cans full of gold nuggets.  Records show that he cashed in at least $250,000 worth of gold.
 
Even to this day, there are people who spend their whole life searching for the Lost Dutchman’s mine.  Maps guaranteed to be the location of the mine regularly appear.
 
Even in modern times, people who go into the Superstitions disappear.   And if their bodies are found, they’re often without a head.
 
The Superstition Mountains where the Lost Dutchman mine is located is now right next to freeways and housing developments, yet it remains one of the Old West’s most tantalizing mysteries.

Old West Book Review: Reshaw

ReshawA Frenchman, his surname Richard was pronounced Reshaw by those who knew him, and this 1850s Old West character crisscrossed the frontier in what is now known as Wyoming and Colorado.  While reading the book, it occurs to us that perhaps Reshaw was the inspiration for the Pasquinel character featured in James Michener’s Centennial.

Richard was a contradiction who could be at one time very generous and at other times confrontational.  The Indian tribesmen gave him a name in Sioux that meant “Always has plenty of meat” because he was willing to share with those in need.  On the other hand, he could display a vicious temper and it was said that during a whiskey-drinking spree, he wildly drove his carriage into an emigrant train causing a stampede that killed several people.

Richard bought and sold commodities such as bacon in St. Louis, and sold it at highly inflated prices to the miners and travelers.  He was a fur trapper, buffalo hide trader, whiskey peddler, livestock dealer and all around opportunist who always looked for ways to make money.  By the time he was fifty years old the 1860 Colorado census records show his personal estate was worth $50,000, a huge sum for those days.

He married an Indian woman, and some of their children were eventually sent to St. Louis to be educated.  This book goes into great detail about the lives of Richard’s children as well as his many business associates, as well as information about the history of Wyoming and Colorado, fights between the U.S. military and Indian tribes, attacks at stage stations and the numerous depredations that took place.

One of Richard’s most lucrative business ventures had to do with a toll bridge he constructed across the North Platte River near present day Casper, Wyoming.  Richard was quick to see the advantage of charging the emigrant trains to cross their wagons, livestock and equipment over his bridge as they made their way west.  He ran this operation for many years, but around 1865 he departed from his toll bridge business on the North Platte.  It was suggested that due to his family connections with the Sioux Indians and other tribesmen, he was warned that big trouble was coming between the Indians and the U.S. government, and he would be wise to make himself scarce before it was too late.  The Plains Indians were on the prod following the Sand Creek Massacre, and retribution would be forthcoming.

Even without his toll bridge business, Richard continued to be involved in various business ventures.  He died a violent death where he camped along the banks of the Niobrara River.  Supposedly he was transporting a large quantity of gold.  While his body was recovered, it was never known for sure who the killers were.  Both boot prints and moccasin tracks were found at the murder scene.  Some men were suspected, one was arrested, but due to lack of evidence the murder of John Baptiste Richard remains an unsolved mystery.

This man was kind, he was clever, he was mean, he was generous, he was complicated.  A husband, father, trail blazer, entrepreneur, he was a fascinating character that history has mostly overlooked until now.

The author has done a huge amount of careful research, presenting here not only the life of John Baptiste Richard but including a great deal of Wyoming and Colorado history.  One photo in the book may or may not be that of John Baptiste Richard.  It was labeled differently by several different historians.  We might never know exactly what he looked like which only adds to his mystique. Grab your copy of this interesting book HERE.

Editor’s Note:  The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York. 10988-0700. Www.silklabelbooks.com

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

Old West Book Review: The Sundance Kid

The Sundance KidOld West outlaw history has many “kids”, and the Sundance Kid is among the most popular.  He teamed up with Butch Cassidy, and the two robbed banks, blew up railroad cars, stole money, buried loot, rustled horses, broke jail and foiled lawmen all the way from the United States to South America.

Along the way many romanticized stories cropped up.  Books, magazine articles, and even one popular movie had Butch and Sundance appearing in a variety of exciting situations.  lt is true they belonged to The Wild Bunch, or Hole in the Wall Gang of robbers and rustlers in Old Wyoming.  At one point in their career, they brazenly posed for a group photograph in a New York studio with members of their gang.

They rode hard, shot straight, plotted brazen holdups and get-aways, and even ran with a beautiful and mysterious woman known as Ethel (or Etta) Place.  She traveled from New York to South America with them, was thought to be a Texas soiled dove, but disappeared from history before the men were hunted down and killed in Bolivia.  All the possibilities surrounding Ethel’s life and what might have ultimately happened to her are explored here.

The author of this book is Donna Ernst, a member through marriage of the Longabaugh family, and she has spent many years delving into historical archives, family records, Pinkerton documents, letters and news accounts.  Ernst has determined to set the story straight and takes the reader step by step from Harry Longabaugh’s childhood all the way to his death in Bolivia.  She explains her sources of information and covers thoroughly Harry’s movements from childhood, to his work as an honest cowboy horse trainer, to his involvements in crime.  She corrects some information about crimes he was blamed for, but other escapades she shows what part he played.

His crime spree began in the United States, and he spent some time in jail.  Each time he was released he promised to go straight, but, but it always seemed too easy for him to drift back to a life of crime with his old pals.  Eventually, when he was closely followed by American law enforcement authorities, he and Butch and Ethel departed for South America where they planned to become honest ranchers.  However, the Pinkertons and other sheriffs were quick to figure out their whereabouts, and soon the trio was back on the run.  They made friends in South America, but once they again began their outlaw ways, the locals naturally turned on them.

According to Ernst, down to their last two bullets, Butch and Sundance died of suicide in a shack surrounded by Bolivian police throwing Iead.  Many writers show Burch and Sundance slipping back into the U.S. where they drifted in and out of their family’s lives.  Several old men even claimed to be Butch or Sundance well into the 20th century.  According to Ernst, one clever self-promoter may very well have been a Longabaugh relative, but certainly not Sundance himself.

The author makes a very strong case with good documentation that both Butch and Sundance died in Bolivia.  This fascinating book takes the reader in a clear and concise writing style, along the outlaw trail of a man who might have been an upstanding, worthwhile citizen, but instead chose a life on the wild side.

This memorable book belongs in your Old West library. Get your copy HERE.

Publisher’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the OId West including The Apache Kid, published by Westernlore Press, P0. Box 35305,Tucson, Arizona 85740.

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

 

Book Review: Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands

512-Y18uBYL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Author Bob Alexander had a long career in law enforcement.  Combining this with his love of Texas, he now specializes in writing the biographies of various outlaws as well as lawmen, and here he takes aim at Captain Frank Jones of the Texas Rangers.

The book contains carefully researched information about the life and times of this brave man who was born in 1856 and died young, at age 37 in 1893.  Jones’ remarkable career is filled with straight-shooting combined with faithful adherence to the laws of his State of Texas.  These Rangers withstood unbelievable hardship as they helped create a safe environment for ranchers, settlers, townsfolk and adventurers alike.  They dealt with never ending long days in the saddle, cold and heat, sudden political harangues and many uncertainties regarding their jobs and futures.  Many of these men had no real personal lives, they were expected to be nearly superhuman in their promise to keep the peace.

Captain Frank Jones was born during tumultuous times in Texas during which Comanche swooped down on homesteaders, often kidnapping and murdering men, women and children.  Comanche raiders combined with white rustlers, robbers, Mexican bandits and many miles between settlements and help was not a place for folks lacking grit.  Frank’s mother Keziah Jones gave birth to her son on their lonely ranch while marauding Comanche terrorized the neighborhood.

Keziah’s photograph shows a severe, straight-laced and grim woman whose stare alone could stop most Comanche in their tracks.  This photo and many others in the book show Frank’s family members, Ranger cronies, and important political figures he knew.  With surnames like Hogg, Outhouse and Outlaw, this is better than what any fiction writer could possibly make up.

When Frank Jones joined the Frontier Battalion (later known as the Texas Rangers) he began chasing outlaws, and riding to the scenes of robberies, cattle rustling, fence cutting, murder, and every other depredation imaginable.  No one could ask for a more exciting profession.  Guns, horses, brawls, skulduggery. . . , it’s all here.

The book delves mostly into the career of Frank Jones, and touches only briefly upon his personal life.  We find out he was married twice, his first wife was in fragile health and died soon after the couple’s second child was born.  Frank had to put both children to live with relatives while he pursued his career.  Sadly, the second child soon died.  Several years later Frank married a divorced woman who had one son from her first marriage.  Her ex was also a lawman, and a friend of Frank’s.  She was pregnant with Frank’s son when Frank was killed during an ambush perpetrated by a gang of Mexican outlaws at a place called Pirate Island.

Frank Jones’ story ends with a tragic and fiery shoot-out between his group of Texas Rangers, and a Mexican gang well-hidden behind adobe walls.  The Rangers rode right into a trap, and were cut down in a thunderous fusillade, leaving Captain Jones mortally wounded but still fighting back until his dying breath.

Today Frank Jones lies buried beneath his memorial monument in a cemetery near Ysleta, Texas.  A sentimental photograph shows his old pals and comrades in arms circling his grave in remembrance.  We see tough old Rangers in their twilight years respectfully resting their hands on the grave marker, their eyes shining with sadness, courage and respect.  Some of these men were with Frank at Pirate’s Island the day he died.

Bob Alexander has once again written a valuable and memorable biography of an old-time Texas Ranger who deserves to be remembered.  This book belongs in your Texas Ranger collection.

Author’s Note:  The Reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many published books, including the novel Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, 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

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