Nathan Meeker of Horace Greeley’s New York Herald

Nathan Meeker of Horace Greeley’s New York HeraldNathan E. Meeker started out as an agricultural writer for Horace Greeley’s New York Herald. He had a particular interest in cooperative farming and living. So Horace Greeley sent him to study what the Mormons were doing in this area. On January 6, 1870 Nathan headed west. But, when he got to Colorado, Meeker decided Colorado was a good place to start his own communal colony. So he started the temperance colony of Greeley, Colorado.
           
Things didn’t progress well, and in a few years Nathan was penniless. To generate income, and pay off debts, he became the Indian agent for the White River Ute Reservation.
               
Nathan Meeker not only believed that work was fun; he was passionate in spreading his message. He decided that the Ute Indians should be farmers.
 
This didn’t sit well with the free-spirited Ute who traditionally were nomadic teepee-dwellers following the buffalo herds. In addition, what Nathan didn’t know about Indian culture, was more than exceeded by his lack of tact. One of his policies was that any Indian who didn’t work the fields wouldn’t eat.
 
Within a year things were so out of hand that Meeker called for troops to quiet the Ute Indians. Knowing the military was on its way, the Ute struck first. They went after the symbol of their hatred, the Indian Agency.
 
All of the agency male staff was killed with Nathan Meeker, impaled to the ground in his own back yard.
 
This wasn’t the first, or the last attempt to make hunter tribes into agricultural Indians. But, it sure was the biggest failure.
Nathan Meeker of Horace Greeley’s New York Herald

Old West Book Review: Butch Cassidy My Uncle

Butch Cassidy My UncleButch Cassidy My Uncle, Bill Betenson, High Plains Press (1-800-552-7819), $1995, Paperback. 300 pages, Photographs, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

Back in the 1960s, most of us who love western movies went to see a flick called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Paul Newman and Robert Redford played the important roles, and we came away impressed and intrigued having seen a cowboy movie we were told was based on facts.

Butch and Sundance were real, and most of their exploits have been delved into now that Hollywood brought the pair to light.  So much has been written and told about Butch Cassidy, that one family member Bill Betenson, the great-grandson of Butch’s youngest sister, decided to try to set the record straight.  Butch Cassidy came from a large and mostly law-abiding family.  Except for one uncle, Dan Parker, who spent time in the Detroit House of Corrections for holding up a store, the rest of the Parkers were embarrassed by Butch’s outlawry.

This book begins with the early life of Butch, whose real name was Robert LeRoy Parker, telling of his youth, schooling and employment.  Betenson has access to family memorabilia, plus he has done an admirable job of searching through historical documents, newspaper articles, and public records as well as visiting many of the places where Butch lived.

Butch (a nickname he acquired after working as a butcher), seemed easily attracted to life on the wild side.  He did have real jobs in ranching and mining, and his employers always spoke highly of his good manners and careful attention to his duties.  But he was also intrigued with adventure and easy money.  At various times he took up with characters of questionable integrity, and was therefore involved in a variety of robberies. He rode with a gang holed up in the wilds of Utah.  Robbing banks, stagecoaches, trains and even horse rustling were the usual endeavors.  Butch spent most of his adult life hunted by sheriff’s posses, cavalry units and detectives working for Pinkertons

This book is filled with family photos and various scenes from Butch’s past, including images of his friends and relatives, besides members of the gang when he hooked up with Harry Longabaugh, (the Sundance Kid).  Butch traveled with Sundance and a variety of other gang members, even going as far away as New York City, joined by an attractive young woman known as Ella Place.  Butch, Sundance and Ella finally drifted to South America where authorities in the United States continued to hunt them.  They wound up in Argentina, and even bought a cattle ranch where they planned to start anew.  But alas the Pinkertons and other law enforcement people seemed always lurking nearby.

Again the trio got involved in bank robberies, and conflicting reports has them either killed in South America, or having gotten away due to some other American outlaws killed by police, being mistakenly identified as Sundance and Butch.  This of course led to all the modern day controversy. Did Butch die in South America?  Did he really come home years later as some of his friends and relatives insist?  It has long been told, even in the movie, that Butch and Sundance died in a hail of lead in South America after they robbed a bank.  However, there is a strong case told here that while Sundance may have died there, Butch survived and returned years later to the United States.

The last chapter of the book delves into all of the available information the author has gleaned pointing to Butch’s return.  The author writes an intriguing account in a forthright manner without trying to sway the reader’s opinion one way or the other.  This book is a treasure of factual information about the life and times of Butch Cassidy, and most likely the best written so far.  It’s another good one from High Plains Press.

Editor’s Note:  The Reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many published books, including the novel Nine Days at Dragoon Springs, published by Silk Label Books, P. 0. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845-726-3434) www.silklabelbooks.com.

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

John Heath – Old West Lynching

John Heath old west lynchingOn December 16, 1883, five masked men attempted to rob a store in Bisbee, Arizona. The robbery went bad, and the masked men started shooting at bystanders. They killed two men instantly. A third man died later. Tragically, a pregnant woman with her child, watching from a window in a nearby building, was also killed. This led to an old west lynching.
           
In response to these brutal murders, a posse was assembled. John Heath, a local businessman, volunteered to lead it. When the posse returned empty handed, there was quite a discussion as to which way the killers had gone. Most of the posse members felt John Heath had done a poor job of tracking the robbers.
               
Although the robbers wore masks, several residents recognized them as men who had been hanging around Bisbee, and over the next couple of weeks townspeople started remarking about seeing John Heath and the killers together prior to the robbery.
 
It was later discovered that John Heath was actually the leader of the gang. The plan from the beginning was for John not to participate in the robbery. And, when the posse was formed, he volunteer to lead it not toward the fleeing murderers, but away from them.
 
John Heath was tried, and convicted of second-degree murder. Not satisfied, Heath’s lawyer asked for a new trial. There was universal dissatisfaction in Bisbee with the second-degree murder conviction. In addition, they didn’t like the possibility that John Heath might be set free in a new trial. And in the Old West when there was dissatisfaction with a verdict the people took action.
 
A group of almost 500 people got John Heath out of jail, and strung him up to a telegraph pole. The citizens of Bisbee would not be trifled with.     

I See By Your Outfit, Historic Cowboy Gear of the Northern Plains

I See By Your Outfit, Historic Cowboy Gear I See By Your Outfit, Historic Cowboy Gear of the Northern Plains, Tom Lindmier & Steve Mount, High Plains Press, Glendo, Wyoming. $19.95, Paperback. Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index.

Here is yet another non-fiction winner published by High Plains Press.  Authors Tom Lindmier and Steve Mount have joined forces, writing a wonderfully accurate book filled with information about what real cowboys of the late 1800s looked like and wore on the American Northern Plains.

Every bit of clothing is described, from hats to boots, including favorite equipment used with their horses. Saddles, bits, bridles and spurs, ropes, saddle blankets and more fill these pages.  Readers find a list of names of providers of clothing and horse equipment like Montgomery Ward, Sears, Roebuck, and Porter Saddle and Harness Company appear, including the prices.  Additionally, the authors have not forgotten the guns.  Every type of shootin’ iron the old-time cowboys used are pictured and discussed.  Names like Spencer, Sharps and Winchester fill the chapter on revolvers and rifles.

The book is filled with original photographs showing cowboys wearing shotgun chaps, mohair “woolies”, and batwings.  Most men wore vests, a garment practical for all weather besides having pockets to stuff watches and other valuables.  You won’t see fancy Stetsons, but a different shaped, mostly-flat brimmed hat meant to resist gusty winds.  It was known as “Boss of the Plains” and looked nothing like the hat Roy Rogers wore.  The book explains how the cowboy clothing and horse gear was mostly meant for practicality rather than rodeo flair.  These cowboys needed jeans, shirts and gloves to protect them from all the harsh elements from saddle sores to rope burns.  Spurs were meant to keep a horse alert to sudden starts, and bits with rollers and chains had their practical uses, too.

Page after page keeps the reader intrigued with good information as well as some personal letters written by the cowboys themselves as they told about life on a cattle drive.  The many photographs are particularly intriguing showing the men at work, or sitting on the ground beside a campfire.  Near the chuck wagon stands a sullen cook wiping his hands down his greasy apron while a cigarette dangles from his lip.  (This leaves you wondering what may have fallen into the stew.)  The dust, the campfire smoke, the rough and ready cows and horses are all pictured here.

The chuck wagon was home. Pots, pans, Dutch ovens, water barrels and stacks of coffee, flour, sides of bacon, beans, sugar, dried apples and peaches, plus rice made up the load.  There were canned tomatoes mixed with the emergency medical supplies.  Chuck wagons and how they operated is explained, while another vehicle called a “bed wagon” was included in the roundups, but is seldom seen in movies.  This wagon carried the cowboy’s gear…blankets and bedrolls, and other personal items necessary for the long trips.

Readers learn something new with every page, the old-time pictures are marvelous.  Some studio photos the cowboys had made of themselves shaved and clipped gives us a glimpse of their showoff side, too.

Several of the pictures taken on the range show Nate Champion, a hero of the Johnson County War.  Nate, a brazen tough-guy who stood up to the big ranchers, was murdered by a gang of Texas gunslingers for hire.  Nate’s tragic story is told elsewhere, but he’s shown right here in the middle of things, riding with his pals reminding us what a real western hero was all about.

Whether you are reading for fun, or a serious writer/researcher working on an old-west project requiring authenticity, this is the book for you.

Publisher’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de Ia Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Death For Dinner, the Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York 10988. www.silklabelbooks.com

Chuckwagon: Buffalo Stew For An Army

Buffalo StewBuffalo Stew For An Army:

2 large size buffalo

Lots of brown gravy

Cut buffalo into bite size pieces. This may take up to two months.

Put in a very large pot and add enough gravy to cover the meat.
Add vegetables as desired.

Cook stew over a fire for about 4 weeks at 400 degrees.

Periodically add water and stir.

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

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