The Great Diamond Hoax

The Great Diamond HoaxWith the discovery of gold in California fake gold and silver mines became common. Swindlers and con men fooled many a greenhorn with “salted” mines. But there were few con men who did as great a job as two cousins from Kentucky named Philip Arnold and John Slack. They perpetuated the Great Diamond Hoax.
           
In early 1872 Arnold and Slack showed up in a San Francisco bank attempting to deposit a bag of uncut diamonds. When questioned, the men immediately left with the diamonds. Curious, the bank’s director, William Ralston found Arnold and Slack, and discovered that the diamonds came from a mine the men had found. The banker, assuming he was dealing with a couple of country bumpkins, schemed to take control of the mine. 
               
A mining expert looked at the mine, and he reported back that it was rich with diamonds and rubies. The banker, Ralston, formed a mining company and capitalized it to the tune of $10 million. He was able to buy the country cousins off with a meager $600,000.
 
The Great Diamond HoaxA young geographical surveyor by the name of Clarence King was suspicious of the stories he heard about the mine. It took one visit to the mine to realize it had been salted… Some of the gems he found had already been cut by a jeweler.
 
On November 25, 1872 the whole scheme collapsed. Banker Ralston had to refund the investors, with much of the money coming from his own pocket. The two country bumpkins? They disappeared back in Kentucky; along with the meager $600,000 they had been given.
 
Incidentally, the young man who exposed the Great Diamond Hoax, Clarence King, became the first director of the United States Geological Survey.

Curly Bill Killed Fred White

Curly Bill Killed Fred WhiteAlthough Western movies often show a villain or hero’s dexterity with a pistol, much of that dexterity or trick shooting was fiction. But there was one incident where it may have taken place. It was when Curly Bill killed Fred White.

Even though western movies like Tombstone showed cowboys with the ability to do fancy tricks with pistols, or even tin cups, very few cowboys could, or even cared to do, fancy tricks. Success in a shootout was determined by steadiness and accuracy, not gun twirling. But, on October 28, 1880, a fancy gun trick was supposedly used.
           
Curly Bill Killed Fred White

Fred White

Tombstone was barely three years old. Fred White was the town Marshal, and Wyatt Earp was County Deputy Sheriff. A group of drunken cowboys was shooting it up in town. As White and Earp headed toward the cowboys, the group scattered. They cornered Curly Bill Brocius, a ne’er-do-well member of the Clanton gang. 

               
Marshal White asked for Curly Bill’s gun. It’s here that the story goes in two different directions. One says that Curly Bill offered his cocked pistol to Marshal White barrel first. And, either White grabbed the gun, or Wyatt Earp grabbed Curly Bill, but, in either event, the gun went off, killing Marshal White.
 
The other version says that Curly Bill handed the gun to Marshal White butt first, and as White reached for the gun, Curly Bill spun the butt into his own hand, cocking and shooting the pistol in what has come to be known as the “border draw.”
 
But, in either event, the outcome was the same… Marshal White was dead. What’s interesting is that as Marshal White was dying, he said the shooting was an accident. And, when Curly Bill’s gun was examined, there was only one spent shell. Quite possibly, he was just an innocent bystander who got swept up in a raid.
 
Whichever it was, the outcome was good for Curly Bill. Although Curly Bill killed Fred White, he was found innocent.
 

Chuckwagon: Graham Bread

GRAHAM BREAD
From an 1891 cookbook

Graham BreadSift together one and a half pints of Graham flour, half pint wheat flour, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon sugar and two teaspoons of baking powder.  Stir in one and a quarter pints of milk until it becomes a soft dough.

Pour into a well-greased bread pan and bake in rather hot oven for forty minutes.  Cover the pan with brown paper for the first fifteen minutes.  Remove and continue baking.

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

Transcontinental Telegraph

On October 24, 1861 the transcontinental telegraph was completed. Like the transcontinental railroad, it was built by two crews working toward the middle. One crew started in Missouri, and the other in San Francisco. A crew would string as much as 25 miles of wire per day. The telegraph wire followed a route similar to that taken by the Pony Express. Workmen placing poles and stringing line and Pony Express riders would wave to each other as they passed, not realizing that the success of one would mean the failure of the other.
           
The two telegraph crews met in Salt Lake City, Utah. The cost to send a telegram from coast to coast was $6 for ten words. Brigham Young sent the first telegram west, from Salt Lake City. But the first one to actually go coast to coast was a special one. 
               
Now it just so happened that as the transcontinental telegraph was being completed, the Civil War was in the process of dividing our country. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and a number of other states had seceded from the Union. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as provisional Confederate President.
 
Abraham Lincoln was busy trying to line up states that would remain in the union, and the first transcontinental telegram was good news for Lincoln.
transcontinental telegraph
 
It was sent to him 3,595 miles away, from San Francisco, California by California’s Supreme Court chief justice, Stephen Johnson Field. The telegram from Justice Field to President Lincoln congratulated him on the completion of the telegraph line and pledged his state’s continuing loyalty to the Union in those sad days of civil strife. Incidentally, the chief justice didn’t have to pay the $6 for the telegram.

Old West Book Review: Health of the Seventh Cavalry; A Medical History

Health of the Seventh CavalryHealth of the Seventh Cavalry; A Medical History, Edited by P. Willey and Douglas D. Scott, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 325-3200, $3295, Cloth. 480 Pages, Illustrations, Maps, Graphics, Charts, Bibliography, Index.

Persons interested in the life and times of members of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry will find this book a treasure trove of information pertaining to the health of these soldiers.

The time period covered is 1866 through the early 1880s.  The first chapter talks about the Regimental history of the Seventh, beginning at the end of the Civil War.  At this time the Seventh began moving westward to deal with hostile Indians of the Plains.  Of course anything to do with the Seventh Cavalry must include information about General George Armstrong Custer, eventually leading to the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

But long before the Little Big Horn, in July 1866, Seventh Cavalry troops were assembling at Fort Riley, Kansas.  From here they were dispersed toward the western Plains from Ft. Riley and beyond.  One table in the book shows the Seventh Cavalry company assignments by year all the way to 1882.

The authors give detailed descriptions of the various living quarters, expeditions, care of horses, weather conditions and the like.  There is one particularly sobering photograph of the arrow-riddled Sergeant Frederick Wyllyams of Company G where he was murdered and mutilated by hostile Indians in 1867.

Always the book’s focus is on the health of the soldiers from information gleaned from, medical records as well as personal accounts written by those who lived and traveled with the troops.  Occasionally we hear from Elizabeth Custer and a few other wives as they described weather conditions, injuries, epidemics, living quarters and social events within the forts.

The men of the Seventh were attended by military physicians who had been doctors during the Civil War.  A list of their names and dates they served is included here.  They treated insect and snake bites, gunshot wounds, venereal disease, horse- related injuries, results of bar brawls, frostbite and contagious diseases such as cholera.  The lists include everything from lacerations to mumps. These doctors were also expected to treat civilians who worked at the forts that included officers’ wives and children, and laundresses.

Military doctors were not always looked upon with respect, behind their backs some were referred to as “Pills” and other uncomplimentary nicknames.  However, some surgeons such as Assistant Surgeon Leonard Wood earned the Medal of Honor for carrying dispatches through hostile Indian Territory during the 1886 campaign against Apaches in Arizona.  Wood was later credited with discovering the cause and treatment of yellow fever.

Eventually the reader arrives at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and much information is gleaned through forensic examination of the remains of the men who died with Custer.  Extensive examination of bones and teeth reveal many physical ailments the men suffered throughout their lifetimes, and including whenever possible wounds received on the battlefield that led to their deaths.

At the end the authors declared the men of the Seventh were “neither the unsoiled, healthy heroes represented by Errol Flynn in They Died With their Boots on, nor the maniacal one-dimensional soldiers portrayed in Little Big Man”.  One observer in the old days described the Seventh Cavalry as “good fighters but mostly heavy drinkers.’

And so be it.  They rode with Custer. May they rest in peace.  This unique book has everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the health of those brave fighting men. The book belongs in your Old West library.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de Ia Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including the true crime Death For Dinner, The Benders of (Old) Kansas,, published by Silk Label Books, P. Box 700, Unionville, New York, 10988-0700 www.silklabelbooks.com

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

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