Old West History Archives

Old West Gamblers

Old West GamblersOld West gamblers who came out west wagered everything on the hopes of becoming prosperous and having a good life. That same spirit led them into gambling halls, and games of chance. One such game started on June 15, 1853 and ended 24 years later.

For people of the Old West gambling was a way of life. They risked their life by going into Indian Territory for furs, precious metal or land. They staked everything they owned on a herd of cattle being driven north. And for sure they enjoyed a game of chance.

There was faro, euchre, monte, casino, and, of course, poker…which, incidentally, was always dealt to the left of the player to make it easier to pull a gun with the right hand in case of irregularities. The origin of most games of chance came from Europe, with the exception of the old three walnuts and a pea, which started in America, probably on the streets of New York, where it still prospers.

Old West Gamblers

Not only did cowboys loose their wages, but whole herds of cattle, and a cattleman’s entire wealth would change hands over night. A few wives were even offered to “match the pot.”

On June 15, 1853, in Austin, Texas Major Danelson and Mr. Morgan sat down to play poker, and evidentially with little to go home to, forgot to quit. The game went on for a week… then a month… a year became years. The Civil War broke out, was fought and lost, but these two Texas gentlemen still dealt the cards. Finally in 1872, 19 years after it started, both men died on the same day…but the game continued. Their two sons took over, and played for 5 more years.

Finally the game ended in 1877 when a railroad train killed one of the sons, and the other went crazy. Not that all these Old West gamblers weren’t crazy in the first place.

Tombstone Stage Held Up

On March 15, 1881 the Tombstone stage was held up.  Although not intended as such, it ended up being one of the causes for the O. K. Corral shootout.  On the other hand, the two objectives of the hold-up were not accomplished.

Tombstone Stage

The main objective was the assassination of Wells Fargo shotgun guard, Bob Paul.  As a Wells Fargo guard, Bob Paul had hampered the activities of the cowboys.  And, the word around town was that he was to become the Pima County Sheriff.  So the cowboys wanted to get rid of him.  The assassination failed because when the stage departed Tombstone, stage driver Budd Philpot had gotten stomach pains and Budd exchanged positions with Paul.  Orders were to kill the guard…which they did, but it was Philpot instead of Paul.

Paul was also responsible for the robbers not accomplishing their second objective…the theft of $26,000 in silver.  When Philpot was shot, Bob grabbed his shotgun and fired off both barrels.  One robber was killed and the noise of the shotgun spooked the horses.  As the stagecoach was careening out of control, Paul climbed down; secured the reigns of the runaway steeds; and brought the stage safely into Benson.

Later, when he did became the Pima County Sheriff this 6’ 6”, 240-pound mountain of a man, typically using a shotgun, brought in bad guys, stopped lynchings, and hanged many a man legally.  It always seemed that he was able to dodge that fatal bullet…That is until 1893 when he couldn’t dodge the one called cancer, and he died on March 26, 1901.

Sequoyah

Sequoyah

Sequohah, born in 1760 in Tennessee, grew up among his mother’s people, the Cherokee.  He became a metal craftsman, making beautiful silver jewelry.  As a young man he joined the Cherokee volunteers who joined Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812.  While with the American soldiers, he became intrigued with what he called “talking leaves,” or words on paper that somehow recorded human speech.  Although Sequohah had no formal education, he somehow comprehended the basic nature of the symbolic representation of sounds.

In 1809 he began working on a Cherokee language.  At first he tried picture symbols, but soon found them to be impractical.  Then he started looking at English, Greek and Hebrew.  He finally developed 86 characters that would express the various sounds in the Cherokee language.  It was so simple in its concept that it could be mastered in less than a week.

In 1821 he submitted his new written language to the Cherokee leaders.  As a demonstration Sequohah wrote a message to his six-year-old daughter.  She read the message and responded in kind.  The tribal council immediately adopted the system.  And Cherokee of all ages started learning the written language.

The Cherokee were divided into two groups, Sequohah’s in Georgia and Tennessee, and the western Cherokee in Oklahoma.  In 1822 Sequohah went to Oklahoma, and taught the alphabet to the Cherokee there.

Finally, on February 21, 1828 the first printing press with Cherokee type arrived in Georgia.  Within months, the first Indian language newspaper appeared.  It was called the Cherokee Phoenix.

Sequohah later went to Mexico to teach Cherokee there the language.  While in Mexico he became ill with dysentery, and died.  Great monuments to the man who developed the Cherokee alphabet stand today along the northern California coast.  They are the giant redwood trees called the Sequoia.

Pearl Hart and the Wild Old West

Pearl Hart and the Wild Old WestJust when everyone thought the wild Old West was gone, in 1899 a small slight woman by the name of Pearl Hart and her boyfriend held up a stagecoach in the Florence, Arizona area.

Their take was a little over $400. But they weren’t able to spend it, because in a short time they were captured and jailed.

Shortly afterward, with the help of some men, Pearl escaped. But, because of her fame, she was recognized and returned to jail.

Pearl and her boyfriend were tried and convicted. The boyfriend got 30 years and Pearl got 5.

Pearl’s life after she got out of jail is surrounded in myth. Some say she became “The Arizona Bandit” with Buffalo Bill and in vaudeville. Others say she married a Calvin Bywater and settled down to a life of domestic bliss.

Whichever one it was, Pearl never got crosswise with the law again.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Dies

Antonio Lopez de Santa AnnaIn 1876 Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna died. I know of no other Old West character whose life was more of a roller coaster.

Born to middle-class parents in Mexico, as a teenager he joined the army. In 1821 he gained national prominence as a military leader in Mexico’s fight for independence against Spain.

This resulted in his being elected the President of Mexico in 1833. And just two years later he proclaimed himself the dictator of Mexico.

During this time the Anglos in the area that is now Texas were agitating for independence.

Determined not to let this happen, Santa Anna took command of the army and invaded Texas. As we all know Santa

Anna was captured and Texas became an independent republic.

While he was a captive of Texas, he was deposed. Eleven times over the next two decades, Santa Anna regained and lost his dictatorship. The last time was in 1855.

The once mighty Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna died embittered and impoverished.

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