Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Old West History

Zebulon Pike and Pikes Peak

Zebulon PikeZebulon Pike was a successful explorer. But, it seems he was successful in spite of miscalculations. He started his exploration at the age of 26 when, as a soldier, he led 20 men on an expedition up the Mississippi River. They left in August, expecting to get back before the winter freeze. Unfortunately, he miscalculated and the waterways froze, so the small band had to spend the winter in Minnesota.  
Less than three months later Pike was ordered on another venture. This time he and his men were sent to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas River. When they arrived in Colorado, Pike saw a towering peak. He decided to climb it. It was another miscalculation. He grossly underestimated the height of the mountain. Dressed only in thin cotton clothes, they struggled in deep snow and freezing temperatures, without making it to the top. Incidentally, although this mountain came to be known as Pike’s Peak, it was not something that Pike himself promoted.     
During this second expedition Pike miscalculated his location, and wandered into Spanish territory, where they were captured. He and his men were moved from Santa Fe, to Chihuahua, before being released. The whole time Pike was gathering information on the Spanish territory to be later given to his commanders.     
The army was impressed with his daring, and they promoted him to brigadier general. Unfortunately, on April 27, 1813 Zebulon Pike made another miscalculation by standing too close to an abandoned British powder magazine that was exploded. A rock from the explosion hit him in the back and killed him.  
Zebulon Pike was only 34 years of age. Another great man from American history who packed a lifetime in a few short years. 

Bitter Creek George Newcomb

Bitter Creek George NewcombGeorge Newcomb was born in Kansas in 1867. At a young age he went to Texas to become a cowboy. From there he drifted up to Oklahoma. He so frequently sang, “I’m a wild wolf from Bitter Creek, and it’s my night to howl,” that his friends started calling him Bitter Creek George Newcomb.   
Bitter Creek joined the Dalton gang, but fortunately for him, he missed out on the Coffeeville Raid where the Daltons were wiped out. From there he drifted over to the Doolin gang.     
While at a country dance he met a 15 year old Rosa Dunn, and was smitten. Rosa became the legendary “Rose of Cimarron.”      
On May 1, 1895, Bitter Creek and fellow outlaw Charley Pierce were on the run. They decided to go to the ranch owned by Rosa Dunn’s family on the Cimarron River in Oklahoma. Bitter Creek not only wanted to see Rosa, he was also hoping to collect the $900 owed him by Bee and John Dunn, Rosa’s brothers. Unfortunately for Bitter Creek and Charley Pierce, there was a $5,000 reward on their heads. 
When the two men dismounted at the Dunn’s house, gunfire opened up. With Bitter Creek and Pierce on the ground, the Dunn brothers stepped outside. Pierce let out a moan. It was silenced with another blast. 
The Dunns put Bitter Creek and Pierce in the back of their wagon, and headed for Guthrie. On the way in Bitter Creek, who wasn’t quite dead, asked for some water. He was given lead instead.  
We’re not sure about Rosa’s attitude concerning the event, there have been varying accounts over the years. But, with the $5,000 reward, and the $900 the Dunn brothers no longer had to pay Bitter Creek George Newcomb, I’m sure they felt pretty good about what happened.

Willard Christianson – The Mormon Kid

Willard Christianson - The Mormon KidThe family of Willard Christianson moved to Utah after they had converted to Mormonism. At the age of 14 Willard got in a fight, and thinking he had killed his adversary, ran away from home.  As a young boy Willard fell in with bad company and started rustling cattle. While operating out of Utah’s Robbers Roost area he got the nickname of the Mormon Kid.  
The Mormon Kid met a Rose Morgan, fell in love and got married. Wanting to develop some semblance of a normal life, he and his partner in crime, Tom McCarty started a cattle ranch. But this didn’t last long. In 1892 the two of them went up to Washington and robbed a bank in which two citizens were wounded. Shortly afterward they were arrested and put in jail. But two days before their trial they attempted a jailbreak by wrapping themselves in blankets and blackening their faces to look like Indians. But it didn’t work. Actually, the attempted jailbreak wasn’t necessary because they were found not guilty. 
In 1896 Willard was involved in a shootout that, in reality, could have been considered self-defense. But this time he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison. After his release in 1900, Willard settled down in Carbon County, Utah where he used his earlier training to good effect by being elected justice of the peace and serving as deputy sheriff. He later moved to Price, Utah where he served as a policeman, that is, when he wasn’t busy at his other job… selling white lightning as a bootlegger. 
Willard Christianson was able to live a full life dying peacefully on December 21, 1938 at the ripe old age of 74.    
Willard Christianson - The Mormon Kid

Rufus Somerby – Wandering Military Man

Rufus Somerby was a military man for most of his life. But, you’re going to have to pay close attention as I go through his service record, because Rufus was ever on the move. In 1862 he enlisted in the 9th Kentucky Infantry. Within three months he was promoted to captain. After a little over a year in the infantry, he decided walking wasn’t for him. So Rufus resigned, and enlisted in the cavalry where he quickly rose to sergeant major, and two years later while fighting Indians in Arizona he became a lieutenant.   
In 1870 Rufus obtained a leave, and went to Boston where he spent a couple of months trying to consume all the whiskey in the town. Finding this impossible, Rufus decided to enlist in the artillery. The fact that he was still an officer in the 8th Cavalry didn’t seem to bother him. However, it did bother the military. Rufus was given the choice of either resigning his commission in the cavalry or be court martialed. He resigned. But he stayed in the artillery.  
In less than four years he was a sergeant in the 5th Artillery. Yearning to be back on a horse, Rufus either resigned from the artillery, was transferred or just did another double enlistment. But he ended up back in the cavalry where he became a sergeant. 
It was the Christmas season of 1882. Rufus, ever on the move, had applied for the position of commissary sergeant, but he was flatly turned down. Feeling he had nowhere else to go, on December 26, while in the barracks with his men, Rufus Somerby ended his military career by shooting himself with his carbine.   
Rufus Somerby - Wandering Military Man

Lawrie Tatum – Quaker Indian Agent

Lawrie Tatum Quaker Indian AgentIn 1869 the Kiowa and the Comanche were being relocated to a reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. President Grant felt if Quakers were hired as Indian Agents, they would be able to teach the Indians to be pacifists.  So, Lawrie Tatum, a man known for his Quaker work, was appointed to the unenviable job as the Kiowa-Comanche agent.
Although the 47 year old knew little or nothing about wild Indians, he felt that he could tame them with honesty, industry, patience and kindness. The Comanche weren’t a major problem. But the Kiowa were impossible.  
Showing his trust, Lawrie had the military withdrawn from guarding the provisions. The Kiowa saw this as weakness, and not only stole the provisions, but they started making raids to nearby Texas.
Learning this approach wasn’t going to work, Lawrie tempered it with toughness. He had the three chiefs responsible for the Texas raids arrested. He put the provisions under guard, and refused to give any provisions to marauding Indians.
It had become normal for the government to ransom any white captives taken on raids. But continuing his hard line, Lawrie, feeling ransom only encouraged the taking of captives, refused to pay any.
Increasingly Lawrie felt that force was necessary to control the Kiowa. Eventually his actions conflicted with his Quaker superiors. And losing confidence in Grant’s Peace Policy, in 1873 Lawrie resigned.
Lawrie Tatum continued his Quaker belief, writing several books in support of it. He also wrote a classic about his experience with the Kiowa and Grant’s policy. On January 22, 1900, at the age of 78, he died.
Incidentally, late in life Lawrie was appointed the guardian of an infant by the name of Herbert Hoover, the man who became our country’s 31st President.  

Sunset Route of the Southern Pacific Railroad

Collis P. Huntington - Southern Pacific RailroadWith the completion of the transcontinental railroad by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads in 1869, the men dubbed as the “western railroad barons” decided to join forces and create a monopoly on any rail traffic coming to the West Coast. So, in 1870 Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford and Mark Hopkins created the Southern Pacific Railroad.  
These men had very strong, commanding personalities. But, Collis P. Huntington was much stronger and determined that the others. Starting with nothing, Huntington had gone to the California gold fields in 1849, where he shoveled gravel for just one morning… which he considered the most foolishly squandered time of his life. The next day he started selling hardware, and never looked back. 
By 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad controlled 85 percent of California’s rails. From there Huntington and the Southern Pacific looked at creating a transcontinental railroad through the southern part of the United States. With the Texas and Pacific Railroad already on the project, Huntington had to work fast. Marshaling all of his resources, in 1881 the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads united at Deming, New Mexico, creating the second transcontinental railroad. It took two more years, and on February 5, 1883, by gaining control of a number of smaller railroads, the Southern Pacific now had what they called the “Sunset Route” from New Orleans to California.
Now with a virtual monopoly over rail service to California, Huntington and his business partners started charging exorbitant shipping rates. With its tentacles creating a stranglehold on much of California’s economy, the Southern Pacific got the nickname of “the Octopus.” This resulted in California became the first state to start regulating the railroads.  

Mickey Free – “Half Mexican, Half Irish and Whole SOB”

Mickey FreeWherever Mickey Free went, death seemed to follow. Even when he was a kid.  
On January 27, 1861, at the age of 12, Apache Indians kidnapped Mickey. An inept soldier by the name of Lt. Bascom led a command to find him. Lt. Bascom came across Cochise and some of his braves. And although Cochise knew nothing about the kidnapping, Lt. Bascom accused Cochise of stealing Mickey. A fight ensued, and some Indians were shot. Cochise went on the warpath, and in 60 days, he and his braves killed 150 whites. 
Later Mickey gained his freedom. Although Mickey’s real name was Felix Martinez, when he returned he started using the name Mickey Free. Some say Mickey came from his Irish father. His last name “Free” came from his being free from captivity.
Mickey has been described as having long, unkempt, fiery red hair and a red mustache. He only had one eye. He supposedly had a mug that looked like the map of Ireland. A nice way of saying that he was really ugly.
Mickey was a scout for the Army in the Apache campaign. The Apaches didn’t like him, and the feeling was mutual. He would spread rumors about the Apache, and when the Army used him as an interpreter, his translating was to the detriment of the Indians.
One time Mickey was sent to capture an Apache. He tracked him for 300 miles. After Mickey killed the Apache, realizing the body was too heavy to carry, he carved off the Indian’s face as proof of the kill.
Mickey only had one friend, chief of scouts, Al Sieber. Even he said of Mickey, “He’s half Mexican, half Irish and whole SOB.”  

Tucson Etiquette

February 10, 1887, Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona Territory – The steady progress of Tucson in the direction of “culchah” and civilization, awakens the liveliest hopes of the future.  As evidence that we are on the right road at last, we append the following rules of deportment posted in the office of a popular old resident of this country:

            1 – Gentlemen entering this office will leave the door wide open, keep their hats on, and walk with the right hand carelessly foundling the handle of their six-shooters.

            2 – Those having no business should remain as long as possible, take a chair and lean against the wall, and may prevent its falling on us.

            3 – Gentlemen are required to smoke, especially during office hours; tobacco will be supplied.

            4 – Spit on the floor, as the spittoons are only for ornament.

            5 – Talk loud or whistle, especially when we are engaged.  If this does not have the desired, effect, sing!  And if that will not answer, then dance, or tell some old story; long ones preferred.

            6 – Put your feet on the tables, or lean against the desk; it will be of great assistance to those writing on them.

            7 – As an office is exclusively for your accommodation, call frequently when you have leisure – especially when we are busy; then ‘tis very pleasant.

            8 – In making your visits, never come alone – the old adage – “the more the merrier.”  Ride your broncos right into the office.  It will make a good laugh all round.  So Long.

Old West Cowboy Boots

“I can tell by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”

Old West Cowboy BootsNext to his hat, a cowboy’s footwear has traditionally been the most important symbol of his identity. Here are some little known facts about Old West Cowboy Boots:

Prior to the end of the Civil War, cowboys wore heavy-soled boots of virtually any style they could find.  Often his boots were made on the same form for both the right and left foot.  Although they eventually conformed to the foot, this wasn’t the most comfortable way to make a boot.

With the beginning of the cattle drives, and the cowboy having to work cattle and ride a horse for months at a time, he started realizing he wasn’t wearing the best boot for the job.  So, when he got to Abilene and the other cattle towns, the cowboy got together with boot makers and came up with what has come to be known as the cowboy boot.

Early boots were called “stovepipes” because they were black, about fourteen inches tall and had level tops.  The 1870’s cowboy had three choices: boots off the shelf, boots made by a local boot maker or custom made mail order boots.    

The Old West cowboy was very vain about his attire.  He was willing to pay as much as a month’s wages for a pair of custom boots that were designed more for looks than comfort.

Although the northern cowboy and the southern cowboy dressed differently, they did agree on their boots.  The exception was how the boot was decorated.  The Texas cowboy wanted a lone star or crescent on the front of his.  The northern cowboy’s boots were heavily stitched.  And their tops were rarely less than seventeen inches high.

Boots had square or rounded toes. (Pointed toes are a modern design.)  The soles were thin.  Supposedly, to better feel the stirrup.  Besides, a cowboy never walked very far.  The heels were “underslung.”  A small foot was desired, and the underslung heel provided a size ten foot with a size seven footprint.

The heels were 2 ½ inch to as much as 4 ½ inch high.  This prevented the boot from hanging up in the stirrup.  In addition, the heels made it possible to “dig in” when working cattle.  The tall heel also added a couple of inches to the height of a cowboy, who tended to be on the shorter side.

In the 1890’s, following the cattle drive era, performers in Wild West shows started wearing highly decorated boots.  Then came the movie cowboy.  Boots were no longer designed for protection against the elements and critters, or for riding and handling cattle, but for show and tell.  And to tell it best, they always added a pair of jingling spurs! You can read more about cowboy boots in the Old West by grabbing this great book HERE.

Cowboys Go On Strike

Cowboys Go On StrikeIn the late 1860’s and the 1870’s a cattle rancher’s life was simple.  He lived in a small cabin, and worked along side the cowboys on his ranch.  A cowboy respected his boss, and he would give his life for the rancher and his cattle.  As they phrased it, “They rode for the brand.” No one would have thought that cowboys go on strike.

By the 1880’s things were changing.  Ranch owners were now living in large homes or were absentee landlords…They were often Eastern, British or Scottish investors.  They had ranch foremen to work with the cowboys.  When these “foreign” owners did come out west, they brought with them customs unfamiliar to the cowboys.  The gap between the cowboy and the owner became wider and wider.

During the spring of 1883, the cowboys from three ranches in the Texas panhandle were rounding up strays together.  And, one evening while setting around a campfire, the cowboys were doing their usual griping about working conditions, when they decided to do something about it…to go on strike.

Their demands were simple.  Among them, a cowboy’s income would increase from $30 to $50 per month.  A cook would get $50 per month.  And the head of an outfit would get $75 per month.

Unfortunately, for the cowboys, they quickly drank and gambled away their strike fund, and the area was full of drifters looking for a job.  So the strike didn’t last more than a couple of weeks.  Some of the cowboys went back to work.  Others left the area.

This strike ended up being just one more nail in the coffin of the Old West cowboy as ranchers set up rules to confine even more their traditional activities.

Bat Masterson and the County Seat War

Bat Masterson and the County Seat War: In October of 1887 a vote was held in Gray County, Kansas to determine the county seat. The winner was Cimarron. But some of the key citizens of Ingalls weren’t happy with the outcome. And they took their case to the courts. For over a year the courts did nothing.  
Finally Asa Soule, from Ingalls, decided to take the situation into his own hands. He figured that as the crown or miter was the authority of a king, the records of a county were the authority of a county seat. So, on January 11, 1889 he deputized a group of men with the objective of stealing the county records. These lawmen weren’t novices. They included Bill Tilghman, Neal Brown and two of the Bat Masterson brothers, Jim and Tom.  
Early Sunday morning the group rode quietly into Cimarron. Neal Brown and the two Mastersons started carrying out the records as the others stood guard. Unfortunately for them, an alarm was sounded, and guns started firing. The three record carriers were caught inside the courthouse. The rest got away with the records. More than two hundred armed men started shooting at the courthouse. In the process, one citizen was killed.
For more than 24 hours the men were trapped inside. Then mysteriously a truce was called and the three men were allowed to leave town unscathed. What happened? Well, Bat Masterson heard about his brothers’ plight, and he telegraphed Cimarron stating, that if either of his brothers were hurt he would “hire a train and come in with enough men to blow Cimarron off the face of Kansas.”
Oh yes, four years later another election was held and Cimarron again won.  
Bat Masterson & James Masterson

Cheyenne Chief Dull Knife

During the 1860’s and 70’s Dull Knife was one of the leading chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne. Early on, he realized the need to be at peace with the United States. But, what he saw happening worried him. For instance, in 1864, a group of Colorado militiamen attacked and killed a peaceful Cheyenne village at Sand Creek.
Although Dull Knife didn’t personally participate in the Little Big Horn, some of his warriors did. This resulted in their village being attacked the following winter while camping along the Powder River in Wyoming. Because of the loss of lives and supplies, he surrendered in the spring. 
In 1877, Dull Knife and his people were relocated from their homeland in Wyoming to the area that is now Kansas and Oklahoma. Not able to hunt on their traditional lands, and unable to live on government rations, a year later Dull Knife and his tribe started on a march back to Wyoming. Although Dull Knife had told everyone that his return was a peaceful one, the army looked upon them as renegades, and attacked them at every opportunity.
Again, they were captured and held at Fort Robinson in Nebraska. But, Dull Knife was determined, and he and about a hundred of his village escaped from Fort Robinson, and headed to Wyoming.
On January 22, 1879, Dull Knife had his last confrontation with the army. Although Dull Knife escaped, his remaining followers accepted their fate and returned to Fort Robinson. Dull Knife found refuge at the Sioux reservation with Red Cloud.
Four years later the government allowed the Northern Cheyenne to return to their traditional homeland.  But Dull Knife was not with them. He had died a few months earlier.

Alexander Todd Strikes “Gold” in 1849

Orlando RobbinsAlexander Todd got gold fever. But when he got to California he realized he didn’t have the physical stamina to work the gold fields.
However, it didn’t take Alexander long to see a need and fill it. The gold miners yearned for word from home. But the nearest post office was in San Francisco. It was a two-week trip there and back, and the miners couldn’t leave their claim that long.
So, on July 14, 1849 Alexander Todd started charging $2.50 to take a letter to the San Francisco post office. There was a $1.00 fee just to inquire if a miner had a letter at the post office, and $16.00 for each letter he brought back.
On his first trip some merchants wanted him to deliver $150,000 in gold to a company in San Francisco. He gladly did it, for $7,500.
When Alexander handed the clerk at the San Francisco post office the long list of names, the clerk showed his entrepreneurial capability. He swore Alexander Todd in as a postal clerk so he could search the stacks of letters himself. Incidentally, the clerk charged Alexander 25 cents for each letter he found.
That didn’t bother Alexander because he had discovered another way to make money. He bought a stack of old New York newspapers for a dollar each… which he sold for eight dollars back at the gold fields.
For his trip back to the gold fields Alexander bought a big rowboat for $300, and charged people to be transported back to the gold fields… and incidentally, they did the rowing. At the end of the trip he sold the boat for a $200 profit.
Alexander Todd made a fortune using what was to become known as goodold American ingenuity.

Harry Wheeler – Too Late For The Old West

Harry Wheeler
Harry Wheeler was born on July 23, 1875 in Jacksonville, Florida… the wrong part of the country and too late to be an active part of the wild Old West. But, today Harry Wheeler is considered one of the premier lawmen of that era we generally call the Old West.
Orphaned at the age of one, he was adopted by a military officer named William Wheeler. Raised around the military, Harry knew this was the life he wanted to live. But, he was unable to enter West Point. Some say it was because of his short stature.
This didn’t stop Harry from becoming a military man. He joined the 1st Oklahoma Cavalry until he had to retire because of an injury. When the Arizona Rangers were formed in 1903, Harry signed up. Four years later he became the Ranger’s top officer.
Harry Wheeler never shirked his duty. During 1904 in Tucson a man came running out of a saloon and told Wheeler, “Holdup inside! Don’t go in!”
Wheeler responded, “That’s what I’m here for,” and went inside and stopped the robbery by killing the holdup man.
After the Arizona Rangers were disbanded Wheeler was appointed a deputy U.S. Marshal for Tucson. Then he was elected the Sheriff of Cochise County. When World War I broke out Wheeler volunteered, and was sent to France as a captain. And to cap off his career, Harry Wheeler traveled Europe as a trick shooter with the Miller 101 Wild West Show.
One can only surmise that if Harry Wheeler had been born 25 years earlier, we would have talked about Wild Bill, Buffalo Bill, Wyatt and Harry all in the same breath.

The Hanging of Robber Tom Bell

hangingTom Hodges was a brilliant surgeon who served in the U. S. Army during the Mexican-American War. In 1855 he gave up his medical practice and headed out west to make his fortune in the gold fields. He soon found that the gold fields were a lot harder than he had thought. 
So, Dr. Hodges started down the slippery slope by becoming a gambler in the central California saloons. Not being a good gambler, he took to robbing travelers. Dr. Hodges was caught and sent to prison for five years. Not wanting to soil his name, during this time, Dr. Hodges became Tom Bell. After a short time Tom Bell, as we now know him and some other men broke out of jail. Continuing down the slope, Tom organized a gang.
On August 12, 1856 Tom Bell’s gang attempted to rob a stage carrying $100,000 in gold. But the Bell gang didn’t count on the resistance put up by shotgun rider, Bill Dobson. Quite a firefight ensued. In the process the Bell gang shot three passengers, killing one, a woman. Dobson, in turn, shot two of the Bell gang. 
Now, this was too much for the citizens. A half dozen different posses took after Tom Bell. One by one the Bell gang was caught, and each informed on the others.
Finally in October a posse lead by Judge Joseph Belt found Tom Bell. It didn’t set well with the Judge that Tom was entitled to a due process of the law. Tom was taken to a tree, and a rope put around his neck. They were compassionate though. They did allow him to write a letter to his mother before hanging him. 

The 1867 Hayfield Fight

The Hayfield FightThe Hayfield Fight: the year was 1867 and the Red Cloud War had been going on along the Bozeman Trail for almost two years. On August 1 some 500 Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho led by Dull Knife and Two Moon, attacked a small detachment of eight troopers and nine civilians that were led by Lieutenant Sternberg. At the time of the attack, Lieutenant Sternberg’s group was in the open crossing a hayfield. Fortunately, they were able to make it to the shelter of a nearby corral. Even more fortunately, the troopers and civilians had repeating rifles. 
The Indian’s traditional plan of attack against single shot, breech-loading rifles, would be to draw fire, and while the rifles were being reloaded, attack in force. But, with repeating rifles, the fire was constant. Stymied, the Indians decided to set fire to the hay field and burn out the whites. But it wasn’t to be. As the fire got close to the corral, a strong wind came up, and put it out.
By late afternoon, the Indians decided to take their fight elsewhere. During the Hayfield Fight, as it was called, 20 warriors were killed and more than 30 seriously wounded. For the other side, only Lieutenant Sternberg, two soldiers and one civilian were killed. 
The interesting thing about the conflict was that it took place near Fort C. F. Smith, where it could be seen and heard. Although Fort Smith contained a garrison of troops… none was ever sent. About seven months earlier at Fort Phil Kearny, Captain Fetterman and a command of eighty men were wiped out when they left their fort to help some woodcutters. It’s speculated that the commander was in fear of a repeat of the Fetterman Massacre. 

Orlando Robbins and the Star Spangled Banner

Orlando RobbinsBorn in Maine, Orlando Robbins left home at the age of seventeen and headed out west. Eventually ending up in the gold fields of Idaho, in 1864 he became the deputy sheriff of Idaho City. 
With the Civil War taking place in the east, the miners were polarized into Union and Confederate camps. Robbins’ major job was separating and arresting drunken miners supporting their individual cause.
As Independence Day approached, the Confederate supporters said they were not going to allow any Yankee sing the “Star Spangled Banner.” Now, Robbins, a Union supporter, was determined that no one was going to tell him what to do. So, on July 4, 1864 Orlando Robbins walked into a tavern crowded with southern sympathizers, climbed on a pool table, pulled his two pistols, and with the tavern in complete silence started singing, “Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light.” After finishing, he walked out, and the crowd parted like the Red Sea for Moses. 
From deputy sheriff of Idaho City, Robbins went on to be deputy sheriff of Boise, and then United States marshal. In 1868 a gun battle had been going on for weeks between two mining operations in Silver City. Sent by the governor to settle things, Robbins did it in one day. In 1876 six bandits held up the Silver City stage. Robbins had them all in jail within two days. At the age of 46, Robbins covered 1,280 miles in just 13 days to catch outlaw Charley Chambers. When he was in his 60’s he was still a lawman dealing with outlaws one third his age.
Truly, Orlando Robbins was as great a hero as any of the more famous Old West lawmen.

Black Faced Charlie and the Dalton Gang

Marshal Ed ShortIt seems that everyone in the Old West had nicknames… And some of them were strange. But, none was as strange as Charles Bryant’s. He was called “Black Faced Charlie.” It seems that when he was a young man he was shot point-blank in the face. The bullet just creased his cheek. But, the burnt powder coming out of the pistol imbedded in his face, giving him his nickname.  
Bryant joined the Dalton gang. And during the gang’s shootout with a posse was heard to say something like, “Me, I want to get killed in one heck of a minute of action.” Well, Bryant put it out there, and on August 23, 1891, he got his wish. 
Being arrested, Bryant had to be transported to jail by Deputy U.S. Marshal Ed Short. Marshal Short was transporting the handcuffed Bryant in a train baggage car when he had to visit the john. Marshal Short gave his pistol to the railroad messenger and left. The messenger put the pistol in a desk drawer and went about his chores.  
Unnoticed, Bryant moved around to the desk and got the pistol, just as Marshal Short entered the baggage car. Bryant placed one shot into Marshal Short’s chest. Short, carrying a rifle, shot Bryant… severing his spine. Bryant continued firing his pistol until it was empty. The rest of his shots went wild.
Bryant was killed in one heck of a minute of action as he wished. Marshal Short helped the messenger pick up Bryant’s body. Marshal Short then laid down on the cot and died. He was also the victim of heck of a minute of action.
Both bodies were left on the train platform at the next stop. 

Texas Ranger Frank Jones

Texas Ranger Captain Frank JonesBorn in Austin, Texas in 1856, Frank Jones joined the Texas Rangers at the age of 17. He saw his first action when he and two other Rangers were sent after some Mexican horse thieves. The horse thieves ambushed the Rangers. Frank’s two companions were immediately taken out, but Frank was able to kill two of the bandits and capture a third.
Frank was promoted to corporal and later to sergeant. Once again while chasing a large gang of cattle rustlers, Frank and his six Ranger companions were ambushed. Three of the Rangers were killed, and Frank and the other two Rangers were captured.
Now, it would have been much better for the rustlers if they had also killed Frank, for while the rustlers were congratulating themselves on their victory, Frank grabbed one of their rifles, and proceeded to kill all of them.
A few years later, now a captain, while traveling alone, Frank was again ambushed. This time by three desperadoes who shot him, and left him for dead. With a bad chest wound, Frank tracked the three men down on foot until he found their camp. He waited until dark; took one of their rifles; shot one and brought the other two back to stand trial.
Over the next few years Frank continued his confrontations and victories over outlaws. But on June 29, 1893 Frank went on his last mission. He and four other Rangers went after some cattle thieves on the Mexico border. This time they did the ambushing. But it didn’t turn out well for Frank. In the ensuing gunfight this man of many lives was finally killed.

Sierra Mountains Telegraph Line

 For development to take place there has to be men of vision.  Men of vision developed the pony express to deliver mail to the western frontier faster than stagecoach.  Unfortunately for the pony express, at the same time other men of vision were developing a faster way to connect the east with the west.
One such man was Fred A. Bee. Fred lived in Virginia City, Nevada. On July 4, 1858 he and four partners started the Placerville, Humboldt and Salt Lake Telegraph Company. Carson Valley residents had passed a bond referendum for $1,200 toward the project, and so they started immediately. By fall of that year the telegraph had connected Placerville, California with Nevada. Six months later it arrived in Carson City, and finally it stretched all the way across Nevada.
In the process of doing this, they had to cross over the rugged Sierra Mountains. Less than ten years later the Central Pacific Railroad would spend about 20 million dollars crossing those same mountains. The ground was granite. The winds were strong, and the snow deep.
With limited funds and manpower Fred Bee decided that rather than blast holes in the granite for telegraph poles, they would string the wire on the pine trees that had been able attach themselves to the granite and withstand the winds and snow. So, the telegraph wire was strung from treetop to treetop with some spans of wire being quite long. This led people to nickname the Placerville, Humboldt and Salt Lake Telegraph Company, “Bee’s Grapevine Line.” But when it was completed, even the skeptics used it with pride.
Two years later Congress authorized constructing the Overland Telegraph Company, and Fred A. Bee’s Grapevine Line became a major link in the completion of the transcontinental telegraph.

Henry Brown, The Criminal Marshal

Henry Newton Brown was born in Missouri in 1857. Migrating west, he did some buffalo hunting. At the age of nineteen he ended up in Lincoln County, New Mexico during the time of the Lincoln County War. Brown became a member of the Regulators, the quasi-legal group led by Billy the Kid. After being involved in a couple of the shootouts, he was indicted for murder. Before warrants could be served, Brown took off to Texas.

Henry Brown didn’t smoke, drink or gamble. He frequently dressed in a suit, and he could handle a gun…the perfect candidate for a lawman. So, he was appointed deputy sheriff of Oldham County. Shortly afterward he went up to Caldwell, Kansas where he became deputy marshal. And when the city marshal resigned, Brown stepped into that position. Brown did so well that the citizens of Caldwell gave him a handsomely engraved Winchester rifle.
On April 30, 1884, after his third appointment as marshal, Henry Brown and his assistant, Ben Wheeler took a few days off to go up to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. The purpose of their trip wasn’t to get in a few days of rest, but to rob the Medicine Lodge bank. In the process Brown killed the bank president and Wheeler killed the cashier.
The men were captured and locked away in jail. However, that night a mob stormed the jail with ropes in hand. Henry Brown tried to escape. But before he could get far, a shotgun blast ended the whole affair. The people of the Old West could accept their lawmen having a criminal background, but not committing crimes while wearing a badge.

Wild Bill Hickok Kills Dave Tutt

In the early 1860’s two men of strong will, Dave Tutt and Wild Bill Hickok had a couple of meetings which ended in fist fights.
In 1865, working on the principal of “the third time’s a charm,” they met again. This time William Hickok, or Wild Bill Hickok, as he was now known, seemed to get along with Dave Tutt. Part of the reason could have been that Dave had his comely sister with him, and Wild Bill took a likin’ to her. Dave Tutt was doing much better financially than Wild Bill, and Dave loaned Bill money from time to time.

Now enters the wild card. A Susanna Moore came to town. Wild Bill had supposedly known her during before this. So Wild Bill started sparking her along with Dave Tutt’s sister. Susanna was not a woman to share her man, so she started flirting with Dave Tutt.
The whole affair came to a climax on July 20, 1865. Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker when Dave Tutt came up to him and grabbed his pocket watch that was lying on the table. Dave said it was payment for what Wild Bill owed him. Wild Bill allowed Dave to take the watch, but let it be known not to wear the watch in public.
The next morning Wild Bill saw Dave on the street wearing the pocket watch. With his pistol held at his side, Dave started walking toward Wild Bill. In response to a warning from Wild Bill, Dave shot off a round. Making sure he didn’t hit the pocket watch, Wild Bill shot Tutt through his heart.
Wild Bill learned that a person can’t play two fiddles at one time and make pretty music.
Wild Bill Hickok


King Fisher and Ben Thompson Killed Together

Although it wasn’t a relationship most people would expect, King Fisher and Ben Thompson were friends. The reason their friendship was unusual was that both men were hard cases.
King Fisher dressed in a flamboyant style. He wore a gold braided sombrero, silk shirts and gold-embroidered vests. His chaps were made of Bengal tiger skin. He didn’t get the tiger skin from a safari, but a raid on a circus.
Fisher traded in cattle. He took cattle that he had stolen in the United States to Mexico, and traded them for cattle that had been stolen in Mexico… And buyers didn’t care as long as the cattle didn’t have a brand from the country in which it was sold.
Ben Thompson’s reputation wasn’t much better. Ben didn’t care on which side of the law he walked, as long as he could use his pistol and intimidate people. Sensing the opportunity for a good fight, he even went to Mexico and joined Maximilian as a mercenary, rising to the rank of Colonel. Ben Thompson had also spent time as the city marshal of Austin, Texas.
These two hot heads met up in San Antonio on March 10, 1884, and decided to have an evening out. Celebrating, as friends do, they ended up going to the Vaudeville Variety Theater. Maybe because of too many drinks, or advancing age, Ben Thompson evidently didn’t remember that a couple of years earlier he had killed the proprietor of that establishment. Within minutes of their arrival four of the dead man’s friends, including the bartender and one of the actors, opened fire. Ben Thompson ended up with 9 slugs in him, and his friend King Fisher had 13. It was a tough night out for the boys.
Stephen Austin

Remember Goliad and the Alamo!

When Mexico gained their independence from Spain, Mexico gave the Anglo-Texans considerable autonomy. But in 1835, Santa Anna proclaimed himself dictator of Mexico; he imposed martial law, which fed the flames of the Texan’s resistance. So, Santa Anna decided to personally lead his army to wipe out these Anglo-rebels.
Early in March of 1836, while Santa Anna was attacking and defeating a small force of Texans at an abandoned mission called the Alamo, Santa Anna’s chief lieutenant, General Urrea was heading toward another group of 400 Texans defending a town called Goliad.
As General Urrea’s 1400 man army approached, James Fannin, the leader of the Texans, was indecisive as to whether he should defend Goliad or rush to the aid of the Alamo. At the last minute, Fannin decided to retreat. By then General Urrea’s men had surrounded the Texan force. Trapped on an open prairie Fannin realized there was no escape, so he surrendered.
Fannin and his men felt they were soldiers surrendering as prisoners of war. Unfortunately, Santa Ana had stated before that he considered the rebels to be “perfidious foreigners” or in a more common term “traitors,” and they would be treated as such.
On March 27, 1836, General Urrea took the over 340 prisoners and shot them at point blank. Those who didn’t die during the first volley were hunted down and killed by bayonet or lance. Then General Urrea and his men moved on, leaving the dead Texans unburied.
When news got out about the Goliad massacre, the battle cry became “Remember Goliad and the Alamo!”
Tiburcio Vasquez