Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Old West History

Freed Slaves Head West

It was early 1877. The Civil War had been over for more than ten years. But blacks still didn’t have the freedom they had hoped for. Tenant farming had replaced the plantation system. Because of the price of rented land, and supplies, the black farmer seldom broke even at the end of the year. So, they started looking for somewhere else that would give them true opportunity.
Prior to the Civil War, by the vote of the residents, Kansas had changed from a slave to a free state. Although blacks had moved to Kansas on an individual basis, the first serious attempt to establish a black colony was on March 5, 1877 when Benjamin Singleton led a group from Tennessee to Baxter Springs located in the southeast corner of the state. Cherokee County Colony, Singleton Colony, Hill City, and Nicodemus Town followed. Most failed because of poor leadership, the transient nature of the emigrants, and having only marginal land available for settling.
It’s estimated that between fifteen and twenty thousand blacks migrated to Kansas in just a two-month period. Realizing the loss of cheap labor, southern landowners tried to stop the migration with intimidation and attacks against those involved in the “Colored Exodus.”
The biggest obstacle for blacks was that they had little or no money when they started their trek to Kansas. Many had only the possessions they could carry on their backs. However, they were assisted with relief efforts along the route from churches and private citizens.
By 1879 word got back to the south that the Kansas immigrants were facing tremendous problems in establishing a new life, and almost as fast as it started, the Kansas immigration dropped off to a trickle, and stopped.
Stephen Austin

George Custer’s Favorite Scout

William Averill Comstock was a military scout who could, “easily read all the signs Indians left for the information of other Indians, could interpret their smoke columns used in telegraphing, and after a party had passed, could tell with remarkable accuracy from its trail how many were in the party.”
Comstock was the prototypical military scout. He earned the name “Medicine Bill,” because he bit off the finger of a young Sioux woman who had received a rattlesnake bite.
But William Comstock had a secret past. Not that he was some bad criminal on the run, but the opposite. He was the grandnephew of James Fenimore Cooper. You see, Cooper wrote about the “noble savage”, and the whites on the western frontier hated Cooper’s romantic tales about the savage Indian.
In August of 1868 a band of Indians attacked a village near Hays, Kansas.
Comstock and another scout named Abner Grover were sent to the camp of Cheyenne chief Turkey Leg to see if the rampaging braves could be brought under control. While in negotiations, Turkey Leg received word that the military had killed several Indians in retaliation. The negotiations were over, and on August 16, 1868, while traveling home Comstock was killed.
Now, the interesting thing is that William Comstock was George Armstrong Custer’s favorite scout. One of the few people Custer would listen to. The question is, would the Little Big Horn have taken place if Comstock had been riding alongside of Custer instead of dying eight years earlier?

Texas Joins The United States

In 1837 Mexico didn’t like Texas being an independent nation. And then, when Texas became our 28th state, it was just too much. With diplomacy breaking down, in 1846 President Polk declared war on Mexico.
In battles it wasn’t unusual for the Mexican forces to outnumber the U. S. forces as much as four to one. But superior weapons and battle tactics gave the American forces victory. And in less than a year and a half, American soldiers occupied Mexico City.
Envisioning the possibility of additional slave states, southern politicians started calling for the conquest of all of Mexico. The northern states, not wanting additional slave states, not only opposed the conquest of Mexico; they introduced bills that said “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude” would exist in any territories acquired by the Mexican War.
Finally, on February 2, 1848, after three months of negotiations, a treaty was signed in the Mexican city of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The treaty said the United States would pay Mexico 15 million dollars. The U. S. would take care of any claims American individuals had against Mexico, by paying these Americans 3.25 million dollars. In turn the United States got over one million square miles of territory. It included all or part of what is now California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.
Counting the money given to Mexico and the Americans, it cost the United States about $15 a square mile. Not a bad deal.
Stephen Austin

The Controversial George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer seemed to always live on the edge.  Even while at West Point, where, incidentally, he graduated at the bottom of his class, Custer was almost expelled because of demerits for actions like food fights in the cafeteria.

However, one of the low points in his career took place on November 25, 1867 when he was court-martialed.  Supposedly, Custer’s officers fell into two categories…those who were related to him, and those who hated him.  As for the enlisted men, they fell into one category…those who feared him.

Custer was found guilty on eight counts.  They included being absent without leave from his command.  He had left his post to visit his wife, Libby.  He had also taken along troopers as escort during this trip.  Another count was shooting deserters without trial.  Incidentally, when Custer left to visit his wife, he was considered a deserter himself.

Libby Custer

The testimony of Captain Frederick Benteen, an officer with Custer at Little Big Horn, was particularly damning.  Other charges included abandoning two men, failing to recover two bodies, and cruelty to three wounded troopers.  The average officer being found guilty on any of these counts would have meant the end of his career.  But George Custer wasn’t average.  His sentence was, “to be suspended from rank and command for one year, and to forfeit his pay proper for the same time.”

At the end of the year Custer’s friend and advocate, General Phil Sheridan, called him back to active duty.  Custer felt he had to do something spectacular to redeem himself.  And he did on November 27, 1868, when Custer and 800 men attacked the peaceful camp of Black Kettle that was flying the American Flag and a white truce flag.

Wild West Renaissance Man

Granville Stuart was born with his brothers in West Virginia, and at a young age, he started migrating west. After reaching Montana, Granville and his brother, James discovered gold there, and they spread the news, the result of their writing their brother back east. Unfortunately, the Stuarts didn’t get rich from their discovery.
In 1863, Granville rode with the vigilantes that wiped out the “The Innocents”, a gang led by Henry Plummer, who also happened to be the town marshal.
Being interested in cattle, and seeing the lush grasslands in Montana, Granville helped start the cattle industry there. By 1883, things were not going well for the cattlemen. Because of rustling, cattle attrition was considerable. So Granville, using his earlier experience, help organize the Montana Vigilantes, who were known as “The Stranglers”, the result of their frequent use of the rope… And supposedly as many as 70 men ended up with hemp around their necks.
The harsh winter of 1886 all but wiped out Montana’s cattle, and Granville left the cattle industry behind for…an appointment as Minster to Uruguay and Paraguay. For five years, he lived in South America, only to return to Montana to become the Butte, Montana… librarian.
Granville Stuart has been described as an intellectual, a fine writer and a wise man with an engaging sense of humor. Although he had no formal training, Granville was an excellent artist. He wrote and illustrated three books. One was a geographical description of Montana. Another was a narration of the discovery and early settlement of Montana.
Granville was commissioned by the state of Montana to write a history of the state. But unfortunately, he died on October 2, 1918 before he could finish it.
I think you can agree that Granville Stuart was truly a renaissance man. 

The Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny

President James Monroe

Two speeches, each delivered on December 2, that happened to be 22 years apart, resulted in affecting the development of the west more than any other single action during the 1800’s.

On December 2, 1823, during his seventh speech before Congress, President James Monroe introduced the concept that, for reasons of national security, all European influence should be removed from the areas immediately surrounding the United States.  So, the United States started peacefully acquiring territories owned by European countries.  This policy came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine.

On December 2, 1845, 22 years later, President James Polk made his first address to Congress.  During that speech he reasserted the Monroe Doctrine.  But President Polk went one step beyond, by stating his willingness to use force, if necessary, in removing European influence from areas determined for the expansion of the United States.  President Polk felt that the expansion of the United States was its “manifest destiny.”

President James Polk

President Polk wanted the United States to annex Texas, acquire California and gain total control of the Oregon territory.  Standing in the way of our doing this were just the countries of Mexico, Great Britain and France.

Fortunately, Great Britain peacefully surrendered its claim on the Oregon territory south of the 49th parallel.  With the annexation of the Republic of Texas into the United States, Mexico declared war.  As the United States entered into the war, President Polk was afraid that Great Britain and France would come in on the side of Mexico.  But that never happened.

In 1846, with the defeat of Mexico and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hadalgo, the vision of President Polk’s speech of December 2, 1845 was realized.  The final pieces of the puzzle had fallen into place.  The United States now controlled the areas that one day would become the Pacific Northwest, Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.

Tough Texas Town Is Killed

December 24, 1884 began like any other day in the small town of Helena, Texas. Helena was known as the toughest town on earth… and the town was filled with cowboys waiting for the spring cattle drives going north, Civil War veterans, highwaymen and gunmen.

Meanwhile, at one of the bars, a drunken cowboy shot off his pistol, a normal occurrence at the bars in Helena… But this bullet accidentally killed a 23-year-old Emmett Butler. Now, typically an accidental killing was given little notice. But Emmett Butler was the son of William G. Butler, the wealthiest rancher in the area.

Upon hearing of his son’s death, William Butler came to town demanding his son’s killer be turned over to him…And when the town refused, he left vowing to, “Kill the town that killed my son.”

Around Helena, little was thought of his remarks. No one, no matter how wealthy, could kill a town as prosperous as Helena, Texas. Besides, it was the county seat.

A year after Emmett Butler’s death, the San Antonio Railroad was laying track through the area. William Butler offered the railroad free right of way and $35,000 on one condition… And that was that the railroad would build its tracks seven miles southwest of Helena, Texas.

The railroad agreed, and after the track was laid, the new town of Karnes City, Texas sprang up next to the railroad tracks… and Helena businesses started moving to Karnes City.

The final blow came nine years later, almost to the day, after the death of Emmett Butler… when on December 21, 1893, the citizens of the county voted to move the county seat to Karnes City.

And Helena, Texas, true to the promise of William Butler… died.

William Becknell Creates the Santa Fe Trail

In the early 1800’s the Southwest was part of Mexico, and Mexico was under the domination of Spain. Because the Spanish were afraid of the expansion of the Anglos, they closed the area to anyone from the states. Any American trader they found in the area ended up in jail.
In 1821 William Becknell and four other men were doing some trading with the Comanche Indians on the American controlled side of the Rockies when they encountered some Mexican troops. The troopers told Becknell that Mexico had won their independence, and the area was once again open to Americans. Immediately Becknell headed for Santa Fe, where he was able to sell everything he had at an enormous profit.
Five months later he was back in Missouri looking for men “to go westward for the purpose of trading for horses and mules and catching wild animals of every description.” With less than half the volunteers he was looking for, on November 16, 1821 Becknell and three wagonloads of merchandise arrived in Santa Fe.
Becknell’s delivery of goods to Santa Fe was a feat to be admired, but the delivery was not what made him famous. It was the route he took to get there.
For decades Mexican traders had used a route that went over a dangerous high mountain pass. What Becknell did was to create a shortcut that led across the Cimarron Desert. The route created by Becknell became known as the “Santa Fe Trail”. It became one of the most important Old West trading routes used by merchants and travelers until the 1870’s with the arrival of the train.

Chinese Massacred at Rock Springs

Coal was very important for the operation of the railroad. And because of that, many railroads controlled their supply of coal by owning the coal-mining operations. One such mining operation owned by the Union Pacific Railroad was located in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
In 1885, the miners were trying to unionize. In order to break their efforts, the Union Pacific brought in Chinese laborers to work the mines. The Chinese were hard workers, but they neither understood the concept of unionizing, nor were they interested.
Frustrated, on September 2, the striking miners decided to strike out at the easiest and most visual target they could find. About 150 miners descended upon the Chinatown area of Rock Springs, with the objective of chasing the Chinese out of the area. When the miners started approaching, most of the Chinese abandoned their businesses and homes, and hid in the hills. Unfortunately, not everyone made it. Without weapons to defend themselves, 28 Chinese were killed, and 15 others wounded.
A week later, the U. S. Military arrived and escorted the remaining Chinese back from the hills. Many of them returned to the mines. Even though the identity of the participating miners was known, the local authorities took no legal action against them. However, the Union Pacific did fire 45 miners for their part in the massacre.
This was but one of a number of violent events that took place throughout the West. It was symptomatic of the hatred of the Chinese that three years earlier had resulted in the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited further Chinese immigration into the United States. Incidentally, the Chinese Exclusion Act remained the law until World War II when China joined on the side of the Allies.

Sitting Bull’s Personal Secretary and Interpreter

Johnnie Brughuier was born the son of a white father and Sioux mother near present day Sioux City, Iowa. His father sent him to St. Louis for an education. When he returned home, on December 14, 1875, in the process of breaking up a fight between his brother and another man, Johnnie killed the other man. Afraid that he would be arrested for murder, Johnnie fled to the camp of Sitting Bull.

Johnnie, now called “Big Leggins”, became Sitting Bull’s personal secretary and interpreter. His first opportunity as interpreter was between Sitting Bull and General Nelson Miles. The meeting didn’t go well and five days later 2,000 of Sitting Bull’s Sioux were forced to surrender. However, Sitting Bull and Johnnie escaped.
Johnnie yearned to return to white civilization. So he met with General Miles and explained that he had joined Sitting Bull because of his fear of being arrested for murder. Convinced of his sincerity General Miles said he would do what he could about the murder, and gave Johnnie a job… It was to meet with Sitting Bull, the man he had just betrayed, and convince him to surrender. On several occasions Johnnie was sent on missions that seemed to be certain suicide. But each time he returned, either successful in his mission, or bringing back vital information.
In 1879 his past finally caught up with him, and he was arrested for killing the man back in 1875. At the trial General Miles testified on his behalf. It took the jury just one half hour to bring back a verdict of not guilty.
The work of Johnnie Brughuier saved the lives of hundreds of whites and Indians. We’ll never know if he would have taken the same path had the tragedy of December 14, 1875 not happened.

Teddy Roosevelt: The Cowboy President

On September 14, 1901 with the death of President William McKinley, his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as the 26th President of the United States. Roosevelt was a very unlikely man to become the leader of our country.

It was just 17 years earlier that a double tragedy struck… Within a 12 hour period both his wife and his mother died. Trying to get as far away from Washington as possible, and abandoning his political career, Roosevelt went to the Badlands of the Dakota Territory to become a rancher. Although he never made money as a rancher, the experience did change his life.
He never looked like a cowboy. But he had the soul of a cowboy, and gained the respect of his fellow-ranchers. When a gang stole his riverboat, he went after them, and weeks later brought them to justice. A bully tried to make Roosevelt buy him a drink by calling him “four eyes,” Roosevelt proceeded to punch out the bully.
After three years as a rancher, Roosevelt returned to Washington with a new zeal for life. He later said that were it not for his experience in the West he would not have had the drive to become the President of the United States.
Roosevelt’s experience out west also instilled in him an appreciation of the natural beauty of the West and the need to preserve it for future generations. During his time as President, Roosevelt gave the public 230 million acres of national forest land. And he doubled the number of national parks, including Yosemite. 
Although Theodore Roosevelt spent the vast majority of his life back east, he always considered himself a westerner at heart.

An Old West Poker Game That Went On & On!

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.
Not only did cowboys lose 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 of them weren’t crazy in the first place.

Indians vs. The Army

The year was 1867. 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.

John Colter After Lewis & Clark

   John Colter was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition during their trailblazing trip through the west. This was his first venture into the new frontier, and he liked what he saw. So, on June 15, 1806 John ventured out on his own.
   He ended up near present day Custer, Wyoming where he made friends with some Crow Indians. John accompanied them on a raid against the Blackfoot, during which John killed a Blackfoot. This was unfortunate because now the Blackfoot Indians wanted John’s hair.
About a year later the Blackfoot captured John and a fellow trapper. In the process John’s friend was killed. They had something special for John. He was stripped of his clothing, and told to run. With a 500-yard head start, the braves started after him.
Even with bare feet and body being cut by the rocks and brush, John managed to outdistance all but one brave. Just as the brave caught up with him, John turned and faced the Indian. Startled at the bloody sight, the Indian stumbled, and John killed him. Even with the remaining Blackfoot Indians still in pursuit, John was able to travel the 250 miles to safety.
   If, at this point, you’d say, “I’d never return to Blackfoot country,” you wouldn’t have the pluck of John Colter. Because John went back, but after 5 of his companions were killed; he finally decided to leave.
   John got married and became a farmer. When he died, his wife abandoned the cabin and left John on his deathbed. In 1926, the remains of John Colter and his cabin were found, and he was finally given a formal burial.

Medicine Man Isatai At War

In 1843 a trading post was built in what is now Hutchinson County, Texas. Over the years the trading post was abandoned, and it fell into disrepair. Thirty years later, about a mile away from the original post, another trading post was established. It comprised of a store, saloon, blacksmith shop and another building. Whites called it Adobe Walls.

Chief Quanah Parker considered its existence an act of war. His medicine man, Isatai, also known as “Little Wolf”, convinced Parker that the Great Spirit had told him any Indian who attacked Adobe Walls painted with a special yellow paint would be invincible to bullets.
Because of their log construction and sod roofs, the buildings were virtually impregnable. In addition, the buildings contained 29 buffalo hunters, including Bat Masterson, all with 50 caliber “buffalo guns.”
On June 27, 1874, 700 Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho warriors attacked Adobe Walls head on. With the buffalo guns taking their toll, and his horse shot from beneath him, Quanah Parker realized the yellow paint wasn’t working.
Four buffalo hunters were killed. Three were caught outside the buildings, and the fourth died of an accidental self-inflicted wound. It’s not known exactly how many Indians were killed, because most of the dead and wounded were carried away.
Medicine man, Isatai, tried his best to come up with excuses for the failure. He discovered a brave had killed a skunk prior to the battle, and said that the skunk’s killing had caused the Great Spirit’s spell to be broken. But the braves would have none of it. Later, when asked what Isatai meant in English, the Indians said it was “Coyote Droppings.”

Killer Deacon Miller

Deacon Miller was a little man who was quiet, and never cussed. He dressed like a traveling minister, and was an avid churchgoer. At the same time, this Jekyll-Hyde character was one of the most ruthless assassins of the Old West. It’s estimated that 40 or more people died from lead that came from his guns… Some of them were even his relatives. His contracts were usually carried out on unarmed men from behind a rock or tree, while using a rifle.
There are those who say he was involved with the death of Pat Garrett, the lawman who shot Billy the Kid. A man named Brazel, who was renting Garrett’s ranch confessed to killing Garrett. But at the time, a mysterious man, who fit Deacon Miller’s description, by the name of Adamson, was negotiating the purchase of the ranch. Some feel if he didn’t actually pull the trigger, he paid Brazel to do it. But like many theories about events from the Old West, we’ll probably never know the truth.
Deacon Miller’s last contract kill was on a lawman named Gus Babbitt. As was his style, Miller ambushed Babbitt. Unfortunately, Babbitt lived long enough to describe Miller. Miller and his three helpers were arrested.
Now, Deacon Miller was noted for being a smooth-talker. And he bragged that with his ability to con, and a high priced lawyer, he was going to beat this rap. Some of the Ada, Oklahoma locals believed him. So, on April 19, 1909 they broke Deacon Miller and his three friends out of jail; escorted them to a barn; and hanged them. Deacon Miller went to his reward. And there was little doubt by anyone who knew him, the direction in which that reward was located.

Mountain Man Joe Meek

Joe Meek was born in Virginia in 1810. He had little use for school. So, at the age of 16 he left home. Later Joe did teach himself to write, and he read the classics of his day. But, when he wrote, his spelling and grammar were highly creative to say the least.
At the age of 19 Joe headed out west, and for ten years was a mountain man. At rendezvous, he was always asked to tell stories of his adventures. He told stories that were not only humorous, but often highly exaggerated.
By 1840 Meek realized the golden era of the mountain man was coming to an end. So, he took his Indian wife and led one of the first wagon trains along the Oregon Trail. Meek settled down in western Oregon and became a farmer.
At this time Oregon wasn’t a territory of the United States, and there was no military protection from Indians. So, in 1847 Meek led a delegation to Washington seeking territorial status. The heavily bearded and buckskin Meek was a sight to behold. He announced himself as the “envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the Republic of Oregon to the Court of the United States.” Congress responded by making Oregon an American territory.
Meek became Oregon’s U.S. Marshal, and got involved in politics, helping found Oregon’s Republican Party. During the later part of Meek’s life there was strong anti-Indian feelings in Oregon. With an Indian wife, and children of mixed nationality, Meek endured what came his way, and remained to his death on June 20, 1875, a man of integrity, courage and magnetism.

Developing The Cherokee Language and Alphabet

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.

Remember The Alamo

In the early 1830’s what is now Texas was part of Mexico. Wanting to settle the vastness of the territory, Mexico invited Americans to come south. Before long the approximately 20,000 Texacans became tired of the regulations put on them by Mexico, and wanted things to be done the way they were in America. So, in 1833 a convention took place that adopted a constitution for an independent state. Sam Houston took the request to Mexico, and ended up spending two years in jail for his troubles. When Sam Houston got out, the revolution was at hand.

The first confrontation in the battle was at the Alamo. As we know, Santa Anna and his 5,000 troops were victorious. The second strike came in March of 1836 when again Mexican troops were victorious, and the Texican survivors were shot near Golead.

Sam Houston and a rag-tag group of 900 men were all that was left of the Texican resistance. Santa Anna, with the smell of victory in his nostrils, starting burning everything in his path as he moved toward the final destruction of Houston and the revolution.
An overly confident Santa Anna with 1,400 men encamped in a poorly defended area near the San Jacinto River. Sam Houston, only a mile away, saw his opportunity. So, on April 21, 1836, during the Mexican’s afternoon siesta his much smaller band of Texas soldiers came down upon the Mexican regulars with screams of “remember the Alamo,” and “remember Golead”, and in just 18 minutes Sam Houston was victorious. In spite of Santa Anna’s past victories, and that it was only a few rag-tag rebels against a country, in about the time it takes for a coffee break, Mexico lost Texas.
 Artist: Henry Arthur McArdle

The Crime of 1873

Prior to 1873, in addition to silver and gold coins, those two metals backed paper money printed by the government. A person could actually exchange a dollar bill for a dollar’s worth of silver or gold. But in 1873, following the lead of many European countries, Congress passed a law for the United States to stop producing silver coins, or using silver to back paper money.


When this happened a financial panic started taking place. Obviously the bottom fell out of the silver market. A man who was a wealthy owner of a silver mine one day, found himself the owner of a worthless hole in the ground the next day. In addition… farmers or anyone who carried a heavy debt load felt this bill made for a tighter supply of money, and therefore harder to pay off their debt. Congress’ bill became known as the “Crime of ’73.”

With the United States going through widespread financial difficulties, it was mystically thought that going back to both silver and gold would solve all problems.

The leader of the fight to go back to silver again was Congressman Richard Bland, an ex-miner and farmer. He was so tireless in his efforts that he received the nickname “Silver Dick.”  

Finally, five years after the Crime of ’73, on February 16, 1878, the Bland-Allison Act was passed. Although it didn’t return the usage of silver to the level prior to 1873, it did require the government to resume purchasing silver, and minting silver dollars. 

Unfortunately, those who found it difficult to pay off their debt prior to the Bland-Allison Act found it just as difficult afterward.


Indian Fighter Jim Baker

Although he may not be as well known as mountain men Jim Bridger and Jim Beckwourth, this “Jim”, Jim Baker was also a trapper, scout and Indian fighter. Born in Illinois in 1818, at the age of 20 he went out West and spent time trapping in the Rockies for the American Fur Company.
He was a friend of Kit Carson, and next to Carson, Baker was General Fremont’s most trusted guide. He also spent a number of years living with the Shoshone Indians.
As an illustration of the type of man Baker was, in 1841 Baker and about 20 other trappers encountered over 500 Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux at the Little Snake River, and although unbelievably outnumbered, they were able to hold off the Indians.
After successfully guiding an army detachment on a dramatic midwinter trek from Fort Bridger, Wyoming to New Mexico, and back again in order to get emergency provisions for Fort Bridger, in 1858, at the age of 40, he moved to what is now downtown Denver, Colorado. Although at the time, a settlement of a few shacks, over the next five years Denver grew to the point that Baker decided it was just too crowded, and he moved to a more remote area…Wyoming.
Baker was usually a gentle man, but “the bottle” brought out the devil in him. On one drunken spree, because of a suspected infidelity, he threatened to cut off his wife’s ear.
Finally, at the age of 55 Jim Baker decided he had had enough adventure and settled down in Dixon, Wyoming, and became a farmer. Living to the ripe old age of 80, he died peacefully on May 15, 1898.

Lone Survivor Of Little Big Horn

Following George Custer’s defeat at the Little Big Horn the military was looking for a bright spot. That bright spot was the lone survivor on the battlefield, Comanche. Now, I said Comanche, not a Comanche. For Comanche was the name of Captain Myles Keogh’s horse. Let me explain.
It all started on April 3, 1868 when the army purchased a 15-hand bay gelding. The horse was taken to Fort Leavenworth and received a “US” brand. Captain Keogh, looking for a backup mount, bought the horse for $90.
In September of 1868, Captain Keogh was involved in the Sand Hills battle with Comanche Indians. Keogh rode his backup mount during the battle. The horse was shot with an arrow in the right hindquarter, but showed no signs of the injury, which wasn’t discovered until after the battle. Keogh immediately made his backup horse; his primarily mount, and named him “Comanche.”

Keogh rode Comanche until the Battle of the Little Big Horn where he was killed. Following the battle, Comanche was found casually drinking water from the Little Bighorn River. He had seven wounds.

The Indians had either killed or taken all the military horses, but not Comanche. The reason was that during the battle Keogh had dismounted, holding the reigns in one hand as he shot his pistol with the other. When Keogh was killed he maintained a hold on the reigns. And no Indian would take the horse when a dead man was holding it.

Becoming a symbol of the men who had fallen, Comanche was retired and spent time at various military posts, until his death at the age of 29. He was then stuffed and put on display at the University of Kansas.

The Death of Lawman Ed Crawford

Not much is known about Ed Crawford before he came to Ellsworth, Kansas.  In 1873, he was serving off and on as an Ellsworth policeman.  The sheriff was Chauncey Whitney.  On August 15, brothers Ben and Billy Thompson were in town.  Both were outlaws.  But Billy was a crazy outlaw.  Although Sheriff Whitney was a friend of the Thompsons, on this day Billy got mad at him and shot and killed him.  Obviously, Billy hightailed it out of town.
The incident, and Billy Thompson’s escape so infuriated the Mayor that he fired the entire police force.  Since, at that time, Ed Crawford wasn’t on the force, the mayor hired him as a replacement.  Because the Thompsons were Texans, and Texans were notorious for causing problems, there were hard feelings against any Texan in town.  There was even talk about forming a vigilante group.  One of the people supposedly on the vigilante’s list was a Cad Pierce.
On August 20, 1873 the new sheriff, Ed Crawford and some other men were lounging in front of the general store, when Cad Pierce and some other Texans came by and started badmouthing Crawford and the others.   Before long, Crawford and Pierce were facing it off.  Crawford ended up shooting and then clubbing Pierce to death.  The mayor didn’t like what happened, so he fired Crawford.
Under threats from the Texans, Crawford left town, for three months. When he returned, Crawford was a different man. Drinking heavily, one night he fired into a room that contained Cad Pierce’s brother-in-law. Wounded in the hand, the brother-in-law empted his pistol, hitting Crawford four times. But, that wasn’t enough. Other Texans joined in, and Crawford ended up with thirteen slugs in his body. Now, that’s really getting fired.

The Real Hugh Glass Of “The Revenant” Film

Back in 1823, explorer and fur trader Major Andrew Henry took a group of men to explore what is now northwestern South Dakota. One of the adventurers who went on the trip was a man named Hugh Glass. On May 8 Hugh went on a hunting trip and didn’t return. Some of the other men went to find him. On the way they came across a wounded grizzly bear. Shortly after dispatching it, they found the mangled body of Hugh Glass. Obviously, the grizzly and Hugh had tangled, and Hugh had gotten the worse of the battle.

Since Hugh was near death, Major Henry decided to push on. Being a bit compassionate, Major Henry offered to pay two men $40 if they would stay until Hugh died, and then bury him. The volunteers were John Fitzgerald and a 19 year old, future famous mountain man, named Jim Bridger.

Fitzgerald and Bridger waited only a few hours before deciding they had enough, and leaving him still alive, they appropriating Glass’ rifle and other equipment, and caught up with the rest of the group, stating that Glass was dead and buried.
Even in his bad state, Hugh Glass had heard the men talking and knew what had happened. With vengeance burning inside him, and surviving on berries and whatever else he could scrape up, he crawled 150 miles to Fort Kiowa.
Hugh Glass survived and tracked down both Fitzgerald and Bridger. But by the time he found them, the fire of vengeance was down to a few smoldering embers, and he merely gave each of them a lecture on their unethical behavior. I don’t know about Fitzgerald, but I can assure you that Jim Bridger never pulled that trick again.