Archive for the ‘Cowboys’ Category

TOM HORN: DETECTIVE:LAWMAN & HIRED KILLER

August 1, 2008

TOM HORN

      Tom Horn November 21, 1860- November 20, 1903, Hanged one day before his 43rd birthday in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  even to this day there is much speculation that he was hanged for a crime that he didn’t commit.  in 1998 a trial was staged in which the evidence used to prosecute Tom Horn was presented and the jury found him not guilty, of course this was 95 years to late to do poor Tom any good.

     What renewed my interest in the Tom Horn matter is the fact I recently started reading a book that my wife read some twenty plus years ago and has been laying around the garage for most of that time.  i never generated much interest in the book because I thought it was one of those historical romance novels.  The author is Anna Lee Waldo, and once I started to read her “Sacajawea” novel.  It was well written and well researched, but became tedious after awhile so I abandoned it, as I had read several other on her.  The current novel “PRAIRIE” is a historical     semi-biography of a Charlie Irwin.  And is a well written story of his      life and accomplishments.  In the story she weaves historical people he is supposed to have met and dealt with and one of the is Tom Horn and some of his escapades in Wyoming.  Miss Waldo does a creatable job in portraying Tom Horn At this time.  (so ends this side ramble and now back to Tom Horn.)

     Tom Horn cram ed a lot into his forty-three years of life.  And if he was executed for a killing he did not commit,  Like some said at the time he killed plenty more that he was never tried for. 

     Tom was born in north-east Missouri, in the town of Memphis, at a time when it is said anyone born in Missouri is destined for a bad end.  He fled his home at the age of sixteen probably because of a abusive father.  He headed to the Wild and Wolly  south-west, joining the U. S> Cavalry as a wrangler and scout.  During the Apache Wars  he became chief of scouts under Generals Crook and Miles.  And was instrumental in the final capture of Geronimo.  (a fact he seldom failed to mention in his stories of himself)

    Later after he left the military service he became involved in the Pleasant Valley Wars in Arizona, between cattlemen and sheepherders.  It is not known for certain on which side he was allied.  Both sides suffered several killings , and the killers were never identified.  (it is known that in later years Tom Horn was always employed by the cattle interest)

   For a time he was employed in Colorado as a deputy sheriff.  While in this line of work he drew the attention of the Pinkerton decetive agency because of his superior tracking abilities.   Hired by the Pinkerton’s in late 1889 or early 1890, he did tracking for them in Colorado and Wyoming.  Working out of the Denver office he covered  the area around the Rocky Mountains.  Considered calm under pressure   he tracked anyone assigned to him.  One story goes that he rode  alone into the hideout of a outlaw gang and arrested a outlaw known as “Peg-Leg” Watson and arrested him with out incident.  IN HIS REPORT HORN SAID “I HAD NO TROUBLE WITH HIM.”

     This is not to say Tom Horn was shy about using his gun.  In four years  of Pinkerton employment Horn is reported to have killed seven- teen men, none of which was ever contested in a court of law.

    Toms separation from the Pinkerton’s was not due to his use of deadly force, but rather that he was accused of committing a robbery in Nevada, while in the agency’s employment.  In a book by a Charlie Siringo’s he  quotes “William A. Pinkerton told me that Tom Horn was guilty of the crime, but that his people could not allow him to go to prison while in their employ.”   Tom Horn’s tracking abilities and the fact that he was a very talented agent could not hide the fact he ha a dark side that could be easily accessed.

     In 1994 under pressure Tom Horn resigned from the Pinkerton’s.  During the late 1890’s he hired out as a range detective for a number of     wealthy cattle ranchers in  Wyoming and Colorado.  During the Johnson county War (Which has been covered i this blog several times)  he worked for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.  IN 1865 a known cattle theft named William Lewis attempted to kill Horn and was killed instead.  On September Tom kill Lewis’s partner, Fred Powell.

     Operating under the cover of “Range Detective”  Tom Horn was actually a killer for hire  While working for the Swan Land and Cattle Company , he killed two rustlers, Matt Rash and Isom Dart.  While implicated in these murders apparently nothing was ever done about them. 

     Horn was also involved at this time in the investigation of what was to become known as the Wilcox Train Robbery.  Horn had obtained information   from a explosive expert Bill Speck (in another source of information Horn  threatened to kill Speck if he did not talk.  Speck is said to have expressed fear of the gang if he talked.  To which Horn replied ‘I am here now and will kill you if you don’t)  as to who had killed Sheriff Josiah Hazen, during the purist of the robbers.  Speck supposedly named either George Curry or Kid Curry, both members of the Wild Bunch.  Horn then passed this information on to Charlie Siringo who was working for the Pinkerton’s.   It is felt that Horn was operating as an unofficial Pinkerton at the time. 

      Horn was receiving $600 for every rustler he killed.   He is alleged to have killed    around 22 to 24   rustlers during this period alone.  Horn once is alleged to have said, “Killing men is my specialty.  I look at as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market.”  It has been said that he rested the head of his victim’s on a rock as a trademark. 

    He left  his chosen profession to serve in the Army during the Spanish American War.  Before he could steam from Tampa for Cuba, he came down with Malaria.  By the time his health returned the war was over and he returned to Wyoming, where he obtained work as a cowboy for the wealthy cattle baron John Cobe.  He entered into a romantic relationship with a local schoolmarm named Glendolene Kimmell. 

         A rancher named Jim Miller (no relation to Killin Jim Miller) and a  sheepherder named Nickell had been feuding over the fact that Nickle was allowing his sheep to graze on Millers land.  Words and threats had been exchanged between the two publicly.   At one point   Millers thirteen year old son and daughter were playing in a wagon when a shotgun blast killed the boy and scared the girl for life.  In some way not explained Miller blamed Nickle for the death.  three months later on a drizzly morning thirteen year old Willie Nickle left the house wearing his fathers slicker and hat and saddled his fathers horse to ride after some of his fathers hired help on a errand.  Dismounting to open the gate he was shot from some distance away, and killed with a large calibre rifle.

     Suspicion was immediately laid on the Miller fraction and Tom Horn.  No evidence surfaced on either party.   And the District Attorney and sheriff were becoming antious to find a killer to pros cute.  lawman Joe lafors devised a plan whereby he concealed a court stenographer and a second witness in a nearby room.  He began plying Tom Horn with liquor and in a friendly  manner began to ask leading questions. eventually leading up to the Nickle murder.  Tom denied the actual murder but,  in a braggart manner supplied enough circumstantial information.   County Prosecutor Walter Stoll used it along with circumstantial evidence that could have placed Horn in the vicinity of the crime as aexcuse to place Tom on trial for the murder. 

       During the trial the prosecution introduced only  certain parts of Horn’s statements to Lefors , greatly distorting what Horn had said.  What came out was a vague confession by Horn.   Perjured testimony by at least two individuals, one being Lafors himself, was introduced.  The additional evidence was just circumstantial that only placed Horn in the general vicinity.

     The schoolmarm Glendolene Kimmel, testified on Tom’s behalf at the trial, she stated that he had been set up, and that the fact of the ongoing feud between the miller and Nickle clans should make it clear    that someone from the Miller family committed the murder.  She also stated that Jim Miller, who she knew quite well, was nervous on the morning of the murder.  Other Character witness on Tom’s behalf was in effective also.  The Judge who presided was known to be sympathetic to the small ranchers and homesteaders who were generally considered rustlers by the large outfits that employed Tom Horn in the past.  The jury of Tom’s peers was also comprised of this same set of small ranchers.  Every attempt to suppress tainted evidence and circumstantial was struck down.  The Judges instructions to the jury before deliberation left little choice to the verdict they were to bring in.  The verdict was guilty and a sentience of death by hanging was set for November 20, 1903.

     All attempts for appeal or stay were denied.  Tom spent his time waiting for execution braiding horse hair ropes and bridles for friends.  A attempt of excape was tried by Tom and a second prisoner.  Both were quickly apprehended.  Tom had grabbed a Belgin automatic pistol (also identified as a German Luger), but could not figure out the safety on it.  A photo exist of him being escorted back to jail surrounded by a large group of excited onlookers some pushing bicycles.

     Petition of over one thousand signatures asking for clemency or a stay of execution was presented to Governor Fenimore Chatterton, just hours before the execution.  The capitol building was under heavy guard, supposedly the governor had received death threats.  After a quick glance at the petition Chatterton replied, “PersonallyI do not believe in capital punishment.  You may tell your fellow cattlemen that a proper hearing has been given Mr. Horn and the recommendations of the jury must be taken under the law.  Good-day, gentlemen,”

        Deputy Proctor stepped on to the gallows platform and in a loud voice pointed out that the gallows had been designed by Cheyenne architect, James P. Julian.  Tom Horn Had the distinction of being one of the few, and first to be hung by a automated process.  the trap door was connected to a lever which pulled a plug from a barrel of water.  this would cause a counterweight to rise, pulling the support beam from under the trap and hanging the condemned man.  It is said that Tom Horn wove the rope he was that pulled the plug from the barrel, while in jail awaiting his execution.

     After the annoucment about the gallows Deputy Proctor paused then looked look at the door leading to the cells and said “Alright we are ready now.” 

     Tom walked out seeming to tower over those on the platform.   He was over six feet tall.  Brushing cigarette ashes of his vest he looked around and said to Ed Smalley “What a scared-looking lot of lawmen.  What’s making them shiver?  Is it cold this twentieth November 1903, or is it fright for what they are to see?”

     The straps were tightened around tom’s legs and he nearly lost his balance.   :Seems to me you birds might steady  me.  I might tip over.”  Sheriff Smally and  Joe Cahill steadied him as the  rest of straps were tightened. 

     Proctor placed the hood over tom’s head and placed the noose with thirteen wraps around his neck.  and asked  Are You ready?”  With out hesitation Tom replied “Yes.”

     Cahill and Proctor lifted Tom onto the trap.  Nothing could be heard but the hiss of the escaping water   Suddenly the door split in half and Tom’s body plunged down,  after a few spasmodic jerks his body hung limp in the frigid Wyoming ait.

     Later Thompson of the Wyoming State Tribune would break the tension saying, “He was hanged at eleven-o-four, thirty-one seconds since he was on that damn door.  He’s fallen nearly four feet.”  Later Proctor explained that with Tom being over six feet, and weighing over two-hundred  pounds that a longer drop would have had the danger of snapping his head of the neck like Black_Jack Ketchem.

      So still to-day there is much controversy over whether Tom Horn was guilty of the Nicklle killing.  Many said it did not really matter as  he was know to have kille many more than that.  There is no way to know how many men Horn killed in his Killer-For-Hire days, but it is commonly believed to be in the neighborhood of 25 to 30.  Add that to the known 17 conformed killings while in the Pinkerton service and we have a total of between 42 and 47.  So where does this place Tom Horn on the list of “OLD WEST KILLERS” ?    If not on the top very near.  More than Killin Jim Miller and at least equal to John Westley Hardin.

     Once again there are many good sites on the web about Tom Horn, one that even explores the psychological impact his childhood had on his development.

     At least two films have been made about his last years.  “Mr. Horn”   a 1979 made for T-V starring David  Carradine (which I probably saw, but do not remember.)  And “Tom Horn” ,starring Steve McQueen ,1980,  The McQueen film was not very accurate but was pretty well received by the unassuming public.  The most memorable event      for me was at a dinner          by Senator Warren, one of the cattle barons,  Tom is at the buffet with Richard Farnsworth and he picks up a boiled Lobster and declares “I ain’t gonna eat no big bug.”

Well for once I ain’t got no ramble, the story tells it’sself.

ramblingbob  

 

           

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MORE ON BLACK COWBOYS

June 27, 2008

SOME MORE BLACK COWBOY’S

Hollywood and popular fiction has in the most part ignored the roll of blacks in the settelment of the west.  The entertainment media has for years been geared to the white pocketbook, so most of the attention has been centered on the roles of the white individuals.  Fact be known, depending on who you are reading, one in every three cowboys were black, some say three out of five, but that is so near the same there is no need to fight over the numbers.  In the days of the trail drives, the cowboy was an underpaid, over worked young man.  By the time of the big herds so many slaves had been freed and were seeking employment that this cheap labor pool was readily available.

While we are in this area let me again explain that the term “Cowboy” was one the trail hands felt to be an insult.  The people who worked at the loading pens at the end of the drives were not the men who drove the cattle up from Texas or wherever.  The work at the pens was below the drovers, although the movies depict them as what we view as cowboys today.  Once the herd was sold, it was out of the Cowhand’s hands.  For the most part the loaders were blacks, as the pay was poor and hard, and in those days a black worker was commonly called a boy, hence “cowboy.”

In the same slang a “cowpuncher” was a man who stood over the loading chutes on a platform and prodded the cattle up the ramps  with long poles.  Thus also a insult to a cowhand.

All that said, let’s look at a few noted black hands.

NATE LOVE

Nate LoveNate Love was another born slave who headed west after gaining his freedom.  Nate soon found a Texas outfit which had delivered its herd and was ready to return to Texas.  There were several good black cowboys in the outfit.  After hearing some of their stories , Nate asked the boss for a job.   After some recommendations from the other cowboys the boss said he could have a job – IF he could break the worst horse in the string.  Bronco Jim, another black cowboy, gave Nate some pointers.  Nate rode the horse and claimed later in life that it was the worst ride he ever made. He got the job.

The work was very hard.  Nate rode hailstorms only strong men could stand them.  The first time he met hostile Indians, he stood his ground – because he later admitted he was to scared to run. After a few such drives he learned the ways of the cattle country and became a top hand.

Nate had a forty-five and took every opportunity to practice with it, eventually became very good with it.  There came the time when could out shoot most of his friends.

Nate left the Texas Panhandle for Arizona where got a job working on the Gila  River.  He had ridden many trails in the southwest and believed he was a capable cowboy.  Working with Mexican vaqueros, he polished his talent even more and learned to speak Spanish like a native.  He could soon read any brand on the range.Nate Love

In the spring the outfit Nate rode for took a contract to drive a herd of three thousand steers to Deadwood City in the Dakota territory.  They arrived in July just in time for the forth of July celebration.  The gamblers and miners had goten together a $200 purse for a contest.  Out of the dozen or so men entered in the contest six were black.  They had to rope, bridle, saddle and ride a mustang to the finish line in the shortest time.  Nate accomplished his in exactly nine minutes, the next closest time, also from a black man, was twelve.  Only the meanest horses available were used in this event.

In the rifle shooting event at 100 and  250 yards, Nate shot all his targets in the bulls eye and wih the pistol he shot 10 of 12 in the black, winning both events. 

Nate  was declared the winner and earned the title of “Deadwood Dick”.

Nate “Deadwood Dick” Love loved to stretch and spin a tall tale, “mostly about himself”. (more…)

STAGECOACH MARY: OLD WEST LEGEND

June 19, 2008

STAGECOACH MARY

It had been my intention to make this chapter about one of the remarkable lawmen who served in the Cherokee Strip, under Judge Parker.  But I have decided to take a break and spin the tale of another remarkable individual of the same time frame – but in a different location.

One of the persons I am using for reference material for “Stagecoach Mary” felt it necessary to post a disclaimer on his material.  I feel this is as good a place as any to post mine.  When you are relating  the historical and some times hysterical facts of a legend, it is necessary to remember you are only able to relate the stories as handed down through time.  And often the only facts before you have been flavored with the sprinkling of embellishment of some long gone author.  That said here goes…

STAGECOACH MARY

Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, after the Civil War anMary Fields d freed her of her bondage, the free woman decided to strike off on her own hook.  A fiery, feisty sort, she shared a driving ambition with audacity, and a penchant for physical altercation on a regular basis.  She also had a love of smoking rather large foul smelling cigars.

Mary was six foot tall; heavy : tough as nails; short tempered; two fisted; powerful and is said to have toted a pair of six-shooters and an eight or ten-gauge shotgun (for those of you who do not know that is bigger than the 12 gauge the police carry today).  How in the heck has this legend in her own time faded from today’s wild west history?

In 1884 she made her way toward Cascade County (west-central Montana) in search of opportunity.  Seeking to improve her sustenance and adventure.   While awaiting for the fore mentioned opportunity to present itself she accepted employment with the Ursuline Nuns at the mission in Cascade, Montana.  The job was not much of a step up the ladder of success.  The St. Peter Mission, was a very simple facility, located in the remote wilderness frontier, devoted to the conversion of the heathen savages and other disgusting customers who wandered along.   remote as it was it was rather well funded.

Mary was hired to do the heavy work, she chopped wood, did some stone work and rough carpentry.  She dug the the necessary holes (the ones for the out houses).  And when the missions reserves started to run low, Mary made the supply runs to the train stop, or as far as Great Falls or the city of Helena when special needs needed to be filled.

So here is one of those stories I referred to in the disclaimer.  Although every account I reviewed told it about the same..  On one night run, (the distance was not that great but it was cooler at night.).  Mary’s wagon was attacked by a pack of wolves.  The horses bolted and Mary could not regain control, the wagon  overturned, the team escaped.  Mary and the supplies were unceremoniously dumped on the darkStage Coach Mary, Mary Fields prairie.

The story continues with Mary holding the wolves at bay the rest of the night with her rifle and revolvers.   All this occurred in the pitch darkness of the prairie night.  Anyway some how she survived the night and with the coming of day light was able to eventually deliver the goods to the relieved nun’s who had spent $30 on the whole mess.  They were not so relieved with Mary’s safety that they did not deduct they price of a keg of molasses that leaked from a keg that had hit a rock from her salary.

Mary’s pugnacious nature kept her prepared for any inconveniences from wolves to drunken cowboys.  Going heavily armed at all times and ready with her rock hard fists, ready for a fist fight at the drop of a hat, most gave Mary a wide berth.   Mary did not pay heed to the Victorian standard for women at that time, her fashion statement rather presented her in an unfavorable light.  Heaven help the ruffian men who tried to trample her hard earned rights.  Oh woe to them!

The GREAT FALLS EXAMINER   claimed that she broke more noses in central Montana than any other person.  The Examiner was the only paper in circulation in the Cascades at the time.

One hired hand at the mission confronted them with a complaint on the fact that Mary, a mere woman, was making $2 a month more than he ($9 vs. $7) , and just what made her think she was worth more than him?  His name reportedly was Yu Lum Duck, he complained to the Bishop, and more publicly in a saloon in a rougher version.  What made the uppity colored woman think she was better than him?  (more…)

A FEW THOUGHTS ON BILLY, THE KID

May 26, 2008

MY THOUGHTS ON THE KID

     Well I’ve finally finished the saga of Billy, The Kid.  Now I would like to ramble on a little bit about this adventure.  This is the last verse of the ballad:

“THERE’S MANY A MAN WITH A FACE FINE AND FAIR,

WHO STARTS OUT IN LIFE WITH A CHANCE TO BE SQUARE.

BUT JUST LIKE POOR BILLY, HE WANDERS ASTRAY,

AND LOSES HIS LIFE IN THE VERY SAME WAY.”

     Alas, I recon this is true, a single mistake can lead to a chain of events that leads to doom.

     Lets look at some of Billys legend.

“WAY OUT IN THE WEST WITH A GUN IN HIS HAND,

AT THE AGE OF TWELVE YEARS HE KILLED HIS FIRST MAN.”

      We have seen in the previous chapters that Billy’s first brush with the law was about the age of sixteen.  He was jailed for the theft of the Chinamen’s cloths.  After that we have him in New York city, where it is claimed he killed the Irish youth with a cheese knife.  This is not generally recounted in the wild west tale, but this is number one.

     Next we find him in Camp Grant, where he tangled with the Blacksmith, Frank “Windy” Cahill, and shot and killed him in the fight.  I kinda feel this was a act of self defense myself.  This is number two.

      Then comes the Lincoln County conflict, where he becomes known as The Kid.  After his employer John Tunstal was killed The Kid, still a minor gunhand, was part of a posse that captured Frank Baker and Willim “Buck” Morton, two men that were part of the group that killed Tunstall.  Billy and another posse member killed them, claiming they were trying to escape.  Do we give Billy both of them ?  If so this makes numbers three and four.

     Next on April 1, Sheriff Brady and  George Hindman were ambushed and killed by a group of which Billy was a particapant.  Billy later was tried and found guilty of Brady;s murder.  Let’s be generous and give Billy both of these also – numbers five and six.

  Then there was the shoot out with “Buckshot Roberts”.  This one probably was not Billy’s to claim, but heck, make it number seven. 

      Now comes the shoot out at McSween’s house.  Billy is said to have killed a deputy at McSween’s door. number eight.

     After the truce Billy killed a man in a saloon brawl. number nine.

      Then Deputy Carlyle, at White Oaks – Billy denied this killing, so lets let it pass.

       Finally comes the murders of Deputies  J. W. Bell and Bob Olinger in the Linclon jail break.  This makes the total questionably at eleven.

“THERE’S TWENTY-ONE MEN I’VE PUT BULLETS THROUGH.

SHERIFF PAT GARRET MUST MAKE TWENTY-TWO.’

     Well the song, like most of Billy exploits, has been greatly twisted out of shape and fact.  Most of the “experts” credit Billy with seven to eight killings.  Pat Garret wrote with a ghost writers “A true Account of Billy, the Kid’s Life”.  In it he claimed that Billy saved a wagon train from attacting Indian’s with an axe.  Hollywood has done no better.  In the late sixties Paul Newman potrayed Billy in “The Left Handed Gun” , based on the reversed negetiave photo, mentioned in the first chapter. (more…)

BILLY, THE KID: another try

May 26, 2008

BILLY, THE KID

      Well here I go again in a attempt to finish up The Kid.

     After the ambush attempt at Fort Sumner The Kid and his gang  galloped east toward a small abandoned stone house at Stinking Springs, some twenty-five miles away. 

    Both books are now refering to The Kid’s followers as his “gang”.  Neither narative tells just how many of them there were.  Nor is there any great detail on how they subsisted.  No where have I ever seen any evidence that The Kid and his gang participated in any robberies of any kind – train, stage nor bank.  So I have to suppose they were engaged in the trade of rustling.  Both books hint that Billy stole cattle from anyone, be they White, Mexican or the Apaches of the Mescalero Tribe.  Just who his customers were has never been made clear either, though I doubt it was to the Army – the biggest buyer in the area.

     A few days later Garret trailed Billy to the hideout at Stinking Springs.  Surrounding the cabin in the dark, Garret thought that the gang would surrender if Billy was shot first.  So orders were given for everyone to hold  their fire untill Garret gave the word, as he was the only one who knew The Kid by sight.  Billy was still wearing the tall black sombrero with the green band.  In the early morning light a heavly bundeled figure stepped out the door with a bag of feed for the horses.  “That’s him” Garret whispered, Seven rifles fired at once, knocking the individual back through the door.  Billy grabbed his close friend, Charles Bowdre and pulled back in.  Billy took a close look at Charlie’s wound and said “They have killed you Charlie, but you can get a few of them before you die.”  Placing a pistol in his hand he shoved Charlie back out side.

     Charlie staggered across the frozen show and collapsed in Pat Garrets arms, “I wish, I wish, i wish.” Charlie gasped and died.  Garret then realized he had killed the 47 year old cattleman turned rustler.

     A hand reached out the door grabbing the briddle of the horse outside and pulled it to the door.  Garret promptly shot the anamial dead blocking the door.  Shots were exchanged in a delusatory fashion for a while.  Some light banter was then exchanged beween the parties.  In the afternoon the posse built a fire and proceeded to make a meal.  Garret invited The Kid out for a bite, Billy replied he didn’t have the time.  Billy’s horse was inside the house, but he later said he did not try to make a break because he feared his horse would balk at the doorway because of the dead horse there.

     Late in the afternoon the gang decided to surrender after smelling the food the posse was cooking outside.  Billy later said it was because they had no wood inside to cook their own.

     Garret took his bound prisoners and bone weary posse back to Fort Sumner, where he sent the body of Charles Bowdre to his wife and instructed her to purchase a suit of burying clothes and send the bill to him.

     Garret and his prisoners arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico on the 26th, preparing to travel to Santa Fe.  They were met by a large mob demanding the person of Dave Rudabaugh, for the murder of a Las Vegas jailer during a jail excape.  Rudabaugh was a recent newcomer to the Kid’s gang, who was reported to be so grungy that it was suspected he had never had a bath.  He had a reputation of  viciousness unsurpassed in the southwest.  (more…)

BILLY, THE KID: conclusion

May 22, 2008

BILLY, THE KID: continued

      Well, I started this saga out with verses of the ballad of Billy, the Kid.  Unfortunatly I ran out of verses before I ran out of story.  The last verse was  premature:

”  ‘TWAS ON A SAD NIGHT WHEN BILLY DIED”

And it’s still premature – we’ve still a bit of a ways to go before Billy’s sad end.

     The last installment ended with the burning of McSween’s house and Billy’s escape, and the aftermath resulting the end of the Lincoln County range war. 

     The President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, had been recieving reports of the goings on and was not pleased with what he had been hearing.  He removed the governor of the New Mexico Territory, Samuel Axtell, who had connections to “The House of Murphy”, and replaced him with Civil War General Lew Wallace.  Wallace was uncertian who to hold responsible for the lawlessness, so he issued a general amnesty proclamation to all except nonresidents.  This left The Kids status very vague.

     The opposing fractions in Lincoln County tried to strike an accord.  One of the most dangerous gunmen of The House of Murphy “Jessie Evans” and The Kid met.  After reaching a workable agreement, they stepped out into the street ready to go celebrate the accord.  There they met Huston Chapman, a one armed lawyer in the employ of Mrs McSween, retained to prosecute Colonel Dudley and Sheriff Pippin, on the charges of arson and murder.  Harsh words were exchanged and a shot rang out — and Chapman fell dead.  Though Billy was present, it was known that he did not do the shooting.  Someone then drenched  Chapman’s body with Whiskey and set it on fire.  The body lay in the street for twenty-four hours.

     A few days later The Kid wrote Governor Wallace a letter stating his innocence and offered to testify against those guilty.  A midnight meeting was arranged  in the office of a Lincoln County Justice of Peace’s office.  On March 17, 1879, at midnight there was a knock on the door of the office and when the door was opened there stood Billy The Kid with a rifle in one hand and his pistol in the other.  The meeting was conducted and Billy agreed to tell all in open court, and the govoernor agreed to exempt Billy from prosecution and grant him a executive pardon.

     Through prearrangement with the goveror, Billy submitted to a false arrest and prepared to spend a short time in jail.  As agreed, he gave his evidence against the Lincoln county killers.  His testimony helped to indict one of the proprietors of The House of Murphy,  John Dolan, for complicity in one Lincoln County murder.

     The district attorny defied the governor’s orders.  He pointed out there were  various indictments outstanding against The Kid,  refused to squash them and remanded The Kid to jail.  Billy simply slipped his hands out of the handcuffs (something he could do with ease since his hands were small and his wrist big), and took his leave.  Billy had asked for reasurance from Wallace and never recieved a reply.

     No details are avaliable to me but Billy reportedly killed a Joe Grant in a Fort summner saloon brawl on Janurary 10, 1880. (more…)

BILLY THE KID: part 2

April 29, 2008

BILLY THE KID: part 2

“T’WAS ON THAT SAME NIGHT WHEN POOR BILLY DIED.

 HE SAID TO HIS FRIENDS “I’M NOT SATISFIED;

THERE  ARE TWENTY-ONE MEN I HAVE PUT BULLETS THROUGH,

AND SHERIFF PAT GARRET WILL MAKE TWENTY-TWO.”

      Well we need to hold our horses here, this verse is getting kinda ahead of the tale — plus it is filled with misconceptions.

     After fleeing the jail at Camp Grant where he was awaiting his fate for the killing of “Windy”  Cahill, Billy next appears at the Jones Ranch.  The Ranch of Heiskell Jones was located in the Pecos Valley, of New Mexico.  Apaches had stolen his horse and supplies, while Billy had stopped for water, leaving The Kid stranded with out supplies and miles from anywhere.  When Billy (by now he was going by the name of William Bonney, or simply “The Kid”)  arrived at the Jones Ranch, he was in sad shape.  Bootless, his feet were bloody and swollen, near a state of exaustion, The Jones family took him in and cared for him.  Mrs. Jones treated his ailment and wounds, and nursed the youth back to good health.  The Kid helped around the ranch forming a strong, lasting attachment to the family – and they to him.  Eventually they lent him a horse, and he left to look for work a few weeks later. 

Billy, The Kid rode into the Linclon County War.

And here the ledgend of Billy “The Kid” began

     Billy soon found work on the ranch of John Tunstall, a wealthy English emigrant twenty-four years of age.  (Now here I leave the story to enter into one of my rambles.)  John tunstall has always been potrayed as an older gentelman dressed in English Tweed Who employs young  youths who are wandering astray, whom he takes under his wing and tries to rehabilate and educate them.  He often is shown trying to teach young Billy how to read.  As we have already seen Bill, was already literate from earlier schooling.  In truth John Tunstall was a scheming, coniving individual who over matched himself.

     Also involved was John Chisim (who did not resembel John Wayne, as in the movie “Chisim”) , who had more cattle than he could count, and a range so vast it took days to ride across.  When the war started he had the good sense to stay on his ranch and out of the conflict. 

   Then there was the lawyer Alexander McSween, a seemingly pious and God fearing man, who was in reality in search of riches and fame.  There was his redheaded wife who dominated her pious husband, and would have won the war by herself if she had been a man.. (more…)

Henry McCarty aka William H. Bonney aka “Billy the Kid”

April 6, 2008

BILLY THE KID:

“I’LL SING YOU A TRUE SONG OF BILLY THE KID,

I’LL SING OF THE DESPRATE DEEDS THAT HE DID.

WAY OUT IN THE WEST LONG, LONG AGO,

WHEN A MAN’S ONLY CHANCE WAS HIS OWN FORTY-FOUR.”

       As I sit here prepared to start this new chapter of the old west, I’m surounded by at least six books.  All have business cards, post-it notes and grocery reciepts stuck throughout them marking pages.  While the main story remains basically the same through them, the details vary greatly.  These books are serious works of individuals who researched their stories as best they could, none are the dime and penny stories of his day. 

     Even “The Kids” origin differs from book to book.  Some say without doubt that Henry Antrim and his older brother Joe were both born in New York to Catherine McCarty, Billy around 1860.  Some claim his father was named either Patrick McCarty, or William Bonney.  In another book it is stated that historians have largley dismissed this theroy and feel he was born in Illiniois, Indiana or Kansas.  And one it is stated that Billy told an 1880 census taker that he was born in Missouri.

     What is known is that by 1870 Mrs. McCarty was in Wichita, Kansas where she became acquanted with a William H. Antrim.  Antrim was a discharged private with the Indiana Volunteer Infantry.  Antrim was a part time carpenter, farmer and bartender.  Catherine filed on a quarter section of land and purchased a lot in town where she operated a hand laundry.

      After a lengthly courtship the couple marrried in Santa Fe.  Antrim is often potrayed as a shiftless scoundrel, but he seems to have done his best to provide for his family.  Catherine suffered terribly from tuberculosis and soon after the marriage the family moved to Silver City, New Mexico.  Probably in the hopes that The dry climate would prove benificial for her health. 

     While life in a mining camp could hardly be described as a wonderful experience, Henry’s could not be called unpleasant either.  He seemed to have done well in school, and was described as an eager learner and very helpful in the classroom.  He acquired the ability to express himself, as later revealed in letters he wrote to the governor.

“WHEN BILLY THE KID WAS A VERY YOUNG LAD,

IN OLD SILVER CITY HE WENT TO THE BAD.

WAY OUT IN THE WEST WITH A GUN IN HIS HAND.

AT THE AGE OF TWELVE YEARS HE KILLED HIS FIRST MAN.” 

      Not true!  Catherine McCarty died on Sepetember 16,1874, and the family began to disolve.  Antrim could not exert much influnce over the boys.  Joe would roam the west and die in Denver, Colorado at the age of seventy-six on November 25, 1930.  His body went unclaimed and was donated to the Colorado Medical School.  He has never been quoted as saying anything about his infamous brother to my knowledge.

     It did not take Henry long to have his first brush with the law.  According to the Grant County Herald  of September 26,1875 “Henry McCarty was arrested and commited to jail to await the action of the grand jury on charges of stealing clothes from Charlie Sun and Sam Chung.  It is believed that Henry was simply the tool of Sombrero Jack who did the actual stealing while Henry did the hiding.  Jack has skipped out.” (more…)

OUTLAW, LAWMAN, KILLER, DANDY, JOHN KING KISHER?

March 29, 2008

JOHN KING FISHER

     In my last post I stated that the dress of the “Shootest”, as they preferred to be called, was not as the entertainment media would have us believe.  These dangerous gunmen did not walk the streets or ride from town to town, gun-fight to gun-fight, dressed in sleek black clothing with silver trimmed low-slung holsters advertising their profession.  Nor have I found an instance where one sought another to prove that he was faster on the draw. 

     That all being said, we will now visit probably the most flamboyant character in the old west, other than Bill Cody and a few showmen like him.

     Due to the fact that he never had a good press agent, King Fisher never gained the fame, interest or notoriety he probably deserved.  He was flamboyant, good looking and possessed a flair for style. Fisher was deadly and had extremely cool courage.  Though he never received wide ranging fame, Fisher was known as the “King of The Hill” in the Nuecus Strip.  It is said that even today men a in bar rooms and and around camp fires argue the balance of his good against his evil.

      King Fisher was about six foot tall and close to 186 pounds, he had a good set of strong white teeth, flashing eyes, with black hair and mustache.  His eyes eyebrows were thick and in his photograph appears very handsome. (I have to admit that if you were to darken the hair and shave the goatee and thicken the mustache, my oldest son would resemble King very much).

     One contemporary of Fisher described him thus  “Fisher was the most perfect specimen of a frontier dandy and desperado that I ever met.  He was tall, beautifully proportioned and exceedingly handsome.  He wore the finest clothing procurable, the picturesque, border, dime novel kind.  His broad-brimmed white Mexican sombrero was profusely ornamented with gold and silver lace.  His fine buck-skin Mexican short jacket was heavily embroidered with gold.  His shirt was the finest and thinnest linen and open at the throat, with a silk handkerchief  knotted loosely about the wide collar.  A brilliant crimson shah wound about his waist, and his legs were hidden by a wonderful pair of Chaparejos or chaps as the cowboys called them– leather britches to protect the legs while riding through the brush.”

      As you can see the old boys had a flair for words back when.  I would like to interject here the the chaps mentioned were made out of a tiger skin.  This is from a second book, and I remember reading some 45 years ago that he acquired the hide when they way-laid a small traveling circus.  King Fisher was intrigued by the caged tiger and shot it and had it skinned and a pair of chaps made for  him from the hide.

     Well, as stated before several times this was not his ordinary work out-fit, but his every-day clothes were of good quality in any event.  An example: his boots were black patent leather with fancy trimming.  His six-gun that hung from his belt was .45 Colt with a gutt-perka handle (black hard rubber).  The barrel and frame was blue-bronze steel and was a gift from Pofirio Diez, who would ultimately become president of Mexico.

     Now a fellow dressed in such a manner would ordinarily become the laughing stock and butt of jokes.  But nobody ever laughed at John King Fisher.  His enemy and detractor’s might have hated and despised him, but they never lost their respect  or fear of  him.  John King was able to wear his clothing with impressive manner that did not appear to be a showoff or dandy, a feat few other men could have accomplished.

      He was born John King Fisher in 1854, and had a strong dislike for his step-mother.  It is reported that she used to hang him up by his suspenders in a doorway while she did here chores.

     At sixteen he was sentenced to prison for horse theft, shortly after his family moved to Goliad.  His two year term was was reduced to four months by the governor.

     In another account his family claimed that John King had been returning home from a stay at a school when he camped for the night and woke the next morning and discovered his horse had wandered off during the night.  He supposedly caught a nearby horse and saddled it up with the intention of finding his own, when the owner caught him and had him arrested.  Then allowed him to escape on the way to the jail by passing him a pen knife allowing him to cut his bindings. (more…)

OWTLAWS AND LAWMEN AND FANCY HOLSTERS

March 23, 2008

FANCY GUN HOLSTERS

      Apparently not!  Lets take a quick look back down that winding, twisting trail I have led you on through the previous chapters.  I cannot think of one of the desperate characters mentioned who used a fancy tooled low-slung rig.  Remember John Westley Hardin, captured when his pistol’s hammer hung up on his suspenders when he tried to draw it from his waist band?  Another fellow named Con Gibson had the same thing happen to him in a gunfight in New Mexico, in 1894 with the same disastrous results.

     A review of historical records reveal few gun-fights that involved holsters.  Referring back to John Westley Hardin, he used a cord around his neck, his waistband and leather lined pockets.

     Then there was Dallas Stoudenmier, from the long rambling El Paso chapters,  He also carried his pistols in leather lined pockets of his coat.  His long gun for distance and the one with the shortened barrel for close work.

    Bill Hitchcock favored tucking his guns into a long sash wrapped around his waist.  Then many times when two people decided to shoot it out one had to wait while the other ran to get his gun from his room or where ever he kept it.  Many of the people in the old west just did not go around  “heeled” as depicted on TV and the movies.  Also remember there were ordinances in effect in most town that forbade the practice of carrying guns.  Recall Ike Clanton was not armed at the gunfight at the OK Corral and fled the fight.

GUN SAFETY SKILLS OF THESE CLOWNS

      Through out these recorded gunfights shooting and saftey skills was one thing that seemed to be universally lacking.   Killing Jim Miller and Sheriff Frasier from a few steps back are a prime example.  Frasier shot Miller from close range on two occasions from basically ambush and failed to kill him.  Well the fact that Miller wore the steel plate under his coat helped.  But he did wound him in other places with little effect.   Miller enlisted the help of others in his attempt at revenge.

      One of the Miller Hench-men Mannie Clements managed to shoot himself in June of 1895, Clements loaded all six cylinders of his pistol and tossed it on the bed, the gun discharged and hit him in the hip.  In less than three days a second Hench-man Mart Hardin, (brother to John Westley Hardin), hopped out of a buggy and his pistol fell from his pocket and discharged.  Entering under the right shoulder blade and lodging in the muscles of his neck.  He also had loaded all six chambers of his pistol.  A practice that was always advised against.  and one that all shooting clubs in The USA forbid in competition shooting.

     Also on one occasion it was recorded that Wyatt Earp allowed a pistol to fall out of a pocket and narrowly missed shooting himself.  Wyatt also is quoted as saying “I never used any fancy rigs or tricks.  I just tried to pull my pistol out and make sure I hit what I was shooting at.”     I have buried somewhere in my books that there are only six shooting incidents recorded involving Wyatt Earp.  This encompasses Dodge City as well as Tombstone.

      In all my books these people who I have written about so far where photos exist are shown wearing suits with coats and vests and some sort of tie.  I know that this does not fit the image portrayed in the wild west movies and maybe did not reflect every day living dress, but remember these fellows were by large city dwelling folk and for the most part practiced the trade of gambling.  I know Wes Harding, Print Olive and some of the others worked the trail drives and plied the rustling racket and did not dress like a city dude while on the trail.  But there is no mention of how they carried their weapons either.

HOLSTERS

       I know I have covered this in the past way back down the trail, so will be brief.  Early holsters for the most part were military holsters.  Until after the Civil War it was not common practice for people to carry pistols, until the opening of the west began.  With the rise of the outlaw gangs after the war it became more common.  Hand-guns were large things and heavy.   Believe me I can attest to that, strap on a double gun rig add a large knife and thirty rounds of ammunition and you probably have near to fifteen pounds of extra weight ridding on your hips.  By the end of a shooting day you will willingly shed it at the first opportunity.  As I started to say, military holsters were largely the first.  They came with flaps to protect the pistol from the elements and dirt.  At some time fellows started to tuck the flap back or cut it off to facilitate a quicker response to dragging it out.

      Then cane the Californian Slim Jim, a snug fitting holster that had a high side over the cylinder and snugly gripped the trigger guard to keep the weapon from falling out.  Later the side was lowered somewhat for quicker release.  The Mexican Buscallaro came along and this is the gun-rig you see in the movies today.  It is unpractical for sitting, riding and would be in the way of a working cowboy.  But this has all been covered again so is redundant here. Shoulder holsters were in use and evident.  And Jessie James was reported to utilize a double rig at times.  The only thing about a set of shoulder holsters with a set of big pistols is the damn things get in the way of your arm movement, think about it..

      Yes, I do have numerous pictures of holstered pistols and ammo belts.  Mostly on far ranging lawmen like the Texas and Arizona Rangers.  Some with double belts of ammo, one for the pistol with the holstered weapon and usually a belt of rifle Ammo wrapped around the belly above.  These are men who look like they mean business, and I will soon give attention to them.  I simply want to give you the reason they existed first.  Almost to a man these men wear their guns high in a cross draw holster, for the reasons I have given above.

     Well this rambling mess was a prelude to the next chapter.  A fellow who was a little more flamboyant.

Once again thanks for listening to a old duffer ramble.

ramblingbob