Archive for the ‘Old West’ Category


August 1, 2008


      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.






July 2, 2008


Let’s return to El Paso, that wild town on the border of West Texas.  When the train finally reached that wild and woolly place, it disgorged a variety of good honest people, along with an abundance of less savory individuals.  In its march toward gentler times and more gentle civilization, we met many of its inhabitants before in these chapters.  There was Dallas Stroudenmire, Doc Cummings and the Manning brothers.  John Westley Harden, Elfego Baca and a host of others passed through.  Along with the gamblers, con men, gunslingers and regular cowboys, there came the Ladies of the Night. This episode covers a pair of famous El Paso Madams.

Etta Clark came by train – petite, and five foot tall – she brought with her a mean temper and a fiery mouth.  She must of had some charms because it was said she had a way with some of El Paso’s better heeled gentlemen.

El Paso had the usual assortment of these ladies of the night.  Beginning with the streetwalkers and crib girls who advertised their wares from the windows of the one-room apartments, or cribs.  Then came the saloon girls who worked in the lofts behind the saloon or upstairs.  At the top of the heap were the madams. 

The parlor houses in El Paso lined Utah Street (Now Mesa Street).  In these establishments were employed only the most beautiful women, in the finest gowns possible.  These establishments only catered to wealthiest men in town.  The men of El Paso had a wide variety of gals to choose from – crib girls worked for as little as fifty-cents to a dollar.  While parlor house gals charged from $3 to $5 (remember we are talking the 1880’s here).

Madams were experts at making money off their girls.  The girls were charged for the use of their rooms, meals, laundry, and any clothes provided them.  Since the girls often had trouble meeting their expenses the madams often permitted them to make a charge account. 

Often a girl became so hopelessly in debt that she could not catch up, and quite often a madam would inflict punishment on a girl for not making up her losses.  A common discipline was to confiscate a girls clothing until her arrears were caught up.    

Several of Etta Clark’s girls found themselves in this state, and from December until April 1882, they sued  Etta – claiming she “wrongly appropriated their belongings” –  eight lawsuits in all were filed.  Clark lost the case and had to pay the girls who had sued her.

Madams advertised their business in various ways.  In the 1901 Worleys Directory of the City of El Paso, Clark recorded her occupation as the owner of furnished rooms, and listed her name as Madam Etta Clark.  Most of the men who looked at the directory knew that meant she rented her rooms by the hour and the “furnishings” included a girl.

Leather-printed cards and advertisements in souvenir booklets for large city events were used.  The ladies were indeed cunning business women.

As stated, Clark was a great business woman. Her weakness was her terrible temper, considered beautiful by some, others found her vicious.  She often ran off customers with her foul mouth, creating more enemies than friends.


Known as “Fat Alice”,  Alice Abbot was Etta Clark’s rival  located just across the street from Clark’s establishment.  Alice arrived in El Paso in 1880, at six feet tall and weighing a formidable two-hundred pounds, Alice was a force to be reckoned with.  No one seems to know why the two became such bitter rivals.  At one time Alice was quoted as saying that “Etta Clark was a whore to niggers”  – the ultimate insult in that prejudicial time.

On April 18, 1886, an argument erupted between Abbot and one of her girls, Bessie Colvin, who wanted to leave and work for Etta Clark.  Bessie sought refuge in Etta’s parlor, with Fat Alice in pursuit.  Alice pounded on Etta’s door with her ham-like fists.  When Etta finally opened the door, Alice punched her in the face.  With great pain and anger, Etta turned and ran to grab a gun.

The incident is reported as follows, “The weapon roared its authority, sending a bullet into Alice’s pubic arch.  Clutching her groin, Alice screamed: “My God, I’m shot.”  She lurched from the hall and staggered down into the street.”  Etta Clark shot again but missed.  When Alice looked up, she caught Clark with a smile on her face as she went back in her house.

El Paso could not help but smile at the thought of the diminutive Clark drawing a heavy handgun and shooting the giant Abbot – a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier – in the most delicate of parts.  They did more than smile if accounts are recorded right – they guffawed.

Alice survived the shooting, despite the risk of blood poisoning, and a fifty-fifty chance of dying. The newspapers called this the case of ” Public Arch Shooting” , hence the title of this chapter, but all who read it knew to what it  actually referenced.  The widely circulated story caused the public to make fun of Abbot, increasing her anger and hate.  To add insult to injury, it only took the jury fifteen minutes to find Etta Clark not guilty on grounds of self defence.  Alice Abbot’s humiliation was now complete.

In the early hours of July 12, 1888 Etta Clark’s parlor house caught fire while she and all the girls were asleep.  They all managed to escape, but the house and all belongings were destroyed.  Later it was determined that Abbot had hired a couple of drunks to start the fires, but gaps in the evidence led to both Alice’s and the mens acquittal.

Etta Clark and her girls were reduced to the level of street walkers.  Etta’s luck changed with the appearance of J. P. Dieter, one of her adoring clients, who built her a new huge parlor.  His wife divorced him and took their children back east.  Etta and Dieter lived as husband and wife without ever becoming married.   

In Februrary 1890 Alice Abbot leased her brothel to a younger woman, Tillie Howard.  Alice spent several lonely and unhappy years and, in her early 40’s, she died  on April 7, 1896  of a heart attack.  She was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery.  Her death went unreported in the papers because of widespread interest in a boxing match and municipal elections, a perfect time to have advertised in earlier days.

In 1904, Etta Clark became ill and decided to run her business from the third floor of the Mayar Opera  House.  The Opera House caught fire and burned down in 1905.  Etta barley escaped alive and suffered complications from smoke inhalation.  During a trip to her sister’s in Alanta in 1908 she died of these complications.. 

The first police officer killed in the line of duty was Assistant city Marshal Thomas Mode.  Mode, responding to a disturbance at Abbot’s brothel along with jailer Jim wheat.  During the investigation of said disturbance, Mode was shot several times and staggered out into the mud of Utah Street, where he died.  No further details are provided of this July 19, 1883 incident.

The fines levied against the streetwalkers and women of the brothels paid the salaries of the police and fire department, so the town fathers turned a deaf ear to the complaints levied about the brothels.   However in 1882 they began enforcing the sections 49 and 73 of the City charter, ordering the arrest of all wanton women and their employers.  Of course the term arrest was a misnomer, what it ment they were fined and turned loose.  This was in effect a license to practice their trade.

Madams all over the west ran their businesses successfully and some see them as the feminists of their age.
So pardners I’ve hung with these gals long enough.  I gotta scoot afore my wife catches me with them.


Related reading:


July 1, 2008



Trees:  We love them, we grow them in our yards, kids climb them and we tie hammocks to them.  Trees are everywhere, and we think nothing about them.  When we go to the hardware store and walk through the lumber department we seldom think to compare them to the shade tree in our front yard.  Also when we think of the old west we never think of the role that the tree played in its development.

Good gosh where to start!  let’s forget for a minute the practice of building the towns and farms, and ranch building.  How about we start with the wagon trains.  Of course the wagons were built of wood but they were for the most part already built east of the Mississippi River.  In their travels toward their western destinations they stopped for the night along the way and cooked evening and morning meals.  This required fire wood.  This was also a boiling point for the Native Americans along the way.  Over time whole groves of woods were depleted, changing the character of the land.  With the removal of the trees animals had no place to shelter – what few were left.  The land eroded and blew away.  But this is an element of the migration that is seldom explored.

Before the westward expansion of the railroad there were along the larger waterways the steamboat.  These required large amounts of cut timber for fire wood.  All along the rivers would be fueling points where cut wood would be taken aboard.  Large crews of timber cutters were employed to fell trees and cut them into lengths of usable fuel.  Once again large tracts of forests were depleted.  First timber near the river was cut ,then later it had to be cut and hauled by wagon – big business was built up around the industry based on lucrative contracts.  Often the cutting parties were the subject of Indian attacks, Not as interesting as an attract on a fort or wagon train, so these were ignored by the movies, and so we remain ignorant of them today. (more…)


June 27, 2008


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 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…)


June 22, 2008


Bass Reeves was born around 1838, in Texas or Arkansas, to Bass reeves, U.S. Marshallparents who were slaves of a Master named Reeves.  It was customary for slaves to take the surname of their master, so the family were known as Reeves also.  Bass’s mother worked in the kitchen, and his father was a house servant.  Bass was an active little boy, constantly underfoot in the big house, and he was a favorite.  When Bass came of age he became the personal servant of Master Reeves.  With the advent of the Civil War Master Reeves assumed the duties of a Confederate Officer, taking Bass with him as his man.

Bass evidently had no fear of his white superiors and evidently was treated almost as an equal.  One evening during the course of a card game an augment arose which came to blows.  Bass threw a punch which left his master out cold on the ground.  As it was a hanging offense for a slave to strike his master, Bass felt it in his best interest to flee the scene.

 Bass fled to the Indian Territories, where he joined the tribes in the Cherokee-Siminole Nations.  There he honed the skills in tracking and scouting that would serve him so well later in life.  He became a proficient shot with the pistols and rifles, in fact later he would be barred from shooting in Turkey Shoots.  One author stated that Bass participated  in the Civil War with the Cherokee Battalions.

When the war ended and blacks were freed he moved to western Kentucky where he married and had a son and daughter.  Bass did a little farming, but supplemented his income substantially by preforming duties for various peace officers as a scout and tracker.  His service also included enforcement things as small as petty misdemeanors to murder.

In 1875 Judge Isaac C. Parker, assumed jurisdiction of  the Fort Smith, Arkansas Federal Court.  This was 75,00 square miles of pure hell.  It was known as “The Indian Territory”, comprising what is now Oklahoma and Western Arkansas.  This was the home of all the Indians who had been transplanted from their eastern homes, and a refuge for criminals of every description.  Towns and villages were few and far between with little in the way of communication.  The Indians had no jurisdiction other than their own.  And the lawless elements were free to roam as they pleased, with no one to monitor them.

Judge Parker began by appointing some 200 Deputy U. S. Marshalls, some we have already met in previous chapters — Heck Thomas (Ned Cristie),  Bill Tighman (little Britches and Cattle Annie, The Doolin Gang).  Judge Parker was eager to enlist good black marshals when he could.  The Indians had a natural distrust of the white deputies, some had abused their powers, and the Indians often trusted Black Deputies more than their white counterparts.  There had been black freemen in the Five Civilized Tribes for years.  In some instances blacks had served as Indian Police, and had served on tribal councils for years.  Even in several towns blacks had been chiefs.

When Bass Reeves was called to Judge Parker’s attention he was delighted.  He felt that as a black marshal this man who boasted that “he knew the Indian territory like a woman knows her kitchen” would be a wise investment.

Bass was a natty dresser, his boots were always polished to a glossy shine, he favored a wide straight brimmed black hat with just slight upturn in the front.  One old timer stated that Bass wore his pistols in different fashions but favored them with the butts facing forward.  He carried a pair of 38-40 Colts, and liked a Winchester Carbine in the same caliber. (more…)


June 19, 2008


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…


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…)


June 18, 2008


Cherokee BillCrawford Goldsby was born on February 8, 1876,  in Fort Concho, Texas.   He was one of four children born to St. George and Ellen Goldsby.   His sisters name was Georgia and the brothers Luther and Clarence.  The father (from Alabama) had been a member of the Tenth United States Cavalry, (The famed Buffalo soldiers).  He claimed to be black, Sioux, Mexican, and white.  He had gone AWOL from the army in Texas because of a fracas of some type.  He fled and found refuge in the Indian Territory .  Bill’s mother was believed to be one half black, one-forth white and one-forth Cherokee.  Born in the Delaware District of the Cherokee Nation, her parents had been slaves owned at one time by a Cherokee, Jeffery Beck.

 Abandoned by her husband in Texas, Bills mother went to her family at Fort Gibson – Indian Territory.  She in turn abandoned her son Crawford, leaving him in the care of a black woman, Amanda Foster.  He remained there until the age of seven, then moved to Fort Gibson with his mother.  He was then sent to the Cherokee, Kansas, Indian School.  He spent three years there, then was sent to Carlisle Industrial School for Indians in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for two years.  Seemingly to no avail, for some sources claim he could barley read or write.

After leaving school he returned to Oklahoma.

Crawford’s mother remarried when he was about thirteen.  He did not like or get along with his step- father.  He began to hang with the wrong crowd and started drinking liquor and rebelling against authority.

At fifteen, he went to live with his sister, Georgia, and her husband.

At seventeen, he worked on a ranch where it was said he was liked by all.

At eighteen  he attended a dance at Fort Gibson.  A fellow by the name of Jake Lewis beat up his little Bill Cook of The Cook Gangbrother.  Crawford shot him twice and, feeling that discretion was the better part of valor, he headed for the Creek and Seminole Nations.   There he would meet the Cook brothers Jim and Bill. 

( Oklahoma was not just the home of the Cherokee, this was where the government was trying to cram all the eastern Indians at the time.  This was land originally thought of as no one would want, but now the whites were eyeing large parts of it, wanting it for themselves.)

The Cooks were already wanted by the law.  In the summer of 1894 they persuaded a restaurant owner to go and collect some money that was due each of them from as payment for some land, in the sale of the Cherokee Strip.  She did collect the money for them, but was trailed by a  sheriff’s posse attempting to apprehend the Cook brothers.  There was a gunfight as a result,  with one wounded and one killed.  The restaurant owner was later questioned and asked if Crawford was one of the three.  She replied no that the third one was “the Cherokee Kid”.  This is where Crawford obtained his nickname of Cherokee Bill.

Now with a string of robberies and murders across the Cherokee and Seminole Nations in July of 1894, TCook Gang with Cherokee Billhe Cook Gang had made itself known.

Here biographers differ in belief, some do not think Crawford began his trail of exploits until his eighteenth year when he joned forces with the Cook’s.  Others believe he killed his first man at twelve – Supposedly his brother-in-law over something to do with feeding hogs.  

Also they do not agree on how he got the name Cherokee Bill.  The number of people he killed ranges from seven to as many as thirteen.  But all agree that by eighteen he had joined the Bill Cook Gang .  Bill later formed his own gang.  Some claim he rode with Henry Star, Belle Star’s son.  Others claim he only met Henry Star in Jail.  He claimed to have ridden with Billy, The Kid, but no one really belives that statement.   (more…)


June 10, 2008


 When I left off last time I had taken the tale to the point Judge Parker Quotewhere Ned had fled to the remote area of the territory in an effort to give the Fort Smith crowd a time to cool of in their fervor to capture him.  At this time I belive I should give cause as to the U. S. Marshall’s office and the Hanging Judge Parker’s belief in his guilt.  First, Ned’s jacket he Painting Of Hanging Judge Parkerhad on the night of his drunken stupor was found near where he had passed out.  In the pocket was found the broken neck of the whiskey bottle from the night before.  Also found was the strip of cloth torn from Nancy “Old Lady” Shell’s apron, used to stopper the drink.  Near the scene of the shooting were the broken remains of the whiskey bottle.  This was enough to convince the investigating officers of Ned’s guilt.  So the warrant and order for arrest was issued.

     After Ned fled the area, John Parris and a second drinking parner of the night, Charlie Bobtail,  were confined to jail in Fort Smith.  They were both charged in the murder of Maples along with Christie and Bub Trainor.  However Trainor claimed that he was eating supper at Nancy Shell’s and well before the shooting, so he was released on bail.  He continued to raise hell, and appeared in court on various other charges.  Judge Parker ruled that the case could not go forward without the apprehension of Christie.

Image of Deputy Marshall Dan Maples On May 18, 1889,  Jacob Yates took over the duties of marshal.  A man of strong principles, he started to clean up the back log of cases before him.   The thing that most bothered him was the unsolved case of the killing of Deputy Marshal Dan Maples (image of maples in B&W, at left).  He called upon his most trusted Deputy Marshall – Heck Thomas, reminding him there was a $500 reward for Ned Christie.

    Heck Thomas was one of the most active officers ever to join the U. S. Marshals office.  In November of 1887 he is Deputy Marshall Heck Thomasreputed to have brought in a record 41 fugitives on one trip.

   Thomas enlisted the skill of a well known tracker one L. P. Isbell, also a marshal ,and started his usual circuit of the territory.  At Muskogee, they turned over 13 prisoners under guard, and met Bub Trainor.  Trainor knew Ned Christie and also knew his habits and haunts quite well.  Trainor claimed he wanted Christie captured to clear his own name.

   In late September of 1889, Heck Thomas with a posse of 13 men located Ned Christie at his home in Rabbit Trap.  In the early dawn of the 26th, they surrounded and crept near the house.  Suddenly the large pack of dogs Christie kept began to bark and give the alarm.  Thomas gave the order to rush the cabin.  They could hear Ned scramble into the loft.

    Deputy Thomas shouted for Christie to surrender.  The outlaw kicked a plank off the end of the loft and opened fire with his deadly Winchester.  Thomas then shouted that” if he was going to fight to first send out his women and children”.  Christie continued to fire.  The next move of the posse was to set fire to a small out-building near the house, hoping the smoke might flush out the occupants of the house. The desired effect was achieved – Nancy Christie soon ran out of the house.  Young James remained behind, scrambling into the loft to reload his fathers guns. (more…)


June 7, 2008


     If you believe the dime novels of the time NED CHRISTIE  was reportedly one of the most vicious men ever to  raise a gun in Indian Territory.  It was claimed that he was a born killer, cold blooded and ruthless.  It was claimed he had a maniacal hatred of the whites.  Rumors had it that he had killed 11 or more people, though he was only charged with one murder.

     Let’s meet this intriguing individual, who grew to be a legend among his people, The Cherokee.  Edward (Ned) Christie was born on December 14, 1852.  Ned’s father Watt, was a respected elected member of the Cherokee National Council.  The Christie family got their family name from Ned’s grandmother, an Irish woman, who died along with thousands of others on the disgraceful “Trail Of Tears” – when the Cherokee people were forcefully removed from their eastern homes to the Indian teritory in 1838.  This was a story that Ned and his brothers heard about growing up in their father’s blacksmith shop.

     Young Ned learned the blacksmith trade along with gunsmithing, and became quite skilled at both crafts.  Ned’s father and his uncle’s sided with the union during the Civil War (many Cherokee fought for one side or the other in the civil War, but that is a diffrent story).  Watt Christie said he was forced from his North Carolina home in 1838, and declared he would not be driven out again.  Ned remained home to help defend the rest of the family.

     Following the war, several of Ned’s brothers and father served in the Cherokee Legislature for the Growing Snake district.  In 1885, Ned was also elected to his first term in the National Concil – His hot tempered speeches on the legislative floor in defence of Cherokee Sovereignty became widely known and admired.  A movement was underway to open up a two million tract of land known as The Unassigned Lands, in the heart of Indian Territory, for white settlement.  The Indians were being pressured to to take their lands in individual allotments, thus eleminating the tribes as seperate nations.  Christie knew that if this happened, the white man would soon – legally or illegally – be in charge of those allotments.  At this same time intruders and illegal whiskey was plaguing the Cherokee Nation.

    On Easter morning, April 10,1887, the Cherokee Female Seminary burned.  The Executive concil, including Christie, were called into session in Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation’s capital, to see what could be done about rebuilding.

    Christie lived in Rabbit Trap community with his third wife, Nancy (Ned would eventually marry four times), and a son from a previous marriage, 13 year old James.  When the council was in session, Christe customarily stayed in town at the home of Senator Ned Grease, a relative of Nancy’s.  After a busy day, Ned, like many of his friends liked to go town and find a drink of whiskey.  And like many of his friends Ned often drank too much.  In 1884 Ned had been tried for the killing of young cherokee man, William Palone, in a liquor-related incident.  Christie was tried and found not guilty.

     Just a long  word here about the names found on these pages.  In an article I found on the Cherokee newspaper website, it is stated that the Cherokee used to have only one name.  When the white man came along and started to keep track of them, there were so many using the same name it was impossible to keep records.  Therefore, to simplify things, they made the Cherokee take second names –  Which is probably why the Christie family took the Grandmothers Irish name, as the Cherokee was a matrical society.  Many Cherokee thought this was a white mans joke and chose silly names like “Billy Possium Eater” and such.  I am supposed to have Cherokee blood on both sides but can not pin it down.  On one side I tried and found that Hicks (a family name on my grandmothers side) is a very common name for Cherokees, but lost the line trying to track it down to us.  ‘Nuff about this, needless to say we will find many white sounding names in this story.   (more…)


May 26, 2008


     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:





     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.



      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.



     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…)