Lost Photo of Crook’s Scout Discovered?An unseen stereoview by John Campbell Burge opens up the discussion.
John Campbell Burge is one of my favorite Territorial Arizona photographers. Though his work is less common than other early Arizona photographers, Burge had a fine touch with his stereoviews, capturing motion and the personality of his subjects, and creating aesthetically pleasing scenic images.
This is a brief story about a stereoview by Burge that I’d never seen before.
The “New” Burge Stereoview
Burge was an itinerant photographer. His first studio was the Phoenix Gallery on Montezuma Street in Prescott, which he opened in April 1881. He moved his operation briefly to Phoenix that summer, before returning to Prescott that fall.
In early 1882, he moved his studio to Globe and traveled throughout eastern Arizona to the mining communities and the San Carlos reservation.
In 1885, he moved to Flagstaff and formed a partnership with James Hildreth. Burge made images of northern Arizona for several years before moving east—first to Kingston, then to Deming, New Mexico Territory, at the end of the 1880s, then on to El Paso, Texas, in the 1890s.
The image of his I’d never seen before was on a yellow Burge mount, and it depicted a camp scene of six individuals, in front of a lean-to under the shade of a large cottonwood tree, with a seventh figure in front of a tent at the rear.
Three of the American Indians wear shell coats, and one wears a backpack. Three men, including the only white in the scene, lean on rifles. A young woman draped in a blanket kneels at the base of the tree. The individual on the right leans against a branch, posed to create a separation with the background to enhance the stereo effect.
The white gentleman wears a medal and is shaking hands with an older Indian who wears a headband. The photographer’s imprint on the mount is the only identification available, but the man looked familiar. A search of relevant figures in Arizona Territory at the time located a comparison image for Corydon Eliphalet Cooley.
Could This Be Cooley?
Cooley was born on April 2, 1836, in Loudoun, Virginia, and served in Company C of the 1st New Mexico Cavalry during the Civil War. His unit served on garrison duty and engaged in operations against Indians and Confederate forces in Arizona and New Mexico Territories. During the war, Cooley became knowledgeable with central and northeastern Arizona Territory, and the White Mountain Apaches who lived there.
After the war, Cooley located his home base, Cooley’s ranch, about 10 miles east of Camp Apache in Arizona Territory. Cooley’s special connection with the Apaches came to the attention of George Crook soon after the general arrived in the territory. Crook hired Cooley, whose relationship with the Apaches proved invaluable in recruiting scouts and guiding troops as they attempted to contain uprisings through the territory.
In 1874, Dudley Flanders took a stereo photo of Crook with his Apache scouts at Camp Apache. Cooley appears at the right group of men, standing at the rear, in a white shirt. Unfortunately, he moved during the exposure, so his face is blurred in the image, but he also has a beard and wears a hat similar to the man in the Burge image.
Burge took his stereo about eight years after the Flanders stereo, while Burge was working out of his studio in Globe, which places it during Crook’s second Apache campaign. Cooley retired from his service with Crook in November 1882 and returned to his ranch. If the stereo can be definitively dated before that date, it would increase the likelihood that Cooley is the scout depicted.
An Ongoing Challenge
Identifying individuals in historical photographs without provenance or definitively identified copies for comparison is an ongoing challenge. Understanding the format, mount style and information embedded within the image, as well as the context of the photographer who created it, provides extra ammunition for identification.
Unfortunately, the Burge image provides little information about the location where it was made. The subjects appear to be scouts in a camp with both an Apache-style lean-to and what appears to be a military-style tent at the rear behind the tree.
The white gentleman I believe to be Cooley is wearing a badge. Since the badge provides little detail, it does not aid in identifying the image or individual. Cooley was, however, appointed sheriff of Yavapai County in 1877, so if this is a sheriff badge, that could further increase the notion that this photograph depicts him.
A comparison with the Flanders imageand later images of Cooley shows a least a believable similarity in terms of facial characteristics, beard and style of head gear.
In the end, though, identification often boils down to beliefs.Hopefully, this Burge stereo will encourage a lively discussion about the process of researching potential attributions.
Do you believe that the white scout in this image is Cooley?
Jeremy Rowe has collected 19th-century and early 20th-century photographs for more than 30 years. He has written several photography books and has curated museum exhibits, including a permanent one at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is emeritus professor at Arizona State University and a senior research scientist at New York University.
A Belle of Old Fort SumnerAn unpublished manuscript by Walter Noble Burns offers revelations to the biographer’s groundbreaking account of outlaw Billy the Kid’s life.
Walter Noble Burns was onto something. A 56-year-old Chicago journalist, Burns had become intrigued by a long-dead and largely forgotten outlaw named Billy the Kid. He suspected the Kid’s bloody career might make a good story. So, in the summer of 1923, Burns traveled to far-off New Mexico, hoping to find and interview old-timers who had known the gunslinger.
The three-month trip could not have gone better. Burns located several of the Kid’s associates and thrilled at their vivid and stirring reminiscences. Perhaps his biggest catch was Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo, a woman whom several informants singled out as the Kid’s lover and the sole reason for the outlaw’s fateful return to Fort Sumner after his notorious Lincoln County jail escape in the spring of 1881.
Soon after Burns returned to Chicago, he completed two articles based on his New Mexico interviews. One told the story of the Lincoln County War, primarily through the words of Susan McSween Barber, whose first husband, attorney Alexander McSween, was one of that deadly feud’s protagonists.
The second article focused on the Kid’s final exploits. It was also the story of Jaramillo, who narrates the Kid’s tale. Burns titled the article, “A Belle of Old Fort Sumner.”
Curiously, Burns’s two articles never appeared in print. A likely explanation is that Burns realized he had the makings of a book; he submitted a book proposal on the Kid to Doubleday, Page & Co. in October 1923. Three years later, his seminal The Saga of Billy the Kid appeared, becoming an immediate bestseller and making the Kid a household name for all time.
What of those two articles? Burns recycled much of the information for his book, but he wrapped the article typescripts in brown paper, tied the package with a string and stored them away. There they remained until a cache of Burns manuscripts surfaced in an online auction in 2017.
Because Burns’s New Mexico interview notes do not seem to have survived, these articles, with their long quotations and written while these tales were still swirling in his mind, may be the closest we will get to the actual words said by Barber and Jaramillo—and perhaps even the words said by the Kid.
In the article published here, Burns gives us Jaramillo’s version of the Kid’s Lincoln jail escape, which she claimed as the “true one.” Yet she wasn’t even in Lincoln at the time, so where did she get her account?Only the Kid would have known some of the details she relates. On the other hand, Burns may have created a fiction, using Jaramillo to tell the story as a literary device.Scholars have long questioned Burns’s quoted material in his Kid biography, surmising it contains a good deal of embellishment. (The only changes made are fixing typos, adding paragraph breaks, clarifying punctuation and correcting names to conform to accepted spellings.)
A keen-eyed reader of both The Saga of Billy the Kid and the following article will find thought-provoking discrepancies, raising more questions that cannot be easily answered.Even so, Burns was a masterful storyteller, and his first crack at writing the Kid’s story provides us with a fascinating look at the beginnings of a true epic.
Sheriff Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid were contemporaries in one of the most dramatic periods of New Mexico’s history.
Garrett was a brave and efficient officer. He was the kind of man the times and the country needed. When he became sheriff of Lincoln County, the county was the most lawless section of the Southwest. Most of the men of the country lived by the six-shooter, and many died by it. The trigger finger was judge, jury and executioner.
When Garrett retired from office, Lincoln County was as peaceful as a New England countryside. He wiped out one of the most desperate bands that ever set law at defiance. That was his job, and though he took his life in his hands when he undertook it, he finished the job in workmanly and thorough style. Once he had taken the trail, he followed it remorselessly to the end, and when he had reached the end, every member of the band was dead, in prison or had been run out of the country. The establishment of law and order west of the Pecos was due to this fighting, relentless officer more than to any other one man.
Billy the Kid was an opposite type. He stood for lawlessness as Garrett for law. He was distinguished as a killer and desperado in a day of killers and desperadoes. He marked out a trail of blood as a fighter on the McSween side against the Murphy faction in the Lincoln County War, the bloodiest vendetta of border history. He became later the leader of a band of outlaws that terrorized New Mexico Territory. How many men this precocious genius in homicide sent to their graves probably will never be accurately known.
When Pat Garrett snuffed out his life at Fort Sumner, Billy the Kid was twenty-one years old and is popularly supposed to have killed twenty-one men—a man for every year of his life.
Both Billy the Kid and Sheriff Pat Garrettmade history in New Mexico. One brought opprobrium on the territory, the other deserved the state’s undying gratitude. But go into New Mexico today, and you will find a paradox. Everywhere you will hear Garrett disparaged or damned with faint praise. He was “cold-blooded and heartless.” He was a “coward.” He was “friend to no man.” He wiped out Billy the Kid and his gang—yes—but he did it from “mercenary motives for the blood-money rewards offered on the heads of old friends.”
You will find, on the other hand, Billy the Kid held in affectionate memory. His crimes are minimized or forgotten. A halo has been placed about his scapegrace brow. His courage, generosity, loyalty are extolled. He was engaging, devil-may-care, lighthearted, just a boy, more sinned against than sinning, a scapegoat for the misdeeds of others. Men still admire him; women sing his praises and lament his fate. An anthology of ballads and border poetry has grown up about him. Tradition has clothed him with glamour as a hero. He has become a figure of eternal youth riding through eternal romance.
So the years have played strange tricks with the fame of these two, begrudging just honor to the champion of law and bestowing sympathy and admiration on the outlaw, evolving frommyth, false romanticism and underdog psychology one of fate’s classic satires.
If you drop in any pleasant day upon Fort Sumner, New Mexico, a little town that has grown up in the last few years five miles from the site of Old Fort Sumner, you will perhaps find Mrs. Paulita Jaramillo in a comfortable rocking chair on the rose-embowered porch of her little cottage. How old the lady is it were not gallant to inquire, but it may be whispered discreetly that she was a blooming girl of eighteen in 1881 when Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid in her home. She still has claims to comeliness. Her darkhair is only lightly streaked with gray, her face is of olive smoothness and her black eyes have a sparkle that age has had no power to dim.
It is easy to fancy her the dashing beauty she is said to have been when she was the belle of Old Fort Sumner and the toast of hard-riding cavaliers of all the cattle ranges from Santa Rosa, Puerto de Luna and Anton Chico to Roswell and Seven Rivers and from the Upper Pecos to Rio Peñasco. She knew on terms of intimate friendship Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid and the men who rode and fought with them, and if you chance to be interested in stories of the kind, she can thrill you with tales of personal experiences in frontier days whose drama was the background of her early life.
Mrs. Jaramillo is the daughter of a family distinguished in the early annals of New Mexico. When Lucian B. Maxwell, her father, a native of Illinois, settled in New Mexico, it was still a province of Mexico. He married Luz Beaubien, daughter of Charles Hipolyte Trotier, Sieur de Beaubien, a Canadian of noble lineage, and a pioneer Santa Fe Trail trader who reached New Mexico in 1823, and of Paula Lobato, of an old Spanish family. With Don Guadalupe Miranda, Beaubien obtained from the government of New Mexico a grant of land of vast extent in the northern part of the province, afterwards famous as the Maxwell grant. Miranda sold out his interest to Beaubien and, upon the latter’s death in 1864, Maxwell through purchase from the heirs became the sole owner of a tract larger than three states the size of Rhode Island and embracing more than a million acres. The land today is dotted with towns, cities and mines and is worth at a modest estimate $50,000,000.
Maxwell built a veritable palace at Cimarron where for years he lived in a style of baronial magnificence. Traders who freighted merchandise over the old Santa Fe Trail which passed his door, descendants of thepioneer hidalgos, cattle kings, governors, army officers and distinguished men of America and Europe enjoyed his hospitality. His cellars were filled with champagne and costly vintages, his tables were laid for two dozen guests a day and the viands were served in dishes of solid gold and silver.
Owner of great herds of sheep and cattle, founder of the First National Bank of Santa Fe, this feudal lord of the old frontier finally sold his lands for the reputed sum of $750,000, lost a large part of his fortune in unfortunate investments and retired to Fort Sumner where he died in 1875.
But aside from her father’s spectacular career, Mrs. Jaramillo has a picturesque interest of her own. This daughter of a famous house has the name throughout New Mexico of having been Billy the Kid’s sweetheart. You hear the story everywhere. Frank Coe, who fought with Billy the Kid in the Lincoln County War; Mrs. Susan E. Barber of White Oaks, widow of Alexander McSween, leader of one of the factions in that deadliest of border vendettas; Mrs. Sallie Roberts of Roswell, niece of John Chisum, famous cattle king of the Pecos; Martin Chaves, Nicholas Seña, Yginio Salazar, Miguel Luna and most of the old-timers, whose memories hark back to the old days, still roll the romantic legend over their tongues.
Mrs. Jaramillo’s neighbors in Fort Sumner repeat the tale and add that she and Billy the Kid planned to elope on horseback to Mexico on the night following that on which Billy the Kid was killed. You will hear at Las Tablas, a little village in the foothills of the Capitans through which the Kid passed after his celebrated escape from Lincoln, that he said to an old Mexican, “I am going to Fort Sumner to see my sweetheart if it costs me my life.”
So when you meet Mrs. Jaramillo, you are keen to hear the details of this old romance. But Mrs. Jaramillo declares quite positively the story is a fable.
“That old story,” she said, “has been going the rounds for more than forty years, but it is not true. Billy the Kid and I were good friends, and that was all. If I had loved him and he had wanted me, I would have married him no matter what he had done or what the world might have thought. But neither of us ever dreamed of love or marriage, and the story of our planned elopement is absurd.
“Strange as it may seem, Billy the Kid fascinated many women and his record as a heartbreaker was as formidable as his record as a mankiller. He numbered his queridas by the dozen, and in almost every little town and placita, some black-eyed girl was proud to be known as his light o’ love.
“I know of one woman of wealth still living in New Mexico who ate out her heart for love of him. He had at various times three sweethearts in Fort Sumner. One of them, I am told, is now a respected matron inLas Vegas. Another had a daughter who lived to be eight years old, and whose striking resemblance to the famous outlaw filled the mother’s heart with pride. The third and last was the lure that drew him to his death. But it is just as well to let those old scandals sleep. The mention of names, even at this late day, might stir up a hornet’s nest.”
So, as far as this old sweetheart story is concerned, that’s that, as the phrase goes.
“I remember,” Mrs. Jaramillo said, “the first day Pat Garrett ever set foot in Fort Sumner. It was in February 1879, and he came to our home to ask Pete Maxwell, my brother, for a job as a cowboy. He was fresh from the Texas Panhandle where he hadmade a living hunting buffaloes. I was a little girl and stood behind my brother on the porch with my finger in my mouth and stared at him. He was the tallest man I had ever seen and had the longest funniest legs. His clothes were worn and weather-stained, and the queerest part of his make-up was a pair of hairy buffalo-skin leggings. But this scarecrow man had a twinkle in his gray eyes and good humor in his drawling voice, and he smiled his way into a job. He worked on the range for my brother until Pete had a disagreement with him and discharged him.
“After that, Garrett opened a restaurant in Fort Sumner and later went into partnership with old Beaver Smith in a store and saloon. He liked a social glass and was a great hand to play poker and monte, and the men used to like to play with him because he usually lost. Pete and he made up their differences, and, many an evening, Garrett spent in our home, spinning yarns about his adventures on the buffalo ranges. He was a freehanded, easygoing sort of man, and everybody liked him.
“Billy the Kid and his band were at the height of their career as outlaws then. They made Fort Sumner their headquarters and were in town and gone again every little while, usually with their pockets full of money.
“Garrett became good friends with all those fellows—Charlie Bowdre and Tom Folliard, who lived in Fort Sumner, Jim French, Billy Wilson, John Middleton, Henry Brown, Doc Scurlock, Dave Rudabaugh and the rest. He ate and drank and played cards with Billy the Kid, went to dances with him and gallivanted around with the same Mexican girls.
“I have seen them both, more than once, down on their knees around a blanket stretched on the ground in the main street, gambling their heads off, as they say, against a monte game. If Pat went broke, he borrowed from Billy, and if Billy went broke, he borrowed from Pat.
“Sometimes they engaged in friendly shooting contests. Both were crack shots. It was a toss up between them when it came to the rifle, but the Kid was the better shot with the revolver. He was a six-shooter specialist and, at quickness in drawing his weapon and at the same time shooting accurately, no man in the country was his equal.
“The point I am making is that in those days, the two were as thick as peas in a pod. There was probably not a man in Fort Sumner whom the Kid regarded as a better friend than Pat Garrett.
“I knew all these boys well. Fort Sumner was a gay little place socially. It had been a frontier army post—abandoned in the sixties—and had a gay tradition. The weekly dance was an event, and the pretty girls from the ranches and towns fifty miles away rode in to attend it. In the code of those days, any man who was courteous to women was considered a gentleman, and no questions asked, and as there was no law to speak of in the country, an outlaw who lived up to this simple standard, was as welcome at Fort Sumner’s social affairs as anybody else.
“Billy the Kid, let me tell you, cut quite a gallant figure at these jolly dances. With his smiling boyish good looks and easy debonair bearing, he was in great favor as a cavalier, and the little Mexican beauties made eyes at him from behind their fans and brought into play all their arts of coquetry to capture his attentions. Billy was polite and good-natured, not afraid of anybody and talked Spanish like a Mexican.
“It makes me sad nowadays when I drive out from New Fort Sumner to the scene of these frolics and merry-makings of my girlhood. Old Fort Sumner is a town that was. Not a single house is left standing. Grass-grown mounds mark the foundation walls of my old home and outline the room in which Billy the Kid was killed. The famous twin rows of giant cottonwoods that once formed a shady boulevard five miles long show ragged gaps. The bronze-red waters of the Pecos have eaten away much of what was the main street. Jackrabbits scuttle over the old parade ground, a favorite lovers’ walk in the old days. The peach orchards that framed the village in pink blossoms in the spring have disappeared. I must take my memories with me when I go there. Nothing is left on the level, desolate waste of wild grass and weeds to remind me of the picturesque and lively town I once knew.
“Garrett married twice during his residence of more than two years in Fort Sumner. Juanita Martinez, his first wife, died a few weeks after the wedding. His second wife, Apolinaria Gutiérrez, now his widow, is still living in Las Cruces. Shortly after his second marriage in 1880, Garrett moved to Roswell and was elected by John Chisum and the cattle interests sheriff of Lincoln County.
“Chisum, at that time, was the largest individual cattle owner in the Southwest or in the United States, for that matter. He had been a friend of Billy the Kid during the Lincoln County War and had supported the McSween faction, with which the Kid fought. But the Kid later had turned cattle rustler, and Chisum’s herds had suffered from his raids. The hour had come when, for his own business interests and the future of the territory, lawlessness must be suppressed, and Chisum found the man for the hour in Pat Garrett.
“Garrett’s selection to be sheriff was a surprise in Fort Sumner. He was practically unknown. He had no experience as a manhunter and no reputation as a fighter. But for the purposes of Chisum and the cattlemen, he had one qualification that outweighed everything else. That was his old-time friendship for Billy the Kid and his followers. This had given him a familiar knowledge of all their old trails, their favorite haunts and their secret places of rendezvous and refuge.
“The one big thing Garrett was called on to do as sheriff was to hunt down these old friends. I do not say this with malice, but merely as a fact. There is no law against a man’s making new friends or turning against old ones, and if we remember that Garrett had been a friend of outlaws, we must not forget he had never condoned outlawry. He assumed office with the philosophic attitude of a poker player who, when heputs his legs under the table, declares, ‘Here’s where friendship ceases.’ Certainly, he was outspoken and frank about what he proposed to do. When he became sheriff, Billy the Kid knew exactly what it meant. From that time on, it was war to the death between them.
“Tom Folliard was the first to die. Garrett had word the Kid was coming into Fort Sumner to attend a big Christmas dance. This was in 1880. With a posse of fifteen men, Garrett rode into town. They put up their horses in my brother Pete’s barn and hid themselves in the old military hospital commanding the road by which the Kid was expected to come. While waiting for the outlaws, Garrett, Barney Mason, Tom Emory and Bob Williams whiled away the time playing poker.
“About eleven o’clock at night, one of their sentinels ran in with the announcement that Billy the Kid was coming. They rushed out to see five horsemen approaching through the darkness. ‘Hands up!’ shouted Garrett.
“Four of the riders wheeled and galloped off in a shower of bullets from Garrett’s men. Folliard, mortally wounded, cried, ‘Don’t shoot any more. I’m killed.’ He slid from his saddle into the arms of Garrett and Mason as they ran up.
“I heard all this as my mother and I were sitting at home, and ran up on our upper porch to see what I could see. It was a cold, perfectly still, moonlight night with snow on the ground. I could see the crowd of men in the road. Folliard had begun to scream curses on Garrett’s head. I heard Barney Mason say: ‘Be game, old boy. Take your medicine like a man.’
“They carried the dying man inside. For a long time I could still hear his muffled groans and curses. Then his voice began to grow fainter, and, at last, there was silence. Mason said afterwards that he and Garrett and the others went back to their card game and played calmly while Folliard breathed his last on a blanket in a corner, and for several hours after he was dead.
“They buried the dead man in the little military cemetery near town next day, and Garrett and his posse strucknorth to round up the others. The four who had escaped were Charlie Bowdre, Billy Wilson, Tom Pickett and Dave Rudabaugh. Billy the Kid had been with them until within a mile of town, but for some crafty reason of his own, had left them to ride in alone by another road. He had heard the firing and joined the others as they spurred their horses on the back trail.
“The fugitives took refuge in an old stone house on Arroyo Tiban twenty miles from Fort Sumner. There, Garrett’s posse surrounded them. When dawn came, Garrett and three others lay in ambush in a ravine thirty feet from the door. Bowdre stepped out with a moral in his hand to feed his horse. He had on Billy the Kid’s hat, and Garrett, in the dim light, thought he was Billy the Kid. He and ——- ——— shot him. Bowdre ran back inside fatally wounded. The posse heard Billy the Kid say, ‘You are as good as dead, Charlie. Go out and see if you can’t kill one of those fellows.’ Dying, Bowdre obeyed orders. He staggered outdoors. He murmured, ‘I wish—I wish.’ Then he fell dead.
“Garrett and his men killed the band’s horses tethered in front of the house. That took away the only chance of escape. Cold, hungry, worn out, the Kid surrendered late in the afternoon. Garrett brought his four prisoners, with Bowdre’s body lying in a wagon, into Fort Sumner. When they carried the corpse into his old home, Manuela, his widow, went crazy with grief and knocked down one of the possemen, Jim East, with a branding iron. Bowdre was buried beside Folliard. The row of graves was growing.
“The Kid was tried in March in Mesilla for the murder of Sheriff William Brady in the Lincoln County War and sentenced to die on the gallows on May 13. While awaiting execution, he was held in an upper room in the courthouse at Lincoln under close guard by Deputy Sheriffs Bob Olinger and J.W. Bell. Steel manacles on his wrists and ankles were never removed. He ate and slept with them on. His case seemed hopeless.
“Olinger was himself a desperado. He was said to have killed three men. In the old feud, Olinger had fought with the Murphy faction and the Kid on the McSween side. The Kid had killed Bob Beckwith, one of Olinger’s best friends, and Olinger had hungered and thirsted for vengeance. There was deep and bitter enmity between them. Olinger hated the Kid, and the Kid hated him.
“Nothing gave Olinger such joy as to heap insults on the Kid and throw taunts in his teeth. ‘Well, Kid,’ he would say every morning, ‘you are one day nearer the gallows.’ He loaded a shotgun before the Kid’s eyes with nine buckshot in each barrel. ‘Try to get away, Kid,’ he jeered, ‘and you will get eighteen buckshots between your shoulders.’
“Billy laughed. He kept up a constant unruffled show of cheerfulness and good humor. He told funny stories; he cracked jokes. His two guards began to think he was resigned to his fate. But they misjudged their man. The Kid was never so dangerous as when he smiled. He was the kind that never gave up hope. With him, no game was lost until the last card had been played. All the time, he was watching with the alert patience of a panther for his opportunity. When it came at last, it was one chance in a million.
“There are many versions of what happened. I’ll tell you the true one. At noon one day—it was April 28—Olinger went across the road to the old Murphy hotel for dinner, leaving Billy alone with Bell.
“Billy seemed in high spirits. ‘Well, amigo,’ he said to Bell, ‘only a few more days left for me. Let’s have a game of monte.’ Bell, who was a good hearted man, agreed just to humor him. He dealt out the cards on a table. Billy, sitting on the edge of the table with his hands and legs still manacled, bucked the bank. He joked and laughed as he played.
“Suddenly as if by accident he knocked a card on the floor. Bell reached down to pick it up, and, when he straightened up with the card, he was looking into the muzzle of his own six-shooter that Billy had snatched from its scabbard.
“‘I don’t want to kill you, Bell,’ Billy said. ‘You have been good to me. Step into that next room and I will lock you up.’ But Bell turned and ran out the door, and Billy killed him as he started down the stairs. The hole made by the bullet that passed through Bell’s heart is still in the wall in the old courthouse.
“Hearing the shot, Olinger came running across the road. Billy caught up the shotgun that Olinger had loaded with buckshot for Billy and stepped to a window. When Olinger was just beneath him, Billy stuck his head out and said quietly, ‘Hello, Bob.’ As Olinger looked up, Billy riddled him with both barrels. Then he threw the gun crashing down on his body. That was probably the happiest moment of the Kid’s life.
“Billy armed himself with two six-shooters and a Winchester which had been kept in a room known as the jail armory, hobbled downstairs and, stepping over Bell’s body, went out a back door. He made old man Gauss, the jail cook, file the chains that held together the steel cuffs on his wrists and legs. Then he ordered Gauss to catch a pony in the jail pasture and saddle it for him. All this took more than an hour.
“None of the townspeople came to investigate. They guessed what had happened and stayed discreetly in their homes, leaving Lincoln’s one street silent and deserted. And all the while, Billy was as cool, Gauss said, as a boy eating apples. ‘Goodbye, old man, take care of yourself,’ he said cheerfully as he swung himself on the pony. He rode out of town in an easy gallop, his rifle across his saddle bow, whistling a little tune.”
Mrs. Jaramillo paused in her epic story. She took occasion to comment that it was foolish for Billy the Kid, escaped from the shadow of the gallows, to go to Fort Sumner where he might have known Garrett would hunt for him the first thing. He should have headed for the Mexican border, she said, once across which he would have been safe.
“But to Fort Sumner he rode, as straight as a bird can fly,” she continued, “to see his sweetheart and to meet his fate. Garrett heard he was in hiding there.
“On the night of July 14, Garrett came to Fort Sumner with two deputies, Kip McKinney and John W. Poe, later to become a man of wealth and influence and who died a few months ago president of the Citizens’ National Bank of Roswell. They hitched their horses in a peach orchard at the edge of town and stole through the streets in the shadows of the houses to our home. Poe and McKinney sat on the edge of the porch while Garrett stepped into Pete Maxwell’s bedroom to question my brother about the Kid’s hiding place.
“The Kid at that moment was not more than thirty yards away in the house of Saval Gutiérrez, Garrett’s brother-in-law. He had come in a few moments before from a sheep camp. Tired and hungry, he took off his boots, coat and hat and, flinging himself down on a bed, asked Celsa Gutiérrez, Saval’s wife, to cook him something to eat. Celsa said she had nothing but tortillas and coffee, but gave him a butcher knife and told him to go to Pete Maxwell’s house and cut some meat from the carcass of a beef butchered the day before and hanging on the north porch.
“So bare-headed, hatless, coatless, with the butcher knife in his hand and his 41-caliber revolver in his belt, Billy started across a little open space to our house. Concealed behind a little paling fence, Poe and McKinney saw him coming through the moonlight. They thought he was one of Pete’s sheepherders.
“When the Kid opened the gate and stepped on the porch, he almost stumbled over the two deputies. Out came his gun as quick as a flash. ‘Quien es?’ (Who are you?) he asked, covering them. ‘Needn’t be afraid,’ Poe said to the supposed sheepherder. ‘Nobody’s going to hurt you.’ The Kid, keeping his revolver leveled, backed across the porch into the open door of Pete’s room.
“The room was dark. Pete lay in bed in a corner. Garrett sat at the head of the bed in a chair against the wall. Coming in out of the bright moonlight, the darkness for a moment blinded the Kid. He stepped to the side of the bed so close to Garrett he could have touched him and said to Pete, ‘Quien es son esos afuera?’ (Who are those fellows outside?) Pete did not answer.
“The Kid caught a sudden glimpse of Garrett’s shadowy figure. He sprang back quickly and covered Garrett with his gun. ‘Quien es?’ he said.
“Garrett answered with his six-shooter, and the Kid fell dead in the middle of the floor with a bullet through his heart.
“I was asleep in an upper room and was awakened by the noise. I rushed downstairs to the porch where I found Garrett, Pete and the two deputies standing in a hushed, excited group. Not a sound came from the room. But no one would venture in for fear the Kid might not be dead. If only a spark of life were left, he might be dangerous.
“I brought a lighted candle and, keeping in the shelter of the adobe wall, reached out an arm and placed the candle in the windowsill. It lighted the inner darkness dimly. My brother took a furtive peek through the window and saw the Kid lying on his face motionless. ‘Now, Pat, you can go in,’ Pete said. ‘He’s dead.’
“They carried the body into a deserted storeroom, full of dust and cobwebs, and laid it on an old work bench. The town was aroused by now, and Mexican men and women crowded in. When they saw the Kid lying dead, the moon shining on his face through a window, the women broke into frenzied tears, filling the place with their shrieks. Celsa Gutterrez screamed as one demented. Nasaria Yerbe was wild with grief. Abrana Garcia, shaking her clenched fists aloft, called down curses on Pat Garrett’s head and threatened to kill him. Deluvina Maxwell, [an] old servant of our family whom my father had bought from the Navajos when she was a little girl, and to whom the Kid always had been a hero, burst into hysterical lamentations. She threw her arms about the Kid and covered his face with her tears. ‘Mi muchacho, mi muchacho,’ she wailed.
“Francisco Medina knocked together a box of rough pine board next day to serve as a coffin; the hearse was a rickety old wagon drawn by scrawny ponies. Practically every man, woman and child in town followed the body to the little cemetery. You might have thought the funeral that of Fort Sumner’s most distinguished citizen. They buried the Kid next to Bowdre and Folliard. His grave was at one end of the row, Folliard’s at the other and Bowdre’s in the middle. At the head, they set a little wooden cross on which had been painted ‘Billy the Kid’ in crude, zigzag letters.
“The cemetery then had an adobe wall around it. Now a barbed-wired fence surrounds its dreary half-acre of sun-baked land sparsely covered with bunch grass and desert growths. Twelve men who died with their boots on in Fort Sumner are buried there. One was Joe Grant killed by Billy the Kid in the saloon of José Valdez. The cross over the Kid’s grave was shot away by half-drunken soldiers in the eighties and never has been replaced. The Kid and his two comrades and the murdered men all asleep in unmarked graves.
“Charlie Foor who has lived in and around Fort Sumner for forty years and two or three others are all that are left in this part of the country who can point out the Kid’s grave. Step thirty feet straight south from the gate, and you find a spot of hard yellow earth across which cactus and salt grass have woven green patterns. That is Billy the Kid’s last resting place. Likely as not, as you stand there in a mood of reverie, a mockingbird, winging from the river pastures, will alight upon a fence post and sing a song in the sunshine.
“Looking back at the old tragedy,” Mrs. Jaramillo went on, with the air of one adding a footnote, “the Kid’s last night on earth seems to have been a night of blunders.
“Poe and McKinney could have killed him when, unseen themselves, they saw him walking toward them in the moonlight. They did not kill him because they believed him a harmless sheepherder.
“The Kid could have killed Poe and McKinney when he had them covered with his revolver. His suspicions were acutely aroused, but he did not kill them because, it is evident, he did not want to murder men whom he had a vague idea might be only Pete Maxwell’s friends.
“The Kid could have killed Garrett. When he threw down the weapon on the shadowy form in the darkness, Garrett would not have had a chance if the Kid had fired. But it seems clear that the same dubious thought that saved Poe and McKinney saved Garrett. Fear that Garrett might be another friend of Pete Maxwell’s still held the Kid’s trigger finger from deadly action. It would have been more like the Kid’s true self if he had shot first and investigated afterwards. But, perhaps for the first time in his life, he wavered irresolute for an instant, and his instant’s hesitation was fatal.
“If Garrett had spoken, the Kid would have recognized him by his voice. If Garrett had risen, the Kid would have recognized him by his height. In either case, Garrett would have been the man to die. But Garrett did not speak, did not rise, did not hesitate. He alone made no mistake.
“The Kid did not fire a shot. Any story to the contrary is false. It is safe to say that in his last flash of consciousness, he did not know who shot him.
“Garrett fired a second shot before he rushed out of the room on the heels of Pete Maxwell. Garrett did not know, and nobody else knew, until four years afterwards where his second bullet went. Then we accidentally found it embedded in the underside of the top of the washstand.
“When Garrett silently slipped his six-shooter from its holster, he dropped over sideways from his chair as he fired his first shot. From the angle his second bullet struck the washstand, it must have been fired almost from the level of the floor. It missed the Kid by six feet. It suggested a panic.
“But a panic in that desperate crisis might have been pardoned even in a brave man.”
Mark Lee Gardner is the author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett and other books. He is currently working on a dual biography of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull.
Sitting with Wyatt EarpNever-before-seen biographer materials donated to the Tombstone Courthouse.
Dreams of a “fly-on-the-wall” moment in Western history certainly include sitting with Wyatt Earp in the 1920s as he set the record straight about his life and legend, including
his take on the 1881 Gunfight Behind the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.
During Sunday visits to the Los Angeles cottage Wyatt shared with his wife, Josephine, Wyatt’s secretary John H. Flood Jr. captured every word.
For nearly 100 years, those shorthand notes—along with an early typed manuscript of Earp’s biography and photos of the last years of the Earps’ lives—have been in private hands.
Now the public can become a fly-on-the-wall to Wyatt’s version of his days in Arizona, Kansas and Colorado, thanks to a donation to the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park by Eric Weider, former owner and publisher of Wild West magazine.
“This is as close as you can get to talking to Wyatt Earp, and hopefully will contribute to the knowledge of the West,” Weider says.
That “coming home” is thanks to two persuasive Arizonans. First, Gordon Anderson, owner of Tombstone’s Larian Motel, was dismayed to learn Weider intended to donate the collection to Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and asked that the courthouse be considered. Weider was lukewarm to the idea until he talked with Arizona State Parks and Trails Curator Joanne Brace.
“I was really impressed with her enthusiasm. And she was so responsive, she got me to rethink my plan,” Weider says.
Thrilled with that decision, Brace says,“This is one of, if not the most, significant item ever given to Arizona State Parks and Trails. Everyone who’s interested in Wyatt Earp will find their way to Tombstone to see this display.”
The location is particularly significant, since Wyatt watched the two-story Victorian-style courthouse being built. He and his brothers arrived in Tombstone in 1879 and left in the spring of 1882, as the courthouse was under construction.
The collection includes Wyatt’s description of his move from Kansas to Tombstone, and his decision to abandon law enforcement work: “So I purchased a Concord coach, two wagons and sixteen head of horses and started for Arizona for the purpose of starting a stage line.”
Arizona is calling the donation the Josephine Earp Collection because it includes 33 of her handwritten letters—in her “messy handwriting,” as Weider puts it—including one expressing her grief when Wyatt died at the age of 80, on January 13, 1929: “I am telling you Mr. Flood I am sick grieving over my husband and after this is all over and I have my property all fixed up, I really don’t care what happens to me as I have lost my best friend.”
Weider stipulated the collection be available to the public. “We know the legend,” he says, “but this is a look at the real people.”
Jana Bommersbach has earned recognition as Arizona’s Journalist of the Year and won an Emmy and two Lifetime Achievement Awards. She cowrote the Emmy-winning Outrageous Arizona and has written two true crime books, a children’s book and the historical novel Cattle Kate.
Death-Defying Riders of the Pony ExpressSifting through the myths to uncover the gritty truths about Pony Express riders.
When America’s first Pony Express rider set off on April 3, 1860, from St. Joseph, Missouri, launching a coast-to-coast transfer of news and messages that would take 10 days instead of months to arrive, pioneers hailed the news with joy.
Yet what seemed so monumental in 1860 was already old news in 1861. The telegraph promised instant communication. Instead of riders racing back and forth with your news, a series of electric current pulses would transmit messages over wires.
But first those wires needed to be strung across the nation. And thus, the Pony Express rider remained a vision of death-defying courage crossing the prairies and deserts when one steamboat pilot struck out on his stagecoach journey, abandoning his Mississippi River life to travel across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. On his way to his destination in Nevada Territory, this adventurer came face to face with destiny.
“In early August 1861, near what is now Mud Springs in remote western Nebraska, Twain saw an Express rider,” so said Christopher Corbett, author of Orphans Preferred, at this summer’s Western Writers of America convention in Kansas City, Missouri.
Corbett continued to set the scene: “The stagecoach driver had been promising him that he would see one, and Twain had taken to riding on top of the coach to take in the view, wearing only his long underwear. The entire encounter took less than two minutes.
“Writing entirely from memory (with his brother’s diary to stimulate him) in Hartford, Connecticut, 10 years later, Twain wrung an entire chapter of Roughing It from that moment. He thus initiated what many a chronicler would continue after him: he preserved the memory of the Pony, with perhaps a little embellishment.”
Of course, when the budding journalist was traveling on that stagecoach to Nevada Territory, he wasn’t yet known by his nom de plume. He was still Samuel Clemens. But by the time Roughing It got publishedin 1872, the world knew him as Mark Twain.
No Stetson, No Pistol, No Buckskins?
In his humorous American travelogue Roughing It, a favorite book of many to this day, Twain gave one of the most noteworthy descriptions of Pony Express riders, clothed differently than how they are popularly pictured.
“The rider’s dress was thin, and fitted close; he wore a ‘round-about,’ and a skull-cap, and tucked his pantaloons into his boot-tops like a race-rider.
“He carried no arms—he carried nothing that was not absolutely necessary, for even the postage on his literary freight was worth five dollars a letter….
“His horse was stripped of all unnecessary weight, too. He wore a little wafer of a racing-saddle, and no visible blanket.
“He wore light shoes, or none at all. The little flat mail-pockets strapped under the rider’s thighs would each hold about the bulk of a child’s primer.”
Isn’t that kind of shocking? An actual Pony Express rider did not wear a big ’ol cowboy hat—he wore a skull cap! He did not wear a fringe coat, nor did he carry a pistol! And his saddle didn’t have bulging mail packets on the side!
What seems odd at first, only because of numerous artistic representations that contradict the description, actually makes sense when one remembers: the lighter the ride, the faster the speed.
One of the partners behind the Pony Express, Alexander Majors, explained the saddle’s slim pockets, in his 1893 autobiography, Seventy Years on the Frontier.
The business letters and press dispatches were printed on tissue paper, which allowed for a light weight required for transporting the mail quickly via horses (usually a thoroughbred on the Eastern route and a mustang for the rugged Western terrain). The weight was fixed at 10 pounds or under; each half of an ounce cost $5 in gold to transport.
A rider’s desire to keep the weight as light as possible also explained why Twain’s rider didn’t carry a gun.
“Along a well-traveled part of the trail (as where Twain encountered him), a rider wouldn’t have to think about carrying a gun,” says Paul Fees, the retired curator from the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.
“At night, or through more dangerous territory, I suspect he would arm himself. The revolver of choice, apparently, was the Colt Model 1849 percussion pocket revolver in .31 caliber.”
Now we know why the 80 chosen to be riders were called the “pick of the frontier.” To put your life on the line so you could faithfully meet the 10-day schedule required grit and gumption. Yet Pony riders must have felt the gamble was worth the gig; their $50 a month salary was good pay in the days when a skilled blacksmith made $33.
Okay, so we’re making the mochila lighter and, for the most part, tossing any firearms, but what about the attire? Would a Pony Express rider really go without his cowboy hat, his boots and his buckskins?
Dressing for Success
Hold your horses! Your notion of what that Pony Express rider looked like during his short-lived yet impressive career may still be somewhat accurate. Although one aspect does not appear to be true to history at all.
“Boots were the main footwear, although it wouldn’t be out of line for some riders to wear leather moccasins if they had them as normal footwear,” says Elanna “Quackgrass Sally” Skorupa, who has ridden the Pony Express trails for more than 25 years and is the only member of the National Pony Express Association to belong to all eight state divisions (she even carried the Olympic torch for the Pony Express!).
The clothing changed with the seasons and was as varied as the riders themselves, Skorupa says, adding, “Hats of all shapes and styles would have been worn…. Wool, calico and cotton shirts, wool britches and homespun sackcloth would have been the norm. I have heard mention of some gloves and even perhaps some gauntlets, but these were very young men, so their personal items would have been few.”
Twain’s rider just had a penchant for a skull cap over a cowboy hat and light shoes over boots. And instead of a buckskin fringe coat, he wore a…round-about? That’s not such a familiar term.
Turns out, a round-about is a fitting choice for someone looking to literally lighten the load on his shoulders. It is a short, close-fitting jacket. Readers may be familiar with the ornate version of this jacket, worn by U.S. Dragoons of the Antebellum era, military historian John Langellier says.
Picturing Twain’s Pony rider in a short jacket, tucked-in pants, light shoes, skull cap and minus a pistol may make logical sense. (And he possibly wore boots. Twain was contradictory on this point. Perhaps his rider changed footwear for the terrain?) Each rider’s style adjusted with the seasons and topography, and beyond that, he wore what felt comfortable and light for the task at hand.
Yet getting Twain’s rider to gallop in the Pony Express movie in our minds may prove difficult. After all, the popular idea of how a Pony Express rider should look is best portrayed in Frederic Remington’s The Coming and Going of the Pony Express. His Pony Express rider is superbly clad in a buckskin suit, with his cowboy hat flared up to the sky and his trusty pistol strapped to his waist.
But the master cowboy artist got this attire wrong.
Romancing the Pony
“I have seen several artists clothe these riders in buckskins,” Skorupa says, “and usually the Pony Express rider is portrayed older than the young age of the true riders.”
Then she twists the knife in: “I have never found any evidence of the riders wearing buckskins.”
Oh, say it’s not so. Yes, the artist was a New Yorker, but his bloodlines link him to the esteemed American Indian portrait artist George Catlin, to the founder of Remington Arms Eliphalet Remington, to Mountain Man Jedediah Smith and even to our country’s first president, George Washington. He’s not the caliber to swap the real for the mythic!
When actually, that’s somewhat Remington’s appeal as an artist. When he tried out sheep ranching in Kansas in 1883, he found the work boring and rough. He was more of a pseudo-cowboy. He had real-life adventures that gave him an honest connection to the frontier world he was depicting, but you could never call him a bona fide frontiersman. His style was more hearty and breezy than scrupulous, and if he wanted his Pony Express rider to wear a buckskin suit, then truth be damned.
Even so, Remington paid proper homage to the Pony Express rider’s history. In the dead of winter, blinding snow all around him, his rider gallops off, having just changed his horse at one of the relay stations that made the endeavor such a success (the stops gave both horses and riders time to rest without gaps in the service of delivering the mail). All the inappropriate weight the artist threw onto his rider clothing-wise, he more than made up for in the overall tone that these riders were boys and young men to admire, who set forth in any kind of weather, in unforeseen worlds of danger, to do a job well done.
Perhaps Remington and all the others who clothed these daring riders in buckskins were paying too much attention to “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s portrayal of them.
“For three decades a representation of the Pony Express was a spectacle at every performance of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” Buffalo Bill biographer Don Russell wrote. “No other act was more consistently on its program. It was easy to stage, and it had the interest of a race, as well as re-creating a romantic episode.”
Russell pointed out that “almost nothing was written about [the Pony Express] for half a century after its brief existence” and later added, “It is highly unlikely that the Pony Express would be so well remembered had not Buffalo Bill so glamorized it; in common opinion Buffalo Bill and Pony Express are indissolubly linked.”
Remington would have known of Buffalo Bill’s Pony Express presentation. He studied the Wild West show cast for his illustration published in Harper’s Weekly on August 18, 1894. He, like many Americans, undoubtedly saw Buffalo Bill as a buckskin-clad Pony Express rider on the September 19, 1888, cover of Beadle’s Dime New York Library.
We should forgive Remington for his buckskin suit rider, even as we reshape our world view to imagine one of these brave souls wearing a skull cap instead of a cowboy hat. After all, without the romance, would we even remember these Pony Express riders today?
The arrival of Mormon colonists from Utah in 1876 heralded the first permanent Anglo-American settlements in northern Arizona. Even though cattle ranching was one of the territory’s largest industries, it was still in its infancy in the area around Flagstaff until the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1881.
John Young, a son of Mormon leader Brigham Young was one of the earliest settlers. He was contracted to deliver 50,000 railroad ties for the new line. He built a camp for his tie cutters in what is today Fort Valley, a few miles north of Flagstaff. The threat of Indian raids caused Young to turn the camp into a fortress, which he called Moroni, after the Mormon angel. A log cabin 75 feet long acted as one side of the bastion. The other three sides of the square consisted of railroad ties set in the ground on end.
The arrival of the iron-bellied locomotives in 1881 marked the real beginning of the cattle business in northern Arizona. Young and several companions organized the Mormon Cattle Company, stocking the virgin ranges around Flagstaff for the first time on a large scale. By 1883, the price of cattle was $50 a head, up from $15 a head just two years earlier. That same year Young teamed up with a group of Eastern capitalists, led by Colonel Jake Ruppert Sr. father of the man who would own the New York Yankees during the heyday of Babe Ruth. They founded the Arizona Cattle Company, headquartering at Fort Moroni.
Young, a polygamist, didn’t stay in the business long. In 1885, a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was forced to sell his share and make a hasty exit for the hills.
After Young left, the outfit build several new buildings at Fort Moroni and renamed it Fort Rickerson, in honor of C. L. Rickerson, an officer in the New York based company. During its heyday, the Arizona Cattle Company, or A1, ran some 16,000 head on some of the finest cattle country in Arizona. They ranged from south of Flagstaff near Lake Mary, north to the Grand Canyon, and from Ash Fork on the west, to the Little Colorado on the east on 132,000 acres of land purchased from the railroad at fifty cents an acre.
In 1885 the absentee owners selected a field manager, a colorful, blustering ex-Chicago fire captain named B. B. Bullwinkle, who literally talked his way into heading up one of northern Arizona’s largest cow outfits. In spite of his inexperience, Bullwinkle learned the cow business quickly. His commanding presence more than made up for his lack of knowledge, and the ranch flourished with the captain at the helm. He erected fences, built barns and bridges on the ranch. He even strung a telegraph line from Fort Rickerson to Flagstaff. His range boss was a hard-riding cowboy named Jack Diamond, who held the job until the company folded in 1899.
Bullwinkle was a gentleman who liked pretty women, fast horses, and poker. The epic poker games the flamboyant captain engaged in with other cattlemen were a reflection of the prosperous times in the business. In one game, with just the turn of a card, the captain held three aces, became the new owner of 762 cows, and a big stock ranch.
A few days after that historic poker game, in 1887, Bullwinkle was killed when his horse took a fall while he was racing another cowman at breakneck speed into Flagstaff.
The Arizona Cattle Company prospered a few more years before a prolonged drought and overstocked ranges drove the company out of business in 1899. That year range boss Jack Diamond shipped a record 10,000 head to market. But the good times were gone. That same year the Hash Knife outfit went bust closing the book on a colorful chapter in Arizona history.
The first trip I took by train was an hour-long journey from my hometown in Norborne, Missouri, to Walt Disney’s hometown in Marceline, Missouri. I was seven and the 200-square-foot depot where I purchased my ticket was a hub of activity. The station agent was a one-man show, answering phones, selling tickets and handling the baggage. I was preoccupied with the framed pictures of various destinations trains could take travelers that lined the walls of the depot. Brochures with fold-out maps of faraway locations filled the shelves below pictures of Colorado, Oregon and Wyoming. Those images and maps made me want to go west.
The Norborne Depot fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down. The depot in Marceline is now the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. Many notable stations have been converted to museums. Historic rail lines, locomotives and passenger cars have been restored and beckon visitors to embark on excursions to entertain and educate.
A heritage rail trip today offers a ride into yesteryear. Passengers discover the joy of rail travel and learn about the men and women who built our nation’s great railroads…and made train travel possible for everyone wanting to see the West.
When the last spike was hammered into the steel track of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Point, Utah, Western Union lines sounded the glorious news of the railroad’s completion from New York to San Francisco. For more than five years an estimated four thousand men, mostly Irish working west from Omaha, and Chinese working east from Sacramento, moved like a vast assembly line toward the end of the track.
Editorials in newspapers and magazines praised the accomplishment and some boasted that the work that “was begun, carried on, and completed solely by men.” The August edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book reported, “No woman had laid a rail and no woman had made a survey.” Although men had handled the physical task of building the railroad, women made significant and lasting contributions to the historic operation.
The female connection with railroading dates as far back as 1838, when women were hired as registered nurses/stewardesses in passenger cars. Those ladies attended to the medical needs of travelers and also acted as hostesses of sorts, helping passengers have a comfortable journey.
Susan Morningstar was one of the first women on record employed by a railroad. She and her sister, Catherine Shirley, were hired by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1855 to keep the interior of the cars clean and orderly. The feminine, homey touches they added to the railroad car’s décor attracted female travelers and transformed the stark, cold interior into a more welcoming setting.
Miss E.F. Sawyer became the first female telegraph operator when she was hired by the Burlington Railroad in Montgomery, Illinois, in 1872. The following year Union Pacific Railroad executives followed suit by hiring two women to be telegraph operators in Kansas City, Missouri.
Inventor Eliza Murfey focused on the mechanics of the railroad, creating devices for improving how bearings on a rail wheel attached to train cars responded to the axles. The device—or packing, as it was referred to—was used to lubricate the axles with oil which reduced derailments caused by seized axles and bearings. Murfey held 16 patents for her 1870 invention.
In 1879, inventor Mary Elizabeth Walton developed a system that deflected emissions from the smokestacks on railroad locomotives. She was awarded two patents for her pollution-reducing device.
Nancy P. Wilkerson, a cattle rancher’s daughter from Terre Haute, Indiana, created the cattle car in 1881. Using a rack and pinion mechanism, she devised sliding partisans that separated the livestock and compartments for food and water troughs.
From the mechanical to the ornamental and a combination of both, women like civil engineer Olive Dennis and architect Mary Jane Colter made their mark on the railroad in the late 1890s. While employed with the Baltimore and Ohio, Dennis introduced reclining passenger seats and individual window vents that not only allowed fresh air into the car, but also trapped dust. Railroad lines across the country quickly adopted the refinements.
Mary Jane Colter was the chief architect and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company. Harvey developed the Harvey House restaurants and hotels that served rail passengers on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. Colter designed and decorated Harvey’s eateries and inns. She considered the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona, to be her finest work.
In addition to Colter’s architecture and decorating style, the “attractive and intelligent young women of good character” who worked at the Harvey Houses throughout the West further enhanced Fred Harvey’s establishments. Dressed in their starched, black and white shirts, bibs and aprons, the always beautiful Harvey Girls served cowhands, trainmen and travelers from Dodge City, Kansas, to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“The girls at a Fred Harvey place never look dowdy, frowsy, tired, slip-shot or overworked,” an article in the June 22, 1905, edition of the Leavenworth Times noted. “They are expecting you—clean collars, clean aprons, hands and faces washed, nails manicured—there they are, bright, fresh, healthy, and expectant.”
Two of the most desirable locations for Harvey Girls to work were the Cardenas Hotel in Trinidad, Colorado, and the El Garces in Needles, California. Both were beautifully situated and uniquely designed. The El Garces was referred to as the “Crown Jewel” of the entire Fred Harvey chain.
Soiled doves capitalized on the business opportunities the completed railroad line introduced. Ambitious madams acquired their own cars and transformed the interior into parlor houses. Independently contracted locomotives would transport the rolling houses of ill repute and the wicked women aboard to various cowtowns along the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Highly principled ladies were able to make just as much of a fortune from the railways as disreputable women. Sarah Clark Kidder, the first female railroad president, proved that women were just as capable of running a rail line as men. In 1901, Kidder took over as head of California’s Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad. The rail line, which hauled lumber, farm produce and gold destined for the United States Mint in San Francisco, flourished during her twelve-year rule.
Cora Mears Pitcher took over as president of the short line Silverton Northern Railroad in southwest Colorado in 1931. Her father, Otto Mears, built the railway in 1885 to support the lucrative mining business in the area. The Silverton Northern Railroad ran from Silverton up the Animas River to Eureka. Cora took great pride in assuming responsibility for the line and in preserving the memory for her father who operated a successful copper mine in the region.
Famed stage actress Lillie Langtry made traveling by rail a glamorous experience. The interior of her private car, named the Lalee, featured upholstered seats, carved woodwork inlaid with silver bands, plush carpeting and a ceiling of diamond-shaped form on a light tinted lavender background. In 1904, Lillie and the Lalee traveled to Val Verde County, Texas, to meet the well-known Justice of the Peace Judge Roy Bean. The judge was a great admirer of Lillie’s and had written her several times expressing his devotion. Sadly, the judge had passed away before the actress’s visit.
Popular playwright and actress Eleanor Robson Belmont also traveled across the country in her own private car. Velvet curtains and a crystal chandelier adorned her palatial suite. “A private railroad car is not an acquired taste,” she told a reporter with the San Francisco Call Chronicle Examiner newspaper in 1906. “One takes to it immediately.”
Publisher and author Miriam Leslie might have done more to promote traveling by rail than any other woman in the 19th century. In 1877, she embarked on an extravagant five-month train trip from New York to San Francisco. Onboard the Union Pacific she visited popular Western locations including Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Denver. Miriam referred to the ride across the frontier as “exhilarating” and looked forward to seeing every square mile of the towns and cities on the itinerary.
“Wyoming was like a new world. No wilder or more grandly lonely landscape has yet unfolded,” Leslie wrote. “Going to sleep in Cheyenne we awoke in Denver, our car having been attached during the night to a train upon the Denver Pacific Railroad. Denver lies broadly and generously upon a great plain sloping toward the South Platte, with the grand sweep of the Rocky Mountain chain almost surrounding it. A large number of handsome houses have been built on the western side of the city, facing the mountain view; and one foresees when Denver is forty instead of twenty years old, this will be the fashionable and charming quarter.”
Besides the Denver Pacific Railroad, Miriam enjoyed numerous treks on other short line railways like the Virginia and Truckee Railroad that connected to the Central Pacific. “There is a rise of 1,700 feet from Carson to Virginia City whither we were bound, and the train winds heavily up between mountain walls of dust-brown rock,” the author wrote of her journey through Nevada. “Not a tree, shrub, herb, nor blade of grass grew. There was nothing with life or motion in it except the brawling Carson River, which plunged magnificently down between these mountains on even a steeper grade than the road winds up. What a daunting view!”
Leslie’s articles about the trip were published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, a popular publication she co-owned with her husband. She also wrote A Pleasure Trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate, a book about the journey. Leslie described in glowing terms the many scenes she passed en route from New York to California and served as a travel guide for readers coast to coast. The transcontinental tour cost more than $20,000.
Women inspired to embark on a railroad journey after reading A Pleasure Trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate were required to follow a number of rules for the trip. According to the Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, a woman was to be punctual and dress in plain, dignified clothing. She was to carry nothing more than a traveling satchel, or a fashionable carpet bag if staying overnight. The carpet bag was to contain grooming items, a mirror, reading material, crackers or a sandwich, a large shawl, night clothes and a woolen or silk nightcap. Women were to sit quietly and not fidget. Such behavior was cited as a sure indication that she was either ill-bred or ill at ease in society.
The appalling behavior of a giddy mail-order bride and her groom were the subject of much talk when they boarded the Union Pacific Railroad in Riverside, California, in 1886 heading to San Francisco. An article in the Riverside Daily Press on July 10, reported that the blissful couple were fawning over each other so much that their fellow passengers complained.
“Now what’s the use of it? When a couple get married and go off on a bridal tour, why so misbehave themselves as to be ‘spotted’ by every man, woman, and child on the train for ‘fresh fish?’, the story read. “How silly the thing must appear to them when they look back after a period of six months. Are we fools when in love, and are we idiots when we marry?”
A baggage man scolded the mail-order newlyweds but they only held on to one another more tightly. Four of the women aboard formed a committee and promised to take the matter to the legislature if the railroad company could not protect its passenger from rude behavior. The conductor came to speak to the women and ask them not to hold what had happened against him or the railroad.
“Well, the long and short of the matter was that the passengers rode 150 miles wishing they had not gotten on the train, and resolving that the thing would never happen again—never,” the Riverside Daily Press article continued. “The women all agreed that they would
Wanted Dead or AliveHit the road and follow the trails of 10 famous manhunts of the Old West.
Among the stories of the Old West, few are more exciting than the manhunts that pitted frontier authority against those who would kill, plunder and rob. Back in those days, folks were spread out quite a bit and, at the same time, law enforcement was spread pretty thin, too. As you will see in these tales, the military had to sometimes step in, and armed citizens often had to augment the authority of their peace officers or, in some cases, handle a situation by themselves.
Keep in mind that these events occurred years before the Miranda case (1966) and other niceties that made life a little safer for law-breakers. And, lawmen were chosen for their courage, their ability to handle firearms, and their willingness to spend days in
the saddle while on the trail of outlaws. Formal training rarely existed.
Outlaws, lawmen and the winning of the West have graced a thousand songs and stories. The frontier West was rarely like it has been depicted in the movies and on television. But one thing that you can say for sure, it was always interesting.
Here are 10 of my favorite manhunt tales of those early days.
1. 1872 – 1873 U.S. Army vs. The Modocs Redding, California to Klamath Falls, Oregon
In 1872, Modoc tribe members were extremely unhappy with their existence on the Modoc/Klamath reservation in Southern Oregon. They weren’t getting along with the Klamaths and the Indian agent wasn’t supplying the food and other necessities that had been promised. Finally, one of their tribal leaders, Captain Jack, led nearly 200 Modocs off the reservation to take refuge in the lava beds on the Oregon/California border. Almost immediately, complaints began coming in from area settlers about thefts and plundering by the Modocs.
In late 1872, or early 1873, the U.S. Army, under the command of General Edward Canby, stepped in to return the Modocs to the reservation. Canby’s original goal was to talk them in peacefully, if at all possible. Accordingly, he set up a peace tent near the lava beds and invited Captain Jack to come parley. Captain Jack may have had other ideas.
On April 11, 1873, Captain Jack and some of his men met with General Canby, Reverend Eleazar Thomas and other army officers. Some believe that Captain Jack went to the meeting with the intent to murder the soldiers, believing that this would make the army leave the Modocs alone, but the truth is, Modoc warriors pressured Jack into the planned attack. Regardless, an argument soon broke out and the Modocs began to pull knives and guns. In the melee, General Canby and Reverend Thomas were both killed before the Modocs fled back into the vastness of the lava beds.
In a series of skirmishes, the army was not winning, even though they were even using artillery on the Indians ensconced in the lava beds. However, many of the Modocs had had enough and, by early May, began to surrender. Captain Jack was captured on June 4, 1873. Following a military trial, Captain Jack and Black Jim, Schonchin John and Boston Charley were hanged. Some 150 other Modocs were shipped to Indian Territory. The army had won, but at a heavy price.
On the Modoc Trail of the U.S. Army and Captain Jack
Northern California and Southern Oregon offer numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of the tragic story of Captain Jack and the Modoc War.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:Lava Beds National Monument, Tulelake Museum, Tulelake, CA; Siskiyou County Historical Society, Yreka, CA; Klamath County Museum, Favell Museum, Klamath Falls, OR
Lodging: Winema Lodge, Tulelake, CA; Coffee Creek Ranch, Coffee Creek, CA; Lake of the Woods Lodge & Resort, Klamath Falls, OR
2. January 1875 Pinkertons vs. Jesse and Frank James Kearney to St. Joseph, Missouri
By 1875, the James-Younger Gang had been robbing banks and trains for almost ten years. In 1874, the Adams Express Company was so upset with their losses that they put the Pinkerton Detective Agency after the gang. Several Pinkertons were quickly killed when they tried to infiltrate Clay County, Missouri. It has been said that Allan Pinkerton was so furious that he swore to burn them out, if that’s what it took.
On the night of January 25, 1875, a posse led by Pinkerton investigators surrounded the home of Jesse and Frank James’ mother, Zerelda Samuel, believing that the two outlaws were present. Those same investigators later claimed that they threw a smoke bomb into the house to force the outlaws out. Their “smoke bomb” turned out to be a regular bomb that promptly exploded. The explosion killed a young half brother to the Jameses and mangled their mother’s arm so badly that it had to be amputated. Frank and Jesse were not even at home. The entire state of Missouri was infuriated by the attack; and while the Pinkertons were humiliated, they fought on with local authorities to try and capture the James Boys.
On the Missouri Trail of the James Boys and the Pinkertons
Western Missouri offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of Jesse and Frank James.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments: Jesse James Farm, Kearney; Pattee House Museum, Jesse James House Museum, Pony Express National Museum, St. Joseph;JesseJames Bank Museum and Clay County Museum, Liberty
Lodging: The Elms, Excelsior Springs;Whiskey Mansion Bed & Breakfast, St. Joseph
3. September 7, 1876 Northfield vs. the James-Younger Gang Northfield to LaSalle, Minnesota
We’ll never know for sure what caused the gang to rob a bank in Minnesota. It might have been to just try out new territory or it could have been the fact that Adelbert Ames, a hated former governor of Mississippi, lived there. Historians have suggested both ideas, but a consensus has never been reached.
Whatever the reason, the gang rode into Northfield like they had done in previous towns, with with some outlaws looting the bank while other gang members shot up the street to keep the townspeople at bay. This just didn’t work so well in Northfield because the citizens were already nervous about these strangers wearing gun belts and sporting rifles on their saddles.
In the bank, one employee refused to unlock the safe and was quickly killed. Another employee was wounded as he escaped the robbery. The gunfire in the bank had already attracted citizens out in the street. Instead of running, the citizens armed themselves and began to fight back. Outlaws Bill Stiles and Clell Miller were killed. And, as the rest of the gang made their escape with precious little loot, all of them were wounded, except for Frank and Jesse, who were amazingly unharmed.
Large posses were quickly on the gang’s trail, causing the Youngers and the Jameses to split up. Two weeks later, a posse caught the Youngers near La Salle, Minnesota. In the ensuing fight, Charlie Pitts was killed and Cole, Bob, and Jim Younger were captured, having been wounded again. Frank and Jesse were in the wind. And, to our knowledge, no one ever tried to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, again.
On the Minnesota Trail of the James-Younger Gang
Southern Minnesota offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of the James-Younger Gang.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:Northfield Historical Society, Northfield; Brown County Historical Society Museum, New Ulm; Watonwan County Historical Museum, Madelia
Lodging:Archer House, Northfield; The Grand, New Ulm; Grandstay Hotel & Suites, Madelia
4. August 24, 1877 Texas Rangers vs. John Wesley Hardin Comanche to Huntsville, Texas
Premier Texas gunfighter John Wesley Hardin had racked up a number of kills during his turbulent career. But he brought the full wrath of the Texas Rangers down on himself when he killed Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb in Comanche, Texas, in May of 1874.
Tired of this sort of conduct by Hardin, the Texas Rangers put John B. Armstrong on his trail. With a nice piece of detective work, officers soon learned that Hardin’s Texas relatives kept receiving mail from a man in Florida. Armstrong soon learned that Hardin was hiding out in various towns on the Alabama-Florida line.
Investigator Jack Duncan and local officers located Hardin on a train in Pensacola, Florida. Legend has it that when he saw the long-barreled Colt in Armstrong’s hand Hardin yelled, “Texas, by God!” and went for his own gun. Armstrong promptly combed Hardin’s hair with that long-barreled Colt and shot another member of the gang who had pulled a gun. Hardin’s own gun had supposedly caught hung up on his suspenders, causing him to fail to get off a shot.
John Wesley Hardin was transported back to Texas, where he was convicted of murder and sentenced to Huntsville Prison, where he served 17 years. Just 18 months after Hardin’s release from prison, on August 19, 1895, Constable John Selman killed him with a shot to the back of the head in El Paso’s infamous Acme Saloon.
On the Trail of John Wesley Hardin
Texas offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of John Wesley Hardin and the Texas Rangers.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums and Monuments:Bullock State History Museum, Austin; Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum, Waco; Pioneer Village Living History Center, Gonzales; Old Jail Museum, Gonzales; Gonzales Memorial Museum, Texas State Prison Museum, Huntsville; Concordia Cemetery, El Paso
Lodging: The Driskill, Austin; Colcord Hotel, Waco; Alcalde Hotel & Grill, Gonzales; Woodbine Hotel & Restaurant, Madisonville
5. 1880 The Texas Rangers vs. Jesse Evans Lincoln, New Mexico to Presidio, Texas
By 1880, Jesse Evans had about worn out his welcome in Lincoln County, New Mexico. The Lincoln County War had wound down and the law was making things too hot for Jesse and his friends.
Jesse and the boys decided that pickings might be easier in the Davis Mountains of west Texas. Being a bit short of funds, they rode in to Fort Davis and robbed the Sender & Siebenborn Store, as well as taking money from any citizens who happened by.A posse was quickly formed but was only able to catch one of the outlaws.
Texas Ranger Sgt. Lamar Sieker quickly brought a detachment into the area and started an investigation. An informant told the Ranger that Jesse Evans and the rest of his gang were in the area of Presidio, some 100 miles south of Fort Davis. Leading a pack mule, Sieker and five Rangers headed south toward Presidio and the Chinati Mountains.
The Rangers spotted the outlaws as they rode toward the mountain and a running gunfight ensued. The outlaws took cover behind some boulders on the top of the mountain and began to pour the lead at the Ranger posse. Riding up to within forty yards of the gang, the Rangers fought back. Ranger Bingham was shot through the heart and Graham, one of the outlaws, also was killed. Jesse Evans and his two surviving companions wisely surrendered.
Jesse Evans was tried, convicted and sent to Huntsville Prison. After having served his sentence and been released, the outlaw disappeared.
On the Trail of Jesse Evans and the Texas Rangers
The road from Lincoln, New Mexico, to Presidio, Texas, offers historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of Jesse Evans and his battle with the Texas Rangers.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:Lincoln Historic Site, Lincoln, NM; Presidio County Courthouse, Fort Leaton State Historic Site, Marfa, TX; Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis, TX; Texas Ranger Museum, Waco, TX
Lodging: El Paisano Hotel, Marfa, TX; El Fortin del Cibola, Presidio County, TX; Hotel Limpia, Veranda Lodge, Indian Lodge, Fort Davis, TX; Colcord Hotel, Waco, TX
6. July 14, 1881 Pat Garrett vs. Billy the Kid Lincoln, New Mexico to Fort Sumner, New Mexico
In the aftermath of the Lincoln County War, Henry McCarty aka Billy the Kid, was sentenced to hang for murder and remanded to the Lincoln County jail until the execution could be carried out. In April of 1881, the Kid murdered deputies James Bell and Bob Olinger while making his escape.
From April to July, Sheriff Pat Garrett bided his time and gathered information that would lead to the Kid’s location. In July, probably from an informant, Garrett learned that the Kid was most likely in Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory. Taking two deputies with him, Garrett quietly made his way to the old fort, now turned village.
At about midnight on the 14th, Garrett left his two deputies outside while he went into Pete Maxwell’s house to see what he could find out. While sitting and talking to Maxwell, who was already in bed, Garrett was shocked to see Billy walk into the room from a door that led to the outside. Garrett fired two quick shots, one of which hit the Kid in the chest and killed him.
Over the years, it has been argued whether the Kid had a pistol, a knife or was unarmed. To a frontier lawman, none of that mattered. On top of all of his other violent acts, Billy the Kid had killed two of Pat Garrett’s coworkers and, we may assume, friends—although many doubt Garrett and Olinger were more than professional acquaintances. Garrett’s attitude was that, if the Kid wasn’t armed, he should have been.
On the Trail of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
New Mexico offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’s final shootout.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:Lincoln Historic Site; Ft. Stanton Historic Site; Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque RedondoMemorial; Hubbard Museum of the American West, Ruidosa; Old Fort Sumner Museum and Billy the Kid Museum,Fort Sumner
Lodging:Ellis Store Country Inn, Lincoln; The Wortley Hotel, Lincoln; Shadow Mountain Lodge & Cabins, Ruidosa; Billy the Kid Country Inn, Fort Sumner
7. March 24, 1882 Wyatt Earp vs. Curly Bill Cochise County, Arizona
To say that Wyatt Earp was fed up would be an understatement. The Cowboys, as the folks in Cochise County, Arizona, called the outlaws, had murdered his brother Morgan and crippled his brother Virgil. As a deputy U.S. marshal, with a pocket full of warrants, Earp formed a posse and hit the trail. One could probably say that the outlaws’ civil rights were not high on his list of priorities.
On March 24, Earp led his posse up to Iron Springs (later called Mescal Springs) and rode right into the outlaws. Earp’s posse fled, thinking that he was with them. But Earp had unshucked a shotgun from his saddle scabbard and dismounted. About that time, Curly Bill Brocius took aim on Wyatt with his own shotgun. Curly Bill missed and Wyatt didn’t. Having fired both barrels of his shotgun into Curly Bill, Wyatt used his revolver to put a bullet into Johnny Barnes, who later died from the wound.
Wyatt’s clothes were torn with bullets, but Earp was not hit. Still under fire, he hitched up his gunbelt and rode to cover. Earp later found out that the outlaws had carried Curly Bill’s body off and buried it on the Patterson Ranch.
Some believed that Curly Bill was not killed in this fight, though Wyatt and others always maintained that he was. The fact is that Curly Bill Brocious was never heard from again.
On the Trail Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill
Southeastern Arizona’s Cochise County offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:O.K. Corral and Historama, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Boothill Graveyard & Gift Shop, Tombstone; Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum & Cowboy Hall of Fame, Willcox; Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, Bisbee
Lodging:Tombstone Monument Ranch, Tombstone; Virgil’s Corner Bed & Breakfast, Tombstone
8. 1886 Teddy Roosevelt vs. The Boat Thieves Medora to Dickinson, North Dakota
The 1880s found future president Theodore Roosevelt ranching near Medora, North Dakota, along the Little Missouri River. One spring morning, as the ice in the river was beginning to break, Roosevelt found that someone had made off with the boat that he used to get to the other side of the river and tend to his livestock.
Suspecting some neighbors who lived nearby, Teddy and two ranch hands quickly got to work and built a flat-bottomed scow so that they could go after the thieves. After three days on the river, Roosevelt and his cowboys came up on the thieves’ camp. He arrested three men that he identified as Finnigan, The Half Breed and The Old German. Then Roosevelt waited eight days for the river to thaw, spending the time guarding prisoners and reading books, all the time keeping a double-barreled 12-gauge between him and the outlaws.
Finally, running short of supplies, Roosevelt decided to walk his prisoners overland to the sheriff in the town of Dickinson. Some 36 hours later, Teddy delivered his captives to the sheriff and, being a sworn deputy sheriff, collected his fees and mileage amounting to $50. He might have worn glasses and been from Back East, but the word soon got around that he was not one to mess with.
On the Trail of Theodore Roosevelt and the Boat Thieves
Western North Dakota offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of Theodore Roosevelt and the boat thieves.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:Theodore Roosevelt National Park, The Château de Mores Interpretive Center, Joe Ferris General Store, North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Medora; Dickinson Museum Center, Dickinson
Lodging:Rough Riders Hotel, Medora; Bar X Guest Ranch & Horse Camp, Medora; 1026 Oasis Inn, Dickinson
9. October 1892 Coffeyville vs. The Dalton Gang Meade to Coffeyville, Kansas
On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang pulled either the most daring stunt, or the stupidest stunt, of their outlaw career. Bob, Grat and Emmett Dalton, along with Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers, elected to hold up two banks at once in the Daltons’ old hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas.
The boys just made a few really stupid mistakes. They rode into town wearing phony-looking disguises that only called attention to them. They failed to case the banks ahead of time and did not have a good escape route planned. And they let Grat Dalton, not one of the sharpest knives in the drawer, be the leader in one bank.
Things went to pieces in a hurry, with the double robbery taking too long. Citizens discovered the twin crimes and began shooting even before the gang got out of the banks. In the confusion, Grat Dalton killed the town marshal in an alley, and the gang killed three citizens.
Hemmed up in an alley, trying to get on their horses, the outlaws were converged upon by townspeople who killed the entire gang except Emmett Dalton, who was shot so many times that he should have died. It was said that Bill Doolin had also been with the gang, but had held back, claiming that his horse was lame. If so, it just shows that Doolin was a whole lot smarter than the rest of the Dalton Gang.
On the Trail of the Dalton Gang
Southern and Western Kansas, from Meade to Coffeyville, including a side trip to Dodge City, offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of the Dalton Gang.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:The Daltons Defenders Museum, Condon Bank in Historic Perkins Building, Coffeyville CVB,Coffeyville; Meade County Historical Museum, Dalton Gang Hideout & Museum, Meade; Boothill Museum, Dodge City
Lodging: Regal Inn, Coffeyville; Lakeway Hotel: Bed & Breakfast, Meade; Boothill Casino & Resort, Dodge City
10. August 1896 Heck Thomas vs. Bill Doolin Lawson to Guthrie, Oklahoma
Bill Doolin’s turn finally came in 1896. After the demise of the Dalton Gang, of which he was a member, he formed his own wild bunch and kept on following the outlaw trade. Among other things, they shot up a group of U.S. marshals in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. Captured in Arkansas by Bill Tilghman, Doolin soon escaped from the jail in Guthrie.
In August of 1896, Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas set up surveillance on the home of Doolin’s father-in-law in Lawson, Oklahoma Territory. Late at night, the posse saw a man walking from the house, up a trail, in their general direction. When it was determined that it was Bill Doolin, the posse opened up. Doolin returned fire, but he was shot several times, and killed dead on the spot. Heck Thomas got the credit for killing Doolin, having centered the outlaw’s chest with a load of buckshot.
Folks have always debated if Thomas’s posse had called on Doolin to surrender. Most likely they did, but maybe, as in the case of Frank Hamer and Bonnie and Clyde, Doolin couldn’t hear them over the sound of the gunfire. We suspect that Heck Thomas didn’t much care.
On the Trail of Heck Thomas and Bill Doolin
Central Oklahoma offers numerous historic sites, scenic byways and heritage communities to explore on the trail of Heck Thomas and Bill Doolin.
Historic Sites, Parks, Museums & Monuments:National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City; Oklahoma Territorial Museum, Summit View Cemetery, Logan County Historical Society, Guthrie; JM Davis Arms & Historical Museum, Claremore; Woolaroc Museum, Bartlesville
Lodging: Pollard Inn, The Stone Lion Inn, Guthrie; Colcord Hotel, The Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City
Jim Wilson is a retired Texas peace officer, a former sheriff and a lifelong student of Western history. The Big Bend country of West Texas is his home.