Thursday, September 19, 2019

Wild West Hangings and Lynchings

Copyright 2019 by Gary L. Pullman

Hanging of " Black Jack" Ketchum

The website Legends of America lists almost 200 outlaws who were hanged during the days of the Wild West*; of this number, over 90 were lynched. The website provides details for the hanged (or lynched) men. For example, concerning Joseph Allen and his accomplices, Legends of America states that Joseph Allen (18??-1909) was—

A gunfighter who was involved in a bitter feud in Ada, Oklahoma, was later arrested for the murder of Gus Bobbitt. On April 19, 1909, a vigilante mob of 150-200 men stormed the jail, and dragged out Allen, along with Jim Miller, Jesse West, and D. B. Burrell. The four were hanged in an abandoned barn behind the jail.

In regard to Patricio Maes, a lynching victim, the website states that Eugenio Alarid,

a crooked lawman and outlaw, Alarid was a member of the Las Vegas, New Mexico police force and a member of Vicente Silva’s White Caps Gang. At the request of Silva, Alarid, along with to more crooked lawmen, Jose Chavez y Chavez, and Julian Trujillo lynched Patricio Maes on October 22, 1892. All three men were eventually arrested for the murder of Maes and sentenced to life in prison.

Legends of America also features “full articles” concerning several hanged or lynched men, including “James Averell—Unjustly Hanged,” “Henry Newton Brown—Robbing the Ameican West,” “Cattle Kate—Mystery of a Lynching,” “Outlaw William Coe & His Missing Loot,” “John Heath and the Bisbee Massacre,” “Thomas 'Black Jack' Ketchum—Unjustly Hanged” and “The Lynching of 'Big Steve' Long,” among others.

Black Jack Ketchum's hanging results in his decapitation

Although Washington and New Hampshire still use hanging as their means of execution, no hanging has occurred in the United States since 1996. Lynching continued in the United States until as late as 1968, with African Americans the victims, rather than outlaws, the victims.

Note: For the purpose of this article, the map below delineates the American Wild West:

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tombstone Entertainment: The Birdcage Theater

Copyright 2019 by Gary L. Pullman

One of the challenges faced by Billy Hutchinson and his wife Lottie, the owners of The Birdcage Theater in nineteenth-century Tombstone, Arizona, was how to make their business appealing to their customers, the region's miners, cowboys, and ranchers.

In 1881, before wedding Lottie, Billy had spent considerable money—$600—to build the theater. Now, he had to offer incentives to customers to keep them coming back for more. Fortunately, Billy had worked in show business, and he had the answer: “entertaining shows, refreshing drinks, games of chance, dancing, private conversation[,] and adult comfort.”

The eclectic “entertainment” offered by the theater wasn't exclusively theatrical. Prostitutes, who worked behind the drawn curtains of the “elevated boxes” suspended from the ceiling, also kept the establishment's patrons entertained at $25 per night. (Private rooms in the basement went for $40 per night.) 

Uncle Tom's Cabin was performed at The Birdcage in June 1882. Not all of the action went as written in the script:
Chaos occurred when little Eliza was being pursued by Simon Legree and his bloodhound while crossing the icy river. An inebriated cowboy, caught up in the drama, pulled his sixgun and plugged the dog. The audience was outraged and pounced on the clueless cowboy who was finally rescued by a peace officer and hauled off to jail. The next day the cowboy, now sober and repentant, offered his horse to the troupe as recompense for the dog.
In addition, The Birdcage Theater featured wrestling matches, one of which, between Peter Schumacher and Professor Dan Milo, occurred on February 6, 1886, each party receiving $100. Admission to the floor was 50 cents; for reserved seats, a dollar. The match was advertised in the town's famous newspaper, The Tombstone Epitaph, two days before the event took place.

The variety of entertainment that The Birdcage featured virtually guaranteed there was something for everyone, “including leg shows, bawdy humorists, and fast-paced variety acts.” The variety acts featured such performers as The Happy Hottentots and their “Grotesque Dancing, Leg Mania, and Contortion Feats”; Mademoiselle De Granville, “The Female Hercules,” who claimed to have “an iron jaw” and picked “up heavy objects with her teeth”; comedians, including “the Irish comic duo of John H. Burns and Matthew Trayers, the comic singer Irene Baker,” and comedienne Nola Forest; “a serious opera singer” Carrie Delmar; acrobats and trapeze artists; Ella Richter, aka Mademoiselle Zazel, “the Human Cannonball”; masquerade balls attended by transvestite entertainers David Walters and Will Curlew; and “The Flying Nymph,” who “flew” across the theater “on a rope.” 

The Human Fly was certainly “one of the most unusual” performances:

. . . women (dressed in the usual theatrical tights and abbreviated costumes) walked upside-down on the ceiling over the stage. It was not an illusion—they actually were suspended above the stage . . . . The trick was that their shoes had special clamps on them that fitted into holes bored into the ceiling to support them . . . . In another version the human fly” women wore suction cups on their feet as they walked up and down on a platform high above the stage.

As one might suppose, such acts were dangerous. In both versions, one or more of “the human fly” performers died when equipment failed.

Among the other unusual entertainments the theater boasted was a 24-hour poker game that continued non-stop for eight years, five months, and three days, during which $10 million were bet. To be admitted to the game, a player had to be willing to spend at least $1,000. Those who tried their hands at the game include Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Diamond Jim Brady, and George Hearst. The house took 10 percent of the winnings, so, over the years that the game lasted, The Birdcage received a whopping $1 million! 

Eddie Foy, Sr.
Lotta Crabtree

Among other entertainers who performed at The Birdcage were Eddie Foy, Sr., Lotta Crabtree, Lily Langtree, and Lola Montez. However, despite the entertainment the theater offered, the frequent shootings and low company prevented many women from patronizing the establishment, and, despite the weekly Ladies' Nights on which women were admitted free of charge, “respectable ladies in Tombstone never went near the Bird Cage.

Lillie Langtree
Lola Montez
The Birdcage Theater is something of a time capsule. Located at the corner of Allen Street and Sixth Street, it survived the devastating fire that swept through Tombstone in the early 1880s because it was built entirely of concrete, and, “when it closed its doors in 1889, everything inside was left in place”; in 1934, when the doors were opened again, “Tombstone found itself with a perfect window into its past.”

Sunday, September 15, 2019

AUTHENTICATED: New Tintype of Morgan Earp, Louisa Earp, Doc Holliday, and Mary Katherine Horony

Copyright 2019 by Gary L. Pullman

Seated, second row, second to left, Morgan Earp; beside him, to his left, Louisa Earp; to Louisa's left, "Big Nose Kate"; to her left, Doc Holliday. Souce: Bidsquare.

Click the image to enlarge it.

The recent authentication of an April 24, 1881, tintype showing Morgan Seth Earp (1851-1882), Morgan's wife Louisa Alice Houston (1855-1894), Doc Holliday (1851-1887), and Doc's common-law wife Mary Katherine (“Big Nose Kate”) Horony (1850-1940) has excited Western historian, novelists, and fans. The tintype may have been taken on Morgan's thirtieth birthday.

The rare tintype, measuring 4.875 inches long by 3.375 inches wide, was authenticated by forensic expert Kent Gibson of Los Angeles, California, using facial-recognition software.

Gibson has also authenticated images of other figures of the Old West, including those of Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Pat Garrett, Jesse James, Frank James, Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid, Doc Holliday, John Wilkes Booth, Fred Waite, Fred Noonan, Bat Masterson.

Morgan Earp. Source: Find-a-Grave.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Six months after the tintype was taken, the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral occurred, on October 26, 1881, at 2:30 PM. Morgan and Doc fought alongside Morgan's brothers, Wyatt and Tombstone marshal Virgil, against Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton. The next year, on March 18, Morgan was assassinated in Campbell & Hatch's saloon and billiard parlor, an incident that precipitated Wyatt Earp's and Doc Holliday's vendetta ride.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Using Resources to Research and Better appreciate the Old West

Copyright 2019 by Gary L. Pullman

 When we think of the towns of the Old West, only a few names are apt to come to mind: Abilene, Kansas, Coffeyville, Kansas, Dodge City, Kansas, Deadwood, South Dakota, Tombstone, Arizona, and—uh?

Of course, these towns are largely associated with bigger-than-life figures: Wild Bill Hickok (Abilene, Kansas, and Deadwood, South Dakota); the Dalton gang (Coffeyville, Kansas); Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday (Dodge City, Kansas, and Tombstone, Arizona).

There are other ways to identify—and to think about—the towns of the Old West, though. A map of the route of the transcontinental railroad, like maps of other Wild West occasions and enterprises, reveals the names of a lot of towns (some of which, such as Laramie, Wyoming, and North Platte, Nebraska, developed alongside the railroad).

 Note: Reading about such towns is interesting in itself for Wild West buffs, the writers among whom may develop plots and plot twists, and situations; meet and invent characters; find or create settings; discover conflicts; encounter true-life incidents and scenarios; and obtain facts by which to make stories more interesting, realistic, and authentic.
 Black dots = gold mines; red dots = mining towns
Click the image to enlarge it.

A map showing gold or silver mines will usually also show the boom towns that grew up nearby, many of them during the years of the Old West; some are Sutter's Mill, California; Central City, Colorado, Leadville, Colorado, and Silverton, Colorado; Silver City, New Mexico; and Virginia City, Nevada.

 Note: Reading about these mines and boom towns is, again, both intriguing in itself and, for Western writers, offers a wealth of potential material and a mountain of facts.

 Click the image to enlarge it.
 Source: Pinterest

 Maps of cattle trails show the towns (and Army posts) through which the trails ran and towns nearby, including (in Texas) San Antonio, Austin, Fort graham, Fort Worth, and Doan's Crossing and (in Kansas) Wichita, Caldwell, Newton, Ellsworth, Abilene, and Dodge City (Chisholm Trail); (in Texas) Fort Belknap, Concho, and Fort Concho, (in Colorado) Pueblo, and (in New Mexico) El Paso, Tularosa, and Fort Sumner; and (in Texas) Bandera, and (in Nebraska) Ogallala (Western Trail).

 Note: Not only do the towns, terrain features, and other points of interest in specific maps relate to particular aspects of the western experience—in this case, mining—but they also provide the other benefits already mentioned in previous notes.

A good road atlas, such as Rand McNally publishes, is also an excellent way to locate settings for Westerns or for readers and writers to identify sites that may be of interest to fans of the genre.
For example, Interstate 80 pretty much follows the route of the transcontinental railroad, and U. S. Highway 50 connects towns to which the Southern Pacific Railroad was linked by trunk lines: Austin, Eureka, and (later) Ely.

In Colorado (and elsewhere), several present-day cities along U. S. Highway 50 existed during the days of the Old West, including Grand Junction (incorporated 1882), Delta (incorporated 1882), Montrose (incorporated 1882), Gunnison (incorporated 1880), Maysville (early 1880s), Salida (incorporated 1891), Canon City (incorporated 1872), Pueblo (incorporated 1885), Rocky Ford (incorporated 1887), La Junta (incorporated 1881), Las Animas (incorporated 1886), Fort Lyon, Lamar (incorporated 1886), and Granada (incorporated 1887); plenty of other nearby towns also existed during the heyday of the Wild West.
On the Rand McNally atlas pages for Colorado, red squares along the highway identify points of interest, many of which pertain to the Old West: Ute Indian Museum near Montrose; The Angel of Shavano near Monarch; Koshare Indian Museum and Kiva near La Junta; Bent's Old Fort National Historical Site, Fort Carson Museum, Boggsville, and Fort Lyon National Cemetery between la Junta and Las Animas; and Big Timbers Museum near Lamar.

On the Rand McNally atlas pages for Colorado, red squares along the highway identify points of interest, many of which pertain to the Old West: Ute Indian Museum near Montrose; The Angel of Shavano near Monarch; Koshare Indian Museum and Kiva near La Junta; Bent's Old Fort National Historical Site, Fort Carson Museum, Boggsville, and Fort Lyon National Cemetery between la Junta and Las Animas; and Big Timbers Museum near Lamar.

Click the image to enlarge it.

 A map of the Pony Express route, from St. Joseph, Missouri, west to Sacramento, California, identifies numerous towns, cities, rocks, bridges, creeks, rivers, forts, mountain passes, mesas, and other points of interest in the Old West, including

 (in Kansas) Elwood, Kennekuk, Kickapoo, Granada, Log Chain, Seneca, Guittard's, Marysville, and Hollenberg;

 (in Nebraska) Rock Creek, Big Sandy, Thompson's, Kiowa, Liberty Farm, Thirty-Two-Mile Creek, Lone Tree, Summit, Hooks, Fort Kearny, Platte Station, Craig's, Plum Creek, Willow Spring, Midway, Gilman's, Sam Mettache's, Cottonwood, Cold Spring, Fremont Spring, O'Fallon's, Alkali, Beauvai's, Diamond Spring, Lodge Pole, Thirty-Mile Ridge, Midway (yes, a second one!), Mud Springs, Courthouse Rock, Junction, Chimney Rock, Ficklin's, Fort Mitchell, Horse Creek;

 (in Colorado) South Platte and Julesberg;

 (in Wyoming) Spring Station, Beauvai's (yes, a second one!), Fort Laramie, Cottonwood, Horseshoe, Elkhorn, La Bonte, La Prelle, Box Elder, Deer Creek, Platte Bridge, Red Buttes, Willow Spring (yes, a second one!), Sweetwater, Independence Rock, Devil's Gate, Split Rock, Three Crossings, Saint Mary's, Rock Creek, South Pass, Pacific Spring, Dry Sandy, Big Sandy, Big Bend, Ham's Fork (Granger), Church Buttes, Millersville, Fort Bridger, Maddy, Quaking Aspen, and Bear River;

 (in Utah) Needle Rocks, Echo, Hanging Rock, Weber, Henefer, Dixie, Snyder's, Mountain Dell, Salt Lake City, Traveler's Rest, Rockwell's, Joe Duquut, Crittenden's Pass, Faust's, P. T. Lookout, Simpson's Spring, River Bed, Dug Way, Black Rock, Fish Spring, Boyd's, Willow Spring (yes, another one!), Canyon, and Deep Creek;

 (in Nevada) Eight-Mile or Prairie Gate, Antelope Spring, Spring Valley, Schell Creek, Egall, Butte, Mountain Spring, Ruby Valley, Jacob's Well, Diamond Spring, Sulphur Spring, Robert's Creek, Camp Station, Dry Creek, Cape Horn, Simpson's Park, Reese River, Mount Airy, Castle Rock, Edward's Creek, Cold Spring, Middle Creek, Fairview, Mountain Well, Still Water, Old River, Busby's, Nevada, Dessert Wells, Dayton, Carson, Genoa; and

 (in California) Friday's, Yank's, Strawberry, Webster's, Moss, Sportsman's Hall, Placerville, Folsom, Mills, and Sacramento.

 Note: The points along the Pony Express map identify more than towns and cities; terrain features, way stations, important travel information, such as the locations of passes, springs, and rivers, are identified; landmarks are provided; and, it seems, the locations of private persons' property are supplied. Such elements suggest that the route was more than merely a trail for Pony Express riders; it was something similar to a road atlas, offering not only points of interest, but also information about travel, the availability of water, danger spots, and more. The Pony Express rider, for example, would know that a dry spring lay ahead, that once he reached Quaking Aspen, he didn't have to ride much farther until he'd enter Utah or, if he were in need—perhaps a band of Indians were in hot pursuit, he'd know that, just past Mountain Dell, he'd reach Salt Lake City, where, hopefully, assistance would be available to him. Such information could prove both vital and comforting on a route that was 1,900 miles long!

Wikipedia offers a ton of helpful information to jump start a writer's or a reader's research. (Of course, Wikipedia should be only a starting point, and any information it provides should be verified; often, Wikipedia's own footnotes provide sources that allow just such verification.) For example, the article on “Boot Hill” includes a section, “List of places with Boot Hill cemeteries.” There are forty of them! By perusing the articles associated with the places on the list, one can acquire interesting, relevant information in a matter of minutes, from the convenience and comfort of one's own home or office. The first place on this list, Alma, New Mexico, for example, provides this tidbit—useful for readers and writers alike (the footnotes and hyperlinks are not included here):

 Sergeant James C. Cooney laid out a town on site of Alma in the early 1870s, but left it undeveloped. The town was bought by a Captain Birney, who named it "Alma" for his mother. In 1882 the U.S. Post Office opened in Alma, lasting until 1931.

 The town was home of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's infamous Wild Bunch gang for a short period. They worked at the nearby WS ranch. Reportedly, the foreman and ranch manager were very happy with the Wild Bunch's work since the rustling stopped while they were employed at the ranch. Tom Ketchum, Harvey Logan and William Antrim, Billy the Kid's stepfather, also lived in Alma at some point. Artist Olaf Wieghorst once worked on the Cunningham Ranch near Alma.

 Charlie Siringo wrote that Butch Cassidy "ran a saloon there under the name of Jim Lowe."

 Alma is the site of a Boot Hill cemetery, which is located about two miles north of the town.

Whether a reader or a writer of Wild West adventures uses these and other resources to research the Old West, he or she is likely to enrich his or her knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of this unique time period in American history, which, in turn, should allow him or her to read with greater discernment and discrimination—and with greater enjoyment!—or to write with more accuracy, verisimilitude, and, indeed, greater elan. It is by knowing our past that we become able to learn from it—and to celebrate it, in fiction and in life.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Wild West Humorists Lincoln Loved

Copyright 2019 by Gary L. Pullman

It's hard to say whether the Wild West brought out the humor in some men or whether the humor in these men found gold in the shenanigans of those whom they met on the American frontier, but one thing is clear: the Old West produced a number of Wild West humorists, one of whom President Abraham Lincoln (no slouch as a humorist himself) considered his favorite writer.

NOTE: Click the red links (below) to access websites on which you can read these authors' works free online.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835-1910)

 Although Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or Mark Twain, as he is better known, is the most famous author among the Wild West humorists, he wasn't Lincoln's favorite writer.

In many ways, however, Clemens embodied the Wild West.

His years as a riverboat pilot gave him much of the material for Life on the Mississippi.

His stagecoach trip west and his experiences there, prospecting for silver and gold and writing for The Territorial Enterprise newspaper, supplied him with material for Roughing It (1872).

Recently, the University of California at Berkeley recovered 65,000 words (about one fourth) of the columns Clemens wrote for the Enterprise in 1865-1866 (he worked for the newspaper for three years, from 1862-1865) and plans to publish this correspondence.

Among Clemens's output that was never missing are such articles as the “Petrified Man” hoax, “A Bloody Massacre near Carson” (also known as the “Empire City Massacre Hoax”), and “A Scene at Rawhide Ranch.”

It was one of his short stories, however, that brought Clemens to national attention: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1865).

David Ross Locke (Petroleum V. Nasby) (1833-1888)

 David Ross Locke delighted readers with the ironic, intentionally semi-literate letters he wrote under the pen name Petroleum V. Nasby in support of the Union during the Civil War. After the war ended, he targeted Reconstruction with his wry sense of humor.

Before beginning his career in journalism, Lock (like Clemens) served as a printer's devil, or apprentice. After seven years in this capacity, Locke became an itinerant journalist, before purchasing The Jefferson newspaper, of Findlay, Ohio.

It was as owner of this newspaper that he began to write his Nasby letters, adopting a persona described by John M. Harrison, author of The Man Who Made Nasby, as “a supreme opportunist, bigoted, work-shy, often half-drunk, and willing to say or do anything to get a [cushy] Postmaster's job” (85).

A Democrat who opposed the Civil War, Nasby was drafted into the Union Army. He deserted and joined the Confederates' (fictitious) Pelican Brigade, but soon deserted it as well, finding it not to his liking. A civilian again, he devoted his life to pursuing the elusive position of Postmaster. Meanwhile, Nasby worked as a preacher who used Bible verses to show that God had ordained slavery.

Lincoln greatly enjoyed Locke's Nasby letters, quoting from them frequently, and, writes Alexander K. McClure, in Abe Lincoln's Yarns and Stories, the president reportedly declared, “I intend to tell him if he will communicate his talent to me, I will swap places with him.”

Robert Henry Newell (Orpheus C. Kerr) (1836-1901)

 The Civil War was also a topic of humor for Robert Henry Newell, the editor of the New York Sunday Mercury, who wrote as Orpheus C. Kerr (a play on words suggesting that he was an “Office Seeker,” by which he implied his fictional stand-in was a lazy man who'd like to secure a political appointment to an office requiring minimal work at high pay).

As the literary editor of the New York Sunday Mercury, Newell penned widely popular articles lampooning society and aspects of the Civil War.

Lincoln was one of Newell's fans. When the president asked General Montgomery C. Miegs whether he'd read The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers and the general said no, Lincoln contended that “anyone who has not read them is a heathen” (Benjamin P. Thomas, Lincoln's Humor: An Analysis, 3.)

By the way, Newell was married to the famous actress, painter, and poet Ada Issacs Menken, whose performance in Mazeppa scandalized New York and London audiences!

 Charles Farrar Browne (Artemus Ward) (1834-1867)

A member of the audience during one of Browne's performances another Wild West humorist, Francis Brett Hart, or Bret Harte, as he was known professionally, observed that Browne, in his portrayal of Ward, perfectly showcased American frontier “humor that belongs to the country of boundless prairies, limitless rivers, and stupendous cataracts—that fun which overlies the surface of our national life, which is met in the stage, rail-car, canal and flat-boat, which bursts out over camp-fires and around bar-room stoves.”

“Artemis Ward” met Clemens when he and “Mark Twain” performed in Virginia City, Nevada, and the two humorists became lifelong friends.

Browne also proved enormously popular when he toured England as a lecturer and contributed humorous pieces to the British humor magazine Punch.

Although Lincoln enjoyed the writings of both Locke and Kerr, the chief executive absolutely loved Browne's humor. Not Nasby, nor Kerr, nor even Clemens, but Browne, has the honor of being President Lincoln's favorite author.

Indeed, as Benjamin Tarnof relates in The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, before Lincoln shared “The Gettysburg Address” with his cabinet, he regaled them with a reading of Browne's latest essay, “Outrage in Utiky,” which was also known as High-Handed Outrage at Utica.
Other Wild West Humorists

Other Wild West humorists you may enjoy include Francis Brett Hart (Bret Harte) (1836-1902), William Wright (Dan DeQuille) (1829-1898), and Seba Smith (Major Jack Downing) (1792-1868).

Wild West Hangings and Lynchings

Copyright 2019 by Gary L. Pullman Hanging of " Black Jack" Ketchum The website Legends of America lists almost 200...