Thursday, August 4, 2011

American History: The Year 1871


1871 Colt
I receive a lot of e-mail. One lately really started me thinking.

I was asked if I could give some prospective of what all was taking place during the same year that a 23 year old Wyatt Earp was arrested for stealing a couple of horses. 

On the 28th of March of 1871, Wyatt Earp and Edward Kennedy got John Shown drunk and talked him into go along with them in stealing two horses from one James Keyes. 

The plan was for John Shown was to take the horses 50 miles north where the others would meet him.  The scheme apparently progressed as planned until the owner of the horses James Keyes, who did not giving up on his horses, caught up with the thieves three days later.  Keyes recovered his stock and subsequently filed charges against Wyat Earp, Ed Kennedy and John Shown in federal court in Van Buren, Arkansas.

Earp escaped from jail and was never brought to justice for what was a Hanging Offense in those days.  
So what else was happening in 1871 when that was going on?  Well, after some research, I can honestly say that the year 1871 was a big year in American History. Especially for the Old West.

Early in 1871, it was reported that Mosquito Gulch, California, had 19 students in the school house here.

During that year, a good example that some miners will try anything to chase that gold in this area known as the Motherlode took place when a local "Chinaman" decided to dry some of his blasting caps in his stove. Instead of letting them dry one slowly, no, he was in a rush.  Judging from the results, the caps dried out real well. In fact, several pieces of the "Chinaman" have been found in many places. And yes, the paper reported that what was left of the cablin would make good kindling.

Of course, there is the case of a Road Agent by the name of "Alkali Jim" who was arrested for his role in robbing a stage of $2,700.  After being caught, it was said that "Alkali Jim" tried plea bargining by telling the law where some of the loot was. Only $2000 was recovered before they hauled "Alkali Jim" to the calaboose.  
Model 1860 Army percussion

In Texas, gunman John King Fisher was hired by settlers of the Pendencia River country as a hired gun to protect their livestock and other property. It was during that time that John King Fisher becomes known as a skilled gunfighter.

In 1871, Colt received an Army contract to convert one thousand Model 1860 Army percussion revolvers to use the .44-caliber center fire cartridge being manufactured at their Frankford Arsenal.

The number of cattle shipped to the Chicago stockyards in 1871 was over 600,000.  Abilene, Kansas, may have been the first cow town, but disease and rowdy cowboys shifted the cow capital first to Wichita, then to Dodge City, Kansas.

In fact, in April of that year James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok became the Marshal in Abilene, Kansas. He replaced Tom "Bear River" Smith after he'd been killed and decapitated.   
Tom "Bear River" Smith

In 1871, professional gambler Phil Coe and gunfighter Ben Thompson open the Bull's Head Tavern and Gambling Saloon in Abilene. The establishment becomes widely known for its large painting of a bull whose genitals are much larger than the rest of its body.

The painting becomes known as the "Shame of Abilene" by local townspeople, and Marshal Hickok is asked to intervene. When the owners refuse to take down the painting, Hickok takes it upon himself to repaint parts of the picture.

This results in a personal dispute with Coe which eventual leads to a shootout in which Hickok shots both Phil Coe and his own deputy. That's right, during the shootout Hickok mistakenly shoots his own Deputy, a young man by the name of  Mike Williams.

Deputy Williams is killed instantly, but Phil Coe would die from his wounds four days later. This would be the last time James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok uses his gun.  In all James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok only served as a lawman for less than 2 years of his entire life.

It was in 1871 in the Bull's Head Tavern that John Wesley Hardin refused to hand over his guns to Wild Bill. It was a confrontation over Hardin's insistence of wearing his gun in public. Now there are all sorts of legends about the encounter, and all have Hickok not disarming Hardin. No one knows why. 

The town of Dodge City can trace its origins to 1871 when rancher Henry J. Sitler built a sod house west of Fort Dodge to oversee his cattle operations in the area. Later Dodge City would became "Queen of the Cow Towns." 

The profits to be made were immense, with a $5 steer in Texas bringing up to $45 in Kansas. In fact, the profitability of the cattle kingdom was one of the factors contributing to the demise of most of those cow towns by 1886.

Fact is that greedy ranchers dangerously overstocked the grasslands with cattle by the mid-1880s, and created a cattle-glut. Then when the price of beef fell, everyone went broke and the majority of big ranches closed up.

In Nebraska, Lt. Hayes leads 30 soldiers of the 5th Cavalry against a band of Sioux camped on Birdwood Creek.  Six Sioux are killed and 60 horses are recovered.  Scout William F. Cody is cited for "conspicuous and gallant conduct."In 1871, one of the largest gunfights that ever took place in the Old West was fought in Newton, Kansas. It became known as the Hyde Park Gunfight or the Newton Massacre. In all, it was a much bigger gunfight than that at the OK Corral years later. Though it was well publicized at the time, historical attention to this gunfight is only now starting to take place.  



Of course in 1871, the James Gang was robbing trains and killing the innocent. All in all they weren't more than common criminals who robbed and murdered without any sort of feeling of uneasiness or anxiety on their conscience.


They had no regret for doing wrong or causing pain, They felt no remorse. They were highwaymen, bad men, and greed and savagery governed their actions.

Of course 1871 was the same year that Western Union started handling money transfers, so I'd bet that the James Gang liked that a lot.

The year 1871 also saw the Wickenburg Massacre where six men travelling by stagecoach were murdered and mutilated by the Yavapai Indians in Arizona Territory. The driver and five male passengers were either killed instantly or died within minutes of the attack.
Kiowa War Chief Satanta

Two wounded passengers, William Kruger and Mollie Sheppard, made an escape and were picked up by an eastbound mail wagon approximately five miles west of where the ambush took place. It was an amazing feat considering they pursued the whole time by nine members of the raiding party.

Mollie Sheppard later died from infected wounds. Of the eight souls involved in the ambush, only William Kruger survived. And yes, folks wonder where stories like this come from - our history is full of them. 

Also in the Arizona Territory in 1871, Americans also saw the establishment of Fort Apache. The U.S. Army post was established as headquarters for the newly formed Apache reservation.

The U. S. Cavalry that was garrisoned there was charged with keeping the peace, rounding up hostile Indians, and bringing in the renegade Indian Geronimo and his band.

And again in the Arizona Territory in 1871, the Bear Springs Fight took place where Lt. Cushings and 10 of his soldiers were killed when a party of Chiricahua Apaches led by Cochise trapped a detail of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry in the Whetson Mountains of Arizona.

In 1871, Kiowa War Chief Satanta led several attacks on wagon trains in Texas. His undoing came with the Warren Wagon Train Massacre on May 18, 1871. 
Warren Wagon Train Massacre

Interestingly enough immediately before that attack, the Kiowa Chief had made the decision to allow an Army Ambulance with a small guard to pass unharmed. In the ambulance happened to be an ill General by the name of William Tecumseh Sherman.

The rest of the wagon train attempted to fight off the Indian war party by shifting themselves into a ring formation. Yes, they circled the wagons!

The mules were all put into the center to try to keep them out of harms way. Despite their efforts, the Indians captured all of the supplies in the train. They murdered and mutilated seven of the teamsters - but five managed to escape and get word out of the massacre.
In California, that was the year of The Chinese Massacre of 1871 where a riot broke out and a mob of over 500 men, both White and Latino, entered Los Angeles' Chinatown and attacked and murdered 18 to 23 Chinese men.   
Negro Alley, Los Angeles, CA

The riot and massacre was triggered  in retaliation for a murder of a prominent local cattle rancher by the name of Robert Thompson. Some reports say he was a target and others say he was caught in the cross-fire during a gun battle between two Chinese factions during the infamous Tong Wars that plagued California from the 1850s to the 1920s. 

I've read that after the massacre dead Chinese were hanging at three places near the heart of the downtown Los Angeles' business district.

One report side that they were hanging from the wooden awning over the sidewalk in front of a carriage shop. Another says that they were hanging from the sides of two covered wagons, also known as "prairie schooners," that were supposedly parked on the street around the corner from the carriage shop. Another report said that there were other men hanging from the cross-beam of a wide gate leading into a lumberyard a few blocks away from the other two locations.

One of the victims was hanged without his trousers, was castrated, and had a finger on his left hand and his pigtail "cue" cut off. And yes, it is not known how many were indeed Tong hatchet men or just innocent bystanders. Supposedly, from accounts that have been long buried, almost every building in Chinatown was searched for Tong hatchet men and thugs.  

Of the over 500 men who are known to have participated in the attack on the Chinese, only 8 men were ever convicted - but the verdicts were all thrown out almost immediately for technical oversights by the prosecution.

Some say it was because it was 1871 and the Tong Wars in California had been raging since the Chinese "sojourners" started arriving in the 1850s. Some say it was out of resentment for taking jobs away from others and working for lower wages. It was the worst mass lynching in California history.

Just for the record, it was the worse incident against the Chinese until 1885 when coal miners attacked and massacred Chinese co-workers in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where 28 Chinese men were killed.

In  Utah, Mormon leader Brigham Young, age 70, was arrested for polygamy. He was later convicted, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction.

In Alaska, a whaling fleet of 32 ships was abandoned off Icy Cape in the Chukchi Sea. Seven other vessels escaped with all the crew members saved. In 1998 an attempt was made to locate the shipwreck site.

In 1871, a black Texas ranch foreman by the name of Brit Johnson, also known as Negro Brit Johnson, was killed by Kiowa raiders. Brit Johnson had been reared on the frontier among the white citizens, and yes he knew the frontier well and was well respected.

Brit's home life had been shattered in 1864 when an Indian raiding party killed his son and captured his wife along with two of their other children. He reportedly ransomed back his family in 1865 and then continued searching for other stolen children before he was killed.

Later author Alan Le May used the story of Brit Johnson as the model for his novel “The Searchers” (1954). Of course, "The Searchers" later became an instant classic Western movie starring none other than John Wayne. 

Back East ....

In 1871, there was a lot more happening than what was going on in the West, back East in that year the very first Major League Baseball game was played.

The great showman P.T. Barnum (Phineas Taylor Barnum), founded "The Greatest Show On Earth" in Delavan, Wisconsin in 1871.

He introduced the idea of the 3 rings in a circus. He gave us a novelty by the name of General Tom Thumb and a singer by the name of Jenny Lind who took America by storm. She was called "The Swedish Nightingale." It was entertainment as never seen before.

In 1871, the first all Negro (black) Lodge of Masons was approved. It was established in New Jersey. 

In Washington D.C. in 1871, the Treaty of Washington was signed and ratified by Great Britain and the United States. It was said to be "the greatest treaty of actual and immediate arbitration the world has ever seen."  It settled all sorts of disputes between our two countries. In particular, it settled what was termed the "Alabama Claims" - claims against Britain for helping to arm the Confederacy during the Civil War.

In 1871, Congress passed the Indian Appropriation Act which revoked the sovereignty of Indian nations and made Native Americans wards of the American government. The act eliminated the necessity of treaty negotiating and established the policy that tribal affairs could be managed by the U.S. government without tribal consent.

In other words Congress changed the status of Indian tribes from "independent" to "dependent." I can't help but wonder if with the success of all of the Indian Casinos these days popping up everywhere across the country these day - does Congress still consider Indian tribes "dependent"?

During the Civil War which ran from 1861 to 1865, Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which included a Tax on personal income. It was supposedly meant to help pay for Civil War expenses of the Union.  This was the first effort to enact an Income Tax.

But then in 1871, the Income Tax was repealed. Imagine that! But not to worry, because as we all know, Income Tax came back.

In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant sent federal troops to South Carolina to suppress violence instigated by former Confederate soldiers who formed an organization called the Ku Klux Klan.

Then later that year, he signed the Ku Klux Klan Act. It was also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and also formally entitled "An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other Purposes."

President U.S. Grant asked for the law and it was passed all within one month. Yes, imagine that, the President requested it from Congress  - and yes, Congress delivered all in one month. That, my friends, is quick.

President Grant's request was the result of reports of widespread racial terrorism in the Deep South, particularly in South Carolina. Yup, the Klan which was made up of former Confederate Soldiers was attacking everyone in the south - Black and White.

Blacks being former slaves, and Whites being the Republican Unionist who were there during the Reconstruction Period.

Of course 1871 was the year of the Great Chicago Fire.

Yes, on Oct 8 of 1871, at around 9 p.m. on a Sunday, a fire broke out in the barn belonging to Patrick and Catherine O'Leary in the crowded southwestern section of Chicago. 

Because of high winds, the fire burned out of control in the tinder-dry wooden city for more than 2 days until it rained on Tuesday morning that finally extinguished the flames.

Three and a half square miles were leveled wiping out one-third of the city. The business district, the courthouse and the central water pumping station, burned to the ground.

Thousands of Chicagoans fled the flames over the Randolph Street Bridge. More than 300 people were killed in the fire, and 98,500 people were left homeless. An amazing 17,450 buildings were destroyed during the fire.

The original Emancipation Proclamation which was in Chicago was destroyed. Many people believed that Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern which started the fire. The story and the legend about the cow was made up by a Chicago newspaper reporter simply trying to juice up a story.

Later,  the Chicago City Council passed a resolution exonerating the cow and apologizing to the O'Leary family. In fact, it was Pegleg O'Sullivan who kicked over a lantern after breaking into the O'Leary dairy barn to steal milk for a whiskey punch party.

The false story became a legend.

Yes, in 1871, Chicago was all but burnt completely to the ground. And by the way, if you've ever wondered why Chicago is called the "Second City," well the term "Second City" came from the fact that when it was rebuilt - it became the Second City of Chicago.

But a worse lost of life by fire that year happened in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, when over 1,500 people were killed in the nation’s worst forest fire. The fire burned across six counties and into Michigan. Fires also broke out in the Michigan communities of Holland, Manistee and Port Huron.

In New York City that year, a group of patriotic Americans who were all former Union Army Officers founded an organization called The National Rifle Association.

These former Union Army officers wanted to encourage marksmanship and gun safety. It was started with a few folks who were all concerned that Civil War soldiers were often times poorly trained and barely able to use their weapons properly.

Since after the war many of those Civil War soldiers returned home with their weapons, the newly formed NRA wanted to help them with gun safety, organized shooting sports, and other marksmanship events.

And yes, because of all of those former Civil War soldiers going home with their guns still in their possession, 1871 was the first year that America was considered the most heavily armed nation in the world. Hopefully nothing has changed.

The year 1871 was a busy year all in all, in the West outlaws were still running wild and Indians were still having their day. Because of the cattle drives that started just two years earlier in 1869, cow towns were sprouting everywhere and the American people were on the move.

Yes, while that was the year that Wyatt Earp was arrested for being a low down no good snake of a Horse Thief - Americans were up to a lot of things. Obviously a lot more than I can list here.

In fact, during the year of 1871, the United States Marine Corps sees action in Korea after American ships are attacked by gun emplacements in Korean forts.

After the attack, an Marine Expeditionary Force set out for Korea from China. It included over 1,200 Marines and Sailors and five ships, the USS Colorado, the USS Alaska, the USS Palos, the USS Monocracy, and the USS Benicia, as well as a number of smaller support vessels.

At one point 650 U.S. Marines go into one battle, then in another Marine Captain McLane Tilton will lead 110 U.S. Marines in a naval attack on a Korean fort on the Han River in Korea.

So imagine that for a second, while Jessie James was robbing and killing, while Indians were still raising cane, while the U.S. Army was opening the famous Fort Apache, while the cattle drives were opening up the country with all sorts of new towns like Dodge City, while Major League Baseball was being born, and while the National Rifle Association was being established, we had American Marines half way around the world in combat - fighting and dieing for American interests.  

It was called the Korean Expedition of 1871,  - and yes,  it was the first American military action in Korea. Imagine that.





Story by Tom Correa

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