Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Old West - Interesting Facts - Part Two

Well, it seems that folks like Old West trivia as much as I do. 

One good friend took me to task about something that I wrote about the Kennedy Mine in Jackson. 

Since Jackson is our big town around these parts, it didn't take too long to verify my information and make the adjustments to clarify the facts.

Gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill near Coloma, California in 1848. 

On an icy cold morning early in 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, picked up a few nuggets of gold from the the trailrace of the sawmill that he was building for John Sutter. 

In the following year hundreds of thousands of gold-seeking adventurers journeyed to California.  Prospectors from the Eastern parts of the United States and from Europe came across country and sailed around Cape Horn. 

Some hiked across the Isthmus of Panama from South America.  Ships poured into San Francisco from Asia, and yes, even from Hawaii. 

These California immigrants were called "Forty Niners" because most of them arrived in 1849.

According to the State of California, nearly $2,000,000,000 in gold was taken from the earth before mining became dormant.

So did you know that outlaw Jesse James used to write his own Press Releases and hand them out during his hold ups?  It's true.  So besides being a murderer and a robber, it sounds like Jesse was pretty vain as well. 

It might seem hard to believe.  In the late 1890s, Wyatt Erap operated a Saloon in Nome, Alaska.  One night Earp got slapped acros the face and had his gun taken away from him by U.S. Marshal Albert Lowe for brandishing a firearm.  It happened after Earp threatened the Marshal saying he'd show the Marshal how guns are handled "down Arizona way." 

Wyatt Earp was a lucky man, because brandishing a firearm to a bad hombre like Federal Marshal Albert Lowe could have gotten him killed that night. 

Wyatt Earp may have suffered from being a man who believes his own press.  This again falls under the heading, sometimes it's not smart to let your mouth write checks that your ass can't cash.  On a visit to San Francisco in May of 1900, he was knocked senseless in a fist fight with a local prizefighter named Mike Mulqueen after Earp mouthed off to him. 

Another interesting fact of Wyatt Earp has to do with his being arraigned twice in Los Angeles on Bunco Charges.  The word Bunco that many today associate with the friendly dice game was once a term used to when talking about scams, swindlings and confidence games.  By the 1880s many Police Departments had their own Bunco Squad that were used to investigate those confidence games. 

The last time Wyatt Earp was arraigned for running a Bunco Game was in 1911, when he tried to fleece a Mr. Patterson out of $25,000.  And friends, that may be a lot of money these days - but it was even moreso back then. 

One of my favorite stories about Vigilante Justice took place in Bannack, Montana where Sheriff Henry Plummer secretly led a band of outlaws who robbed or killed more than a hundred victims.  In 1864, his secret was discovered - Plummer and his gang were hanged by Montana Vigilantes.

Outlaws and Lawmen were interchangeable in the Old West. 

Some Outlaws became Lawmen and others became Outlaws.  The Dalton Gang brothers, Grat, Bob and Emmett all wore badges before moving to the other side of the law.  Actually many outlaws turned lawmen. Most, if not all, would change their name in the process.  Frank Canton, outlaw turned U.S. Marshal was a good example of men changing their ways - well, sort of.

The famous Goodnight-Loving Trail was established in 1866 between Fort Belknap, Texas and Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  Oliver Loving was later killed by Comanche Indians on the trail bearing his name. In contrast Goodnight, on the other hand, died a wealthy man in his nineties in 1929.

Texas, California, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Colorado, are the states and territories where most of the Old West shootings occurred. 

On November 24, 1835, the Republic of Texas established a force of frontiersmen volunteers called the "Texas Rangers."  The Texas Rangers were paid $1.25 per day for their services. The members of The Texas Rangers were said to be able to "ride like a Mexican, shoot like a Kentuckian, and fight like the Devil."

Despite his fame as a gunfighter, Clay Allison died an accidental death while working on his ranch.  On July 3, 1887, Allison was hauling a wagon load of supplies when the load shifted.  A sack of grain fell from the wagon, and Allison fell from the wagon as he tried to catch it.  A wagon wheel rolled over him, breaking his neck.  His death was almost instantaneous.  He was 47 years old.  And yes, for a gunfighter - he lived a long life.

Black Jack Ketchum was the only person ever hung in Union County, New Mexico. According the annals of American Jurisprudence, he was the only criminal decapitated during a hanging.  The only other recorded example was in England in 1601.

So why was he decapitated?  Well that's an interesting fact all by itself.  Fact is that while Ketchum was being tried and than awaiting his execution, he simply put on more weight than what the Hangman allowed for.  He lost his head over the extra weight he put on.

And since we're on Black Jack Ketchum, another interesting fact is that after his head snapped off - his head was sewn back onto the body for viewing.

The Pony Express was in operation for only nineteen months from April 1860 through October 1861. The Pony Express carried almost 35,000 pieces of mail over more than 650,000 miles during those nineteen months and lost only one mail sack. The typical Pony Express rider was nineteen years old and made $100-$150 per month plus room and board.

In 1884, the citizens of Montana Territory were fed up with lawlessness and forming a large-scale vigilante force, they executed thirty-five horse and cattle thieves that year.

The famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral only lasted about thirty seconds.

William Blake, also known as Tulsa Jack Blake, died in the Spring of 1895 in Dover, Oklahoma.  Cause of death?  Well, he was killed by a posse when one of the lawman's bullets struck Blake's cartridge belt and exploded a shell causing a wound that resulted in his death.   Imagine that!

Mattie Blaylock was a prostitute who was one of the companions and common-law wives of Wyatt Earp.  She was living with Earp in Tombstone during famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  She committed suicide with an overdose of laudanum on July 3, 1888 in Pinal, Arizona.  Supposedly, she was despondent because Earp had left her for another woman.

Billy the Kid was shot at the home of Pete Maxwell by old friend and lawman, Pat Garrett.  Supposedly Pat Garrett was sitting on the edge of Pete's bed when he shot Billy. 

Gunslinger Jack Slade's most vicious killing happened in Cold Springs, Colorado in the 1860s when Slade tied a Beni Jules to a hitching post -  then used him as target practice. 

After firing several shots into Jules' arms and legs, Slade then stuck the barrel of his gun into the almost deadman's mouth and pulled the trigger.  Slade then cut off the deadman's ears and kept one for his watch fob.

But wait, there's more to that story.  Before that ever happened, we have to go back to the Spring of 1860 when Jack Slade rode into the stage station where Beni Jules was living. 

Beni Jules established a trading post on the border of Colorado and Nebraska in 1859.  He catered to the pioneers heading west. He named his trading post and way stop for the wagon trains "Julesburg." 

Not long after that the Overland Stage established a home station at Julesburg to take advantage of this profitable trade with pioneers.  Jack Slade was put in charge of this new section of the line and proceeded to improve the quality of all the services by upgrading the livestock, personnel and stage stations. 

This put him into immediate conflict with Jules.  On one occasion, Slade came to Beni’s ranch and found horses that clearly belonged to the Overland Stage.  Slade proceeded to confiscate them.  Jules Beni swore vengeance and disliked Slade intensely.

So when in the Spring of 1860 he sees Jack Slade ride into the stage station unarmed, Jules sees his chance to kill Slade. 

After Slade dismounts and starts to enter the General Store and Saloon, Jules came running up to Slade shooting him with a 32 caliber pistol.  His shots rang true and hit Slade with all six shots from his small pistol.   Seeing Slade still alive and not satisfied with that, Jules runs back in to get a shotgun  - and yes, Jules emptied both barrels into the helpless Slade. 

Satisfied that he had finished the job, Beni Jules tells a couple of bystanders at the Saloon door, "When he is dead, you can put him in one of those dry goods boxes and bury him."

Legend has it that Jack Slade looked up from the ground and said, "I’ll live long enough to wear your ears on my watch chain."  Jules just laughed.

With help from others, Jack Slade didn't die that day and instead lived to vow revenge upon Beni Jules.  In time, Beni Jules was killed by Slade.  And as we know, after being tied to a hitching post, Slade took out his knife and cut off Jules' ears.  

And yes, it's true that he did in fact wear them on his watch chain.  It was not missed by anyone because the rotting ears put off an horrible stench.

Talk about Halloween ghoulishness!

For more click:

Old West - Interesting Facts - Part One

Old West - Interesting Facts - Part Three


Story by Tom Correa

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