Friday, August 28, 2015

Little Known Old West Gunmen & Outlaws - Part Four

Brack Cornett 
Yes, here are the Old West Outlaws who never made it big in the minds of the public or in the business of being an Outlaw.

Most were known only to their gangs and local lawmen in the area. Of course some simply didn't live long enough to find their own biographer and rewrite their own history - like say how Wyatt Earp did his.

Brack "Captain Dick"Cornett 

Brack Cornett alias "Captain Dick" had a short lived outlaw of the American West, from Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Braxton "Brack" Cornett is said to have been born on May 22nd, 1841 and died on September 26th, 1888. He is also said to have be a "prominent Texas outlaw" from 1887 to 1888. Yes, one year!

Although born in Clinton County, Missouri, he grew up in south Texas in and around Goliad County.

He is most well known as a member of the Bill Whitley Gang. And yes, believe it or not, there are some who actually refer to the Bill Whitley Gang as the Brack Cornett Gang. If Cornett knew  that, I'm almost sure he would feel good about that. After all, Outlaws are a little vain that way

The gang was formed in February 1887 to rob trains, but their first attempt at robbing a train in early May of 1887 was a complete bust.

Then, as with the try and try again spirit of train robbers determined to make off with other people's money, on May 18th, his gang robbed the Missouri-Pacific train while it was stopped at McNeill Junction, thirteen miles outside of San Antonio. They got away with about $4,000.

The next month they robbed the east bound train from San Antonio near Flatonia, in Fayette County, getting away with over $7,000.

In 1888, Cornett and his gang robbed the bank in Cisco, Texas, escaping with $25,000. Several days later they stopped an I&GN train and stole $20,000.

Now using the alias "Captain Dick," yes "Captain Dick," led his gang and robbed a Southern Pacific train near Schulenburg, Texas, on June 18th, 1888. And frankly, I did not know that Sourthern Pacific went into Texas in the 1880s.

According to The New York Times, "It was the most daring train robbery that ever occurred in Texas".

Later that same year Cornett and his gang planned to rob another Southern Pacific train out of Harwood, Texas, on September 22nd.

U.S. Marshal John Rankin somehow received advance notice of the robbers' plans and hid himself, Deputy Duval West, and a number of Texas Rangers on board the train. Just three miles outside of town, the gang stopped the train and attempted to rob it but were driven off by the lawmen. But not letting the law get in their way, the gang is said to have gone off to successfully rob another train near Flatonia, Texas.

Then on September 25th, 1888, in Floresville, Wilson County, Texas, the gang was run to ground by a contingent of U.S. Marshals. There was a massive shootout in which Bill Whitley was killed and one other gang member taken prisoner. Cornett is said to have fled alone on horseback.

Now, supposedly there are two versions of this story. The first says that Cornett met his death at the hands of Texas lawman Alfred Allee near the town of Frio, Texas, where Cornett was supposedly tracked down and shot dead in a gun battle.

In the other, Cornett was on the run, no food, no water, a spent horse, and with his gang all shot to pieces, he sought out his childhood friend Allee on his La Salle County ranch just south of Frio. Yes, it is said that his childhood friend was Texas lawman Alfred Allee who welcomed Cornett in with a six-shooter instead of breakfast.

It is said that Braxton "Brack" Cornett died on September 26th, 1888. And Texas lawman Alfred Allee collected various express company rewards amounting to more than $4,500 for bringing down the Cornett gang.

Cornelius "Lame Johnny" Donahue

Cornelius Donahue alias "Lame Johnny", was born in Philadelphia around 1850 and died in 1878

Lame Johnny was a cattle rustler, horse thief, and your basic common Old West Outlaw from the Black Hills of South Dakota.

His gang's most notorious robbery was a score of about $3,500 in currency, $500 in diamonds, hundreds of dollars worth of jewelry, and 700 pounds of gold dust, nuggets and bullion from a special “treasure coach” called the "Monitor" belonging to the Homestake Mine in October 1878

At 28 years of age, Lame Johnny's luck ran out. It happened in July of 1879 when he was a prisoner being returned to Deadwood for trial. He was on a stage going from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota, when near Buffalo Gap, Dakota Territory, Lame Johnny became "restless and nervous." 

Supposedly he told his escort of his fear of Daniel Boone May, who was seen riding parallel to the coach. May and messenger Jesse Brown left the stage at Buffalo Gap and "Whispering" Smith, retained responsibility for Lame Johnny. 

Shortly after Daniel Boone May and messenger Jesse Brown left the stage at Buffalo Gap, the stagecoach was stopped by eight vigilantes who dragged Lame Johnny from the coach kicking and screaming until he stopped dancing at the end of a hanging rope from a nearby tree.

Thomas Bell Poole

Thomas Bell Poole was believed to have been born in 1818 and died in 1865.

Believe it or not, while he was under-sheriff of Monterey County, California, he was a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle serving as a crewman of the Confederate privateer J. M. Chapman. Yes, he was lawman and a Confederate pirate.

He was later a leader of Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers. Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers was the name given by the Sacramento Union to a band of about fifty Confederate Bushwackers organized from local Copperheads and members of the Knights of the Golden Circle in 1864 by Rufus Henry Ingram in Santa Clara County, California.

The Copperheads were a vocal faction of Democrats located in the States of the Union. The Republicans believed the Democrats' goal of restoring the Union with slavery was naive and impractical.

Republicans started calling antiwar Democrats "Copperheads", likening them to the venomous snake. The reason for comparing the Democrats to a snake was simple, on one hand those Democrats were supposedly "anti-war" yet they were Confederate Bushwackers and terrorists.

Among the looting and burning of barns to intimidate the public, and the attempts to rob the California Gold Country of Union Gold, Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers committed the Bullion Bend Robbery and planned other raids before being broken up by the Union authorities.

Thomas Bell Poole was captured and tried for killing a Deputy Sheriff following the Bullion Bend Robbery. He was found guilty of murder and was hanged in Placerville, California, on September 29th, 1865.  

Yes, right there in Hangtown! He got what was coming to him.

L.H. Musgrove

No one really knows when L. H. Musgrove was born, but we know he was lynched on November 23rd, 1868. 

It is believed that Musgrove was born in Como in Panola County in Mississippi, and he is known to have left there to make his way to California during the Gold Rush around 1950. It was then that he was reported to have already killed several men in Wyoming, Nevada, and California. 

He is known to have traveled on the Overland Trail during the Civil War, when in 1863, he was arrested for murder at Fort Halleck, Wyoming. After his arrest, he was then taken to Denver, where he was freed on a legal technicality. 

Musgrove then directed a network of horse and cattle thieves who raided government posts and wagon trains along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and followed the Cherokee Trail into Wyoming. Many of the thefts were blamed on Native Americans, this was must likely dur to Musgrove disguising himself as a Native American Indian to fool law enforcement. 

Profits were particularly large, compared to wages that rarely exceeded $2 per day at that time. Musgrove established his headquarters in the previously abandoned Bonner Street stagecoach station, a natural rock fortress which provided easy access to northern Colorado and southern Wyoming.

Captured horse thieves in the West were usually quickly hanged from a tree or a telegraph. 

When caught, Musgrove was handcuffed and taken to the Larimer Street Prison in Denver. He let his mouth run away with itself and predicted that he would soon escape. 

Those words lit a fire in the community, and soon a Vigilance Committee of some fifty citizens walked in and removed Musgrove from his cell.  They did encountered no resistance from the prison guards as it removed Musgrove from confinement. 

Musgrove was stood on a wagon, a noose was placed about his neck, and the driver pushed away the wagon to bring about the execution.

Before the wagon was removed from under Musgrove's feet, he was allowed time to write some letters, and he was permitted to finish his cigarette, which said one source he "did in the most nonchalant manner." Another source reported that Musgrove "calmly puffed a cigar to its bitter butt."

He was an Old west outlaw who over a number of years was charged with several murders and the theft of horses.was sprung from jail in Denver, Colorado, and hanged by a vigilante mob.
Early in his career, American artist and sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor did a drawing of Musgrove's lynching. 

Sounds like he deserved his hanging!

Tom Correa

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