Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Lynching of "Big Steve" Long


Dear Friends,

I recently found myself in a conversation with someone who is of the belief that most, if not all, lawmen in the Old West were just crooked gamblers, killers, con-artists, and pimps. He echoed a recent email that I received about the same thing with the exception that my reader's email said that he believed most were really badmen, gamblers, and killers, who were more at home associating with the criminal element that they were supposed to be against.

From everything that I've been able to read on the history of law enforcement in out country, and looking at the personal stories of many of the lawmen in the Old West, I really believe that most were good citizens simply doing a job that they were asked to do by the citizenry. It's true, most towns started out small, many with just tents, and the people there caring for their security used the age old method of security called the "hue and cry." 

Never heard of the "hue and cry"? Well, supposedly the "hue and cry" actually started back about a thousand years ago in England. But historically the "hue and cry" became a formal law in England in 1285 as part of "common law." 

A "hue and cry" is simply the process by which bystanders, all able bodied men, are summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal who has been witnessed in the act of committing a crime. The cry would go out and all would respond.

The law stated that anyone, either a constable or a private citizen, who witnessed a crime shall make hue and cry, and that the "hue and cry" must be kept up against the fleeing criminal from town to town and from county to county, until the felon is apprehended and delivered to the sheriff. All able-bodied men, upon hearing the shouts, were "obliged" to assist in the pursuit of the criminal, which makes it comparable to the posse comitatus. Yes, it's how posses originated.

In the mining camps of California where a thieve may have been seen robbing a sluice box, the cry "sluice box robber" was sounded. The loud cry called for all to stop what they were doing and join the pursuit to capture the criminal. In those mining camps, the criminal would be brought in front of a Miners Court.

Miners courts were very common in California and later the rest of the Old West. They gathered miners together to settle a dispute or quickly try a criminal. These courts were made to maintain order and decide punishments within mining communities.

A "judge" was usually picked by means of a raise of hands, and then a jury was selected. In criminal cases, the defendant was usually given swift justice. If he were a thieve, then their punishment was based on whether or not the amount stolen was more than $25 or not. If less, than the defendant was simply banished. If more, then he could have been hanged. 

While killers faced a hanging, swindlers, con-artists, cheats, and rowdies, badmen who bullied others, in many cases were tar and feathered and rode out of town on a rail. In the event a civil decision was disputed, a mass meeting of the entire mining camp could be called to allow the dissatisfied party to plead his case and possibly get the decision reversed.

From miners courts to people actually organizing and appointing a town constable, a full-time lawman in charge to keep the peace. Sometimes they worked in conjunction of each other. But the "hue and cry" was actually still around even though lawmen were usually picked to do the job by the citizens. 

Today, we do this same thing when we elect our sheriffs as most county sheriffs are elected. And yes, our posse comitatus laws are still in effect in that a law enforcement officer can still deputize citizens to help in the apprehension of criminals.

As towns grew, mayors and councils of citizens to represent the best interest of the towns were also elected. Finding a town marshal was a job usually left to the trust of the mayor and town council. Many towns elected their town marshal, while some were simply appointed positions. The majority of lawmen in the Old West were upstanding citizens. Many were absolutely intrepid lawmen. Yes, most were good and honest men.

Of course, as in today's America where we have over 900,000 law enforcement officers nationwide, the only law enforcement officers that we usually hear about in the news are the bad ones, And really, I believe that that's why there are so many stories about bad lawmen in the Old West. They stuck out. They were really not the norm. 

Sure there are all sorts of examples of lawmen who associated with criminals, or were themselves criminals. There certainly were some who were killers and badmen wanted in other parts off the West. Some were known to use different names because they may have been wanted in other parts of the nation. And while there were those crooked individuals who certainly were badmen while wearing a badge, or used there badge as a way to skirt the law to their own advantage, the fact is that majority were not of that ilk.

I'm about to tell you the story of one such badman who also wore a badge. He used his badge as a license to get away with murder. And yes, he was initially hailed as being a great officer of the law doing a splendid job for his community. Of course, when people said that, they really didn't know what he was doing behind their backs. 

The sorry part is that some people refused to believe the facts of who he was even after the truth came out about who he really was, and the laws he was breaking. It is said that some made excuses for his lawless ways, even after he was shown to be a badman and desperado. Some even refused to admit that he used his badge for his own advantage. Yes, even if that meant getting away with murder. Not just once, but a number of times. And no, I'm not talking about Wyatt Earp.
  
I'm talking about "Big Steve" Long who was a lawmen in the Wyoming Territory during the 1860s. He is one of the earliest examples of an Old West outlaw who was also a lawman during his life. But also, he is also a great example of someone who was initially a well respected lawman who used his badge to get what he wanted. 

While not much of Long's early life is known, we do know that he had settled in Laramie, Wyoming, after the Civil War. No one really knows where he was born, grew up, or the state where he enlisted in the Confederacy. But yes, it is believed Long served in the Confederate Army. It's also believed that he did so under a different name. After the war, he had supposedly spent some time as a hired gunman. 

Back in the Old West, it was considered improper to ask people about their past and good manners dictated that you simply went with what folks volunteered about themselves. I believe that's one reason why little is known about Steve Long. And to add to that, he is said to have changed his name to Long just before arriving in Wyoming in 1866. 

As for his half-brothers, Ace and Con Moyer started a saloon in Laramie City. In fact, Ace and Con Moyer are said to help found the town of Laramie City, Wyoming. Since they were among the first there, Ace and Con also appointed themselves Justice of the Peace and Laramie City Marshal, respectively. Imagine that! 

Then less than a year after their half-brother Steve Long arrived, his brother City Marshal Con Moyer appointed him Deputy City Marshal in early 1867.

The town of Laramie, Wyoming, was named for Jacques LaRamie, who was French-Canadian trapper who is said to have disappeared in the Laramie Mountains in the late 1810s. Around 1820, some say that he slipped on ice and fell into the Laramie River. Others say he froze to death in a small cabin. Some say he died "stuffed under a beaver dam." There are also those who say he was killed by rival trappers or traders and thrown into the Laramie River. Of course there was supposedly an eyewitness account that said "LaRamee's camp was attacked by Arapahos and he was killed." But really, who knows the truth?

For whatever reason, he was never heard from again. And since he was among some of the first Europeans to visit the area, settlers named a river, a mountain range, a peak, a U.S. Army fort, a county, and a city after him. In fact, more Wyoming landmarks are named for that one man than for any other trapper short of the famous Jim Bridger. So because the name was used so frequently, the town which is called Laramie today, was called "Laramie City" for decades to distinguish it from other uses.

Laramie City was actually founded in the early 1860s as a tent city near the Overland Stage Line route, the Union Pacific portion of the first transcontinental railroad, and just north of Fort Sanders which was the U.S Army post in the area.

The railroad reached Laramie on May 4th, 1868, when construction crews worked there along with a few passengers. It might be hard to believe, but by 1868, besides a few saloons, Laramie City also had stores, houses, a school, churches, and the western terminal of the Union Pacific Railroad. So really, this was no small place. There were a few folks there.

And yes, it's said that it was a rowdy area and lawlessness plagued Laramie City. In fact, that was so much the case that its first mayor, M. C. Brown, resigned his office on June 12th, 1868 after six turbulent weeks. Brown resigned after saying that the city council was "guilty of incapacity and laxity" in dealing with the city's problems. Those problems had to do with the lawlessness, including that created by none other than Judge Ace Moyer, City Marshal Con Moyer and his Deputy Steve Long.

And yes, though initially respected and applauded, within just a couple of months Deputy City Marshal Steve Long became a threat to the community.

Using their positions to their own financial advantage, they're said to have ruled with an iron fist as the trio dealt out "justice" in the backroom of the saloon. They soon became well known for harassing settlers and forcing folks to sign over land deeds and mining claims over to them. Those who refused were either run out of the area or killed after being goaded into a gunfight by Long. 

Of course, those who refused were visited by Long alone without witnesses. The outcome was always the same, they either went along with Long's demands or they were killed. And it was always same case in every incident, Long would claim that he only used his gun in "self-defense" after his victims "had reached for a gun". Yes, they were shot to death by Long on the pretense that the victim reached for a weapon. 

When a doctor acting as the coroner would inspect their body, they would always find a pistol or rifle or a knife nearby of on their body. Long was known to plant a weapon on his victims if they weren't carrying one. And as I said before, Steve Long wasn't foolish enough to have any witnesses.

Soon, the people in Laramie who initially praised Long actually started to whisper about how their new deputy killed at least nine men over a four-month period. And yes, a number of others were killed when they objected to crooked card games run at the saloon. Very soon locals were calling the Moyer brother's saloon, the "Bucket of Blood" because of the violence associated with it.

As with some other lawmen in the Old West, Long is said to have used his badge as a Deputy City Marshal to intimidate others, sell protection, swindle, to commit out and out robbery and extortion. 

While I was told that Long wanted to put in place a city ordinance to stop people from wearing guns in town so that his victims would be unarmed, I haven't been able to confirm that. Though many towns in the Old West, including Tombstone Arizona much later, actually created city ordinances against the carrying of firearms in town, many simply ignored the law that would have otherwise made it so that they could not defend themselves either against a crooked card game or an out of control lawman like Long.

Soon Long had earned a reputation as being a very violent lawman. It is said he killed eight men in gunfights within two months. And yes, it is said that he rarely arrested anyone. Instead, he choose to either intimidate them with the threat of force or simply shoot them.

One extremely violent incident took place on October 22nd, 1867, when Long opened fire on eight men during a street brawl after his orders to cease were ignored. It said he actually killed five of the men.

Just a year later, by October of 1868, folks figured that Long had killed 13 men. And yes, another seven men had been killed under suspicious circumstances. All of which with Long suspected, but his role in the murders could never really be confirmed. Each of the seven murdered men were known to have refused to sign over land deeds to Long and his brothers. And yes, it was soon after their refusal that they were killed.

While some agreed with him in saying that he couldn't get justice in the the court system, so that's why he killed those lawless men. Many saw him take the law into his own hands, against men who were not seen as law breakers. Soon the towns folk were justifiably scared of his wrath. And while there wasn't evidence to support his being named as the killer in these incidents, Long made it real clear that he wasn't interested in making the slightest effort to find the alleged murderers.

That in itself lead townsfolk to speculate if the whispers were true. Could their deputy city marshal really be responsible for committing those murders?

N. K. Boswell was a local rancher and one of the first settlers in the area. He was no shirkers as he served in the Union Army during the Civil War before joining his brother George Boswell in present-day Laramie, Wyoming.

While the whole area was considered extremely wild with a number of outlaws hiding out there simply because there was little to no law enforcement, things were about to change. Soon N.K. Boswell became the first Sheriff of Albany County where Laramie City, now known simply as Laramie, is located.

Boswell's first job was to organize a "Vigilance Committee" using the other ranchers. This was in response to what was taking place in and around Laramie City. But more so, he organized several other ranchers to flush out Long and his half-brothers. He insisted that if they could watch Long closely enough, that they would eventually catch him in the act.

The tide turned on October 18th, 1868, when Deputy City Marshal Steve Long attempted to rob a prospector named Rollie "Hard Luck" Harrison. Not being willing to be a victim, Harrison decided to pull his own pistol and defend himself. Shots were exchanged and the gunfight ended with Long being wounded and getting away as fast as he could. Sadly, Harrison who was mortally wounded died before naming his assailant. But while Long usually kept his mouth shut about his nefarious dealings, this time he screwed up by telling his fiancee what happened and why he was shot.

She immediately told Sheriff Boswell who immediately called out the Vigilance Committee, and a posse was formed. Yes, just like putting out the hue and cry for help.

After they gathered, they entered the Moyer bother's saloon on October 28th. And no, they didn't show up to discuss anything. In fact, Boswell's posse enters and swiftly overwhelmed Long and his half-brothers. Without discussion, they then led them to an unfinished cabin in town. And yes, all knew why they were there.

Long who was quiet throughout the whole thing, then finally he asked if he'd be allowed to remove his boots, saying, "My mother always said I'd die with my boots on".

He was allowed to remove his boots, and then he was lynched barefoot. The posse then hanged Ace and Con Moyer right along side of their brother Steve Long. All were hanging from the rafters of an unfinished cabin.

A photograph of the three men was taken after they were hanged. On the back of the picture was written, "(1) Gunfighter "Big" Steve Long, (2) Con Moyer, (3) Ace Moyer, A lynching in Laramie Wyo. -1868- Con & Ace were founders of Laramie Wyoming!".

Thus is the story of the lynching of "Big Steve" Long and two of his half-brothers by a posse made up of the County Sheriff and a posse made up of the local Vigilance Committee on October 28th, 1868.

It is said that after the lynching, Sheriff Boswell and his Vigilance Committee posse preformed a series of other lynchings. They also intimidated some and ran a few out of town on a rail. By doing that they're said to have reduced the lawless element and established a semblance of law and order in the area for years to come. As for any legal actions taken against the members of the lynch mob, there never was any.

Now as for a bit of irony, even though she turned Steve Long into the Sheriff who would lynch him, it's said that following his Long's death, his fiancee erected a marker in his memory. Imagine that.

Tom Correa


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Texas Has A Feral Hog Problem


Dear Friends,

If I have my way about it, I may be going to Texas this Summer to shoot feral hogs. Texas has become the Feral Hog Capital and I would love to go down there and shot as many as my rifles can handle.

Why, you ask? Well, they are among the most destructive invasive species in the United States today. There are estimates that range from two million to six million of the beasts running free to wreak havoc in at least 39 states. And friends, half are said to be in Texas.

Hogs were first introduced to North America by Spanish settlers. The breed most commonly seen in Texas is a mixture of those hogs and Russian boars brought over more recently for sport hunting, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

Some speculate the population boom is due to relatively recent cross-breeding in the wild. Feral hogs are much larger, meaner and wilier than their farm-raised hogs. The feral hogs, which are often referred to razorbacks or wild boar, have exploded across rural America in the last 20 years.  

Destructive is putting it mildly! Friends, I have people writing to tell me about wild hogs tearing up recreational areas, terrorizing tourists, and even attacking the family dog. But worse than screwing up some recreational area, it's estimated that feral hogs cause about $500 Million in agriculture damages in Texas alone. 

They do this by digging up fields, destroying pastures and crops, creating wallows and busting up fences. Besides destroying crops, they also pollute rivers and streams, and break farm machinery by digging ruts that damage tractors and other equipment. It is said that when not creating destruction, they are breeding. 

An official stated that a sow can bear two litters per year, with each litter consisting of up to a dozen, so that means one hog can become 200 over the course of just two years. And yes, according officials, that means 70 percent of the hogs must be killed each year just to maintain current population levels. And yes, a report from a year or so ago said there are 2.6 million feral hogs running loose in Texas. They are even pushing other animals out of the area. So yes, that means Texas has a huge feral hog problem.

Texas allows hunters to kill feral hogs year-round without limits. And of course some folks capture them alive to take to slaughterhouses. For me, I would think food banks and kitchens to help the needy would love some that meat. 

I have been told that thousands are shot each year. Some hunters, better shooters than me mind us, actually shot feral hogs from helicopters. And while I have heard some who have written to say that the goal is to control their growth, I say shot for eradication until someone says stop. And that, well that brings me to what's taking place right now. 

On February 21st, Fox News reported that the Texas state agriculture commissioner Sid Miller said that he wants to poison the feral hogs by using a human blood-thinner that supposedly proves especially deadly in swine. He is quoted as saying, "They're so prolific, you can't hardly keep them in check. This is going to be the hog apocalypse, if you like: If you want them gone, this will get them gone."

And believe it or not, though it sounds like BS, the pesticide used is called "Kaput Feral Hog Lure." It will be bait laced with the human blood thinner "warfarin."

Let's be real up front and admit that the use of warfarin as a pesticide to control the feral hog population is significant because it gives agriculture producers and landowners in Texas a new weapon in the fight against feral hogs. And according to some experts familiar warfarin, they believe it's a logical choice for hog toxicant because it is effective in swine. 

The manufacturer of the product, Scimetrics Ltd. Corp., has been manufacturing rodent management products for 15 years. Yes, warfarin has been used to kill rats and mice for a long time. Extensive testing of the effectiveness of warfarin on killing hogs has been conducted in Texas since 2008. The approval of warfarin for feral hog control is believed to be the culmination of several years of research in conjunction with the Texas Department of Agriculture.

So now how about other animals in the food chain? How much of a risk is there to livestock, horses, deer, and other animals? 

Experts say that other wildlife populations and livestock require a much higher dosage level to potentially have an affect on them. But frankly, that doesn't make sense since I would think high doses are needed to kill hogs. And if that's so that that puts livestock and other wildlife at risk. 

And while the folks at Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service are supportive of the rule change and the use of warfarin for feral hog population control, they don't have anything to lose. Ranchers and farmers do if this "hog apocalypse" is an apocalypse felt by other animals as well.

Louisiana is considering the use of the same poison. But the FoxNews report siad that there is at least one state wildlife official who has gone on record to warn folks that the crumbs that a hog leaves behind could affect black bears and other animals.

While the state of Texas officials are downplaying the threat to other wildlife, some hunters in Texas disagree and say poison is not a viable option. Hunters in the state have collected more than 12,000 signatures in opposition of the use of this poison. 
In an effort to reassure people that the use of the poison will be safe for wildlife and livestock, Commissioner Miller said that there is only a "minimal" threat to other animals. But, according to Mr. Miller, hunters will be able to see that the substance was consumed by a hog because the fat will be bright blue. Imagine that. 

Eydin Hansen, the vice president of the Texas Hog Hunters Association is quoted as saying, "We don’t think poison is the way to go. If a hog is poisoned, do I want to feed it to my family? I can tell you, I don't."

Mr Hansen also mentioned the risks of another animal, like say a coyote, eating a dead carcass. His concern is about just how much of the whole ecosystem is effected by the decision to use poison.

By the way, last year it was reported that Caldwell County has become the Lone Star State's front line in the fight to curb the exploding population of feral hogs.
They have had a volunteer task force which has found success using a host of strategies including $5 tail bounties, helicopter hunts, and smartphone-controlled corrals.

In the two years since their volunteer task force was founded, the Caldwell County task force has helped kill or capture 10,000 of the hogs while providing a proven model of success for other counties dealing with the same problem. 

The Caldwell County Feral Hog Task Force pays $5 for each feral hog tail it collects. Of all the methods employed, the $5 bounty for tails has been one of the most effective. Setting up a roadside table, he and his fellow volunteers have paid out thousands of dollars for the tails that prove there is one less wild hog in the area. Funding for the Caldwell County operation comes in part from state and county grants.

The hogs are shot by hunters, sometimes from aboard helicopters, and trapped along the waterways they travel. Reports state that others, including entire broods, are caught in giant pens that are closed remotely after the hogs are inside.

The tails can be turned in by hunters who kill the hogs or by farmers and ranchers, who buy and take them to market. Hunters, who face no restrictions on the number of hogs they kill, can get up to $300 each. Some report bagging hundreds per year.

"In the last two years, I've gotten out of the red and into the black," said Val Ramirez, a landowner and hog trapper in Caldwell County to FoxNews.com. "On average, the revenue from selling wild hogs runs between $13,000 and $18,000 a year."

In Caldwell County, the hogs travel along the San Marcos River and Plum Creek, leaving behind large amounts of fecal matter and polluting the waterways in the process. Mr. Ramirez sets up dozens of traps along the creek and on the land of other ranchers looking for help.

"They are just a nuisance. We are not going to get rid of them completely. Trapping will never get rid of all of them, but at least we can try to curtail them," he said.

So now, if that's working in Caldwell County, why not open up the rest of the state using the same tactics? Why not pay for more hunters and make it worth their while to kill as many as possible?

Mr. Ramirez was right. They are a nuisance. So why not have counties, where the hog problem is the greatest, pay a bounty for each tail that's brought in just as Caldwell County is doing? I've known hunters who hire out to farmers to shoot feral hogs. And frankly, it cost ranchers less to hire someone to shot the invasive hogs than it costs them in crop losses. And if the farmers and ranchers knew they will be reimbursed by the state for the money that they are expending, I believe they will be more willing to spend more to get the job done.

As for the suggestion of reimbursing farmers and ranchers who hire others to remove their hogs, why not? That reimbursement may motivate other Texas ag producers to do that same if they really knew that they have the backing of the state.

Another option is allowing farmers and ranchers to bring in hunters from out of state. If that is a viable option, why not allow out of state hunters who will pay them to get rid of their hog problems? If Texas allows their farmers and ranchers to bring in out of state hunters, say from spring to the beginning of fall, there's the possibility that those hunters will be able to help eradicate the beasts?

The money that those farmers and ranchers will make from out of state hunters may even be helpful to recoup loses as result of the hog damage. A lot of them have been hit very hard by crop and equipment damage.

Bringing in more hunters, both locally and from out of state may even help a local economy that's been hit the hardest. Dollars coming in for everything from hotel stays and restaurants to hunting ammo and fees can't hurt a local economy who is open to out of state hunters wanting to bag as many hogs as the good Lord will allow.
  
Since feral hogs cost the state's agriculture industry about $50 million a year in damage, why not go with using other options instead of using poison which can have an effect on livestock, other wildlife, and the people eating these hogs?

Fixes like poison scares me because there is no telling how it spreads in the food chain? Does it enter the water that hogs drink from? Does it effect scavengers? Does it effect other animals which may consume it and pass it along by various?

And as for being harmful to people, remember, according to Commissioner Miller, hunters will be able to see that the substance was consumed by a hog because the fat will be bright blue. But he did not say not to eat it. He did not say that blue fat is not harmful to people. He did not say that blue fat is not harmful to people. Or did I read that wrong? 

And really what happens if someone doesn't know what he's looking at? Or what if some hunters decide to ignore what they see and eat these animals? What then? Who is responsible if people get sick or the poison is transmitted to people? Sound far fetched? Really? 

I find it interesting that people are concerned about not letting folks eat meat or chicken with growth hormones and antibiotics, yet someone is OK with Texans eating hogs which have been poisoned?

I find that unacceptable behavior on the part of public officials.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa



Monday, February 20, 2017

The Coach Gun -- The Town Tamer

Above: Cimarron Firearms 1878 Coach Gun 
Dear Friends,

A while ago I made the claim that I believe shotguns were the real guns that won the West. Now a reader wants to know why I think such a thing? So here goes.  

Simply put, shotguns were much more widely available and used by more Americans in the 1800s than any other firearm of the period. Whether it was a brand new shotgun or one passed down from father to son, shotguns were considered to the general purpose firearm of the time. 

Shotguns were popular long before the Henry rifle, the Winchester 1873, the Smith & Wesson American, or the Colt Single Action Army. And yes, they were a huge number of shotguns that came West by pioneers. Whether it was someone's grandfather's percussion or other muzzle-loader shotgun, or a single or a double-barrel, our pioneers brought them with them. 

Pioneers who could only afford one firearm bought the one gun that was a more versatile tool than that of a pistol or a rifle. With a shotgun, a pioneer could bring in small game like rabbits and ducks while also loading up with buckshot to take down a deer. Produced by the thousands, they were used more than any other type of firearm.

They were used by lawmen, the military, shotgun messengers, prison guards, and average Americans alike. They were, as they still are, the single best most economical firearm for hunting and defense.

Of course, shotguns were used by Americans as far back as during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. And yes, there is the story that a shotgun was actually found at the Alamo. It was found after Santa Anna’s forces overran the those holding the garrison.

As for the Civil War? Yes, both sides had troops that used shotguns. Cavalry units on both sides used shotguns as a devastating close quarters weapon. And really, that really makes sense since the cavalry was used as shock-troops during the time. And yes, it was much easier for someone atop a horse to hit another what they were shooting at with a shotgun, than it was with a rifle or a pistol.

In the Old West. the side-by-side double-barreled shotgun were a mainstay to settlers, miners, ranchers, and just about anyone who needed a weapon. They were primarily made by Remington Arms, Ithaca, Colt's Manufacturing Company, Parker, L.C. Smith, and also British and Belgian makers.

The term "coach gun" comes from express companies, like Wells Fargo & Co, who knew the value of shotguns. They armed their guards with shotguns that would become known as "coach guns" and "messenger's guns" because of their use by shotgun messengers on stagecoaches and by messenger wagons back in the Old West. 

Since a "coach gun" is simply a side-by-side double-barrel shotgun with a barrel from 18 to 24 inches in length, such a shotgun was used by shotgun guards on gold shipments on stagecoaches. They sat next to the driver on the coach, thus the name "coach gun." 

And while most were 12 gauge guns, there are reports that some were 10 gauge shotguns. Frankly, having a guard use a 10 gauge is a little hard to believe since a 10 gauge can be a little tough to handle.


The term "messenger's gun" is believed to have been coined in the late 1850s when Wells Fargo assigned guards to its shipments on stagecoaches in California. The company issued shotguns to their guards so that they would be able to defend their gold shipments coming out of the California Gold Country. Those Wells Fargo guards were called "shotgun messengers."

Wells, Fargo & Co. began regular stagecoach service from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco, California which was a 2800 miles long route. In addition to carrying passengers and gold shipments, Wells Fargo was contracts to carry U.S. Mail. The reason for the armed guards is that the threat of road agents, highwaymen, ready and willing to rob stages was always present. In fact, it is said that between 1870 and 1884, Wells Fargo stages were the target of 347 robbery attempts.

Wells Fargo and other express companies recognized the need for firepower. They also understood the psychological effect of such an imposing weapon. With that, they hoped that those facts alone would deter someone from robbing a shipment.

And yes, it is believed that in some cases, the sight of a shotgun guard, or guards depending on the size of the shipment, may have changed the mind of the most determined road agent. This is probably true since the devastating effect of a shotgun was common knowledge to all at the time. No, there was no doubt of the effectiveness of scattered blast of shotgun shot.  

Now if you are wondering why they didn't arm their guards with rifles or pistols? Most guards did in fact carry a pistol, and some did supplement a shipment with a supply of rifles, but express companies and shippers opted for the shotgun. Shotguns were simply more effective than trying to hit something with a single projectile fired from a rifle in the hands of someone atop a moving stagecoach or other type of wagon.

Let's face it, not everyone is accurate with a rifle. In contrast those armed with shotguns didn't have to be expert marksman since a shot blast is very forgiving. And that, well that's the same reason why other industries like say mining companies used coach guns for their guards.

Not all Wells Fargo wagons were stagecoaches as we can see from this photo.
Please note the four shotgun messengers. 

As for different types of shotguns? American gunmaker and inventor Daniel Myron LeFever is credited with the invention of the American hammerless shotgun. Working for Barber & LeFever in Syracuse, New York, he introduced his first hammerless shotgun in 1878. He went on to patent the first truly automatic hammerless shotgun in 1883.

His 1883 design was a shotgun that automatically cocked itself when the breech was closed. He later developed the mechanism to automatically eject the shells when the breech was opened. Prior to Mr LeFever's design, all side-by-side shotguns used as coach guns featured external hammers.

Above: Stoeger Coach Gun, Hammerless 12 Gauge 20" Barrel

Famous American gunmaker and inventor John Browning, while working for Winchester Firearms, revolutionized shotgun design when he introduced the Model 1887 Lever Action Repeating Shotgun in 1887. The lever action loaded a fresh shell by the operation of the lever really no different than a lever action rifle. Browning then introduced a Pump Action Shotgun in 1893. The 1893 had a very short lived production due to mechanical problems and reliability.

Though available in lever action and pump actions, Wells Fargo kept using side-by-side double-barrel shotguns because they believed there were too many reliability problems associated with both the new lever action and pump action designs. They saw, as many still do today, that a side-by-side coach gun is simply more reliable when one needs it.

It's interesting to note that the myth which says Wells Fargo shotguns were purchased by local agents is not true. In fact, prior to 1900, all of Wells Fargo's shotguns were purchased from San Francisco gun dealers because Wells Fargo's headquarters was located there. It is also interesting to note that from 1908 to 1919, all Wells Fargo still side-by-side shotguns were made by Ithaca Gun Company. 

A group of Wells Fargo shotgun messengers guarding an outgoing shipment.

Before the Model 1887 Lever Action Repeating Shotgun and the Model 1893 Pump Action Shotgun, most shotguns were the "break open" type. Both the earlier side-by-side double-barrel shotguns, and the later lever action and pump action guns, could all have been ordered from the factory with the specified barrel length that one wanted. Of course, gunsmiths would cut down the barrels.

So now, it's a safe bet that you're asking what's the different between a "coach gun" and a "sawed-off shotgun"? Well, frankly, I always thought they were one and the same. But doing the research for this article, I found out that I'm wrong.

A sawed-off shotgun by law is a type of shotgun which is legally unacceptable because it has a barrel under 18 inches in length. Compared to a standard shotgun, or even a coach gun, a sawed-off shotgun has the shortest effective range. But even though that's the case, its reduced size makes it easier to maneuver and conceal.

Why use a Coach Gun?

As for the question, why use a short barrel shotgun? The simplest answer is that the short barrel design simply makes the weapon easy to maneuver when needed.

Yes, it's the same as with the mythical Colt Buntline Special. While I don't believe it ever existed, I also believe that if it did it would have been completely impractical because of its barrel length. That's especially true for lawmen because of their need to have weapons that are practical in close quarters use.

Even the standard 7.5" barrel of the 1873 Colt Single Action Army was considered too long by most lawmen in the 1800s.

That's why, by the 1870s, lawmen were either ordering them with shorter barrels or simply having a local gunsmith cut a few inches off their barrels. It was all about getting a weapon into play faster and being able to maneuver that weapon faster in a gunfight.

For a shotgun messenger, the same principle applies. You would want a shotgun that can be handled fairly quickly. When using a lever action rifle, one's aim matters more than when using a short barreled shotgun with a wide shot pattern. While one's proficiency is always important with any firearm, with a coach gun one also has less of a chance of missing -- especially at close range.

It is also important to note that in times of civil unrest and lawlessness, lawmen considered the shotgun, which in most cases was a coach gun, a "town tamer." While lawmen certainly appreciated the firepower, they also appreciated the psychological effect of having a shotgun in one's hands when facing an unruly crowd.

So yes, lawmen and guards know there were benefits of using a shotgun. If one were using a coach gun as a member of a posse, then one was pretty much assured of getting a great deal of respect by those you're after. And of course if one happens have to the business end of one lined up on a badman, its wide pattern can help out a great deal to get your man in a bad situation where nerves are not always as steady as can be.  

As for outlaws and gunmen in the Old West who used shotguns or were the victims of shotguns? Yes, there was the occasional gunfighter who saw the benefits of using a shotgun. There were also those who met their end as a result of tangling with someone willing to use one.

For example, the famous California highwayman Black Bart was said to use a short barreled shotgun when he robbed stages in the Gold Country. He was known to tell the driver and shotgun messenger that guns were pointed at them from nearby bushes. Later the stage hands found out that those so-called rifles in the bushes were only sticks that were positioned to look like rifle barrels.

Then there is a question out there regarding the shotgun that Tombstone City Marshal Virgil Earp got from the express office just before the gunfight near the OK Corral. While I believe it was a 12 gauge coach gun loaded with buckshot, some say it was a 10 gauge.   

Yes, I'm talking about the same shotgun that Virgil Earp handed to Doc Holliday. It was the gun that Virgil told Holliday to put under his coat so that the public would not see it and become alarmed. It was the same coach gun that Holliday used to shoot Tom McLaury at point-blank range in the chest. Yes, Tom McLaury stood just a few feet from the business end of Holliday's shotgun when he was cut down. 

There is a debate if Wyatt Earp used a 12 gauge or a 10 gauge coach gun to murder Frank Stilwell in Tucson? Some say he used a 12 gauge Greener to kill Stilwell.

As far as the most famous picture of a dead outlaw who was shot with a coach gun? Well I believe that distinction goes to none other than the outlaw Bill Doolin.

On August 24th, 1896, Bill Doolin who ran a gang known as of the original "Wild Bunch" in the Oklahoma Indian Territory was ambushed and killed by Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas's posse.

Doolin was killed instantly when Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas opened up on him with both barrels of buckshot from his shotgun. One can see the devastating effect it had,  and actually count the number of shots that hit him.

As horrible that it was, such was an outlaw's death.

And lastly, this is out of a Corralitos, California, newspaper November, 1879:

"Isaac Rich was discharged last Saturday. It was not proven that he intended to commit bodily harm on the workmen of the Corralitos Water Co. He only used the shotgun as a silent persuader. As the shotgun said nothing, and could not be made to testify, Rich and the shotgun were discharged."

Imagine that.

Tom Corrrea



Friday, February 17, 2017

The Long Branch Saloon Gunfight 1879

The Long Branch Saloon in 1874
Dear Friends,

As you know, I love old newspapers. Minus the editorial comments that are in news stories, and they are great resources when trying to find out what took place during an incident or event in history. Of course, the comments do provide use with something that some might find interesting. 

Let me explain, those editorial comments placed here and there in a news story back then shows us just how society back then looked at certain aspects of life at the time. While not all newspapers were reflective of their community standards, in many newspapers we can see how people back then looked at such incidents. 

The Long Branch Saloon Gunfight took place on April 5th, 1879. It is one of Dodge City's most famous shootouts. And this, well this is the story of the Long Branch Saloon Gunfight as it was reported by the Ford County Globe. 

In this newspaper story, you'll see what I was talking about when it comes to, for example, how people at the time looked at dueling or how they saw "Gamblers, as a class, are desperate men."  

And yes, after reading the full account of what took place, I agree with whoever it was that said, "the Loving vs Richardson gunfight demonstrates what deplorable marksmen many of the gunslingers sometimes were."

It's true. If you ever wondered if people shot at each other at almost point blank range in saloons and never got hit, then let's talk about the Long Branch Saloon Gunfight in 1879. 

On April 8th, 1879, the Ford County Globe reported: 

ANOTHER TRAGEDY

FRANK LOVING AND LEVI RICHARDSON FIGHT WITH PISTOLS. LOVING COMES OUT WITH A SCRATCH AND RICHARDSON GOES TO HIS GRAVE

There is seldom witnessed in any civilized town or country such a scene as transpired at the Long Branch saloon, in this city, last Saturday evening, resulting in the killing of Levi Richardson, a well known freighter, of this city, by a gambler named Frank Loving. 

For several months Loving has been living with a woman toward whom Richardson seems to have cherished tender feelings, and on one or two occasions previous to this which resulted so fatally, they have quarreled and even come to blows. 

Richardson was a man who had lived for several years on the frontier, and though well liked in many respects, he had cultivated habits of bold and daring, which are always likely to get a man into trouble. Such a disposition as he possessed might be termed bravery by many, and indeed we believe he was the reverse of a coward. He was a hard working, industrious man, but young and strong and reckless. 

Loving is a man of whom we know but very little. He is a gambler by profession; not much of a rowdy, but more of the cool and desperate order, when he has a killing on hand. He is about 25 years old. 

Both, or either of these men, we believe, might have avoided this shooting if either had possessed a desire to do so. But both being willing to risk their lives, each with confidence in himself, they fought because they wanted to fight. 

As stated in the evidence below, they met, one said "I don't believe you will fight." 

The other answered "try me and see" and immediately both drew murderous revolvers and at it they went, in a room filled with people, the leaden missives flying in all directions. 

Neither exhibited any sign of a desire to escape the other, and there is no telling how long the fight might have lasted had not Richardson been pierced with bullets and Loving's pistol left without a cartridge. Richardson was shot in the breast, through the side and through the right arm. It seems strange that Loving was not hit, except a slight scratch on the hand, as the two men were so close together that their pistols almost touched each other. 

Eleven shots were fired, six by Loving and five by Richardson. Richardson only lived a few moments after the shooting. Loving was placed in jail to await the verdict of the coroner's jury, which was "self defense," and he was released. 

Richardson has no relatives in this vicinity. He was from Wisconsin. About twenty-eight years old. Together with all the better class of our community we greatly regret this terrible affair. We do not believe it is a proper way to settle difficulties, and we are positive it is not according to any law, human or divine. 

But if men must continue to persist in settling their disputes with fire arms we would be in favor of the dueling system, which would not necessarily endanger the lives of those who might be passing up or down the street attending to their own business. 

We do not know that there is cause to censure the police, unless it be to urge upon them the necessity of strictly enforcing the ordinance preventing the carrying of concealed weapons. Neither of these men had a right to carry such weapons. 

Gamblers, as a class, are desperate men. They consider it necessary in their business that they keep up their fighting reputation, and never take a bluff. On no account should they be allowed to carry deadly weapons. 

--- end of article. 

The Ford County Globe also reported the testimonies of individuals who had eye-witness knowledge of the shooting. 

Here we can see for ourselves what Adam Jackson who was the bartender at the Long Branch, Dodge City Marshal Charles Bassett who immediately responded to the shooting, and Deputy Sheriff William Duffey who was present, all had to say regarding what took place.

Adam Jackson, bar-tender at the Long Branch, testified as follows: 

"I was in the Long Branch saloon about 8 or 9 o'clock Saturday evening. I know Levi Richardson. He was in the saloon just before the fuss, standing by the stove. He started to go out and went as far as the door when Loving came in at the door.

Richardson turned and followed back into the house. Loving sat down on the hazard table. Richardson came and sat near him on the same table. Then Loving immediately got up, making some remark to Richardson, could not understand what it was. 

Richardson was sitting on the table at the time, and Loving standing up. Loving says to Richardson, 'If you have anything to say about me why don't you come and say it to my face like a gentleman, and not to my back, you dam son of a bitch!'

Richard- son then stood up and said, 'You wouldn't fight anything, you dam' could not hear the rest. 

Loving said, 'you try me and see!'

Richardson pulled his pistol first, and Loving also drew a pistol. Three or four shots were fired when Richardson fell by the billiard table. Richardson did not fire after he fell. He fell on his hands and knees. No shots were fired after Richardson fell. 

No persons were shooting except the two mentioned. Loving's pistol snapped twice and I think Richardson shot twice before Loving's pistol was discharged. 

Dodge City Marshal Charles Bassett testified: 

"When I first heard the firing I was at Beatty & Kelley's saloon. Ran up to the Long Branch as fast as I could. Saw Frank Loving, Levi Richardson and Duffey. Richardson was dodging and running around the billiard table. Loving was also running and dodging around the table. 

I got as far as the stove when the shooting had about ended. I caught Loving's pistol. Think there was two shots fired after I got into the room, am positive there was one. Loving fired that shot, to the best of my knowledge. 

Did not see Richardson fire any shot, and did not see him have a pistol. I examined the pistol which was shown me as the one Richardson had. It contained five empty shells. Richardson fell while I was there. 

Whether he was shot before or after I came in am unable to say. I think the shots fired after I came in were fired by Loving at Richardson. Richardson fell immedi ately after the shot I heard. Did not see any other person shoot at Richardson. Did not see Duffey take Richardson's pistol. 

Do not know whether Loving knew that Richardson's pistol had been taken away from him. There was considerable smoke in the room. Loving's pistol was a Remington, No. 44 and was empty after the shooting. 

Deputy Sheriff William Duffey testified: 

"I was at the Long Branch saloon. I know Levi Richardson, who is now dead. I know 'cock-eyed Frank' (Loving). Both were there at the time. I heard no words pass between them. They had fired several shots when Frank fell by the table by the stove. I supposed that he was shot. 

I then had a scuffle with Richardson, to get his pistol, and threw him back on some chairs. Succeeded in getting his pistol. There might have been a shot fired by one or the other while we were scuffling. 

Cannot say whether Richardson had been shot previous to that time, but think he had, as he was weak and I handled him easily. Richardson then got up and went toward the billiard table and fell. 

I can't swear whether any shots were fired at Richardson by Loving after Richardson was disarmed. Don't think Loving knew I had taken the pistol from Richardson. It was but a few seconds after I took Richardson's pistol that he fell."

As for me, I find it interesting how each witness saw the same scene a little differently. Of course the other very interesting part of this shootout is that no one else in the saloon was injured.

Frank Loving was arrested per standard procedure, And after a coroners inquest ruled the shooting self defense, Loving was released without charges. 

The Ford County Globe later reported, "It seemed strange that Loving was not hit, except for a slight scratch on the hand, as the two men were so close together that their pistols almost touched each other."

And friends, there are a couple of perplexing things that we find time and time again in many of the gunfights that took place in the Old West. One thing is that shootings that take place around card tables in saloons in most instances were usually reported "as being so close together that their pistols almost touched each other." The other thing that's always a little baffling is that in many instances the so-called gunfighters involved are such bad shots that they would miss one another almost entirely -- if not entirely.

And not to change the subject here, but no, it's certainly not like the movies. But then again, when was the last time anything real came out of Hollywood. After all that's their stock and trade. They deal in the fake, the illusion, the smoke and mirrors. 


And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa 



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

John B. Stetson -- His Legacy


Dear Friends,

By coincidence, I've gotten a couple of letters, emails recently, which surprising ask me the same question in one way or another, "How would I describe John B. Stetson's legacy?"

I learned a great deal when I wrote about John B. Stetson in my article, John B. Stetson -- "Father Of The Cowboy Hat". So for me, Mr Stetson's positive attributes such as his drive to succeed after trial and error, his ability to identify a need and then have the desire to fill that niche goes to what makes America the land of opportunity. His story is inspiration because he came West to be successful by working for it.

Remember, he started his business in 1865. That was the year the Civil War was ending. The U.S. economy was in a horrible shape. There was a huge recession at the time. Some say it was a small economic depression. While people went West during the California Gold Rush of the 1850s, a lot were returning with empty pockets. One half the nation was reeling from the destruction of the Civil War, while the other half faced major unemployment because of the halt to Northern war production. So imagine starting a business in that atmosphere?

Yes, he found a true niche. A niche that would be filled at all points of the compass, from Texas to Montana, from California to Florida, his hats became a must have items for the man working in the elements.

As I wrote back to a reader who is putting together a book on Mr. Stetson, "As you and I know real well, John B. Stetson is the American West personified in a single item. Yes, the cowboy hat. People might think of horses and Colt .45 Peacemakers, they might think of covered wagons, Indians, and even John Wayne. But as we know, nothing says 'Cowboy' like a Stetson. Yes, a cowboy hat.

No one imagines John Wayne without one. No one imagines cowboys wearing
worn out Civil War kepi caps or slouch hats, as they initially did wear after the war when the migration of veterans heading west took place. No one imagines cowboys wearing bowlers or derbies, or sombreros. No one thinks of cowboys wearing wide brim straw hats as some did, But no, we all think of cowboy hats when we think of the Old West and cowboys."

And as for today, Stetson makes a number of different styles of hats for all sorts of lifestyles. Yes, you name it and they make it. And yes, today the Stetson company makes all sorts of apparel and accessories. Heck, they even make a fine bourbon whiskey which I've tried and enjoy.

But to find Mr. Stetson's true legacy, go to a rodeo, a penning, a cutting, any sort of Western cattle or horse event, go to cattle auctions, go to gatherings, take a look at what ranchers are wearing, and yes there you will see John B's legacy in one form or another.

His legacy is no different than what a badge is to a cop, without a badge what is he? Without a Stetson, without a cowboy hat, what's a cowboy?

And yes, today the term "Stetson" covers all brands and other makers unless someone is looking for a specific brand of cowboy hat. I walked into a Western Wear store a few days ago and asked "Where are your Stetson's?"

The owner said, "The cowboy hats are along the far wall." Yes, he knew exactly what I was looking for because "Stetson" says it all.

John B's creation, the cowboy hat, is today bought by adults, by both men and women, for themselves and for children. It is part of the Cowboy Culture today just as it was over a hundred year ago at his death. And friends, that ain't a bad legacy.

Tom Correa


Monday, February 13, 2017

SNOPES Does Lousy Research


Dear Friends,

Lately, I've been accused of creating a meme regarding a bogus comment that was attributed to Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. This was a meme that I did in fact share with my friends on Facebook.

I have told everyone that I did not create that meme, but I simply shared it. I also used incorrect punctuation when I commented on it when I asked the question, "She really did say this?!"
I told people that I did share the meme just as I have many others sent my way from friends. And with 5,000 friends, who can honestly say where every meme comes from? but I did not create it or fabricate it in any way.

On Facebook, I stated this and told people that I'd like to find where it did in fact come from. Well, I've found it on Pinterest. And one more thing. If you look at the dates when people commented on this meme, you can see that it was commented on a long time before I shared it on Facebook.

That specific Elizabeth Warren meme can be found edited and not edited in multiple locations on Pinterest:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/422071796312155962/

https://www.pinterest.com/HuntFishRace/the-disease-of-liberalism/

https://www.pinterest.com/AuntT/politics-1112/

I've searched in an effort to clear my name. Now I can prove that it was out there long before I shared it. But there still is two questions that I would like answered.

First, how is it that SNOPES does such lousy research that they couldn't track it down to before I shared it, or to when it originally appeared? And second, while I have been trying to get this blog further away from politics, especially in the last year, why did SNOPES target me?

The reason I ask is that though my small blog does a modest 40,000 visits a month. And yes, some months better than that. Fact is my blog does not compare to big Conservative websites. So why attack me?

Of course, there could be another reason. I can't help but wonder if this attack by SNOPES was purely ideological since many tell me that SNOPES leans to the Left and is a huge supporter of Democrats while I'm not.

So if SNOPES was not trying to attack my blog, The American Cowboy Chronicles, were they attacking me because I distribute Conservative news and information via Facebook where I have the limit of 5,000 friend and a large number of followers? Some of my Facebook friends believe this is the case, and now I'm wondering if this is true?

At this point, my little blog may take a hit and lose visitors. But frankly, I really want the truth to come out and have SNOPES admit that that meme was in circulation long before I shared it.

I have contacted SNOPES with the information that I've found. I hope they are honest with their readers, and correct their article.
Tom Correa



Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Cherokee Courthouse Shootout 1872

Dear Friends,

Folks are lead to believe that shootout at the OK Corral was the worse shootout ever to occur in the Old West. In reality, the gunfight that took place in a vacant lot near the OK Corral was not even close to the worse.

One shootout that was a lot worse than what took place in Tombstone, Arizona, is the Cherokee Courthouse Shootout that took place during a trial in the Cherokee court system on April 15th, 1872. in the Goingsnake District of the Cherokee Nation. Where three men died in the 30 second shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, 11 men were killed in the Cherokee Courthouse Shootout. And yes, later the melee would also been known as called the Going Snake Tragedy and the Going Snake Massacre

It started when Ezekial "Zeke" Proctor was being tried for killing Polly Beck and wounding Jim Kesterson in a shooting incident between what some say were family members. And yes, tensions were high due to the strong family ties of the accused and victims. And of course, there was the dispute over court jurisdiction. Some wanted Proctor tried in the Cherokee Nation, other wanted him tried in a federal court.

How did it start?

Ezekiel "Zeke" Proctor, a Cherokee from Georgia, fought for the Union Army, during the Civil War. He was know as a local "outlaw" and "hombre" with a bad temper, especially when he was drinking. All of the Beck family, who were also Cherokee, fought for the Confederate Army. As expected, after the war, the Becks and the Proctors did not get along. 

Zeke Proctor's romantic interest in Polly Beck didn't help things. Proctor was also a member of the Keetoowah Nighthawk Society which was a group created to preserve tribal traditional ways and fight "white encroachment". The term Keetoowah supposedly means ?full-blood," or "old-time Cherokee," or something similar to that.

So yes, Proctor disapproved of Cherokee women being involved romantically with white men. And since he was romantically in Cherokee woman Polly Beck, he made it known that she should not be in any sort of relationship with a white man. That white man being Jim Kesterson.

Proctor's hypocrisy regarding this must have given a few people something to talk about since both his and Polly Beck's fathers were white men.

Polly Beck was said to have been an attractive woman. Her father was white and her mother was Cherokee. It's said that at a young age, she was married to a white man, Steve Hilderbrand. He had been killed during the Civil War.

She then married Jim Kesterson who was a white man. Some say he was either her fourth or fifth husband, but I can't verify that. As for siblings, she had one brother. Of course two of her first cousins were Deputy US Marshals.

First, Zeke Proctor murders Polly Beck and wounds Jim Kesterson.

Why did he kill Polly Beck? Well, from what I gather, most of it is all conjecture because I don't think anyone really knows for sure. That is of course, other than the fact that Proctor didn't like the fact that a Cherokee woman who he was interested in was already married to a white man.

Some say Jim Kesterson had previously been involved with Proctor's sister, Susan, and had left her for Polly, leaving Susan and the children destitute. Others say that never happened and that there were no children, or that the children were not Kesterson's. Another story is that Kesterson caught Proctor stealing cattle and wanted to prosecute. And yes, there's ever a story that claims Proctor had been previously involved romantically with Polly, who was supposedly promiscuous. And yes, he was supposedly still in love with her. But frankly, that's all hearsay.

We do know that Zeke Proctor confronted Polly and Jim at her late husband's mill in the Oklahoma Territory on February 27th. They met at the so-called Hildebrand Mill, in what is now Delaware County, Oklahoma, on Flint Creek, just a little west of Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Polly was the widow of Steve Hildebrand, who had owned a share in the mill. After Hildebrand was killed in the Civil War, Polly ran the mill with Jim Kesterson,

Once all three were there, tempers flared and an argument erupted. From there, Proctor attempted to kill Jim Kesterson and did in fact kill Polly Beck. Fact is, Zeke Proctor used a rifle to shoot Jim Kesterson in the head. But believe it or not, he only wounded him. After shooting her husband, Proctor then turned to Polly and shot her dead. 

Later, Proctor would say that he murdered Polly accidental. And supposedly, Proctor surrendered himself after the murder of Polly to the sheriff of the Goingsnake District of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee court took jurisdiction.

The Trial

Though the Becks were also Cherokee, they were afraid of the Keetoowah Society’s influence. They wanted the federal court in Fort Smith to intervene on grounds that Kesterson was white. The other thing they saw was a rigged court.

And yes, for very good reason because Zeke Proctor was related to just about everybody including Lewis Downing who was the tribal chief. Proctors's mother had been a Downing. And if that wasn't bad enough, they couldn't find a prosecutor who was unrelated to the Proctors. And also, the regular judge, Jim Walker, was also related to the Proctors, and Judge T.B. Wolfe was also. 

Cherokee Chief Downing appointed Blackhaw Sixkiller as judge. Judge Sixkiller set the trial for March of 1872. The first short session ended in recess when Beck's lawyer, J.A. Scales, asked the chief to remove Sixkiller on an assortment of charges. 

Chief Downing temporarily suspended Sixkiller, then called an emergency meeting of the tribal council. The council quickly decided that the charges against Sixkiller were without merit, and the trial set for April 15th.

Believing that Proctor would not be convicted in a Cherokee court, his case is appealed to the local federal court. Yes, including asking that an arrest warrant be issued to ensure that Proctor received a trial in a non-Cherokee court in front of Judge Isaac Parker in Fort Smith, Arkansas. 

The trial was held in the Whitmire schoolhouse, rather than the Going Snake Courthouse. The school building, near what is now Christie, Oklahoma, was farther away from Beck country than the court was. 

The school was built like a bunker. It was built of logs, had only one door on its west side, and had only a couple of windows. So yes, the trial was moved there for a reason. It was see as easier to defend in case of trouble. 

Because the Proctor family was large and well connected, and because Zeke Proctor was a prominent Keetoowah, the Beck family was not sure that their notion of proper justice would be done at the Whitmire schoolhouse. And so on April 11th, a wounded Jim Kesterson and members of the Beck family rode into Fort Smith to hedge their bets. 

There, they swore out a federal warrant for Zeke Proctor's arrest. They also got warrants for seven other men, including two Walkingsticks, a couple of Sixkillers and the entire jury. Imagine how that went over.

Most accounts say that the Beck's did in fact get federal warrants for Proctor's defense counsel and Judge Sixkiller. And yes, in spite of the treaty, the U.S. Commissioner in Fort Smith issued the warrants based on the proposition that the United States had jurisdiction over offenses against white people. And while Kesterson was adopted as a Cherokee, he was white.

The warrants were given to Deputy U.S. Marshals Jacob Owens and Joseph Peavey. They were instructed to arrest everybody named in the warrants only if Zeke Proctor were acquitted. In case of conviction, they were not to serve the warrants at all. It was a recipe for trouble.

And so, there came the day of trial. The makeshift courthouse was jammed with people, many of them Proctor friends and family armed to the teeth. Yes, that included the defendant himself who was armed. And outside, a crowd of Cherokee eager to hear the proceedings had gathered. Although most agree that they were there to be available in case of trouble. 

Among them were a number of Beck friends and family. They were also armed, and wearing twigs of wild plum blossoms in their hats as a sort of badge. Yes, for identification when the shooting starts.

In the make-shift court, Judge Sixkiller sat at a little wood table facing the single door. Just to his left was Joe Starr, the court clerk, and Proctor’s lawyer, Mose Alberty, sat on the Judge Sixkiller’s right. An armed Zeke Proctor sat next to his attorney. Tom Walkingstick was one of his guards, and he stood near Proctor.

As for the actual massacre?

At about 11 a.m., not long after proceedings had begun and prosecutor Johnson Spake was arguing some procedural matter, the federal posse arrived. Out in front were Deputy U.S. Marshals J.G. Peavy and J.G. Owens, both well respected and well liked in Indian Territory. 

Marshal Owens had ordered his posse to stay out of the schoolhouse, and to remain outside until the verdict was reached. The posse dismounted and formed a rough column of twos. They soon started through the crowd toward the door. In the meanwhile, a few armed Beck supporters joined them from the crowd waiting outside. 

Supposedly, in the lead was White Sut Beck cradling his double-barreled shotgun. Some say he started the melee, but in the confusion that's just hearsay. Actually once inside the schoolhouse, juror George Blackwood saw the grim-faced federal posse and Beck family members coming in the door.

Supposedly, Blackwood shouted, "Look out! Look out! They're coming to get Zeke Proctor!"

No one really knows who fired the first shot, or what made some shoot at all, but soon someone fired a shot and then all hell broke loose. And depending on what Cherokee faction one talks with, Proctor versus Beck, the story of who is responsible for starting the massacre shifts. Some say it was a Beck and others say it was a Proctor who over reacted, either way in the confusion that's just hearsay.

According to some White Sut Beck drew down on Zeke Proctor with his shotgun, but Johnson Proctor, his brother, supposedly grabbed White Sut’s weapon and then took one barrel full in the chest. Believe it or not, Johnson already mortally wounded still hung on to the shotgun, forcing the second shot down toward the floor. 

Zeke Proctor was hit in the foot by a couple of buckshot. Mose Alberty, never had a chance. He was sitting at the clerk’s table or judge’s desk, apparently reading some document, when he was hit with two shotgun rounds. He was killed instantly.

As gunfire roared, men began to drop on both sides. It's said that Zeke Proctor produced a revolver from somewhere, but who knows. And as for the stories of him killing everyone in sight, in reality he is said to had taken cover in a chimney corner where he wouldn't get hit.

As the smoke cleared, the floor of that schoolhouse was littered with bodies both dead and wounded. Four dead lay just inside the schoolhouse door. Three more bodies lay just outside. A few paces away was another corpse, a badly wounded man lay moaning behind the building. And still, they say another lay dying in a nearby clump of bushes.

Judge Sixkiller took two buckshot in the wrist, and lawyer Alberty lay dead near Johnson Proctor. One juror had a hole in his shoulder, and several others also had wounds, most of them minor. Close by, in Mrs. Whitmire’s house, Deputy U.S. Marshal Owens was dying.

Widow Whitmire had her teenage sons hitch the family mule to a wagon and gather up the dead and the dying. The bodies of those killed were conveniently arranged on the Whitmire front porch so that their families could tend to them. The wounded were carried inside to be cared for by Mrs. Whitmire and others.

The next day the jury reconvened at Captain Arch Scraper's house. The jury deliberated less than 10 minutes and acquitted Zeke Proctor of murder. And yes, it is said that the jury then departed in some haste after hearing that Fort Smith will send more Deputy U.S. Marshals along with more Becks.

James Huckleberry, the U.S. marshal, sent a second posse down to Going Snake. In command was Deputy U.S. Marshal Charles F. Robinson, he and 20 others including two doctors, Julian Fields and C.F. Pierce there to help the wounded. All toll, 11 men were beyond help.

As for the massacre, the bottom line is that a federal posse consisting of two Deputy US Marshals, two of their regular posse members, six white men from Fort Smith, and five Cherokee who were all relatives of Polly Beck, was sent to Cherokee Judge Blackhawk Sixkiller's court to attend the trial. They were also there to arrest Proctor on federal charges if he was acquitted.

Treaties with the federal government said that Cherokee Nation courts would have jurisdiction over Cherokee people, so the involvement of non-tribal law officers was seen as a threat to tribal sovereignty.

Remember, the federal court dispatched a ten-member posse led by two Deputy US Marshals to secure the arrest of Proctor at the court house in Tahlequah. And yes, five members of the Beck clan traveled with that federal posse.

It's said there were more guns than people in Sixkiller's courtroom. The Cherokee gathered several members of the tribe to protect Proctor and their treaty rights. The Cherokee court's trial of Proctor was moved to the schoolhouse, since it was seen as being easier to defend than the courthouse. 

Some Cherokee, those aligned with the Proctors, say that without warning, the Deputy US Marshals and other members of their posse attacked the schoolhouse. But really, according to others, no one really knows who started the shooting.

Fact is, shooting broke out in the crowded make-shift courtroom during the proceedings. Eight of the Marshals posse and three Cherokee citizens were shot to death. It is said that nine Cherokee, including Zeke Proctor and Judge Sixkillers, were wounded.

As for the United States Marshals Posse members who were killed? They were Deputy U.S. Marshal Jacob Owens who died the following day of wounds, and posse members William Beck also died the following day of wounds, Black Sut Beck, Sam Beck, William Hicks, George Selvidge, Jim Ward, and Riley Woods.

Of the United States Marshals Posse members who were wounded? They were Deputy U.S. Marshal Joseph Peavey, and posse members Paul Jones, George McLaughlin, and White Sut Beck.

As for the Cherokee who were killed? They were Johnson Proctor, brother to suspect Zeke Proctor, William Alberty, who was Proctor's attorney, and Andrew Palone who was a Cherokee and Civil War veteran.

The Cherokee wounded, Zeke Proctor, Judge Blackhawk Sixkiller, John Proctor
Isaac Vann, Ellis Foreman. and Joe Chaney.

After the shooting, Cherokee authorities moved the trial to another locations and acquitted Proctor. District Attorney James Huckleberry in Fort Smith, actually dispatched a large posse under the command of Deputy US Marshal Charles Robinson. 

The second posse arrested several men believed to have been involved in the killing of the Deputy U.S. Marshals. And no, no resistance was made against the second federal posse. One of those arrested was the jury foreman Arch Scaper, who was identified as on of the Cherokee shooters. All of those arrested were taken to Fort Smith, Arkansas for trial, but all were eventually released due to lack of evidence or because witnesses were not willing to testify.

All in all, a federal grand jury in Fort Smith indicted twenty Cherokees present at the trial as well all the tribal court officers. Cherokee Nation issued warrants for several Cherokee citizens, as well. The federal government later dismissed all indictments. 

As for Zeke Proctor, the man who got away with murder? 

He fled by the time the second posse arrived. Not surprisingly, he fled to Mexico for a little over four years. But by the 1880s, Proctor was back and supposedly had a small ranch. In 1877, believe it or not, he was elected as a Cherokee Senator. 

And as for more irony, believe it or not, in 1894, he was elected sheriff of the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation. Some say, if there was anyone who should have never worn a badge -- he was that man.

Tom Correa 


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Isaac Charles Parker -- The Hanging Judge


Dear Friends,

Many of us who are into Old West history and Western movies have heard of Judge Isaac Parker, the "Hanging Judge." And since a reader wrote to ask why he was called the "Hanging Judge," I decided to share my research on him.

I also wanted to ask the question if his being called the "Hanging Judge" was justified or not? After reading this, ask yourself if the moniker that was pinned on him was justified for the period and the length of time he said on the bench?

Isaac Charles Parker was born on October 15th, 1838. He was a judge and a politician. He actually served as the United States Congressman for Missouri's 7th congressional district for two terms, and presided over the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas for 21 years.

Parker was born the youngest son of Joseph Parker and his wife Jane Shannon. He was raised on the family farm near Barnesville, Ohio. He attended Breeze Hill Primary School, followed by the Barnesville Classical Institute which was a private school.

He actually taught school in a county primary school to pay for his secondary education. And believe it or not, at the young age of 17, he started in an apprenticeship in law and then passed the Ohio bar exam in 1859 at the age of 21.

Parker moved to St. Joseph, Missouri between 1859 and 1861 and worked at his maternal uncle's law firm of Shannon and Branch. While there, he met and married Mary O'Toole, with whom he had sons Charles and James. By 1862, Parker had his own law firm and was also working in the country courts.

In April of 1861, Parker ran as a Democrat for the St. Joseph part-time position of city attorney. He served three one-year terms from April 1861 to 1863. Of course the Civil War broke out in 1861 just four days after Parker took office. 

He decided to enlist in a pro-Union the 61st Missouri Emergency Regiment which was a home guard unit. While I would have thought that he would have been an officer because of his being an attorney, he was an enlisted man and reached the rank of Corporal by the end of the war.

During the early 1860s, all through the Civil War, Parker continued both his legal and political careers. Then in 1864, he formally split from the Democratic Party over conflicting opinions on slavery. We should remember that Democrats started the Civil War after efforts of keeping slavery legally failed.  

So now as a Republican, he ran for county prosecutor of the Ninth Missouri Judicial District. By the fall of 1864, he was serving as a member of the Electoral College and voted for the re-election of Abraham Lincoln.

In 1868, Parker won a six-year term as judge of the Twelfth Missouri Circuit. And just two years later in 1870, Judge Parker was nominated for Missouri's 7th Congressional District. Backed by those who were called the "radical faction" of the Republican party, "radical" because they wanted to give Civil Rights to black Americans, he then resigned his judgeship to campaign. He won the election after his opponent withdrew two weeks prior to the vote.

The first session of the Forty-second Congress convened on March 4th, 1871. During his first term, Parker helped to secure pensions for veterans in his district and campaigned for a new federal building to be built in St. Joseph. He sponsored a failed Republican bill designed to give women equal rights. 

The Democrats did not only fight to preserve slavery during the Civil War, they also fought the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which was an Act of the United States Congress which empowered the President to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other Democrat militia organizations.

The act was passed by the 42nd United States Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on April 20, 1871. The act was the last of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks on the rights of black Americans.

The Democrats at the time vehemently opposed women's rights or to allow them to hold public office. Parker fought them and also sponsored legislation to organize the Indian Territory, modern day Oklahoma, under a territorial government.

Parker was again elected to Missouri's 7th district in the forty-third Congress. It was during this time that he fought for the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Though fought against by Democrats, Republicans passed it so that black Americans would be guaranteed equal treatment in public accommodations, public transportation, and to prohibit exclusion from jury service. Yes, 80 years before Rosa Parks refused to move from a seat on a bus, Republicans were fighting Democrats so that black Americans weren't discriminated against.  

As for Isaac Parker's conduct in Congress, a local paper wrote of him, "Missouri had no more trusted or influential representative in ... Congress during the past two years". 

In his second term, besides Civil Rights issues, Parker concentrated on Indian policy, including the fair treatment of the tribes residing in the Indian Territory. It's said that his speeches in support of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the fair treatment of the tribes gained national attention.

In 1874, Parker was the caucus nominee of the Republican Party for a Missouri Senate seat. But, Missouri was going Democrat at the time so it seemed very unlikely that he'd be elected to the Senate. Knowing this, he sought a presidential appointment as judge for the Western District of Arkansas.

On May 26th, 1874, Republican President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Isaac Charles Parker as Chief Justice of the Utah Territory. He was to replace James B. McKean. But after requesting that President Grant instead nominate him for the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas to replace William Story who was facing impeachment proceedings due to allegations of corruption, Isaac Charles Parker go the job.

Judge Parker arrived in Fort Smith on May 4th, 1875, without his family. His appointment at 36 years of age made him the youngest Federal Judge in the West. And yes, without wasting any time, he got right to work with his first session as the district judge was on May 10th, 1875.

As a side note, the court prosecutor was W. H. H. Clayton. He remained the United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas for 14 of Judge Parker's 21 years on the court.

On May 10th, 1875, his first day on the job, Judge Parker tried 18 men. That was during his first session of court, and all were there charged with murder. All toll 15 of them were convicted in jury trials. Parker sentenced eight of them to a mandatory death penalty. He ordered six of the men to be executed at the same time on September 3rd, 1875. And yes, one of those sentenced to death was killed trying to escape. He commuted another's sentence to life in prison due to his youth.

That first group of prisoners to hang as a result of going in front of Judge Parker, were three white men, two Indians, and one black man all of whom had been convicted of murder.

On September 3rd, 1875, the prisoners were seated together on a bench along the back of the gallows and had their death warrants read to them. Each was asked if he had any last words. They were then lined up on the traps. Then George Maledon, the man who was known as the "Prince of Hangman," adjusted the nooses around their necks and drew the black hoods over their heads.

At the signal from Judge Parker, Maledon pulled the lever to release the trap through which they fell. Maledon was said to take great care to get it done right. His prisoners usually died of a broken neck rather than by strangulation. Maledon also carried out another six man hanging later in his career.
Judge Parker's first hanging attracted huge media coverage for its day. Reporters came from Little Rock, St. Louis and Kansas City. Many of the large Eastern and Northern daily newspapers also sent reporters to cover the event. More than 5,000 people had turned out to watch the prisoners march from the jail to the gallows.

His court had final jurisdiction over the Indian Territory from 1875 until 1889. And no, there was no court available for appeals. Because of this, the governments of the Five Civilized Tribes, along with other tribes in the Indian Territory, actually had a legal system that covered their own citizens.

At the time, federal law applied to non-Indian United States citizens in the territory. And yes, Parker's court sat six days a week in order to ensure that he would be able to try cases. He is said to have thoroughly believed that citizens had the right to a speedy trial. And frankly, he gave a speedy trial to as many cases as possible each term. He often kept court going up to ten hours each day. 

And while in 1883, Congress attempted to reduced the caseload on the district courts by reducing the jurisdiction of the court and reassigning parts of the Indian Territory to federal courts in Texas and Kansas, the increase of settlers moving into the Indian Territories actually increased Parker's caseload.

In his time on the court, Parker presided over a number of high-profile cases, including the trial of Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill, and the "Oklahoma Boomer" case involving David L. Payne who illegally settled on lands in the Indian Territory.

In 1895, Parker heard two cases involving Crawford Goldsby. The first time it involved Goldsby killing a bystander during a general-store robbery in 1894. He was convicted in that case which lasted from February 26th to June 25th, 1895. Parker sentenced him to death. 

But while awaiting execution, Goldsby attempted to escape prison. During his attempted escape, he killed a prison guard. Because of that, he was again brought before Parker who promptly gave him a second death sentence on December 2nd, 1895. Goldsby was eventually hanged on March 17th, 1896.

As for Parker's clashes with the Supreme Court? It is said that he did so on a number of occasions. In 1894, Parker gained national attention in a dispute with the Supreme Court over the case of Lafayette Hudson who was convicted of assault with intent to kill. Parker sentenced him to four years imprisonment.

Hudson appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted bail. Parker refused to release Hudson on the grounds that statute law did not provide the Supreme Court with the authority to demand Hudson's release. Imagine that.

And of the 44 cases which Parker imposed the death penalty which were appealed to the Supreme Court, 30 of them were overturned and ordered to be re-tried.

In 1895, Congress passed a new Courts Act which removed the remaining Indian Territory jurisdiction of the Western District. So effective September 1st, 1896, the federal court for the Western District of Arkansas was closed. 

Parker's health deteriorated in the 1890s just as the jurisdiction and power of his court were reduced by Congress. Then in September of 1896, Congress effectively closed the District Court for the Western District of Arkansas by removing its jurisdiction.

A month early in August of 1896, Judge Parker was at home when the term began. He was already too sick to preside over the court. It is said that even thought that was the case, reporters wanted to interview him about his career but had to talk to him at his bedside.

Judge Parker died on November 17th, 1896, of a number of health conditions which included heart disease and Bright's disease which is a disease involving chronic inflammation of the kidneys.

His funeral in Fort Smith had the highest number of attenders up to that point. He is buried at the Fort Smith National Cemetery.

During his time, Judge Isaac Charles Parker became known as the "Hanging Judge" due to the large number of convicts that he sentenced to death. But frankly, I don't know if he really deserved that moniker.

Fact is, in 21 years on the federal bench, Judge Parker tried 13,490 cases. In more than 8,500 of those cases, the defendant either pleaded guilty or was convicted at trial. And out of those more than 8,500 cases, Judge Parker sentenced 160 people to death. Out of those, 79 of them were actually executed. Of the others on "death row" awaiting the hangman, they either died while incarcerated or were acquitted, pardoned, or their sentences were commuted to life.

Now, if my math is right, I figure that over his 21 years on the bench, with 160 sentenced to death, he actually sentenced 8 men a year to the death penalty in accordance with what the law demanded at the time. And since only 79 were actually hanged, he hanged about 4 a year in those 21 year. So for me, while looking at the numbers, I really don't know if his being called the "Hanging Judge" is really fair.

And there you have it, there so goes the story of one of the West's most interesting people. From everything that I've read about him, he stood for what was right and did his duty. And that, well that to my way of thinking is really all that one can do in the big picture of things.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa