Friday, April 28, 2017

Billy The Kid -- Did He Kill 21 Men?

A letter from a reader asks, "Is the myth about Billy the Kid killing 21 men true or not?" My reader also wants to know when and where he was born because he's read a couple of different versions.

Legends say he killed one man for each of year of his life. But before we get into that, let's take on when and where Henry McCarty, also known as William H. Bonney, also known as "Billy the Kid," was born.

From what I've read on him, people can guess all they want but no one has proof of when or where he was born. That's the bottom line on that.

The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid is a biography and supposed first-hand account written by Pat Garrett with the assistance of ghostwriter Marshall Ashmun "Ash" Upson. In that book, Garrett and Upson give the date of the Kid's birth as November 23th, 1859, and say it he was born in New York City.

The problem is that though this information has been accepted as the actual birth date and place for Billy the Kid, no one has any proof as to when or where he was born. That means there is no record of the month, the day or even the year. So then, if I'm right in that there is no record, then there are some of us who want to know where that date came from? And really, how did Garrett and Upson know since they did not really know the Kid?

I read where one writer stated that Marshall Ashmun "Ash" Upson made up the year and simply gave Billy the Kid the same birth date as his own which is November 23rd. I don't know if that's true or not, but it does appear pretty fishy since no one can find a record of birth anywhere for the Kid. And yes, Upson was born on November 23rd. 

As for the year, from what I can see, it's all speculation as to whether or not he was born in 1859. As far as some are concerned, since some have found witnesses that say that the Kid was actually 17 years old during the Lincoln County War in early 1878, then that means the Kid may have been born in 1860 or 1861. 

Fact is, from what I can see, his date of his birth remains a complete mystery. Yes, the same as with whether he was born in New York or Indiana or what have you. No one can say because there is no record of his date or place of birth, or where he was born. 

Now as for how many men did he kill? 

To my knowledge, the myth that says he killed 21 men is not true. As for the killings that we absolutely know are attributed to Billy the Kid, that number is 4.

Why only four? Well, we know that he killed Frank Cahill, Joe Grant, James W. Bell and Bob Olinger. We know that he and other gunmen were involved in the deaths of Billy Morton, Frank Baker, William McCloskey, William Brady, and George Hindman. But even though that's the case, we do not know if he was the actual shooter of those men or if it were one of the others whose bullet or bullets may have killed those men.

The problem here is no different than the myths of Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, King Fisher, Ben Thompson, Luke Short and many others. A great number of legends have killings attributed to them that they simply did not do. In many cases, someone else did the killing and they were credited for it. In other cases, they themselves built up their legends by coming up with tall tales about people they fought and won, and the struggles that they overcame. 

It is like not having witnesses to John Wesley Hardin's claim that he drew down on Wild Bill Hickok and that Hickok was fine with that. That was Hardin's claim from inside prison, and from what I can tell it's completely fabricated. If it isn't, then someone should produce a witness. The problem is that there wasn't any witnesses to what would have been a very big deal. It's just a fact, someone getting the best of the "legend" Wild Bill would have been huge news. 

In the case of Billy the Kid, it is believed that Deputy James Carlyle was mistakenly shot and killed by his own posse went they thought he was Billy the Kid. It was shown later that the posse blamed the killing on the Kid out of convenience instead of owing up to a mistaken of friendly-fire. Any evidence that points to the Kid has been shown to be circumstantial evidence at best.

Billy the Kid has been blamed for killing Buckshot Roberts, but it was Charlie Bowdre who killed Roberts. The Kid was credited with killing Charlie Crawford, but his killer was Fernando Herrera who is said to have shot Crawford as he rode towards town to join Peppin's posse during the siege at McSween's house. 

Billy the Kid gets credit for the killing of Robert Beckwith, but no one really knows who's bullet killed Beckwith. And as for killing Morris Bernsteinring, he was killed by Atanacio Martinez and not the Kid. 

So while we can say that he participated in five shootings, it's a lot more accurate to credit Billy the Kid killing the four men that we absolutely know he killed. And that, well that's no where near 21.

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

Tom Correa

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jacob Thrailkill's California Gold Rush Letters 1848-1850

Dear Friends, 

Since my regular readers know that a great deal of my research material comes from archived newspapers, court documents, journals, and other sources of documentation, I wanted to share with you a few abstracts of letters from a miner who came to the Far West during the California Gold Rush in 1849.

The California Gold Rush began on January 24th, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. Some say it only lasted from 1848 to 1855. 

The 1849 miner Jacob Thrailkill was born in Tennessee on January 26th, 1812, to James Thrailkill and Susannah Ham. He moved on to Missouri and then to Ft. Des Moines, Iowa, where he established a farm. He married Eleanor "Nelly" Ann Knaoy, also listed as Nellie Ann Kenaoye, in 1831. He and Nelly had six children. But sadly, Nelly died in 1846.

Jacob remarried shortly afterwards to Sarah B. Ferguson. Some reports say they had two children, other reports say only a son Thomas. Jacob went missing in Panama en route home, and declared dead in 1851.

One letter is from April 29th, 1849, from "Near Council Bluffs, Iowa". One is from September 16th, 1849 from "Columa California". And the last letter is from February 14th, 1850 from "Georgetown sixty miles east of Sacramento City". A fourth letter is from M.C. Ferguson in "Charaton Cty, Mo" dated Jan 28th, 1848, addressed "Dear brothers and sisters" and sent to Jacob in Ft. Des Moines. 

These letters are now archived at the California State Library They are all are transcribed. And in addition there are two pages of family genealogical notes, one is on a sheet with a colored lithograph.

Jacob's letter from April 29th, 1849, from Near Council Bluffs, Iowa, is a brief report on the journey since leaving home. He states that they have arrived in good time to meet with others to begin the journey across the plains and plan on crossing the Missouri River in the morning. While he mentions practical details, he also sounds a bit mournful. 

"The provisions you cooked for us lasted till we arrived here except part of the ham, which was eaten up by a dog one night. The cows are of great use to us, partly for work, but particularly for the milk. -- The team is in fine condition, improving daily. Our cooking, milking, &c, goes off nicely since we made our mess box, got our cooking utensils &c." 

"Though we left you while the elements were in commotion and ourselves in tears, yet we had much pleasant weather before our arrival here, and a calmness of feeling resulting from a trust in the providence of God that he will protect both you and us, while present or far absent."

His next letter is from September 16th, 1849 from "Columa, California." He is now in Coloma, and is getting ready to begin digging for gold with associates from home. He talked a little about the route traveled from Salt Lake City across the Great Basin, and that he is pleased with California.

"It is called the Great Basin because its waters do not run off to either of the Oceans, but run down in the valleys and sink into the ground." 

"Myself, Howe, Hezekiah, Goodnough and McHenry are working together at the mining business. We got here a week ago to day and have been taking care of our cattle and recruiting ourselves. Tomorrow we commence business." 

"The country is very healthy, the ground covered with a beautiful forrest of Oak and Pine trees, gold is inexhaustible the whole ground being filled with it."

In his letter from Coloma, Jacob goes on to offer advice to others making the journey across the plains. He states, "I would advise those coming the overland route to get strong 2 horse wagons, tine well set, from four to six yoke of cattle not less than five nor more than eight years of age, and not bring more than 1000 to 1200 pounds. We were green in these matters when we started, but now we are ripe and capable of giving advise. Never get loose made cattle -- bulls nor stags". 

And yes, in that letter he actually encourages his wife to think about joining him in California, writing, "If you should come bring garden seeds of all kinds and especially Onion seeds as onions are worth one dollar a pound."

Just to give you a reference of how much money one pound of onions cost in 1849.  One dollar in the year 1849 would be the equivalent of $30.70 in 2017.

He closes his Coloma letter by asking about their children. "I wish in your next letter you would tell me how the children are doing at school, and whether Thomas Benton can talk yet."

His last letter is from February 14th, 1850 from "Georgetown sixty miles east of Sacramento City" where he, Hezikiah, and Howe are still together. 

"We are stopping here a few days until the snow melts off the mountains so that we can go higher up, and expect to remain together until we return, which I ardently hope may be soon but will be somewhat owing to our success within the next few weeks." 

Then he goes on to talk about his concern for what is taking place with the farm in Iowa, writing, "It grieves me very much to think you have been put to so much trouble on account of the crops not being properly tended. Also on account of the children so many of them being sick at the same time and for such a length of time. I trust it will not be long before I will be with you and in a condition to render paternal relief."

He described the California winter weather by writing this, "Sacramento City has been entirely overflowed, which caused a great loss of property estimated at two [mill]ions of dollars. The water was from 5 to 12 feet deep in the City and boats were rowed all about the streets. It is a very common thing for us to wade through snow two or three feet deep and in two hours or less time be traveling in a pleasant valley where vegitation is rapidly growing and the weather uncomfortably warm. This is the spring season of the year here." 

He closed his last letter with thoughts of home, saying, "Hoping that Kind Providence will still preserve us until we meet again I remain your affectionate husband, Jacob Thrailkill."

Jacob left for California in early 1849. He traveled overland and arrived safely in late summer. He was first in Coloma where gold was first discovered. Then he wintered in Georgetown near Hangtown, before moving on into the Sierra when the spring mining season got underway. 

According to family history, Jacob Thrailkill succeeded in his mining venture and left to return home with his "pile" in November of 1850. Yes, just before most of the placer gold petered out.

Jacob Thrailkill's California Gold Rush letters, 1848-1850, are kept in the California State Library. They were donated by Gary Schwartz "In memory of Mary Katherine Schwartz, Esq., BA in 1940, University of New Mexico; JD: 1959, University of Miami".

As with other letters, the three letters from Jacob Thrailkill to his wife, Sarah in Fort Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa, gives us a peek into the live of the 49ers who went to California during the Gold Rush. His letters allow us a small glimpse into how is was during the early days of the Gold Rush. 

With over 500 small placer mining camps doting the Sierras during the Gold Rush, by 1851, just 3 years after its initial discovery, placer mining was already coming to an end. And yes, as more and more miners flooded into the Sierra, there were too many people for profitable placer mining. Soon it became very clear that individual miners were no longer making money.

For miners to be profitable, they had to dig deeper in the ground and soon hydraulic mining machinery were necessary to keep mining in business. Letters from those who came during that time, the ones who arrived after the placer gold was played out sound very different. They are the ones who will write home about working for day wages and returning east with empty pockets.

As for Jacob Thraikill, his family records state: "Jacob Thrailkill left the Pacific Coast by steamer in November 1850 and was lost on the isthmus of Panama and never was heard of afterwards".

It's no telling if he was waylaid by bandits, robbed and killed, or if somehow he fell ill from any of a number of diseases there. All in all, to me, his never making it home again is a sad fate for a man who endeavored to do good for his family. Yes, a sad fate indeed.

Tom Correa 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 3

In this series on Wyatt Earp, I decided to talk about some of my sources.

Since many of you have written to ask, I've shared with you the fact that while I use bits and pieces of information from other sources and, of course, newspapers and journals and such.

The Tombstone/Earp books that are my favorites are William M. Breakenridge's Helldorado: Bringing Law to the Mesquite, Eugene Cunningham's Triggernometry: A Gallery of Gunfighters, Ed Bartholomew's Wyatt Earp: The Untold Story, and Wyatt Earp: Man and Myth, Tim Fattig's Wyatt Earp: The Biography, and Andrew C. Isenberg's Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life.

In this series, I also wanted to take a look at Wyatt Earp's biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, which author Stuart N. Lake himself admitted to fabricating.

I wanted to take a look at how and why it came about. I wanted to look at how it was received and if it was challenged, which it was many times over the years. I also wanted to find out if there were others who told a more honest version of the man that most Americans have come to believe was a hero and iconic lawman of the Old West. 

While I'm sure that I didn't mention every book ever written about Wyatt Earp, after all, how could I? I really just wanted you to see what sources I've used in one way or another.

Yes, I found out that many authors took up the challenge and did a great deal of research looking into who Wyatt Earp really was. Some, sorry to say, furthered the myth instead of clearing the fog. Some did it for self-serving reasons, such as simply wanting fame for themselves. And yes, there were others who tried to maintain some semblance of unbiased reporting of the facts.

But if one thing can be learned from this, it's that some images, once cemented in the minds of the American public, simply cannot be dispelled even with the truth. And yes, that brings me to this question:

Why does Stuart Lake's fabricated image of Wyatt Earp prevail and endure over all of these years?

In my opinion, for whatever that's worth, it has to do with it being a good story. Even though it isn't real and just a fake, it is a good story. It is a story that people like.

Stuart Lake's book on Wyatt Earp was a favorite of many because it's a tale full of adventurers, drama, violence, and even revenge. Its hero is someone that many admire in one way or another. And yes, that's especially true in the midst of the Great Depression when it came out. Those were hard times, and people were looking for a "believable" hero. Lake's book gave them one.

But more importantly, it was a hit because Lake's book was made for Hollywood. In the 1930s, "Cowboy" films were all the rage, and producers were looking everywhere for new material that was halfway believable.

The first film using Stuart Lake's fiction about Wyatt Earp was called Frontier Marshal, which was produced by Sol M. Wurtzel in 1934. It is said that even before the movie was released, Wyatt Earp's widow Josephine Earp sued 20th Century Fox for $50,000 in an attempt to keep them from making the film.

Supposedly she looked at it as an "unauthorized portrayal" of Wyatt Earp. Which to most means that she wasn't getting paid for it. And to that end, she succeeded in getting Wyatt's name completely removed from the movie. Instead, his character in the movie is re-named "Michael Wyatt." But yes, the movie was still released as Frontier Marshal to draw an audience familiar with Lake's book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal.

A second version of the same film using the same title, Frontier Marshal, starred Randolph Scott and was directed by Sol M. Wurtzel again. It was produced in 1939. Again Josephine Earp threatened to sue, but this time she settled for $5,000. So yes, it was OK to use Wyatt Earp's name since she was paid.

Stuart Lake retold this same story in a 1946 book that director John Ford developed into the movie My Darling Clementine starring Henry Fonda in a town that looked nothing like Tombstone. Instead of a town of 10,000 people in 1881, it was a sparse corral out in the middle of nowhere. But still, that film also boosted Wyatt Earp's reputation. 

After the movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was released in 1957, the shootout that took place near the OK Corral became known by that name. And no, the story isn't close to what took place. But frankly, it's one of my favorites "shoot 'em ups!"

Since then, Stuart Lake's version of Wyatt Earp has been portrayed a number of times by all sorts of actors. For the most part, most make him look like the virtuous lawman, So yes, most are still just fiction.

The movie Tombstone is one of my favorite OK Corral movies. Besides, Doc Holliday had a lot of bullets in his six guns that he's not supposed to be carrying because of the No Gun City Ordinance in Tombstone. There is another problem with the movie. It has to do with the fire when the Earps and Holliday make their walk down to the OK Corral. Do you remember that in the film, there was a fire in the background?

Remember, the "cowboys" were in violation of a city ordinance. That's it. That means the most that could have happened was a $20 to $25 dollar fine for wearing a gun openly in plain view in town.

In the film, there is a fire taking place behind them. In real life, a fire was the number one threat in the Old West. If the city police would have decided to go enforce a city ordinance instead of fighting that fire, which in real life never took place, I believe the Earps and Holliday would have been run out of town on a rail.

And on Earp's vendetta ride in the movie Tombstone, they leave out Warren Earp, who was part of the actual posse in 1882. And in the movie, they also kill at least a dozen or more sash-wearing bad guys. That did not happen in real life.

It makes great theater, wonderful acting, but it's not even close to the truth. As for Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, they are my favorite Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday of any OK Corral movie. I can see them being close to looking like that.

As for the movie entitled Wyatt Earp starring Kevin Costner in the lead role of Wyatt Earp, that movie was just bad from beginning to end. I think really think Kevin Costner played a horrible Wyatt Earp. For me, after reading about how Earp was not a shy businessman and self-promoter, I don't believe Wyatt Earp had that dark persona that Costner portrayed him as having.

Remember, even in his later years, the real Wyatt Earp was known to hang around Hollywood studios and spin yarns about the Old West. So no, I don't see Earp as being as quiet as some say he was.

Of course, Lake's book inspired the 1955 television series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp starring Hugh O'Brian.

My older brother and I were talking a few months before he passed away last November 3rd, 2016. Like me, he loved watching the old reruns of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp on the Encore Western Channel. He didn't read a lot about Wyatt Earp, so he took what he saw on television as being who Wyatt Earp really was.

For me, I remember how he and I watched The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp as kids in the 1950s and early 1960s. We both loved it. I got older and started researching history. And yes, there are times that I find it sort of sad that I learned the truth about who Wyatt Earp really was.

So who was Wyatt Earp, you ask? 

Well, for me, since some of you have asked for my opinion on Wyatt Earp for what that's worth, here it is. And please remember, this is just my opinion looking at everything that I can find on Earp that doesn't seem like it was written by some fan of his. Remember, I treat looking at historical figures as a crime investigator. I gather evidence and try to remain impartial until I'm finish gathering as much evidence as I can.

Of course, in some cases, it's simply human to say to yourself, "This so-and-so is a bum!" after finding out more about someone. Heck, read some of the many comments, and you will find a number of readers who have written to me to call me "a bum" and worse. Mostly it's because I found out something about their hero that I wrote about, and they feel I was trying to besmirch a legend.

So for me, I believe Wyatt Earp really showed his true colors, showed the world who he really was, back in San Francisco in 1896 when he refereed the Fitzsimmons vs. Sharkey Heavyweight Championship boxing match. If you want to read about what took place, here's the link to a post that I wrote on the incident: Wyatt Earp -- From Unknown To Notorious Desperado

Back then, people did not know who Wyatt Earp was. And because of that, people did not see Earp as a "heroic frontier marshal." This was simply because his book had not been published yet, and most never ever heard of the OK Corral.

Because people did not know who he was, people were not biased to think he was some sort of hero. That's simply because no one saw the Hollywood creation called "Wyatt Earp" until later. What they saw in 1896 was the real deal and not the fabrication. 

Instead of seeing what we have come to believe as the man who tamed the West, in 1886, people from coast to coast knew him as a dirty referee. Yes, someone who fixed the heavyweight championship and then ran from the ring as fast as he could before many in the crowd realized what had happened. And yes, that should tell people volumes about the man. 

One Earp researcher once said, "Wyatt Earp got more notoriety around that boxing fight than he ever did with the gunfight." And frankly, I agree.

Hollywood has turned Wyatt Earp into a gunslinger without compare, a man who never shirked his responsibilities, who would never do wrong, who was brave, courageous, and bold, just like the song says. And yes, Hollywood sticks to the myth it created while refusing to make a movie about how Wyatt Earp officiated the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight on December 2nd, 1896.

My belief is that Hollywood refuses to make a movie about the real story of how Wyatt Earp was involved with fixing the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight. They refuse because it would ruin a myth that has made Hollywood a great deal of money for more than 80 years. 

So as for me, when my late brother Herman Ray used to ask me who Wyatt Earp really was, for his sake, I always replied, "I'll tell you this, he was certainly not Hugh O'Brian."

And yes, I always left it at that.

Tom Correa

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 2

In Part One of this review, I talked about some of my source material and Wyatt Earp's biography by Stuart N. Lake entitled Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. His work started the evolution of the Wyatt Earp myth as created by Stuart Lake.

Wyatt Earp was very ill the last few years before he died. We know this because his prostate and kidneys were giving him problems, and would be the death of him in 1929 at the age of 80. Wyatt died before his biography was published, and by Lake's own admission -- he made up most of the story to his book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal.

While many have believed that Wyatt was a liar, and that he told Lake all sorts of tall tales to build himself up to be more than he was, I really believe that Lake put words in Earps mouth all for his own gain. Yes, I really believe the Lake used Earp to make himself famous and wealthy. No, that is not a leap of conjecture on my part because we know that Lake lied by his own admission. And frankly, that's why I refuse to use Lake's book as source material.

Here is Part Two, where we pick up the story with another writer who many say was also a fraud.

So now, we need to talk about former Air Force officer turned Wyatt Earp historian Glenn G. Boyer. A number of people write me to quote Boyer all the time. Even after being exposed, many people really see Boyer as the go-to Earp authority.

Boyer made his fame in a series of articles and a couple of books supporting an extremely favorable image of the Earps. Besides his articles, his first book I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp was published in 1976 by the University of Arizona Press.

Ben Traywick, author of Chronicles of Tombstone, John Henry - The Doc Holliday Story and former Tombstone Arizona's official volunteer town historian reportedly is noted as saying "Boyer was a giant in the field of Earp history, nobody could touch him."

Because of his magazine articles, Glenn G. Boyer became widely recognized as the leading authority on Wyatt Earp. Imagine that. Then in 1993, Boyer published Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta which he presented as a "nonfiction novel" based on the account of a newspaperman he identified as "Theodore Ten Eyck." He followed this with a series of Earp articles in True West Magazine entitled Wyatt Earp, Legendary American which again identified "Theodore Ten Eyck" as a source. I believe Boyer’s Wyatt Earp: Legendary American series ran in True West Magazine from August 1993 to September 1994.

Boyer's problems began when several Old West historians openly voiced their skepticism of his works, openly questioning his sources, and frankly openly questioning his honesty. In fact, one historian actually published a critique of Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta in which he suggested that Boyer's source "Theodore Ten Eyck" was not a real person at all and just someone fabricated by Boyer to lend credence to his work.

Boyer's response to his critics was surprising in that he launched personal attacks and more, all which eventually led to more historians coming forward to question the authenticity of Boyer's articles in True West Magazine, his book Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta and his first book I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp as well.

Casey Tefertiller, a former writer for the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, came out with his book entitled Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend in 1997, although some have it's publishing date as 1999 for some reason. His book agrees with Boyer yet takes on Boyer over material in Boyer's books.

Since I've only skimmed through Tefertiller's book, and found it to be just a book in agreement with Boyer, I wasn't interested in reading it. But even though it sounds in agreement with Boyer, it is said that Tefertiller didn't use any of Boyer's research. It is also interesting to note that by then Tefertiller and others are really questioning how legitimate Boyer’s sources really are.

As far as not being credited in Tefertiller's book, as as incredible as it sounds, Glenn G. Boyer states, "Writing about Earp and failing to mention me and my work is something like writing about Catholicism and neglecting to mention the Pope."

But the attacks took their toll, and finally Boyer admitted that most of the charges of his critics were true. Boyer was essentially exposed for being a fraud in the opinion of a number of historians. In fact, he admitted that he fabricated his books and his articles feeling that he needed to be some sort of Earp cheerleader.

And in what seemed to be his complete undoing, he shot his credibility all to Hell when he stated that because of his connection to the Earp family that he "had a license to say any darned thing I please for the purpose of protecting the reputation of the Earp Boys, which I committed myself to do. I can lie, cheat, and steal, and figuratively ambush, antagonize, poison wells, and all of the others [sic] things that go with a first class Vendetta, even a figurative one."

So the memoirs of Josie Earp that Boyer published was not her first-hand recollections, but instead all Boyer's fabrications. Glenn Boyer tried to pass them off as real but was found out and exposed. He was the Earp authority, but that is no longer the case. The reason for that is that he has been exposed and his research is today considered not reliable source material. Yes, he did the exact same thing that Stuart Lake did in regards to the store and quotes supposedly attributed to Wyatt Earp. He just made them up.

Author Lee A. Silva self-published his first Wyatt Earp biography entitled Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend. Volume I: The Cowtown Years (2002) and his second book on Earp is entitled Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend. Volume II, Part I: Tombstone Before the Earps (2011)

He stated that he used the letters that Wyatt and William S. Hart wrote back and forth during the late 1920s as his main source material. Frankly, I've only skimmed through his work because it seems to be a more on the par with Boyer's works which celebrate Wyatt Earp's. For me, like Boyer's work, Silva doesn't appear very impartial.
Lee Silva himself stated in an interview that Glenn Boyer and Ben Traywick are the go-to sources for the best overall pictures of Wyatt Earp. Silva also stated, "As for one single book, Casey Teffertiller’s Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend (2012) includes not only Teffertiller’s primary research." Which doesn't surprise me since Teffertiller apparently agreed with a lot of what Boyer wrote.

As for me, once I find out that a work was fabricated or that an author is using that fabricated material as his go-to source material, I have no interest in reading such fiction when I'm looking for facts. So yes, it's just my opinion, but I really disagree with Mr Silva about Glenn Boyer and Ben Traywick being the go-to sources for Wyatt Earp.

In Andrew C. Isenberg's Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life, he examines Earp in a way that I can appreciate in that he is not a fan nor a hater. His book appears to be an objective research.

Andrew C. Isenberg is a professor at Temple University, historian, and author. And yes, Isenberg has a lot to say about Wyatt Earp. In 2013, he published his book Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life. In it the author reveals that the Hollywood Earp is fiction. 

And more so, he asserts that his myth was created by none other than Earp himself. He asserts that in actuality Earp led a life of impulsive lawbreaker while shifting identities. He points out that when Earp was not wearing a badge, he was variously a thief, a brothel bouncer, a gambler, and a confidence man. 

As Mr. Isenberg states, "He donned and shucked off roles readily, whipsawing between lawman and lawbreaker, and pursued his changing ambitions recklessly, with little thought to the cost to himself, and still less thought to the cost, even the deadly cost, to others."

"While the Hollywood version is stubbornly, consistently duty-bound, in actuality Wyatt led a life of restless inconstancy, impulsive law-breaking and shifting identities," says Mr. Isenberg.

Mr. Isenberg claims Earp "spent most of his life working in brothels, saloons and gambling halls. When he was not wearing a badge he was variously a thief, brothel bouncer, professional gambler and confidence man who specialised in selling gold bricks that were nothing more than rocks painted yellow".

"In 1871 he broke out of jail in Arkansas after being arrested for horse theft," says Mr. Isenberg. "In 1872, he left Peoria, Illinois, following a string of arrests for consorting with prostitutes. In 1876, officials in Wichita, Kansas, declared him a vagrant and banished him after he assaulted a candidate for town marshal on the eve of a municipal election."

Mr. Isenberg says Wyatt Earp was a gambler, a pimp, a brothel owner, and was arrested three times for "keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame".  

According to Mr. Isenberg, Wyatt Earp escaped to a new town time and time again where he reinvented himself each time. As for his being drawn to police work, not because of an abiding belief in truth, justice and the American way, but because the early US justice system was so corrupt he saw it as a world in which he could thrive. 

Mr. Isenberg says. "It was an easy source of cash."

According to Mr. Isenberg, Wyatt Earp's greatest lie was his portrayal of himself as a dutiful lawman seeking frontier justice as a vigilante with a badge. 

"His resort to vigilantism in 1882 was not the act of a man unwaveringly committed to justice in a frontier territory where the courts were corrupt but the impulsive vengeance of a man who had long disdained authority," writes Isenberg. "[Earp] pursued his changing ambitions recklessly, with little thought to the cost to himself and still less thought to the cost, even the deadly cost, to others".

By 1896, his involvement as a referee in that fixed Heavyweight Championship prizefight brought him national notoriety. But as a crook and a scoundrel, not as the gunfighter and lawman that he saw himself. Yes, it was then that Earp's history of criminal activity caught up with him.

Earp died in 1929, and did not live to see how Hollywood embraced the myth that Stuart Lake created, that being a paragon of law and order. Mr. Isenberg argues that even though that's the case, that that is Earp's greatest confidence game of all.

For me, from what I've read, I agree with the findings of Andrew Isenberg, and with what Billy Breakenridge said about Wyatt Earp. But frankly, how I see Wyatt Earp is not important as long as I can present information about him in as unbiased a manner as I can. And believe me, that's hard to do while knowing what I do because of my research.  

Some say my labeling Wyatt Earp a pimp, a horse-thief, crook, con-artist, and yes a murderer, is uncalled for. I get told that all the time. The people that tell me this inevitably remind me that it was different times and they say that a lot of people did those things. But friends, that's not true. No, not everyone in the Old West was a pimp, a horse-thief, a crook, a con-artist, or a murderer. And while those were different times, it should be remembered that people even then had rules to live by and the vast majority did exactly that.

From what I can tell, Wyatt Earp only lived by his own rules. And yes, his rules did not include living within the law when it suited him. That's not my judgement of him, that's just a straight forward fact based on how he conducted his life.

People who write me to defend Wyatt Earp should really read more about him from various sources to get a better more well-rounded picture of his character, or his lack of character. I say read some of the authors that I mention in this article. And then you too, after reading the material that I mention here, may find that trying to separate the fan lust from the disdain to find non-biased truth and straight reporting is tough.

For all intents and purposes, it appears that there are a number of writers who were part of fabricating the myth, the fiction, the fake, we know today as Wyatt Earp. And while I understand that people have their own self-serving reasons for doing such things, from what I can tell it all started with Stuart Lake when he made up the whole story in the first place.

Just as Boyer put his opinion of what he thought took place in Tombstone into Josephine Earp's mouth in his book, Lake put his conclusions, his opinions, and his imagination into Wyatt Earp's mouth. And as with Boyer, Lake did it to give his words a great deal more impact than if Lake had said them himself.

To me, it's just my opinion, but I think Lake, like Boyer, knew darn well that he was doing wrong. But he did it anyway, and it made both he and Wyatt Earp famous. Yes, famous. Truth be damned.

Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 3

Tom Correa 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 1

Is Stuart Lake's Creation A Magnificent Fake?

For a few years now, my readers have been asking me about my sources and about the books that I use for source material. Most of my regular readers know that I read a lot of old newspapers, court documents, pioneer journals, and those sorts of things.

Since many of you have written to ask, below I talk about some of the books that I've read or skimmed through regarding the Earps and what all went on in Tombstone. I don't use a few of these for source material because of blatant bias and hero worship on the part of the writers, the same way that I don't use some of them because of blatant bias against Wyatt Earp.

Of these, I'm glad that I've read and found it very informative. Others I really wish I hadn't because they're just full of misinformation which is a nice way of saying full of crap. Yes, a great deal of conjecture which as most of us know is just someone's opinion or conclusion based on incomplete information.

I hate the whole "they most of did this because of that" when really there's no hard evidence to back up their conclusions. While I do like to see writers making connections to other events at the time, some writers make real leaps to try to tie in things that happen just to justify their own opinion. Sadly, there are writers who do that simply because their reader trusts them to be honest. When I catch a hint of that taking place, well that's when I usually disregard that book as a reliable source.

As you read this, you will certainly figure out which is which as I go through this. But really more importantly, while I talk about the question of some of my source material, I'll look at Wyatt Earp's biography by Stuart N. Lake entitled Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. The book that made Wyatt Earp famous. The book which created the greatest myth of the Old West. A myth that still has it's defenders today. And yes, you will see why I refuse to use Lake's book as source material.

First, one book on the Earps that I really like is one that I've been re-reading lately. That book is among my sources, and it really covers more than just Tombstone and the Earps. That book is by William M. Breakenridge, entitled Helldorado: Bringing Law to the Mesquite. It was published in 1928.

While his book was ghostwritten by William MacLeod Raine, I read where Raine's work in crafting Helldorado: Bringing Law to the Mesquite was more as a co-author than purely his own work. Subsequently, it was author Billy Breakenridge's creation. 

"Billy" Breakenridge arrived in Tombstone before the Earps. He saw a lot of people come and go, and he served as a deputy sheriff under Cochise County Sheriff Behan during the 1880s including before and after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Breakenridge was an eye-witness to all of what went on at the time. And while some things in his book appear fabricated, his facts are a lot closer to what took place than what we find in Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by Stuart Lake.

And no, it doesn't surprise me that in Helldorado: Bringing Law to the Mesquite, Breckenridge portrays Wyatt Earp as a desperado and opportunist, a pimp, a thieve, and a murderer.

After the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight in December of 1896 where Wyatt Earp was the key figure in that rigged fight, Earp went under the microscope and his life of shady dealings was then examined and printed in newspapers across the country. Earp himself is said to have hated the repeated attacks. He even went so far as to do newspaper interviews, but his interviews failed to stop the bad press.

Then in 1922, Frederick R. Bechdolt published When The West Was Young which included the story of Earp's Tombstone years. Bechdolt characterized the Earp-Clanton feud as being more like problems between partners in crime. Which, by the way, from what I can tell is very close to how the troubles in Tombstone really began. Too many backroom deals and double-crosses on both sides.

An article by John M. Scanland in the Los Angeles Times attacked Earp's character and actually got Earp's Hollywood friend William S. Hart, the New York stage actor turned silent movie cowboy actor, all riled up so much so that he defended Earp in a letter to the editor.

I believe that that was when Wyatt Earp decided to rewrite his past by finding and contracting a writer of his own to tell his side of the story. He found writer John Flood to help him produce the "true story" of his life as he saw it. And while it is said that Flood took a great number of notes from his conversations with Earp, the finished product reportedly appeared to be a copy of a bad movie script.

Earp tried to have it published through his Hollywood friends. But fact is, no one was interested for a number of reasons. First, there were all sorts of people coming forth at the time to pen their memoirs of what they saw during the Wild West. Most were trying to cash in of the romanticism of the West that was sweeping the nation at the time. Second, people thought Earp's story was simply not interesting. Even with a 30 second gunfight added to the story, there were other shootouts that were much more eventful. 

Walter Noble Burns published The Saga of Billy the Kid in 1926, and when Burns approached Wyatt about writing his life's story, Earp turned him down to stay with what Flood had come up with. Later Wyatt Earp tried to stop publication of Burns' book, Tombstone: An Iliad of the Southwest, because Earp wasn't happy that he himself wasn't made the central character. 

It is believed that Stuart N. Lake read Burns' book while recuperating in a San Diego hospital. Lake soon began a collaboration with Earp. But frankly, that only lasted a few months before Wyatt Earp died on January 13th, 1929. And yes, that is probably why Earp's book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal is considered a work of fiction by most who have read it.

While the Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal was published in 1931 and heralded as a major biography in the reviews of the time, fact is researchers cannot verify most of the information or the lengthy quotes that were supposedly from Earp himself. And yes, there is a reason for that.

What that book accomplished was to cement Wyatt Earp's image as a heroic defender of law and order in the minds of Americans. But even though that was the case, from the beginning there were those who saw the book for what it was -- just a work of fiction, a book filled with lies.

William McLeod Raine, Breakenridge's ghostwriter was one of the most vocal critics of Lake's work. He was very open about his contempt for Lake's version of how things were in the Old West. Author Floyd Benjamin Streeter openly challenged some of the claims. He did like what Earp supposedly said about the cattle towns of Kansas.

In 1932, Frank C. Lockwood published his history of Arizona in which he called Wyatt Earp a "very crafty and suave dissimulator." Eugene Cunningham, Western novelist and author of Triggernometry: A Gallery of Gunfighters, also took Earp's book to task regarding supposed "facts" of what took place. I found his book very interesting.

Cowboy author Eugene Manlove Rhodes, and journalist Anton Mazzonovitch, along with a number of Arizona pioneers including people such as Tom Masterson, the brother of Bat Masterson, challenged what Wyatt Earp supposedly stated in Lake's book. Or more accurately, challenged what Stuart Lake said Earp supposedly lived through.

But how much was of Wyatt Earp's biography just Stuart Lake's imagination? Well, most likely most of it. Lake himself confirmed that suspicion when he admitted to making up the quotes attributed to Wyatt Earp.

In fact Burton Rascoe, the biographer of Belle Starr, wrote Lake about his suspicions that he and not Earp was behind the many quotes. Surprisingly as it might sound, Lake wrote to Rascoe replying that "Earp had been inarticulate." Lake also stated that Earp was not very intelligent in that his "speech, he was at best monosyllabic." In fact, Stuart Lake actually admitted that he felt "journalistically justified in inventing the Earp manuscript." Yes, Lake practiced what we call today, "Fake News."

Stuart Lake admitted to Rascoe that his intent was to find "a method that would stamp mine [his book] as authentic. Possibly it was a form of 'cheating.' But, when I came to the task I decided to [employ] the direct quotation form sufficiently often to achieve my purpose. I've often wondered if I did not overdo in this respect."

Even though Burton Rascoe was told that Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal was a fake, he wrote Lake stating, "This book may be faked from beginning to end, but if it is, it is a magnificent job of fakery -- a creative work of first-rate ingenuity, in fact."

Author Frank Waters was actually said to be outraged by Lake's book, especially after he found out the Lake fabricated it from beginning to end.  In 1932, Waters met Alvira Sullivan Earp who was the widow of Virgil Earp. He began a sort of collaboration with her to publish her story.

At the same time, it's said that he also spent six months in Arizona talking with old-timers and poring over the files of the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society. And yes, the more he learned about Wyatt Earp, the more he became convinced that the now-famous Wyatt Earp was nothing more than a liar and a crook.

After that, it's said that Waters saw Allie Earp's story as having a bigger purpose of setting the record straight about the Earps. Because of this, he blended her reminiscences with the results of his research. Of course, her story ended up being buried and the bigger story of the Earps took center stage.

It is said that he submitted his manuscript, "Tombstone Travesty" to "Aunt Allie." But instead of liking it, she was outraged and swore that it was all a "pack of lies." So what did Waters do? Well, he shipped the manuscript off to the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society. And yes, it is said that it became pretty much forgotten there.

Then in 1946, Waters resurrected the story with his publication of his book entitled The Colorado. In it, he took Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal to the task as "the most assiduously concocted piece of blood-and-thunder fiction ever written."

As it turned out, The Colorado was a portent of the future. In the 1950's interest in Wyatt Earp was revived by The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, a weekly television series on ABC Network starring handsome Huge O'Brian as Wyatt Earp. With that television show, Lake's view prevailed in the works of that decade.

A more responsible attack on Wyatt Earp appeared in 1956 when William MacLeod Raine revived his criticism of Earp in an article called Wyatt Earp: Man Versus Myth. 

Raine states: "I think that as the infirmities of the years overtook Earp his ego resented the thought of slippers by the fire. His mind dwelt on the past and his turbulent role on the young lawless frontier. As he reconstructed those days, imagination embellished facts, and the Wyatt Earp who emerged was much taller in the saddle than the real Wyatt Earp."

But even though Americans such as me were being weaned on the legend of Wyatt Earp on television, by the end of the 1950s, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson and a few others were being denounced as nothing more than "fighting pimps" in Time Magazine. 

And at the same time, those taking a more in-depth look at Wyatt Earp included historian Peter Lyon. His historically accurate The Wild, Wild West was published in the very prestigious American Heritage in August of 1960. It's good source material to an extent in that it will lead you to look into other things.

About that time, Frank Waters recovered his manuscript, Tombstone Travesty, from the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society and set about transforming it into a book he originally entitled The Earp Gang of Tombstone.

He supplemented his earlier work with new research that he had gotten from his friend John D. Gilchriese, an Earp researcher. Waters then published The Earp Brothers of Tombstone: The Story of Mrs. Virgil Earp in 1960.

In his review of the book for Library Journal, W. S. Wallace stated that he considered The Earp Brothers of Tombstone "the most authoritative account ever to be published on the subject."

Combined with a mountain of old-timer commentary critical of Earp, the then acknowledged expert on gunfighter literature Ramon F. Adams stated, "At last we have a book which dares to tell the truth about the Earps, refuting many highly romantic and imaginative tales told by Burns and Lake."

Ed Bartholomew published Wyatt Earp: The Untold Story (1963) and Wyatt Earp: Man and Myth (1964).

Ed Bartholomew's books are said to be openly critical of Wyatt Earp. But really, all he does is make a pretty good case to support his findings that Earp was not that which Lake made him out to be.

Bartholomew made his case by the accumulation of facts that Earp fans immediately called "unfair" and should not be mentioned. I guess there are those who really only want one side of a story to come out when looking at a historical figure.

For me, I've found a lot of very credible information in his books. But like everything out there on the Old West, we have to sift through it and try to verify things for ourselves. The writer who proved that to be true is Glenn Boyer who we will talk about in Part Two.

Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 2

Tom Correa

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Articles Aren't Going To Please Everyone

Dear Friends,

You have been asking me about my history sources, about the books and the newspapers archives, the websites, and all that I use for source material. You've asked why I don't list my sources and where I get my information from?

Most of my regular readers know that I read a lot of old newspapers, court documents, pioneer journals, and that sorts of things, along with books by assorted writers. Most of my regular readers also know that I do source where I've gotten quotes from.

What most probably don't know is that I don't see any one author or any one book out there as the go-to book for Old West history, especially for information on the Earps. I have used a number of sources and I've had to verify a lot of what I've found.

I take what I find and try to verify the accuracy of what is being said before passing it on to you. Some information I find as good and other information I find that I can't verify and use. There are a few books that I'm going to recommend in the future, but even with those one has to take a hard look at what's being presented.

In one case, such when two newspapers wrote about the same event but had two different spins on what took place, I actually passed on both versions for you to check out for yourselves. Yes, that was the way the Tombstone Epitaph covered the gunfight near the OK Corral versus the way the Tombstone Nugget covered the same story.

OK Corral Gunfight -- Tombstone Epitaph, October 27th,1881

OK Corral Gunfight -- The Tombstone Nugget, October 27th, 1881

There are obvious biases in both reports. Yes, one is slanted to support the Earp faction while the other is slanted to support the Clanton faction. And yes, unlike some newspaper articles from the Old West which are pretty cut-and-dried, trying to ferret out the truth from papers like the Tombstone Epitaph which was pro-Earps and the Nugget which was pro-Clantons can be a real challenge.

Usually the truth lies somewhere in between the two. And frankly, I've found that it takes more work verifying the truth when reading obviously biased newspaper reports. Yes, the same way as it takes a lot more time and effort when trying to verify something said in biased books. For me, I love it when I can sense a writer doesn't have a dog in the fight and just gives me the straight scoop on things. And since I know I like that, I figure you do too.

Whether I'm watching television news, or doing research, I really prefer fair and balanced. And while I know that I really do try to give you my readers the same sort of fair and balanced report when putting out an article on American History, I know real well that I can't help stating my amazement at time.

Even though that might happen now and then, I really try not to be too obvious in how I see some historical figure. The problem of course is that like you, the more I learn about someone the more my own opinion of who they are is formed. The hard task for me is keeping my feelings out of an article until I've made my case of who they were based on the facts.

That's really what I try to say, for example, Killer Jim Miller was Satan and then explain how I arrived at that conclusion. My hope is that my evidence as you saying that he was as well.

I know real well that I'm not going to please everyone. And yes, that is a part of being a writer of history versus someone who writes fiction. Fiction writers can literally say anything and get away with it because it's all not true, it's just fiction. Writing about history is different in that one has to get it right. Or certainly should try without making himself look like a fool by screwing up.

Yes, all while trying to tell a good story. And friends, I really do try telling good stories. I believe you are coming here for that and really not here for my biases when it comes to historical figures and events.

I've stated before that I do not trust what some so-called "Historians" have written simply because of their biases for or against. Many cannot report their findings without reporting their feelings and prejudices. That's why I like to verify what I'm putting out, even when I find it hard to believe for one reason or another. Yes, most times the reason that I find something hard to believe is when it's something that goes completely against who the person has presented themselves to be in one way or another.

Also, it should be noted that I've worked on whole articles and had to scrap them simply because I found evidence that went against the basis, yes the basic premise, of the story. I usually stick those stories in my "draft" files until I can verify what it true or not. And if you're wondering how I can put out a piece every few days these days? Well, over the past 20 years, I've accumulated about two hundred stories about people and events. All were things that I stumbled on that I found fascinating that I wanted to share one day. My blog gives me a venue to share them. And yes, they are sitting in "draft" form just waiting to be attended to. Imagine that.

About now someone who is reading this is saying, what about my feelings and prejudices against Wyatt Earp since I've labeled him a pimp, a horse thief, a con -artist, and a murderer?

Friends, these labels are me just calling a spade a spade. I don't hate or like the man because he means nothing to me. I'm just stating what he was because that's who he was in his lifetime. Like it or not, Wyatt Earp was indeed arrested as a pimp, he was arrested for stealing a horse and escaped jail, he was a known con-artist, and he was charged with the murder of Frank Stilwell and fled Arizona instead of standing trail. These are not disputable. These are true proven facts. No one can say that these things are not true because they are.

Some people have this ludicrous notion that I'm "attacking" Wyatt Earp as if I have some sort of personal vendetta against him. One reader recently wrote to say that I must be a distant relation of the Clantons and McLaurys because of my article taking on the Wyatt Earp myth.

Imagine that. Of course I'm sure my mother will be surprised at that considering my entire family originates from Hawaii and can be traced back to 1849 and the Portuguese whalers who visited there.

Some readers have written to ask that I "soften" how I say what I do about Wyatt Earp. But sadly, these same folks do not understand that these are not "attacks" on Wyatt Earp. I'm just stating indisputable facts of what he did in his lifetime. And no, all of the excuses for him doing these things does not change the fact that he did these things.

A vandal breaks a window during a riot. It doesn't matter why he did it. He is still a vandal. The same goes for a man who steals a horse. It doesn't matter that he stole that horse because he "felt" that he needed one because he didn't have one. That's not a "good excuse" for stealing a horse. There's never been "good excuses" for doing bad things. If one steals a horse, for whatever excuse that that person can come up with, that person is still a horse thief. A man who murders someone, then flees the scene of the crime is a murderer. It doesn't matter if he did it out of revenge or because he suddenly "felt" that in this occasion he couldn't get justice from the courts, even though he himself had always had gotten justice previously, his actions make him a murderer.

No, I don't buy the excuses that people come up with. And that's especially true when it comes to committing capital crimes. Maybe it's a hold over from my days of working in Corrections when every inmate that I met all claimed to be innocent as they saw it, and all had "good excuses" for breaking the law? Maybe it's my seeing people doing horrible things, behaving in evil ways, and then making excuses for their actions? Maybe it's from my being brought up to understand that people have to answer for the things they do? That actions have consequences.

Frankly, I hate political spin. In many of my articles that I've done regarding the news of today, I find that I've had to fight the political spin. Gun related incidents in the news very commonly contain anti-gun spin by the media. The same goes if a news outlet leans more to the left than being in the center politically, and makes implausible excuses for the criminal actions of someone they support when in fact that person should be going to prison. In politics, spin is a form of making excuses by way of a biased interpretation of an action and/or an event. Spin in itself is essentially campaigning to persuade public opinion.

I don't think history should be spun to make excuses for people or some of the horrible things in our past. And yes, I see that in history articles all the time. Words are used to sway a reader to be in favor or be against some historical figures all the time. And that's true, especially these days when a number of writers are busy re-writing history. I'm not into re-writing history. I'm really into the facts of what took place or who people were.

If, after reading about some historical figure one walks away saying, "Wow, that so and so really was a great person," than that's great. If after after reading about some historical figure one walks away saying, "Wow, that so and so really was a bum," than that's great as well.

The point is that you are the jury when it comes to me presenting the evidence. I present the evidence of what I've found and verified as true. As neither the prosecutor or a defense attorney, but as someone who is impartial, I simply hand you my findings. Then it's up to you to ask yourself what sort of person someone is or isn't?

Friends, I believe that that's the way history should be presented to us. It should not be dressed up as one side or the other want us to see it. It shouldn't be glossed over or amplified as something that it's not. History should be seen for all of its facts, its quirks, its good, its bad, its mysteries, its glory, or whether or not it's deserving of disdain.

Whether it's the stories of Stagecoach Mary -- An Extraordinary Woman and
Harry Nicholson Morse -- A Better Lawman Than Most Legends who exemplified the greatness of the human spirit, or whether it's the stories of Soapy Smith & The Shootout on Juneau Wharf and Killer Jim Miller - Outlaw & Assassin who exemplified evil in people, we should be able to see why for ourselves.

Yes, that's what I try to do when I take on an examination of Old West legends and events. I really just try to give you the facts and let you see who these people are for yourselves. I'm frank, direct, and on the level with my readers while presenting straightforward factual information. 

I've gotten hate mail and ridicule from people who don't like reading some of the things that I've put out. But also, I've gotten thanks. And being frank with you, I see all of it as simply being part of the territory of being a writer. I know real well that I'm not going to please everyone, especially someone who tells me that I'm "purposely disparaging their great-great-great-great-grandfather" even though he was a known psychopathic murderer like say Killer Jim Miller. 

So yes, sadly it's true. My articles aren't going to please everyone. Of course even though that's the case, as always I appreciate you reading my work and supporting my little blog. Thank you.

Tom Correa

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Miner's Ten Commandments 1849

As published in the 1850s:

The Miner's Ten Commandments 

A man spake these words, and said: I am a miner, wandering "from away down east," to sojourn in a strange land. And behold I've seen the elephant, yea, verily, I saw him, and bear witness, that from the key of his trunk to the end of his tail, his whole body hath passed before me; and I followed him until his huge feet stood before a clapboard shanty; then with his trunk extended he pointed to a candle-card tacked upon a shingle, as though he would say Read, and I read the



Thou shalt have no other claim than one.
Thou shalt not make unto thyself any false claim, nor any likeness to a mean man, by jumping one: for I, a miner, am a just one, and will visit the miners around about, and they will judge thee; and when they shall decide, thou shalt take thy pick, thy pan, thy shovel and thy blankets with all thou hast and shall depart seeking other good diggings, but thou shalt find none. Then when thou hast paid out all thy dust, worn out thy boots and garments so that there is nothing good about them but the pockets, and thy patience is like unto thy garments, then in sorrow shall thou return to find thy claim worked out, and yet thou hath no pile to hide in the ground, or in the old boot beneath thy bunk, or in buckskin or in bottle beneath thy cabin, and at last thou shalt hire thy body out to make thy board and save thy bacon.
Thou shalt not go prospecting before thy claim gives out. Neither shalt thou take thy money, nor thy gold dust, nor thy good name, to the gaming table in vain; for monte, twenty-one, roulette, faro, lansquenet and poker, will prove to thee that the more thou puttest down the less thou shalt take up; and when thou thinkest of thy wife and children, thou shalt not hold thyself guiltless—but insane.
Thou shalt not remember what thy friends do at home on the Sabbath day, lest the remembrance may not compare favorably with what thou doest here. Six days thou mayst dig or pick; but the other day is Sunday; yet thou washest all thy dirty shirts, darnest all thy stockings, tap thy boots, mend thy clothing, chop the whole week's firewood, make up and bake thy bread, and boil thy pork and beans, that thou wait not when thou returnest from thy long-tom weary. For in six days' labor only though canst do it in six months; and though, and thy morals and thy conscience, be none the better for it; but reproach thee, shouldst thou ever return with thy worn-out body to thy mother's fireside.
Though shalt not think more of all thy gold, and how thou canst make it fastest, than how thou will enjoy it after thou hast ridden rough-shod over thy good old parents' precepts and examples, that thou mayest have nothing to reproach thee, when left ALONE in the land where thy father's blessing and thy mother's love hath sent thee.
Thou shalt not kill; neither thy body by working in the rain, even though thou shalt make enough to buy physic and attendance with; nor thy neighbor's body in a duel, or in anger, for by "keeping cool," thou canst save his life and thy conscience. Neither shalt thou destroy thyself by getting "tight," nor "stewed," nor "high," nor "corned," nor "half- seas over," nor "three sheets in the wind," by drinking smoothing down—"brandy slings," "gin cocktails," "whiskey punches," "rum toddies," nor "egg-noggs." Neither shalt thou suck "mint juleps," nor "sherry- cobblers," through a straw, nor gurgle from a bottle the "raw material," nor take "it straight" from a decanter; for, while thou art swallowing down thy purse, and the coat from off thy back thou art burning the coat from off thy stomach; and if thou couldst see the houses and lands, and gold dust, and home comforts already lying there—"a huge pile"—thou shouldst feel a choking in thy throat; and when to that thou addest thy crooked walkings thou wilt feel disgusted with thyself, and inquire "Is thy servant a dog that he doeth these things!" Verily, thou shalt say, "Farewell, old bottle, I will kiss thy gurgling lips no more; slings, cocktails, punches, smashes, cobblers, nogs, toddies, sangarees and juleps, forever farewell. Thy remembrance shames one; henceforth, I cut thy acquaintance, and headaches, tremblings, heart-burnings, blue devils, and all the unholy catalogue of evils that follow in thy train. My wife's smiles and my children's merry-hearted laugh, shall charm and reward me for having the manly firmness and courage to say NO. I wish thee an eternal farewell."
Thou shalt not grow discouraged, nor think of going home before thou hast made thy "pile," because thou hast not "struck a lead," nor found a "rich crevice," nor sunk a hole upon a "pocket," lest in going home thou shalt leave four dollars a day, and going to work, ashamed, at fifty cents, and serve thee right; for thou knowest by staying here, thou mightst strike a lead and fifty dollars a day, and keep thy manly self respect, and then go home with enough to make thyself and others happy.
Thou shalt not steal a pick, or a shovel, or a pan from thy fellow-miner; nor take away his tools without his leave; nor borrow those he cannot spare; nor return them broken, nor trouble him to fetch them back again, nor talk with him while his water rent is running on, nor remove his stake to enlarge thy claim, nor undermine his bank in following a lead, nor pan out gold from his "riffle box," nor wash the "tailings" from his sluice's mouth. Neither shalt thou pick out specimens from the company's pan to put them in thy mouth or pocket; nor cheat thy partner of his share; nor steal from thy cabin-mate his gold dust, to add to thine, for he will be sure to discover what thou hast done, and will straightaway call his fellow miners together, and if the law hinder them not, will hang thee, or give thy fifty lashes, or shave thy head and brand thee, like a horse thief, with "R" upon thy cheek, to be known and read of all men, Californians in particular.
Thou shalt not tell any false tales about "good diggings in the mountains," to thy neighbor that thou mayest benefit a friend who had mules, and provisions, and tools and blankets he cannot sell,—lest in deceiving thy neighbor, when he returneth through the snow, with naught save his rifle, he present thee with the contents thereof, and like a dog, thou shalt fall down and die.
Thou shalt not commit unsuitable matrimony, nor covet "single blessedness;" nor forget absent maidens; nor neglect thy "first love;"—but thou shalt consider how faithfully and patiently she awaiteth thy return; yea and covereth each epistle that thou sendest with kisses of kindly welcome—until she hath thyself. Neither shalt thou cove thy neighbor's wife, nor trifle with the affections of his daughter; yet, if thy heart be free, and thou dost love and covet each other, thou shalt "pop the question" like a man.

A new Commandment give I unto thee—if thou has a wife and little ones, that thou lovest dearer than life,—that thou keep them continually before thee, to cheer and urge thee onward, until thou canst say, "I have enough—God bless them—I will return." Then from thy much-loved home, with open arms shall thy come forth to welcome thee, with weeping tears of unutterable joy that thou art come; then in the fullness of thy heart's gratitude, thou shalt kneel together before thy Heavenly Father, to thank him for thy safe return. AMEN—So mote it be.

The Miner's Ten Commandments were written in 1850 by James M. Hutchings. He first published it in The Placerville Herald newspaper. This was the most popular of the hundreds of letter sheets published in the 1850-1870 era, and was said to be so profitable for Hutchings that he was able to publish the successful Hutching's California Magazine.
As it appeared during circulation in the 1850s

Editor's Note:

I did not alter, edit, or correct the spelling or punctuation in the above. It is exactly as it appeared when it was circulated in the 1850s. I hope you found it as interesting as I did.

Tom Correa

Friday, April 7, 2017

Why legendary Old West lawman Virgil Earp is buried in Oregon

Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp.

By Finn J.D. John
September 27, 2010

Retired marshal of Tombstone, Ariz., had only visited Portland once. But his connection to his daughter, Nellie Jane Bertrand, proved to be a strong one.

Portland’s Riverview Cemetery is the state’s oldest nonprofit cemetery, dating back to 1882. It’s full of stones with names on them that will be familiar to any local resident: Corbett, Weinhard, Ladd. Legendary suffragist Abigail Scott Dunaway and her brother, Harvey Scott, the fiercely anti-suffrage editor of the Portland Oregonian, are also buried here.

Oh, and then there’s Virgil Earp.

Earp, of course, is the brother of Wyatt Earp, the other of the two marshals who famously cleaned up Tombstone, Ariz., in the battle at the O.K. Corral.

What is Virgil Earp doing buried in Portland, a city he’d been in (so far as we know) only once in his life?

That’s what Oregon pop historian Ralph Friedman wanted to know after he learned of the lawman’s presence there. Here’s what he learned from his research:

Virgil's early life: Married, and then not

Virgil, born in 1843, got married to a woman named Ellen when he was very young. Still, the couple had time to produce just one child — a girl, Nellie Jane — before the Civil War broke out and Earp went off to fight in the Union army.

During the war, Earp was shot and wounded. A report came back to Ellen that he was dead. Considering herself a widow, she remarried and moved to Oregon in 1864.

When Earp was discharged from the Army the following year, he found the burden of his domestic obligations had been lifted. So he went west and became, with his brother, a legend of frontier peacekeeping.
Life as a frontier lawman

Exciting and rewarding as it was, the position of Wild West frontier cop was not a job a fellow can expect to retire in. Earp himself made it about 15 years before he was forced into retirement by gunfire.

In his role as Tombstone’s town marshal, Earp caught a bullet in his leg in 1881 at the O.K. Corral and the following year was ambushed by outlaws as he walked past a lighted window. This last incident ended his career in law enforcement, as two loads of buckshot tore into him, one ripping a hole in his side and another permanently ruining one of his arms.

Virgil's daughter catches up with him

Earp went to convalesce in California. He later moved back to Arizona, and it was there, in Prescott, that his daughter, Nellie Jane, found him. They started writing to each other frequently. He’d remarried — to a woman named Allie Stevenson, whom he had apparently met in California — but she doesn’t much come into the Portland story.

Virgil's only visit to Oregon (before his death)

Then, in 1899, one of Nellie Jane’s daughters came down with pneumonia, and Earp came out to be at his granddaughter’s bedside. He was there for two weeks — making a big impression on his grandson, George Law, whom historian Friedman actually tracked down and interviewed in 1976 when he was 90 years old.

"A powerful big man," Law told Friedman. "He wasn’t fat; he was broad-shouldered. His right arm hung like a rag."

Telegram: Come get Virgil's body

Six years after that visit [October 19th, 1905], Virgil Earp died at the age of 62 while pursuing a gold-mining opportunity with Wyatt in Goldfield, Nevada. Allie, Virgil’s widow, sent a telegram to Nellie Jane: "If she, Virgil’s only child, wanted his body, she’d have to come and get it, because his brother Wyatt was claiming it."

Nellie Jane’s son-in-law, Alex Bertrand, immediately went to Nevada and retrieved the casket.

Buried in the in-laws' family plot

Which is why you will find Virgil Earp buried in the Bertrand family plot at Riverview Cemetery, in a city he’d never lived in and only visited once. But the Oregon roots of his daughter and grandchildren were strong and deep. And the places Earp had lived, except maybe California, hadn’t been particularly kind; he’d been shot at least three times, had been through the most unrelentingly awful war in American history and had died at a fairly young age.

After such a wild and restless life, it’s a real poetic justice that his bones are resting in a place where he’s never had to shoot at anyone, surrounded by family and friends. After all, it’s that kind of peace that a good lawman like Virgil Earp fights to bring about.

Sources: Friedman, Ralph. Tracking Down Oregon. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton, 1990; Randol Fletcher's book, Hidden History of Civil War Oregon (History Press, 2011), published after this article was written, also deals extensively with Virgil Earp's legacy in Oregon.

-- end of article, Offbeat Oregon History, Why legendary Old West lawman Virgil Earp is buried in Oregon

Editors Note:

After I found this article, instead of using this information as a source for an article about Virgil Earp, I thought how you just may want to read it for yourselves. I did not edit it at all, posting it here as it appeared on the website for Offbeat Oregon History.

OK, since you're written to ask, I think the only flaw in the story is when George Law told Friedman. "He wasn’t fat; he was broad-shouldered. His right arm hung like a rag."

I believe it was Virgil's left arm that was rendered useless after he was ambushed in Tombstone at about 11:30 pm on December 28, 1881. Virgil was hit in the back and left arm by three loads of double-barreled that night. But frankly, Law may have been just mistaken or was quoted wrong.

Either way, I hope you found this as fascinating as I do.

Tom Correa

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Californio -- The Caste System

A reader wrote to ask if I knew anything about the class or caste system in Old California among the Californio?

Well, this is some of what I was taught and since read about Old California when it belonged to Spain and Mexico. I know that Spain's first contact with California was in the 1530s when Cortez's men ventured to Baja California (Lower California). It wasn't until 1542 that Spaniards sailed north to Alta California (Upper California). That was when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's expedition landed in what is today Santa Barbara.

It is said that coastal winds and strong currents made the voyage north almost impossible. And because Spanish sea captains failed to find safe harbors for their ships, Baja California became the northwest limit of Spanish colonization. It's also said that while they also converted native Indian tribes to Catholics and instilling a Spanish way of life was important to the Spanish at the time, their efforts to truly settle the area were really halfhearted at best. In fact, they claimed the area but really didn't do anything with it for more than 150 years. 

Imagine claiming territory for your own but not doing anything with it for the next 150 years. Of course, there were reasons that happened. A couple of those reasons were the Spanish crown's need to divert funds to wars and what they saw as other priorities. I had a great California History teacher who once told me that part of the reason that the exploration of California was placed on hold had to do with the initial reports from those first expeditions. Supposedly, according to my teacher, those reports painted California as a desert climate, as "a very dry place, filled with dense shrubs, a place where nothing will grow" 

Also, early reports spoke about how tough it was to travel because of the nearly impenetrable, dense thicket, which Californians know as "chaparral." Chaparral is California's most distinctive drought-tolerant, woody shrub, shaped by a Mediterranean-type hot, dry summers, and mild, wet winter climate. Chaparral covers most of California's coastal foothills and interior mountain slopes. Anyone who has tried to maneuver a horse through chaparral while moving cattle knows how tough it can be to get through manzanitas chaparral. And as for trying to get through the old-growth manzanitas chaparral with waist-sized trunks of days gone by, well it's no wonder that it frustrated the first explorers as it did. It's no wonder they didn't get to explore more of California at the time.
It was only after the Seven Years' War, which was from 1756 to 1763, that Spain decided to seriously attempt further exploration and attempt to control their holding of Alta California. Yes, it was more than 150 years later that Spain finally decides to truly colonize the area that the Spanish explorer Cabrillo claimed for the Spanish crown.

Their effort to colonize California was made through a combination of establishing Presidios which are military forts, and mission churches which were overseen by Franciscan priests, Catholic fathers, led by Junípero Serra.

In 1769, the first parties set north from Baja California, and the line of Spanish settlement along the coast was inaugurated when soldiers and priests established a Presidio and mission church at San Diego. By the end of the Spanish colonial period, California had three Presidios located at Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco. During this time they established 21 missions.

In addition to the missions and the Presidios, small pueblos sprang up. In fact, in 1777 the pueblo at San Jose was created, and in 1781 a group of forty-four Spanish settlers known as "Los Pobladores" founded the pueblo called "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula". 

In English that is translated to "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porziuncola." Porziuncola means "Little portion of land". The river that was called the Porciuncula is today's Los Angeles River. Yes, the place we know as the city of Los Angeles.

The pueblos tried to attract settlers by offering land grants. Those pueblos were governed by an "Alcalde," who was a combination of a judge and a mayor. He was assisted by a council called the "Ayuntamiento" which was the elite there.

In the beginning, most "Californios" were of pure unmixed Spanish ancestry. In fact "Californios" are historically pure Castilian ancestry. Since the 15th century, through the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Castilians brought with them not only their language but also elements of their culture and traditions. Yes, this included a "caste system."

Castilians are actually inhabitants of a central region of Spain. Castilian is the source of the Spanish language. As for the term "Californio," it became watered down and was used to describe the mixed bag of people from Spain, Mexico, and even the United States. So no, it wasn't only the rich.

The first Spaniards in California were for the most part Castilians from central Spain. They were military personnel and Franciscan priests. As time went on Spanish California was populated by many of the soldiers who were once deployed to California from what is today Mexico. And according to mission marriage, baptism, and burial records, as well as Presidio troop rosters, several of the soldiers known as "leather jackets" were described as being born in Spain. 

Those Spanish soldiers were in California because they were assigned as escorts, mission guards, and other active military duty assignments. Many simply stayed once their military obligations had ended.

As for the civilians, while at first, they were the Castilian farmers and soldiers who arrived in California to create a colony, later the civilians were of mixed ethnicities. Those of Spanish and Native American mix was called the "Mestizo". Those of Black and Indian mix was often called the "Sonoran".

It's said that the term "mestizo" was rarely if ever used in mission records, the more common terms being used were "indio", "europeo", "mulatto", "coyote", and "castizo." And yes, these were caste terms. So yes, California had a caste system which was an extension of the caste system in Spain.

A caste system is a class structure that is determined by birth. It means that if your parents are poor, then you're going to be poor too. Of course, if your parents are part of the wealthy and elite, then you too are destined to be rich and part of the elite. Very seldom did a person from the lower class make it into the upper class. And even if one did, they may not be accepted at a higher level for a few generations.

This system is very foreign to Americans because we see all people as equal. All Americans have the opportunity to advance in life and are really only limited by their own personal drive and ambitions. There are many many stories in American history of people who came from poor families and went on to achieve success.

During most of the Spanish colonial era in California and elsewhere, Spanish society had a small number of pure-blood Spaniards at the top. This was the hierarchy of power and social status during most of the colonial period. Beneath them was the mixed-race "peons" who were the unskilled laborers and debtors who were held in servitude by their creditor. And yes, at the very bottom were the Native Indians and black slaves.

Whichever way one looked at it, the upper echelons of Spanish colonial society were dominated by Spaniards who held positions of privilege and political power that they were essentially born to. But even at that, there was a sharp split that existed between the wealthy born in Spain and those born in California.

While the relationship between the two groups was friendly, it could also be antagonistic. Those born in Spain looked down on those born in California. Yes, believe it or not, the wealthy born in California was seen as inferior. And yes, the Spanish crown's preference was for Spanish-born Spaniards for positions in government and church posts. This riled California-born Spaniards. And yes, this resentment helped fuel the wars for independence later.

Despite there being an overall prejudice against anyone who labored with their hands, Spanish craftsmen did so. In fact, Spanish craftsmen were employed for their skills. Although, Spaniards were likely to be the managers and foremen over the peons and the Indians who did the hard physical unskilled labor such as farming, planting, harvesting crops, herding cattle, and all other things agriculturally.

The "Californio" Vaquero was said to be of the upper class. With the introduction of the horse to the Americas by the Spaniards, horses became a status symbol. Horses represented wealth simply because horses were not cheap. But they also represented mobility, speed, and a superior physical vantage point. This in turn was said to project an air of Spanish superiority over the lower classes.

The "Californio" Vaquero was an extension of the Spanish Vaquero who brought their cattle-raising traditions as well as both horses and domesticated cattle to the Americas. Just as in Florida, how the legacy of the Spanish Vaquero there in the 1500s can still be seen there, the same can be said about California. Among those vaqueroes are the "mesteñeros", or "Mustang runners". They were vaqueros who caught, broke, and drove wild horses, called mesteños or mustangs, to market in Northern Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, and California. These Mesteñeros operated primarily in the Great Plains from Texas and New Mexico in the 1700s. But during the 1800s, they primarily operated in California's San Joaquin Valley.

The lifestyle and language of the Vaquero, their saddles and tack, their dress, and their traditions would all later merge with English cultural traditions and produced what we know as the American Cowboy. But the "Californio" Vaquero is vastly different than the American Cowboy in a number of ways.

Where the American Cowboy worked atop a horse and off to do groundwork during brandings and such, the "Californio" Vaquero did not. He was strictly a horseman and roper, the groundwork and herding of cattle were done by peons of lesser class. He was of such a class that he did not do such work.

Just as horses and arms were the keys to many military successes during the Spanish Conquest, horses and arms were considered to be signs of the superior social status of Spaniards. And while peons did not own horses, they were forbidden from owning arms of any sort. 

By Spanish law, peons, all of those of lowers classes were forbidden from owning guns or bearing any other sort of arms. Keeping the peons unarmed was a way to prevent armed rebellions.

Spanish laws to keep the people disarmed were created and in place to keep those in power in power. The enforcement of this prohibition was actually assisted along by the popular belief of the times that said bearing arms, like riding a horse, was a prerogative of the upper class and being Spanish.

As for the family itself, during that time it was patriarchal with the son following his father's wishes. As for women in Spanish California, while the caste system was prominent in Spanish colonial society, women had full rights of property ownership and control. That is unless she was married or had a father, the males had almost complete control of all family members.

A formal education system in California had yet to be created so it fell to the individual families to educate their children among themselves. While it was traditionally done by the mission priests, the upper classes also hired private tutors. In contrast, few early peons knew how to read or write.

So imagine this for a moment, by the time Mexico attained independence in 1821, only 20 private ranches existed in Alta California. The Californio rancho owners claimed about 8,600,000 acres. And if you look at the map above and then realize that Altoa California did not have the same borders as the state of California has today, you can see that those ranchos were massive kingdoms within themselves.

A New Map of Texas, Oregon, and California 1847

By 1847, that map had not changed that much, but still by the end of the Mexican era which only lasted 26 years, the number of land grants in California had increased from 20 to 800. So from the early 1820s until the California Gold Rush, Spanish, and Mexican rulers granted over 800 large tracts of California land. They were the real power in Old California.

Those who owned the ranchos lived in a grand style emulating the wealthy hidalgos in Spain. A "hidalgo" is a member of the Spanish or Portuguese nobility. And yes, just as Lords of a castle, they expected the non-rancho-owning population to support this lifestyle.

All in all, they were California royalty. These were all males and as Californio Vaqueros themselves, they rode everywhere which made them excellent riders. They indulged in fiestas, fandangos, rodeos, and roundups. As "Dons", which is Spanish and Portuguese for "Lords", the rancho owners also went from rancho to rancho to weddings, christenings, and funerals as royalty.

So yes, all in all, in Spanish California, in Old California, the Californios were actually the Spanish elite. They were at the top of the caste system which meant they were born to rule. And they did rule with an iron fist.

As for the general public, since there were really only two classes, the rich and the poor, the lower classes were little more than slaves to the wealthy landowners and politicians who actually only numbered a few.

Tom Correa