Monday, June 26, 2017

The Blackwell Shootout -- The Rest Of The Story

Ben Cravens
In my last article, The Blackwell Shootout 1896, we talked about how Dick Ainsley and Ben Cravens were shot up because they robbed a store in a nearby town -- and that Ainsley was thought to be someone else.

Prior to the Blackwell Shootout, all that's known about Ben Cravens is that he was born Benjamin Crede Cravens around 1864. While a teenager, it's said he wrecked havoc on the schoolhouse he attended. He was arrested and jailed, but escaped and ran away to Missouri. And yes, that would be his first escape with many more to come from jails and prisons.

In 1890, supposedly he drifted to Chatauqua County, Kansas, where he is said to have found stealing much more profitable than working a job making wages. One of the things he was known for at the time was that he joined a band of horse thieves. And believe it or not, after stealing horse, he worked as a bootlegger in southern Kansas counties. In fact, he was known to bootleg whiskey to the Osage, Kaw, Otoe, Ponca and Pawnee Indians in the Cherokee Outlet.

He was arrested in December of 1894 for bootlegging and selling whiskey to Indians and jailed at Guthrie, Oklahoma. And believe it or not, he escape on July 5th, 1896. But this time with four other prisoners including Dick Ainsley. And yes, soon he and Ainsley were in Kansas stealing cattle.

In the spring of 1896, they needed cash and supplies. So they broke into the store and residence of Ira Stout in Elgin, Kansas. They also robbed the store of P.W. Craig in Waunette, Kansas. After that they robbed the "Hopper and Tweedy" store in Hewins, Kansas. By November 18th, 1896, the two were out of cash and returned again rob P.W. Craig’s store in Waunette and the "Hopper and Tweedy" store in Hewins. During these robberies, one of the two stole a black horse in the process.

As I stated in the other article, the robbery of the Tweedy store netted the two $50.00 in cash and $300.00 in merchandise, including some shirts at $1.40 each. So yes, moving up to bank robbery in Blackwell, Oklahoma, would have definitely been moving up to the big time for the both.

Sadly for them, but luckily for Blackwell, they were shot and captured. After Dick Ainsley was shoot dead and positively identified by U.S. Marshals as not being the outlaw that Sheriff Deputy Cox thought he was, Ben Cravens was taken back to Kansas under the custody of U.S, Deputy Marshal Powell. That was December.

By January of 1897, Cravens was sentenced to 20 years at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing. Yes, Cravens got 20 years for highway robbery near Elgin, Kansas. But believe it or not, on November 16th, 1900, Cravens escaped from Kansas State Penitentiary after using a fake gun made out of a piece of wood covered with tobacco and package foil.

Now for all of you who think this story sounds familiar. Well, it should. The infamous gangster John Dillinger used a wooden pistol to break out of a jail in Indiana in 1934. Yes, doing the same thing as Cravens. And no, I don't know if Dillinger took a page from Cravens escape book or just thought of it by himself. Either way, after his escape, Cravens loses the posse chasing him, steals a horse and is soon in the Osage Nation committing crimes.

So now Cravens escapes Lansing in 1900, he flees Kansas and heads to Indian Territory, the Osage Nation to be exact. It's said that there he reconnected with Bert Welty who he had met while they were in prison together. Six weeks later on March 18th, 1901, Cravens and Welty robbed a general store at Red Rock in Otoe Country.

Believe it or not, it is said that Cravens dressed himself to look like a farmer. And yes, Welty dressed up to look like his wife by wearing a dress and sunbonnet. Yes, that's how they held up the store. They robbed the store and the patrons. And supposedly they two stole $1,000 in cash, and took a bunch of store merchandise.

Frankly, I really would be surprised if a general store in 1901 kept $1,000 on hand. Or if what the store had on hand and what the patrons had on them amounted to $1,000. The only reason that I say that is that $1,000 in 1901 was a lot of money. In fact, $1,000 in the year 1901 is worth about $28,000 today in 2017. But with or with that amount of money, it was this robbery that through Ben Cravens into the big league of being a criminal.

During the robbery, Alvin Bateman, the store manager and assistant postmaster in Red Rock entered the store. Bateman was immediately told to put his hands up. Bateman was doing just that when Caravens and Welty saw that he had a pistol in one hand. It was then that Cravens and Welty shot Bateman several times.

The two killers escape in a wagon but when it overturned. It was then that Cravens tried to kill his partner. It's true. Cravens figuring that he can keep all of the loot and make his escape faster, he shoots Welty in the face with one barrel from his shotgun. Then he simply left him for dead, and rides off.

To the amazement of quite a few people, Welty’s injuries were not fatal and he walked around 10-15 miles to Black Bear Creek and the home of C.N. Herthington. That where Welty was was arrested. So he survived being shot in the face with a shotgun, he was arrested, and later received a life sentence in prison for the death of Bateman.

As for Cravens, he fled to the home of a friend, Isom Cunningham, just was a few miles south of Pawnee. Not knowing that Welty lived to tell the law where his no good partner was hiding out, Cravens was said to be shocked when a posse soon surrounded the house. But then, according to witnesses, "in a perfect hailstorm of bullets" Ben Cravens escapes. But no, not before he mortally wounded Deputy Sheriff Tom Johnson.

Deputy Sheriff Jack Murray later stated "The rapidity with which he (Cravens) worked his artillery was such that the firing made a continuous sheet of flame." It is said that Cravens would empty his rifle, fall to the floor, reload, came back up again and empty it again, then follow it up with his revolver.

After his getaway, the reward for "Bad Ben" Cravens went from $1,000 to $10,000. And that, well that made him one of the most wanted outlaws in the territory. Then, he simply disappeared from sight for a while.

Of course he was accused of robberies and murders in the surrounding states, but in actuality he was living in Missouri as farm hand. There he was considered a hard working recently married man. His was living under the alias Charles Maust. He and his wife worked a farm together.

But then, in Jefferson City, Missouri in November of 1908, he was sentenced to 4 years in prison for stealing either a horse or a couple of hogs. Either way, around 1911, near the time of his impending release, a barber at the penitentiary recognized Charles Maust as actually being Ben Cravens.

The barber there recognized him because the barber worked at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas, when Cravens was a prisoner there. He told his superiors. Then using the "Betillion System of Criminal Identification and his Kansas State Penitentiary records, fingerprint and photo records of the time, Charles Maust was positively identified as Ben Cravens.

Oklahoma authorities were notified of his whereabouts and Cravens was transferred to Guthrie in November of 1911. His new trial was held in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Tried and convicted for the murder of Alvin Bateman of Red Rock, Cravens maintained that he was really Charles Maust and not Ben Cravens.

So now, because Cravens refused to give his real name, the authorities began assembling witnesses who may have known him. Among the witnesses was Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfred O. Lund, who was days away from retiring. And soon, witness after witness was brought to the trial to identify Cravens. It was said to have been an "outlaw reunion" of sorts since around 50 of the nearly 200 witnesses called were known outlaws. And yes, Bert Welty was brought from his prison cell to testify in the case. He looked directly at Cravens and positively identified him. Not as Charles Maust, but as Ben Cravens.

Cravens was defended by attorney Al Jennings, who himself was a reformed outlaw who was pardoned by President Theodore Roosevelt. As amazing as it sounds, Al Jennings tried to introduce evidence to show that it has been a simple case of mistaken identity. That didn't really mater because on January 29th, 1912, Ben Cravens was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of Alvin Bateman. Mostly because of Lund and Welty's testimony, Cravens was sent to the prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

But no, that's not the end of the story. Cravens was once again in court in April of 1921. He still maintained that he was really Charles Maust, and not Ben Cravens. Then in a writ of habeous corpus presented in Kansas City, Kansas Federal Court, he maintained that he was Charles Maust and was illegally arrested and punished.

The writ also stated that Bateman's murder took place in 1901 when Oklahoma was still a U.S. territory, making the case fall under Federal Government jurisdiction. In 1907, when Oklahoma became a state, a provision was made stating all pending cases involving felonies in the Indian Territory should be tried by the new Oklahoma state courts. Cravens was tried in a Federal Court in Guthrie in 1908. His petition read that he should have been tried under state laws and not federal. So while he thought he was going to get out on a technicality, that didn't work and he stayed in prison when his petition was denied on April 6, 1921.

By the 1930s, his health began to fail. Because he didn't seem to have long to live, on October 17th, 1936, he was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. Then after spending an additional eleven years in prison, he was finally paroled in 1947. Yes, paroled after killing a man. So if you're wondering, yes it even took place back then.

Three years later, on September 19th, 1950, he finally died of old age. And believe it or not, it's said that even up to the time of his death, he still maintained that he was Charles Maust and not Ben Cravens.

If you remember from my first article The Blackwell Shootout 1896, I mentioned that Dick Ainsley and Ben Cravens were thought to be outlaws planning to rob the Blackwell bank.  I also talked about how Sheriff's Deputy Cox formed a posse. Alfred Lund was part of the deputized posse that initially went after Dick Ainsley and Ben Cravens.

After that shootout, Alfred Lund later served as a Deputy U.S. Marshal. He then became a Special Officer for the Santa Fe Railroad. That lasted for 12 years, before taking on the job of a Detective for the Santa Fe Railroad stating in 1913. He stayed in that position until 1921. On April 23rd, 1946, Marshal Alfred O. Lund died at the age 79.

And as for the last bit of trivia regarding this story, it is said that Alfred O. Lund's involvement in Ben Cravens' final conviction means that Lund is the first lawman in Oklahoma history to have both begun and ended his career confronting the very same criminal. Imagine that.

Tom Correa



Friday, June 23, 2017

The Blackwell Shootout 1896


On the morning of December 4th, 1896, a six man posse made up of one Oklahoma lawman and five local citizens cornered two suspected outlaws at what they believed was their hideout near Blackwell, Oklahoma. What followed would be a shootout that killed suspect Dick Ainsley, and wounded his partner Ben Cravens. The location was about three and one half miles northwest of town.

On November 27th, 1896, Dick Ainsley and Ben Cravens rode into Blackwell wanting to purchase supplies. It is also believed that the two petty criminals were there to case the Blackwell's bank. It was believed that they intended to rob the bank.

After picking up supplies, the two then left town and returned to where they were staying which was a small one-room shack next to a wooded ravine called Lost Creek just a few miles out of town. Lost Creek was dry and there shack lacked a well. So Cravens went to ask their neighbor, Bert Benjamin, for water. 

While getting water, Cravens asked Benjamin questions about the bank. Those questions made Benjamin suspect their intentions for being in the area. Benjamin is said to have answered Cravens questions only so far and no more. After his conversation with Cravens, he went to town to inform the local law about what he suspected.

Sheriff's deputy J. R. Cox listened to what Benjamin had to say. Cox was certain that Ainsley and Cravens were responsible for a recent robbery of a store in the town of Hewins, Kansas, about 80 miles away.  But even though that was the case, instead of organizing a posse immediately, he told Benjamin to go home and report back to him if he saw anything more of two -- especially if they act more suspicious.

On December 3rd, 1896, after sighting Ainsley and Cravens again, Benjamin reported back to Cox, who then raised a posse. His posse consisted of six men, himself, and Alfred O. Lund, Bill Sherr, John Hunter, Jay McClain, and Richard Clarke.

Dick Ainsley and Ben Cravens were suspected of cattle rustling, horse thief, and other assorted crimes including being highwaymen and robbing a store in a neighboring town. During the robbery of the Tweedy store, they made off with $50.00 in cash and $300.00 in merchandise, including some shirts that cost $1.40 each.

Of course cattle rustling alone could get a man hanged back in the day. One story on the two outlaws says that they both had reputations as gunmen, real bad desperadoes, men with a price on their heads. Another story says not much was known about either of them before the Blackwell Shootout. Fact is, more than likely, they really were just petty thieves.

Remember Bert Benjamin reported that Cravens asked him a number of questions about the inside of the Blackwell bank. Why Cravens did that instead of just going over to the bank to check it out for himself, no one knows, or no one thought to ask Bert Benjamin. See, it was Benjamin that got the ball rolling concerning Ainsley and Cravens.

Others who have written about this event say that Dick Ainsley went by the alias of "Buck McGregg" as well as the alias "Diamond Dick". They say his latter alias was because Ainsley wore a diamond ring, and had three of his fingers shot off during a gunfight with a group of dozen or more lawmen in Lincoln County. Of course, I don't know how anyone knows this since no one ever heard of those two before their encounter that December of 1896 in Blackwell.

Blackwell was established in 1893 and sits in Kay County. County Sheriff's Deputy J. R. Cox listened to what Bert Benjamin reported and was certain that Dick Ainsley and Ben Cravens were the outlaws responsible for a string of recent robberies. Deputy Cox also thought that Dick Ainsley was in reality ex-Doolin Gang member "Dynamite Dick" Clifton. 

Since the men were Bert Benjamin's neighbors, there was a real good possibility that he would see them again. And frankly, that's especially true if Ainsley and Cravens got thirsty again and needed to ask Benjamin for more water.

Well, on December 3rd, 1896, Benjamin returns to town and reports back to Cox that he saw Ainsley and Cravens again. What were they doing? Was it something suspicious? Did they break a law? No one knows! The story only says that upon hearing that Benjamin sighted the two men, that that was enough for Deputy Cox to raise a posse to join him on his hunt. Cox was eager because he thought Ainsley was someone else.

It's said that Alfred Lund became part of the posse because he had shown an interest in law enforcement. Lund was said to have campaigned to be city marshal and the town constable before that but was was beaten in past elections. Lund was the owner of a livery stable, and that the presence of such outlaws as Ainsley and Cravens gave him an opportunity to pursue a career in law enforcement without having to be elected. 

So now the Blackwell posse rides out and takes up positions along a riverbank just outside of town. They do this so that they could ambush Ainsley and Cravens if they ride into town. Yes, they are "lying in wait" to kill them even though the two hadn't done anything that anyone knows of for sure. 

Of course then here comes Bert Benjamin who finds the posse and tells Deputy Cox that Ainsley and Cravens are actually asleep at their cabin. So now, because Cox believes that there is now a risk of civilians being harmed in the event of a gunfight near the town, he decides to go to their cabin. So Deputy Cox asked Benjamin to lead him and his posse to where they're sleeping. 

It's now about midnight when the posse reaches the cabin where Ainsley and Cravens are sleeping. The posse then moves as stealthy as possible in the dark to a wooded area near a ravine. Believe it or not, this takes them close to three hours. It is about 3:00 am, on December 4, 1896, when the posse had finally made it to the wooded ravine. But then, they find out that Ainsley and Cravens had a dog tied out in front.

The dog starts barking and since Cox figures surprise is no long going to happen, he decided to split his men up to surround the place and wait until daylight to demand a surrender. So with that, Lund, Benjamin, Sherr and McClain then move through the brush in the dark to try to cover the front door and window of the shack. Deputy Cox, Hunter, and Clarke went around back to watch the back of the one room cabin and a small barn. Ainsley and Cravens had their horses in the barn. 

So now, the posse has decided to wait until sunrise to either arrest them or shoot them. For what, who knows? I still haven't figured out what Ainsley and Craven did, that is other than Cox thinking Ainsley was someone else who is wanted -- and maybe, maybe, they robbed a store in another town. 

Dick Ainsley is said to be the first of the two to wake and head outside to wash up and heed nature's call. He's the first to be spotted by the posse. Ainsley is seen going outside the front door with a Winchester rifle in his hands. He's headed to a water barrel to wash his face after waking up. The posse sees him lean his rifle up against the cabin while he washes his face. Then a moment later, Ben Cravens shows up at the front door coming out of their cabin. He too has a rifle. 

Friends, having rifles in itself does not mean anything. They could have been going hunting for meat. But that wasn't what Deputy Cox was thinking. To me, Deputy Cox saw what he wanted to see. He saw members of the Wild Bunch. He saw two badmen. He saw two armed killers. 

When Cox saw both men, he saw it as the chance that he was waiting for. So he shouts, "You're surrounded, throw up your hands!" 

In that instant, the two startled men raise their rifles. Some say they shot first, other's say Bert Benjamin shot first. Either way, with that shot all Hell breaks loose. Immediately three of the posse members turn and run. That includes Bert Benjamin. He instigated the whole fiasco and fired both barrels from his shotgun before turning and running home in fear. Sherr and McClain also skedaddles and run home.   

Alfred Lund is now on his own. He's alone at his position in front of the cabin. He watches as Ben Cravens is the first to be hit from fire coming from the direction of Deputy Cox and posse member Richard Clarke. Cravens was running back into the cabin and is hit with a rifle bullet that breaks his collar bone. It must have been Cox who shot Cravens because Clarke is armed with a shotgun as most of the posse members were that day. 

Lund then spots Ainsley's rifle barrel protruding out from behind the corner of the cabin. Before Ainsley could fire, Lund opens fire with his rifle which gets Ainsley to retreat to some cottonwood trees in the dry creek. Ainsley takes cover behind some trees and actually puts his rifle down to see who's shooting at them. 

While Ainsley is hunkered down taking cover, Lund comes around and finds Ainsley who instinctively reaches for his rifle. Lund sees this and shots Ainsley in the chest. It's said that the bullet that hit Ainsley passed straight through his body and actually struck and killed a cow about fifty yards further up the ravine. I don't know about that cow story, but Ainsley is mortally wounded and flat on the ground. 

While this is going on, Cox and Clarke were going after Ben Cravens. He was trying to escape through some tall grass on the eastern side of the creek. Richard Clarke shoots Cravens in the side with a load of buckshot and he fell to the ground. At this same time, Cox and the remaining posse member Clarke hears something and shoot. They hit Alfred Lund. Thankfully not killing Lund. 

Dick Ainsley is dead and Ben Cravens was badly wounded. Both are now in custody. Deputy Cox sent wounded Alfred Lund into Blackwell to telephone his superior, Sheriff H. C. Master, the county attorney, Dave Weir, and the coroner from Ponca City. 

Ainsley's body was taken to the Blackwell Hotel, and Cravens was held in a third-story room of the same building. During the interrogation of Ben Cravens, he didn't give them any information that would link he or his dead partner to any crime. All he does say is that his partner's name was Dick Ainsley.  

For some reason, it's said that Cox took this as confirming his suspicion that Dick Ainsley was indeed the "Dynamite Dick" Clifton. Especially since Clifton, who was a member of the Wild Bunch, was also missing three fingers. 

Because of the confusion caused by Deputy Cox, the U.S. Marshals office in Guthrie was informed and Marshal Evett Dumas Nix took five Deputies Marshals to Blackwell to see if they indeed killed Clifton. One of men that Marshal Nix took with him was Frank M. Canton.

As soon as they arrive in Blackwell, the U.S. Marshals were immediately taken to see Dick Ainsley's body. Marshal Nix looked at Ainsley and said, "I don't know this man, he isn't Dan Clifton."

After they identified Ainsley as not being Clifton, the Marshals went to see Ben Cravens. During their interview, Cravens began coughing up blood. Marshal Canton asked if there was anything that could be done?

Cravens responded, saying: "Yes, get my father here because I'm real bad and the doctors said I might not make it." Marshal Canton agreed and Cravens' father arrived from Iowa two days later. But surprisingly, Cravens survived his wounds. 

Though Cox made a horrible mistake which cost a man his life, people who viewed Ainsley's corpse claimed that he still was an outlaw. Some gave him the name "Skeeter Dick", while others said he must be "Three Fingered Dick". Then again, others said he must have been an outlaw since the law didn't make mistakes like that. As funny as it sounds, it is said that Deputy Cox insisted that he was Dynamite Dick, even after Ainsley's mother arrived in Blackwell, escorted by two Lincoln County sheriffs, and claimed the body of her son to take him home for burial.

As for the real "Dynamite Dick" Clifton? Fact is, Charles Daniel "Dynamite Dick" Clifton was a member of Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch and took part in numerous robberies committed by that gang. He was killed by U.S. Marshals near Checotah about a year later on November 7th, 1897.

As for Ben Cravens? Well, that's for next time.

Tom Correa




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Country of Followers

By Terry McGahey

First off let me say, I realize that I haven't written anything lately, having a wife that passed away as well as having back and neck problems which haven't allowed me to sit at the computer for a very long period of time has been the main cause of this.

Even though it is not comfortable sitting here, I have had enough of what's going on with many of our citizens within this country and can no longer keep silent about it.

Anyone who has read my articles in the past knows that I am not a Democrat nor a Republican, I am an independent Constitutional Conservative who firmly believes in our forefathers vision of this country, the law of our land as written in the Constitution, and not in the word twisting attorney's versions of this fine document. This document was written in plain English, and one can see that if one has any common sense what so ever.

Normally in my articles I would address our politicians and their policies, but in this article I am addressing the subject of many of our own people who have become nothing but followers and believers of anything said by our politicians on both sides of the aisle as well as the media. Many politicians today make accusations against the other party without fact or proof, and many of our citizens buy into what they say no matter if they are right or wrong.

So many people today have become nothing but followers instead of getting off their lazy butts and researching things for themselves. With the computer age we live in, it is very simple to research the voices and views of our politicians in order to actually realize if their opinions fit within the parameters of our Constitution. Many people just believe the rhetoric that spews out of the mouths of politicians and hate mongers rather than think for themselves.

Just a short time ago a politically motivated nut shot one of our representatives at a baseball practice. Why, because of the hate that has been fueled by politicians and hate mongers which has seeped into the minds of people who just believe in what they hear without question. People such as the shooter at the baseball practice have violent tendencies within their heart in the first place, and the hate which we see today by our own people just fuels their desire into committing violence upon others.

Much of the problem stems directly from the people because our chickenhearted politicians are so afraid of loosing their jobs. Rather than do what's right, they have a tendency to keep it going or not stand up and say enough is enough.

Just take a look at protesters who have been paid to protest by the likes of George Soros who is nothing but a Socialist/Communist who would like nothing more than to see the downfall of this country. Those people, like sheep, go along with it because it's easy money. Not because it's right or wrong, but because it's easy money and they believe whatever they hear.

No, I am no longer putting the blame on all of the politicians. Some yes, but I am now putting the blame on the people themselves who are willing to believe anything they hear rather than research it for themselves.

Like the lambs being led to the slaughter the ignorant followers are jumping off the cliff into Socialism which is only one small step into Communism. If you are a follower, no matter which side you believe in, and you are reading this, it's time for you to understand, you are the problem and not the solution.

Terry McGahey

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sheriff John Lighter Frost -- Vanished In 1900

Sheriff John Lighter Frost
I love the stories that I get from my readers. This is a story about Sheriff John Lighter Frost who simply vanished. Yes, he rode off and was never seen again.

That was in Wallisville, Texas, in November of 1900. It was when Sheriff Frost mounted his gray horse and rode away from the county courthouse in Wallisville on November 10th, 1900. He was headed out to go settle what was called a bitter dispute over property. The property being disputed was a hunting lodge and ranch on Lake Surprise about six miles from Smith Point in the southern part of Chambers County.

The Sheriff was going there to evict a supposedly prominent citizen who managed that hunting preserve. He may have had to evict those there and confiscate that property.

In 1892, Col. W.L. Moody of Galveston purchased a huge hunting lodge at Lake Surprise. The lake had a steady growth of wild celery which drew thousands of canvasback ducks. 

Col. Moody employed Capt. William Kennedy and his son Lee, along with R.cbcrt Heiman of Smith Point to operate the lodge. Believe it or not, future Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, who was also the Democrat Party nominee for President in 1896, 1900, and 1908, as well as many other celebrities from across the country actually hunted ducks at the lodge as guests of Col. Moody. 

Then in 1900, Capt. Kennedy sent word back to Col. Moody that the lodge was now his. Imagine the nerve of a caretaker simply saying someone else's property is now theirs. Well, Col. Moody didn't let this lay and tried without success to get rid of the Kennedys. Finally, he obtained an eviction order.

Sheriff Frost rode from Anahuac to the lodge alone on November 9th, 1900. The story is that he made a visit to the hunting lodge that afternoon, but Mrs. Kennedy told him that she was too sick to move and her husband was gone. Sheriff Frost returned the following day on the 10th and was never seen again. 

John Lighter Frost was the son of Samuel C. and Nancy Frost. He was born on January 14, 1862, in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The Frost family first moved to Texas from Kentucky in 1862 where his family settled in Denton County. In 1878, the Frost family moved to Chambers County to settle near Fort Anahuac. After the death of his father in 1879, John Lighter Frost worked the family farm and supported his widowed mother. 

His first entry into county politics was in 1890 when he was elected as County Commissioner of precinct 1. Then in 1892, he was elected to the office of County Surveyor. He was re-elected to that position in 1894. In 1896, he was elected County Sheriff. He was re-elected as Sheriff in 1898, and again in 1900. His last re-election occurred only a few months before his murder.

John Lighter Frost was a bachelor living in an Anahauc hotel when he begun his third term as Sheriff and made that fateful ride. And now, the 38-year-old lawman was missing, vanished, gone with only a few clues to go by while trying to figure out what happened to him. 

After the sheriff went missing, Wallisville's citizens gathered together to start a search. Harris County Sheriff Archie Anderson and Galveston County Sheriff Henry Thomas lead more than 100 volunteers on foot, in boats, and on horseback in search of the body of Sheriff Frost. And yes, Texas Governor Joseph Sayers offered a $300 reward, while the citizens and lawmen of Chambers and Galveston counties raised another $600 in reward money for the capture of Frost's killers. 

Witnesses soon came forward to testify that they saw the Sheriff with the Kennedys until about 6:15pm on November 10th before riding away from the hunting lodge. Some speculated that the Sheriff was off to get help to evict William Kennedy who had refused to leave. Neighbors reported that they soon heard gunshots shortly after the Sheriff left the lodge. 

Soon the search concentrated near the lodge, and soon they found his horse and then his hat. It was actually two days after starting the search that his horse was found grazing not far from the lodge. His saddle was blood stained, the bridle reins had been cut, the slicker that the Sheriff always carried on the back of his saddle was missing. 

It is believed the Sheriff was shot and killed while attempting to serve eviction papers on Capt. William Kennedy who was seen at the time as a prominent citizen. Murder was not very common in that county, so it was really hard to accept the notion that the Sheriff rode out to evict Capt. William Kennedy, his son Lee Kennedy and Robert Heiman, all of Smith Point, from a hunting lodge owned by Col. W.L. Moody of Galveston, and then was killed by those he was evicting.

The three were arrested aboard Heiman's blood-stained boat at Galveston wharf on November 11th, 1900. Although the men were charged with murder, they never stood trial for the crime. Yes, William Kennedy, his son Lee Kennedy, and Robert Heiman, were arrested and charged with his murder. But of course, because no positive identification of the body could be made, the case against the three was dismissed in 1902.

Most believe the three ambushed Sheriff Frost. And supposedly, Robert Heiman confessed they shot him in the back, chopped him up, and then fed him to alligators. But then again, Heiman who was 18 years old at the time, gave at least seven different confessions. In fact, Robert Heiman made a series of confessions, at one time saying the body had been buried in an old grave. Another story he told was that the body was thrown into the waters of East Bay. that Frost was dismembered before being cast into Galveston Bay. 

Being afraid of a being lynched in Chambers County, the three were kept in Galveston. Then on a change of venue in September 1901, the trial was moved to the Montgomery County Courthouse in Conroe. Of course, Heiman repudiated all confessions upon arriving in Conroe. And because the body of Sheriff Frost was never found, and there was no confession, the district attorney filed a motion on January 14th, 1902. to dismiss the case. And soon after the trial, the Kennedys and Heiman left Chambers County. They were never to be heard from again.

The charges against the three were dismissed because there wasn't enough evidence to hold them for a trial. Fact is Sheriff Frost's body was never found. 

That's not to say people didn't find a body closely matching his description. In fact there in the mud near where his hat was found near the lodge, searchers found an already decomposed body believed to be him buried there in the mud. The body they found could never be positively identified as that of the Sheriff.  

Then in April 1901, authorities found a skeleton that they initially thought was the murdered Sheriff. But soon a local doctor ruled that an autopsy showed the skeleton was not him, and instead was one of the nameless victims who were killed by the hurricane that wiped out most of Galveston in 1900. 

Before his disappearance, Sheriff Frost was a popular member of the Woodmen of the World lodge in Wallisville which was then the county seat. Five years after his disappearance, the Woodmen of the World fraternal lodge placed an elaborate monument honoring Frost in Wallisvile Cemetery in Wallisville, Chambers County. 

The 6-foot marker is carved to resemble a tree trunk with a lily at its base. It has a simple inscription noting Frost's birthday, January 4th, 1862, and the day he disappeared which was November 10th, 1900. 

From the different sources that I was sent, or that I can find, it is fairly obvious that many there at the time believed that Sheriff John Frost was shot and killed while attempting to serve eviction papers on the Kennedys. And while I don't know what happened to the Kennedys and Heiman after they left Chambers County, I can only hope they met the wrath of God when it was their time to be judged.

Tom Correa

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Abe Lincoln's Letter to Horace Greeley

You ever wonder what was President Lincoln's priority during the Civil War -- whether it was saving the Union or ending slavery? This letter speaks to his priority. And yes, it is very clear what he wanted.

This is one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous letters written during the Civil War. It was written to Horace Greeley who was a very influential editor of the New York Tribune. This letter was in response to an editorial penned by Greeley to Lincoln.

Greeley's editorial was called "The Prayer of Twenty Millions." In it Greeley attempts to make the case that Lincoln's administration lacked direction and resolve.

Researchers say that President Lincoln wrote his response while a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was already in his desk drawer. His response revealed his concentration on preserving the Union. By his own words, that is Lincoln's paramount goal. No, it was not to end slavery.

The letter, which received acclaim in the North, truly stands as a testament to how President Lincoln saw his Constitutional responsibilities.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, August 22, 1862.

Hon. Horace Greeley
Dear Sir.

I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. 


If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. 


What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

Yours,
A. Lincoln.


As amazing as it sounds, a few years after President Lincoln's assassination, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley wrote a critical article stating that Lincoln did not actually respond to his "The Prayer of Twenty Millions" editorial. Greeley stated that President Lincoln instead used his response as a platform to prepare the public for his "altered position" on emancipation. Yes, Greeley bashed President Lincoln right after he was shot dead. Image that.

Very active in politics,Greeley served briefly as a congressman from New York. He was also was the unsuccessful candidate of the new Liberal Republican party in the 1872 Presidential Election. He ran against incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant and lost in a landslide despite having the additional support of the Democrat Party.

Just prior to election day, Greeley was said to have been devastated by the death of his wife who died five days before the election. He himself died three weeks after the election. 

If Horace Greeley's name sounds familiar, that's no surprise. He urged Americans to go West and settle there. Though rightfully so or not, today he is credited with coining the phrase "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country."

Tom Correa




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Battle of Liberty Place 1874

The "Louisiana Outrages", as illustrated in Harper's Weekly, 1874

In the shadow of the Civil War, during the Reconstruction Era, , the Battle of Liberty Place took place on September 14th, 1874. Make no mistake about it, it was an uprising, an attempted coup d'état of a state government. Yes, an armed insurrection all planned out by the Democrat Party wanting to overturn Republican control of the government, the Reconstruction government, there at the time.

A coup d'état is the violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. In this case the attempted insurrection pit the Democrat Party's Crescent City White League against the Reconstruction Era Louisiana state government in New Orleans which was the capital of Louisiana at the time.

How big was it? Well, it is said that 5,000 members of the White League targeted the New Orleans Metropolitan Police Department and Louisiana state militia which combined only numbered about 2,000 members.

So why did this take place? Well, it had a lot to do with the election of 1872 which was a disputed 1872 gubernatorial election. The dispute started after which Democrat John McEnery and Republican William Pitt Kellogg both claimed victory.

In that election, John McEnery, a Democrat, was supported by a coalition of Democrats and anti-Grant groups which included some Republicans. Among those Republicans not happy with President Grant was Louisiana Governor Henry C. Warmoth. Warmoth's opponents in the Republican Party remained loyal to President Grant, and supported the Republican Party nominee, William Pitt Kellogg. Warmoth didn't. Today, we would call Warmoth a "Republican In Name Only."

Kellogg had charged election fraud because of the violence and intimidation that took place at and near the polls, because Democrats tried to intimidate Black voters in an effort to suppress Black voting. But no, that didn't stop Warmoth from appointing a State Returning Board which administered elections. That politically appointed board declared Democrat McEnery the winner. But, another election board declared Kellogg the winner. In fact, both McEnery and Kellogg had inaugural parties and certified lists of appointed local officeholders.

Then, believe it or not, stating that he was attempting to "stealing" the election, the Louisiana state legislature voted and impeached Warmoth and removed him from office.  Lieutenant Governor P. B. S. Pinchback became Governor for the last 35 days of Warmoth's term.

The Democrat Party's paramilitary arm of the party known as the White League entered the city with a force of 5,000 to seat Democrat McEnery as governor. Immediately fighting broke out and the White League launched attacks against the 3,500 man police and state militia for control.

Some say it all started when self-proclaimed Lieutenant Governor D. B. Penn made a proclamation calling out the militia of the state to assemble "for the purpose of driving the usurpers from power".  But frankly, that was at 4pm.

Earlier at 3pm, armed men of the White League were already stationed at the intersection of all streets on the south side of Canal Street from the river to Clayborne street.

The self-proclaimed Lieutenant Governor D. B. Penn then appointed Frederick Nash Ogden of the White League as "Provisional General" of the "Louisiana State Militia". After that, Penn issued a statement to Blacks in Louisiana stating that their rights and property would not be harmed.

At 4pm, a body of New Orleans militia, known as "Metropolitans," consisting of the police, cavalry and even an artillery piece, arrived at Canal Street. They immediately ordered the armed citizens to disperse. Some say the New Orleans forces were commanded by former Confederate General James Longstreet. When General Longstreet tried to stop the fighting, he was pulled from his horse, shot by a spent bullet. Some say he was taken prisoner by the White League. General Longstreet and Governor-elect Kellogg ended up taking refuge with the Federal troops in the Custom House.

As for the Metropolitans, it's said that once the shooting started, they broke and the White League captured their cannon. The White League then captured City Hall, the armory, and the fire alarm telegraph. From there they built a barricade along Poydras Street from there to the canal.

During this time, a company of Federal troops protected the custom house, but were not involved in the initial conflict. This is all while the White League held the portion of the city above the canal. They massed at Jackson Square and the St. Louis Hotel. Their barricades were made with overturned street cars.

Who was the White League? Well if you've never heard of the White League, like the Ku Klux Klan, they were a paramilitary organization of the Democrat Party. Yes, they were fully sanctioned and supported by the Democrat Party. And like the KKK, the White League was made up largely of Confederate veterans.

The Democrat's White League used the excuse that the Republican government was corrupt and illegally in place after the war. And when they decided to take action, they held the statehouse, the armory, and downtown New Orleans for three days. They actually only retreated just before the arrival of Federal troops which were sent there by President Grant to restore the elected government. And surprisingly, no one was ever charged in the action.

The White League defeated the state militia, and occupied the state house and armory for three days. In the meanwhile, Kellogg wired for Federal troops to assist in restoring order. And within three days, President Ulysses S. Grant sent Federal troops there to do just that. The White League retreated from New Orleans before the federal troops arrived. Under Martial Law, the Federal government certified Kellogg as the governor and C. C. Antoine as lieutenant-governor.

It's true, by September 17th, Federal troops arrived and the situation reversed itself. The unit's commanding officer General William H. Emory met with Democrats and their paramilitary leaders of the White League. And surprisingly, no one was ever prosecuted. Even though during this conflict the White League inflicted at least 100 casualties, they were assured that prosecution would not take place even though lives were lost. All if they would stop their insurgency. Imagine that.

In exchange with blanket clemency, with not prosecuting those involved in the killings, General Emory demanded the restoration of the state government, the return of arms taken from the state armory, and the resumption of peace in New Orleans. The Democrat Party leaders agreed insisting that no show of force from Federal troops was necessary since it was just a protest.

But even though Democrats agreed to General Emory's demands, as a cautionary measure, President Grant ordered the 22nd U.S. Infantry to proceed to New Orleans under General Irvin McDowell. and the USS Colorado, the USS Kansas, and the USS Shawmut under the command of Admiral James Robert Madison Mullany be sent to New Orleans. President Grant also ordered the 13th Regiment under the command of General Philippe Régis de Trobriand to take a position in the city to protect the state government from another attempted coup.  

And believe it or not, a few months later on January 4th, 1875, Louisiana Governor Kellogg was forced to request the aid of General Trobriand to eject Democrats from the legislature. The eight democrat decided to proclaimed themselves legislators and decided that they had the right to be there even though they had not been certified as legitimately elected. Trobriand entered the state house with some men at the governor's request, and escorted the eight Democrats after each gave speeches of objection.

Those Democrats did not returned, instead, believe it or not, they actually set up an alternate state legislature which held their meeting at the Odd Fellows Hall in the city. Because of the tensions, General Trobriand and his 13th Regiment stayed in the city until January of 1877.

Because of President Grant's swift actions and taking the threat seriously enough to send both the U.S. Army and Navy warships to New Orleans, by September 21st, the surrender was complete and the temporary police force in the city was replaced by the regular forces.

Once the Democrat Party regained political control, they brought about many changes including Jim Crow laws, segregation, disenfranchising both Republicans and Blacks including attempts to stop them from voting and holding office. Of course continued violence and intimidation from the Democrat's paramilitary groups the White League and the Ku Klux Klan was a way of life at the time.

Then in 1891, the city of New Orleans actually erected a white marble obelisk on Canal Street to commemorate and celebrate the insurrection known as the Battle of Liberty Place. And while we've all heard the old adage, "history is written by the victors," well this is proof that's not always true. In fact, the losers were glorified.

It's true, the Battle of Liberty Place monument was inscribed with the Democratic Party's version of what took place. No, not those who were the victims or the victors which was ultimately the Federal government as they restored order and put a stop to the attempted overthrow of a state government.

There is no surprise that the Democrat Party would have the monument say what they believed it should, even if the truth is omitted altogether. Fact is, by the 1890s, the Democrat Party was in total control of the city and state politically. And yes, they would remain in control of that state for years to come.

The "Battle of Liberty Place" is also known as the "Battle of Canal Street." It is considered an attempted insurrection by Democrats. Yes, an attempted coup. It was a violent uprising all because an election didn't go their way. All because Democrats lost an election.

Sound familiar?  Imagine that. But aside from the obvious look at what happened back in 1874, we should recognize something that came out of this. The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era forced a great number of Americans to go West. This article points to one of those reasons. People were tired of the hate and wanted new lives. They found it out West.

Tom Correa






Monday, June 5, 2017

Harry Tracy -- The Pacific Northwest's Most Vicious Killer

His real name was Harry Severns, but he went by and is known still today as Harry Tracy.  To many, he was a lot worse than John Wesley Hardin. And yes, certainly worse than Billy the Kid and Jesse James. Some say he was Satan himself. Yes, the Devil in human form.

On July 3rd, 1902, The Seattle Daily Times wrote, "In all the criminal lore of the country there is no record equal to that of Harry Tracy for cold-blooded nerve, desperation and thirst for crime. Jesse James, compared with Tracy, is a Sunday school teacher."

His date of birth is put at October 23rd, 1875. And while some like to call him an outlaw in the Old West, the "Last of the Hole in the Wall Gang," and talk about him as if he were just an ordinary Old West outlaw, they misrepresent the truth evil that he was.

He is said to have run with Butch Cassidy, and by the time he'd reached adulthood he was actively taking part in acts of robbery and theft. But as many who've read about him know that he was a killer who enjoyed killing.

His first known murder was done on March 1st, 1898, when Tracy and three accomplices engaged in a gunfight at Brown's Park Colorado. In that gunfight, Posseman Valentine S. Hoy was killed. V. S. Hoy was a well respected cattle rancher and a posse was eager to find the man who killed him.

Browns Park was originally known as Brown's Hole. It's an isolated mountain valley along the Green River in Moffat County, Colorado and Daggett County, Utah. As early as the 1870s, the area had gotten the reputation of being a haven for cattle rustlers, horse thieves, and outlaws, the same as Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming and Robbers Roost in Utah. During it's heyday, it's said that the outlaws at the time actually had an ethic that allowed for most "outlaw deeds" with the exception of murder.

After the Brown's Park killing of Posseman Hoy, Tracy and his partner-in-crime David Merrill were captured in Routt County, Colorado. Then in June of 1898, both escaped from the Routt County Jail. And yes, some say Tracy beat the sheriff on his way out.

Harry Tracy married the sister of his crime partner David Merrill's. Her name was Rose and not much is known about her. No one knows if they had a child together. So from 1898-1899, Tracy and Merrill committed numerous robberies in downtown Portland, including saloons, banks, trolley cars, a drug store and other various businesses. In most of those felonies, they were known to have bound and gagged their victims at gunpoint.

In 1901, they were recaptured. Tracy went to trial and was convicted of the murder of Posseman Hoy and sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary. Then a little over a year later, on June 9th, 1902, with fellow convict and brother-in-law David Merrill, they escaped.

On his way out of the Oregon State Penitentiary, Tracy killed Corrections Officers Thurston Jones Sr., Bailey Tiffany, and Frank Ferrell, along with three civilians. Their escape made headlines in newspapers of the time. And yes, the size and scope of the manhunt was unprecedented. In fact, it was the largest manhunt of the early 20th century. It was the most intense and electrifying manhunt in the Pacific Northwest.

In the days following the escape, the two head north, stealing horses, food and clothing along the way. Tracy and Merrill traveled over fifty miles to Portland. From there, the two men rowed by boat across the Columbia River into Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver Sheriff John Marsh was already alerted and had formed a posse of over 60 men to hunt for the escapees.

On June 16th, Deputy Bert Biesecker and posseman Luther Davidson were positioned along the Salmon Creek about seven miles from the Washington state line when they spotted the two escapees just after dusk. After a stand off and trading gunfire, Tracy once again demonstrated his ability to get away.

On June 28th, an argument broke out between Tracy and his brother-in-law David Merrill. Some say Tracy suggested a duel. Others say Tracy simply shot his brother-in-law in the back of the head and went on with his business. Merrill's dead body was found later.

About now you're thinking, he sounds like a bad hombre but not as bad as some. So what makes me say he was the Devil incarnate? Well, it has to do with what he did in July of 1902. You see, unlike most prison escapees who want to get as far away from the law as possible, that wasn't the case for Harry Tracy. In fact, he did the opposite and actually set up an ambush just to kill more lawmen.

Yes, it's true, on July 3rd, 1902, he set up an ambush near Bothell, Washington. It was there that he surprised and killed City of Everett Police Detective Charles Raymond and wounded King County Sheriff  Deputy John Williams.

Detective Charles Raymond was one of six lawmen shot and killed by Tracy. Detective Raymond had served with the City of Everett Police Department for ten years and was survived by his wife and five children. It's said Deputy Williams suffered physically and mentally from the trauma of the incident. He is said to have committed suicide later as a result of what took place at that ambush.

After his ambush of the two lawmen, Harry Tracy fled the scene and invaded a house where he took the occupants as hostages. He is also known to have ate dinner while contemplating killing them all.

As Tracy was leaving the house, he encountered other lawmen and soon started shooting. In that shootout, Tracy killed Seattle Police Officer Enoch Breece and Posseman Neil Rowley of the King County Sheriff's Department.

On August 3rd, Tracy came upon a ranch located in Creston, which was owned by brothers Lou and Gene Eddy. He was there for a few days when Harry Tracy's rein of terror came to a halt on August 6th, 1902.

That was the day when lawmen had him cornered in a wheat field in Creston, Washington. He was shot in the leg during an ambush by a posse from Lincoln County. Knowing that Tracy was seriously wounded in the leg, Sheriff Gardner had the field that Tracy had crawled into surrounded.

Knowing that there was no way out and a hanging was waiting for him, Harry Tracy committed suicide by shooting himself with his 30-30 rifle to avoid capture. A $4,000 reward was paid to the wheat farmers.

It is said that souvenir seekers descended on him and tore clothes from his remains, ripped hair from his scalp, and someone even stole his shoes. Harry Tracy's body was returned to Salem where it was buried in lime outside the prison walls. His burial spot is now unknown, as nobody knows for sure where his remains are.

Harry Tracy was tracked down by posse after posse, Sheriffs and City Police, for 58 days. Yes, he killed without hesitation. He was 27 when he died, and was responsible for the deaths of 7 lawmen who left behind 6 wives and 19 children. He is also known to have killed at least 5 civilians and his crime partner.

As for the rest of his story, well some have tried to say he was brave and cunning, a master at eluding the law. For me, I see Harry Tracy as just another murderer who died a coward. Yes, too afraid to face a judge and jury. Too afraid of walk up thirteen steps to dance on the end of a hangman's noose.

Tom Correa

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lester Moore -- No Les No More

Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona, is the final resting place for over a couple of hundred people. They include gunmen, outlaws, lawmen, gamblers, cowboys, a man wrongly hanged, blacksmiths, soiled doves, miners, business men and women, housewives, children, and those only known to God "who died with their boots on."

Those buried there includes Marshal Fred White who was 31 years old when he was accidentally shot and killed by Curly Bill Brocius on October 30th, 1880. The reason I say "accidentally" is because that's what Marshal White said before he died.

Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton are there. We all know they were killed in the shootout near the O.K. Corral on October 26th, 1881.

James "Tex" Howard, William E. "Billy" Delaney, Dan "Big Dan" Dowd, Omer W. "Red" Sample, and Daniel "York" Kelly are buried there. All were the perpetrators of the Bisbee Massacre.  All were legally hanged on March 28th, 1884. 

Then there's the story of how William Kinsman ended up in Boothill. The story goes that someone put a notice in the Tombstone Epitaph that William Kinsman intended to marry May Woodman. Since they were already living together, this made Kinsman angry. His anger obviously overrode his better judgement and he made the big mistake of running his own ad in the Epitaph stating that he had no intentions of ever marrying May Woodman. 

On February 23rd,1883, William Kinsman was standing in front of the Oriental Saloon on Allen Street when May Woodman walked up and shot him dead. And yes, this goes to the heart of not publicly embarrassing a woman.  After all, it's one thing to be talked about in whispers and a whole nother thing to be made a fool of in the local newspaper.

Woodman was sentenced to five years in Yuma Territorial Prison for killing Kinsman. The acting governor pardoned her after she had served less than one year. And while Kinsman is in Boothill, there's no telling whatever happened to May Woodman.

Jack Dunlop, the bandit known as "Three Fingered Jack," died of gunshot wounds on February 24th, 1900, after an attempted holdup. And yes, he's there.

George Johnson's marker can be found there. It states "Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake 1882. He was right we were wrong. But we strung him up and now he's gone." Of course the only problem with his marker is that no one can verify that a man named George Johnson was lynched in Arizona in 1882.

As for John Heath, he was accused of organizing the robbery that led to the 1883 Bisbee massacre. He has a grave marker near the grave of the five perpetrators of the massacre. Heath was arrested and convicted, and was later removed from the Tombstone jail by an angry group of 50 citizens. 

Those citizens lynched Heath on February 22nd, 1884, from a telegraph pole on Second Street. And though there is a grave marker there for him, he was not buried in Boothill Cemetery. In fact, John Heath's body was returned to his wife in Terrell, Texas, and buried in the Oakland Cemetery there.

Thomas Harper is an outlaw supposedly buried in Tombstone's Boothill Cemetery. He was said to be a friend of Curly Bill Brocius. Harper was hanged for murder by Sheriff Bob Paul in Tucson on July 8th, 1881. And though he too has a marker there in Tombstone's Boothill, Harper is actually buried in Tucson.

One marker that is there simply reads, "DUTCH ANNIE 1883." It is an epitaph too short for someone known by the broke and desperate as a true friend. She is said to have grub-staked many. She is also said to have gone to her eternal rest with more than 1,000 people following her coffin. All paying tribute to "Dutch Annie – Queen of the Red Light District."

In Tombstone's Boothill Graveyard, there is a plot in row six that has become famous. It has become famous more for the marker that says who's there, than for the soul that's buried there.

Lester Moore has become forever known for the epitaph inscribed on his headstone. It reads, 
Here Lies
Lester Moore
Four Slugs
From a .44
No Les
No More

When was he born? No one knows. As for his death? It's said to be 1880, but no month or day is known. Then again, it could be a year other than 1880. Supposedly there was a Lester Moore who was a Wells Fargo Station Agent in the Mexico-United States border town of Naco, Arizona. in the early 1880s. As the station agent, Moore was responsible for delivering items shipped. Yes, he worked the window and dealt with all sorts of customers.

It's said that Hank Dunstan arrived at the Wells Fargo station to pick up a package he was expecting. Dunstan was surprised to see that the package was badly handled and was actually a shambles when Moore handed it to him. And as expected, Dunstan wasn't happy with the condition of his delivery and soon became angry over the poor condition of the battered package.

Dunstan voiced his complaint to Moore, and soon enough they were arguing. Their argument quickly escalated to where both men reached for their guns. And yes, soon shots were fired. 

The rest of the story goes that Hank Dunstan shot Lester Moore four times with his .44 caliber revolver. Moore didn't go down without a fight since it's said that he managed to fire at least one shot. It hit Dunstan in the ribs. So when the smoke cleared, Lester Moore lay dead behind his window and Hank Dunstan lay mortally wounded. All in all both men ended up dead.

Lester Moore's body was transported to the town of Tombstone, where he was buried in the Boothill Graveyard. As for Hank Dunstan, no one knows where he is buried. That's the tale of Lester Moore as repeated for years. But frankly, there may be more to this story.

For example, as for his name, the name of Lester Moore doesn't appear in a 1880 Census. But, a Lewis Moore does show up. A reader sent me information showing that while the 1880 Census doesn't have Lester Moore listed, it does list a Lewis Moore who is said to have lived in Tombstone, Pima County, Arizona Territory. It also states that Lewis Moore was born in Illinois in 1828. 

So was Lester Moore really Lewis Moore who lived in Tombstone, and was he born in Illinois in 1828?  Or, could there really have been a Lester Moore that arrived before the 1880 Census? Since it's only speculation that Moore was killed in 1880, could a Moore have been killed earlier during that time period?

Since Cochise County wasn't founded until 1881, and subsequently their records only start that year, could there have been a Lester Moore that arrived before the 1880 Census and was killed there? If so, than why is it that it's said there was never anyone named Lester Moore who was killed in Arizona Territory? As for a Lewis Moore being killed, who knows? 

Of course, what if it's simply a case of a grave marker being wrong? Was it changed at some point because it became too weathered to read? As I said, who really knows? Fact is, we don't have answers to this mystery as well as for the names of all of the unknown buried in Boothill. Yes, the same as how we also don't know who penned Lester Moore's famous epitaph. No one knows if it was the local undertaker, or just someone else good with words. 

Maybe it was someone when the cemetery was being cleaned up in the 1940s? During the 1940s, the Tombstone City Council is said to have sponsored a group to restore and preserve their Boothill. It's said that metal markers were used to replace the old wooden markers that had actually disappeared in many cases. 

During that time, it's said that as new markers were put into place, the preservation group actually researched as many of the graves as possible by contacting relatives, friends, older residents, and historical records. I can't him but wonder how they would explain Lester Moore's grave mystery? I can't help but wonder if it's true, that there was no Moore?

Tom Correa