Thursday, August 17, 2017

Al Swearengen & The Gem Theater

The Gem Theater
Dear Friends,

It seems that I'm being hit with a lot of questions pertaining to movie characters. One man recently wrote me to take me to task about Doc Holliday. Then after I posted a picture of the man who is mistaken for Holliday, a couple of readers wrote to ask what have I been smoking? One actually told me that I didn't know what I was talking about, he said he was never going to visit my site again because "the man mistaken for Doc Holliday is Doc Holliday."

Someone reading one of my older articles about all of the swearing in the HBO television series Deadwood and how language like that simply was not used in the Old West. You can find that article at The Old West vs HBO's Deadwood.

He wrote to inform me that his grandfather swore like that all the time and that I didn't know my "ass from a hole in the ground." I answered his letter to tell him that my grandfather swore only when he was angry. He was a Cowboy and reserved that sort of language for when he felt it was OK and when not around women and children. Either way, our grandfathers are not representative of the people of the Old West of the 1800.

Fact is swearing went on, but it was actually blasphemous in nature unlike today's vulgar language. In fact, even the producer of the television series Deadwood admitted that very thing in an interview. His reasoning for using modern vulgarity is that what was considered vulgarity in 1800s is too tame for today's television audiences. If someone said, "Damn you". That was considered swearing in the 1800s. He said today's television audiences would laugh at a gunfighter saying such a thing.

Producers make changes that are "historically incorrect" all the time. Take for example the movie Tombstone where the outlaw gang known as the "Cowboys" wore red sashes. The people responsible for making that movie wanted to use "gang colors" like the criminal gangs in Los Angeles, the Crips and the Bloods. The producers of Tombstone did so even though the outlaw gang, the Cowboys, did not wear red sashes.

The HBO television series Deadwood ran from 2004 to 2006, and the producers decidedly depicted the character Al Swearengen as a politically powerful and influential individual. The show depicts him as a ruthless murderer who guides the town of Deadwood through its growth. The producers decide that Al Swearengen should be English-born, and that that character should be referred to as "the slimy Limey".

As a point of interest, the term "Limey" is a derogatory term for a British person. That term is no different than calling an American black person a "Coon." Or calling a South African black person "Kaffir." Or calling a person of Mexican descent "Beaner." Or calling a white American of European decent a "Cracker."

The term "Limey" is thought to have originated in the 1850s as "lime-juicer" because of the Royal Navy's practice in 1800s of adding lemon juice to their sailors' daily ration of watered-down rum which is known as "grog." The lime juice was believed to prevent scurvy. The British Merchant Shipping Act of 1867 required all ships of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy to provide a daily lime ration to sailors to prevent scurvy. Since at the time, the terms "lemon" and "lime" were used interchangeably to refer to citrus fruits, ignorant people chose to call the Brits by the derogatory term "Limey."

If one reads about the Old West, the 1800s in general, one quickly realizes that scurvy was a real problem both at sea and on land. Scurvy is a disease resulting from a lack of Vitamin C. Early symptoms include weakness, feeling tired, and sore arms and legs. Without treatment, red blood cells decrease, there is noticeable tooth decay and gum disease, balding takes place, and bleeding from the skin may occur because scurvy slows wounds from healing. Scurvy is also known to create personality changes and even death from infection or bleeding.

What I find interesting is that taking their daily ration of lime, their needed Vitamin C, actually made British sailors some of the healthiest people around during that time period. Yes, all because it prevented scurvy.

Hollywood might have made Al Swearengen a British immigrant in Deadwood, in reality he was very much an American. He was born Ellis Albert Swearengen on July 8th, 1845, to Daniel Swearengen and Keziah Swearengen, in Oskaloosa in the Iowa Territory. Yes, right here in the United States.

Al had a twin brother, Lemuel, and they were the eldest of eight children. Al Swearengen is said to have remained at home living with his parents well into adulthood. It wasn't until he was 30 years old that he left home and traveled to Deadwood in May of 1876. At that time, he was married to his first wife, Nettie Swearengen. She later divorced him on the grounds of spousal abuse. Al Swearengen married two more times after Nettie, and both of those marriages also ending in divorces.

After arriving in Deadwood, South Dakota, Al Swearengen started up a tent saloon known as the Cricket. Believe it or not, that small tent saloon is said to have offered gambling and even hosted prizefights out back. It was a success, so he expanded by closing it down and opening the much larger saloon and brothel known as the Gem Theater on April 7th, 1877.

The Gem Theater provided Deadwood with comedians, singers, dancers, and prostitutes. Swearengen called it what he did, but everyone there knew that the "theater" masqueraded as a brothel. The Gem Theater was a saloon and dance hall, but its main business was that of being a brothel.

In fact, The Gem Theater was considered a notorious brothel ripe with sexually transmitted diseases, customers getting rolled, and daily violence. And fairly quickly after opening, the Gem soon gained a reputation for its horrible treatment of the women who were forced to work there. The women who worked for Swearengen were known for looking beat up because of their constant bruises and other injuries.

Yes, Al Swearengen was a pimp. Like Wyatt Earp, he was a pimp. Of course, Earp was arrested for being a pimp more than once. And yes, that fact in itself shoots down the argument that some have written me to say, "being a pimp was not seen as we do today."

Al Swearengen treated his "girls" no differently than pimps do today through a combination of intimidation and physical abuse. In his case, he was well known to have beat women. But the fact is that he also had henchmen who helped "keep the girls in line." 

While Dan Doherty acted as general manager, Johnny Burns was actually in charge of the women and several bouncers. Burns' men were said to have been as brutal to the women working there as Swearengen himself was. Yes, beating the women was said to be a common practice at Swearengen's Gem Theater.  

Besides those small details, what Hollywood didn't show its audience is how Al Swearengen lured young women who were down on their luck to Deadwood with promises of riches but then forced them into prostitution once they arrived. In fact, Al Swearengen is said to have recruited women from back East by advertising job openings in his hotel. Yes, all with the promise of making them stage performers at his theater. He would actually buy their one way ticket. And when they arrived, the women would find themselves stranded with no other choice but to work for Swearengen.

Fact is, they either worked for him or were thrown into the street. And yes, in case you're wondering how bad was it, some of those desperate women are said to have taken their own lives rather than being forced into a position of slavery.

Was it slavery? Well, yes it was. Of course no one talks about that slavery of women in prostitution in America. While some believe prostitution was a "chosen profession," and that being the case for some, to many it was a means to make a dollar as a last resort. Pimps are Slave Masters. And just as with other Slave Masters making a dollar off Irish and Black slaves, pimps didn't care if the women died or not. 

Al Swearengen got help from others who found down on their luck girls for him. One such person is said to be Martha Jane Canary. Yes, the woman known as Calamity Jane was one of his first dancers at the Gem and she is known to have lured at least 10 girls from Sidney, Nebraska, to Deadwood for Al Swearengen.

Though popular among miners, the Gem quickly gained a reputation as a violent saloon where shootings were commonplace. In fact, there is a story about Gem prostitute by the name Tricksie who shot a man in the head after she had been beaten by him. The rest of the story goes that the man didn’t die immediately and a doctor was called in. The doctor put a probe through the man’s head. It's said that the doctor was amazed that he survived the gunshot at all. Of course the man died about thirty minutes later. And no, Tricksie was never tried.

Swearengen wasn't ignorant to the ways of protecting his brothel from the general drive to clean up Deadwood. He made all sorts of political alliances with huge financial payoffs. This protected him from people like Seth Bullock who was Deadwood's first City Marshal.

Now if you're asking yourself where was City Marshal Seth Bullock while all this was going on at The Gem Theater, it's said that Bullock and Swearengen agreed to draw an imaginary line right down the middle of Main Street. The side with the Gem was referred to as the "Badlands". That was the side that was said to be controlled by Swearengen. Bullock controlled other side. Imagine that.

In the summer of 1879, The Gem Theater was damaged by a fire, but was quickly repaired and rebuilt. Some say that fire was caused by one of the prostitutes who wanted to see the place burned to the ground. Then just a few months later in September of 1879, the entire town of Deadwood suffered a huge fire that is said to have destroyed about 300 buildings. That included The Gem Theater which was again rebuilt, but this time from the ground up. The new Gem was said to be bigger when it opened in December of 1879.

Swearengen left Deadwood after the Gem burned down for the last time in 1899. That was the end of that pimp's 22 year run at owning and operating his whorehouse in Deadwood, South Dakota.

The newspapers were not kind to the Gem after it burned down. One newspaper stated, "Harrowing tales of iniquity, shame and wretchedness; of lives wrecked and fortunes sacrificed; of vice unhindered and esteem forfeited, have been related of the place, and it is known of a verity that they have not all been groundless." Another newspaper wrote calling the Gem Theater, "the ever-lasting shame of Deadwood," "a vicious institution," and a "defiler of youth and a destroyer of home ties."

After the Gem Theater burned in 1899, another fire took place about six months later. That fire destroyed the adjacent buildings to where the Gem was located. In 1921, the site became the location of Deadwood's first gas station. Today, the location of where the Gem Theater sat is now the site of the Mineral Palace Casino.

As for Al Swearengen, he left Deadwood right after the Gem burned to the ground in 1899. He is reported to have married Odelia Turgeon that same year. They divorced soon after. Then five years later on November 15th, 1904. at the age of 59, he was found dead near a streetcar track in Denver, Colorado. 

Around two months earlier, his twin brother Lemuel was killed when some unknown assailants shot him in the head. Some say they thought it was a robbery but he was not robbed. Others say Lemuel was shot because he was mistaken for his twin brother Al.

It is often said that Al Swearengen died destitute, penniless, alone. There were reports that he died while trying to hop a freight train in Denver. But although recent research doesn't address his being penniless of not, it does point to evidence that indicates that he may have been murdered.

The reason for some to think this is that an rediscovered obituary and period newspaper accounts of his death show he died in the middle of a street in suburban Denver no where near tracks where he would hop a freight train. Dead of a massive head wound. The obituary that was found states he died of blunt force trauma to the head. No one at the time was able to determine if it was murder or an accident of some sort.

So if you're wondering, I'm sure there are those who hoped that someone bashed his head in. After all, many would say he deserved it.

Tom Correa




Monday, August 14, 2017

Buffalo Bill Cody's Colt Frontier Six-Shooter


Dear Friends,

In my article Doc Holliday’s Derringer Returns To Colorado, I talked about a 1866 Remington derringer that was thought to have belonged to Doc Holliday. After I posted that article, a few of you have written to ask me about other such auctions.

The first thought that hit me was my reading about how Buffalo Bill Cody's Colt Frontier Six-Shooter was auctioned off in June of 2014. While not as juicy a story as what took place with the Doc Holliday derringer that turned out to be a fake, I think this shows the value of collectibles connected to Old West figures.

As most already know, William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was an Army scout, a buffalo hunter, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, and a showman and entertainer. He is said to have started working at the age of 11 after the death of his father. He later became a rider for the Pony Express at age of 14. At age 17, in 1863, he enlisted as a teamster with the rank of private in the Union Army. He was part of Company H, 7th Kansas Cavalry during the American Civil War and served the Union until the end of the war 1865. Later he served as a civilian Scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. As the result of what he did during one engagement in 1872, he received the Medal of Honor as a civilian Scout. 

In December of 1872, Cody was in Chicago to make his stage debut with his friend Texas Jack Omohundro in "The Scouts of the Prairie" which was one of the original Wild West shows produced by Dime Novelist Ned Buntline. In 1873, Cody asked "Wild Bill" Hickok to join him and Texas Jack in a stage play called "Scouts of the Plains". It is said that Cody relegated Hickok to secondary parts because Hickok "had a voice like a girl." Imagine that.

After almost 10 year of performing in stage shows, he founded Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1883. He took his show on tours throughout the United States. He also took his show to Great Britain and other nations in Europe in 1887.

Cody is said to have bought his Colt Frontier Six-Shooter Revolver while performing in New York City. That was in January of 1883, the firearms dealer was Hartley & Graham. He used the pistol in his Wild West Show up until it closed down in 1906.

Buffaly Bill Cody's Colt Frontier Six-Shooter sold at auction for $40,625. Part of the significance related to his Colt is that that's the same year he launched his Wild West Show. And though Cody's Colt Frontier was reported as being "unremarkable to look at," it was supposedly one of his favorites among the few firearms that he still owned at the time of his death from kidney failure at the age of 70 in 1917.

Heritage Auctions, the same people involved with the sale of the Doc Holliday derringer, stated that Cody's Colt Frontier Six-Shooter brought in $40,625. But so did Cody's bear-claw necklace.


That necklace is said to have been made from the claws of a grizzly bear. And yes, it sold at that auction for $40,625. It's also said that Sioux Chief Sitting Bull gave Cody the grizzly bear-claw necklace. 

The Dallas-based Heritage Auctions auction house sold the two pieces during its "Legends of the West Signature Auction" back in 2014. That event is said to have featured around 400 Old West collectibles which included pistols, rifles, shotguns, badges, authenticated photos and rare books.


While production of the Colt Frontier Six-Shooter started in 1877, it was a Colt 1873 "Model P" type of single action revolver. And while the report of the auction said that Bill Cody's Colt Frontier was chambered for .45 Colt, the Colt Frontier Six-shooter was actually manufactured and sold in .44-40 Winchester (WCF) caliber instead of the .45 Colt round.

Being chambered in the .44-40 round meant that it was compatible with Winchester Model 73 which took the same ammunition. Folks using the .44-40 Winchester cartridge in the Old West liked the convenience of being able to carry one caliber of ammunition which could be fired in both their revolver and rifle. The Colt Frontier Six Shooter Revolver and the Winchester Model 1873, and later the Winchester Model 1892, all three in .44-40 WCF caliber were one of the most common combinations seen back in the day. 

For example, While Wyatt Earp carried a Smith & Wesson Model 3 in his pocket at the shootout in a lot near the OK Corral, a pistol that was given to him by Mayor Clum, the shotgun that Tombstone City Marshal Virgil Earp handed to Doc Holliday is said to have been a 10 gauge double barrel coach gun that Virgil borrowed from the Wells Fargo office. 

Two of the cowboys at that shootout were armed with the .44-40 pistol and rifle combinations.  Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton were both armed with Colt Frontier single actions. Tom McLaury was said to be unarmed, but the Earps claimed he was also armed with a pistol. Tom McLaury's body was searched after the gunfight and no pistol was found. In scabbards on the horses belonging to the cowboys were 1873 Winchester rifles in .44-40 caliber. Of course the Cowboys did not get the chance to use their rifles.

There is another thing, all the guns used during the shoot out were firing black powder simply because smokeless powder wasn't invented yet. If you've shot black powder as I have, then you know real well that it makes a great deal of white smoke. So yes, visibility during that shootout must have been horrible. But for a showman like Buffalo Bill, shooting black powder must have given his Wild West Show a sense of realism that couldn't be gotten from shooting smokeless powder.

As for what was known as "Frontier Calibers", Colts in the calibers of .38-40 WCF and .32-20 WCF were also considered "Frontier Calibers" all because the 1873 and 1892 Winchester rifles were also made in those calibers. They obviously also offered a user the same convenience as the .44-40 WCF caliber did if the buyer bought a Colt and Winchester in those same calibers. 

It's name "Colt Frontier Six-Shooter" was actually acid-etched on the left side of the barrel. After 1889, the model name was roll-stamped until 1919. In 1919, the caliber designation ".44-40" was added. It's said that Colt's 1895 Bisley model was the final Colt to wear the "Frontier Six-Shooter" designation.

Yes, Buffalo Bill Cody is said to have used his Colt Frontier Six-Shooter in his Wild West Show doing shooting exhibitions up until it closed in 1906. As for provenance, a record of ownership, proving ownership, the pistol had been passed down through Cody's family until it was first sold at auction in 1988. So yes, this piece of history is well documented. 

As for other collectibles belonging to Buffalo Bill? Back in 2012, a pistol belonging to Cody, one said to have belong to him when he was a Scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars, sold for $240,000. Imagine that.

Tom Correa



Friday, August 11, 2017

Doc Holliday & The Man That's Not Him


Dear Friends,

John Escapule is not Doc Holliday. Mr. Escapule's photograph is very often mistaken as being a photo of John Henry "Doc" Holliday. And though often mistaken, the picture of John Escapule is not a picture of Doc Holliday.

Mr. Escapule was born on December 16th, 1856. His place of birth was France. He migrated to the United States from France. He settled in Tombstone in 1877, actually two years before the town was established. His first business in Arizona was when he owned the State of Maine Mine on the edge of Tombstone. He also had an assay office next to the O.K. Corral.

As for his generosity? He was known as a man who would be there for a friend and help in ever way possible those in need. His generousness also extended to the town of Tombstone as well. In fact, he donated land to the city of Tombstone. That land became the "New Cemetery" for the city of Tombstone.

It's true. Because Tombstone was growing fast and the town started to outgrow it's cemetery that we know today as Boothill, there was a need for a new cemetery. The need was answered when John Escapule donated the land. The transfer of the donated land is said to have been sealed with a handshake. That land where the Jennie Belle, Little Tom, and the New Year's Gift mining claims sat at the west end of Allen Street, was gifted to the city for the "New Cemetery" by John Escapule.

The famous Boothill, which now charges visitors $3 to enter, has about 250 people buried there. Among them is Tom and Frank McLaury, Fred White, the now famous Lester Moore. Boothill was used until late in 1884. After that, the New City Cemetery on Allen Street came into use.

It is said that most folks in Tombstone wanted their loved ones buried in the "New Cemetery". In fact, after the "New Cemetery" opened, it's said that quite a few locals living in Tombstone actually had their loved ones disinterred and moved to the "New Cemetery".

Some say the reason for their wanting their family moved had everything to do with who was buried in Boothill. It is said that many who moved their loved ones, simply didn’t like the idea that their family members would be spending eternity along side horse thieves, cattle rustlers, murderers, prostitutes, and "Chinamen".

As for other who were buried in Boothill after it closed, there are actually a few people who were buried in Boothill after 1884. Usually, they were granted special permission prior to their deaths.

Here's a couple of things that I found pretty interesting. Tombstone's Boothill Graveyard was not called "Boothill" until the 1920s when Hollywood gave it that name. Prior to the 1920s, and after 1884 when it closed, Boothill was referred to as "The Old Cemetery."

As for the condition of Boothill over the years, because a great number of residents had moved away after the mining boom went bust, there was almost no one left to tend to the graves.

Of course because Boothill was neglected for years, nature reclaimed a lot of the old cemetery over the years. And besides nature taking it over, the original wooden markers either rotted away or were used for campfires. And if you're wondering if someone would steal a grave marker, some of the wooden makers were indeed stolen by souvenir hunters.

All in all, Boothill became an overgrown garbage dump trampled by free-range cattle. This was so much the case that even former editor of the Tombstone Epitaph as well as former Tombstone Mayor John Clum was appalled by the condition of the old cemetery when he returned to Tombstone in 1929. The story goes that he went to the old cemetery to pay respects to his wife, Mary. When he could not find her grave, he is said to have became visibly distraught.

In the 1930s, some of Tombstone's remaining citizens decided that the old cemetery needed to be cleaned up. It's said they actually called on the local Boy Scouts of America, and gave them the task of clearing the brush, the trash, and other debris. It was then that people tried to recall where various individual’s graves were located.

Some were known and others weren't. As for a few of the more famous people buried in Boothill Graveyard, it is said that there is reasonable certainty that their markers are either at or near the location of their graves.

For example, China Mary was the undisputed ruler of "Hoptown" which was what townsfolk called the Chinese neighborhood in Tombstone. She was granted special permission prior to her death to be buried in Boothill in 1906. Her tombstone is believed to be the actual site of her grave. Dutch Annie was a popular madam who gave generously to many worth while causes as well as to many men who were down on their luck. She was known as the "Queen of the Red Light District." She is believed buried where her marker sits.

Fred White, Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, are supposedly buried where their headstones indicate. All five of those legally hanged for the Bisbee Massacre are buried in the old cemetery. Their graves are said to be at the approximate location where their marker sits.

As for John Escapule, in December of 1903, a couple of outlaws named Burt Alvord and Billy Stiles escaped from the Tombstone Jail and broke into Jim Rock's Dry Goods store . A young boy by the name of "Percy Bowden" was asleep in the store when Alvord and Stiles broke in.

The outlaws held the boy hostage while they robbed the store. And after fleeing the scene, the outlaws actually stopped at John Escapule's ranch to steal two of his horses to help them make their getaway.

John Escapule died on October 11th, 1926. He died of Stomach Cancer. He was buried on October 12th, 1926. At the time of his death in 1926, he was known as a retired Cattleman.

So as you can see, John Escapule is not Doc Holliday. And though Mr. Escapule's photograph is mistaken as being a photo of Doc Holliday, the picture of John Escapule is not a picture of Doc Holliday.

John Henry "Doc" Holliday is buried in Colorado. John Escapule is buried in the "New Cemetery" in Tombstone, Arizona. Yes, the very land that he himself donated to the city of Tombstone.

Tom Correa





Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Doc Holliday’s Derringer Returns To Colorado


Dear Friends,

Back on March 9th, of this year, 2017, an article was published talking about how Doc Holliday’s derringer was return to Glenwood, Colorado. The story talked about how the Glenwood Springs Historical Society's Frontier Museum bought the derringer for $84,000.

The backstory story about the pistol is that it was supposedly in his room when Holliday died. On the back strap of the derringer one can clearly read the inscription, "To Doc from Kate".

Of course "Kate" is none other than "Big Nose Kate". Though many knew here by her famous nickname, her name was in fact Mary Katherine Horony. She is believed to have been born on November 7th, 1850 and died on November 2nd, 1940. Yes, just five days short of her 90th birthday.

She was a Hungarian-born prostitute. She was also the longtime companion and supposed "common-law" wife of Doc Holliday. The two supposedly met in Texas in 1877 and remained involved in one way or another until his death in 1887.
Some sources list her as Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings because she married Irish blacksmith George Cummings in Aspen, Colorado, on March 2nd, 1890. It is said that they worked a number of mining camps throughout Colorado before moving to Bisbee, Arizona, where she briefly ran a bakery. Then while living in Willcox, Arizona, George Cummings is said to have become an abusive alcoholic. Soon enough that they separated.

As for Cummings, he committed suicide in Courtland, Arizona, in 1915. As for Kate, she died of a heart attack a few days short of her 90th birthday. She was buried on November 6th, 1940, under the name "Mary K. Cummings" in the Arizona Pioneer Home Cemetery in Prescott, Arizona.

Among the things that I find fascinating about Big Nose Kate is that she claimed that Doc Holliday wasn't the first dentist that she supposedly married. She claimed that while living in St. Louis, Missouri, that she married a dentist named Silas Melvin. And they, supposedly had a son. Both her husband and her son, she claimed died of yellow fever. 

Of course, as with many claims made by folks back then, no one has been able to produce a record to substantiate her marriage to Melvin, the birth of a child, or even the deaths of both. Then there's the story that a Silas Melvin did in fact live in St. Louis about the same time, but he was married to a steamship captain's daughter. So really, who knows if Kate was telling the truth or just making up a story. 

We do know that are records showing her as working as a prostitute for madam Blanch Tribole in St. Louis in 1869, And we know that Big Nose Kate was fined while working as a " sporting woman" in a whorehouse in Dodge City, Kansas, in 1874. That brothel was run by Nellie "Bessie" Earp who was the wife of James Earp and Sally Heckell who was the wife of Wyatt Earp.

In 1876, Big Nose Kate moved to Fort Griffin, Texas. And in 1877, that's where she met Doc Holliday. Because she worked as a prostitute for Bessie Earp, it is believed that she actually knew Wyatt Earp before Doc Holliday did. And in fact, it is said that Big Nose Kate actually introduced Doc Holliday to Wyatt Earp in Fort Griffin in 1877. 

But there is also the story about how, in October of 1877, Wyatt Earp was given a temporary commission as Deputy U.S. Marshal to track down outlaw Dave Rudabaugh who had robbed a Sante Fe Railroad construction camp. According to Wyatt Earp, Rudabaugh fled south and he left Dodge City to chase down Rudabaugh. According to Earp, he chased Rudabaugh for over 400 miles.

At one point, Earp arrived at Fort Griffin, Texas. Earp supposedly went to the Bee Hive Saloon owned by Earp's friend John Shanssey. The story goes that Shanssey told Earp that Rudabaugh had passed through town earlier in the week. Supposedly Dave Rudabaugh, who was on the run, stopped there and played cards with Holliday. After Shanssey introduced Earp to Doc Holliday. Holliday told Earp that Rudabaugh headed back up into Kansas. So contrary to Big Nose Kate's claim, Wyatt Earp told his biographer that Shanssey introduced Wyatt Earp to Doc Holliday. As to which story is true? Who knows. 

In 1887, Doc Holliday was living in the Hotel Glenwood near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It is said that as he lay there dying, that Holliday asked an attending nurse for a shot of whiskey. After she refused, the legend goes that he looked at his bare feet, and said his last words, "This is funny."

John Henry "Doc" Holliday died in his room at the Hotel Glenwood at 10am on November 8th, 1887. He was 36. As for Wyatt Earp, he did not find out about Holliday's death until months later. 

Fact is after Wyatt Earp's now famous vendetta came to an end, he and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday and the other members of the posse were faced with warrants for the murder of Frank Stilwell. So the group fled Arizona Territory for New Mexico Territory and then to Colorado. 

As for Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, it's said they had an argument that had them part ways in Albuquerque. The story on that goes to a letter written by former New Mexico Territory Governor Miguel Otero. According to Governor Otero, Earp and Holliday were eating at Fat Charlie's The Retreat Restaurant in Albuquerque in early April 1882 "when Doc Holliday said something about Earp becoming 'a damn Jew-boy.' "

Supposedly, Earp got angry, got up, and left. The argument between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday was said to be over Earp staying with a friend Henry N. Jaffa there in Albuquerque. Jaffa was a prominent businessman, Jewish, and the president of New Albuquerque’s Board of Trade. Earp is said to have observed Jewish traditions while staying in Jaffa’s home. Traditions that Earp learned in his relationship with Josephine "Sadie" Marcus who was Jewish. This is what supposedly led Holliday to say his friend was becoming "a damn Jew-boy."

Legend has it that Doc Holliday survived being ambushed on five different occasions. And while that in itself seems unbelievable, it is also said that there were four attempts made to hang him in the 17 times that he was arrested. One of the last times that he was arrested came about on May 15th, 1882.

That was when Holliday was arrested in Denver, Colorado, on the still outstanding warrant for his involvement in the murder of Frank Stilwell in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson Justice of the Peace Charles Meyer issued arrest warrants for Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster, and "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, for the murder of Frank Stilwell in Tucson on March 20th, 1882.

The Earp "vendetta posse" said that they spotted Frank Stilwell and Ike Clanton hiding among the railroad cars, apparently getting reading to ambush and kill Virgil Earp. Of course, no one really talks about the fact that Stilwell and Clanton were at the train station meeting a third person who was also ordered to appear in front of the Grand Jury there in Tucson.

After killing Frank Stilwell, the Earp posse fled the scene. Stilwell's body was found at dawn alongside the railroad tracks. The Earp posse, all deputized by then Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp, were all in on shooting Stilwell. Even though Wyatt Earp later said that he himself killed Stilwell using his shotgun, Upon examination Stilwell's body was found to have been shot several times with buckshot as well as multiple caliber pistols and rifles rounds.

So less than two months later when Doc Holliday was arrested on May 15th, even though they had a falling out, Wyatt Earp is said to have been concerned that Holliday would not face a fair trial in Arizona. Some say he was actually concerned about his own participation in the murder of Stilwell, and how Holliday's extradition would open the door to his own extradition. It is reasoned that he may have been concerned that once one of his infamous posse were there to be tried, that his friends in political office wouldn't be able to stop he himself from being extradited back to Arizona to face murder charges.

Either way, while not wanting to be shown as taking a hand in stopping the extradition of Holliday, Wyatt Earp asked his old friend Bat Masterson, who was then the Police Chief of Trinidad, Colorado, to help get Holliday released to his custody instead of being shipped back to Arizona. To do this, Bat Masterson came up with the idea of fabricating fake bunco charges against Holliday to keep him in Colorado.

Within two weeks of his arrest was Holliday's extradition hearing. That was the hearing which would determine if he should be returned to Arizona to face charges on murder. That hearing was set for May 30th. But on the night of May 29th, Bat Masterson sought help from his friend Colorado Governor Frederick Walker Pitkin.

Governor Pitkin was not available at first, so Masterson is reported to have contacted E.D. Cowen who was with the Denver Tribune newspaper. Cowen called Pitkin. Then Pitkin is said to have looked at the case and reasoned that the Arizona extradition papers for Holliday "contained faulty legal language," and that there was already a Colorado warrant out for Holliday which of course were the bunco charges that Bat Masterson had faked. With that, Colorado Governor Pitkin refused to honor Arizona's extradition request.

As indirect as it was, that was the last dealings that Wyatt Earp had with Doc Holliday.  As for the last time they saw each other, a few years later, it is said that Holliday met up with Earp one last time in 1886 while passing each other in the lobby of the Windsor Hotel in Gunnison, Colorado. 

So understanding that Earp and Holliday did not see each other for years before his death, just goes to show that Earp's anger over Holliday's Jewish remarks were more serious than some thought. And knowing this, it is understandable how Wyatt Earp did not find out about Holliday's death until months later. 

As for Big Nose Kate's claim that she attended to Doc Holiday in his final days there at the Hotel Glenwood? Most believe that she wasn't with him at the time.


As for Doc Holliday's derringer? 

The Glenwood Springs Historical Society board authorized the $84,000 purchase of Doc Holliday's derringer. Which, as stated earlier, is said to have been in Holliday's Hotel Glenwood room where he died November 8th, 1887. The Glenwood Springs Historical Society bought the pistol with the hopes that it will boost the town's reputation as an Old West tourist stop. In March of this year, 2017, at the time of the purchase, the gun was said to have being kept in a safe-deposit box.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba stated, "Doc Holiday is a very important character in the history of Glenwood Springs, and we are extremely excited that this piece of history will return to the city where he spent his final days. Along with visiting the cemetery where he is buried, we have no doubt that this will be yet one more attraction that will draw visitors to Glenwood Springs."

Marianne Virgili, president and CEO of the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association, said in an email, "This is great news. Our visitors are certainly intrigued by history, and Doc Holliday is our most well-known frontier resident, so this precious piece of memorabilia will go a long way in positioning us as a historic Western town."

Historian R.W. Boyle spoke of the gun's authenticity, stating. "The gun is real. There's no doubt the gun is real." But could he have been wrong? Doc Holliday historian R.W. Boyle examined the gun and the affidavit, and declared the gun authentic. But Boyle may have been dubbed.

It is believed that Big Nose Kate bought the 1866 Remington derringer as a gift for Holliday while they were in Tombstone, Arizona. It's one of several Holliday items to have sold in recent years, including a flask which went for $130,000, and a shotgun believed to have been Holliday's which sold for $200,000.

The derringer is believed to have been one of few possessions in the hotel room when he died. But the hotel burned down in 1945. Hotel bartender William G. Wells got the derringer as partial payment for Holliday's funeral. It remained in the Wells family until Utah gun dealer E. Dixon Larson purchased it in 1968.

But wait! There is a good chance that the folks at Glenwood Springs Historical Society may have been cheated out of $84,000 for the cost of the gun because it may be a fake. It seems that the whole story was made up by Larson.

"We all love a good story. Weave a tale of Big Nose Kate gifting a Remington derringer to Doc Holliday that's next to impossible to prove or disprove," Glenwood Springs Historical Society Executive Director Bill Kight wrote, "A man's reputation is judged by one's words and actions. The historical society tried hard to do just that, to peer into Dixon Larson's past."

An affidavit from the 1968 sale was the first documentation of the derringer. The 1968 affidavit signed by Larson and an unknown notary public appears to be the source of the story about the derringer being in Holliday's hotel room when he died. As a result, the historical society now questions the origins of Holliday's derringer. 

Is the gun real? Was the 1968 affidavit doctored? Did Dixon Larson make up the entire story?

Glenwood Springs Historical Society Executive Director Bill Kight said the society contacted both Remington and a gun expert in Cody, Wyoming, prior to the purchase. The Remington's expert was unavailable. The man in Cody couldn't evaluate the weapon without an examination. The gun's owner Jason Brierley had set a two-month deadline for the purchase because of an impending move. So with that deadline approaching, the Glenwood Springs Historical Society board moved ahead with the purchase.

The gun was said to be part of an exhibit at the Glenwood Springs Historical Society's Frontier Museum. The society hoped that the pistol would have lead to more museum loans of more Holliday paraphernalia. This will hopefully increase the museum's visibility to the public, especially those who are interested in Doc Holliday and Old West history. It will be interesting to find a definitive answer if the gun is a fake or not. Right now, it looks like it is.

Now, though there are all all sorts of con games going on out there, no one should underestimate the value of guns and other paraphernalia belonging to Old West figures of interest. For example, back in November of 2013, it was reported that famous trick shooter Annie Oakley’s shotgun sold for $293,000 at an auction in Dallas, Texas.
The 16-gauge Parker Brothers Hammer shotgun, that once belonged to famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley, was sold to a collector by Heritage Auctions. And while the shotgun once owned by one of America's most famous Old West sharpshooters sold for $293,000, please understand that a personal gold charm bracelet once owned by Annie Oakley also went up for auction. Her gold charm bracelet sold for $250,000.

Imagine that.

Tom Correa


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Cattle Town Myth


Dear Friends,

I recently had someone write to tell me that I should be ashamed to call myself a "Cowboy." As he put it, "Cowboys were criminals and killers in Old West cattle towns like Tombstone." He also told me that "Cowboys were responsible for all of the gun violence in the Old West."

So before we talk about cowboys and cattle towns, let me just remind him that Tombstone was not a cattle town. No, it was not a cow town at all. It was a boom town because of a silver strike there. It was a silver mining town. 

As for Arizona cattle ranchers and their cowboys, they fed the folks in Tombstone the exact same way they fed the U.S. Army and other towns in Arizona. All fed with needed beef. 

As for the outlaw gang known as the "cowboys" in Tombstone, Arizona, at the time of the shootout in the lot near the OK Corral? Well, those guys were not "cowboys." Those were gunman, outlaws, cattle rustlers, horse and mule thieves, bandits, stage robbers, killers, and such.  

Those were not "cowboys" in that they did not work cattle, they did not rotate pastures, gather, sort, breed, mark, cut, or brand cattle other then with a "running iron" which is used by rustlers. They did not fix fences, make sure a herd had water, cull the bad ones, look after the sick or the ones that had a hard time calving, keep track of the numbers of head they have, or prevent Mexicans from coming across the border to steal them, Indians from stealing them, people like themselves from stealing them. They did not do what "cowboys" do for a living.

They were called "cowboys," yet the closest thing to being cowboys that they did was ride horses and herd cattle every now and then. For them, they herded other people's cattle because they stole them. Whether it was from Mexico or a neighbor, the "cowboy" gang in Tombstone were rustlers and a gang of outlaws. 

As for cattle towns, also known as "cow towns," they were towns that were formed because cowboys brought cattle to them to ship. Those towns were build to cater to the cattle industry, and subsequently those who work in the cattle industry and any supporting industry like the railroad or stores and such. The economies of cattle towns, those communities, were established and dependent on the seasonal cattle drives from Texas. They survived because of the cowboys and the cattle.

Fairly recently I received a letter from a man who said that he read one of my articles on Cowboys. He wrote to tell me that it was his belief that "Old West towns, especially those in Kansas, would have been fine if it were not for cowboys and cattle." He went on to tell me how "cattle ruin the land and are still doing so today, only buffalo should be allowed to graze because they are historically correct."

I wrote him back asking him what's the difference between bovine in the millions before we got here, and bovine here today? Yes, bison and cattle. Both are bovine hoofed animals. Bison had thousands of years to destroy the American prairie but they didn't. Plains bison eat grass and wildflowers and weeds and step on plants and fertilize the soil as they go. Cattle do the same. Both are bovine hoofed animals. They do the same thing to the land and nature didn't mind it for thousands of years when mainly only bison did it. 

I also asked him if he understood that cattle towns were found at the junctions of railroads and cattle trails where they sold stuff to cowboys, railroad workers, and other industry connected with the cattle industry? The towns were the destination of the cattle drives. They were the place where the cattle were bought to and shipped from. There were towns that dried up and blew away after the gold and silver booms went bust, but many of the cattle towns in Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota have survived because of cattle and farming.  

The Abilene Trail was a cattle trail leading from Texas to Abilene, Kansas. That was the first cattle town. The trail is believed to have crossed the Red River just east of Henrietta, Texas, and continued north across what was known as Indian Territory, modern day Oklahoma, to Caldwell, Kansas and on past Wichita and Newton, then finally ending in Abilene. 

It is believed that the first herds to have been driven over the Abilene Trail were in 1866. It was called something else at the time, and I couldn't find what it was called. It wasn't named the "Abilene Trail" until later when the town of Abilene was actually established in 1867. 

It was a major market for Texas cattle in 1867. The town of Abilene was a prosperous cattle town, that is until farmers and local ranchers took over all of its ranges that were used for free grazing. But Abilene didn't dry up and blow away, the reason they didn't is because farmers and local ranchers were there for the long haul and not just there for a quick buck as was the case with most mining boom towns. 

Some say Dime Novels made cattle towns famous by writing about rowdy cowboys, outlaws, gamblers, and the steadfast lawmen who kept everything under control. Those depictions were very much an exaggeration. But along with a bunch of dead outlaws in every Dime Novel, the myth has endured.  

As for violence, the cow towns were certainly known as being pretty rough. And yes, some saw some violent deaths during the cattle boom from 1866 to 1887. But while a great number of people imagine the Old West was just a free-for-all when it came to guns and killings in cattle towns, fact is many cow towns like Abilene had extremely strict rules regarding the carrying of firearms when in town. Most all of the towns hired lawmen to enforce city ordinances against the carrying of guns. Some lawmen enforced the law fairly and included everyone. Other lawmen enforced them against the cowboys coming into town, but looked the other way for some townsfolk or their friends. 

Drovers came there looking for work or simply stayed after a long drive. Some of them had been successful cowboys, hard working, and legitimate as the day is long. Some were drovers who signed on for that drive or only a season. And of course there were the others who most knew were somehow on the run, or simply drifters. They didn't talk about their past, and really no one pressed them for information.

Somehow, maybe a little too conveniently, a great number of writers and folks in Hollywood today have forgotten other aspects of what happened at the end of cattle drives. What I'm talking about are things like hiking prices 100% when the cattle drive is spotted a few miles out of town. And let's not forget the merchants with two different prices for the same article of clothing, or the same saddle, or the same pair of boots, or the same hat, or the same meal, one for townsfolk and one for cowboys. Most of the time that was done unbeknownst to the cowboys, but the townies knew.

So no, make no mistake about it, in many cases the town's people were not innocent little lambs. For example, how about those cattle towns where the saloons, restaurants, mercantiles, and other businesses wouldn't allow Black and Mexican cowboys to come into their establishment, nevertheless serve them. Since one out of every four cowboys were said to have been Black or Mexican, that's a whole lot of drovers that were having the doors slammed in their faces by those nice townsfolk.

Some cowboys were gun toters, there's no doubt about that. Just as there were those who set bad examples and encouraged other hands to do the stupid and break a local law. And yes, because most were just teenagers, some cowboys enjoyed games like "Harass the Citizen" or "Shoot Up The Town."

But frankly, contrary to popular myth, while some of these rowdies were from Texas, they were also from other places as well. No, not all Texas cowboys were rowdies. And certainly, it wasn't only the cowboys who were the rowdies in cow towns. Fact is, they had locals who liked stirring the pot and getting things going. For example, while people demonize the working cowboy who wanted a drink and dance with a pretty dance hall lady, no one talks about how the town's local toughs would beat a cowboy senseless. All it would take was for one of them to catch a young cowboy just looking at a local gal in town. And no, not a whole lot of people talk about how most lawmen would look the other way when things like that happened to drovers.

As for the gambling halls using marked decks, weighted roulette wheels, and crooked dealers, that was not out of the ordinary. Crooked gambling joints were rigged with the latest in how to steal from unsuspecting cowboys known as "suckers." Many a "sucker" was distracted by saloon girls who would get their cut of the action, just so a sneaky dealer could palm a card. And of course, let's not forget the local law who in many cases were getting a percentage of the house. They had a vested interest in the making sure losers didn't act up.

As for the cowboy, he didn't stand a chance of keeping his hard earned money. And if a cowboy actually won, he stood a good chance of getting rolled in a back alley by employees of the same joint that he was just in.

And please, let's not forget cattle towns where cowboys were buffaloed, pistol whipped, by local lawmen just to make a statement. Many did it just to make an example as a message so that the rest of a crew would think twice about getting out of line.

And by the way, it is amazing how many more arrests you can get from a local police officer when you make quotas and set bounties. The bounties that I'm talking about are the ones that lawmen got for making more arrests. It was when the mayor or sheriff raises the amount of money that a deputy will be paid per arrest, whether a cowboy had broken the law or not. And yes, it is even more amazing how many towns used arrests for violating city ordinances that only pertained to cowboys. Ordinances that were posted but taked down after the drovers left. Fact is, some towns used court fines from cowboys to fill their town's coffers.

While not all towns, or their administrations were like that, people don't mention just how unfriendly some of those towns really were. Fact is, there were towns that cattle drives purposely tried to avoid because they were just too unfriendly. At first that was tough, but after Ellsworth and Wichita replaced Abilene as being important to the cattle drives in 1872, Trail Bosses had a choice.

These two towns found themselves on rival railroads and competed for the cattle trade. In 1875, both Ellsworth and Wichita lost access to the cattle trails because of more farmers and local ranchers staking claims around the towns. Then in 1876, Dodge City became the major cattle town and jump off point. Caldwell was also a railhead in 1880. Both towns were closed to the cattle drives when Kansas outlawed the importation of Texan cattle in 1885.

It is said that shipping price gouging made Texas cattlemen angry with the Kansas Pacific Railroad. So instead of using them, those same cattlemen found lower prices with the Union Pacific in Nebraska a lot easier to swallow. Soon what used to be the cattle trails into Kansas and Nebraska were being flooded with settlers, farmers and local cattle ranchers. The first cattle town in Nebraska was Schuyler in 1870, but settlers flooded into that area so fast that it forced cattlemen to find another town to ship from. That town was Kearney. But after the same thing happened there as what took place in Schuyler, Ogallala became Nebraska's cowboy capital n 1873. Denver, Colorado was known as the "cow town of the Rockies". In Wyoming there was Cheyenne, and in Montana there was Miles City. In South Dakota there was Belle Fourche, and in North Dakota there was Medora. All were cattle towns.

So yes, there were towns that Trail Bosses avoided because those towns were seen as unfriendly and dangerous places where cowboys were treated like second class citizens, ripped off, cheated, beat up, and made to feel less than others around them.

When the towns grew and drew settlers, many who lived within the surrounding area opposed the cattle drives. The two groups who wanted the cattlemen gone were the farmers who feared the trampling of their crops as well as an influx of Texas fever which is a disease spread by ticks that live on the Texas Longhorn cattle. While Texas Longhorns have a natural immunity to it, it's nearly 100% fatal among other breeds of cattle. So their concerns were understandable. But the second group were townsfolk who were against the number of saloons going up, the gambling, and of course the prostitution. This group is usually referred to as the "respectful" people in town.

It is said that those "respectful" people "had to endure the rowdiness of the cowboys because they wanted the town to survive until they could find an economic alternative to the money that the cowboys brought in." But isn't that what soiled doves did? You know the gal in the brothels. That's what they were doing. They were just taking money and enduring it until a better offer comes along.

I read where some writer said that "cattle towns are remembered today as some of the most dangerous places on earth." That they were filled with outlaws and cowboys, and that both outlaws and cowboys were one and the same. That shootouts took place daily and bodies were stacked at the Undertaker's like cordwood.  

In fact this was not the case at all. Probably because of the increase presence of the law, cattle towns actually had lower homicide rates than non-cattle towns and cities in the East. While they may have been rowdier than some other towns, except for mining boom towns, they were not the breeding ground of crime and violence that many claim.

So yes, I had a man write me recently to tell me that I should be ashamed to call myself a "Cowboy", and another write me to say that cattle were the problem with cow towns. Imagine that.

Cowboys were usually positive thinking, good spirited, young men with "can do" attitudes who were usually looked down upon by townsfolk who wanted their money after months on the trail. Fact is, being a cowboy in the 1800s was a thankless grueling job. And yes, it took a special person to do what they did. Those young men were rawhide tough. It was not a job for a dude from the city. 

Tom Correa