Sunday, June 24, 2018

They Kept Great Notes In The Old West

I've had a number of people take me to task over my searching old newspapers and court and county records for information when writing my articles. Some tell me that newspapers can't be trusted. And frankly, when it comes to the reporting of things such as the Cowboy faction versus the Earp faction by the Tombstone Epitaph, I agree 100%. Some newspapers were as biased back then as they are today.

But aside from that aspect of what was reported, some folks simply don't want to acknowledge that folks in the Old West kept great notes on most everything from who was visiting who, to who bought who's prize winning bull, to Aunt so and so is visiting so and so, was actually written about. And make no mistake about it, if something happened, especially such as a shooting or a brawl or a robbery, and especially if it involved some noted gunman, it's just about a sure bet that you can find it in an old newspaper somewhere. If its not, than the odds are against it ever happening.

Below is a sample of some of the things carried in a newspaper. I found it interesting that this was what they considered newsworthy at the time.


Daring Attempt at Robbery Early Last Evening ON WALNUT STREET BRIDGE

The Footpads Escape, But Are Pursued With Bloodhounds One Man Brought to Bay Under the Buena Vista Street Bridge -- A Nervy Real Estate Agent. 

A bold attempt at highway robbery was made last evening at the Walnut Street bridge, East Los Angeles, a buggy containing two women being held up by a couple of young toughs. Before securing any plunder, however, the footpads were frightened away by the screams of the terror-stricken women, and made good their escape. [Footpad is defined as "a highwayman operating on foot rather than riding a horse."]

Later on a fellow was captured hiding under the Buena Vista Street bridge, and is now locked up in the city Jail on suspicion. 

Shortly before 7 o'clock, Mrs. Fraley and daughter were on their way toward the city, intending to pay a visit to some friend's. Just as they drove onto the bridge over the river at Walnut Street, two young men, roughly dressed and with the dirty, unkempt appearance of tramps, jumped toward the carriage, threatening the occupants with death if they made any outcry. 

Instead of keeping silence, Mrs. Fraley screamed at the top of her voice, and was rewarded by hearing the footsteps of someone hurrying to the rescue. The highwaymen heard them too and hastily dodged back into the shadow, jumped down into the river bed and disappeared. 

The person who appealed upon the scene at such an opportune time was R. Doyle, a real estate agent whose office is on South Broadway and who resides in Glendale. He was on his way home and had just reached the eastern end of the bridge when he heard the shrieks of the frightened women. 

On coining up he was told of what had occurred, and at once acted. Mrs. Fraley was told to drive to the East Side Station and notify the police officers, while Doyle went to the residence of John Belt near by. 

Belt keeps a pack of hounds, which have more than once been used for trailing fugitives, and the dogs were at once taken out and placed on the scent. They picked up the trail immediately and started off straight down to the river bed. The tracks ran for some distance and then separated. 

One of the men had evidently crossed through the water, wading so as to throw the hounds off the scent. The dogs were baffled for a time, but were taken over, and after casting about above and below where the trail had been lost, two of them found it and were off again. Soon their excited braying told that the game had been run down was in eight. When the pursuers came up the dogs were found to have a young hobo about 19 years old cornered under the Buena Vista street bridge. 

Doyle placed the fellow under arrest and closely questioned him. His name was given as Mike Veite and he positively denied having been engaged in any hold-up, or that he had been near the Walnut Street bridge. 

His shoes and trousers were wet and muddy, however, showing that he had been wading In the river, and in general description he tallied with the would-be robbers. Veite attempted to explain his wet and muddy feet by saying that he was washing himself in the river, although he failed to say why he should keep his shoes on while bathing his feet. 

The prisoner was brought to the police station at 9 oclock by Mr. Doyle searched and booked. Detectives were sent to the scene and made a thorough search for the other man, but within a late hour no trace of him had been discovered. The bold attempt of the robbers if the more, audacious when the hour of the hold-up is considered, and the fact that it occurred on the Pan Fernando Road which is one of the most frequently traveled highways leading into the city. 


Petty Offenders Have Their Cases Quickly Disposed Of. 

On a charge of forgery L. J. Laird, who was a couple of days ago brought back to this city from San Francisco, was yesterday arraigned in the police court. 

Examination was set for today and bonds were fixed in the sum of $1,500. Mary Connolly was tried before Justice Rossiter on a petty larceny charge of having stolen a calico wrapper from a line where it was drying in the yard of Lew Sing's wash house on Los Angeles Street. 

The Chinamen did some tall swearing, notwithstanding which Mrs. Connolly was found not guilty and discharged. Once again the old offender, Nellie I Martinez, showed up in court, this time on a charge of disturbing the peace of a woman in the Buena Vista house by fighting and quarreling. Nellie was arrested on a warrant, pleaded not guilty, and trial was set for this afternoon at 4 o'clock. 

The concluding arguments in the misdemeanor case against F. D. Black, accused of selling pools on horse races arid book-making. In violation of law, were to have been heard, but on motion it was ordered that the matter be submitted on briefs, which will be filed within a few days. 

Justice Owens rendered his decision in the old disturbance of the peace charge against L. D. Ham, finding the defendant guilty and ordering his appearance on Friday to receive sentence. 

Conclusion of the hearing of Eugene Gamier on a similar complaint went over until Saturday afternoon at 2:30. Frank Burk arrested several nights ago for drunkenness and carrying a concealed weapon, appeared in court and entered a plea of not guilty to the charge. Today at 1:30 the case will be placed on the calendar for trial. 

John Bryan, now doing fifty days on the chain gang for drunkenness, was arraigned for disturbance of the peace. Admitted at the time he was possessed of his jug. A plea of not guilty was entered and Saturday was set for trial. 

Floaters of thirty days each were given to Frank Libbey and J. H. Fitzgerald, vagrants arrested for sleeping in boxcars. With the disposal of a lot of drunks, the dockets were cleared for the day. 


Lively row on First Street ended in court. Charge of battery preferred by one E. B. Stork. Lyman H. Washburn, manager of the Washburn Land Company, with offices at 115 West First Street, was arrested yesterday afternoon by Officer Sparks and escorted to the police court. 

The trouble between Stork and Washburn grew out of business difficulties. Stork has been employed by the man, he had arrested and has been sleeping in the office. Yesterday morning he started to move out, bag and baggage and had a portion of the furniture on the sidewalk when Washburn came upon the scene. 

Hot words ensued, finally ending in blows. Stork claims that Washburn, who is a cripple, struck him over the head — with his wooden arm, while on the other hand Mr. Washburn denies that he hit Stork at all, but says his son stepped in and did it for him. 

At any rate Stork came to the police headquarters in a bruised condition and, seeking out Deputy District Attorney James, secured a complaint, swore to it in the police court and caused the arrest. 

Washburn was arraigned before Justice Rossiter, pleaded not guilty, had trial set for this afternoon and was released on his own recognizance. 


Mrs. Madigan of Burbank, an elderly woman Inclined to embonpoint, drove into the city yesterday to do some shopping, accompanied by her son by a former husband, Frank White. While driving along Broadway near the corner of First Street at 2:15 in the afternoon, their rig was smashed into by a runaway horse attached to a plumber's wagon. 

Mrs. Madigan and her boy were sent flying alighting on the paved street with more force than dignity. The youth was unhurt, but Mrs. Madigan was taken to the receiving hospital, where it was found that she was only bruised. After an hour's rest, she was able to leave. The runaway horse was captured before further damage had been done. 


Ever since the police inaugurated their crusade upon property owners who rented buildings to Chinese to be used as lottery dens, and thus drove the Celestials out, few arrests have been made of lottery ticket sellers, for the very good reason that few joints were running. 

A few of the heathen are plucking up courage, however, and starting in again on the sly. Yesterday two of them, Ah Sing and Ah Bow, were surprised in the act of selling tickets, were arrested and sent to Jail. Ball of $25 each was soon put up by their friends and they were released, to appear in court today for arraignment." 

-- the above sample was from a Los Angeles Newspaper, December 3rd 1896.

As we can see from the last article, con artists were a problem which the city had set aside a great deal of resources to address. Among those con artists were some very dangerous men.

As for some of the things that I find very interesting in the old newspapers, I like the way they reported things back in the day. For example, in this last article, they say, "A few of the heathen ..." Can you imagine a newspaper calling anyone a "heathen" today? It just wouldn't happen!

Besides such reports as the police and court reports, their local papers were full of what we today call "Social Media". I've included some below so can see it for yourself.

 Fact is, people back in the day wrote about everything. One of my great go to sources for information about the California Gold Rush in the area that I live in is a local man who charted his family's history here.

He copied a great number of the newspaper articles in the Calaveras County archives, and pasted them in book form in chronological order. Initially it was simply an effort to chronicle his family life in these parts. But in effect, he listed down just about everything that was reported in local newspapers here from 1860 and into the 20th century.

His books are copied news clippings of shooting, visitors, wagon wrecks, mining accidents, horrible accidents, great funny stories, and much more. From who was in the camp visiting who to who was hanged. His work proves that they kept great notes back in the Old West, no matter how many people want to deny it. 

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa

Saturday, June 16, 2018

How Can The FBI Be Trusted?

Dear Friends, 

In a conversation with a friend lately, we talked about the June 2018 Inspector General's Report which condemned the corruption, the bias, the criminal actions, and the political motivated conspiratorial acts of the FBI. 

In our conversation, we wondered why no one in the FBI has yet to be arrested or at the least fired? We came to the conclusion there will be no arrests because of the political connections and protections from those in charge at the FBI. Most Americans are today learning that those in charge of the FBI don't want to do their job and clean house like they should. 

Since the FBI, and the Department of Justice, and members of Congress, are protecting the actions of the crooked in that federal agency, my friend and I were curious as to just how corrupt could they really be? 

How much bias and looking the other way takes place there simply because members hate President Donald Trump and have openly worked for the Democratic Party today and in 2016 while wanted to see Hillary Clinton become president? 

Of course, the big question is just how corrupt is the FBI since they do so many things pertaining to the lives of everyday Americans? Yes, us "middle class, uneducated, lazy pieces of shit" Americans as people in the FBI have called us. Yes, Hillary's "Deplorables" which the FBI seems to loathe as well.  

According to the FBI, "In 1908, Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte issued an Order creating an investigative agency within the Department of Justice. The Order was confirmed in 1909 by Attorney General George W. Wickersham, who ordered the establishment of the Bureau of Investigation. The present name, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was designated by Congress in 1935."

According to the FBI's Mission Statement on its website, they state:

"The mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners; and to perform these responsibilities in a manner that is responsive to the needs of the public and is faithful to the Constitution of the United States."

According to the FBI, their priorities are to:
  1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack;
  2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage;
  3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes;
  4. Combat public corruption at all levels;
  5. Protect civil rights;
  6. Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises;
  7. Combat major white-collar crime;
  8. Combat significant violent crime;
  9. Support federal, state, county, municipal, and international partners; and to
  10. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's mission.
According to them, the functions of the FBI are to:
  1. Conduct professional investigations and authorized intelligence collection to identify and counter the threat posed by domestic and international terrorists and their supporters within the United States, and to pursue extraterritorial criminal investigations to bring the perpetrators of terrorist acts to justice. In furtherance of this function, the FBI designs, develops, and implements counter-terrorism initiatives which enhance the FBI’s ability to minimize the terrorist threat.
  2. Conduct counterintelligence activities and coordinate counterintelligence activities of other agencies in the intelligence community within the United States. (Executive Order 12333 includes international terrorist activities in its definition of counterintelligence.)
  3. Coordinate the efforts of U.S. Government agencies and departments in protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure by identifying and investigating criminal and terrorist group intrusions through physical and cyber attacks.
  4. Investigate violations of the laws of the United States and collect evidence in cases in which the United States is or may be a party in interest, except in cases in which such responsibility is by statute or otherwise specifically assigned to another investigative agency.
  5. Locate and apprehend fugitives for violations of specified federal laws and, when so requested, state and local fugitives pursuant to federal statutory authority.
  6. Conduct professional investigations to identify, disrupt, and dismantle existing and emerging criminal enterprises whose activities affect the United States. 
  7. Address international criminal organizations and terrorist groups, which threaten the American people and their property, through expanded international liaison and through the conduct of extraterritorial investigations as mandated by laws and Executive Orders.
  8. Gather, analyze and assess information and intelligence of planned or committed criminal acts.
  9. Establish and implement quality outreach programs that will ensure FBI and community partnerships and sharing.
  10. Conduct personnel investigations requisite to the work of the Department of Justice and whenever requiredd by statute or otherwise.
  11. Establish and conduct law enforcement training programs and conduct research to provide assistance to state and local law enforcement personnel.
  12. Participate in interagency law enforcement initiatives which address crime problems common to federal/state/local agencies.
  13. Develop new approaches, techniques, systems, equipment and devices to improve and strengthen law enforcement and assist in conducting state, local and international law enforcement training programs.
  14. Provide timely and relevant criminal justice information and identification services concerning individuals, stolen property, criminal organizations and activities, crime statistics, and other law enforcement related data, not only to the FBI, but to qualified law enforcement, criminal justice, civilian, academic, employment, licensing, and firearms sales organizations.
  15. Operate the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory not only to serve the FBI, but also to provide, without cost, technical and scientific assistance, including expert testimony in federal or local courts, for all duly constituted law enforcement agencies, other organizational units of the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies; and to provide identification assistance in mass disasters and for other humanitarian purposes.
  16. Review and assess operations and work performance to ensure compliance with laws, rules, and regulations and to ensure efficiency, effectiveness, and economy of operations.
  17. Effectively and appropriately communicate and disclose information on the FBI mission, accomplishments, operations, and values to Congress, the media, and the public."
After reading all of this, and knowing that the Inspector General's report has stated that the FBI is crooked, and biased in support of the Democratic Party, how are Americans supposed to trust this law enforcement organization to do any of it's functions in a non-partisan unbiased fashion?

Who knows how many times the FBI has looked the other way and not gone after criminals simply because of their political position or connections? 

How can an utterly corrupt law enforcement agency remain in a postion of authority when it has been proven to conducting itself no differently than the criminals it's supposed to be pursuing? How can American trust a federal agency that acts more like an arm of one single political party, in this case the Democratic Party? 

It's obvious Americans can't trust the FBI at all. That's the way I see it. 

Tom Correa

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Fate of James Joyce 1891

Tom Horn was hanged in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on November 20th, 1903. He was buried in the Columbia Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado on December 3rd, 1903. 

Legends says that no one wanted to hang Horn. Because of that, the people in Cheyenne supposedly came up with a brand new way of hanging him so that no one would have to pull the lever. The fact is, that's all myth.

Fact is there was a line of settlers and small ranchers, including the father of the boy that he murdered who wanted to pull the lever on Horn. But though that was the case, Horn was one of the few people who were hanged through the use of a water-powered gallows. 

Known as the "Julian Gallows," it was said to be designed by architect James P. Julian of Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1892. The system was set up so that the the person to be executed was positioned to stand on a trap door which was connected to a lever that pulled the plug out of a barrel of water.

As water flowed from the barrel, it caused a lever with a counterweight to rise. This pulled on the support beam under the gallows. When the beam would break free, it opened the trap and the condemned man was hanged.

The uniqueness of the Julian Gallows is that the condemned prisoner actually hanged himself. The first time it was used, it's said the condemned man stood in place for almost 30 minutes before the trap dropped and he was hanged. And in the case of Tom Horn, it's said he dangled and strangled for 17 minutes before he died.

It's said that instead of a "humane hanging" accomplished as cleanly as possible, some of the witnesses there at Horn's hanging were said to have been horrified when the noose failed to snap Horn's neck and he instead dangled from the gallows for those long 17 minutes. Then again, it's also said there were people there who wanted to see Horn suffer for killing a 14 year-old boy. Since a number of executions were public events with large crowds, it's a certainty that there were people there who saw justice carried out in a slow painful death.

Of course there were a number of innovations in the way of executing the condemned. Below is an Aspen Daily Times news article published in January of 1891 regarding a similar device as that of the Julian Gallows which was invented in 1892.

The Fate of James Joyce

Denver, Jan. 17 – A special from the penitentiary at Canon City describes a new and novel plan whereby James Joyce will tonight unconsciously commit suicide on the gallows, thereby relieving the warden from disagreeable necessity of participating in the execution.

The problem has been effectually solved by means of a water gauge. This gauge consists of two buckets, one set above the other. When the cork is pulled out of the upper bucket it pours its contents into the lower bucket and raises a float which regulates a dial in the execution chamber.

At the same time the water foaming out of the upper bucket, at the end of a specified time, releases a ball weighing 20 pounds which falls and pulls the trigger that lets the weight fall and jerks the victim in the air.

The machine is set in operation by a rod which connects with a platform standing in the center of the death chamber. When the prisoner comes in his hands are strapped behind him, he is asked to step upon the platform.

As he does so the platform sinks a little and sets the terrible machine in the closet behind him at work. Suddenly, snaplorahl the weight has fallen and the victim is dangling in the air with three feet and a half of vacancy beneath his feet.

-- end article Aspen Daily Times, January 18, 1891.

This is an example of the attempts made by towns and prisons to look for more humane ways to execute prisoners. Many of the contraptions were also supposed to be ways to relieve the stigma placed on the person having to pull the lever. While some did, some didn't. But then again, such was the life of a hangman.

Tom Correa

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Cow Started The First Sioux War 1854

So now, can anyone imagine getting your whole unit wiped out over the killing of a single cow? While I can't imagine it, that's exactly what the Grattan Massacre was all about when it took place on August 19th, 1854, just East of Fort Laramie in the what was then Nebraska Territory.

What became known as the Grattan Massacre in 1854 started the First Sioux War. It took place in what is today Goshen County, Wyoming.

From the very beginning of the this, the odds were against the U.S. Army Soldiers and their one civilian interpreter. There were 30 Soldiers. There were at least 1,200 Brulé and Oglala Sioux warriors.

When the smoke cleared, all of the Soldiers and their civilian interpreter had been slaughtered. And surprisingly, only one Sioux was killed in the clash that took just a few minutes by most accounts.

This was the end result of things that spiraled out of control starting in the summer of 1854 when around 4,800 Brulé and Oglala Sioux Indians established a village about 30 miles from Fort Laramie as part of the terms of the Treaty of 1851.

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was signed on September 17th in that year. It was a treaty between United States and the Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Crow, Hidatsa, Mandan, Sioux, and nine other Indian nations. In the treaty, the United States acknowledged that all of the lands covered in the treaty were Indian territory. The lands were split up and divided between the tribes, and believe it or not the boundaries that were agreed to in the Treaty of 1851 have actually been used to settle a number of claims since then. Yes, including modern day cases.

The treaty was the result of negotiations which the United States government undertook to prevent conflicts with the different tribes. The initial goal was to ensure a right-of-way for Americans traveling West.

Among other things, in the treaty, the tribes agreed to guaranteed safe passage to American settlers heading West on the Oregon Trail. Fact is, Americans heading West passed through the Great Plains on the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail for a long time before 1851. It was actually the California Gold Rush in 1848 that increased the numbers of Americans heading West. That huge increase caused all sorts of problems.

Through negotiations with the tribes, the treaty allowed the United States federal government to build roads and even forts in return for an annual payment of $50,000 a year and monthly provisions The reason for the provisions is that game, specifically buffalo, was becoming scarce. As for the funds, initially the treaty called for the annuity to go for 50 years but then was changed to 10 years. Of course, what took place later was that several tribes never received the payments, the provisions, or the commodities on time or as promised.

And since there was so many tribes to deal with, all with different languages, it's incredible that the treaty ever took place in the first place. This is even more true since, as you've heard me say in many other articles on wars between the tribes, many of the Indian nations involved in the treaty had waged war against each other long before Whites ever stepped foot on North American soil.

For example, it's said that the Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Hidatsa, Lakota, Mandan, and Shoshone nations all took part in the treaty discussions. But the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa Apache, had all refused to send representatives to Fort Laramie because the fort was located on Sioux land. Fact is, unlike what you may hear today about how all Native American nations got along, the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa Apache considered the Sioux their enemy.

Other problems with the location had to do with the location itself. Besides some of the tribes not wanting to show up for the talks on the land of their enemies, the area around Fort Laramie is said to have lacked forage for the Indians' horses at the time. That meant that the treaty was negotiated and signed 30 miles downriver at the mouth of Horse Creek. That's why many tribes still refer to the "Treaty of 1851" as the "Horse Creek Treaty."

As for the treaty lasting, it's said the Treaty of 1851 was broken fairly quickly. No, not by the United States. It was actually the Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne who attacked the Crow a number of times that same year. Fact is that despite signing the peace treaty of 1851, some tribes refused to respect the peace between tribes. For example, the Hunkpapa Lakota killed four Arikaras in 1853. And again in 1853, the Cheyenne and Lakota joined forces to attack a huge Crow village in the valley of the Little Bighorn River. Yes, right there at the Little Bighorn River where later George Armstrong Custer and the 7th would be slaughtered more than 20 years later.

There's an interesting story about how the Cheyenne and the Lakota had a falling out over a Crow woman. The story goes that Lakota Chief One Bear actually killed the Crow woman after she was taken as a slave by the Cheyenne. It's a mystery as to why he killed her. And while that's the case, there are some who speculate that he wanted her for himself. He didn't want the Cheyenne to have her..

The whole situation in that area was really a matter of gasoline and matches. It seemed everyone there was either the gasoline or the match at one time or another as conflicts between the tribes seemed to be a constant. As for the United States, the Grattan Massacre in 1854 started what would come to be known as the First Sioux War. And yes, it was over a cow.

The cow belonged to a Danish settler who was a recent convert to the Mormon faith. He lived in the East and decided to go West with a wagon train traveling on the Oregon Trail. Most folks really don't know if his cow was tethered to his wagon and simply came loose or trailed behind the wagon and strayed off. There are those who speculate the Mormon settler simply cut it's line and turned it loose to wander off since the cow said to have been lame and half-blind.

The short version of what took place is that some very hungry Indians promptly killed for food when it wandered into their camp. In fact since the Miniconjou Indians were there visiting the Brule while also waiting for provisions per the treaty, a Miniconjou by the name of High Forehead killed the cow and distributed the meat to his starving tribe. a small detachment of Soldiers entered a Sioux village looking for who killed the cow.

That's the short version of what happened. As crazy as this sounds, as soon as the word got back to the fort that the treaty had been violated with the killing of that cow, U.S. Army Lieutenant Hugh B. Fleming who was the senior officer at the fort sent for the Brule Sioux Chief Conquering Bear. He wanted to consult the Chief over what took place. Fleming either didn't know or he simply didn't care that such matters were supposed to be taken up, as stated in the Treaty of 1851, by the local Indian Agent and not the Army.

At that time, the Indian Agent was John Whitfield. He was in route and was scheduled to arrive within days of the incident. Whitfield was said to be bringing the provisions promised the tribes in accordance to the treaty. Some speculate that Whitfield could have settled the whole thing with very little fuss. But sadly, because of the hasty actions of Second Lieutenant John Lawrence Grattan and his taking the side of a greedy Mormon settler -- that's not how things turned out.

In a bit of irony, at the fort Chief Conquering Bear attempted to negotiate with Lt. Fleming even though he was fully aware that the matter did not concern the Army at all. The Chief actually offered the Mormon settler a horse from his personal herd of 60 horses.

While this was going on, it became obvious that the Mormon settler was more interested in monetary gain than he was compensation. The cow is said to have been so lame that her hooves were worn through. It's believed that the cow was worth about $4. So yes, that Mormon settler must have been a very greedy individual since he actually demanded up to $40 for his cow instead of simply taking the compensation that was being offered. While some sources say he demanded $25, most others say $40. Either way, that was a lot of money which the Indians did not have.

Since Miniconjou Indians were there waiting for their already late provisions from the federal government, they were actually starving. So I'm sure when that cow found her way into their camp, it must have felt like Christmas.

Fact is, the Miniconjou were actually there for weeks and provisions had ran out or were terribly low. Even the grass for their horses was thin to none. And frankly, because of the overwhelming number of people there, remember that over 4,800 Indians were at the encampment, any game in the area had already been taken. So yes, they were hungry when they saw that old cow.

Sources say Lt. Fleming had at first dismissed the matter. As with most, he probably thought the matter was foolishness. And as for why he entered into the fray over the cow? Well, some sources say that he was actually goaded into acting by Second Lieutenant Grattan.

When talking with Chief Conquering Bear at the fort, Lt. Fleming actually insulted Conquering Bear when he demanded that the Chief turn over the Miniconjou Indian who killed the cow. In fact, Fleming demanded that High Forehead be brought back to the fort.

Now here's one of those instances in history where you just have to wonder what was someone thinking. What I mean by that is that no one knowns what Fleming or Grattan was going to do to High Forehead after getting him to the fort? That's a mystery.

What we do know is that Lt. Grattan goaded Lt. Fleming into insisting on the arrest High Forehead for killing a cow worth $4. Which of course, was a cow that the Mormon could have been compensated for but refused because he wanted to squeeze more money out of the Indians or the Indian Agent or both.

Conquering Bear refused Fleming's demand to turn over High Forehead. For one reason, he had no authority over the Miniconjou to do such a thing. Besides, the Miniconjou were actually there as his guests. So with that, the Chief had no intentions of violating their tradition of hospitality over such foolishness as killing a lame cow. Especially when he had already offered to compensate the settler.

The day ended with Lt. Fleming very frustrated. The next day, Fleming assigned the job of arresting High Forehead to Lt. Grattan. Second Lieutenant John Lawrence Grattan was a 23 years old recent graduate of West Point. That was his first duty station and he was attached to the 6th Infantry Regiment as an Infantry officer. He is said to have hated Indians for no reason at all.

There is something that I was told many years about the Infantry in regards to Native Americans. While I've never thought about trying to verify whether it's true or not, I was once told that most of the tribes had a greater respect for Infantry Soldiers than they did for Cavalry Soldiers. Their reasoning was that, supposedly, Native Americans saw Infantrymen as being braver than Cavalrymen because the Infantry walked into battle to wage war. I gather that was something they believed applied to themselves as well. We have to remember that the tribes waged war against other tribes while on foot for a thousand years or more before the Spanish ever brought horses to North America.

So now, all of his goading of Lt. Fleming paid off when he was allowed him to lead a small detachment of soldiers into the Indian village to arrest High Forehead that next morning. But as Lt. Grattan will learn the hard way, one has to watch out what you wish for.

Lt. Grattan was authorized a detail of 22 men. Fact is the entire post was only made up of a total of 75 soldiers in all. On that morning, 32 of the soldiers assigned to the fort were off away from the fort on wood and hay cutting details. But even though that was the case, Lt. Grattan took 29 soldiers. That was 7 more than Lt. Fleming had authorized, which of course meant that only 14 soldiers were left at the fort. And since Grattan was looking for a fight, he also took two small cannons with him. I haven't been able to verify what sort of artillery pieces they were.

Lt. Grattan led his detail into the village of Chief Conquering Bear to arrest and take into custody High Forehead. Lt. Grattan had with him a Sergeant, a Corporal, 27 Privates, and a very drunk French-Native American civilian interpreter by the name of Lucienne Auguste who is said to have had been drinking all the way to the village.

As for his troops, it's said most of the soldiers under Grattan were experienced troops. It was Grattan himself who had no prior experience with the Indians. Of coarse, that didn't matter since he was now leading his small force into a major Sioux encampment filled with young warriors itching for a fight with American troops.

Was it all to arrest an Indian for killing a cow? Well, that's the point. I don't believe it was. While I believe it was all about a young officers contempt for all Native Americans, many agree that the killing of the cow was just an excuse for Lt. Grattan to confront the Sioux. Some say it was his opportunity to impose his dominance over those he didn't like. After all, it was known that he treated Indians with contempt. This was even noted later by a senior officer who stated, "There is no doubt that Lt. Grattan left this post with a desire to have a fight with the Indians, and that he had determined to take the man at all hazards."

It was only when Lt. Grattan's detail reached the encampment that he noted that Auguste was drunk and obnoxious. At one point Grattan supposedly became so angry with Auguste that he took his booze away from him and smashed the bottle. It was then that Grattan learned that besides being a belligerent drunk, Auguste was also a lousy interpreter. In fact, it's actually questionable whether Auguste knew more than just a few words when it came to the language of the Sioux .

There are all sorts of "what ifs" pertaining to this event. For example, what if Lt. Grattan had the experience to know better than to march into a hornet's nest? What if Grattan saw the obsurdity of going to battle over a $4 cow? What if Grattan had later listened to the trading post owner James Bordeau who told him to leave the matter to Conquering Bear and leave? What if Grattan had ordered Auguste back to the fort instead of allowing him to insult the warriors in the camp?

The entire village was made up of over 600 Sioux lodges. With a population of some 4,800 Indians, and approximately 1,200 warriors, that was one huge village. Once in there, it's said that some of the more experienced soldiers in Grattan's command quietly voiced their concerns that their tiny force was in a very good position to get slaughtered. It's said that it was only when his Sergeant advised him that leaving the mater be would be advisable at that point, that Lt. Grattan realized the size and scope of the village which he had naively led his men into.

While Grattan left 11 men to act as the gun crews for the cannons just outside of the village, he took the remaining 18 troops with him into the village. When his small detail reached about the middle of the village, it's said that painted warriors were making all sorts of hostile gestures to get the troops to start a fight. One report said that young warriors rode their horses aggressively around the small column of 18 soldiers.

Lt. Grattan stopped his men and asked the advice of the trading post owner who happened to be in the village at the time. His name was James Bordeau, and he had been at Fort Laramie earlier when the incident happened where Lt. Fleming insulted Conquering Bear. Bordeau was the village trading when Grattan's detail entered the camp.

While initially Bordeau didn't know that Grattan actually intended on arresting High Forehead, he watched the entire event take place. In fact, most if not all of what we know that went on in the village is from Bordeau.

He later stated that Auguste, the translator, was drunk and yelling at the Indians. Auguste was telling the village that Lt. Grattan and his troops had come to kill them all. Auguste was calling the Sioux warriors "women" while riding drunkenly around those there saying they had come to fight and not to talk.

While this was going on, Grattan asked Bordeau for his advice regarding how to solve the matter without bloodshed? Bordeau supposedly told Grattan to talk with Conquering Bear, and let him handle it in his own time and leave as fast as possible. Bordeau later said that he was surprised when Gratten wanted to push the matter.

So instead of pulling his troops back, Lt. Grattan led them deeper into the village until he came face to face with Miniconjou High Forehead. Whether Grattan was extremely brave or very dumb could be debated. We do know that instead of taking the advice of Bordeau, Grattan unwisely decided to order High Forehead to surrender to him and return to the fort with him. Yes, he did this with 29 troops and a drunken interpreter in the middle of a village surrounded by well over a thousand warriors.

Grattan's bravery to do this in the middle of 1,200 warriors wanting a piece of his scalp didn't impress High Forehead. He turned his order to surrender around and actually challenged Lt. Grattan to fight him man to man. He also told Grattan that he would rather die than surrender to him and be taken to the fort to die. High Forehead's anger over this was seen as reasonable throughout the camp since all there knew that soldiers killed two Miniconjou just two weeks earlier, and certainly didn't give it as much attention as the soldiers were now giving the killing of a cow.

High Forehead's deviance is said to have angered Grattan a great deal. But obviously, it was not enough to fight High Forehead man to man. Because instead of addressing High Forehead, Grattan turned away from High Forehead to speak with Conquering Bear and accuse him of harboring a criminal.

At that point Conquering Bear asked to get James Bordeau to translate for them since Auguste was drunk and couldn't be trusted. An Indian leader by the name of Man-Afraid-Of-His-Horse retrieved Bordeau. But when Bordeau arrived and saw the tension between Lt. Grattan and Conquering Bear was about to boil over into violence, Bordeau decided to turn back.

There are a few conflicting reports as to what happen next, but this is what I've learned about this. At some point, it is believe that Lt. Grattan decided to order his two artillery pieces turned toward the village. That was not a wise move because as soon as he did, his orders brought hundreds of warriors out to immediately surround all of the soldiers. Yes, both the 11 soldiers at the cannons and the 18 with Lt. Grattan.

Among those there was a young warrior by the name of Red Cloud. He would later become famous in his own right. On that day he led warriors around to flank the soldiers. Bordeau rethinking the situation and deciding to go and see what he could do to stop the potential violence, again decided to go and act as a translator. But when he was about 25 yards away, he was cut off by Red Cloud's flanking movement. He was helpless to help so all he could do was watch as a heated exchange between Lt. Grattan and Conquering Bear took place.

After watching what was taking place, Bordeau again retreated. But this time Bordeau returned to his trading post where he told all of the traders there to load their weapons because the fighting was about to start.

So now, Lt. Grattan and Conquering Bear are arguing. Then Grattan decides that he isn't making progress so he turns to walk back to his troops apparently intending on leaving. At the same time, Conquering Bear turned away and starts walking away heading toward his lodge.

But before Lt. Grattan reached his troops, the story goes that a nervous soldier's rifle went off. Some sources say he fired into some approaching warriors. Fact is that soldier actually shot Conquering Bear in the back and he died nine days later near the Niobrara River. So if it was an accidental discharge, how is it that the trooper's bullet struck Conquering Bear in the back and not someone else since there were so many others around them at the time?

Fact is, some sources report that Lt. Grattan actually ordered his troops to open fire while moving toward his artillery pieces. The first to fall was the 11 men of Grattan's gun crews after being hit by a tremendous volley of arrows. Lt. Grattan was near his cannon placement when he was also struck down by the raining arrows.

The 18 soldiers left at that point band together to try to make it to a rocky area for defense. Running to the rocks on foot to make a stand, they never made it. As they had to cross a part of the open prairie to get there, Red Cloud's warriors rode them down and quickly overwhelmed them. Surprisingly, all my one was killed. That one soldier had initially survived the massacre but later died as a result of his wounds.

It's said that the warriors "rampaged throughout the night, swearing to attack other whites" that night. And in reality, they did ride against Fort Laramie the next morning. Luckily for the fort, they overwhelming number of Indians didn't push it and simply withdrew.

As for James Bordeau who owned a nearby trading post, he watched the whole thing take place. He was a key eyewitness later when the Army wanted to know what took place that day on August 19th, 1854. It's believed that the only reason that Bordeau was spared was because he said to have been married to a Sioux woman. Of course, he being friends with all of the tribes didn't hurt his chances for survival as well. But then again, that didn't stop the warriors from looting his trading post that night.

Three days after what the American Press dubbed the "Grattan Massacre," the Brule and Oglala abandoned their village on the North Platte River and returned to their respective lands set up by the treaty.

A day after they left, Lt. Fleming asked Bourdeau to help him with a burial party. The group went to the scene of the massacre and found the dead soldiers. All had been ritually mutilated. Lt. Grattan is said to have lived through an agonizing death. Accounts described Grattan's face as mutilated and his body dismembered when he was found. Some say he was still alive when the torture took place. Another report said they his body was so badly pierced by arrows that he "resembled a porcupine." In fact, it's said that Lt. Grattan’s body was so disfigured that he was only identified by his watch. '

While Grattan was returned to the post for burial. The remains of the troops were buried on the spot where they were killed in a mass grave. Yes, all 28 men in the same shallow grave. They were later exhumed and reburied at Fort McPherson in what would later become a National Cemetery. Today there is a white marble monument erected there in their memory.

Second Lt. Grattan is buried in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His remains were moved later to Fort Leavenworth in what would later become a National Cemetery. There is a historical marker about a half mile from where it all took place.

In the American newspapers, accounts conveniently ignored many of the facts of what took place. There were no mention of how American soldiers instigated the end result by shooting Conquering Bear in the back. There was never a mention how Lt. Grattan violated the treaty by entering the village.

Of course, this was the event that many in the U.S. War Department were looking for to justify attacking the Plains Indians. Officially it was "retaliation" to punish the Sioux. Many believe it was the opportunity that many in Washington D.C. was looking for to control of lands that were Sioux territory. Either way, the Army immediately placed the blame for the Grattan Massacre on the Lakota Sioux. And the tragic event, began a series of wars between the Plains Indian nations and United States that would go on for the next 25 years or more.

So now imagine if you would, the event that triggered the warfare and death of both Native Americans and American troops was the killing of an old lame cow worth about $4. Yes indeed. Imagine that.

Tom Correa

Friday, June 1, 2018

James Brooks -- Legendary Texas Ranger

Here's a story that I've been working on for a while. So please sit back with a cup of coffee, and try not to let the kids hear you cussing me when you stumble across my spelling mistakes. I think it may be a little too long but I still hope that you enjoy this story about a true Texas legend. A truly great man.

His name was James Abijah Brooks. He was born on November 20th, 1855, in Bourbon County, Kentucky. His family was considered wealthy and successful until his father was killed and his family's home was destroyed during the Civil War. 

Like many during that horrible war, his family felt the impact of loss and despair. In fact, it's said he wasn't yet 10 years of age, when he worked at whatever job that could be found to help provide for his widowed mother who still had the tough job of raising his seven siblings.

It wasn't until he was about 20 years old, when he felt as though his mother would be able to make ends meet without him, that he left to make his fortune. While some say he headed West, he actually went South to Texas in 1876 and ended up settling in McKinney, Texas. 

Knowing of the cattle boom at the time, he is said to have had bought a ranch in Collin County to raise cattle to supply the drives North. While I can't verify that, it's said his intent was that of many young men at the time. He wanted to be self-sufficient, own his own spread, raise cattle, and start a family of his own. Yes, ambitious but modest goals compared to where life would take him.

To start his ranch and raise cattle, he was smart enough to know that working as a cowboy would give him the skills and knowledge that he'd need to pursue his dreams. In 1879, he is known to have worked as a cowboy with a few of the outfits moving cattle North on the trail drives headed to Kansas. After that he settled in San Antonio, Texas, and then found work easier to come by in Shafter, Texas.

For five years, he worked the long grueling hours of a cowboy. We should understand that by 1883, life was tough on a cowboy just about everywhere but especially in Texas. There were a couple of events that made life very hard for those who wanted to keep working as cowboys. 

First thing that happened by January of that year was that the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad (GH&SA) connected up with the Southern Pacific Railroad about 225 miles West of San Antonio. That took place West of the Pecos River near Langtry. It's said the GH&SA President actually drove a silver spike on January 12th to signify the event. That line opened a new route across Texas for the Southern Transcontinental Railroad. That meant that Houston and San Antonio, and later New Orleans, would be connected. In fact they would be connected all the way to the West Coast.

Of course for cowboys that meant was there was less of a need for so many cowboys to move cattle to railheads in the North. It was just two years earlier that the Texas and Pacific connected with the Southern Pacific near Sierra Blanca in West Texas. That event marked the completion of America's second Transcontinental railroad. 

The second thing that really started hurting Texas cowboys by 1883 was the loss of small spreads. Many of the small spreads were being bought out by big Eastern cattle syndicates. Those big corporations back East didn't know shit from Shinola about cattle, but they had the money to entice many a small ranchers with offers that made those ranchers feel like he just found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

By March of 1883, cowboys who worked from what was known as “can see” early in the morning to “can’t see worth a damn” late at night, those who worked in the heat drenched in sweat, riding herd in the rain during lightning storm, wet through and through, cold or freezing, they found themselves no longer working for many of the failing small family ranches simply because they were being cobbled up by Eastern big money.
As for how life was on small ranches before the cattle syndicates started buying them out, life was actually pretty good for a cowboy on a small ranch. Before the big Eastern money bankrolled the creation of the cattle syndicates, the cattle industry was made up of many small spreads where cowboys were made to feel like part of the family that owned the ranch they were working at.

Before the syndicates, a cowboy like James Brooks could take a calf in lieu of pay.  By doing so, and getting the mavericks that they'd gather on the open range, he and other cowboys were able to start up their own small herds. Subsequently, a cowboy had a stake in the success of the ranch that he rode for while he was creating a tangible future for himself.

The myth of all cowboys being transients just passing through is not the way it was for the majority of hands. While, like any job, there were those who took it for temporary work, the majority of cowboys were loyal to their brand. And while some hands raised families, and worked for ranches generation after generation, many a cowboy had dreams of also having a brand of his own one day. It was the cowboy version of the American Dream.

Ranchers were known to be loyal in return, even with those who wanted to strike out on their own as ranchers. It was a great relationship because the rancher treated his men, and their families, as family while the cowboys also felt like they had a vested interest in the struggle to keep that spread afloat.

That all changed when Eastern know-nothings bought out small ranch after small ranch and started treating cowboys as low-wage unskilled labor. Imagine that. Just a decade earlier, big and small rancher, along with many of those hands, were the very tough as saddle leather men who fought the Comanche threat. Those men built Texas and the early to mid 1880s, those same men were being looked at by Easterner cattle syndicates as easily replaceable employees. 

In contrast to the small ranches owned by men who started their outfits from scratch, the Eastern cattle syndicates knew very little about ranching and less about cowboys. If their "investments," the ranches, loss profits, they blamed their ranch managers and cowhands for the problem.

Subsequently, this led to those syndicates cutting wages, stopping the use of exchanging calves for pay, stopping cowboys from gathering mavericks, stopping cowboys from using ranch owned horses for personal use, and more such as forbidding any sort of  drinking and card playing in the bunkhouse. Because life had changed for the worse for cowboys, cowboys no longer had a stake in how things turned out for the corporations. Because of this, many a cowboy went into other occupations. 

James Broke found himself in a similar boat and was out of work when he was offered the opportunity to join the Texas Rangers. Little did he know that he would start a 23 year career with the Texas Rangers when he was assigned to "Company F" in January of 1883. 

During his time as a Ranger, Brooks garnered a reputation of quickly drawing his gun. He was known to do that rather than negotiate with a known criminal. This defense tactic served him well. In fact, just three years into his time as a Ranger, he was in a gunfight that almost cost him his life. Fortunately his quick defensive action resulted in an outlaw being killed after a pursuit in Indian Territory.

It's said that less than a month after that deadly encounter, Officer Brooks was in a gunfight with an out of work cowboy in Alex, Oklahoma. It was over the cowboy carrying a pistol while in the city limits. In that encounter, Brooks was forced to kill the cowboy. 

It went bad for Brooks when he was in turn charged and actually indicted for manslaughter. Believe it or not, he was convicted of manslaughter in a trail that took place in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Though he was convicted, he was never sent to prison because his case was taken up by the Texas Rangers who actually lobbied for a Presidential Pardon by Grover Cleveland. 

James Brooks was actually granted a pardon by President Cleveland. And as incredible as it may sound by today's standards, Brooks was actually allowed to re-enlist as a Texas Ranger.

Thinking about President Cleveland giving him a pardon, one shouldn't be too surprised that he gave a lawman a pardon. After all, Cleveland had a lot in common with Brooks. Cleveland was in fact the only President who was ever a lawman before becoming President. In 1870, Grover Cleveland was elected the Sheriff of Erie County, New York. He took office as the Erie County Sheriff on January 1st, 1871, at the age of 33. 

On September 6th, 1872, Patrick Morrissey was executed after being convicted of murdering his mother. As the County Sheriff, Grover Cleveland was the man who was responsible for carrying out the execution. While it's said that he could have paid a Deputy $10 to carry out the execution, Cleveland executed Morrissey himself. Cleveland would later also hang murderer John Gaffney on February 14th, 1873. President Cleveland is the only President to have to act as an executioner.

Brooks returned to duty as a Texas Ranger that same year that he was pardoned by President Cleveland. Then almost a year later, on March 31, 1887, Brooks and a number of other Rangers were in Sabine County, Texas, pursuing the Connor Gang.

The events of the troubles with the Connor Gang was carried by newspapers across the country at the time. The stories were reported from San Francisco to New York, below are a number of articles from The Galveston Daily News which also carried reports of events regarding the Texas Rangers and the Connor Gang:


Terrible Battle Between the Conner Family and Rangers in Eastern Texas - Several Persons Killed
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEX., March 31, via NACOGDOCHES, TEX., April 1 - A terrible and bloody fight occurred ten miles below Hemphill in Sabine County this morning about sunrise, between Captain Scott and his rangers on one side and old Willis Conner on the other, in which three of the Conners and one ranger named Rogers were immediately killed, Captain Scott and another of his men badly if not fatally wounded. The Conners escaped, but the rangers are in hot pursuit. The Conners brought on the fight, firing from ambush. News reached here by a ranger who came after Dr. F.H. Tucker to attend the wounded. -- The Galveston Daily News, April 2nd, 1887.


Captain Scott, Although Wounded, Will Recover - One Ranger Dead - Bloodhounds on the Trail

NACOGDOCHES, TEX., April 2 - Allen Newton, a ranger in Captain Scott's Company arrived here early this morning and telegraphed for bloodhounds from Rusk, which arrived this evening, and he is again on his way back to to the scene of action in Sabine County. He states that Captain Scott, though seriously wounded, is doing well, and will probably recover. J.H. Moore, a ranger, and Will Conner were killed in the fight of the 31st ultimo and it is reliably reported that Fred Conner was badly wounded. Sabine County is thoroughly aroused, and there is no doubt but that all the Conners will be captured or killed in a few days.

SAN AUGUSTINE, TEX., April 2 - Dr Tucker returned yesterday evening from the scene of the bloody tragedy of the 31st ultimo in Sabine County between Willis Conner and three sons on one side, Captain William Scott and his five rangers on the other, and reports Bill Conner was killed instantly. Willis Conner and his two sons, Fred and Barber escaped, old Willis losing his horse, hat and spectacles. 

Captain Scott was shot through his left lung and the ball was cut out of his back. He is now doing better. Sergeant J.C. Brooks lost three fingers off the left hand and was shot through the right hand. J.H. Rogers received a flesh wound in his left arm, between the elbow and shoulder, and flesh wound in left side, not serious. J.H. Moore was shot through the heart. Great excitement prevails, and the whole county is up in arms. -- The Galveston Daily News, April 3rd, 1887


During the afternoon County Judge E.G. Bower, of Dallas County, visited the branch office of The News. He had just returned from the scene of the battle between the State rangers and the outlaws Conner in Sabine County. The judge stated that all the wounded men were doing well and should recover should no unforeseen phase in their condition develop. The excitement in the neighborhood continues unabated and nearly all citizens are under arms and searching for the desperadoes. 

On Tuesday morning Sergeant McNelly arrived on the grounds and assumed command of the state force. At daylight he left with his command, accompanied by five bloodhounds from the Rusk penitentiary. The trail was taken by the dogs at the point where the terrible conflict ensured, and it is almost certain that fresh scents will be found as the progress through the county. 

The pursuers were stimulated by reliable report that one of the fugitives had been seen on Monday afternoon, at 2 o'clock; besides a light rain had fallen, which made the conditions for trailing with the hounds very favorable. 

During the conservation, Judge Bowers spoke in praise of the gallant rangers, saying that men with less nerves than that possessed by the six men who fought the Conner family would have been slaughtered, and that too much praise could not be given to Carmichael and Treadwell for their great courage with which they held their ground and finally advanced upon the outlaws while their comrades-in-arms were lying on the ground seriously wounded and helpless. 

Sergeant McNelly on his arrival was accompanied by Jack Scott, brother of Captain Scott, of the rangers. Mr Scott served with the rangers years ago. Judge Bowers is a brother-in-law to Captain Scott. He left Houston for Dallas tonight. -- The Galveston Daily News, April 8th, 1887

Citizens Still Vigorously Searching for the Conners - A Hot Trail

SAN AUGUSTINE, TEX., April 17 - Jack Scott and Miss Vernon Scott, his sister, passed through here en route from Hemphill, returning home yesterday. Mr Scott reports his brother Captain Scott, and Messrs Rogers and Brooks are convalescent, and doing as well as could be expected.

F.M. Moore, the sheriff of Kerr County, stopped here last night on his way to Hemphill, to see after making arrangements for suitable enclosing and marking the grave of his deceased nephew, J.H. Moore, the ranger killed by outlaws Conner on the 31st of last month, while so nobly and manfully fighting to maintain law and order.

Your correspondent has just had an interview with Mr William Johnson, a reliable gentleman who lives near the line of San Augustine and Sabine counties, who says that a large posse of citizens and rangers took dinner at his house yesterday, and that in the evening they discovered two fresh camp fires on the northeast side of a large hill, known here as Iron Mountain, in the eastern part of this county, about nine miles from here, and thought that they had satisfactory evidence that the Conners had been camped there, and had been notified by two men, one riding a mule and the other a horse, as they were, tracked to and from the camp fires.

A large posse was organized at Sexton to join in the search, Sabine County is in the worst state of excitement ever known there, and were if not for the sympathizers of these terrible outlaws they could be easily hunted down. Strange to say, among them are many men heretofore considered respectable. -- The Galveston Daily News, April 18th, 1887 

One of Concern Killed

SAN AUGUSTINE, TEX., November 7 - Reliable news has reached here that in a attempt of a posse of citizens to arrest the Conners south of Hemphill Friday night, Fred Conner was killed and old Willis Conner was wounded but escaped. One of the posse lost a finger. -- The Galveston Daily News, November 8th, 1887

The Fight with the Conners - To The News
HEMPHILL, TEX., November 7 - The report of the Conner fight on the 4th instance was incorrect in that only one of the Conners was killed. For several months R.C. Turner of Hill County has been here hunting for Sabine's outlaws.

Last Friday R.C. Turner, Dan McNaughter, Ike Low, Tom Anthony and Melton Anthony were concealed in a little log house, about eight miles south of Hemphill, waiting and watching for the Conners. The posse had just finished eating supper when they were startled by the two Conners appearing within twenty feet of the door, and as soon as they saw who was in the house opened fire with their Winchesters, and were ambushed by the posse in the house, who shot through the cracks between the logs.

At the first fire Fred Conner fell, not being but ten feet from the door of the little house. Being only wounded, he drew his pistol - a colt's frontier - and continued to shoot until a bullet from a Winchester rifle ended his life. As soon as the fire opened, old man Willis Conner squatted behind a stump and opened fire on the house, and it is thought, emptied his Winchester. 

When the posse had emptied their guns he got up from behind the stump and jumped behind a tree, and one shot from a shotgun was fired at him there, and it is thought wounded him. He then ran to a wagon, about sixty yards from the house, stopped and commenced to load his gun, but the posse had reloaded by this time and, jumping out of he house, ran after the old man, who ran as soon as they got out of he house. Five shots were fired at him as soon as he ran off, and he fell when the last shot was fired, which was from a Winchester rifle.

It was almost dark by that time and the posse had exhausted all their ammunition, and thinking he was dead or badly wounded, did not go after him for fear of being killed, which was doubtless had been the case had they gone. They withdrew and when they did go to where he fell he was not there. Those who were in the posse think he is badly wounded, and it is the impression among some that he killed himself, as he had been heard to say that he would do this if he ever was wounded. An extensive search will be made for him tomorrow.

They fought with all the desperation of madmen, and had Fred not been shot down at the first fire, he would in all probability have reached the door just about the time the posse emptied their guns and would have killed some of them. The fight occurred just about sunset. It is thought that at least fifty shots were fired. No one in the posse was hurt, except Mr Tom Anthony, who was slightly wounded on one finger. Melton Anthony and Tom are brother-in-laws of Fred Conner, the man killed. -- The Galveston Daily News, November 11th, 1887 

Fought To The Death

Willis Conner and Grandson Killed by Turner Posse - The Old Man Would Not Surrender

SAN AUGUSTINE, TEX., November 13 - Reliable news has reached here that another fight occurred about ten miles south of Hemphill between old man Willis Conner and R.C. Turner and posse, resulting in the death of Willis Conner and a ten year old grandson who had gone to carry dinner to old Willis, who was followed by the Turner party. Conner was ordered to surrender and immediately began firing and fired three times before the fire was returned. The Turner party ordering the boy to run, and he refusing, a general fusillade followed, the boy being killed and old Willis shot down. The Turner party, advancing until within fifteen feet, ordered old Willis to surrender and he continued to try to shoot and was shot to death. This breaks up the desperate gang of outlaws except John Conner, who deserted them and fled the country last spring. -- The Galveston Daily News, November 15th, 1887.

Brooks himself later wrote, "In 1887 while I was a Sergeant in the Texas Rangers company of which Capt Bill Scott was commander, I lost three fingers in a gun fight with outlaws on the bank of the Sabine. We were after the Conner gang, and had two posses, one composed of citizens and one of Rangers. The citizens' group was commanded by an old line Army man who had gotten orders on how to proceed, and when he heard shooting, after we stumbled on the outlaws in the brush unexpectedly, the Army's training for obedience held. The citizens stood by and listened while the fireworks went off. Jim Moore of our outfit was killed at the first volley. Capt J.H. Rogers and I were wounded. The gang was later either killed or captured entirety."

Just for the record, while the Connor Gang was in fact made up of family members wanted for murder, a family of pig farmers who had turned outlaw, this gang was one of the toughest in the history of Texas. In fact, all in all, it was probably a lot more deadly than the famous James Gang or even Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch because of its murderous ways.

After convalescing from the loss of three fingers and being shot in the hand, Texas Ranger Sgt. Brooks was with the Rangers during what was called the "Fence Cutting War" which was also known as the "Fence Wars" or "Range Wars." Actually, the fence wars were a series of range wars that took place in many parts of the West as well as down South in Texas. It was a number of disputes over land and water during a time period that actually lasted for longer period than many realize as it stretched well in the 1920s in some places.  

Fact is, with the government's homestead laws, it didn't take long for cattle interests to fence off their land with barbed wire in order to protect their land from encroaching farmers and sheep. Many ranchers posted notices in newspapers claiming land areas. Cattle Associations, also known as Stockgrowers Associations, swelled with members who banded together to enforce their land claims. This all led to the closing off open range, and soon people started cutting fences. This resulted in a land war that cost lives. 

While there were worries about settlers, there were also concerns about "Free Grazers" who were used to feeding their cattle on what they considered "open range" or "public land." So depending on what faction you were aligned with, barbed wire was seen as either a gift from God or a tool of the Devil. Of course among the benefits of using barbed wire was that ranchers quickly realized that the use of hedges as boundaries which were difficult to grow and maintain and  rock walls which were costly to construct in as far as the manpower involved in building them, all could be replaced with relatively inexpensive barbed wire. 

Besides reducing the cost of enclosing an owners land, there was another cost reducing benefit that ranches enjoyed. Moving large herds on open range required a rancher to hire a large number of cowboys. Around the West, with the availability of a relatively inexpensive method of dividing and sub-dividing one's land to control one's cattle, the need for a large number of cowboys became unnecessary. So by the 1880's, a number of ranchers saw that they simply didn't need as many cowboys to maintain their herds. This in turn reduced their payroll. Going back to the Eastern cattle syndicates, this money saving reduction in manpower must have pleased them to no end.

It should be noted that some attribute barbed wire as being part of the problem that contributed to the "Big Die Up" in the winter of 1886. It's said that because cattle had previously been moved away from the blizzard conditions of the Northern Plains to the warmer and plentiful Southern Plains, that barbed wire prevented that from taking place and added to the reasons that the cattle died. Ranchers in warmer places, such as the Texas Panhandle, knew that their land wouldn't have been able to support the huge influx of cattle grazing on lands that they needed to support their herds. So instead of allowing cattle to be moved out of harm's way and into warmer areas, many ranchers blocked off their lands with barbed wire.

Of course, this goes back to the Free Grazers who were cattlemen opposed the closing of the open range that they saw as public land. They began cutting fences to allow their cattle to find grazing land. The war that erupted over land rights included many vigilante groups who supported the local ranchers against what they saw in many cases as free loaders.

While the Texas Rangers were part of trying to maintain order, the so-called "Fence Cutting War" in Texas really only let up a little when a federal law was put into place forbade fences across what is the public domain. Texas legislature passed a law stating among other things that fence cutting was a felony. After Texas, other states followed. But frankly, from what I can tell, the war actually continued into the opening years of the 20th century. 

While barbed wire is seen by some historians as the invention that tamed the West, I see it as increasing tensions and costing lives on both sides. Yes, everything but tame the West.

As for James Brooks involvement with the Fitzsimmons-Maher Prizefight on February 21st, 1896. He was part of the group of Texas Rangers who were dispatched to uphold the law regarding the unofficial 1896 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship between Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher. To avoid breaking Texas law which state boxing was illegal, promoters held the fight on a sandbar in the Rio Grande River just outside of Langtry, Texas.

I believe James Brooks was a Captain with the Texas Rangers by time he went head to head with none other than Judge Roy Bean over the Fitzsimmons-Maher Prizefight. Bean actually made national headlines when he promoted the fight to held after the Texas Legislature outlawed boxing, then known as "prizefighting," in Texas. 

Judge Roy Bean actually arranged for spectators and the press to travel by train from El Paso to Langtry where he held the match on a sandbar on Mexico's side of the Rio Grande. While Texas lawmen had no authority there and Mexico had no law enforcement on hand, the Texas Rangers and other even Mexican troops were on hand. 

It's true. Believe it or not, there were U.S. Marshals, Texas Rangers and soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss were ordered on alert during the event. On the Mexican side of the river, 150 Mexican soldiers were sent to Juarez to block spectators from the event. One thing that Judge Roy Bean and the other promoters failed to observe was that the location they picked was not the perfect spot for a fight where you want to charge admission. Fact is the ring was located below cliffs of the Rio Grande Canyon, so in reality many spectators saw the fight without paying anything for admission. And because the fight was considered technically in the Mexican state of Coahuila de Zaragoza, Rangers couldn't do anything to stop it. 

Then there's the story about the unluckiest spectator there. He was a New York sporting man who traveled to El Paso, stayed there for days while waiting to see the fight, and then took the "fight train" to where the fight was held. He is said to have paid top dollar for a ringside seat, but as the story goes:

"As the fighters stepped to the center of the ring, he pulled a cigar from his pocket. He then turned to another spectator seated just behind him to get a light for his cigar. When he turned toward the ring again, Maher was on the mat and the fight was over." 

It's true. for the record, the fight began when the timekeeper used a hammer to strike the bottom of a tin pail. That was when Maher rushed Fitzsimmons. It was reported that Maher was swinging wildly until they ended up in a clinch. 

Fitzsimmons then pushed Maher aside. Maher landed a left to Fitz’ mouth, but all, that did was make Fitzsimmons pound Maher halfway across the ring before landing a right uppercut to Maher's jaw. It's said that Maher was "like a steer struck by an ax." Maher just slumped to the mat. For one brief second, he looked as though Maher tried to pull himself up. But he just "crumpled unconscious."

Since Fitzsimmons used to be Blacksmith, he was a powerful puncher, he knocked out Maher in ninety-five seconds of the first round. Fitzsimmons ended the fight with a single right uppercut to Maher's jaw. 

As for Brooks part in the Reese–Townsend Feud? Texas Ranger James Brooks took part in putting down the Reese-Townsend feud in Columbus, Texas, as he was part of the Rangers who were sent there to stop an out of control situation from getting further out of control.

It was called the Reese–Townsend Feud, also known as the "Colorado County Feud." It actually lasted about nine years from 1898 to 1907. It was mostly politically motivated between rival political factions, but there was gunplay involed.

It started as a result of the County Sheriff's race. As with politics, it got nasty when incumbent Sheriff Sam Reese ran against Town Constable Larkin Hope. During the campaign, a former state senator by the name of Mark Townsend withdrew his support from Sheriff Reese and threw it to Constable Hope. Of course this didn't sit well with Sheriff Reese.

Then on August 3rd, 1898, Constable Larkin Secrest Hope was killed when he was shot by an unknown assailant in downtown Columbus while standing in front of Byars & Byars drug store. As with most killings, it was an ambush.

His killer was said to have been standing in the alley between the store and a butcher shop. It's said two loud shots were heard. Then a few seconds later, three shots were heard fired.

The last three shots were fired by Constable Hope as he lay wounded in the gutter next to the sidewalk. His killer had his horse tied in the alley, and was soon seen heading out of town. His killer was never identified. 

For the record, some sources say he was a County Deputy but most others say he was a Town Constable. Either way, he was shot in the hip and abdomen at close range. When asked who shot him, he tried to answer but wasn't clear enough for folks there to understand what he was saying. He was carried into the Byars & Byars drug store while his wounds were being attended to. Sadly, he died about a half an hour later. 

Right after the shooting, Sheriff Reese immediately responded to the scene. He set about gathering evidence all in an effort to find the killer. Though a suspect was never apprehended, Jim Coleman was rumored to be the killer. Coleman was known to have been a close friend to Sheriff Reese's sons Walter and Herbert,  

Officer Larkin Hope served that community for three years and was survived by his wife and four children. He was buried in Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery, Columbus, Colorado County, Texas.

As is the way of politics, it's said that even before Officer Hope was buried, former state senator Mark Townsend chose another candidate by the name of Will Burford to run against Reese. Because of Townsend's support, Burford was elected Sheriff of Colorado County.

Of course Will Burford being elected Sheriff of Colorado County didn't end the animosity between Reese and Townsend. In fact, on March 16th, 1899, believe it or not, Mark Townsend, Will Clements, and Marion Hope, who was Larkin Hope's brother, were in a gunfight in downtown Columbus with Sam Reese and his supporters. 

It's said that during the gunfight, former Sheriff Reese's supporters fled the former Sheriff's side. Their running away resulted in Sam Reese being shot to death. Also killed that day was a bystander by the of Charles Boehme, and a young boy named Johnny Williams was shot and wounded during the melee. 

On May 17th, 1899, then on January 15th, 1900, and July 31st, 1900, and on June 30th, 1906, and then again on May 17th, 1907, separate gunfights took place in Columbus. All as a result of the feud. During those gunfights, Sam Reese's brother Richard, Will Burford's son Arthur, Will Clements' brother Hiram and Jim Coleman were all shot dead. 

Richard Gant who was a bystander during one of the gunfights was also killed, and as with Johnny Williams, a number of bystanders as well as participants were shot and wounded.

The investigation looking for the killer of Constable Hope was said to have been dropped for unknown reasons. Some later speculated that Townsend himself arranged the killing of Hope who he saw as being unable to win against Reese. Others later speculated that Townsend had Hope killed to incite public animosity against Reese to sway the election. But really, who knows if either claim has any validity to them?

Either way, the citizens were outraged by the feud and their anger finally reached the Texas capital. So finally, in 1907, Texas Rangers were sent to Columbus to end the violence. By that time, it's said that James Brooks had developed a reputation as a gunman. His reputation alone helped stop the killings. 

Of course such a reputation may not have been a bad thing to have considering how rough Texas was during those days. Make no mistake about it, Texas was a violent place prior to World War I. For example, Will Clements was shot from ambush in Matagorda County, Texas, by a man who Clements supposedly had an argument with a few days earlier. Jim Townsend was also shot to death in 1911 in a gunfight with a saloon owner in Louise, Texas. 

As for James Brooks, he retired to live a quiet life in Falfurrias, Texas. But soon afterwards, his retirement was cut short when he was pressured to run for the state legislature as a Texas State Representative. He served two term as he was reelected. And in his honor, Brooks County, Texas, was named after him.

So now, he worked as a Texas Ranger and a State Rep in the state legislature. And for most, that would be enough for one lifetime. Well, no for James Brooks. He went on to serve as a local Judge for 30 years before he died of kidney failure on January 15th, 1944. 

James Brooks was a Texas Ranger, a Texas State Representative, and a Judge. Some say he was quite a gunman in his own right. Today, he is an inductee in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame where he is celebrated in Texas as being known as one of "the Great Four Captains" of Texas Ranger history. 

To say he was tough as nails would be an understatement. The man who started out as a cowboy with fairly modest goals of wanting to start his own ranch, ended up being a legendary Texas lawman. He helped transform the elite Frontier Battalion into the Ranger Force in Texas today. Yes, he was one of the leaders of the Texas Rangers who helped bridge that organization from the Old West into the 20th century. He is a true Texas legend for all of the right reasons.

That's just how I see it.
Tom Correa