Monday, May 20, 2019

Reparations Have Already Been Paid


Dear Friends,

I made the meme above to be posted on Facebook. I've had a lot of friends ask me about it so I will tell you what its all about. It's simple really, I did it to remind people of the price that was paid to free Black slaves during the American Civil War. Since this Memorial Day is approaching, it is only appropriate to talk about why some Americans have died for our country. To end slavery during the Civil War is one of those reasons.

Americans died fighting for our Independence from 1776 to 1783, and after by way of the diseases contracted during that time. During the War of 1812, Americans died as a result of poor administration policies pertaining to keeping a standing Army. President Jefferson was against that and the British saw his policy as a weakness to be exploited. Thus, the Brits invaded and burned down Washington D.C.. Thankfully, we were able to regroup and win that "Second War for Independence."

As for the Mexican-American War, that was for liberty. Freedom for those living under a tyrannical Mexican regime. The Civil War was fought as a result of a number of things including over-regulation by the Federal government and crippling taxation, and of course slavery. My belief is that it was not a single issue war. It is naive to think so.

For those who think it was strictly about slavery, they are fooling themselves. Slavery in the South, though slavery did exist and was being propped up by the extremely wealthy who wanted to hold on to cheap labor, was not shared by all. The vast majority of Southerners didn't own slaves.

And by the way, please don't bother writing to say that slaves were "free labor" and not simply "cheap labor." Slavery was "cheap" in that, whether we want to admit it or not, slaves were treated like livestock and that means they had to be fed and cared for like cattle. Doing so was not cheap. Because of that, the subsequent cost of slavery, the logistics of having slaves, involved housing, feeding, and caring for them. It is sad to say that some slaves were kept at all, but even more so when we think that they were in many cases kept in worse conditions than some expensive race horses.

Gave His Arms As Reparations
And also, after the Civil War, there were many farms and plantations that actually hired former slaves. It's said that those farmers treated their "new hires" like slaves, including floggings, beatings, killings, but the former slave owner actually saved money by refusing to feed and house them as they did previously when they were owned.

While there were anti-slavery organizations in the America's British Colonies before the founding of the United States, we forget that the import of slaves from Africa into the United States was made illegal and actually stopped by President Jefferson in 1808. That was 25 years after we became an independent nation. Slavery was still legal until 1865, but from 1808 to 1865 it was illegal to import Black slaves into the United States.

As for slavery itself, slavery existed in the United States from 1783, which was when we actually won our independence and became a new nation, to 1865 when slavery was abolished by President Lincoln. That was an 82 year period. No, not the 400 year number which we hear from political activists attempting to use to make our nation's history of slavery longer than it was.

So what are "reparations"? The term "reparations" is defined as "the compensation, the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged."

I'm not going into every battle that was fought. I'm not going to go into the listing the name of every soldier or sailor who died knowing that they died while doing their part to free black slaves in the South. I'm not going to list the 596,670 Union troops that were killed, wounded, captured, or missing. No, but that is the compensation, what was used to make amends, the lives changes or ended as part of the reparations made to Black slaves.

Before someone writes to tell me that freed slave reparations was the whole forty acres and a mule as part of Special Field Orders No. 15 approved by President Abraham Lincoln. Please understand that while freed slaves expected to legally claim their 40 acres of land and a mule after the end of the war, not too long after it was approved, it was superseded by the Freedmen's Bureau Act. That act reversed Lincoln's order. That was done by President Andrew Johnson who became president after President Lincoln was assassinated.

Besides, I content that the lives, dead and wounded, of over a half-million Union troops truly trumps 40 acres and a mule. In fact, because of the Civil War, I content that reparations for that 82 year period of American history when slavery existed in the United States has already been paid. The cost to the United States was huge. The reparations were paid in blood during the Civil War. It cost the United States the lives of 596,670 Union troops. Yes, those who died, were wounded, captured, or ended up being missing in combat to set slaves free.

Below shows what non-Slave States the dead Union troops came from. It also shows the number of black Union troops (Colored Troops) died as part of the price paid, all of the rest were White:


During his 2nd Inaugural Address, President Abraham Lincoln put it this way:

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”

The blood that was drawn by the sword during those horribly bloody years of the Civil War was the price Americans paid to set the slaves free, to pay for those years when black slaves were under the lash. The Union casualties, more than a half a million of them, was the price of reparations for what was done previously to that war. Those reparations made Union wives widows and orphaned children, and lift limbs piled. That was the price to our nation for condoning slavery. It was our nation's price to make amends for all of those who were kept in bondage by both white and black slave master.

And frankly, so that those Union soldiers didn't die in vain, or had their arms and legs blown off for nothing, it's OK to say "Thank you."

Tom Correa

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Jarbidge Stage Robbery -- The Last Stage Robbery


November 14, 1910, Eugene Ely became the first pilot to successfully takeoff from a warship, when he flew his Curtiss Model D biplane from a makeshift fight deck on the USS Birmingham.

So now, as you know, I like to try to put the times in which things took place into context. Well, six year after Ely flew off of that first makeshift aircraft carrier, the Jarbidge Stage Robbery took place. That stage robbery would be the very last stage robbery in what was still considered the Old West.

The town of Jarbidge is located about 10 miles south of the Idaho-Nevada border in Elko County, Nevada. It actually sits at the bottom of the Jarbidge River's canyon, about 2,000 feet deep, near the north end of the Jarbidge Mountains.

The name "Jarbidge" is supposed a name gotten from the Shoshone Indians. While some pronounce it "Ja-Ha-Bich," the Native Americans there called it "Tsawhawbitts." It supposedly means "Devil." The Shoshone are said to have believed that the whole Jarbidge Canyon and hills were haunted by the devil or some sort of man-eating giant. It was said to be "bad medicine."

While some have this idea that silver was the only thing found in Nevada, gold was as well and it was discovered near Jarbidge in as late as 1909. The fact of it being found in 1909 makes Jarbidge the last place in the Old West to experience a gold rush. Because of the gold discovery in 1909, the mining camp was founded as a tent city. And as with other boom-towns, the gold rush there brought in a few thousand people of all sorts. Unlike most boom-towns, Jarbidge's population petered out after the winter of that same year 1909. In fact, it's said that because "about 80 percent of the prospectors became disgusted and pulled up stakes and headed elsewhere."

Its population claimed again in 1911, but mining operations came to a halt by the early 1930s. When I looked up Jarbidge to get an update on that old town, I was happy to read that mining permits for gold were being re-issued. Just like the area that I live in here near Jackson, California, the increased price of gold per ounce has made it possible for some mines to reopen.

The Jarbidge Stage Robbery took place on December 5th, 1916. And while we think of stages being the Wells-Fargo two-team wagons, or even in some cases three-team wagons, the stage that was robbed that day was a small two-horse mail wagon. Yes, it's believed to have been more a mail-wagon than stage coach. And no, I don't believe there were any passengers aboard the small wagon.


While the picture above shows you the type of wagon that was considered very common for mail in those days, the one in that picture is not the one that was robbed. But while that's the case, we can certainly see how it was not a formidable target if one wanted to rob such a wagon. After all, all it had for security was the driver.

The mail wagon that was robbed in 1916 was ambushed heading to the town of Jarbidge. And frankly, I'm a little surprised that the driver was killed. In most such instances, the drivers were disarmed and in a lot of case set afoot after the team that had been cut loose. Bandits were known to cut teams loose to slow down efforts of a robbery being reported. In that way, Highwaymen gained some precious lead time on a posse that was sure to follow.

The driver was killed, and over $4,000 was stolen that day. While that was 1916, America was still a rural nation with many isolated communities. Jarbidge was one such community.

Today, Jarbidge is still known for it being isolated and away from everything. to my knowledge, it still doesn't have paved roads. One can easily get to the town by way of a road which comes off of Route 93 in Rogerson, Idaho. That's a 20 mile or so stretch and three quarters of that are unimproved at best. While that way is usually open all year round, I believe the other two ways of getting there are from Elko. And frankly, from what I've been told when researching this, good luck getting through that way during the winter months.

Of course with only one dirt road leading to town, in 1916, the town of Jarbridge was as isolated as any town could possible get from the rest of the world -- even if the rest of the would was only 20 miles or so away. And as for communicating with the rest of the world, besides having telephones, they had the U.S. Post Office. Yes, that mail-wagon.

It wasn't out of the ordinary to hear about thirty foot snow drifts that further cut the community off from folks for several weeks at a time. As for automobiles, in 1916, that had not become a reality yet. The folks there still depended on horses and wagons as their mainstays.

Rogerson, Idaho, was the closest railroad town for Jarbidge. It's said that wagon driver, Fred Searcy, made round trips to and from there all the time. He not only delivered the mail, but he also brought in the company mine payrolls.

Let's be frank here, while some folks did rob stages for the money being sent in the mail, it's a safe bet to say that the mail-wagon was robbed because of the gold strike and the possibility that there may have been more aboard that small mail-wagon than met the eye. If companies became too relaxed about their security for their payroll, no one knows. Fact is that it could have been simply the way they did things and didn't thing anyone would rob the mail-wagon.

We know from documentation that most mining companies would wagons with a substantial number of armed guards aboard to deter such robberies. And frankly, they did. Robbers usually hit easier targets of less resistance. I've read where in some cases that companies used larger wagons as decoys while smaller wagons with almost no visible security were used to bring in their payrolls. I don't know how often a stunt like that was used or even worked.

Just for the record, $4,000 in 1916 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $93,779.08 in 2019.
December 5, 1916, was actually payday for the mine in Jarbidge. It's said when Fred Searcy failed to arrive in town at the expected time, a group of concerned men assembled at the post office. At first, it's said they simply thought he was having troubles returning to town because of the treacherous roads and the heavy snow. Later that day, they decided to send out a man out to the highest point there as a lookout for Searcy's mail-wagon.

Jarbidge Postmaster Scott Fleming had Frank Leonard ride up to the top of Crippen Grade which was a 2,000 foot decline in the road that led down to the canyon floor and the town. Leonard returned after a few hours and reported that Searcy or the wagon was no where to be seen.

Postmaster Fleming was among those who realized that over four feet of snow had fallen that day alone and that Fred Searcy may be dead in the snow. Because of this, Fleming formed a search party. As they were getting ready to leave, Fleming telephoned Rose Dexter who lived about a half mile north of Jarbidge along the route that Searcy would have taken. She reported that Searcy had passed by her house earlier that day and that she waved to him as he went by.

Ms. Dexter also said "the driver was huddled up on his seat with his collar pulled up over his face to form some protection from the blinding snow."

It didn't take long to find the mail-wagon on the road because it was less than a mile out of town. The stage had been pulled over on the side of the road. It was also tucked behind a patch of willows. As for Fred Searcy, he was found there "slumped in his seat and covered with snow." At first, for all practical appearances, all there thought Fred Searcy froze to death.

But then, closer examination revealed that he had been shot in the head at a very close range. His hair and scalp had powder burns. And of the two mail-pouches that should have been on the wagon, one was found not opened. The other containing $5,000 was missing. Note that I state $5,000. That's important since most articles on this robbery state $4,000 was taken.

So why they difference? Well, since I have no idea where these other articles get their information, I went with $5,000 since that's what the local newspapers reported at the time.

As for the search party, because of the weather, the snow storm raging and there being no sign of the weather letting up anytime soon, the search party returned the short distance into Jarbidge with Searcy's body and the mail-wagon. They next day, the original search party and few more men returned to where they found the wagon behind the willow trees. There they attempted to re-enact the crime as they could best figure things out.

Going by whatever evidence they could find at what they assumed was the crime scene, they determined that the Searcy's killer was lying in wait in the brush along the road. The killer apparently ambushed Searcy and killed him so that he wouldn't be able to identify him later.

Fred Moore Searcy was born in September of 1883 in Jackson County, Missouri. While he was killed right there on the outskirts of Jarbidge, Nevada, right after that winter, his body was transported to be buried in the Salem Cemetery in Independence, Missouri.

In December of1908, he married Nellie Burstow in Hardman, Oregon. The 1910 census listed them as farming there. He divorced her in 1915 on the grounds of her desertion after she left him a year earlier. It was in early 1916 that he made his way to get in on the gold rush still going on there. When he was killed on December 5th, 1916, Fred Searcy was 33 years old. So no, he was not an old man by any stretch of the imagination even back then.
There are those who have claimed that Searcy was part of the holdup. Those writers say that he was killed by another who was involved with the robbery.

The search party became a posse when they followed tracks in the snow which led them down to the river. On the river bank, they found a blood stained overcoat which was hidden under a bridge leading out of town. Inside one of the pockets was $180 and some of the mail that Searcy was transporting. The search party also found the second mail-pouch. It was cut open and the $5,000 in both paper money and gold coins which were said to be inside of it was gone.

It's said a stray dog in the area of the bridge is what led the posse to a nearby cabin. In the cabin was horse thief and cattle rustler Ben Kuhl. Kuhl and two others, Ed Beck and William McGraw. They were all arrested without incident. Of the things that the posse found there was a .44 caliber ivory-handled revolver believed to have been used to kill Fred Seracy.

Kuhl's story as to what took place changed depending on who was listening. He proclaimed his innocence giving one story and then proclaimed his innocence with another story. Kuhl tried to give alibi after alibi and there were some in town who agreed on seeing him here or there. But Kuhl's problem was that folks also saw him head out of town and in the direction of the ambush just before it was believed to have taken place.

Also, remember that they had telephone communications with the outside world. By way of making a few phone calls, they found out that Ben Kuhl had a long criminal record. In fact, they found out that he served time in Marysville, California, and had spent time in the Oregon State Penitentiary. As for locally, Kuhl was thought to be a petty criminal, a bummer, and he'd been released on a $400 bond after being arrested in Jarbidge for trespassing on private property.

Their trial was held in the Elko County Courthouse, and the evidence presented was considered pretty much circumstantial. But, two forensic scientists from California linked a Kuhl's bloody palm print on an envelope to the murder of Searcy. With that William McGraw turned state's evidence and revealed what took place. Ben Kuhl and Ed Beck were sentenced to death, and William McGraw got life. The Nevada Board of Pardons later commuted the sentences of Kuhl and Beck to life in prison.

Kuhl did not step forward and confess about anything. Through questioning, and his change of stories, Kuhl said that Searcy was a part of their gang and in on the holdup. As to whether or not Ben Kuhl's story that he killed Searcy over a dispute about how to split the money was true? Or regarding Kuhl's claim that Searcy was a part of those committing the crime? I find it interesting that that story only came from Kuhl and not either of the other two. As for me, since I'm not in the habit of believing killers, I doubt his word. Besides, it wouldn't have been the first time that a killer tried to make his deed sound less then what it was by implicating a victim as being part of the gang.

Ben Kuhl is distinctive as a criminal because he become the first murderer in American history to be convicted and sent to prison by the use of palm print evidence. Yes, the same as fingerprint analysis. He spent the rest of his life in the Nevada Penitentiary. Ed Beck was paroled on November 24, 1923. Ben Kuhl spent almost twenty-eight years in prison before his release on May 16, 1945. Kuhl never returned to Jarbidge. Instead, after getting out of prison during World War II, he moved to San Francisco. He tried for a job in the local shipyards there but there is no indication that the killer ever worked in the yards. There is a yarn that says he registered for the draft in November of 1945 at age 61, but only a fool would believe that. That reason that I say that is because World War II ended in September of that year and troops who in some cases only had a few months in uniform were being sent home. Besides, the draft at the time didn't take men in the forties nevertheless in their sixties.

Kuhl died in San Francisco on November 4th, 1958, at the age of 74, from pneumonia -- although some say tuberculosis that he picked up in prison. Since he and the others died paupers, it's believed that neither returned to Jarbidge and found where they had buried the $5,000 they made off with years before.

As for the stolen money today, well it's said that the authorities offered the three commuted sentences if they would cooperate as to where it was buried. All three men refused to tell where that money was buried. Fact is, since their cabin was ribbed apart and all of the land that was uncovered by snow at the time was dug up looking for the money, the robbers may have buried it in such haste that they couldn't remember where it was buried. And while the stolen $5,000 was never recovered, it's believed to still be buried somewhere in Jarbidge Canyon. Yes, real buried treasure.

As for the town of Jarbidge today, it still remains a small isolated place. I read where it has a population of less than 100 and many of the old buildings are still intact, including the jail house where the three outlaws was held. It's said to still be the same in that it still doesn't have paved streets.

As for full disclosure, I visited Jarbidge back about 30 years or more ago when I was traveling the back roads on vacation. Fact is, I got lost and was only there long enough to get directions out. It was a friendly little town. It was a great because of it's location away from everything. As for folks not visiting there very often, well the road to Jarbidge is rough. And of course, there are those 20 to 30 foot snowdrifts that are still common to that area. Other than that, it really is a great place.

Tom Correa






Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Golden Spike 1869


On May 10th, 1869, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads completed the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States at Promontory Summit, Utah. The celebration over connecting the East with the West was signified with a golden spike. 

Four year and a few days prior to that taking place, on the dark night of May 2nd, 1863, right after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson and his staff were returning to camp. His staff's arrival was mistaken for a Union Army cavalry unit and immediately a volley was fired at the approaching men. When the General's staff identified themselves, Confederate Major John D. Barry didn't believe them and shouted "It's a damned Yankee trick! Fire!"

With that, a second volley was let go. Of the rounds fired in the second volley, General Jackson was struck by three rounds. Some in his staff were killed. Yes, along with their horses. It was quite the massacre. It was also total mayhem. 

After the confusion settled down, General Jackson waited to be cared for. Then, once medical assistance arrived, Jackson was actually dropped from his stretcher while he was being evacuated from that position. Some say he was evacuated because of incoming artillery while others say he was simply being relocated when his unit was moved. 

General Jackson's left arm was amputated, and he was actually thought to be recovering. But then, on May 10, 1863, eight days after being shot, General Jackson died of complications from pneumonia. He was 39 years of age. And with his death, the Confederacy lost one of it's best Generals. Not as a result of a Yankee sniper, but as result of Confederate troops mistaking him and his staff for Union troops. 

Two years later on May 10th, 1865, Union troops ambush and capture Confederate guerrilla William Quantrill at Wakefield Farm, Kentucky. Quantrill was considered a mad dog killer. It seems fitting that he was shot in the back while trying to escape, and lingered in pain while paralyzed from the chest down. He was taken to a military prison hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, where he died of his wounds on June 6th. He was 27 years of age.
And by the way, some reports say the Union doctors refused to give him any sort of pain medicine for the whole time that he suffered because he refused to admit who he was. Yes, even though he was identified by those who knew him. That's including men in his band. It's believed that he refused to admit who he was because he feared he would be hanged for the Lawrence Massacre if he recovered from his wounds. He was right as it was Quantrill who ordered his more than 450 Confederate guerrilla fighters to kill around 150 unarmed men and boys -- and then burn Lawrence, Kansas, to the ground. 

On that same day, on May 10th, 1865, near Irwinville, Georgia, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops. It's said that he was dressed in women's clothing to escape detection. Later, he tried to say that he was only wearing his wife's shawl because he was cold. 

During the Civil War, in 1863, the Central Pacific Railroad started construction of a line headed East from Sacramento, California. Almost two years later in 1865, with the war winding down, the Union Pacific Railroad headed West from Omaha, Nebraska Territory. The place where they were to connect up was agreed up. That place where the two tracks would meet was at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.

As with such things, the were all sorts of snags to get it done. Even the ceremony for the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad didn't go on without a few hangups. For example, it was scheduled to take place on May 8th. But that didn't happen because the Union Pacific train which would show up to represent the Union Pacific Railroad was delayed in Wyoming. Believe it or not, a labor dispute with railroad workers held things up. Yes, even back then. 

With the ceremony rescheduled for May 10th, the Central Pacific No. 60, also known as the Jupiter engine, and the Union Pacific No. 119 met at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. On hand were representatives from both railroads, all sorts of dignitaries, railroad workers, the public, hunters, suppliers, and even soldiers who provided some protection during the building of the lines. All toll, it's said that there was anywhere from as few as 500 people there to as many as a couple of thousand on hand for the event. 

For the ceremony, the special gold spike and railroad tie was setup for ceremonial purposes only. The tie was polished California laurel and had a pre-drilled hole. It was laid and then representatives for the two railroads used a special silver-plated spike maul to drive the golden spike into the pre-bored hole. 

The ceremonial 17.6-karat gold spike was driven with a final tap, and it was just a tap, by none other than Leland Stanford. Yes, the man who would later build Stanford University is said to have driven the last spike into the First Transcontinental Railroad. As for the ceremony itself, the whole idea of having a ceremony for the completion with using a gold spike came from San Francisco financier David Hewes.

The golden spike was made of 17.6-karat (73%) copper-alloyed gold, and weighed 14.03 troy ounces. The 17.6-karat spike was manufactured especially for the event by the William T. Garrett Foundry in San Francisco.

In reality, it was dropped into a pre-drilled hole, and then tapped into place. Then removed. That spike was engraved on all four sides. 

One side states: The Pacific Railroad ground broken January 8, 1863, and completed May 8, 1869. Please note the incorrect date of the ceremony on the spike that was actually used.

Another side of that spike states: Directors of the C. P. R. R. of Cal. Hon. Leland Stanford. C. P. Huntington. E. B. Crocker. Mark Hopkins. A. P. Stanford. E. H. Miller Jr. 

Another side states: Officers. Hon. Leland Stanford. Presdt. C. P. Huntington Vice Presdt. E. B. Crocker. Atty. Mark Hopkins. Tresr. Chas Crocker Gen. Supdt. E. H. Miller Jr. Secty. S. S. Montague. Chief Engr. 

And the last of the four side states: May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world. Presented by David Hewes San Francisco.

A second golden spike, exactly like the one from the ceremony was cast at the same time as the first. It's engraving is the same, but it has the correct date of May 10, 1869. This spike was a secret in that it was unknown to the public until 2005. This second spike is now on permanent display, along with Thomas Hill's famous painting titled The Last Spike, which are at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Town Sacramento.

Besides the famous golden spike, there were more than one spike on hand that day. In fact, commemorative spikes were presented to a number of people after speeches by many there. Among those making speeches were Leland Stanford who was the president of the Central Pacific Railroad and a member of the Big Four in California, and Grenville Dodge who represented the Union Pacific Railroad.

As for those commemorative spikes, earlier that day, and long before the last spike was driven to connect the line, three other commemorative spikes had been tapped in the pre-bored laurel tie. Each went in and then removed before presenting them to various individuals. 

One spike was a lower-quality gold spike that was supplied by the San Francisco News Letter  which was a weekly newspaper that started publication 1856 and is believed to have lasted until the 1890s. That gold spoke was made of $200 worth of gold and it was inscribed: With this spike the San Francisco News Letter offers its homage to the great work which has joined the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

A second ceremonial spike was made of silver. Rather than cast, that silver spike was forged of 25 troy ounces of unpolished silver. It was supplied by the State of Nevada. 

A third ceremonial spike was a blend of iron, silver and gold. It was supplied by the Arizona Territorial Governor's office and and engraved: Ribbed with iron clad in silver and crowned with gold Arizona presents her offering to the enterprise that has banded a continent and dictated a pathway to commerce. That spike was given to Union Pacific President Oliver Ames. That spike is said to be on display at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

All three were gifts to be presented by the other three members of the Central Pacific's Big Four who couldn't be there that day. 

Besides the fact that the special spike was gold, a telegraph line was actually connected to the spike to captured "the vibrations of the driving of the last spike so the nation could hear the railroad’s completion." After the last spike mail tap, the telegraph message "Done" was sent out.

It was all ceremonial as the spike made of gold and engraved was replaced with real iron spike. And yes, the telegraph wire that connected to the gold spike for sensationalism was removed.

The Transcontinental Railroad was very significant because it meant that people and goods could travel faster and safer across country. Goods and meeting the demands of people in need of those goods has always been the lifeblood of America. Americans don't sit on their wealth. We achieve it and spend it either on building new businesses if we're so lucky to have such wealth, or we buy what we want and need to make our lives better and more comfortable.  

Whether it's a new John Deere plow, or obtaining a brand new J.S. Risdon metal windmill, buying goods, especially those from long distances, is the reward of hard work and the glory of a system that says we can have better lives through our efforts. Having the two halves of the nation connected improved trade opportunities between regions, states, businesses as never before. It made our getting goods easier than ever before. People saw the potential of the First Transcontinental Railroad. But I believe that no one saw it's significance as much as a man by the name of A.M. Ward. 

In 1872, he created an invention that harnessed the power of that connection. Known as the book of dreams for many Americans in small towns and big cities, it filled a niche as a way to get goods that one could only dream of before. That invention became known as the Mail-Order Catalog. With it, one could order a product that was manufactured clear across the country. And when it arrived, in almost every case, it arrived in such good condition that one would think it were made locally. Such was power of trade being improved with the First Transcontinental Railroad.

By the way, the original "golden spike" is on display at the Cantor Arts Museum at Stanford University.

Tom Correa


Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Dodge City Gang -- Badmen With Badges

Hoodoo Brown
In a recent post, The Santa Fe Trail, I talked about how trade came faster and easier after establishing that route. Well, along with the trade and commerce, towns flourished. Then came the gamblers, prostitutes, ruffians, thieves, and many more of what can only be termed as the leeches of society, the seedy unsavory characters that took folks for everything they had through cheating and stealing. 

And no, contrary to the myth, gamblers were not seen as respectable people. Most gamblers were seen as tinhorns -- just contemptible lowlifes pretending to be something they were not. 

Among the bad and unsavory were a number of badmen who formed a group called the "Dodge City Gang." They called themselves that to intimidate the people in Las Vegas, New Mexico, because even there people had heard of what went on in Dodge City -- real or not.

In my last post, I talked about how the Archer Gang worked out of Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky for about 10 years. While that was a long time for an Outlaw Gang to exist, in reality most didn't last but a couple years at best, the Dodge City Gang was one gang that had a very short run.

Before I start talking about the outlaw Dodge City Gang in Las Vegas, New Mexico, let's make sure we separate them from a group of policemen and gamblers in Dodge City, Kansas. The Dodge City Gang of outlaws that arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in the Summer of 1879 is not the same as the group of policemen and gamblers who are said to have ruled Dodge City, Kansas, with an iron fist.

The Dodge City Gang that arrived in New Mexico were criminals that worked both sides of the law to their own advantage. And while I know real well that someone will write me saying that that's the exact same thing that the police and gambling enterprises did in Dodge City, Kansas, in the 1870s, there are a couple of big differences.

It's said that the law in Dodge City was horribly corrupt. They were on the take, got a percentage of the gambling and prostitution, and looked the other way when a cowboy was rolled for his trail money. It seems they were content with getting their percentages, the bonuses for buffaloing innocent cowboys, and being on the take. In contrast, the Dodge City Gang that landed in Las Vegas was a group of criminals who showed up on the scene presenting themselves as former lawmen with the desire to take over whatever criminal activity was taking place there. That's a huge difference.

The other difference has to do with the severity of the crimes. Those who were in Dodge City were mostly crooked gamblers and lawmen on the take. Some were just heavy-handed lawmen who saw their badge as a permit to bully the innocent and beat up cowboys. In contrast, the outlaw gang in Las Vegas, New Mexico, were lawmen turned badmen, bandits, highwaymen, train robbers, hired guns, and killers. 

Those in the gang had reputations as violent men. Deserved or not, those reputations enabled them to take control of the town on the pretense of establishing law and order. As I said before, they initially presented themselves as lawmen. In fact, the Dodge City Gang consisted of former Justice of the Peace Hyman G. “Hoodoo Brown” Neill, and former Dodge City Marshal Joe Carson, Deputies Tom Pickett, John Joshua (J.J.) Webb, and "Mysterious Dave" Mather.
The gang was organized by Hoodoo Brown. Supposedly, he came up with the idea of "lawmen" controlling the gambling and prostitution in Las Vegas after seeing what was going on in Dodge City, Kansas. His idea was to turn things up a notch of two and take complete control of the town. Since he was a "judge" and his cohorts wore badges, Brown figured he and the others could easily take over Las Vegas and get rid of unwanted rival gangs. He knew that their rival gangs couldn't go up against a gang of outlaws wearing badges.

Along with them were several known outlaws such as "Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh, Dutch Henry Borne, John "Bull Shit Jack" Pierce, William P. "Slap Jack Bill" Nicholson, Selim K. "Frank" Cady, and other desperadoes known for their robbing and stealing. All just hired guns, thugs, and thieves. Dentist turned gambler Doc Holliday was in Las Vegas, New Mexico, at the time. Many list Holliday as being a member of the Dodge City Gang, but there's no proof of that. Frankly, I don't believe he was.

The people of Las Vegas, New Mexico, welcomed them with open arms. That was all the bandits needed to become the law there. Those badmen with badges saw the area ripe for the picking.

This gang had an interesting way of operating. It was all about catch and release.

Their operation was simple in that while the known outlaws of the gang committed the crimes, the lawmen of the gang acted in their official capacities to cover for them or helped them evade justice. So in effect, the gang was the law and the outlaws -- a win-win situation for those attempting to take over a town and rob it blind. In fact, the Dodge City Gang robbed several stagecoaches and is believed to have committed a couple of train robberies.

But they didn't stop there. They rustled cattle, murdered and lynched both their competition and those suspecting what was going on. Their problems started when more and more of the citizenry suspected what was going on. Many suspected that the perpetrators of the crime wave were members of the Dodge City Gang.

First there was two stage robberies in August of 1879. Then there was a train robbery in October of that same year. Both took place in the area around Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Remember the operation, one part of the gang commits the crime while the other part of the gang covers and protects their cohorts from arrest or prosecution. A prefect example of the law working hand in hand with outlaws took place on August 18th, 1879. That was when a stagecoach was robbed by John Clancy, Jim Dunagan, and Antonio Lopez near Tecolote, New Mexico. All three were part of the Dodge City Gang. All three were arrested. And yes, all three were released. Not convicted.

On August 30, 1879, just a couple of weeks later, another stage was held up. This time it was held up by Dodge City Gang members Frank Cady, Slap Jack Bill, Bull Shit Jack, and Jordan L. Webb. All were arrested and charged. All escaped conviction.

Less than two months later on October 14, 1879, masked train robbers made off with $2,085. The robbers decided to rearm by also taking arms and railroad equipment such as lanterns all to be used in future robberies. At the time, Sheriff Charlie Bassett, Harry E. Gryden, Chalk Beeson, and J.J. Webb, were all hired by the Adams Express Company to catch the robbers. What Bassett, Gryden, and Besson didn't know at the time was that J.J. Webb was part of the Dodge City Gang and he actually worked to take the others off the trail of his outlaw cohorts.

Violence and thievery are said to have plagued the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, at the time. While some have asked me about violence in the Old West, and in fact have heard me say that Tombstone was not that violent a place, the same cannot be said for Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was truly a violent place.

The Dodge City Times reported, "Shooting scrapes are of frequent occurrence in that remote region."

As for killings, judge Hoodoo Brown declared himself "Coroner" and installed members of his gang on the local Coroner’s Jury. This made it very convenient for the gang to cover up crimes. Especially since the Coroner’s Jury made the determination as to whether a killing was a homicide or self-defense, one would be tried while the other would have charges dropped.

In March of 1880, an article in The Chicago Times described Hoodoo Brown as "one of the worst class of low gamblers."

It's said that for one reason of another, it became very apparent to the good people there that every low-life in New Mexico, and those coming from Kansas, Texas, and Colorado, had decided to gather in Las Vegas to stir up trouble. Though that was the case, one of the last incidents involving members of the Dodge City Gang took place on March 2, 1880. That was the day when Hoodoo Brown and J.J. Webb found out that Mike Kelliher, a freighter who had just delivered a shipment to merchants there, was in possession of $1,900 on his person. 

On March 9, 1880, The Ford County Globe, reprinted the report of what took place as it appeared in the Las Vegas Daily Optic:

About four o’clock this morning, Michael Kelliher, in company with William Brickley and another man [a member of the Dodge City Gang], entered Goodlet & Roberts’ Saloon and called for drinks. Michael Kelliher appeared to be the leader of the party and he, in violation of the law, had a pistol on his person. This was noticed by the officers, who came through a rear door, and they requested that Kelliher lay aside his revolver. But he refused to do so, remarking, “I won’t be disarmed – everything goes,” immediately placing his hand on his pistol, no doubt intending to shoot. But officer Webb was too quick for him. The man was shot before he had time to use his weapon. He was shot three times–once in each breast and once in the head. . . Kelliher had $1,090 [$1,900] on his person when killed.

J.J. Webb was arrested, but escaped with the help of his cohorts. As for Hoodoo Brown, he is said to have grabbed the loot from Kelliher and left town soon after that on a fast horse.

Fact is, by then their viciousness was obvious to all. Their criminal acts were done with complete disregard to any sort of stealth behavior. It was the failure of the Dodge City Gang to disguise their criminal dealing that ultimately led to the citizens of Las Vegas saying they'd had enough. The residents of Las Vegas, New Mexico, formed a vigilante group to right the situation. Yes, one way or another, things were going to get cleaned up. 

On April 8, 1880, this notice appeared in the Las Vegas Optic newspaper:

To Murderers, Confidence Men, Thieves:

The citizens of Las Vegas have tired of robbery, murder, and other crimes that have made this town a byword in every civilized community. They have resolved to put a stop to crime, if in attaining that end they have to forget the law and resort to a speedier justice than it will afford. All such characters are therefore, hereby notified, that they must either leave this town or conform themselves to the requirements of law, or they will be summarily dealt with. The flow of blood must and shall be stopped in this community, and the good citizens of both the old and new towns have determined to stop it, if they have to HANG by the strong arm of FORCE every violator of the law in this country. “


Vigilantes


The writing was on the wall and those left of Dodge City Gang knew they weren't big enough to go up against the whole town. Realizing it was beneficial to their longevity to get the heck out of Las Vegas, they disbanded and fled town for places more conducive to their criminal behavior.

Since the Dodge City Gang arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in the Summer of 1879 and fled the scene to save their necks less than a year later by the Spring of 1880, their run as an outlaw gang may have been the shortest of most outlaw gangs in the Old West.

Tom Correa


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Outlaw Gangs -- Part One



A reader has written wanting to know if the Cochise County Cowboys Gang was really the first and earliest form of organized crime in the United States? She also wanted to know "what's the difference between an outlaw gang and simply a group of outlaws who know each other but might not be in a gang together?" 

Well, what's a criminal gang? As defined in Criminal Law Codes of most states, a "Criminal Gang" is a group or an association of three or more persons whose members meet the following elements:
(1) individually or collectively engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity;
(2) have as one of their primary objectives or activities the commission of one or more underlying crimes, including acts by juveniles that would be underlying crimes if committed by adults; and
(3) have in common an overt or covert organizational or command structure.

A few of the more famous was the Wild Bunch, the Dalton Gang, and the James-Younger Gang. Where most all of the outlaw gangs in the Old West were tight knit bands of thieves, robbers, and killers, the Cochise County Cowboys, also known as the "cow-boys" and the Clanton Gang, really doesn't appear to have been a tight knit band. As far as I can see, the Cochise County Cowboys Gang of southern Arizona during the early 1880s was sort of odd in that instead of being a band, they're considered a "loose association of criminal types."

As for the Cochise County Cowboys Gang being the first and earliest form of organized crime in the United States? I've read in a number of places the following, "Some modern writers consider them [The Cochise County Cowboys Gang] to be one of the first and earliest forms of organized crime syndicates in American history."

While that might the opinion of some writers, I can't see how they can get away with saying that since that wasn't the case at all. In fact, there were a number of organized crime syndicates, aka criminal gangs, operating in America long before the  Civil War. In some cases 30 years or more before the establishment of Cochise County or the Clanton Gang.

It is just a fact that there were already organized crime syndicates in places such as New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and New Orleans, true organized crime syndicates, before the Civil War. Those criminal organizations ran from the Irish gangs and the Jewish gangs of New York City and Boston, to the Mafia which had already taken a foothold in many cities including New Orleans, to the Chinese Tongs who were well organized in San Francisco. Yes, long before the Cochise County Cowboys Gang was ever thought of.

While those organized crime syndicates did not ride horses, and not rob trains and stagecoaches like the small time counterpart Outlaw Gangs in the West, those true organized crime gangs stole huge amounts of money through racketeering, counterfeiting, extortion, conspiracy, robbery, and thefts. Beside that, murder was common for them.

As for out West, there were a lot of Outlaw gangs in what was then considered the undeveloped West. To name a few, there was Billy the Kid's Gang known as the Rustlers, working in Lincoln County, New Mexico, for a few year in the late 1870s. Long before Billy the Kid was ever heard of, the Daly Gang was said to have absolutely terrorized the silver town of Aurora, Nevada for the two years between 1862 and 1864. Before them, the Sidney Ducks ran wild in San Francisco in the early 1850s

The Black Hills Bandits worked at robbing stagecoaches in the Deadwood, South Dakota, area for a year or so in the 1870s. Outlaw Sam Bass was a part of them before he fled the scene and started his own gang in Texas. The Sam Bass Gang robbed trains and banks in Texas mostly from 1877 to 1878. Yes, just a little over a year as well.

It's really not much time at all when you consider that the Archer Gang applied their criminal trade in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky, for at least 10 years before being taken down. Consisting of Archer brothers, Tom, Mort, John, and Sam, they actually had about 20 members in their gang. Interestingly enough, it's said the Archer Gang members were all blood kin in one way or another.

The Archer Gang robbed trains, and were highwaymen robbing stagecoaches and lone travelers. But frankly, those ruthless individuals didn't stop with thieving. They were also known for rustling cattle, stealing horses, committing arson for pay, extortion, counterfeiting, burglary, and even murder for hire. Yes indeed, murder for hire.

During their decade long rein of terror, this little known gang of Outlaws were responsible for strangers, peddlers, and even regular citizens going missing. And frankly, it's amazing to think that most all of their victims were never seen again. In most cases, no trace of their bodies were ever found.

It is said that in-fighting was what ended their gang. No, not a hail of bullets in some gigantic shootout. Fact is, their downfall is said to have came about when Sam Archer's wife informed the law of what her brothers-in-law were doing. With that, Tom, Mort, and John Archer were arrested for murdering a well-known local man who went missing. 

The three were jailed at the town of Shoals, Indiana. But before ever making it to trial, a group of citizens formed. Those vigilantes took them from the courthouse and lynched all three from trees. Sam Archer didn't escape the rope as his wife had hoped. He was later arrested, tried, and legally hanged four months after the lynchings of his brother. Since there were no Archer brothers left, the Archer Gang was finished for good.

All proves out that old saying, "You live like an outlaw, you die like an outlaw." And while most are shot to death, a large number ended up dangling from some tree after citizens have had enough.

Tom Correa



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Santa Fe Trail

The Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail linked the eastern United States with the undeveloped West. As for you who might not know too much about the Santa Fe Trail, basically it was America's first trading route. Or, as some like to say, it was America's first "commercial highway" going West.

We should understand that long before the opening of the Santa Fe Trail, there was trade taking place between the Great Plains Indians and early settlers along the route. Yes, especially those settlers of the Texas panhandle. In reality the Spanish had trade routes that extended along the Rio Grande reaching into the Spanish colonies of Texas and New Mexico long before the United States separated from Great Britain. For years, Spain stopped their people from moving eastward with trade by declaring trade with Native Americans and later with the Americans as illegal. There were heavy fines and even imprisonment if one was found trading with either.

Among the constants throughout mankind's history is the desire to create wealth for one's self and family. Private enterprise, free enterprise, private ownership, are what has been the great motivator when it comes to promoting innovation and our desire for freedom. Capitalism has pulled more out of poverty than any tyrannical system of government controls. Whether it was the ancient Romans or the Mexicans and Americans of the 1800s, people have always known that commercial trade, that Capitalism, means freedom.

So while the Spanish attempted to halt trade, as Spain banned trade for Mexico with anyone but Spain, a number of American explorers and adventurers attempted to travel West to conduct trade even though they knew it was illegal to do so. The Spanish actually detained many Americans at the time. Some were inevitability deported back to the United States. Yes, sent home in most cases by military escort. Others were never seen again.

Around 1810, some say sooner and some say later by 1812, Spanish subjects were tired of the over-regulation and high taxation. The people were fed up with the Spanish government's iron-fisted approach of governing the people. As with any form of dictatorship, Spanish rule was draconian.

Fact is Spanish laws were excessively harsh and violating them resulted in terribly severe consequences for the people. Ruling the people as subjects and peasants instead of as citizens is a recipe for failure. History tells us that people want freedom. For the Mexicans, it was about then in 1812 that the Mexican people had finally had enough of living under a Spanish boot and attempted to gain their independence. Sadly that first attempt failed. But as with people wanting to be free and get out from under an oppressive government, the Mexicans fought for their independence. After a successful revolution, the people there gained their freedom in 1821.

Among other things, their fight for freedom opened the door for those wanting to trade with Mexico. Connecting Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Sante Fe Trail covered over 900 miles of the Great Plains. Who created this, traders did. Not the government, but people wanting to prosper. And with their efforts, the Santa Fe Trail served as a sort of highway for countless American merchants, settlers and pioneers, and of course our military which included engineers, surveyors, and adventurers. All who would play a critical role in America’s westward expansion.

One Missouri trader, a man who was also a veteran of our War of 1812, was William Becknell. He is said to have wasted no time heading for Santa Fe. In September of 1821, Becknell and a small group of men with a caravan of cargo carrying all sorts of goods left Franklin, Missouri.

William Becknell did't know if he would return safely. But along the way, a group of Mexican soldiers are said to have told him of their independence and desire for needed goods made him a welcomed sight. Becknell and his party arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on November 16th of that year. They were welcomed with open arms by Mexican citizens and government officials there actually encouraged him to return soon with more goods to trade.

Becknell's original wagons laden with goods is said to have netted him a 1500% profit. Friends, that's the same as buying a load of guns for $100 and then selling them all and making $15,000. So yes, it was a win-win relationship born out of desire for goods and opportunity to make life better on both ends of the trail. Both ends of the Santa Fe Trail. Remember, he also returned to Missouri with goods from Santa Fe. Those goods quickly became in high demand there. Money was made and everyone benefited. Such is how our system works.

Becknell’s initial path to Santa Fe became known as the Mountain Route because it followed the Arkansas River to the Colorado Plains to the Purgatoire River and across what is know as the very treacherous Raton Mountain Pass and down into Santa Fe. The next time he returned to Santa Fe, that route became known as the Cimarron Route. The Cimarron Route followed the Arkansas River to Cimarron, Kansas, near what would later become Dodge City. From there, it lead through "southwest Kansas and the western panhandle of Oklahoma before venturing into Round Mound and Point of Rocks, New Mexico and San Miguel. After navigating the Glorieta Mountain Pass, it ended in Santa Fe."

This route is said to have been the most popular track on the Santa Fe Trail. Becknell found it when he was looking for a faster route than that of the Mountain Route and it seemed to workout better than the other. While the Cimarron Route was about 100 miles shorter than the Mountain Route, and is said to have been a lot less dangerous as far as terrain goes, water was scarce and Indian raids were very common.

Because of the Indian raiding parties, the Bent, St. Vrain and Trading Company built what became known as Bent’s Fort, also known as Fort William after William Bent, on the north bank of the Arkansas River in 1833. While some think it was built by the U.S. government, that's not the case. Bent's Fort was actually built by the company owned by brothers William and Charles Bent, and their partner Ceran St. Vrain. William Bent, like his brother, was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

There was actually eleven Bent children in that family. Brothers William and Charles were in their teens when they left St. Louis to try their luck at fur trapping in the West. Joining in on the beaver trade where pelts and furs were in great demand because of the latest fashions taking place in the East, especially the beaver used to make men’s hats, was something that many young Americans only dreamed of doing.

While the Bent brothers lived the adventure, they traveled the Santa Fe Trail and traded with Whites, Mexicans, and Indians, and Mexicans. When beaver hats went out of fashion in the East, they started trading buffalo hides used for factories in the big cities of the East. While their fort started out as a trading hub for fur-traders, mountain men, and Plains Indians, it later evolved into a rest stop for settlers and traders traveling the Santa Fe Trail. And for the record, Bent's Fort was considered the biggest building between Missouri and the Pacific Ocean at the time. Imagine that!


The Bent brothers made friends with the Cheyenne, and in fact worked hard to keep the peace between them and the white settlers. William's first wife was the daughter of a Cheyenne chief. Her name was Owl Woman. They had four children together. One would later turn renegade. After Owl Woman died, William Bent remarried three times. Of them, two were Cheyenne women.

In 1845, the United States voted to annex Texas from Mexico. Of course at the time, the area known as Texas also included parts of what is today New Mexico. Needless to say that the annexation of Texas cause tensions which resulted in the United States declaring war on Mexico in 1846. As for the Santa Fe Trail, U.S. Army General Stephen Watts Kearney along with 1,600 of his troops used the  Santa Fe Trail to go to New Mexico and occupy it.

General Kearney is said to have taken to the Mountain Route specifically hoping that its hazardous terrain would give his troops an edge against Mexican troops. Though the Raton Pass was hard going for Kearney's troops and equipment, they took Santa Fe without resistance. While that may have been the case, instead of conquest, the United States actually purchased Mexico’s southern territories including New Mexico, California and Arizona, from the Mexican government when the Mexican-American War ended. I guess it was cheaper to just buy them. Especially considering the problems the Mexican government was having maintaining people in position while governing those lands.

Bent's Old Fort was rebuilt as a National Historic Site
While some say it was the fear of small pox that made William Bent burn down Fort Bent in 1849. Others say it was burned to the ground as a casualty of the war with Mexico. Either way, a few years later in 1853, William built a new fort thirty miles to the East of the first site. The new trading post was called Bent’s New Fort and it was built on a bluff further downriver at Big Timbers. The New Fort was also a trading post, but it became more when it was used as a place for Indian tribes and government officials to meet.

Because the U.S. Army was sending troops out West to attend to troubles between American settlers and the Plains Indians, the U.S. Army ended up leasing Bent's New Fort. The Army renamed it Fort Fauntleroy, it was later renamed Fort Wise, and then later it was designated Fort Lyon.

At first, it was considered a good turn of events when William Bent went to work for the government as an Indian agent. He was well like by the tribes, the settlers, and the Army. And while it's said that William Bent tried hard to keep the peace between the Indians and the settlers, especially those pouring in the area during the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859, he resigned out of frustration with all parties. Fact is, it appeared no wanted peace and war seemed to be the only answer for those there. That included some of the Indians, the settlers, and some in the U.S. Army who looked at Native Americans as a nuisance that needed to be eradicated.

Things came to a head in 1864. Yes, while the Civil War raged on in the East, a slaughter of American Indians was being planned in the West. The man to carry out the massacre was U.S. Army Col. John Chivington. He is known to have said, "Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians. I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians. Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice." And believe it or not, this man is described as being a Methodist preacher and a Freemason who was an ardent opponent of black slavery in the South. Imagine that. 

From Fort Lyon, Col. Chivington took over 700 troops of the First Colorado Cavalry, Third Colorado Cavalry, and a company of First New Mexico Volunteers to Chief Black Kettle's campsite at Sand Creek which was about 40 miles from the fort. Black Kettle was told that their people would be regarded as friendly. In fact, Black Kettle was given an American flag which he flew over his lodge. He was told that by our Army officers that our flag would show everyone that he was friendly. He was told that our flag over his camp would prevent an attack by American soldiers.

On the day of the attack, most of the warriors were off hunting buffalo. This meant that only old men and women and children were in the village. Most of the men were said to be either too old or too young to hunt, nevertheless fight against American troops. The Cheyenne Dog Soldiers who were not interested in surrendering to our military refused to be there. Instead, those Indians actually responsible for the raids on miners and settlers were not part of those at the camp at Sand Creek.

On the morning of November 29th of 1864, American troops were ordered to give no quarter!

The order of "no quarter" means that they were instructed to show no mercy, have no pity, demonstrate no compassion, and to use their overwhelming power to slaughter those there. This is the equivalent to the orders "take no prisoners." Today, this would certainly be considered a war crime.

It is important to note that two officers in his command refused to carry out what would be a massacre. It's true. Captain Silas Soule commanding Companies D, and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer commanding Companies K, refused to follow Chivington's order and told their men, those of the First Colorado Cavalry, to hold their fire. Though that was the case, other soldiers in Col. Chivington's command are said to have immediately attacked the village.

Disregarding Black Kettle's American flag, or the white flag that was run up shortly after the soldiers commenced firing, Chivington's troops slaughtered the village wholesale. Those who did follow Chivington's orders massacred the camp's inhabitants without compunction. Some of the Indians cut horses from the camp's herd and fled up Big Sand Creek. Others fled upstream and actually dug holes in the sand beneath the banks of the stream to hide in. They were pursued by the troops and fired on, but many survived. One witness said that most of the Indian dead were killed by cannon fire. That is especially true regarding those troops firing from the south bank of the river, as they are said to have cut down the Indians retreating up the creek.

In his testimony before a Congressional committee investigating the massacre, Col. Chivington bragged that as many as 500 to 600 Indian warriors were killed. I read where historian Alan Brinkley wrote that 133 Indians were killed, 105 of whom were women and children. An American eye-witness, John S. Smith, reported that 70 to 80 Indians were killed. That included 20 to 30 warriors. His account agrees with Brinkley's figure as to the number of men killed.

After the initial attack, Chivington's troops killed many of the wounded. It is also said that they scalped a number of those dead and wounded regardless of whether they were women or children. As for claims that Chivington's men plundered the tipis for anything that may have been of value or that the troops also took their horses, I could not find anything to support those claims.

One of the more horrible reports says that Chivington himself joined his men and dressed their weapons, hats and gear with scalps and other body parts. Supposedly, the scalps were also publicly displayed as so-called "war trophies" in places like Denver's Apollo Theater as well as in saloons.
After the horrible massacre on Sand Creek, a massacre where Col. John Chivington had 163 men, women, and children killed, William Bent left Colorado for good.

Then there was the Plum Buttes Massacre. On September 9th, 1867, Frank Huning was on his way home with a small group of seven wagons and a carriage when his party was attacked by renegade Indians.

Frank Huning was said to be a merchant from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was supposedly experienced when it came to knowing the dangers along the Santa Fe Trail. As I've said before, merchants like Huning found it extremely profitable to trade along the Santa Fe Trail while actually helping to open the West. Besides the other teamsters in his party, Huning had his mother-in-law and 16-year-old brother-in-law with him on that trip. They were making their way on the Santa Fe Trail returning home from a business trip to Ohio.

While in Junction City, Kansas, the Huning party was warned to hold up for a few days. There were raiding parties on the warpath and they would be safe if they stayed there. At the same time, there were other freight wagons there. They were all planning to travel in a larger group for protection.

Huning did not heed the warnings and set out alone. His party made their way south along the Santa Fe Trail, then southwest. After traveling about 45 miles, they arrived at the Little Arkansas River Crossing. At the crossing, Huning is said to have met with Captain Edward Byrne of the U.S. Army Tenth Cavalry. Bryne's Buffalo Soldiers were known as fierce fighters and seeing them gave Huning a newfound sense of security.

It was there that Huning requested a military escort, but Captain Bryne refused. Believe it or not, Byrne refused because his famed Buffalo Soldiers were "out on a picnic." And by the way, keep in mind that those troops were specifically stationed there for the purpose of escorting civilians if requested. Angered at the refusal over such a thing, an impatient Huning decided to again set out alone.

Frank Huning is said to have grown worried and decided to saddle a mule to ride ahead of his freight train. While scouting ahead of the wagons, he heard a call come from a teamster in the last wagons. The cries of "Indians! Indians!" went out and then screams were heard.

Kiowa, Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors sneaked up on Huning's wagon train from behind. The warriors pulled the last four wagons and the carriage away from the train. The teamsters of first three wagons responded by circling their wagons and wait for an attack. But no attack came. Instead, the warriors focused on the wagons they had in their possession.

Most say the warriors were actually a small rogue renegade band. They are said to have moved the wagons away from the others by a couple of hundred yards. From their position, Huning is said to have just about ran out of ammunition firing his rifle at the Indians. He and the remaining teamsters later reported that because of being low on ammunition and being outnumbered, they had to sit there helplessly and listen to the screams coming from the wagons as the Indians tortured Huning's mother-in-law and the others in the distance.

At one point, Huning and the others heard pistol shots in slow succession being fired from the direction of the captured wagons. At the same time, Huning's mother-in-law's torturous screams went silent.

It was at that point that Frank Huning re-mounted his mule and left for help from the nearest Army fort. That fort was about 20 miles from the Plum Buttes. When he arrived at the fort, he only found civilian scouts, a man named Charles Christy and another man only known as Roma. Because the soldiers were no where to be found, the three armed themselves for bear and returned to the Plum Buttes.

Upon arriving, the warriors were gone. They rejoined the remaining teamsters and then set out to search the wreckage of the wagons. There they found the scalped and mutilated bodies of the teamsters, his mother-in-law and his young brother in-law. The wagons were pillaged and most were burned. The mules were killed.

The men loaded the dead into a wagon and returned to the fort. Huning went on to take his family member on to Albuquerque where they were buried. Huning himself would live to be a successful merchant. And yes, if you are wondering, Frank Huning may be the first person in the West to complain, "Where's the cavalry when you need them?"

It's said that for many years after the Plum Buttes Massacre, travelers passed the burned out wagons and bones of the mules. It's said that Huning's goods such as cookware and dishes, most broken, were found scattered there. There are some who say that William Bent's renegade son Charley Bent led the attack that night. Some say Charley Bent was actually one of the half-breed renegades that made up that group of Dog Soldiers.

These are just a couple of the many stories of what took place on the Santa Fe Trail. While the Santa Fe Trail was a trade route, it saw its share of those headed West during the California Gold Rush and later Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. As for the route that saw tens of thousands come West, the Santa Fe Trail was also used as a stagecoach route and a route for the short-lived Pony Express. But all in all, its days were numbered when the Union Pacific Railroad expanded west.

The first Santa Fe railroad train entered Santa Fe, New Mexico on February 9th, 1880. It came by way of an 18-mile spur track that Santa Fe County voters had funded in an October 1879 bond election. Because of that event, the entire 835-mile Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail, from Kansas City to Lamy and then on to Santa Fe, could then be traversed by rail.

So when that first train arrived with considerable fanfare at the Santa Fe, New Mexico, railroad station, it was obvious to all that mule teams and oxen-drawn carts and wagons couldn’t compete with Union Pacific's trains. When it came to hauling freight or getting passengers out West faster and safer, wagons and carts couldn't match what trains were capable of doing. Thus, the railroad ended the need for the Santa Fe Trail. After that day, the Santa Fe Trail either served local needs or simply wasn't used.

Tom Correa





Sunday, April 14, 2019

An Eyewitness To The California Gold Rush 1848

The California Gold Country
Ever wonder what it was like in the first few days after the discovery of gold at the start of the California Gold Rush? I was recently reading an account of what took place in the first few days after the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in California on January 24th, 1848. Those events were recounted during the 50th anniversary observance of the event that changed California and the United States. 

Just prior to the 50th anniversary of the California Gold Rush, there was great deal of interest in locating eyewitnesses who may be still alive and able to recount what took place back in the day. The organizers of the observances found that there were actually a number of  Several individuals still around. Of them, many claimed to have been with James Marshall when he first found a few gold nuggets while building a sawmill for John Sutter.

Of course, as with any historical event, the same thing that takes place today actually took place back then, more people claimed to be with James Marshal than really were. You'd be shocked at how many people always seem to show up after the fact but say they were there. This is something that resonates through history and simply something people do. They either say they were there, or say they played a significant role in the event.

It's true. For example, Wyatt Earp claimed that he arrested Texas legend Ben Thompson, claimed that he single-handedly held off a mob of 300 angry townsfolk who wanted to hang gambler Johnny Behind The Deuce, claimed that he was a great fist fighter, claimed that he was the target of the Cowboys at the OK Corral, claimed that he shot Johnny Ringo, and even claimed that he shot and cut Curly Bill in half with a shot gun though in reality the two may have been standing a hundred yards away from each other if we actually belief Earp's tale. Of course, all of Earp's claims have been proven either completely false or questionable at best. Yet, there are those who still accept Earp's yarns at face value because he was Wyatt Earp.

This was the problem that confronted the folks attempting to recount what took place at the start of the California Gold Rush. They found that their may have been almost a hundred people who were standing right beside James Marshall when he bent over to pick up a few nuggets of gold. And as for most of the accounts, many were treated with a great deal of skepticism for good reason.

But, of those located, there was an old man by the name of Adam Wicks. The folks researching what took place found him living in Ventura, California. Among them, it was agreed that he was a credible source. They saw him as reliable because his facts agreed with how gold was first discovered in California at Sutter's Mill. He knew things that proved that he had credibility.

The New York Times published an interview with Adam Wicks on December 27, 1897. Their article was published about a month before the actual 50th anniversary. What Mr. Wicks recalled was fascinating in it's details, I hope you enjoy what he recalled.

Adam Wicks recalled arriving in San Francisco by ship in the summer of 1847, at the age of 21:

"I was charmed with the wild new country, and decided to stay, and I’ve never been out of the state from that time. Along in October 1847, I went with several young fellows up the Sacramento River to Sutter’s Fort, at what is now the City of Sacramento. There were about 25 white people at Sutter’s Fort, which was merely a stockade of timbers as a protection from assaults by Indians.

"Sutter was the richest American in central California at the time, but he had no money. It was all in land, timber, horses, and cattle. He was about 45 years old, and was full of schemes for making money by selling his timber to the United States government, which had just come into possession of California. That is why he was having Marshall build the sawmill up in Columale (later known as Coloma).

"I knew James Marshall, the discoverer of gold, very well. He was an ingenious, flighty sort of man, who claimed to be an expert millwright out from New Jersey."

Mr. Wicks remembered hearing about the gold discovery as meaningless cow camp gossip:

"In the latter part of January 1848, I was at work with a gang of vaqueros for Captain Sutter. I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday when I first heard of the gold discovery. It was on January 26, 1848, forty-eight hours after the event. We had driven a drove of cattle to a fertile grazing spot on the American River and were on our way back to Columale for more orders.

"A nephew, a lad of 15 years, of Mrs. Wimmer, the cook at the lumber camp, met us on the road. I gave him a lift on my horse, and as we jogged along the boy told me that Jim Marshall had found some pieces of what Marshall and Mrs. Wimmer thought were gold. The boy told this in the most matter-of-fact way, and I did not think of it again until I had put the horses in the corral and Marshall and I sat down for a smoke."

Mr. Wicks stated that he met and asked John Marshall if he heard anything about someone finding gold in the area. He said that John Marshall was annoyed by the question, but then swore Wicks to silence before actually showing Wicks what he were found:

"The largest nugget was the size of a hickory nut; the others were the size of black beans. All had been hammered, and were very bright from boiling and acid tests. Those were the evidences of gold.

"I have wondered a thousand times since how we took the finding of the gold so coolly. Why, it did not seem to us a big thing. It appeared only an easier way of making a living for a few of us. We had never heard of a stampede of gold-crazy men in those days. Besides, we were green backwoodsmen. None of us had ever seen natural gold before."

Believe it or not, some say the initial discovery had very little effect on the day to day life there. Mr. Wicks described life working for Captain Sutter as follows:

"We went to bed at the usual hour that night, and so little excited were we about the discovery that neither of us lost a moment’s sleep over the stupendous wealth that lay all about us. We proposed to go out and hunt at odd times and on Sundays for gold nuggets.

"Two weeks or so later Mrs. Wimmer went to Sacramento. There she showed at Sutter’s Fort some nuggets she had found along the American River. Even Captain Sutter himself had not known of the finds of gold on his land until then."

Of course, once the word of gold got out, a mass migration took place. Mr. Wicks described the scene as follows:

"The earliest rush to the mines was in April. There were 20 men, from San Francisco, in the party. Marshall was so mad at Mrs. Wimmer that he vowed he would never treat her decently again.

"At first it was thought the gold was only to be found within a radius of a few miles of the sawmill at Columale, but the newcomers spread out, and every day brought news of localities along the American River that were richer in gold than where we had been quietly working for a few weeks.

"The very maddest man of all was Captain Sutter when men began to come from San Francisco, San Jose, Monterey and Vallejo by the score to find gold. All of the captain's workmen quit their jobs, his sawmill could not be run, his cattle went wandering away for lack of vaqueros, and his ranch was occupied by a horde of lawless gold-crazy men of all degrees of civilization.

"All the captain’s plans for a great business career were suddenly ruined."

While John Sutter later died broke, as history tells us, the word of gold being found spread like wild fire. To confirm the findings, President Polk mentioned the California gold discovery in his annual (state of the Union) report to Congress in December of 1848. In those days, the State of the Union was a report given to Congress and not an address given to the American people as it is today. President Woodrow Wilson actually started the modern day tradition of the President giving a State of the Union speech to the people.

After President Polk confirmed the discovery of gold, the great California Gold Rush was on. This single event changed California and made the United States wealthier than imaginable.

Tom Correa



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Nathaniel "The Slave Trader" Gordon -- Hanged 1862

Nathaniel Gordon
When I think of the slave trade in the United States, I really don't think about the fact that importing African slaves into the United States was only legal for the first 25 years of our existence as a nation.

Fact is, when Thomas Jefferson became president, Jefferson submitted legislation to stop the import of African slaves into the United States. That was in 1806. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 is a United States federal law that stated that no new slaves were permitted to be imported into the United States. That act took effect on January 1st, 1808. Though passed in 1807, that was the earliest date permitted by the Constitution.

So yes, in reality, importing slaves into the United States was legal from 1783 when we won our independence from England to January of 1808 when it became illegal to bring slaves to America. That's only 25 years.

After January 1, 1808, it would "not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereof from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of color, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such [person] ... as a slave, to be held to service or labor."

The act stated there would be a fines of up to $20,000 for anyone building a ship specifically meant to be used in the slave trade -- or anyone found fitting an existing ship to be used in the slave trade. Americans slavers saw fines up to $10,000 and jail terms of five years or more. The penalties for ships of any nation found in American ports or "hovering off the American coast with Africans on them" were seized and forfeited. Ship's captains faced a $10,000 fine and five to ten years in prison. Americans purchasing illegally imported slaves would lose that slave and be fined $8,000 for every slave they purchased.

Please understand that $8,000 in 1808 is equivalent in purchasing power to $160,492.70 in 2019. So no, that wasn't a small amount of money.

The act allowed the U.S. Navy to stop and board ships thought to be involved in the illegal slave trade. And since the domestic slave trade was still legal until 1865, the 1808 law required ships which were legally transporting slaves from one part of the nation to another to register their passengers with port authorities before setting out on their voyage.

Fact is the 1808 the law stopping the import of slaves was tough. It certainly had teeth. But, there was an unexpected problem that took place as a result of the 1808 law. The problem had to do with what to do with the slaves who were brought to the United States illegally?

Remember, as a nation, we had only been in existence for 25 years. No, not since 1776 but since 1783 when we won our fight to be free. While some count the Revolutionary War years as the start of our being a nation, I had a teacher who told me that the Brits would have told you different until the Treaty of Paris officially declared the end of the war and the United States a sovereign nation.

So for a very young nation, the question as to whether slaves should be sent back to Africa or simply set free in the United States was a huge dilemma.

Jefferson had no interest in freeing Africans who were illegally introduced into the United States. In reality, he wanted them repatriated back to Africa. But, since America was not a wealthy nation at the time, Jefferson was against spending the funds needed to return them to their homelands. He also knew that once they were returned, their own people would sell them back slavers headed for South America. We should keep in mind that the vast majority of African slaves sold into slavery by African chiefs actually ended up in South America and the Caribbean -- not the United States.

The 1808 law stated that slaves illegally found in the United States would be treated according to the law of the state in which they were found. Of course that meant they would become slaves in the United States because of the slave states where they ended up.

So in reality, while the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 placed huge fines and resulted in jail time for slavers, it did nothing for the slaves. Sadly, it also didn't stop the slave trade which was taking place within the United States borders.

And by the way, when you hear someone saying Americans bought and sold slaves for "hundreds of years," that's not true. Actually, Americans legally brought slaves into the United States for 25 years. before the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 went into effect in 1808. And if we look at how many years there are from 1808 to when slavery was officially abolished in 1865, we find that was 57 years. While it was a horrible chapter in the history of the United States which culminated into the Civil War, it was no where near the "hundreds of years" that some claim.

What slowed progress in stopping slavery sooner? Well, what didn't help was when, in 1857, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford was that Africans "have no rights" and remain slaves.

While the law that went into effect in January of 1808 stopped the flow of legally bringing slaves into the United States, slavers wanting to bring in African slaves still did so illegally. Yes, those slavers were like the modern-day "coyotes" on the U.S.-Mexican border today.

Of course, I'm sure most folks don't think of Yankees when they think about slavers at the time. Most everyone that I know think all slavers were Southerners. For those unfamiliar with the term "slaver," that's a person dealing in or owning slaves. Most think of Southerners as slavers. But in reality, many a Yankee was a slaver before and after the laws under the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 went into effect.

Take for example the case of Nathaniel "The Slave Trader" Gordon. Nathaniel Gordon was born in Portland, Maine, around 1834. He is interesting in that he was the first and only American slave trader to be tried, convicted, and hanged "for being engaged in the slave trade." All in accordance with the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 and the Piracy Law of 1820.

With the help of African chiefs, Gordon loaded 897 African slaves aboard his ship the Erie at Sharks Point on the Congo River in West Africa in mid to late July of 1860. The U.S. Navy's USS Mohican intercepted and captured Gordon's ship the Erie just 50 miles from New York where the Erie was to make port on August 8th, 1860. Yes, he was going to offload his "cargo" of illegals in New York.

His ship was captured for transporting illegal slaves, but he was actually arrested on August 8, 1860, for "piratically confining and detaining negroes with intent of making them slaves" and committing homicide. Believe it or not, he was charged with the unlawful killing of more than 30 slaves which he was trying to bring in illegally. His victims were men, women, and children.

How did he kill them? What was his method of murdering those 30 men, women, and children? Overcrowding, filth, starvation, and disease. The murders took place while at sea in July and August of 1860.

His first trial resulted in a hung jury. The second trial in the circuit court in New York City ended with a conviction on November 9, 1861. But, he wasn't convicted for the murders of those slaves. Instead, he was convicted of "piratically confining and detaining negroes with intent of making them slaves." In effect, he was convicted "for being engaged in the slave trade." He was sentenced to hang on February 7th, 1862.

On December 7, 1861, The Worcester Aegis and Transcript reported what presiding Judge W. D. Shipman had to say to Gordon when he passed his sentence. The judge stated the following:

"Let me implore you to seek the spiritual guidance of the ministers of religion; and let your repentance be as humble and thorough as your crime was great. Do not attempt to hide its enormity from yourself; think of the cruelty and wickedness of seizing nearly a thousand fellow beings, who never did you harm, and thrusting them beneath the decks of a small ship, beneath a burning tropical sun, to die in of disease or suffocation, or be transported to distant lands, and be consigned, they and their posterity, to a fate far more cruel than death.

Think of the sufferings of the unhappy beings whom you crowded on the Erie; of their helpless agony and terror as you took them from their native land; and especially of their miseries on the ---- ----- place of your capture to Monrovia! Remember that you showed mercy to none, carrying off as you did not only those of your own sex, but women and helpless children.

Do not flatter yourself that because they belonged to a different race from yourself, your guilt is therefore lessened – rather fear that it is increased. In the just and generous heart, the humble and the weak inspire compassion, and call for pity and forbearance. As you are soon to pass into the presence of that God of the black man as well as the white man, who is no respecter of persons, do not indulge for a moment the thought that he hears with indifference the cry of the humblest of his children. Do not imagine that because others shared in the guilt of this enterprise, yours, is thereby diminished; but remember the awful admonition of your Bible, "Though hand joined in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished."

While the judge understood such evil, Gordon had supporters. Many signed petitions and sent letters to appeal his conviction to President Abraham Lincoln. They wanted President Lincoln to issue a pardon. Fact is that between 1837 and 1860, there had been 74 cases of arrests made relating to the slave trade. Of those, all had been tried and very few men were convicted. And as for those convicted, they received only light sentences. Nathaniel Gordon was the first to be convicted and sentenced to death.

It's said that President Lincoln was known for his compassion. He is said to have issued a number of pardons during his presidency. This time was different. In the case of Nathaniel Gordon, President Lincoln not only refused to issue a pardon for Gordon -- he also refused to meet with anyone who had the nerve to support Gordon.

President Lincoln's statement regarding Gordon is as follows:

"I believe I am kindly enough in nature, and can be moved to pity and to pardon the perpetrator of almost the worst crime that the mind of man can conceive or the arm of man can execute; but any man, who, for paltry gain and stimulated only by avarice, can rob Africa of her children to sell into interminable bondage, I never will pardon."

President Lincoln did issue a stay of Gordon's execution until February 21, 1862, so that Gordon would have time to get his affairs in order.

A few days before his execution, U.S. Marines were brought in to provide security for the hanging. On the morning before the hanging, Gordon tried to commit suicide. It's said someone smuggled strychnine poison to him. The only thing it did was make him sick. Those in charge of carrying out his sentence simply moved his scheduled hanging at noon to a few hours later at 2:30 p.m..


Of the people there that day, all were "invited guests."

At 12 o'clock,  a clergyman entered Gordon's cell and prayed with him. Some say the priest prayed for him. After the priest left, Gordon dressed with some help by the authorities. Those authorities are said to have given him a "large drink of clear whiskey." After that, his arms were tied, and a black cap was put on his head. Reporters there said that he was carried out of the cell on a deputy's shoulders and set down in a chair in the corridor outside his cell. Newspapers reported that the sight of him "was simply shocking."

Because of the lingering effects of the strychnine, coupled with the whisky, he appeared almost drunk and unable to stand on his own. His gaze was said to be listless, and he seemed almost unaffected by what was taking place.

Even after the authorities read his death-warrant, he seemed disconnected from what was happening. In fact, that was so much the case that he stopped the marshal from reading his death-warrant to ask for another glass of whiskey. Believe it or not, more whiskey was given to him.

It's said that he did not whimper or cry or carry on as the deputies escorted him to the gallows. It's said that he listened to a deputy who advised him to "die like a man." With that Gordon walked to the rope just so no one could later accuse him of being a coward. In fact his bravado was noted by the newspapers, who reported Gordon saying, "Well, a man can't die but once; I'm not afraid."

The hangman's noose was carefully set under his ear, then he waited. Suddenly with a jerk, he went up into the air and then dropped to the length of the rope. His body swayed for a few moments, and all was quiet. Reports said that there were "no twitchings, no convulsions, no throes, no agonies. His legs opened once, but closed again, and he hung like a lump of dishonored clay."

Gordon's hanging seemed to trigger all sorts anti-slavery legislation being enacted. And while slavers knew that dealing in the slave trade was punishable by death since 1820, Gordon was the first and only man ever executed for the crime of slavery.

So the man who the newspapers dubbed Nathaniel "The Slave Trader" Gordon would go down in American history as the only man to be executed for the crime of slave trading. And yes, he was a Yankee.

Tom Correa