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



Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Murder of Louiza Catherine Fox 1869

The headstone of Louiza Catherine Fox
A reader has written to ask why I never talk about Ohio. She specifically asked about Louiza Catherine Fox who was killed in 1869 by a supposed serial killer. Yes, a supposed serial killer in 1869. And while some people have the notion that serial killers are a modern day creation, sadly such evil has been around for more years than most realize. 

In the case of Thomas Carr, his claims of killing 15 men and 2 women may have been more in his mind than real.

Thomas David Carr was born on March 6th, 1846 in the small town of Sugar Hill, West Virginia. He lived a life that got him hanged in St. Clairsville, Ohio, on March 24th, 1870. At a mere 24 years of age. 

The story goes that he was an arsonist, a thief, and a self-confessed serial killer who may or may not have murdered men and women in Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio. All between 1860 and 1869. That is, depending on whether you want to believe him. He was finally stopped when he was apprehended on January 22nd, 1869. 

Before he was hanged for a murder that we know for certain that he did in fact do, he confessed to murdering at least 15 men and 2 women. Some say his confessions were his was of delaying his drop from the gallows. Because of that, the legitimacy of his confessions are in question. Such skepticism is justified since his confessions didn't include specifics such as dates and times where some of his supposed murders were committed. Also, it's said that authorities at the time did their homework when investigating most of his claims and they disproved many of his statements. No differently than today where some crazy wants to take credit for things that he or she had no connection with, much of what Carr knew came out of newspapers and were easily disproved.

Carr was the fourth son in a family of five boys and three girls. His claims of being abused was an attempt to solicit sympathy from his jury. Yes, no different than what some criminals do today. But all in all, since there was no way of proving that his father, William Carr, had been an abusive parent, no one accepted his claim.

We do know that he was sent to prison for theft in 1854. He claimed that he and two other intimates murdered a woman by the name of Mary Montonie who supposedly worked at the prison. His tale is that he got away with it while his two cohorts were sentenced to death and life. Tales from inmates don't impress me. I write their claims off as lies meant to impress other inmates. 

John Wesley Hardin is the most famous example of an inmate who came up with all sorts of claims in his biography which he wrote while in prison. Most of what he wrote still to today cannot be substantiated. But believe it or not, there are people who accept his claims as truly taking place even though no evidence exists to support his claims. 

One of Carr's claims is at the age of 16, he supposedly enlisted with the 16th Ohio Infantry. According to him, he served 3 months with that unit in West Virginia before spending 3 years with the 18th Ohio Infantry. One of the more outlandish yarns he came up with was a tale about how he was saved by a special pardon handed down by President Abraham Lincoln himself. That story goes that Carr was always getting into minor scrapes in the Army to the point where he was supposedly sentenced to be shot for violating regulations such as gambling. 

I bet you didn't know the Army shot people for gambling? Well they didn't and still don't, but that didn't stop that psychopath from claiming such a thing. In fact, Carr claimed that the Army was going to shoot him and supposedly forced him to dig his own grave. Yes, and according to him, that's when President Lincoln found out about the execution, "felt sorry for the boy," and pardoned him.

Friends, there was a time in my life when I dealt with inmates. Unbelievable claims like that always gave me a chuckle. 

During Carr's confessions, he told all sorts of tales about killing all sorts of people. For example, according to him, while in the Army in Virginia's Greenleaf Mountain, he got away from his unit and shot a man who was trying to take him back to his unit. According to Carr, the man died the next day.

About that same time, he said that he was became a prisoner of war while in Columbia, South Carolina. While supposedly a prisoner of war being held by the Confederates, he and two others encountered a man by the name of Edward Berringer. Carr said that he strangled Berringer for just thinking about joining the Confederacy. This while he was supposedly a prisoner of war.

According to Carr, he was released somehow and then rejoined his unit in Mississippi. That's about the time that he supposedly shot and killed two rebel soldiers and shot a prostitute by the name of Annie Whalen.  Carr also claimed that he was one of a gang of 11 soldiers who broke into a store in Petersburg, Virginia. During that break-in, he said that he killed the store owner.

Carr also confessed to a gang-rape and killing in Raleigh, North Carolina. His story on that had to do with he and 14 other soldiers supposedly responded to an incident where a Union soldier was hanged by Confederate sympathizers in the cellar of a house of a prominent Southerner. He went on to tell how they arrived at a residence, and found only a 17-year-old girl there. According to him, they all raped and then he killed her. He said he set the house ablaze to cover up their crime. Another version of that story is that he raped her and left her for dead in an orchard. As with his other stories, this can't be substantiated. 

Some of Carr's other confessions include his stating that while on guard duty that he shot a Southerner in Raleigh who he thought was breaking into a house. Carr said that he supposedly threw a black waiter overboard while on a steamboat. And according to him, while in Baltimore, Maryland, he stabbed and disemboweled a streetcar conductor. According to Carr, he got away with the later by cutting off his mustache and getting lost in the crowd. In Newark, Ohio, Carr said that he killed a man with a bottle and joined a train load of Union soldiers to get away. 

Remember, this is the sort of stuff that comes from someone who thinks other people will believe his yarns without questioning any of it. In reality, Thomas David Carr had the same problem that John Wesley Hardin had, Carr had no witnesses of any of those killings and there were no reports of such things ever happening. Yes, especially in a time when everything was written about and reported on in journals and in newspapers.

Following his time in the Union Army, Carr worked at assorted jobs and became a petty thief. After arriving in the town of Egypt in Belmont County, Ohio, he met 13 year old Louiza Catharine Fox. They met through a their common employer, Alex Hunter. Carr worked at the coal mine which Mr. Hunter owned, and Louisa worked as a servant girl for Mrs. Hunter at the Hunter's home. According to Carr, they immediately became engaged and he had her parents' consent. In reality, that was not true.

Born on February 8th, 1855, to John and Mary Fox of Egypt, Ohio. She was still 13 years old on January 21st, 1869, when she was mercilessly killed by Thomas Carr who was 11 years older and obsessed with her. 

While some want to make this into a story of young love gone bad, Louiza Catharine Fox did not love Thomas Carr and refused to marry him. This angered Carr so much that he decided to kill her. While she was working, he went to find her. All the while with a razor that he had previously stole.

After he found her, he again asked Louiza to marry him. Again, she rejected him. The story goes that Carr got drunk and during his drinking decided to ambush and kill Louiza Catharine Fox as she was on her way to her grandparents' home. 

He told investigators that he wanted to use the razor at first and positioned himself near a large oak tree on the road out of town. Then after sitting there a while, he changed his mind and decided to shoot her. It was then that he left his position on the road, to fin a gun. Unable to find a gun, he returned to his original plan. At the large oak tree, he waited for her. 

There, Carr is said to have noticed tracks that he believed had to belong to her. He also saw smaller tracks that he believed was her little brother Willie. His being with her didn't matter to him, since he was intent on killing her. If he couldn't have her, no one would ever have her was believed to have been his motive for murder. 

It's believed that he waited until he saw Louiza with her little brother walking along the road. Carr met up with Louiza before she knew it. They immediately began to argue. Carr then told Willie to go down the road, and that they'd be along in a minute. Willie was a few yards ahead of them heading down a hill when Carr decided to kill his sister. As Carr and Louiza reached a ravine, talking the whole while, he grabbed her by the arm and began forcing her towards the ravine.

Now Willie heard his sister screaming as Carr kept asking Louiza if she was ready to die. The 13 year old girl begged for her life, but that didn't stop Carr. Carr pulled the razor and instantly slashed the right side of her neck. He cut her across the jugular vein 10 inches long and 2 inches deep. 

Willie saw what happened and ran home to tell his father of what took place. In the meanwhile, Carr hid out knowing full well that he was now a hunted man. Around dawn on the next day, Carr came out of hiding. And soon enough, he was found and the call went out, "Murder! Murder! Murder!" 

In June 1869, Carr was found guilty of murdering Louiza Catharine Fox. He was sentenced to hang. His lawyer lodged an appeal, but it failed. Young Willie was allowed to testify as to what he witnessed with his own eyes. 

On the day of his execution, once on the gallows, Carr was asked if he had any final words. With that he began praying out loud, he sang a couple of hymns, and then made a long speech about how tough his life was. No, he did not take responsibility for his heinous act. Instead he blamed whiskey and guns and Louiza Catharine Fox for rejecting him.

After finishing, the trap door opened and he dropped. As God would have it, Carr's neck wasn't immediately broken. Instead, he slowly strangled and jerked and kicked and gurgled in pain before finally dying. 

A doctor pronounced him dead and he was finally cut down. He was buried in the pauper's graveyard in St. Clairsville. He was legally hanged within six months of murdering Louiza Catherine Fox in 1869. His hanging was the first legal execution carried out in that county. 

Today, a plaque marks were young Louiza Catherine Fox's body was found on the night of January 21st, 1869. It's said that the murder of the young girl hit the small farming village of Egypt, Ohio, pretty hard. Such a crime was unheard of at the time. Such things took place in big cities like New York, certainly not a small town like Egypt, Ohio. 

Tom Correa