Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Ghost Ship Mary Celeste

Toward the end of December of 1972, the Battle of Salt River Canyon which was the first major engagement during the 1872 Tonto Basin Campaign under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Crook will take place. It was a major battle in the ongoing Yavapai War, also known as the Tonto Wars, from 1871 to 1875.

Often the Yavapai were mistaken for Apache. In fact, American settlers mistakenly referred to them as "Mohave-Apache," "Yuma-Apache," and "Tonto-Apache," because of their close relationship with tribes such as the Tonto and Pinal Indians. 

Almost a month before U.S. Army Lt. Col. Crook engaged the Yavapai Indians, crewmen of a British ship, a brig named the Dei Gratia, spotted an abandoned ship adrift in the choppy seas about 400 miles east of the Azores. That was on December 5, 1872.  As the Dei Gratia's Capt. David Morehouse noted in his ship's log, it was the first time anyone had discovered that the unmanned Mary Celeste. 

The Mary Celeste was an American merchant brigantine. Seeing the Mary Celeste was under partial sail but deserted, Capt. Morehouse grew concerned. He worried about the possibility of foul-play and changed course to come alongside Celeste. 

Capt. Morehouse sent a boarding party aboard the deserted ship. Immediately they took note of the fact that her lifeboat was missing. Belowdecks, the men found the ship's charts and ship's log. According to the ship log's last entry, the Celeste had battled heavy weather for close to two weeks while trying to reach the Azores. That entry was recorded at 5 a.m. on November 25.

While there was no sign of life on the Celeste, Capt. Morehouse's boarding party did find the belongings of her crew. In fact, all of her crewmen's belongings were still in their quarters. The boarding party noted that one of its two pumps had been disassembled, and there were three and a half feet of water sloshing in the ship's bottom. Though that was the case, its cargo of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol was intact. And even more important, the boarding party found that the ship had a six-month supply of food and water intact. 

The Mary Celeste was seaworthy without a soul aboard. And that, well that started the mystery of the 282-ton brigantine Mary Celeste. Of course, to add to one of the most enduring mysteries of the high seas was the fact that no one knows what happened to her captain, crew, and the ten passengers who had sailed aboard the Mary Celeste. 

We know the Mary Celeste began its voyage on November 7, 1872, when she left New York with a crew of seven and its Capt. Benjamin Spooner Briggs. Also aboard was Capt. Briggs's wife, Sarah, their 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, and eight other passengers.

Speculation being what it is, anyone's guess, there are all sorts of theories of what took place. Some say there was a mutiny, and the crew threw everyone overboard. Some say pirates boarded the ship and killed all aboard. Of course, Capt. Morehouse's boarding party didn't find anything to indicate that either thing had taken place. 

Other than those who actually speculated with all sorts of certainty that sea monsters swallowed up all on board, there are those who said that the Dei Gratia' crew were involved in the deaths of all aboard the Celeste. That was a theory going around later as a result of the courts and the suspicions of others.

Fact is, after spotting the Mary Celeste and then boarding her to give assistance, the crew of the Dei Gratia had to sail the ship about 800 miles to Gibraltar. That was where a British vice-admiralty court convened a salvage hearing. In such cases, it was a hearing to determine if the salvagers, in that case, the crew of the Dei Gratia, were entitled to payment from the ship's insurers. 

But because the attorney general in charge of the court inquiry suspected mischief on the part of the crew of the Dei Gratia, he decided to investigate the case. Because of that, it was only after more than three months that the court found no evidence of foul play. 

So, finally, the crew of the Dei Gratia received a salvage payment. But, and this is what lends itself to the belief by many that the British knew more than they revealed at the time, only a small part of the insurance money for which the ship and its cargo had been insured was paid. That in itself suggested to many that the authorities were not entirely convinced of the Dei Gratia crew's innocence.

Over the years, there have been many theories of what took place. There are many who have come up with all sorts of conclusions, all without facts, all supposition, and all without any merit. For example, 
even though the complete lack of any evidence supports the fact that no one really knows what took place, there are those who still suspect murder and conspiracy. Unfounded as they are, there are people who have come up with all sorts of crime stories that have zero evidence to support them.

Those who suspected insurance fraud were refuted. Those who suggested that Capt. Morehouse and his crew waited for the Mary Celeste, then lured everyone from the Celeste aboard Dei Gratia and killed them there, have absolutely no proof that such a thing took place. And really there is nothing to support the theory that the crews of both ships, including passengers, were somehow in cahoots to swindle the insurance carrier and split the salvage money. Believe it or not, there was a historian who speculated that the captain of the Mary Celeste killed everyone about in a fit of insanity. Of course, there were zero signs of such an event ever taking place.

As for the notion that there was an attack by pirates off the coast of Morocco? That theory leaves out the fact that pirates would have looted the ship. Remember, the boarding party found all of the personal effects of the captain and crew of the Mary Celeste undisturbed -- even those things that had value were not touched. Also, if pirates had looted and killed all, they were known to set ships ablaze before leaving them. 

Believe it or not, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who would gain fame for his character Sherlock Holms later, based a short story on his theory that a vengeful ex-slave killed everyone and simply used the lifeboat to make his getaway. 

Of the lies that were told over time, lies that people believed, there was were those that created details to make the story more interesting. Though false, in June of 1883, The Los Angeles Times retold the story of the Mary Celeste saying, "Every sail was set, the tiller was lashed fast, not a rope was out of place. ... The fire was burning in the galley. The dinner was standing untasted and scarcely cold … the log written up to the hour of her discovery." Of course, that was not true. But that didn't matter. Also, I'm sure people believed it.

As I have said over the years, a lot of what we think is true in history is not. The problem is that people assume they did simply because their fabricated tales sound so feasible. John Wesley Hardin wrote in prison about how he outdrew Wild Bill and lived to tell about it later.  Wyatt Earp who told newspapers how he killed Curly Bill in a supposed shotgun dual and how he later killed Johnny Ringo. For both Hardin and Earp, people believed them because it sounded like something they would do. 

For Hardin and Earp, it's a pity that there's no evidence or witnesses to support their claims. But really, that has not stopped people from believing their fabrications over the years. Even today, there are still those who believe that Hardin outdrew Wild Bill and that Earp killed Curly Bill. People want to believe that they did it because it's generally believed that both Hardin and Earp were capable of doing what they claimed -- even if their claims were not true. 

It's the same case with people who made outlandish claims of murder and mayhem on the Mary Celeste. Over the years, people have believed that's what happened simply because they believe there are bad people capable of killing everyone on board that ship. It doesn't matter how absurd the theory, or if there is no evidence to prove it happened, there are people who will believe it. Yes, in spite of the fact that no one will ever know what happened on that ship.

She is probably the most famous ghost ship known to all. And what deepens the mystery of Mary Celeste is that her yawl and the captain's navigation instruments were missing when she was found. That alone has encouraged all sorts of speculation as to why she sailed the sea alone. After all, while no one knows why the captain, crew, and passengers would have simply left, and were never seen again, that's what happened. It appeared they did and vanished in the vastness of the ocean. For some unknown reason, it's believed that they all simply boarded their lifeboat and left the Mary Celeste to drift. That mystery will never be solved.

As for the Mary Celeste? She was returned to New York in September of 1873. By then, because the newspapers were filled with all sorts of sensational stories of her captain, crew, and passengers all being slaughtered in one way or another, the possibility of sea monsters swallowing up the crew, and other fantastic tales of mayhem, no one wanted her. She became a leper, a novelty of sorts, a floating crime scene with no evidence of a crime, a haunted ship, a place where monsters lurked. Because she was seen as a ghost ship, for a few years she "rotted on wharves where nobody wanted her."

She was finally bought and refitted in the late 1870s. Under new ownership, the Mary Celeste sailed the Indian Ocean routes. In February 1879, her captain, Edgar Tuthill, had died. This encouraged people to think the ship was cursed. This was especially so when it was found out that Capt. Tuthill was her third captain to die prematurely.

In February 1880, she was sold again. It was in November 1884, that she became the pawn in an insurance swindle. Along with a new captain, Gilman C. Parker, her new owners conspired to scuttle the Mary Celeste for the insurance. To do that, they filled her with worthless cargo while at the same time falsifying the ship's manifest as having valuable goods aboard. They insured her supposed "valuable goods" for $30,000. It would be worth about $800,000 today. 

On January 3, 1885, the Mary Celeste approached Port-au-Prince, the capital and chief port of Haiti. Through the channel between GonĂ¢ve Island and the mainland, Capt. Parker piloted the Celeste. That area is known for its large but well-charted coral reef known as the Rochelois Bank, and it was there that Capt. Parker deliberately ran Celeste onto the reef ripping out her bottom open. She was wrecked beyond repair. And soon afterward, the crooked captain and his crew loaded into her lifeboat and simply rowed themselves ashore. It was there that they almost immediately put in insurance claims for the supposed "valuable goods". 

While there, Capt. Parker made the mistake of selling a piece of the ship's goods to an American who was associated with the American Consulate in Haiti. When that American realized that what he bought was worthless, he notified the consulate, and soon the ship's insurers were also notified. It didn't take long before the insurers began an investigation. And not long after that, their investigation uncovered the entire swindle. 

In July of 1885, the ship's Boston owners, Capt. Parker and a few of the crew were tried and convicted in Boston for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Capt. Parker was also charged with wrecking a ship which was a hanging offense at the time. While he escaped the hangman's noose, it's said the curse of the Mary Celeste wreaked vengeance on Capt. Parker because he died just three months later a broken man. 

There is a story about how salvagers tried to sell pieces of the Mary Celeste but no one wanted pieces of that ship. Most believed she was cursed. Bringing a piece of the Mary Celeste aboard another vessel was seen as bad luck. Even something innocent was said to be seen as a harbinger of death.

Tom Correa


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Belle Starr -- "The Bandit Queen"

Her name was Myra Maybelle Shirley Starr, but most know her simply as Belle Starr. To folks in Texas in the mid-1880s, she was also known as "The Bandit Queen" celebrated in several popular publications both newspapers and dime novels of the time.

She was born on a farm near Carthage, Missouri, on February 5th, 1848. Myra Maybelle (or Belle) Shirley was one of six children and the only daughter of John and Elizabeth Hatfield Shirley. It is speculated that May, as her family called her, might have attended Carthage Female Academy before going to Cravensa which was a private school also located in Carthage. 

It's believed her father John Shirley was a prosperous innkeeper, landowner, and slaveholder. In 1861 when the Civil War started, the Shirley family lived in Carthage. Even before the start of the Civil War, sympathizers for the Southern cause were widespread there. It's said that by the time the war broke out, supporters of Confederate irregulars such as the raider William Clarke Quantrill raiders were also commonplace. That might be why it's said the Shirley family was pleased when their oldest son, John joined a group of bushwhackers who took part in the bloody reprisals taking place at the Missouri-Kansas border. 

I find it interesting that bushwhackers were named after a common saying about cowards during that time, "Some men are bad -- behind a bush!"

By 1864, the city of Carthage had been burned to the ground and many families fled to Scyene, Texas, near Dallas. It was in Scyene in July of 1866 that Cole, Jim, Bob, and John Younger, along with Frank and Jesse James are said to have used the Shirley home as a hideout. All were known Missouri killers who rode with Quantrill, but that didn't matter to the Shirley family. 

As for Belle having a supposed love affair with Cole Younger? That's the sort of thing that's made to order for Hollywood because no one knows if there is any truth to that myth. While some have claimed that Belle's daughter Rosie Lee was also Cole Younger's daughter. Rosie Lee was born in 1868.

Just because some legends say Rosie Lee was also called Pearl Younger, that does not mean that there's any truth to her being Cole Younger's child. Cole himself denied it when asked about it. And since Belle married a bandit by the name of Jim Reed on November 1, 1866, it's believed that Reed is her daughter's father. 

Jim Reed is how Belle first met Cherokee outlaw Tom Starr who was the brother of outlaw Sam Starr. Belle and Jim lived in Indian Territory at Starr's home. It was when Reed was charged with murder in Indian Territory that he and Belle, along with their daughter, is said to have fled to Los Angeles, California. Their son James Edwin was born on February 22, 1871.

When they returned to Texas, Reed became part of the Younger, James, and Starr outlaw gangs. It's speculated that the Reeds moved their children in with some relatives while those gangs looted and robbed, and killed. It was about that time that Belle got her start as an outlaw. She operated a livery stable in Dallas where it is said she sold stolen horses -- horses stolen by Reed and those gangs. Yes, her livery stable was a front for moving stolen horses. 

Of course, this is all part of the myth behind the woman. In reality, people might find it interesting that there are no records, newspaper articles, or posters claiming a woman by the name of Belle Reed ever committed a robbery of a bank, a train, or a stagecoach, or was involved in a murder, or was suspected of cattle rustling, or selling stolen horses.

Jim Reed was part of a gang that robbed an Austin-San Antonio stage in April of 1874. Though that's the case, there is no evidence that Belle took part or was ever named as an accessory. Jim Reed was killed in Paris, Texas, in August of 1874. And as for the story that says Belle refused to identify his body so that the sheriff there wouldn't be able to claim a reward, that is extremely unlikely to have happened. Besides, Jim Reed was easily recognized when he was killed.

While it is said Belle Reed one of the Younger gang after Jim Reed was killed, to my knowledge, no one knows if that is just more myth about her ties to outlaw gangs. It is known that on June 5, 1880, Belle married 21-year-old Sam Starr in the Cherokee Nation. Belle was at that time ten years older than Sam Starr. 

As the saying goes, "Once a horse thief, always a horse thief." And frankly, while Belle Starr wasn't a killer or a bank robber, she was certainly a horse thief. In her case, it was in late 1885 that Belle Starr was arrested for stealing horses on an Indian Reservation. It is believed that Sam Starr was in on it but was able to getaway. Since stealing horses on an Indian Reservation was a federal offense. Though seen as a capital crime in most of the West, she reportedly received two six-month terms at a Federal Corrections facility for her crimes. It was after that arrest that newspapers dubbed her "The Bandit Queen."

During her incarceration, on December 17, 1886, her husband Sam Starr was shot and killed by an Indian policeman on the Reservation. That shootout no small incident since it also resulted in the death of that Indian Policeman. 

Reservation Police Officer Frank West was shot and killed by an extremely intoxicated Sam Starr at a dance near the Canadian River. Starr approached Officer West and accused him of killing his horse. Starr then pulled a handgun and instantly shot Deputy West in the neck. Though himself dying, Officer West was able to return fire and kill Sam Starr. Officer Frank West was survived by a wife and two children.

It was learned later that the suspect was Sam Starr who was married to Belle Starr and who had been an accomplice of the Younger Gang. The Younger Gang was involved in the deaths of Deputy Charles Nichols and Deputy James McMahan of the Dallas County Texas Sheriff's Department in 1871 and Deputy Edwin Daniels of the St. Clair County Missouri Sheriff's Department in 1874. 

Belle Starr is linked to many outlaw men, including outlaws Jim Starr, Blue Duck, Jack Spaniard, and Jim French. Supposedly she either married and simply lived with many of them. No one really knows if she really married again after the death of Sam Starr. It is said she survived all but two of them.

On February 3, 1889, while Starr was living in the Choctaw Nation, near the Canadian River, an unknown assassin killed her from ambush with a shotgun. She lingered for an hour before dying. She was killed two days short of her 41st birthday. Although the names of many killers were rumored to have killed her, with only two men as serious primary suspects in her murder, no one was ever arrested for her murder. 

As for her burial, she was dressed her in black velvet riding attire with boots and adorned her with the jewelry she had stolen from others. Legend says she was buried with a pearl-handled Colt .45 cradled in her hands. Her casket was a homemade pine box. It wasn't that much later after she was buried that the Indians there robbed her grave and stole the pistol and the jewelry buried with her. Yes, the jewelry that Belle stole from others. 

Her daughter is responsible for later erecting a headstone engraved with a bell, a star, and a horse. The story goes that the headstone was purchased by selling earnings that she made while working in a brothel. As for where she's buried? Belle Starr was buried at Younger's Bend, which is a remote place on the Canadian River where she lived in a three-room cabin. When she was alive, it was a place where she allowed outlaws to hide out from the law -- for a price. Her cabin burned down in 1933.
I find it interesting that Belle Starr was really just a local criminal, and was actually unknown outside the Cherokee Nation and a few places in Texas and Arkansas. That changed after she died and newspaper reports of her death were picked up by Richard K. Fox who was the publisher of the National Police Gazette. He published the story Bella Starr, the Bandit Queen (1889), which was a fabrication of her life, a story of her supposed exploits. He took the life of a petty horse thief and turned her into an outlaw Queen. 

Of course with his story, the rather homely Belle Starr became a legend. After that, as was the case of others who never lived the lives that writers gave them, more embellished books in the form of biographies and dime novels came forward. All had one thing in common, like the lives of Wyat Earp and Doc Holliday, they were ultimately simply fictionalized -- and perfect for Hollywood. 

Tom Correa

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Jonestown: Drinking the Kool-Aid

Jim Jones

I was recently asked about the term "Drinking the Kool-Aid" and where it came from. While I don't do too many articles on fairly modern history, I figured it would be okay to talk about something that many of us read about in the newspapers and saw on television back in 1978.

How and why did the phrase originate in 1978? The phrase originated because of what took place in Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978. It was there that over 900 men, women, and children volunteered to drink a powdered drink laced with cyanide. 

They were members of the Peoples Temple movement, a religious cult. Formally known as "The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ," it was simply known as "Peoples Temple." They were Americans who joined a "new religious movement" that started in 1955.  The Peoples Temple combined elements of Christianity with Communist and Socialist ideologies with an "emphasis on racial equality."

The cult was founded by a self-declared "Reverend" by the name of  Jim Jones in Indianapolis, Indiana. By the early 1960s, Jones moved his cult to California with a headquarters in San Francisco. It was in California that he set up a franchise for his cult. It wasn't long before he expanded his cult from San Francisco to many locations there -- including Oakland and Los Angeles. 

Believe it or not, with contributions pouring into the Peoples Temple, Reverend Jones created close ties with the Democratic Party and many Left-Wing Communist political figures. He made contributions to Leftist organizations, and like Bernie Sanders, advocated Communism. Jones, like Sanders, was a great admirer of Communism under the Soviet Union. Like Sanders, Jones is known to have lavished praise on that Communist nation. Jones reported that his Peoples Temple had 20,000 members nationwide.

In 1974, Jim Jones attempted to expand his Socialist ideology by signing a lease to land in Guyana. The land would be used to create a community called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, or simply known as "Jonestown." In 1977, the same year that he was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian award at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, he started his settlement with fifty residents.

Jones saw "Jonestown" as a "Socialist paradise" and a "sanctuary" from scrutiny. Increasing media scrutiny based on allegations by former members was exposing Jones for his swindling both cash and property from his followers. After Jones left for Guyana, he encouraged his Temple members to follow him there. Soon, the population of Jonestown grew to over 900 people by 1978. From what I remember, most were black Americans from the San Francisco Bay Area.

It is said that those who moved to Jonestown were promised a tropical paradise free from the supposed wickedness of the outside world. It was supposed to be a place where Socialism and Communism would provide them with a Heaven on earth. Instead, what they found was a Socialist community where Jones ruled through fear and intimidation, a place where medical facilities were non-existent, where simply comforts and food was not available. It was a place where freedom was a thing of the past. 
On November 17, 1978, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown. He was there investigating claims of abuse and loss of basic civil liberties to the Americans. During Congressman Ryan's visit, several members of the Peoples Temple expressed wanting to return to the United States with him. The next day, November 18, those members trying to flee Jonestown actually accompanied Congressman Ryan and his staff to the local airstrip at Port Kaituma.

I remember watching what took place at that airport because it was filmed and on every news broadcast on television for days. The film showed people milling about while boarding a fairly small plane. Then a tractor pulling a trailer with gunmen pulled up nearby. After the driver of the tractor got off the tractor, the gunmen simply opening fire on the delegation and those trying to escape Jonestown. Then the film was cut off. Later, I found out that the cameraman was one of those killed. 

The order was put out by Reverend Jim Jones to kill the Congressman and those trying to leave. With that, the Congressman's delegation was met as they were boarding their aircraft by Peoples Temple gunmen, who some have called the Peoples Temple security guards. 

Those gunmen opened fire on the group, killing Congressman Ryan, three journalists, and one of the defectors. A few seconds of gunfire from the incident were captured on video by NBC cameraman Bob Brown, one of the journalists killed in the murder spree. Many were wounded during the shooting.

That evening, the Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones proposed "revolutionary suicide" for all of his more than 900 followers. They were to do so by drinking a powdered grape drink laced with cyanide and other drugs. The drink had been prepared by Jones' staff. While it's said that a few who refused were shot, most of those who followed Jones did not question him and simply started "drinking the Kool-Aid."

It's true, Reverend Jim Jones ordered his congregation to drink a powdered concoction laced with cyanide. In all, 918 people died there. And of those, 276 were 17 years of age and under. Yes, just children. Most all volunteered to commit suicide because they were told to do so by their movement's leader, Jim Jones. That's why the term "Drinking the Kool-Aid" has such a negative connotation today. 

A month after the mass suicide at Jonestown, the FBI reported:

California Congressman Leo Ryan was concerned. He’d been hearing that there was trouble in “Jonestown,” the makeshift settlement carved out of the jungle of Guyana by the charismatic Jim Jones and his cult-like following called the Peoples Temple.

The allegations were serious: Jonestown sounded more like a slave camp than a religious center. There was talk of beatings, forced labor and imprisonments, the use of drugs to control behavior, suspicious deaths, and even rehearsals for a mass suicide.

In the fall of 1978, Ryan decided to visit Guyana to find out what was happening to the more than 900 members of Jonestown, many of whom were his constituents from the San Francisco area who’d followed the scandal-plagued Jones to South America.

Ryan and his congressional delegation flew to Guyana on November 14, 1978 — 29 years ago Wednesday. A few days later, they arrived in Jonestown along with various government officials and a group of reporters. There, Ryan met with Jones and interviewed many of his followers. Not surprisingly, some families and several individuals asked to leave with Ryan, while others apparently left on foot on their own. Jones was not happy.

Ryan wanted the entire group to fly out together, fearing retribution to any left behind, but that required a second plane and delayed the departure. The group eventually assembled at a local airstrip on the afternoon of the 18th, but as Ryan’s plane prepared to leave, a dump truck from Jonestown arrived with several armed men. They opened fire on one plane, while a cultist named Larry Layton on board the other pulled out a gun and began shooting. In the melee, Ryan and several others were killed and many wounded.

Meanwhile, back at the compound, Jones was hatching an unthinkable plan. He called his followers together and essentially ordered them to swallow a fruit drink that was apparently laced with cyanide. He rationalized that the attack on the planes would bring harm to the residents of Jonestown. A few apparently objected, but in the end, more than 900 cultists, including more than 200 children, were soon lying lifeless on the ground. Jones, too, was dead, with a gunshot wound to the head.

We soon launched an extensive investigation in concert with other agencies, with our jurisdiction based on a congressional assassination law passed six years earlier. Working with authorities in Guyana, agents interviewed survivors of the mass murder/suicide, while fingerprint and forensic experts from our Disaster Squad identified the many victims and Jones himself. Agents across the nation also searched out and talked with members of the Peoples Temple in the U.S. for further insights.

In the end, along with helping to unravel the chain of events and bring closure to grieving families, we were able to make a case against Larry Layton. Layton, the only member of the Peoples Temple tried in the U.S. for criminal acts at Jonestown, was ultimately extradited, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. 

-- end of the report.

The term "Drinking the Kool-Aid" is today an expression used to refer to people who are blindly obedient to a bad idea, a crooked or dangerous ideology. It refers to someone who accepts Communism and wants Socialism without ever experiencing life under such totalitarian rule. 

The phrase "Drinking the Kool-Aid" really does have negative connotations. It means buying into false claims and promises that are made but never fulfilled. And while it may simply be a term referring to the fact that we should be aware and not "blindly follow" others who may not be very moral or honorable, we should never "drink the Kool-Aid" and follow others who have never done anything to deserve our loyalty. 

This is true when it comes to career politicians, especially if we're being asked to "drink the Kool-Aid" and just blindly trust them when we should not. For example, this is the case with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They too are painting Socialism, over-regulation, and the Ultra-Left's Green New Deal as a paradise, a Heaven on earth. Yet, they have spent years in office and have done nothing for us. 

Biden and Harris are trying to get us to "drink the Kool-Aid" when we all know better.

Tom Correa

Thursday, October 15, 2020

I Don't Care If Democrats Hate President Trump

As someone who admires President Trump a great deal, I take offense to those who say President Trump is not a great speaker. I do not see the President as inarticulate, rude, insulting, or insensitive. In fact, I see President Trump as a motivator, an inspiration, a freshness that we've long needed. I see him as the strength called for in this ongoing war against those who want to destroy our country. 

I prayed for someone the likes of President Donald J. Trump. I wanted a president who was cut from the same cloth as Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. I wanted someone who didn't feel he is "above the fray." Someone who would whip off his coat and tie, and climb into a ring on our behalf. I wanted a President not above getting in the mud to fight for us. So yes, I have loved that we have a counter-puncher in President Trump. 

I wanted someone who was not a politician, someone who was an amateur at political disguise. I was tired of professional career politicians. I was sick of their excuses when asked why they weren't getting anything done. I was fed up with their only knowing us during election seasons and disappearing to do less and less after they were re-elected. I was sick of not being able to tell the difference between the Republicans who I voted for and the Democrats who march lockstep to Nancy Pelosi's orders. I was sick of hearing how Republicans needed a majority but then when they got one. They did nothing with it because of fear of reprisals from the Left.

Because of gutless cowards and "Republicans in name only," I was going to stop voting. But I didn't because I knew if Democrats win more seats, we can kiss our freedoms goodbye. And no, it doesn't take looking at tea leaves to know that Democrats seek totalitarianism with them in charge -- and us as slaves of the state.

Instead of giving up, I prayed for a man like President Trump to come to the aid of our country. I wanted someone who didn't take any crap from Democrats or the Mainstream Media that they alone control. I wanted someone who gets angry when he sees that politics is being used to screw the American people. 

I wanted someone willing to use our economic might and influence against our enemies overseas, including doing so instead of using our troops. I wanted someone who says it like it is -- and hands out the unvarnished truth. I wanted someone who could take on Washington and remind the people who want to be our masters that We The People are still in charge. 

Sure, I also wanted a cheerleader, someone like FDR who tells us to have the strength that we are capable of having, someone who sees us as his priority and not the rest of the world. I wanted a President to represent America. I wanted a President who called us his "fellow Americans" and means it. I wanted a President who truly unabashedly loves America. And yes my friends, that's who President Trump really is. The fact is, he's all that and more.

As for my own belief, yes, I believe God sent Donald Trump to us. He sent us a champion in the form of a businessman with a Queens New York accent. He sent us an extraordinary man approve reproach. He sent us a billionaire who likes McDonald's hamburgers, enjoys the company of tradesmen, who unlike other Presidents -- a man who actually pays the women on his staff the exact same thing that he pays the men on his staff. After almost four years of watching and listening to him, after watching him actually fulfill promises, I truly believe he unabashedly and unapologetically loves Americans. I thoroughly believe that he is still everything we need to right our ship of state. 

In recent years, Democrats have made no secret of the agenda. The Left wants to eliminate our rights including our right to free speech, our right to arm ourselves, and our ability to worship as we please. They want this while seeking to destroy our Capitalist system which is the envy of the world. And if that's not enough, these days they want to defund the police while embracing their anarchist supporters. 

From what they have shown us, the Democrat Party is America's enemy within. They have become our enemy, and President Trump is the only person stopping them from carrying out their agenda to change America into some Socialist shithole like Venezuela, or worse some Communist third-world country like Cuba. 

While I absolutely love and respect President Trump, I hate the savagery from the Democrats these days. Since they have tried every underhanded way including a coup de'tat to remove him from office, I worry that a Democrat zealot will try to assassinate President Trump the same way that a Democrat madman assassinated President Lincoln. 

As for people who "turn up their noses at Trump," those are Democrats. And frankly, I wouldn't expect anything less from them. While Democrats have worked relentlessly to slander his name, he has not allowed their hatred for him to sway his efforts to do what is best for America. And no, I don't care if Democrats hate President Trump. After all, he doesn't need them. He has the love and appreciation of millions of supporters.

Democrats have shown themselves as people of low character who aren't even worth the sweat off my brow. Classless America haters like Pelosi, Schumer, Romney, Harris, and the rest aren't worth taking the time to try to change. Their hatred for President Trump, us, and our nation is visceral and neverending. They don't see what they can do for America. they only see what they can rob and steal. 

Frankly, that's why I don't care if Democrats hate President Trump or us who support him. Democrats want an American nation that is amoral and divided, where the people are enslaved by the government, and we are last in line among the countries of the world. 

I'm thankful that President Donald J. Trump is leading our great nation. But even more than that, I thank God that we who openly support him are not alone in this war to defeat the Democrat threat from achieving victory. 

Tom Correa

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Oklahoma Indian Territory Lawmen 1890 -1891


The below Oklahoma lawmen all died in the line of duty in 1890 & 1891. I'm presenting this list to show my readers how truly dangerous it was to be a lawman in the Indian Territory in the 1890s. This list only covers Oklahoma lawmen at the closing of the Old West.

While I hope you find what took place in each situation as interesting as I do, please keep in mind that this was when law enforcement was in its infancy in America. What these men did, both right and wrong, while carrying out their duties as lawmen has served as lessons for others. There is something else, the penalties handed down to some of their killers are the reason why Citizens Committees formed to hang convicted cop killers.

- 1890 -

Robert "Bob" Cox
Deputy U.S. Marshal

About 3 A.M. on the morning of Sunday, April 13, 1890, Deputy Cox and Deputy U. S. Marshal Charley Canon arrested and handcuffed Ed Louthers for selling whiskey during a barn dance in Claremore. A father and son named Alex and Jesse Cochran witnessed the arrest and decided to free Louthers from the deputies. 

As Deputy Cox reached into a closet to retrieve his rifle, Alex Cochran shot him in the neck and shoulders. Deputy Canon returned fire and the men fired a dozen shots, one striking Cox in the thigh. 

The Cochrans and Louthers, still wearing the handcuffs, escaped during the gunfire. Although Cox’s wounds were first thought “not serious”, he died the next day April 14th.
John Poorbear
City Marshal, City of Fort Gibson

Tom and Jim French, Dave Andrews, and John Buchanan, all Cherokee Indians, were on a drinking spree on Sunday, September 14, 1890, in Ft. Gibson. City Marshal Poorbear and a deputy tried to arrest them and, as Poorbear was struggling with Andrews, the marshal was shot in the neck. 

Andrews fired one shot at the marshal and then threw his gun away. Paralyzed Poorbear died on Tuesday, September 23, 1890. Dave Andrews was convicted and sentenced to hang on December 10th, but was pardoned by Cherokee Chief Mayes.
Thomas Johnson Nevitt
City Marshal, El Reno Police Department

At about 6 P.M. on the evening of Thursday, September 18, 1890, Marshal Nevitt, 27, attempted to quite a drunk cowboy named John Sparks who had been firing his gun in the street. Marshal Nevitt approached Sparks with his gun drawn but Sparks fired first hitting Nevitt in the abdomen. 

As the wounded marshal fell to the ground Sparks ran but was soon shot in the left arm and captured by citizens who pursued him. Sparks’ left arm was amputated that evening and Marshal Nevitt died eight hours later about 2 A.M. Friday, September19th. 

Nevitt was the first City Marshal of El Reno and was survived by his wife Floretta, four-year-old son Walter “Rawleigh” and two-year-old daughter Nora “Edna”. Marshal Nevitt was buried in the Poheta Cemetery near the town of Kipp in Kansas.
William Leantine Pitts
Deputy U.S. Marshal

William Pitts was relocated from Paris, Texas, to McAlester in the Choctaw Nation of the Indian Territory. On Sunday, November 30, 1890, he traveled to Lake West where he started a surveillance point after being informed that three Indians were smuggling liquor into Indian Territory from Texas. 

Pitts spotted a wagon traveling north occupied by three Indians. He stepped out of the brush and stopped the wagon. The Indians identified themselves as Isam Frazier, Lige Woods, and Jim Allen. 

Pitts told the three men that he suspected they were transporting illegal liquor and he was going to search their wagon. An argument ensued and escalated into a struggle. As Pitts fought to control the three men, his gun was ripped out of its holster and he was shot in the stomach. Pitts staggered back, dropped to the dirt, and died within minutes. 

The three men quickly left the area. Neighbors found Pitts body and reported the killing to the marshal’s office in Paris, Texas. The three Indian men were captured and jailed in Paris, Texas. All three men pled not guilty. 

Due to several delays, the trial was not conducted until May 1891 and a verdict returned on May 21st. Isam Frazier was found guilty of manslaughter. Jim Allen and Elijah Wood were acquitted of the shooting. Frazier was sentenced to a lengthy-term in prison.
Marion Prickett
Possesman, Deputy U.S. Marshal, U.S. Marshal Service

Deputy U.S. Marshal Anderson Keen and his posse, Marion Pricket, had a warrant to arrest a man named Brown. They learned that Brown had fled into Indian Territory around Tahlequah, the Capitol of the Cherokee Nation. 

On Monday, December 15, 1890, Keen and Prickett knocked on the door of a house and were met by a man fitting the description of Brown. The two men in the house identified themselves as A.B. Smith and Tom Smith. Both men cooperated with the deputies but maintained that they did not know Brown. Keen and Prickett took both men into custody. 

They took the two men to a neighbor’s house, where the neighbor identified the older man as A.B. Smith, stating he was a mason and a good man. Smith then told the deputies he was also a U.S. marshal and suggested they return to his house where he would produce his oath of office. Upon arrival back at the house, Smith produced a deputy’s commission issued by Marshal Jacob Yoes. 

The commission read that it was only for the purpose of arresting Ned Christie, whom Smith told Yoes he knew. Although Keen still believed the suspect was Brown, there was now doubt in his mind and he asked Prickett to join him outside for a conversation. Both lawmen exited the house leaving the Smith’s inside. 

After a short conversation, Keen and Prickett went back into the house and were met by A.B. Smith, who was holding a double-barrel shotgun. Smith fired, missing Keen but striking Prickett in the head killing him instantly. 

Keen grabbed Smith fighting for control of the shotgun. During the scuffle, Smith drew a knife and stabbed Keen repeatedly in the body and the head, breaking the knife. Keen was knocked onto a bed, breaking it. 

Smith yelled to the other man, “Shoot him Tommy” to which Keen replied, “Don’t shoot, I’m already killed” and then Keen passed out. When Keen regained consciousness, the Smiths were gone. Keen checked Prickett and found him dead, and then went for help. 

Keen and several deputies returned to the Smith house to search for anything that would identify these two men. Numerous items were discovered but the most compelling was a cabinet card (photo) found in the house with the inscription “Wesley and Guy Woodson to Tommy D. Shepler” written on the back. 

On April 4, 1892, alias warrants were issued for the arrests of James Smith.
Pete Anderson
Posseman, Deputy Sheriff, Oklahoma County

On December 26, 1890, Pete Anderson, 40, and Frank Cook were deputized by Oklahoma County Deputy Sheriffs Frank Gault and Charles Gilbert to assist them in serving an arrest warrant on John Bly just across the county line in Pottawatomie County. 

As the posse dismounted their horses and was attempting to sneak up in the area of the Bly ranch they were fired upon by Bly with a rifle and the first shot struck Anderson in the forehead, killing him instantly. Bly was wounded by the other posse members and taken into custody. 

Pete Anderson was survived by his wife Julia and seven children.

- 1891 -

Steve Pen-Su-Wau (Pensoneau)
Posseman, U.S. Marshal Service

Pen-Su-Wau was a sergeant of the Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, Iowa and Sac and Fox Indian Police. The Oklahoma City Gazette of February 12, 1891, reported that Pen-Su-Wau had acted as a posse for Frank Cochran and Sheriff DeFord during the arrest of several parties in his neighborhood. 

 Deputy U.S. Marshal Preston Armstrong had an arrest warrant to serve and expected the man named on the warrant to ride along a certain road. Armstrong secreted himself by the roadside and waited for his suspect. Pen-Su-Wau was riding the same road on his way home and as he approached Armstrong stepped out and commanded the Indian policeman to halt. Pen-Su-Wau refused and Armstrong shot him out of the saddle, falling into the dirt, dead. 

Armstrong stated he had fired with his six-shooter, although some witnesses claimed he fired with a shotgun. According to a report printed in the Oklahoma State Capitol of Guthrie on February 21st, Armstrong came in from Shawnee Town the night of the 6th to face trial the following day. 

A coroner's jury was impaneled on the morning of the 7th, returning a verdict of justifiable homicide. John Decker testified that Armstrong had stopped him when Pen-Su-Wau rode up on a horse. 

Armstrong told him to halt, Pen-Su-Wau refused, firing a shot at Armstrong and it was then that Armstrong shot him, firing eight or nine shots, hitting Pen-Su-Wau five times. 

Another report at the Oklahoma State Capitol on November 22, 1894, Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Cochran brought Captain S.J. Scott, Ex-Sheriff James H. Gill, Deputy U.S. Marshal Preston Armstrong, and Daniel Brestman into Guthrie and jailed them on charges of killing Pen-Su-Wau. 

A separate report states that Pen-Su-Wau was killed by three deputy marshals who mistook him for Bob Counallis or George Howell, both noted outlaws who the marshals were looking for. 

On February 12, 1895, the Guthrie Oklahoma State Capitol reported that Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal John M. Hale and posses left on a train bound for Brooklyn Penitentiary with George Howell who was sentenced to ten years in prison for the killing of Pen-Su-Wau, who was “acting as posseman under Deputy United States Marshal Armstrong.” 

Steve Pen-Su-Wau (Pensoneau) was survived by his wife and several small children.
William Tener Starmer
Posseman, U.S.Marshal Service

On the morning of Saturday, May 2, 1891, William Starmer, 33, was leading a posse chasing after two men who had stolen some horses. Little did Starmer know that the horse thieves he was pursuing were Bob and Emmett Dalton. 

The posse chased the two men into a canyon near Twin Mounds in eastern Payne County. As the posse dismounted the Daltons ambushed them. Starmer was killed. His body showed three bullet holes in his chest, all close enough that a man’s hand would cover them. 

When one of the other marshals saw the bullet wounds in Starmer’s chest, even before the suspects could be identified, he is said to have remarked that only Bob Dalton could shoot like that. The Daltons escaped until they were killed during a bank robbery attempt in Coffeyville, Kansas, in October of 1892.
Armstead Homer
Deputy Sheriff, Kiamichi County, Choctaw Nation, I.T.

In 1891 Kiamichi County covered most of current Choctaw County. On Saturday, May 16, 1891, Deputy Homer went to the farm of James Lowman, near Antlers to search for illegal whiskey. 

While Deputy Homer was talking to Lowman about the whiskey and advising him, he intended to destroy it, Lowman drew his gun and shot the deputy several times killing him. The burial site of Armstead Homer is unknown.
James J. Campbell
Deputy U. S. Marshal U. S. Marshal Service

On Monday, May 25, 1891, Deputy Campbell was in Antlers, I.T. to serve an arrest warrant issued by Commissioner Gibbons. Campbell located the wanted man on a street in Antlers and attempted to arrest him but the man broke away from the deputy, jumped on his horse, and left town with Campbell in pursuit. 

During the pursuit, Campbell was thrown from his horse and “terribly mangled” when his horse fell on him. Campbell was brought back to the railway station and placed on the station platform. Attending doctors intended to transfer Campbell onto the next train and take him to a hospital in Paris, Texas, but Campbell died before the train arrived.

Other deputies were sent to Antlers to track the wanted man. No record can be found whether they ever located him. The burial site of James J. Campbell is unknown.
Running Eagle
Officer, Pawnee Tribal Police, O.T.

On Monday, June 29, 1891, two men were riding through the Pawnee Reservation in Oklahoma Territory when they saw a man sleeping in a location that appeared as though he was hiding. They rode into Pawnee and reported it to the authorities and Tribal Officer Running Eagle was sent to investigate. Running Eagle found the man about 14 miles south of Pawnee. 

As he approached the man, the officer held out his hand to shake hands. The man grabbed the officer’s outstretched hand with his left hand, then drew a gun with his right hand and shot the officer fatally. The suspect escaped and was never identified. The burial site of Running Eagle is unknown.
Bernard "Barney" Connelley
Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Wednesday, August 19, 1891, Deputy Connelley attempted to arrest Shepard ”Shep” Busby on warrants for adultery at his home on Lee’s Creek about 15 miles from Fort Smith in the Cherokee Nation. 

Witnesses heard shots and approached the scene in time to see Busby fleeing into the woods and found Connelley shot dead. Busby surrendered about a week later. He was tried, convicted, and hanged on April 27, 1892, at Fort Smith.
Charles Edwin "Ed" Short
Deputy U.S. Marshal

Charley Bryant was regarded to be a restless and reckless individual who suffered with occasional dysfunctions. Bryant’s nickname was “Black-Faced Charley” because of powder burns from a gun fired too closely to his head resulting in permanently darkened spots on his face. 

Bryant always stated that when he died he wanted to go “in one hell-firin’ minute of action.” Bryant had become acquainted with Emmett Dalton, Bill Doolin, “Bitter Creek” Newcomb and others while working on cattle ranches. He was involved in robbing the Texas Express with these men, headed by Bob Dalton, on May 9, 1891. 

A couple months later another train robbery was in the works when Bryant became quite ill having to take a room at a local hotel. Ed Short, a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Hennessey’s City Marshal, was out of town when Bryant became ill. When Short returned to Hennessey he was told of the doctor’s new patient staying at the local hotel. 

Short took an opportunity to observe the patient with his knowledge and felt confident that he was one of the “wanted men.” With the cooperation of the hotel owner, Short set forth to capture Bryant. By the time Bryant realized someone else was in his room, Short had him covered and the suspect couldn’t grab either of his guns. Bryant was denied his real “blazing moment of glory.” 

Deputy Short took Bryant on the Rock Island train the next evening heading for the federal jail at Wichita, Kansas. Short placed Bryant in the baggage car figuring this would be the safest place fearing the Daltons would try to rescue their cohort. Deputy Short surmised that if they Daltons did plan a rescue attempt they would most likely attack at Waukomis, the first station north of Hennessey. 

When the train started to slow for that scheduled stop, Short handed his gun to a mail clerk and asked him to watch Bryant while he stepped out on the platform for “a lookout.” The mail clerk was not overly excited about his new assignment and when Short left, he laid the pistol aside. Bryant immediately noticed and decided to make a break for freedom. 

Bryant, with great gusto, sprang to his feet and grabbed the unattended revolver. “Black-Faced Charley” Bryant rushed to the exit, opened the door, and saw his target standing on the platform. Deputy Short realizing the door was opening, turned, and saw Bryant raising the pistol. Bryant fired then Short returned fire. Both men were shot. Each man continued shooting until Bryant fell and began sliding off the railroad car. 

Even though Short was mortally wounded, he grabbed his prisoner and pulled him back on the platform. When the train arrived at Waukomis, O. T. the evening of Sunday, August 23,1891, the prisoner was dead and Deputy Short was dying.
Joseph S. Wilson
Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Tuesday, September 22, 1891, Deputy Marshal Wilson asked a man by the name of John Carey, to guide him to the home of Big Alec who lived about ten miles from Tahlequah on 14 Mile Creek. Deputy Wilson had a warrant for the arrest of Sam Downing. 

Wilson told Carey he would not have to participate in the arrest of Downing, who was using the name of Sam Hickory, only help him find the house. Once the arrest was made, Wilson told Carey he would fire one shot letting him know the arrest was successful. Carey led Wilson to the property owned by Big Alec then retreated to wait for the arrest to be made. 

Wilson found Hickory hitching up a team of horses. He told Hickory of the warrant. Hickory stated he would go with the lawman but first needed to unhitch his team, saddle a horse and then advise Big Alec at a nearby fishing stream. After unhitching the team, Wilson and Henry walked to the house and as Hickory entered Wilson fired off one shot to announce the successful arrest to Carey. 

Hickory grabbed a gun and shot Wilson in the side. The bullet passed through his chest puncturing a lung. Both men exchanged gunfire before Wilson staggered to his horse. He was too weak and unable to mount the horse and fell to the ground. Carey hearing more gunshots than planned left the area. 

Wilson lived through the night and was found the next day still alive by Hickory and Tom Shade. They struck him in the head several times with a piece of wood and an axe. After dragging his body by the neck to a ravine they buried him but not before they stripped him of his hat, coat, pistol and gun belt. They also took his saddle and bridle. 

Carey reported the gunshots and a massive search was started for Wilson. Several days later, Shade and Big Alec turned themselves in but Hickory was nowhere to be found. Wilson’s body was found on Saturday, brought to Tahlequah, examined and then buried. 

Hickory was finally arrested in the Osage Nation and returned to Ft. Smith to await trial. Hickory was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. In 1894, after two appeals, a third trial was about to begin when Hickory pled guilty to manslaughter and sentenced to five years and one day in the Columbus, Ohio prison. Tom Shade was acquitted.
Robert E. "Lee" Taylor
Deputy U.S. Marshal

Deputy Taylor, 23, was assigned to work the Osage Nation, now Osage County, Oklahoma. On Thursday, October 1, 1891, Taylor had ridden to the store of William Rogers at Skiatook, a small town located one mile inside the Cherokee Nation of the Indian Territory, and about thirty miles northwest of Tulsa. 

Taylor was at the store in order to interview Ben Haney about the location of a whiskey peddler for whom he had a warrant. Haney’s sister, Nan, worked for Rogers as a housekeeper in the house that adjoined the store. Haney arrived at the store about noon and invited Taylor to have lunch with him at Rogers’ home where Haney’s sister would cook for them. 

William Rogers entered the house while the others were still eating and, evidently displeased at his surprise guests, walked out muttering about “feeding strays.” Rogers had just returned from Coffeeville, KS, where he had been drunk for two days and had not recovered. 

After lunch, Taylor, Haney, and Nan Haney left the house and walked into the front yard where they met Rogers coming out of the store carrying a shotgun. Rogers ordered Deputy Taylor off his property and then raised the shotgun firing both barrels into Taylor’s chest. Taylor dropped to the ground dead. Rogers then hitched a team of horses to a wagon and left the area headed north.

Rogers, a half-blood Cherokee, was well known in the Indian Territory, having operated the general store and post office for fifteen years. He had also previously served as a senator in the Cherokee government. Rogers was tried twice for the murder of Deputy Taylor. The first trial ended in a hung jury. Rogers was acquitted in the second trial. 

Robert Taylor was buried in the Osage Agency Cemetery in Pawhuska in what is now Osage County, Oklahoma. The cemetery no longer exists.
George E. Thornton
Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Wednesday, October 28, 1891, Deputy Thornton, known as one of the most fearless officers who ever served the government, traveled into the Sac and Fox Nation in search of Captain Willy, a wanted Creek/Negro. Willy was wanted for horse theft, selling illegal whiskey, and the murder of a deputy marshal. 

After stopping at his uncle’s house for a short visit, Thornton rode to the Sac and Fox Agency where he met his posse, Fred Williams. The two officers then traveled to the home of Captain Willy. An Indian woman answered the door and allowed the officers to search for Willy after telling them he was not there. 

They then rode to a nearby cabin believing Willy might be there. As they approached the cabin they were met with a hail of gunfire. Thornton and Williams dismounted their horses about sixty yards from the cabin. 

After firing five or six shots from his rifle, Thornton slumped forward. He was able to regain his posture and fire twice more. Thornton then fell to the ground. Williams continued firing toward the cabin until the firing ceased from behind the corncribs. 

He then went to check on Thornton, finding him dead, shot in the side. The bullet had traveled entirely through the body. Williams stayed at the scene throughout the night. 

The next morning he searched the cabin, now abandoned, and found blankets to wrap Thornton’s body in. Being sure the killers had left the area, Williams borrowed a wagon and took Thornton’s body to the Sac and Fox Agency and then on to Guthrie. 

His body was transported to Oklahoma City arriving on Saturday. He was buried in Peoria, IL, where he was born in 1861. Deputy U.S. Marshal Rufus Cannon and three possemen captured Captain Willy in October 1892. He was convicted of manslaughter in the killing of Deputy Thornton and was waiting to be sentenced when he became ill. 

Willie died suddenly from internal bleeding. Some of the reports claim he died from complications of a wound he received in the earlier gun battle with Thornton.
Thomas Leroy Whitehead
Deputy U.S. Marshal
Josiah Poorboy
Posseman, Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Tuesday, December 8, 1891, Marshal Whitehead, 19, and his posseman, Josiah Poorboy, were staying at Cherokee Nation Judge L. W. Shirley’s home in order to keep watch on the house of Annie Hitchcock. Annie was the daughter of Judge Shirley. 

A charge of adultery was filed against Jim Craig in federal court in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The indictment alleged Craig had been sexually involved with Annie Hitchcock. Craig has been arrested by Deputy U.S. Marshal Charles Lamb but had escaped from custody. Lamb planned a way to capture Craig by sending in an undercover operative to locate him. Thomas Whitehead agreed to infiltrate the area, locate Craig, and make the arrest. 

He was appointed a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Whitehead appointed Josiah Poorboy, a young Cherokee, his posseman. Annie Hitchcock asked Waco Hampton, an escapee who had been convicted of manslaughter, John Brown, a white man living with Hampton’s step-father, and John Roach, another young man who was friends with Hampton and Brown, to kill Poorboy and Whitehead. 

The three men went to the home of Judge Shirley and Hampton called for Whitehead to come outside. 
The two lawmen came out carrying rifles. Hampton leveled a rifle at Poorboy and fired, while Brown fired at Whitehead who went down and died within minutes. Poorboy kept firing until he was shot and fell to the ground dead. Roach had been wounded and lay moaning on the ground. 

Hampton and Brown fled and were not found until January 30, 1892, by Deputy U.S. Marshal C.A. Bruner. Hampton fired on Bruner when ordered to surrender. Bruner had a double-barrel shotgun and opened fire on Hampton killing him and his horse. John Roach recovered from his wounds and testified against Brown. 

Brown was tried and sentenced to hang by Judge Isaac C. Parker. After several appeals, on December 24, 1896, John Brown pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in the Columbus, Ohio prison. Yes, one year for killing a lawman.

All of the information above was compiled from the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial website. The Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial, Inc. organization has been incorporated in the state of Oklahoma as a non-profit organization since April 15, 2002. 

The U. S. Internal Revenue Service recognizes Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial, Inc. as a non-profit, charitable corporation under 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Knowing this, I hope my readers will not hesitate to make donations to this outstanding cause.

All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Tax-deductible donations may be made payable to "O.L.E.M." and sent to: 

Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial
PO Box 10776
Oklahoma City, OK 73140-1776

Tom Correa

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Donner Party -- A Dreadful Fate 1847

It was in April of 1846 that eight families gathered together in Springfield, Ilinois, all with the common goal of going to California. Their party was originally organized by forty-six-year-old James Reed who was a businessman. 

Reed was born in the north of Ireland and came to America as a boy. He grew to settle in Illinois, and he became known as a sharp businessman. Though prosperous, he had hopes of making an even greater amount of money in California. While the California Gold Rush had not yet happened at that time, many Americans saw California and Oregon as places of boundless opportunity. 

As for Reed, it's said that he also saw California's temperate climate as a place to alleviate his wife's medical conditions. It was certainly seen to be better than the harsh winter climate found in Illinois. So in 1846, Reed saw the West as a better choice for his sickly wife, Margaret, their four children, and Margaret's seventy-year-old mother. When it was time to leave, the Reed family and two servants traveled in three wagons. It's said that Reed had one of the wagons custom-built as a double-decker home of sorts on wheels. James Reed would later be expelled from the wagon train for committing murder.

George Donner, who was a sixty-year-old farmer, was chosen as the wagon train's captain. So subsequently, the expedition took his name -- the Donner Party. It was believed at the time that it should take an estimated four months to make their trek. Before leaving Illinois, James Reed had heard of a newly discovered route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Known as "Hastings Cutoff," that new route was said to cut as many as 300 miles off of their journey. 

They departed on May 12, 1846, almost an entire month late if they wanted to ensure beating the heavy snows. As they traveled to the Mississippi River, their train of 8 wagons joined others heading in the same direction. In all, the entire caravan is said to have stretched for two miles while underway. 

Although tedious, their journey was uneventful until they reached a small trading post at Fort Bridger in what is present-day Wyoming in mid-July. It was at Fort Bridger that some eighty-seven members of the wagon train, including the Donner brothers and their families, decided to separate from the main body and travel the Hastings Cutoff route west. James Reed was convinced that the Hastings Cutoff would save them time because it was reported as being shorter. 

All of those who traveled the old route and didn't use the Hastings Cutoff arrived in California safely. That was not the case for those who took the newer trail. And yes, at Fort Bridger, all were warned not to take that new route.

When they reached the Humboldt River in present-day Nevada, the wagon train had been underway for over five months. They thought they would be in California by then. Because of that, it's said that nerves were frayed and they were angry. One member of the party, John Snyder, began to beat his oxen with his whip while climbing a steep hill. The frustrated wagon driver did so trying to urge his oxen forward. 

When Reed saw that, he rushed forward to have words with Snyder. Soon, the two men were arguing. Then Reed attacked and killed Snyder with his knife. Reed was bound and tried on the spot. George Donner acted as a judge and the rest of the members of the train acted as a jury. Because Snyder struck Reed first and then actually hit Reed's wife while she tried to stop the fray, what took place was seen as self-defense by some and murder by others. Where one stood on whether to hang him or not depending on whether or not you liked Reed. Frankly, it sounds as though he wasn't very liked since a few were for hanging him. 

With no laws to guide them, since the United States laws were not applicable west of the Continental Divide in what was then Mexican territory, Reed was instead banished from the wagon train. Reed departed alone the next morning. While he left unarmed, it's believed his step-daughter Virginia secretly provided him with a rifle and food. James Reed left the train and went on ahead to California. His invalid wife, children and mother-in-law were left behind to travel to California on their own with the Donner Party. 

As for Margaret's seventy-year-old mother, she had tuberculosis and died on the trip. She is said to have been buried somewhere along the way. And was not part of when they became stranded. I can't find if her resting place was ever noted.

It was October 28, 1846, and the Sierra Mountains were white and cold. Snows had started a month earlier than usual that year. As the Donner Party approached the summit of the Sierra Mountains near what was known as Truckee Lake at the time, they found the pass unpassable. It was clogged with up to six feet of new-fallen snow. 

Realizing that their wagons were no match for the deep snow, they retreated to the lake twelve miles below. That was where the hapless pioneers became trapped, unable to move forward or back. Shortly before, the Donner family had suffered a broken axle on one of their wagons and fallen behind. Also trapped by the snow, they set up camp at Alder Creek six miles from the main group. Soon, survival was on their minds as each camp erected make-shift cabins and hoarded their limited supply of food. 

The snow continued to fall, and some reports say it reached a depth of as much as twenty feet. Those conditions made hunting and foraging for food impossible. It was because of being unable to hunt and forage, and seeing their wagons as unable to move, that they slaughtered their oxen. It is said that when this meat was consumed, they relied on the animals' tough hides. Boiling and eating the hides was not enough. When starvation began to take its toll, and no other option left, supposedly the survivors resorted to cannibalism to survive.

By the middle of December, a group of fifteen of those stranded and starving used makeshift snowshoes to trudge through blizzard conditions to break through the pass and into California. It is said that seven of those 15 survived to alert Sutter's Fort of what happened to the Donner Party. After that, a series of four rescue parties were launched with the first arriving at the Donner camp in late February. Between them, the rescuers were able to lead forty-eight of the original eighty-seven members of the party to safety in California.

To his credit, James Reed attempted to raise men to save those stranded. Of course of the 48 who survived, only the Reed and Breen families remained intact. The children of Jacob Donner, George Donner, and Franklin Graves were orphaned. William Eddy was alone. Most of the Murphy family had died. Most of the Donner Party members' possessions were discarded.

As for the reports of cannibalism?  Supposedly the survivors resorted to cannibalism to survive. Or did they? Is there any proof that survivors resorted to cannibalism to survive? 

Well, there are conflicting reports from survivors and rescuers. In fact, at one point, a few survivors said yes but then recanted to say no it didn't happen. One of the different groups there, it's said that the Reed family was the only group who is known for certain to have not resorted to cannibalism. Some say it had to do with Margaret Reed refusing to allow it to happen. Considering she was said to be so sickly, that's quite a feat. 

As for evidence of cannibalism? In 2010, a report came out that stated the following, "Members of the infamous Donner Party might not have been cannibals — but some experts are having trouble digesting the idea."

On April 25, 2010, The Tahoe Daily Tribune published an article titled, Cannibalism in Donner Party unlikely, research shows; others disagree. The 2010 article written by Matt Welch states, "Gwen Robbins, an anthropology professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., recently completed inspection of 85 pieces of bone found in Alder Creek and found all the bones to be from animals — cows, horses, deer and one dog bone. These findings followed a smaller dig in 2004 that also didn’t find any human bones.
Robbins and her team operated under the assumption they would need to test 105 samples to make a more conclusive statement about the cannibalism, but because many of the bones were fragmented, burned and otherwise damaged, only 85 were found.

The researchers were about 70 percent confident they would find at least one human bone, assuming those human bones were less than 1 percent of the sample and their remains were processed and preserved similarly to other fragments, Robbins said. The human bones would have been on the top of the deposit, Robbins said, but none were found.

"The findings don’t prove that cannibalism didn’t take place," Robbins said, "but they suggest that, at the Alder Creek site, cannibalism may have been limited." -- end of the article.

So was there cannibalism? Well, the fact is that there is no physical evidence of cannibalism taking place there. So if there was cannibalism there, it's my belief that it may not have been as rampant as it was portrayed in the sensationalized newspaper accounts of the time.
Tom Correa