Tuesday, October 31, 2023

An 1874 Ghost Story -- Taking A Shot Or Two At A 'Woman in White"

This is an interesting ghost story because one of the witnesses goes Western in a big way by drawing a pistol and taking a couple of shots at the ghost. For me, this is the first time that I've seen a newspaper report of a ghost encounter where someone decided to shoot at a spirit. 

The news story below is from the Omaha Daily Bee, Omaha, Nebraska, July 18, 1874, Page 4:
A Ghost Story 

A Mysterious ''Woman in White" Flitting Around In Prospect Hill Cemetery.

It was not long since that the report that the house standing at the northwest corner of Thirteenth Street and Capitol Avenue was haunted, excited considerable curiosity among the superstitious. This morning, however, we were told a reliable story that puts the haunted house way in the shade.

The scene of this strange and true narrative is Prospect Hill Cemetery, adjoining which Mr. H. P. Stanwood, the well-known sculptor, has a small dwelling and a marble-cutting shop, in which several hands are employed.

On Tuesday night, shortly after dark,' one of two brothers, who sleep in the shop, happened to step out of doors before retiring, and looking out over the silent city of the dead, a vision of -- a ghost -- a "woman in white" -- the invariable costume of ghosts met his astonished gaze.

The mysterious being was slowly flitting towards the building, when he ran in and brought his brother out to view the strange sight.

Both became scared, and hastening out of the back door, just as the ghost came in the front door and blew out the light, they ran over to Mr. Stanwood's residence to inform him of what had happened.

Mr. Stanwood and the men went out to see what was the matter, and sure enough they saw before them the ghost, who hit Mr. Stamw0od on the back, and asked where her children was -- if they were buried in that tomb.

The ghost then flitted into the house, blew out the light, and entering a bedroom, so scared the occupant that he jumped out of the window and ran away. One of the two brothers mentioned above, having pulled out his revolver, deliberately took aim and fired twice at the ghost, but without effect.

She then took her departure into the cemetery, followed by the men to a certain grave, where she vanished.

On Wednesday night the mysterious ghost again made her appearance, and so frightened the two brothers that they came down town to sleep during that night, and the next night.

The above is a true statement of the facts, as related to us by a gentleman of veracity. Mr, Stanwood himself is not a superstitious man, and has no faith in ghosts, but our informant assures us that he substantiates the above statement.

-- end of news story Omaha Daily Bee, Omaha, Nebraska, July 18, 1874, Page 4

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Slavery in California -- By Delilah L. Beasley (1918)

Delilah Leontium Beasley, (September 9, 1867 – August 18, 1934), was a historian and newspaper columnist for the Oakland Tribune in Oakland, California. She was the first African-American woman to be published regularly in a major metropolitan newspaper.
Slavery in California
By Delilah L. Beasley (1918)

Slavery in California prior to the Mexican War was slavery in the Spanish possessions. The Spaniards began with the enslavement of Indians and later at the advice of De las Casas changed to that of Negroes. This system was first used in the West Indies and later extended to other colonies. 

It is said that about the year 1537, Cortes fitted out at the port of Tehuantepec, several small vessels, provided with everything required for planting a colony and sailed north to the head of the Gulf of California, transporting four hundred Spaniards and three hundred Negro slaves, that he had assembled for that purpose. This is the first mention of Negro slavery in California. After the founding of the Mission of San Carlos by the president, Father Junipero Serra, with a community of twenty-three friars, we read that the first interment in the cemetery was that of Ignacio Ramirez, a former mulatto slave from San Antonio, who had money to purchase his, freedom.  

There were too a number of Negro slaves brought to California between these periods. They came on trading ships and with various expeditions, which they usually deserted after reaching the State. Hittell [known for his work History of California] is wrong, therefore, in saying that the first slave in California was brought there in 1825 when the wife of Antonio Jose de Cot, a Spaniard, brought with her a slave girl named Juana, fourteen years of age, from Lima to San Francisco. He doubted even that this was the first slave in California for the lady expressed her intention to avail herself of the first opportunity to leave.

Spain did not especially bother about Negro slavery in her Pacific coast territory for nearly two hundred years before the coming of the Americans. She promised by the treaty of September 30, 1817, to abolish the slave trade on October 31, 1820, in all Spanish territory. 

In 1821, however, certain of the northern colonies of Spain in America established their independence as the United States of Mexico. Three years later the importation of slaves from foreign countries was prohibited and children of slave parents were declared free. Notwithstanding this there set in considerable emigration from the Southern States followed by an agitation for the acquisition of Texas.

In 1827, therefore, Coahuila and Texas were organized as a State with a law prohibiting slavery. As, this, however, did not check the immigration, President Guerro issued a decree in 1829 abolishing slavery in Mexico on the occasion of the celebration of the independence of Mexico and in 1830 ordered a military occupation of the State to enforce the anti-slavery measure. But the aggressive southerner ever endeavoring to extend the territory of slavery had all but won the day in Texas. 

In 1836 Texas declared itself a republic with a constitution permitting the introduction of slavery and forbidding the residence of free Negroes without the consent of its Congress. Then came the Mexican War resulting in the defeat of Mexico and the cession to the United States of a vast territory of which California was the most valuable part. It is clear, therefore, that at the time the United States government acquired the territory of California from Mexico, slavery had been abolished there for nearly twenty years. The pro-slavery party, however, did not consider this action of Mexico a finality in the settlement of the slavery question in the new possessions. 

When a bill providing for the purchase of this territory was laid before the house, David Wilmot, of Pennsylvania, after consultation with other northern democrats, offered the following amendment:

"Provided that an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime whereof the party shall first be duly convicted."

This proviso was adopted by a vote of 83 to 64. The bill carrying this proviso was then reported to the Senate where followed a heated debate which lasted until adjournment, the proviso being killed in the midst of stormy scenes in Congress.

This discussion showed that few statesmen believed that slavery would be profitable in California. They were not unlike Daniel Webster who, while speaking on the admission of the State of Texas, said that slavery was effectually excluded from California and New Mexico by a law even superior to that which admits and sanctions it in Texas. He meant the law of nature. The physiographic conditions of the country would forever exclude African slavery there; and it needed not the application of a proviso. If the question was then before the Senate he would not vote "to add a prohibition-to reaffirm an ordinance of nature, nor reenact the will of God. "'

The coming and going of the Negro in California did not especially interest any one until the beginning of the immigration of the forties. The subject of slavery in California was officially called to the attention of the inhabitants through the issuance of a proclamation by the Commander in Chief of the District in regard to the unlawful enslaving of the Indians. He was endeavoring to protect them, but they were enslaved in spite of his efforts. 


"It having come to the knowledge of the Commander in Chief of the District that certain persons have been and still are imprisoning and holding to service Indians against their will and without any legal contract for service. It is thereby ordered that all persons so holding or detaining Indians shall release them, and permit them to return to their own homes. Unless they can make a contract with them which shall be binding upon both parties. The Indian population must not be regarded in the light of slaves, but it is deemed necessary that the Indians within the settlement shall have employment, with the right of choosing their own master and employment. Having made such a choice they must abide by it, unless they can obtain permission in writing to leave, or the Justice in their complaint shall consider they have just cause to annull the contract and permit them to obtain another employee. All Indians must be required to obtain service and not be permitted to wander about the country in idleness in a dissolute manner. If found doing so they will be liable to arrest and punishment by labor on the public works at the direction of the Magistrate. All officers, Civil or Military under my command are required to execute the terms of this order and take notice of every violation thereof.

- Given at headquarters in Yerba Buena.
- Signed, John Montgomery. Sept. 15, 1846. 
- Published for the Government of all concerned. Washington A. Bartlett, Magistrate of San Francisco, Sept. 15, 1846.
- California StarSept. 15, 1846

The Legislature undertook to perpetuate this system by enacting a law permitting the enslavement of Indians, the only condition upon the master being a bond of a small sum, that he would not abuse or cruelly treat the slaves. Under the provision of the same law, Indians could be arrested as vagrants and sold to the highest bidder within twenty-four hours after the arrest, and the buyer had the privilege of the labor for a period not exceeding four months. An Indian arrested for a violation of a law could demand a jury trial, but could not testify in his own behalf against a white person. If found guilty of any crime, he could either be imprisoned or whipped, the whipping not to exceed twenty-four lashes.

Later there was a steady influx of Southerners and their Negro slaves into the territory of California after the country was taken over by the United States. Then came the question as to the enslavement of the Negro. The situation became serious after the Congress of the United States appropriated three million dollars for the purchase of the new territory, and still more so after gold was discovered there. 

Mexican rule ended with the cession of the territory to the United States; and yet session after session of Congress adjourned without giving California a territorial form of government. The question of slavery in the newly acquired territory divided Congress so that they could not decide the issue. 

Southern newspapers were advertising for slave-owners to send names and the number of slaves they were taking to California to found a New Colony. The settlers were divided. Some came because they either disliked slavery or were too poor to own slaves. They recognized the possibilities for making California a free State and did not care to be designated Poor White Trash by masters who were being allowed to fill the State with Negro slaves to constitute the basis of an aristocracy like that in the South. 

There were other inhabitants in California at the time who, being slave-owners, were Southern sympathizers. They were determined either to have slavery in California or make a desperate effort before seeing the territory given up as a free State. It did not require very much investigation, however, to show that the pro-slavery party was in the minority. 

The editor of The Californian said in May 1848, that he voiced the sentiments of the people in California in saying that slavery was neither needed nor desired there. A correspondent of this paper hoping to hold that section for free labor said: "If white labor is too high for agriculture, laborers on contract maybe brought from China." 

Referring to the proposal to make the commonwealth a slave State, Buckelew said: "We have not heard one of our acquaintance in this country advocate this measure and we are almost certain that 97-100 of the present population are opposed to it." 

Again it is remarked in this paper: "We left the slave states because we did not like to bring up a family in a miserable, can't-help-one's-self condition," and dearly as he loved the union, he would prefer California independent to seeing her a slave State.

The lack of law and order and fear of the southern slaveowners with their herds of Negro slaves finally led to the call of the Constitutional Convention. The question of slavery there was not so much debated in that body as was expected. Some excited pro-slavery leaders were talking of an independent Pacific Republic. The southern faction in the convention was led by a Mr. Gwyn, who afterward became a United States Senator from California, and the northern element was ably represented by a Mr. Broderick, who later was chosen State Senator. 

The convention finally drafted its constitution with a section that provided that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude unless for the punishment of crime shall ever be tolerated in this state."

The pro-slavery faction in the convention was determined to have slavery somewhere and had managed to have the eastern boundary of California so designated that it extended as far as the Rocky Mountains. This would have resulted in rejection by Congress, or a division of the territory into a Northern and a Southern California, giving the pro-slavery element a new State. 

The unwieldy boundary, however, was discovered in time to have it changed, but not until after much debate, which almost wrecked the constitution. The California representatives elected by the convention left for Washington, where they presented to Congress the Constitution and the petition of the California settlers asking for admission as a State. There had never been a precedent for their act. Yet the settlers in California felt perfectly justified since it was their only safeguard against the pro-slavery leaders who were bringing their slaves into the territory.

Leaders at the national capital naturally hesitated, not knowing whether or not the admission of California under the conditions thus obtaining would aggravate or improve the national situation. California, however, cared little about the national situation, as is attested by the resolutions of 1850 to the effect: "That any attempts by Congress to interfere with the institution of slavery in any of the territories of the United States would create just grounds of alarm in many of the States of the union; and that such interference is unnecessary, inexpedient, and in violation of good faith; since, when any such territory applies for admission into the union as a state, the people thereof alone have the right, and should be left free and unrestrained, to decide such question for themselves." 

Broderick moved the insertion of the following: "That opposition to the admission of a state into the union with a constitution prohibiting slavery, on account of such prohibition, is a policy wholly unjustifiable and unstatesmanlike, and in violation of that spirit of concession and compromise by which alone the federal constitution was adopted, and by which alone it can be perpetuated." This amendment was adopted.

After a debate of four months, Congress admitted California as a Free State as one of five compromises. Jefferson Davis, however, repudiated the idea of advantage to his section. He said: "Where is the concession to the South? Is it in the admission, as a state, of California, from which we have been excluded by congressional agitation? Is it in the announcement that slavery does not and is not to exist in the remaining territories of New Mexico and California? Is it in denying the title of Texas to one-half of her territory? " He [Jefferson Davis] held that gold washing and mining was particularly adapted to slave labor, as was agriculture that depended on irrigation.

The day after the admission certain Southern senators sent to that body a Protest against the injustice of the act of Congress, admitting California as a Free State. The Senate refused the clerk permission either to read or record it. Whereupon the newspapers began publishing articles of severe criticism and talked of dividing the Union. Jefferson Davis went before the United States Senate and, addressing it, called attention to these comments, adding that so much outside criticism was doing more to divide the Union than the Protest would possibly do. Congress finally voted that the Protest be recorded.

Was this to be a Free State in every sense of the word? This was the day when the slave power "was covertly grasping at the Spanish-speaking countries beyond the Rio Grande, as it had at the lands beyond the Sabine." At first, it was not, for a good many slaves were brought into the State. 

On April 1, 1850, an advertisement appeared in the Jackson Mississippian referring to California, the Southern Slave Colony and inviting citizens of slave-holding States, wishing to go to California, to send their names, number of slaves, time of contemplated departure, etc., to the Southern Slave Colony, of Jackson, Mississippi. The design was to settle in the richest parts of the State and to secure an uninterrupted enjoyment of slave property. The colony was to comprise about 5,000 white persons and 10,000 slaves.

Another effort to extend slavery in this section came in the unsuccessful filibustering expedition of the Tennessee lawyer, William Walker, who undertook to establish to the south in Sonora, a State with a constitution like that of Louisiana, basing his advocacy of slavery on the lofty grounds of civilizing the blacks and liberating the whites from manual labor. 

To explain the meaning of this expedition Bancroft considers it sufficient to point out that Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War at that time and that the Gadsden purchase was then under consideration. 

In 1852, Peachy of San Joaquin introduced a resolution to allow fifty southern families to immigrate into California with their slaves. Some of them came without permission but on finding that they could not legally hold their slaves, they sent a part of them back while others became free.

In 1852 the Legislature passed a rigid Fugitive Slave Law intending to bar slavery from the State. The mischievous clause of this measure was that all slaves who had escaped into or were brought to California previous to the admission of the State to the Union were held to be fugitives, and were liable to arrest under the law, although many of them had been in the State several years, during which they had accumulated considerable property. The pro-slavery element not only profited by this, but the interpretation of this law by many of the Judges enabled them to bring their slaves into the State, work them in the mines, and return to the South and back to slavery with their Negroes. 

If they did not wish the trouble of their return passage they auctioned them off to the highest bidder. It also enabled them to make fortunes by selling to the slaves their freedom, charging them twice and often thrice the price he could have possibly brought on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. 

Many Negroes were returned to slavery by the Courts. An owner of slaves in Mississippi brought them voluntarily into California before the adoption of the Constitution by the State. The slaves asserted their freedom and for some months were engaged in business for themselves. The owner under the provision of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1852 brought them before the Justice of Peace, who allowed the claim of the owners and ordered them into his custody. The slaves then petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus which came before the Supreme Court and after hearing the case the Court ordered that the writ be dismissed and the slaves remanded to their owners. - California Reports 

The case of Alvin Coffey is equally as interesting. This account was given by a lifelong friend of the subject. Alvin Coffey was born in 1822, in Saint Louis, Missouri. He came to California with his sick master, a Mr. Duvall, who landed in San Francisco, September 1, 1849.  
They went to Sacramento, October 13, 1849. During the next eight months the slave earned for his master $5,000, working in the mines, and by washing for the miners and mining for himself after night, he earned $700 of his own. As the master continued in poor health he decided to return with Alvin to Missouri at the expiration of two years. When they reached Kansas City, Missouri, the master sold Alvin to Nelson Tindle, first taking from him the $5,000, earned for the master, and also the $700 earned for himself. Nelson Tindle took a great liking to Alvin and in a short time made him overseer over a number of slaves. Alvin, however, longed to return to California and, in order to earn his freedom, bought his time from his master and took contracts to build railroads. One day Nelson Tindle said to Alvin that he was too smart a man to be a slave and ought to try and purchase his freedom. Whereupon Alvin told him if he would let him return to California, he could easily earn enough money to effect the purchase. Alvin was permitted to return to California, and in a short time sent his master the $1,500 to pay for his freedom. Alvin then undertook to earn the money to pay for the freedom of his wife and daughters, who were slaves of Doctor Bassett, of Missouri. He earned the required sum and returned for his family. After paying for their freedom, he went with them to Canada, where he left his daughters to be educated. He and his wife Mahalia came to California. It cost him for the freedom of himself and family together with the trips to and from California about $7000. California Reports 

In certain Southern counties of the State it was unpopular to speak on behalf of the slaves. In 1855, Chase and Day, two Abolitionists of Alameda County, were ridden on a rail, ducked and otherwise maltreated.

That same year expired the Fugitive Slave Law which had been renewed from year to year to enable slave-owners to reclaim fugitives who had sought refuge in that State prior to its admission to the Union. Fearing that this might be followed by other legislation hostile to their class, the Negros held a convention in San Francisco that year to discuss their rights, their treatment by the white people, politics, principles and necessity of education. The Fugitive Slave Law was not reenacted.

Some of these eases are more than interesting. 

Daniel Rodgers came across the plains with his master from Little Rock, Arkansas, worked in the mines in Sonora, California, during the day for his master and at night for himself, earning and paying his master $1,100 for his freedom. Soon afterward the master returned with him to Little Rock and sold him. A number of the leading white gentlemen of Little Rock raised a sum of money, paid for his freedom and set him free. California Reports 

William Pollock and wife from North Carolina came to California with their master who located at Cold Springs, Coloma, California. He paid $1,000 for himself and $800 for his wife. The money was earned by washing for the miners at night and making doughnuts. They removed to Placerville, California, and afterward earned their living as caterers. California Reports 

In 1849,  a slaveholder brought his slave to California. Not wishing to take the Negro back to his native State, Alabama, he concluded to sell him by auction. An advertisement was put in the papers, the boy was purchased for $1,000, by Caleb T. Fay, a strong abolitionist, who gave the boy his freedom. California Reports 

A Mississippi slaveholder brought several slaves from that State and promised to give them their freedom in two years. They all ran away save one, Charles Bates, when they learned that they were already free. The owner, finding mining did not pay, started east, taking Charles with him. On the Isthmus of Panama, Charles was persuaded to leave his master. He returned to California and to Stockton with his true friend. On the street one day he was recognized by a party who had lent money to Charles's master. The debtor got out an attachment for the former slave as chattel property, and according to the State law, the Negro was put up and sold at auction. A number of anti-slavery men bought the boy for $750 and gave him his freedom. 
- California Reports

The tendency to free the Negroes brought there, checked the importation of that class. The rights of the master to his slave, however, were not easily relinquished and the institution of slavery in California did not come to an end until 1872. Freedom, however, had to win and the pro-slavery element had to change its policy. In 1856 and 1857, efforts were made to call a convention to change the constitution so as to permit the importation of slaves, for with the expiration of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1855, slave-owners who held minors had to return them to slave States or let them go free. Since the Negroes brought into the State could in most cases become free, the pro-slavery [Democrat] party then sought to get rid of the free Negro.

In his message to the legislature in 1850, Governor Burnett recommended the exclusion of free Negroes. This was always Burnett's hobby. He incorporated this into the laws of Oregon when he revised them in 1844. Burnett had been brought up in the South and although he had ceased to be a slaveholder, he could not think of living with Negroes as freemen. The exclusion of the blacks too had a sort of popular appeal in it. The legislature, however, was divided on the question as to what should be done with the free Negro. A bill in compliance with the wishes of the Governor was introduced but defeated.

Undaunted by this, however, the enemy of the free Negroes won a victory in another quarter in enacting a law that no black or mulatto person or Indian should be permitted to give evidence in any action to which a white person was a party. The leaders of the Negroes held another convention in 1856 to protest against this law. Another bill providing for the prohibition of the immigration of free persons of color into the State was introduced in 1858 and after much debate put through both houses, but it never became a law. The black code, of course, was abrogated after the Civil War.


-- the above is reprinted from The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan., 1918), pp. 33-44, Slavery in California, by author Delilah L. Beasley. 

Editor's Note: 

As for slavery in California, or more correctly the efforts made by pro-slavery Democrats to establish slavery in California? As you can see, there was a concerted effort by the pro-slavery Democratic Party to establish slavery in California. When that failed, pro-slavery Democrats tried to split California into two States, one free and one slave. In the end, they went so far as to break the law by attempting to keep their slaves in bondage -- slaves that they knew would be free in California. 

California became a territory of the United States in 1848. A Constitutional Convention was held in Monterey in August of 1849. Among the issues addressed, the convention prohibited slavery, gave the right to vote to every male citizen, and made both English and Spanish the official languages. 

Now before I go on, let me just say that I've read period newspaper accounts of slave auctions being held in California in spite of the fact that slavery was never legal in California. And in fact, California joined the Union as a "Free State." So, before you write to tell me that there was slavery going on in California, please understand that I fully understand that it was taking place -- but it was not legal in California. Yes, just as there are those who buy and sell meth and other illegal drugs today, there were those who bought and sold slaves in California. It was done. But those doing it were in reality breaking the law. 

At California's Constitutional Convention, there were Democratic Party members who came to California with the mission of getting the new state of California to officially sanction slavery. While most of them were Southerner slave owners, they were outnumbered by Northern abolitionists. As for the opposition to slavery by White-American miners, it's said that they didn't like the idea of having to compete with slave owners who wanted to flood the gold fields with slaves. 

What I found especially interesting about this piece is that in 1852, when a resolution was introduced to allow fifty Southern families to immigrate into California with their slaves -- some of them came without permission but left after learning that they could not legally own slaves in California. 

It's interesting to me that slave owners would do anything to keep their slaves, even to the extent of trying to send them back to where they knew it was legal to keep people in chains. It's a "Slave-Owner Mentality" that I'm thankful not many have today. 

Tom Correa

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Don't Tell Me Cows Can't Fly

I was working for one of the local outfits about 15 miles or so from Tombstone, Arizona, and during roundup another one of the local ranches brought a few of their hands over to help which is something neighboring outfits will do giving each other a hand when needed. After we finished and loaded up the cattle in the large cattle trucks you see traveling the highways heading to the feed lots, we all hung out a while and had a few beers and talked about the day and other Bull crap.

Sometimes, more than not, the story’s led into wild bull crap stories seeing who could come up with the best story topping all others. Of course, we all knew it was nothing more than bull crap but the fun was trying to top the other guys' wild stories, then we’d all have a good laugh.

Two days later it was time for the other outfit to work their roundup so at daybreak on that morning we were there preparing to head out and milling around shaking hands, visiting, and waiting for the owner to give us his plan on rounding up his herd. These were red Brangus cattle which are a mix of Brahman and Angus breeds.

These cows were pretty onery and the minute they would spot you on horseback they would take off in the opposite and different directions and would hide out in the brush, ravines, or just run from you. Yes, these cows were onery as heck but still not as flat-out mean like the longhorns I had worked.

While working the pens on foot some of these cows would try to freight train you, meaning they would try to run you over and anyone who has ever been freight-trained knows the pain and or possible injuries which can occur.

As we rode out and reached the top of a small knoll the majority of the herd was down in the lower part of the pasture, when they spotted us they took off like a shot so we divided up heading in their different directions. I had rode out and around their last spotted position to the back end of the pasture which was probably 240 acres or so and came up behind them. I caught up about 15 head and was slowly pushing them back down into the lower pasture. This is where the title of this article relates.

As I was moving them down a fairly steep hill towards a somewhat deep wash one old cow who was very good at hiding out, reached the bottom and jumped clear across that wash and landed into a small mesquite tree and then sulled up being completely still as though I couldn’t see her. Funny though, all I could see of her was her rump and tail. I couldn’t help but laugh at that and still do to this day now and again.

In order not to lose the others I just left her there and kept pushing the others and would go back later the next day and gather up the ones we missed hiding out, these cows were professionals at hiding.

Once we had all met up in the lower pasture we began pushing them up to the pens and locking them down I told the story of that old cow and we all had a laugh about flying cows. The next day we all headed out and picked up the rest of the strays pushing them into the pens with the rest.

We finished the roundup the following day and headed to town partying and just having a good time which pretty much cleared out the bar, so we mostly had it to ourselves. I guess the locals were afraid of what could take place and didn’t want to get involved. So the next time someone uses the old expression, "When cows fly," I’ve seen it happen.

Story By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Old West Historian 

Terry is a working cowboy, writer, and historian best known for the fight that he waged against the City of Tombstone and their historic City Ordinance Number 9. He was instrumental in getting the famous Tombstone City Ordinance Number 9 repealed while at the same time forcing the City of Tombstone to fall in line and comply with the laws of the State of Arizona.

If you care to read how he fought Tombstone's City Hall and won, check out:

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Fred White, Tombstone Marshal

Tombstone City Marshal Fred White

Over the years since the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, much has been written about the Earps', Clanton's, and others involved in that famous feud. Not nearly as much has been written about Marshal Fred White who was killed by Curly Bill in the empty lot where the Bird Cage Theater was later built.

Not much is known about Fred White between the time of his birth in 1849 in New York City according to the 1880 census and his arrival in the Arizona Territory. Most everything I could dig up was during his time spent in Tombstone as the town’s first City Marshal but nothing before that period.

As with most movies made in Hollywood, reality is not the norm. In many of the movies about Tombstone and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral the actors portraying the actual participants are much older. Fred White was only between 31 and 32 years of age depending on his actual birth date. 

For example, in the movie Tombstone, his part was played by the much older actor Harry Carey Jr. While Harry Carey Jr. was always regarded as a great actor, it did surprise a lot of folks when the then 60-year-old actor was chosen to play Marshal Fred White who was in his early 30s when he was killed.

Known as a likable and professional lawman Marshal White was well respected by all of the different elements in Tombstone as well as by the cowboy element, including Curly Bill Brocius. In fact, it was known that Curly Bill would joke around with Marshal White from time to time and the two actually got along well together. Marshal White had arrested a few of the cowboys now and again but still had no problem with them.

What this tells me is that Marshal White did not involve himself with the cowboys' rustling operation because he was only the Tombstone Marshal, so his jurisdiction only fell within the town limits. So as far as the cowboys' dealings went, that was the responsibility of the Pima County Sherriff. Unlike the Earps, he had no vested interest in businesses in town and distanced himself from the political rivalries that involved many of Tombstone’s population and was known to treat everyone fairly settling for only his income as town marshal.

On Thursday, October 28, 1880, several of the cowboy element were in town drinking heavily and began shooting at the moon. Marshal White confronted the cowboys and without incident, they handed over their guns voluntarily. When he encountered Curly Bill, who was very intoxicated, he asked Bill for his gun and Bill handed it to White barrel first on half cock. Half cock on the old six-shooters was basically a safety but when Marshal White pulled on the barrel the gun went off shooting him near the groin area.

Afterward, Curley Bill was said to terribly regret the incident because he liked Marshal White. Marshal White lingered for two days before passing away on Saturday. October 30th, 1880. Prior to the Marshal's demise, he cleared Curly Bill of the incident stating that it was an accident. It's true. Curley Bill was acquitted of Marshal White's murder after Marshal White provided deathbed testimony that the shooting was an accident.

Later in the Tucson Court, it was proven that Bill's gun could go off while on half cock so Judge Neugass dismissed the charges making this a horrible accident. Marshal White is buried in the old Tombstone Cemetery later to become known as Boothill.

Marshal White had served in law enforcement for five years. From all I could find with research about Marshal White, it seems to me that he was one of the most fair and decent men in the old west to ever wear the badge instead of like many who were of both sides of the law when it became convenient to do so.

Story By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Historian 

This once-working cowboy is best known for his fight against the City of Tombstone and their historic City Ordinance Number 9, America's most famous gun-control law. He was instrumental in finally getting the famous Tombstone City Ordinance Number 9 repealed, and having Tombstone fall in line with the State of Arizona. 

If you care to read how he fought Tombstone's City Hall and won, please check out: