Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Last Recorded Stage Holdup

Ben Kuhl's 1917 Mugshot

Story by Terry McGahey

Since one of my last articles had to do with one of the last stagecoach robberies in the U.S., I thought I would follow it up with the actual last stage holdup in the United States. That robbery took place outside of a little-known place by the name of Jarbridge which is a small town Northwest of Wells, Nevada, very near the Idaho state line. Jarbridge is in a very mountainous region and at that time there was only one very treacherous road, especially during the winter months, leading in or out of the town.

The only means of outside communication in Jarbridge was the Mail Stage which also carried payroll for the local miners in the area. The stage driver’s name was Fred Searcy who was well known by almost everyone. On December 5th, 1916, it was payday for the miners and they were awaiting Searcy’s arrival but he failed to arrive on time causing folks to believe he got caught up in the snowstorm.

As time passed, the postmaster Scott Flemming, asked another man by the name of Frank Leonard to ride up Crippen Grade and search for Searcy. A few hours had passed when Leonard arrived back at Jarbridge and told the postmaster he did not find Searcy or the stage.

Even though over four feet of snow had fallen, the next morning a search party was formed. They found the stage pulled over the side of the road and hidden behind a stand of willow trees. As they approached the coach they could see Searcy, the driver, slumped over on the seat and covered with snow.

At first, they believed he had probably died due to the elements but upon a closer look Searcy had been shot in the head. The mail sack was still on board the stage but the payroll pouch was missing. In the pouch were four thousand dollars in money and gold coins worth somewhere near one hundred thousand in today’s money. Because of the inclement weather and evening growing closer the search party headed back to town intending to go back in the morning, which they did.

Once they reached the coach the party decided to re-enact the crime with any evidence found at the scene. It was thought that the assailant had hidden in the sagebrush and then somehow gained control of the stage and killed Searcy. The party then found two sets of prints in the snow, one human and one of a dog. They followed the tracks down to the river where they found a blood-stained shirt along the bank.

Next, they noticed a dog had followed them and had begun digging in the dirt and in just a short time had dug up the missing pouch that had held the missing money. The bottom of the pouch was cut out (most likely the pouch had a lock) but the money and gold coins were gone. Realizing this dog was attached to a fellow by the name of Ben Kuhl and knew right where the pouch was buried, Ben was now the number one suspect.

Afterwards Ben Kuhl, along with two cohorts, Ed Beck and William McGraw were arrested at their cabin. Kuhl stated he was in the Jarbridge saloon and that he was innocent. Several witnesses stated Kuhl was in the saloon but nobody could give a time frame in which they saw him there so Kuhl very well could have left the saloon for an hour or so and then returned after the deed was done.

Later on the Nevada State Archivist, Guy Rocha, Claimed that Kuhl admitted to killing Searcy because he and Searcy got into an argument over how the money was to be split stating that the driver Searcy was also involved in setting up the robbery.

A background check revealed that Kuhl had a long criminal history. In 1903 he served four months for petty larceny in Marysville California, then sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary for horse theft and he had recently been released from jail on a four hundred dollar bond for trespassing on private property.

The trial was held for the three at the Elko County Court by Judge Taber. The evidence was mostly circumstantial but two forensic scientists from California linked a bloody palm print on an envelope directly to Kuhl.

Judge Taber sentenced Kuhl to death and gave him his chance to determine how he would die. Kuhl chose the firing squad, but later the Nevada State Board of Pardons voted to commute his sentence to life in prison. Beck and McGraw also received life and all three were taken to the Nevada State Prison in October of 1917. For some unknown reason, Beck was paroled a few years later on November 24, 1923. 

As for Ben Kuhl, he spent 28 years in prison before being paroled on May 7, 1945. Kuhl is believed to have died of either pneumonia or tuberculosis somewhere in Northern California the same year that he was released from prison. He was 60 years old when he died. As for making history, besides being part of the last recorded stage holdup in the United States, Ben Kuhl was the first American ever convicted of murder based on a palm print. 

As for the money, it was never found.

Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Old West Historian

Terry has been a working cowboy, writer, and historian. He is 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:

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Elmer McCurdy "The Traveling Dead Man"

Story by Terry McGahey

Elmer McCurdy, a small-time thief, train and bank robber, he was an inept bandit at the very least, unlike the James boys and others who were successful holdup men, Elmer McCurdy holds a very distinct place in history as a dead man rather than a holdup man.

Elmer was born on January 1st, 1880 in Washington, Main as an illegitimate child who was raised by other family members to take the shame away from the family and mother. As an adult, his mother and other family members passed on and Elmer, after moving around ended up in Cherryville, Kansas working as a miner and plumber but because of his alcohol addiction he couldn’t hold a job. He then moved on to Iola, Kansas in 1905 where he was arrested for public intoxication. 

After his arrest, Elmer moved on to Webb City, Missouri where in 1907 he joined the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth where he learned the use of machine guns and was given a minimal course in the use of nitroglycerin. Elmer was discharged on November 7, 1910, and moved to St. Joseph, Kansas. While in St. Joseph he and another fellow were arrested for possession of burglary tools such as chisels, hammers, and other items. In court, the two explained that the tools were being used for inventing a new type of machine gun and were found not guilty.

After leaving Webb City Elmer embarked upon his criminal career in the robbery of banks and trains using Nitroglycerin. Not being well schooled with the explosive, that choice became more of a hindrance than a benefit to his activity by not fully realizing the correct amount to use in any given circumstance. 

In March of 1911, he and three other men robbed the Iron Mountain-Missouri Pacific train number 104 carrying $4000.00. They succeeded in stopping the train and Elmer set his nitro charge to blow open the safe but used too much resulting in destroying it along with the money except for some of the silver coins worth $450.00, the rest of the coins were actually fused to the vault frame.

On September 21st, 1911 Elmer and two other men decided to rob a bank in Chautauqua, Kansas. They entered the bank by busting down a wall and gaining entrance to the interior of the bank. Again using too much nitroglycerin to blow the main vault's outer door the force of the blast sent the main door flying through the interior destroying the bank but at the same time, this blast didn’t damage the interior vault. Elmer set another charge but it failed to ignite. The three inept criminals only escaped with $150.00 in coins left in a tray outside the vault.

Elmer’s last robbery attempt took place on October 4th, 1911 near Okese, Oklahoma targeting a Katy Train with another $4000.00 in cash intended as payment to the Osage Nation. The only problem was, that they mistook a passenger train for the Katy Train and all they got was $46.00 which they took from the mail clerk, two containers of whiskey, a revolver, a coat, and the conductor's watch. Afterward, this robbery became known as one of the smallest train robberies in history.

Elmer had no idea that he had become implicated in the robbery and a $2000.00 reward had been posted for his capture. Elmer was hiding in the hay shed of a friend from the army by the last name of Revard and was drinking heavily. In the early morning of October 7th, a posse consisted of three sheriffs by the names of Stringer Fenton, Bob Fenton, and Dick Wallace. They tracked Elmer with the use of bloodhounds to the hay shed and waited. Below is Bob Stringer’s statement:

It began just about 7 O’clock. We were standing around waiting for him to

Come out when the first shot was fired at me. It missed me and then he turned

His attention to my brother Stringer Fenton. He shot three times at Stringer

And when my brother got under cover he turned his attention to Dick Wallace.

He kept shooting at us for about an hour. We fired back every time we could.

We do not know who killed him.

Elmer’s body was taken to the undertaker in Pawhuska, Oklahoma where the body went unclaimed. The owner/undertaker, Joseph L. Johnson embalmed Elmer with an arsenic-based fluid used at that time to preserve bodies for long periods of time. Since Elmer was unclaimed and the undertaker hadn’t been paid he cleaned up the body and dressed it. He then put Elmer in a casket and charged the public a nickel per person to look at the body listed as “the bandit who wouldn’t give up”.

On October 6th, 1916 a man by the name of Aver contacted Johnson claiming to be Elmer’s brother from California who had the body shipped to San Francisco for burial. Once in San Francisco Elmer’s body was used in a carnival called “A Traveling Museum of Crime”, a sideshow with Trans-American Foot Race, (odd name). Next, the body was placed in the lobbies of theaters listed as a “dope fiend” in support of a film called “Narcotic”.

In 1949 Elmer’s body was placed in a storage warehouse in Los Angeles, California. In 1964 Elmer was lent to a filmmaker by the name of David F. Friedman who used the body in a film called “She Freak” in 1967. In 1968 Elmer was sold once again with other wax figures for $10,000.00 and was exhibited in a show at Mount Rushmore where the corpse sustained some wind damage. The tips of the ears as well as some fingers and toes actually blew off.

Elmer was then sold to Ed Liersch who was part owner of the amusement park in Long Beach, California known as the Pike. By 1976 Elmer was hanging in the dark fun house at the park. By December 8th, 1976, the production crew of the television series “The Six Million Dollar Man” was shooting a series called “Carnival of Spies” at the Pike. 

A prop man moving what he believed to be a wax figure hanging from a gallows got a real surprise, when moving Elmer his arm broke off and a human bone as well as muscle tissue became visible.

The police were called and Elmer’s body was taken to the Los Angeles coroner’s office. On December 9th the coroner determined the body to be of a human male who had died of a gunshot wound to the chest. The body by now was covered in wax and layers of phosphorus paint. Tests also revealed the presence of arsenic which was used during the time of Elmer’s embalmment and up until 1920. The investigation also revealed Tuberculosis in the lungs as well as bunions and scars which matched Elmer.

The jacket from the bullet was also found, still within the body, and determined to be a gas check which was used from 1905 to 1940. This helped the coroner to pinpoint the era for the time of death. Elmer’s mandible was removed for dental analysis and inside his mouth was a 1924 penny along with ticket stubs to the “Museum of Crime”. The son of the original owner, Louis Sonney was contacted and he confirmed the body was Elmer McCurdy.

By December 11th Elmer’s journey was in the news as well as radio and television. A man by the name of Fred Olds who represented the Indian Posse of Oklahoma Westerns convinced the coroner to allow the body of Elmer to be buried in Oklahoma. 

On April 22nd, 1977 Elmer was laid to rest in the boot hill section of the Summit View Cemetary in Guthrie. The service was attended by approximately 300 people. Elmer McCurdy was buried next to Bill Doolin and to ensure no one stole the body again two feet of concrete was poured over the casket.

Maybe somehow Elmer had the last laugh. While all of his contemporaries had been dead and buried for quite some time Elmer was still traveling the country.

Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Old West Historian

Terry has been a working cowboy, writer, and historian. He is 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:  

Monday, February 19, 2024

Gen. Liversedge And The Battle Of Iwo Jima

While Marines fondly remember him as "Harry the Horse" because of his stamina and resilience, he was born in the small California Gold Rush town of Volcano on September 21, 1894. As for a young man, Harry Bluett Liversedge began his career as a Marine in May 1917 when he was 21. He enlisted in the Corps as a Private (E-1). Very soon after enlisting, he was in France with the 5th Marines.

And while it is anyone's guess what sort of young man he was growing up, it's a safe bet to say that he was a typical American youth who celebrated America's greatness. And really, why not? We were in a period of economic prosperity, and the future was one of optimism and hope.

While European Monarchies scorned democracy and kept their peasant class in place, their rule was being threatened by Socialists and Communists who wanted to do the exact same thing and enslave the poor. America had become the champion of democracy and by the beginning of the 20th century, Americans saw the old ways of suppressing the rights of others as something that needed to end.

Europe went to war in 1914. To stop tyranny. the American Expeditionary Forces arrived in Europe in 1917. As for a young man, Harry Liversedge began his career as a Marine in May 1917 when he was 21. He enlisted in the Corps as a Private (E-1).

And while I can't find information about his service in France other than the fact that he served with the 5th Marines, possibly at the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918. The 1,087 casualties suffered by the Corps in the first day of fighting was more than it had taken in all its previous battles combined.

I suspect he distinguished himself in battle. What makes me say such a thing? Well, it's not every day a young man enlists in the Marine Corps as a Private, and then just a year and a half later in September of 1918 is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. That tells us a lot about what he was made of. And yes, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant just two months before World War I ended on November 11, 1918.

Harry Liversedge represented the United States in the 1920 Olympics at Antwerp, Belgium, and won a bronze medal in the shot put. He served at the Naval Academy at Annapolis and Quantico Virginia, took part in the Banana Wars in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, served at the Marine Barracks at Mare Island, California, and later served in China. So yes, as an exemplary Marine, he steadily moved up the rank structure in the Post-World War I Marine Corps.

As we know, for America, World War II started with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Japanese Navy on December 7th, 1941. As with all our services, the Marine Corps was hit that day. On that Sunday, there were about 4,500 Marines stationed at Pearl Harbor.

There were over 800 officers and enlisted Marines in Marine Detachments aboard ships in Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack. Marine Corps losses resulting from the attack on Pearl Harbor included Marines killed, wounded, and missing in action. The heaviest Marine losses came from the ship's detachment of the USS Arizona. Of the 82 Marines that made up that ship’s Marine Detachment, only 15 survived.

World War II would see several battles in Europe and the Pacific. By January 1944, Colonel Liversedge was placed in command of the 28th Marine Regiment. The 28th Marines would play a key role in Marine Corps History. That would take place during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

On February 19th, 1945, three Marine divisions, more than 80,000 men, were assigned the task of taking the island of Iwo Jima, which was barely 8 square miles in area and dominated by 556-foot Mount Suribachi. The Marines there were up against 22,060 Japanese troops that were dug in and very prepared.

Marine Maj. General Harry Schmidt commanding the Iwo Jima operation wanted 10 days of heavy bombardment, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Marines received only 3 days of Navy shilling before the amphibious assault took place.

The Japanese defense of the island was commanded by Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. It is said that Gen. Kuribayashi’s departure from the established Japanese strategy shaped the engagement, leading to a drawn-out, punishing battle. Before Iwo Jima, Japanese commanders stayed with the strategy of defending their position more directly by facing American troops on the beaches in the Gilbert, Marshall, and Mariana Islands.

This time Kuribayashi opted to hang back and defend from deeper positions, deliberately delaying the Americans and inflicting as many casualties as possible. In doing so he hoped to damage the American will to fight. He had hoped to buy more time so that the Japanese government could better prepare for an American invasion.

On Iwo Jima, the Japanese Army had built an elaborate network of tunnels that sort of honeycombed the island. It's true. On an island that was about 8 square miles in size, Kuribayashi had his men construct about 11 miles of fortified tunnels that connected 1,500 rooms, for everything from ammunition storage, sleeping areas, and medical rooms, to artillery emplacements, bunkers, pillboxes, and more. This enabled Japanese soldiers to wage warfighting from concealed positions. This also limited the impact of American air and naval bombardment.

Because of his tunnel system, Gen. Kuribayashi ensured that every part of the island was subject to Japanese fire. It also aided the Japanese troops to retake bunker positions after they were cleared by the Marines. Later during the battle, it is said that Marines were frequently surprised to find that bunkers that they had already cleared out with grenades or the use of flamethrowers were swiftly reoccupied by Japanese troops. This was all thanks to the Japanese network of tunnels.

While Gen. Kuribayashi planned to keep his soldiers in caves and tunnels until the Marines advanced far enough inland to be decimated by coordinated infantry and artillery fire, he also wanted to take advantage of the Marines landing on a stretch of beach that would turn into pure Hell for the Marines.

That has to do with the actual landing. Marines landed on the soft black sand beaches and soon found that the soft sand made life a living Hell. The beach’s black volcanic sand was ash that failed to provide them with any sort of good footing. It made walking and running almost impossible and equipment bogged down in it. Between the soft sand and the steep 15-foot-high slopes, the Marines were in a place that was almost impossible to escape.

Of course, Japanese Gen. Kuribayashi defending Iwo Jima knew this and waited until the beach was packed with Marines before he unleashed the full force of his heavy artillery.

It should be noted that once the beach was congested full of Marines, landing crafts, and other equipment stuck in the soft sand, the Japanese troops unleashed a heavy artillery assault from all angles. It was a Marine's worst nightmare as bodies of fellow Marines were being ripped apart from a relentless barrage of artillery and machinegun fire. It was right there on that bloody beach where most of our Marines were killed on Iwo Jima.

Col. Liversedge's 28th Marine Regiment was assigned to get across a half-mile stretch to the other side of the island to take Mount Suribachi. And yes, even though such carnage was taking place on the beach, the Marines there slugged it out and kept pushing forward over that 15-foot-high embankment of sand and dirt. It's said that the 23rd, 25th, and 27th Marine Regiments began to measure their advances in yards. Of course, while sometimes they only gained a few yards, they pushed forward.

Then, a mere five days after the battle began, on February 23rd, 1945, Col. Liversedge’s 28th Marines took control of Mount Suribachi. They raised a small American flag. At an elevation of 556 feet, Mt. Suribachi marks the island’s highest point, and the Marines there who witnessed what took place broke out in cheers. The Navy ships offshore blew their horns in recognition and celebration of what took place.

Later that same day, the Marines raised a larger flag. That second flag became the iconic photograph of Marines raising Old Glory atop Mt. Suribachi. Several combat photographers captured what took place, but it was Joe Rosenthal’s snapshot of the men struggling to raise the second flag in a stiff wind that became an enduring symbol of American resolve. It was the most reproduced photograph of World War II, it spurred on a War Bond drive, and it gave Americans the morale boost that we needed.

The first main Japanese line of defense lay beyond a sulfur field filled with man-made and natural defenses. Japanese soldiers hit the Marines with artillery by day. At night, it is said the Japanese would slip behind the Marines' rear and plant mines along roads to stop the Marines from bringing up tanks.

On February 27th, the Marines mounted a massive coordinated assault that broke through the center of the Japanese line and overran the heights adjacent to an airfield. the following day. Fighting continued on the right flank at the Amphitheater, Turkey Knob, and Hill 382, a rise that was dubbed "The Meat Grinder." 

During all this, the Japanese rained relentless artillery and machinegun fire on the Marines from their defensive positions in caves, pillboxes, and bunkers. To address this, Marines used everything including flamethrowers which were seen as the most effective weapon against such dug-in emplacements.

In fact, flamethrowers were used heavily to wipe out as many of the Japanese defensive positions as possible. The M2 flamethrower was considered by Marine commanders to be the single most effective weapon during the battle of Iwo Jima. Each Marine battalion was assigned a flamethrower operator and the weapons became the most effective means of attacking Japanese troops in caves, tunnels, and the hundreds of bunkers, blockhouses, and pillboxes that dotted the island. Of course, American Sherman tanks were also modified with a Mark I flame thrower. Combined with the flamethrowers on the backs of Marines, the Japanese were targeted and wiped out when called in.

While the battle drug on, many stepped forward to go above and beyond the call of duty and do the right thing when needed. Many paid with their lives. While the flamethrowers were by far the most effective weapon against caves, bunkers, blockhouses, and pillboxes on Iwo Jima, Marine Navajo code talkers played a vital part in taking Iwo Jima.

The Navajo language is so complex, that the Japanese could not understand it. It made codebreaking virtually impossible for the Japanese. And here's something else, the six Navajo code talkers on Iwo Jima sent and received over 800 messages. These messages included fire support missions, close air support, evacuation of the wounded, and calls for support to back up entrenched Marines. As incredible as it may be, all of those 800 messages were sent without errors. Since that was done in the heat of battle, that in itself is nothing short of miraculous.

On the northern end of the island, the 28th Regiment fought for control of Hills 362A and 362B. They seized them both by March 3. The 21st Regiment took Hill 362C near the island’s northeast shore. This meant that there was only a small group of Japanese soldiers in that sector holding out at a site known as Cushman's Pocket.

On March 8, Japanese Navy Capt. Samaji Inouye led a nighttime banzai attack to drive the Marines off of their hill. His attack failed, but it did provide the Marines with an opening to clear the Amphitheater and Turkey Knob by March 10. And believe it or not, despite areas still experiencing intense resistance at Cushman's Pocket, resistance on the northwest coast, and a small pocket of resistance on the east coast of the island, Iwo Jima was officially declared secure on March 16.

In reality, Iwo Jima was not secure until the night of March 26. That was the night when a few hundred Japanese troops surprised the Marines by moving behind them. The Japanese attack that ensued killed over a hundred Marines in their sleep. After those attackers were killed, Marines cleaned out and killed or captured the other pockets of Japanese on the island. That horrible night attack, an attack that resulted in Marines being killed in their sleep, was the last major engagement on Iwo Jima.

So while someone was premature in declaring Iwo Jima secure a full 10 days before it really was on March 26, History tells us that the battle for Iwo Jima went on for more than a month after the 28th Marines raised the flag atop Mt. Suribachi. History also tells us that the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history was waged a mere 160 days before the end of World War II and the signing of the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Throughout the 36 days of fighting on that island in the Pacific, over 26,000 Marines were casualties with over 7,000 killed in action. There are reasons why we honor those brave men at the Battle of Iwo Jima. It's said that most acts of heroism go unnoted in battle, especially during such an epic battle as that with thousands of Marines engaged in combat against thousands of the enemy.

But of those who were noted for gallantry above and beyond, 22 Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and 5 were awarded to Sailors. Of those 27 Medals of Honor awarded, 14 Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously. That’s the highest number awarded in a single American battle. And more so, that figure makes up more than a fifth of the total 82 Medals of Honor awarded to Marines during the Second World War.

In addition to the 27 Medals of Honor, there were over 200 Navy Cross medals awarded. For you who might not know, the Navy Cross is a decoration second only to the Medal of Honor. Here's something more on that, when read, you would conclude that many Navy Cross citations could have warranted a Medal of Honor being awarded. It is no wonder that Admiral Chester Nimitz said of those who fought on Iwo Jima, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."

Col Harry Liversedge received two Navy Crosses in his career. Because it is said, "He gallantly led the 28th Marines ashore in the Iwo Jima campaign," his 2nd Navy Cross was for his actions during that battle. Following World War II, Col. Harry Liversedge was promoted to Brigadier General. He died at the Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on November 25, 1951, at the age of 57.

As for a last note on the Battle of Iwo Jima, that battle would brand the United States Marine Corps and Marines forevermore. The actions of those Marines embody our Corps' values of honor, courage, and commitment. Their actions defined how we Marines think, how we act, and how we fight. Their valor, sense of duty, resolve, and selflessness are why we remember those Marines. These are the reasons why we commemorate their deeds. This is why we hold those who fought and died there in such high esteem.

It's Marines like Gen. Harry Liversedge that set the standard. And this is why Marines work so hard to live up to the legacy that they left for us.

Tom Correa

Monday, February 12, 2024

The Death of George Leihy & Henry Everts 1866

It might sound strange, but there were people in the Old West who didn't feel they needed to carry a gun. As strange as that sounds, there were those back in the day who were against carrying a gun for one reason or another. It's true, there were. In fact, an example of such an individual was Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy. 

As odd as it sounds for a lawman, especially for one in the 1800s, he felt that he didn't need a gun way back in 1866. And for unknown reasons, he didn't carry a gun.

Can anyone imagine a law enforcement officer of any sort going unarmed today? I can't. But that's what Marshal Leihy did in 1866. For reasons that I'm sure wouldn't make much sense for a person in his position, George Leihy was unarmed and vulnerable while working as a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Superintendent (Indian Agent) in La Paz, Arizona. As unbelievable as that sounds, it's a true story.

George W. Leihy was born in New York. Before arriving in Arizona, he was in Petaluma, California. In 1863, he left his wife and children to go to Arizona for mining opportunities. By 1865, he become the Superintendent of Indian Affairs (Indian Agent) at the La Paz, Arizona, reservation. I read that he took the position of Deputy U.S. Marshal to supplement his pay as Indian Agent. As for wearing a badge but not carrying a gun as a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Indian Agent, the reason that he didn't carry a gun may have had something to do with his religious beliefs. 

Quakers, also called "Friends," are a Christian denomination known formally as the "Religious Society of Friends" or "Friends Church." In 1851, Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act which authorized the creation of Indian reservations. In 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant reorganized the Indian Service. Part of that reorganization called for the replacement of government officials by religious men, nominated by churches. Religious groups were to oversee the Indian agencies on reservations and teach Christianity to the native tribes. This was all about the assimilation of the Indian tribes into the world of American whites.

Quakers had already been involved in that effort on reservations for a couple of years prior to the 1868 reorganization. In fact, in the mid-1860s Quakers and other Christian groups were being put in charge of many of the agencies in an effort to introduce some honesty into the Indian service. Let's be honest here, many of the government officials who were Indian agents were as crooked as a dog's hind leg.

Many agents were also said to be also cruel as the day is long. This was probably due to the fact that many were military officers who were appointed as agents on reservations after they left the Army. It's said that some agents took out their personal hatred for Indians while in their official capacity as Indian agents. In many cases, it was a situation of having put people in place to care for those they hate.

I read that Indian Agent and Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy was a Quaker who didn't believe in carrying a gun for self-protection. While I hate to speculate simply because I don't like to speculate as to why someone did something way back when, and yes I really like only going with facts, there is speculation that he didn't want shooting another person on his conscience if it came to that. Of course, the hard truth is that you have to be alive to have your conscience bother you. 

Sources say he was advised on several occasions that he should arm himself since he was the Indian Agent in La Paz. When he volunteered to become a Deputy U.S. Marshal, he was told by local military commanders that he should be armed because he needed to escort prisoners. Some of those prisoners were bad hombres who would do anything to get loose and disappear.

The first U.S. Marshal ever killed in the line of duty was on January 11, 1794. The fact is only five Deputy U.S. Marshals had been killed in the line of duty up to 1860. Knowing those facts, one can only wonder if he felt a sense of complacency. No one will ever really know if he felt the odds were in his favor, and being unarmed was a safe bet.

We know he was told to be on guard before his last assignment, simply because it was well-known that there were Indians in his charge at La Paz who were not happy with him. Even after being told that, he is said to have disregarded the wise advice of others and still went about unarmed. This would catch up to him during a return trip from Prescott when he was escorting a killer.

On that trip from Prescott, Deputy US Marshal Leihy had with him a La Paz Indian who was captured in the Skull Valley fight and was being held as a prisoner at Fort Whipple. Skull Valley was known for ages of troubles and death. Among those age-old wars was that between the Pima and Yavapai Indians.

The commanding officer of Fort Whipple, Col. Lovell, released the La Paz Indian to Leihy on his authority as the Indian Agent. As the Indian Agent, Leighy superseded Col. Lovell's authority over the Indians. Even though that was the case, at one point Lovell out and out refused to release the La Paz Indian to Leihy until he called in a second marshal for that assignment. While Col. Lovell was said to be extremely reluctant to release him because Leihy was unarmed, he had no choice.

The reason for Col. Lovell's reluctance had to do with the local reputation of that prisoner, and the fact that Lovell saw that Marshal Leihy was at a disadvantage against that killer. Col. Lovell is said to have made it very clear to Leihy that the La Paz Indian in his custody was a known killer. None of that mattered to Deputy US Marshal Leihy.

Newspapers later reported that George Leihy and two Indians arrived at Eble's Station in Skull Valley on their way to the Bell Ranch where they were to be joined by the Indian agency clerk. He was listed in the papers only as "Mr. Evarts" who reportedly arrived at the Bell Ranch in a buggy pulled by two horses. He met Leihy there and traveled with Leihy who was in charge of the detail.

As for his clerk, Henry Everts? He was born in 1832 in Indiana. That means that he was either 33 or 34 years of age when he was killed. Other than knowing that Henry was one of eleven children of Timothy Chittenden Everts and Maria L Everts, I haven't been able to find out if he too was a Quaker, if he was "deputized" by Leihy to help him transport the prisoners, or if Everts was armed in any way. 

Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy disregarded great advice and went about the country alone and unarmed. During his return trip from Prescott, about ten miles below Skull Valley where the road passes through Bell's Canyon, Marshal Leihy and his agency clerk were waylaid and killed. Actually, they weren't just killed. 

The Weekly Journal-Miner, Prescott, Arizona, on Friday, November 30, 1866, reported what they believed happened. According to that newspaper, it was only an hour after they left Bell Canyon that the mule that Everts had with him trailing behind his buggy had returned to Bell's Ranch with arrows in it. With that, soldiers were notified and soon they were on their way to search for Leihy and his companion Everts. The newspaper mistakenly misspelled Everts name as "Evarts" in the article.

As stated in the article, when the soldiers found their bodies, both had been tortured alive. Henry Everts was "beheaded and filled with arrows." Near him was the body of George Leihy. He had been beaten in the head with a rock to the point that his head was "flattened," his arms and legs were broken in many places, and his heart was cut out. Yes, he was found without a heart. The report said that a "pair of bullet molds were found in its place." 

As for Everts' buggy, it was burned save for a wheel. One of his horses was killed and cooked and partially eaten. The other horse and the Indians that Leihy was escorting were gone. It is believed that the Indians that he was escorting must have been joined by a war party of anywhere between 40 to 70 warriors. Both Leihy and Everts were killed, dismembered, and mutilated. 

As for the Indians with Leihy, most believe they simply joined the party that killed Leihy and Everts. Both Leihy and Everts were buried where they were killed. 

We have the freedom to decide for ourselves whether to arm ourselves or not. Not carrying a gun is a personal choice, no different than carrying one is. Yes, there have always been folks who simply don't believe a gun of any sort is needed. And, contrary to what we are told by Hollywood and fiction writers, people were able to make that same choice back in the Old West. 

In reality, there have always been folks who refuse to believe the real-world wisdom that says, "It's better to have a gun and not need it -- than to need a gun and not have it." While we don't know all of the circumstances of his death, many believe that on that Sunday, November 18, 1866, Deputy U.S. Marshal George W. Leihy learned one of life's lessons the hard way. A gun would have come in handy. 

George W. Leihy was said to be 49 years old when he was killed in 1866. And while there will never be a way of knowing how much difference being armed would have made when he and Everts were attacked by a war party of 40 to 70 warriors, I believe that he should have been armed. 

For what, you ask. What difference would a single gun or even two guns have made against 40 to 70 warriors? Well, it could have been used, as guns had been used in many similar cases when people were in such dire straits so that he and his companion wouldn't have had to live through being tortured alive.

Tom Correa

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Charlie Bowdre & His Pals by Terry McGahey

Charlie Bowdre who was well known as one of Billy the Kid's friends during the Lincoln County War and part of the group known as the Regulators was born in Wilkes County Georgia in 1848. His family moved to Mississippi in 1854 where Charlie worked on his dad's farm. After approximately 1873, in my opinion, Charlie became known as what we call today, a saddle tramp, ending up in Lincoln County, New Mexico in 1874. 

For anyone who doesn’t know the term "saddle tramp," it refers to a man who travels a lot picking up part-time jobs along the way but not staying long in any one place always on the move.

Once in Lincoln County Charlie hooked up with a man by the name of Doc Scurlock and the two opened a cheese plant along the Gila River. During this time Charlie got involved with Doc serving on posses chasing down cattle rustlers and the two were also involved in the lynchings of the ones they captured. 

Once, Charlie was involved with three others storming the Lincoln jail and taking a man by the name of Jesus Largo, a cattle rustler, to the outside of town and hung him. Even though they stormed the jail and forcibly abducted Largo no files were charged.

When the Lincoln County War began in 1878 Charlie sided with the Tunstall-McSween faction where at that time he met Billy The Kid, Jose Chavez, Richard Brewer, Jim French, George Coe, and Frank Coe. Charlie was also present when the regulators killed William Morton, Frank Baker, and William McCloskey along Blackwater Creek. 

Charlie was shot by Buckshot Roberts at Blazers Mill on April 4th, 1878, he returned fire killing Roberts and later he would be charged with Robert's death.

Later, Charlie was also involved in the July 15th-19th 1878 Battle of Lincoln. While still being involved with Billy the Kid and the regulators Charlie worked as a cowhand for Tom Yerby and Pete Maxwell. The same Pete Maxwell where Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett at Maxwell's home in Fort Sumner. Charlie married Maria Antonia Herrera only a short time before his death at Stinking Springs, New Mexico.

While some of the Regulators along with Billy the Kid were holed up in a rock house at Stinking Springs, Pat Garrett and his posse had surrounded the small house earlier that night. The next morning Charlie walked out of the small house to feed the horses when Garrett’s posse opened up on Charlie riddling him with bullets. Billy told Charlie, take a few with you, but Charlie was too weak to even pull his pistol and died on the spot.

Charlie Bowdre is buried in the old Fort Sumner Cemetary next to Tom O’Folliard, another of the Regulators. Both Tom and Charlie were later joined by Billy the Kid in 1881. They always called themselves, "Pals."

Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Old West Historian

Terry has been a working cowboy, writer, and historian. He is 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:

The Last Gun Fight -- The Death of Ordinance Number 9 (Chapter One)

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Horse Thieves -- Yesterday & Today

Horse thieves lived dangerously in the Old West. While stealing a horse in the East was considered a misdemeanor, the opposite was the case in the American West where a horse theft was considered a serious crime worthy of a rope and a short drop. 

The fact is that there's no telling just how many horse thieves got a taste of Frontier Justice hanging from a tree limb after the law or the real owner caught up with them. 

Of course there was, more likely than not, the local vigilance committee. Let's not forget that law was not very common back then. To have some law and order, many towns formed vigilante groups.

These "vigilance committees," better known as vigilante groups, were made up of the local citizens when no law was available and criminals preyed upon the citizenry. Some think of vigilante groups as masked men who hide their identities.

That may have gone on in some parts of the country, but it was not the norm and certainly not everywhere. The fact is that most folks knew exactly who was on the vigilance committee of their town. Small towns are like that. Folks usually have an idea of what's going on around them. That's just the way it is in the country.

Also, there was another part of belonging to the local vigilance group, the same men that belonged to that group were most likely the same ones in the volunteer fire department and the ones who helped build their town.  Besides, most vigilance groups provided their towns and the areas they lived in with a sense of security and an immediate response to crime.

Some people don't understand that vigilance groups in the Old West were just an organized "hue and cry." In common law, a "hue and cry," which I believe is Latin for "a horn and shouting," is the process used when citizens are summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal.

The "hue and cry" is what came before organized law enforcement was ever established. Citizens who witnessed a crime would call out for help, and other citizens would quickly respond. And in fact, in Old English law, it was a crime if you didn't respond. 

The "hue and cry" was the law that meant that anyone who witnessed a crime could make a "hue and cry," and that the "hue and cry" must be kept up against the fleeing criminal until the felon is apprehended. It meant that all able-bodied men, upon hearing the shouts and calls for help, were obliged to assist in the pursuit of the criminal.

This is where we get the tradition of forming Posses to pursue outlaws and bandits, rustlers and horse thieves. The "hue and cry" is comparable to the Posse Comitatus law which says that all able-bodied men when asked will assist.

In mining towns and camps like this part of the Mother Lode Country here in California, miners set up Miner's Courts to establish laws. And yes, miners set up vigilante groups to protect claims, settle claim disputes, and even protect miners and newcomers.  During the 1850s, thousands of San Francisco residents openly formed the Vigilance Committees to take back control of the city government from crooked city officials who they saw as being corrupt.

Vigilance groups are also said to have mediated land disputes during range wars, ruling on ranching areas and ranch boundaries. They also registered cattle brands, and yes, they also protected cattle and horses from rustlers and thieves. Folks understood that people would steal horses, and the horses needed to be protected.

"There ain't nothing lower than a horse thief!"

To me, one of the lowest life forms on earth is a horse thief! And I'm not alone in thinking that way these days, but it's nothing new. Many folks in the Old West thought so, after all being afoot in the West meant ruin or death. Back then a horse was not a pet, he was a tool and just maybe a companion -- but a horse could definitely be a part of your livelihood. 

To many, a horse not only meant transportation but more importantly something you had to have to work and make a living. If you were a farmer or a rancher and your horses were stolen, then that criminal act could mean the end of your farm or problems herding cattle and working the range. If you were a traveler atop your horse and stopped by a Highwayman, who then robbed you and stole your horse leaving you afoot, it could mean your death.

Yes, a death brought on either at the hands of Indians or death at the hands of the elements. That, my friends, is why they hanged horse thieves in the Old West. Few things matched how people looked at horse thieves back then. Horse thieves were considered lower than snakes and vermin, as no good and dirty rotten as one can get in life.

Even the term "Horse Thief" was an insult back then, and still is in some places today. The term is plain English for someone lacking any shred of moral decency. These days, they might not be hung for stealing horses. But the fact is, today there are still horse thieves who are no good dirty rotten scoundrels who should face the full measure of the law. 

Today most stolen horses end up in horse auctions or slaughterhouses. And whatever you do, please don't think that it can't happen to you. I read that horse thieves are a very real law enforcement problem throughout rural America today.

Fact is, one estimate puts the figure at as many as 40,000 to 55,000 horses stolen each year.

Today stealing a horse is still grand theft under California law. That California statute went into effect on January 1st, 1997. It was amended in 2008, but this statute can be traced back to the 1800s.

California consolidated a variety of common law crimes into theft in 1927. Horse theft has always been what is considered an elevated class of "grand theft". The larceny of a horse was grand larceny as late as 1882, even though its value was less than $50.  (People v. Salorse (1882) 62 Cal 139, 1882 Cal LEXIS 709).

It just shows how serious of a crime it was, and really still is. Granted no one's going to legally hang a man for stealing a horse today. That's not to say that some wouldn't want to, but these days it is a felony, and prison will be there for a horse thief. There is a problem today in that many states do not require that a person who is in possession of a horse show proof of ownership of the horse.

This means that horse thieves today can sell stolen horses at horse auctions, slaughterhouses, or privately with very little fear of the law looking into where the horse came from. This allows horse thieves to relax and not worry about criminal prosecution. Why, well all because this is the way the law works in many states.

The fact is that in many states today, even if your horse is properly identified, there are many auction houses and slaughterhouses that are not forced by law into making any sort of inspection of these markings. Cattle rustlers have a harder time stealing cattle these days because of Brand Inspectors, but the odds are still in their favor of not getting caught. The reason, people will try to get away with stealing and there simply isn't enough law enforcement to go around to stop it. And yes, like stealing cattle, stealing horses goes unpunished in many cases.  

Tom Correa

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Brave Man Wins Respect - A Sermon Everyone Needs Today

It's not every day that I feel like writing about a church service that I've attended. But frankly, that's partly what this is about. On October 22nd, 2023, my wife, myself, and other family members attended a Sunday church service at the Celebration Church located in Livermore, California.

It was a service filled with song, prayer, and energy. Yes, a lot of energy. The folks there were not short on volume when making their connection with Christ. And yes, if one wasn't caught up in the spirit then they had to be asleep. Then again, there's no way for anyone to fall asleep. No, no one was sleeping there. No, not there.

It was not the reverent soft voices mumbling prayers that I grew up knowing. But no, it wasn't snake handlers either. All in all, it was the sort of energy that I needed from a morning at church. Especially lately, I needed the energy of Christian song and praise. But even more, I needed to hear a sermon that I could connect with. I needed something that was being said aimed at me. And yes, I found it there.

The following is part of the sermon that was given by visiting Pastor Eddie Staton Jr.:

"The brave man wins respect. This is sure to be the case in the long run. He may be accused of rashness, want of judgment, intemperance of language or of purpose; but in the end he secures the confidence and attachment of all.

The lesson is especially needed in the present age. One of [the days] most marked characteristics is moral cowardice. Men are incapable, for the most part, of incurring the disapproval of the set in which they live. Politicians vote with their party for measures of which they disapprove.

People in society dare not raise their voices against what passes current in their own coterie; they yield to practices, admit persons to their intimacy of which and whom, in their own better judgment, they disapprove. They dare not brave the unfavorable verdict of their acquaintance. Yet if they did they would lose nothing by it.

Even the careless and thoughtless respect fearlessness, and delight to honor the man who dares to say what he thinks. They may condemn at first, but in the end they come round to a sounder judgment. History continually repeats itself.

The history of Caleb is the history of every man who is honest in setting himself above the prevailing opinions of the day. His report was unpopular at first. The people sympathized with the cowardly ten (Numbers 13:30). But events demonstrated the correctness of his view, and he became a popular hero. His tribe came with him to support his request [and he took the city of Hebron. He took into his possession his inheritance.]"

— The Pulpit Commentary, Published 1899.

Pastor Eddie Staton Jr. is with the Landmark Church in the state of Washington. A description of his church reads as follows, "Landmark has a contemporary worship style, using a full band and worship team. We love what we do and love to use our skills as singers and musicians to honor our King! Our typical service will have current worship music and, at times, some time-tested favorites and beautiful hymns. We appreciate many styles and genres of music, but what we appreciate most, is the opportunity we have to worship our God and Creator. Our hope is that, together with you, we will bring Him glory and honor through our worship and praise."

The Landmark Church sounds like a wonderful house of worship. And for me, I needed to hear what Pastor Staton had to say. He hit the mark. He gave at least one person there that day a needed reminder -- "The brave man wins respect."

Of course, his sermon reminded me of what President Theodore Roosevelt said about striving valiantly and daring greatly despite our critics:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

— Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

These quotes, one small snippet from The Pulpit Commentary (1899), which has 23 volumes and 22,000 pages of commentary on The Holy Bible, was created during the 19th Century over a 30-year period using over 100 contributors, and that of President Theodore Roosevelt, are great examples of how lessons of the past certainly apply to the events taking place today.

Tom Correa