Wild West 2017-02 - PDF Free Download (2024)

By Bob Palmquist David Crockett and the other Tennessee Mounted Volunteers gave their lives for liberty at the Alamo

By Sherry Robinson One of few fords on the Texas river, it exacted a harsh toll on those who dared approach it

By John Koster Charles Larpenteur, born outside Paris, wrote a firsthand account of his star-crossed 40 years as a trader on the American frontier

By Seldon B. Graham Jr. Intrepid Joseph Bonnell kept the Caddos from siding with Mexico in the Texas Revolution 2

Bob Stinson and others picture the Cornhusker State on the eve of its 2017 sesquicentennial

By Johnny D. Boggs T.J. Stiles garners Pulitzer No. 2 for Custer’s Trials

Luckless in the goldfields, Montana vigilante John X. Beidler prospected for “human fiends”

By Rita Ackerman From the gallows condemned murderer Jochin Timmerman cursed his luck and the town of Goldendale, Washington Territory

By John Koster Fur and buffalo robe trader Kenneth McKenzie was “King of the Missouri”

By David McCormick Woodward and Chorpenning were first to tote mail overland to California

By Johnny D. Boggs Painter Don Prechtel has rendered realistic Western scenes since the 1960s

By David McCormick Pawnees long fought the Sioux, sometimes alongside U.S. soldiers

By Linda Wommack The Charles Goodnight Historical Center honors the pioneer cattleman

By George Layman Dixie Gun Works has handled original and replica guns since 1954

By Melody Groves Dearfield, Colo., was dear to black farmers and their families—for a while

By Chuck Lyons In March 1910 killer avalanches struck trains in Washington state and British Columbia

David Crockett is king of the books and videos on Bob Palmquist’s list. Plus reviews of Paul Hedren’s Powder River: Disastrous Opening of the Great Sioux War and the 2016 Western remake of The Magnificent Seven

The northern lights spin a crazy quilt over interior Alaska ON THE COVER David Crockett: Hero of the Alamo, depicted in a painting by James Edwin McConnell (1903–95), had achieved fame as a U.S. congressman but found immortality as an Alamo defender alongside his fellow Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. ( James Edwin McConnell/Private Collection/© Look and Learn/Bridgeman Images)

CROCKETT & HIS BAND In 1834 U.S. Rep. David Crockett’s Philadelphia publishers, Carey & Hart, released A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee, which, historian Paul Andrew Hutton writes in his introduction to the 1987 printing, has “enduring popularity” and recounts “one of the most beloved of our national obsessions: the success story of the self-made man.” The autobiography spread Crockett’s fame, but political and financial setbacks convinced him in 1835 to strike out for San Antonio, Texas. If he had updated his autobiography while holed up in the old mission there in February 1836, that work would have been worth a fortune, since, as Hutton wrote, “The Alamo elevated the pioneer-politician into a heroic martyr.” Of course, only his family or others would have enjoyed that fortune, Crockett having died with most of the other Alamo defenders that March 6 when the Mexican army ended its siege with a predawn attack. Carey & Hart capitalized on the dead hero’s name cachet by turning out Col. Crockett’s Exploits and Adventures in Texas. It includes, author Bob Palmquist points out in our cover story, “excerpts from a bogus ‘journal’ Crockett supposedly kept up to the day before Mexican troops stormed the Alamo walls.” In that spurious account Crockett goes to Texas with four fictional companions, a colorful quartet that pops up in subsequent printed works and films. “This is unfortunate,” writes Palmquist, “as it diminishes the real men of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers and obscures the motives behind those who launched the Texas Revolution.” Palmquist tells us something about those real men of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, also known as “Crockett’s band” (see unit roster, P. 43). None became household names except for Crockett, who even gained renown for sawing on a fiddle to amuse the men, though fellow volunteer Micajah Autry was an accomplished violinist. “One wonders,” writes Palmquist, “if Autry… took a hand in providing music or simply looked on, wincing, as Crockett attempted a tune.” Crockett, who declined a formal command and served as a “high private,” has stolen the thunder from his fellow volunteers, but Hutton is OK with that: “Crockett was the natural leader of any group he was attached to, including the men he journeyed with to the Alamo. In the fort he was also recognized as an immediate informal leader, along with William Travis and James Bowie. He was, after all, one of the most celebrated Americans then living—he was a really big deal. He was not overrated then and is not overrated now.” Crockett’s flame burns brightest in two states—Texas, of course, and his native Tennessee, where he was born on a mountaintop (or somewhere just east of Knoxville) on Aug. 17, 1786. From a dirt-poor backwoods upbringing he gained notoriety for killing bears the way “Buffalo Bill” Cody later achieved renown for killing bison, served in the military and Tennessee politics, then ultimately made his mark in Congress. The legendary brag he was “half-horse, half-alligator and a little attached with the snapping turtle” (credited to Crockett in an 1883 biography, though in fact lifted from a stage play about him) garnered attention, while his motto, “Be always sure you’re right—then go ahead!” (from his Narrative of the Life) boosted his fame. The Alamo fight set his legend in stone. “Crockett’s death sent him soaring into the front ranks of American heroes,” Hutton says, “and shifted him from a symbol of the rise of the West and Jacksonian democratic politics into a martyr to our Manifest Destiny to conquer the continent. The Alamo made Crockett—but Crockett also made the Alamo. The battle would be a regional, not national, historic moment without him. Crockett is to the Alamo what George Custer is to the Little Bighorn.” The other Tennessee Mounted Volunteers all died with Crockett, but one wonders whether they would have begrudged him his fame.

In Thom Ross’ work Davy at the Doorway Crockett heroically meets the Mexican soldiers head-on.

Wild West editor Gregory Lalire wrote the 2014 historical novel Captured: From the Frontier Diary of Infant Danny Duly. His article about baseball in the frontier West won a 2015 Stirrup Award for best article in Roundup, the membership magazine of Western Writers of America.

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The Law, as depicted in this Don Prechtel painting, often spent long hours in the saddle.


FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL. 29, NO. 5



Extended Interview With T.J. Stiles “Keeping the Little Bighorn offstage really helps me recount George Custer’s life in full,” explains the author of Custer’s Trials and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. “It doesn’t overshadow everything else in my book.”

More About Don Prechtel “I’m always learning,” says the 79-year-old Oregon artist. “I’ll look at other people’s work and wonder how they got those colors, where they applied them, things like that. I have to keep thinking about what I’m doing.”

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“It is no exaggeration to see the Battle of the Alamo as the pivotal historical moment leading to the fulfillment of America’s continental destiny,” writes Western historian Paul Andrew Hutton in this Spur Award–winning article.

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Thanks for another swell Wild West. Great articles in the June 2016 issue, especially features on George Custer and Isaiah Dorman and the most interesting Ghost Towns article on Tin Cup. Some years back I was doing research on that area, and I mentioned offhand to my dentist (his name was Gray) in California that I was trying to find out more on the group that was there. He knew all about it. He is directly related to brothers Ben and Charlie Gray. Jim Taylor actually worked California Gulch in 1859 and later built a cabin at Granite with the Gray brothers and Gus Lamb for the winter of 1859–60. They made that their permanent camp. In 1860 Taylor followed a party of Utes over Red Mountain Trail and found the flat where Tin Cup was later established. He went back and discussed this with Lamb and the Grays. They went at night, so not to be seen, and on arriving picketed the horses and started looking for ore. The horses were scared off by bears, scattering. The next morning the men went after the horses, and along the way Taylor took a sample from a dry wash, bringing it back in his tin cup. He panned it in camp and found gold. They moved on to where the present-day town of Tin Cup is located, by Willow Creek, and Taylor went to get a drink, dipped his cup and found more gold. Gray and Taylor went to another gulch and found still more. That area became known as Grays Diggings. The men kept the findings as quiet as possible and returned in April 1861. By May the snowpack was starting to melt, so they could operate their sluice boxes. They had not gone undetected; a group known as the Siegel party followed them in, and the stampede was on. With the influx of men the placers were soon depleted. In 1878 the Gold Cup Mine was opened. There was another rush of men in 1879. Small towns sprung up all around the area, and mining men kept coming into the region. Two great books on Tin Cup: History of Tin Cup, Colorado, by Nolie Mumey, and Colorado’s Alluring Tin Cup, by Conrad Schader. Thanks again for a great magazine—keep ’em coming. Dorman Nelson Los Angeles

ADELIA EARP’S MEMOIR Thanks for the very interesting take on Adelia Earp Edwards’ memoir from Scott Dyke and Bob Palmquist in the October 2016 issue. I have spent years trying to authenticate or refute the memoir, with little success. What makes the memoir difficult to dismiss is that it contains material considered inaccurate at the time it was presented but since proven to be true. 8

In reference to the October article “Adelia Earp’s Dubious Memoir,” by Scott Dyke: I think he may have made an error in the relationship between Adelia Douglas Earp Edwards and James Cooksey Earp, who were brother and sister and are buried in Bubah Plot at Mountain View Cemetery, San Bernardino, Calif. I think what may have happened is that he was writing so much about Adelia’s daughter, Estelle Miller, he got a temporary brain lock when he stated James was Adelia’s uncle rather than her brother. It may be of interest to readers that Alvira Packingham “Allie” Sullivan Earp (Virgil’s widow) is buried with Adelia, as is noted on Adelia’s headstone. I am curious whether the photo reproduced on P. 36 of the article was the one found in “Mattie’s” (Celia Anne Blaylock, Wyatt’s second wife) belongings, which after her death were sent to her sister Sarah and started the search for Mattie’s place in the Earp saga. Heather de Jong Jaffray, B.C. Canada Scott Dyke responds: You are quite correct. It should read that Adelia’s brother (not uncle) Jim is buried nearby. You’re also correct about the origin of Mary Virginia “Ginnie” Edwards’ picture. Send letters to Wild West, 1919 Gallows Road, Suite 400, Vienna, VA 22182-4038 or by email to [emailprotected]. Include name and town.

Perhaps the most noteworthy example is that Morgan had sent his wife, Louisa, back to the Earp family home in Colton [Calif.] during the dangerous times in Tombstone [Arizona Territory]. This was believed untrue back in the 1980s, and Glenn Boyer stated Louisa was in Tombstone in his fraudulent writings on the subject. Further research has proven that Louisa did, indeed, travel to Colton and was there at the time of Morgan’s assassination. My own attempts to contact David Cruickshanks have failed, including having a friend visiting England knock on his door, only to find that he had moved. We can hope this Wild West discussion leads to more information that will help us better evaluate the material. Casey Tefertiller Author, Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend Santa Cruz, Calif.

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William Travis Was Right: Appealing for reinforcements, the Texian commander warned that if the Alamo fell, Antonio López de Santa Anna would ravage the Anglo “colonies” farther east. That’s exactly what happened.

More Than 182 Defenders May Have Died: Ongoing research has turned up additional victims not previously counted.

Defenders Attempted a Breakout: In his after-action report Mexican General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma said a band of defenders had tried to break out during the final assault. Sesma’s cavalry rode them down.

Defenders May Have Been Unaware of the New Texas Republic: Texians declared their independence on March 2, 1836, four days before the Alamo fell. But it remains unclear how much defenders knew of events outside the mission walls.

James Bowie Was Ill Not Injured: It is unlikely an accident—depicted in many accounts as a fall while helping to position a

cannon—laid Bowie low. In fact, he fell gravely ill (advanced tuberculosis?) early in the siege.

The Bowie-Travis Rivalry Has Been Greatly Exaggerated: They clashed before and at the outset of the siege but ultimately agreed on joint command. Bowie’s illness obviated any lingering tension.

Travis May Have Drawn That Line in the Dirt: James Donovan, in an afterword to his 2012 book The Blood of Heroes, concludes there is enough “acceptable, factual history” behind the story of Travis drawing a line in the dirt with his saber to determine who would defend to the death.

David Crockett Held No Formal Command: He referred to himself as a “high private.”

Crockett Did Not Travel With Four Picaresque Companions: He arrived not with the legendary bee hunter, Thimblerig, Indian hunter and old pirate, but with a motley band of Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. —Bob Palmquist


David Crockett, depicted here swinging a rifle in Robert Onderdonk’s Fall of the Alamo and below in a period portrait, remains the subject of several enduring Texas legends.

During the Black Hills Expedition of 1874 in what would become South Dakota, a party led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer reached the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains— Harney Peak. During an 1855 Corps of Topographical Engineers survey 2nd Lt. Gouverneur K. Warren had named the peak in honor of Brevet Brig. Gen. William S. Harney, who had led a recent retaliatory expedition against the Lakotas. In the Sept. 3, 1855, Battle of

Ash Hollow (near present-day Lewellen, Neb.) Harney’s soldiers attacked an Indian village, killing 86 Brulés and capturing about 70 women and children. Lakotas, who nicknamed Harney “Mad Bear” and “Woman Killer” after that one-sided clash, had their own name for the 7,244-foot peak—Hinhan Kaga (“Owls”)—and naturally objected to the name change. On Aug. 11, 2016, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names again changed its

Worth a Shot Legendary gunfighters like Wild Bill Hickok and John Wesley Hardin certainly fascinate Wild West readers, but so do such sharpshooters as Buffalo Bill Cody,

Annie Oakley and Doc Carver. Modernera shooting sports hold a similar appeal and are the subject of Tim Price’s 2016 book Shooting for the Record: Adolph Toepperwein, Tom Frye and Sharpshooting’s Forgotten Controversy, part of Texas Tech University Press’ Sport in the American West series. The title controversy dates to 1959 when Frye supposedly set an aerial sharpshooting record by hitting 100,004 hand-thrown wooden cubes and missing only six. However, the previous record holder, Toepperwein, lodged a protest, contending Frye had cheated. No spoiler here. Suffice it to say firearms aficionados will appreciate the lesson about early Wild West shows as Price tracks shooting sports.

name, this time to Black Elk Peak, after the noted Lakota holy man. (A 1980 act of Congress had designated the surrounding area the Black Elk Wilderness.) Meanwhile, another disaffected group has circulated a petition [createsbnf.com] to collectively rename Custer and Black Hills national forests Sitting Bull National Forest.

A 12-gauge William Cashmore Boxlock game gun once owned by famed Wild West sharpshooter Annie Oakley (she holds the exact shotgun at left) fetched $207,000 at a recent James D. Julia [jamesdjulia.com] fine firearms auction in Fairfield, Maine, while a Krider LeMat revolver (Serial No. 2) believed to have belonged to Confederate Colonel Jean Alexandre LeMat himself brought $120,750. George Armstrong Custer also made a showing with a group of his personal items—including a map of Indian Territory, a camp chair, various images and a lock of his hair—which sold for $45,000. The auction house, which netted about $15 million this go-around, will hold its next auction in the spring.

g`eZg] dbllZ[e^ —Charles F. Lummis (1859–1928), editor of the Los Angeles magazine The Land of Sunshine, wrote this in a December 1898 editorial.





‘Now, boys. I’m ready. The devil wants us all, and I’d better lead the way. My mother is up there in heaven. Far and Of course, Away This year marks the I shall 25th anniversary of never see director Ron Howard’s 1992 epic Far and Away, her. But I which relates the story will see of 19th-century Irish tenant farmer Joseph you all Donnelly (Tom Cruise), again. who finds love and Pull away! land in America. The climatic scene depicts Goodbye’ —Rustler Sandy King said this to members of a vigilance committee in Shakespeare, New Mexico Territory, just before they hanged him and fellow rustler William “Russian Bill” Tettenborn on Nov. 9, 1881.

Donnell and flame Shannon Christie (Nicole Kidman) competing with hundreds of other

settlers in the Land Run of 1893 in Oklahoma’s Cherokee Outlet. Filmmakers re-created the rush on a 12,000-acre ranch outside Billings, Mont. According to Brian D’Ambrosio, author

of the 2016 book Shot in Montana: A History of Big Sky Cinema, three of Howard’s great-grandfathers rode in the real land run, though none secured a claim. “About 800 riders and extras, 900 horses, mules and oxen, and 200 wagons were filmed on a quarter-mile-wide set,” says D’Ambrosio. “Horses were wrangled, ruts were smothered over, and a self-contained city (called Tent City) was built. Swarms

of people lined up in covered wagons, buggies and hay carts, on horses and mules, and on foot for the race that would open up the land to settlement. For the culminating free-for-all action sequence, riders and extras were given little more than these simple instructions: ‘Get on those horses and just go in that direction. Don’t hit anybody, and don’t get hit. And go as fast as you can.’ ” Howard (at right in photo) was anxious about the safety of his cast and crew before the shooting of the rush. “Howard’s fears turned out to be groundless— almost,” D’Ambrosio says. “‘We had some broken bones,’ recalled producer Brian Grazer. ‘But nothing horribly serious. No deaths.’” Critics largely admired the land rush scene but not the movie as a whole. It still grossed about $58 million.

Hold the Wire It has been said Winchesters won the West but barbed wire tamed it. Perhaps, but the taming came only after multiple instances of wire cutting and gunplay. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first U.S. patent—issued, to Lucien B. Smith, of Kent, Ohio —for barbed wire to control livestock. Five others filed similar patents before and immediately after Smith “invented” it in 1867, but that was only the start of the controversy. In 1874 Joseph Glidden, of DeKalb, Ill.,

sought a patent for his own version of barbed wire. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, citing existing claims, initially denied his patent, but Glidden appealed, and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Glidden’s modifications resulted in the now ubiquitous fence wire, and he (not Smith) became known to history as the “Father of Barbed Wire.” Referred to by detractors as the “devil’s rope,” barbed wire ended the open range era in the West and became a symbol of the late-19th-century range wars. La Crosse, Kan., self-proclaimed “Barbed Wire Capital of the World,” is home to the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum [rush county.org/barbedwiremuseum], which exhibits more than 2,000 varieties of the contentious fencing.


Wonderland Preservation Call him the “Mr. Clean” of conservation. Singer-songwriter John Mayer, who was born and raised in Connecticut but moved to Montana in 2012, has teamed with The Laundress [thelaundress.com] fabric care company to champion land preservation in his adopted Treasure State. Under the tagline “Washing for a Cause” the company has released a limitededition scented detergent and a fabric spray called John Mayer Out West, which feature “undertones of sandalwood, leather and amber surrounded by spice, patchouli and musk.” Half of the proceeds from each $35 set will go to the Montana Association of Land Trusts [montanalandtrusts.org], which promotes and supports voluntary private land conservation in the state.

Pop star and recent Montana transplant John Mayer loaned his name to promote land conservation.



Gene Wilder

Hugh O’Brian

Matt Braun

Comic actor Gene Wilder, 83, who died at home in Stamford, Conn., on Aug. 29, 2016, starred in two Western comedies, most memorably as the “Waco Kid” in Mel Brooks satirical classic Blazing Saddles (1974). He also teamed with Harrison Ford in Robert Aldrich’s The Frisco Kid (1979). Wilder is perhaps best known for starring in two other Brooks films—The Producers (1968) and Young Frankenstein (1974).

Actor Hugh O’Brian, 91, best known as TV’s Wyatt Earp, died in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sept. 5, 2016. He portrayed the “brave, courageous and bold” Old West lawman on the ABC series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955–61) and in such made-for-TV movies as Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994). Born Hugh Krampe in Rochester, N.Y., on April 19, 1925, O’Brian worked on his fast draw to make his small-screen gunplay more realistic. In The Shootist (1976) he played a gambler shot by John Wayne’s title character.

Matt Braun, 83, who wrote more than 50 Western novels and in 2015 was inducted into the Western Writers Hall of Fame, died on March 21, 2016. The Oklahoma native also received the 2004 Owen Wister Award and two WWA Spur Awards (for The Kincaids in 1976 and Dakota in 2006) from Western Writers of America. Braun strayed into nonfiction to write the 1988 instructional book How to Write Western Novels, as well as the article “Patton’s Shootout at San Miguelito,” in the June 2016 Wild West.

Miles Swarthout Miles Hood Swarthout, 69, who wrote the screenplay of father Glendon Swarthout’s novel The Shootist (produced in 1976 as John Wayne’s last movie), died in Playa del Rey, Calif., on March 2, 2016. The younger Swarthout’s The Sergeant’s Lady received the 2004 Spur Award for best first novel from Western Writers of America. In 2015 he wrote The Last Shootist, a sequel to his father’s famous book.

Paul Cool Author Paul Cool, 66, lost his battle with multiple myeloma on July 28, 2016. In 2007 Cool published the award-winning Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio Grande, his first book, and he profiled outlaw John Kinney in the April 2014 Wild West feature “The Capture of New Mexico’s Rustler King.” Cool had been diagnosed with the disease in 2013.




Events of the west Park, Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Autry’s Masters of the American West Art Exhibition and Sale, featuring 75 nationally recognized contemporary Western artists, takes place Feb. 11–March 26. The Autry is closed Mondays. Call 323-667-2000 or visit theautry.org.

Nebraska at 150 Photographs of historic sites and hidden treasures from all 93 Nebraska counties are featured in “Bridges: Sharing Our Past to Enrich the Future,” a statewide traveling exhibit endorsed by the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission. The exhibit will visit the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln Jan. 6–March 25; Seward Civic Center June 1–July 28; North Platte Prairie Arts Center Aug. 1–Sept. 22; Norfolk Art Center Sept. 7–Oct. 26; Carnegie Arts Center in Alliance Sept. 26– Nov. 10; and the Durham Museum in Omaha Nov. 24–Jan. 7, 2018. The organizer is the Hildegard Center for the Arts in Lincoln. Call 402-488-0678; visit hildegardcenter.org.

C.M. Russell Exhibition The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Mont., holds its annual exhibition and sale March 16–18. Visit cmrussell.org. 1 4 WILD WEST

Poets Gather in Elko National Parks Exhibit V “Geographies of Wonder: Evolution of the National Park Idea, 1933–2016” is on view at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., through Feb. 13. The centennial exhibition examines how the National Park Service (founded in 1916) has sought to make the parks available for public enjoyment while ensuring their preservation for future generations. The exhibition features nearly 100 items, including William R. Leigh’s Grand Canyon (above), painted in 1911 to promote travel on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. Visit huntington.org.

Spirit of the West The Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering,


coming Feb. 17–19 to Ellensburg, Wash., offers music, poetry, art, rodeo action, cowboy gear and Naomi Roghair (pictured), the 2016–17 Miss Spirit of the West. Call 888-925-2204 or visit ellensburg cowboygathering.com.

Historic Headdresses “Power and Prestige: Headdresses of the American Plains” runs through May 14 at

the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The exhibit explores the history and development of Indian warbonnets, including the flared style favored by Plains Indians. Headdresses played a central role in both war and ritual and remain an iconic image of the American West. The exhibition will also feature ledger art and photos. Call 405-4782250 or visit national cowboymuseum.org.

At the Autry The exhibition “California Continued,” which relates the state’s ecological story, continues across nearly 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor spaces at the Autry Museum in Griffith

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering convenes Jan. 30– Feb. 4 at the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nev. Songwriter, poet and scholar Andy

Wilkinson will launch the 33rd gathering. Visit nationalcowboy poetrygathering.org.

Winter Range The annual Winter Range SASS National Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting is in Phoenix Feb. 20–26. Visit winterange.com.

Send upcoming event notices to Wild West, 1919 Gallows Road, Suite 400, Vienna, VA 22182-4038. Submit at least four months in advance.

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CUSTER EARNS T.J. STILES HIS SECOND PULITZER ‘IT’S A HELL OF A THING,’ SAYS THE AUTHOR OF CUSTER’S TRIALS BY JOHNNY D. BOGGS Historian T.J. Stiles must be running short on shelf space. The Minnesota native’s latest book, Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, won the 2016 Spur Award from Western Writers of America, the William H. Seward Award for excellence in Civil War biography and the Pulitzer Prize for history. It was Stiles’ second Pulitzer. His 2009 book The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt won the Pulitzer for biography as well as the National Book Award for nonfiction. His 2002 biography Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War also captured its share of awards. Stiles [tjstiles.net] took time from researching his latest project, about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perces, to speak with Wild West. What’s it like winning two Pulitzers? It’s a hell of a thing. It drops in on you in the middle of an ordinary day, because the Pulitzer board announces the winners and finalists all at once—you only gather weeks or months later for the ceremony. (Kind of like the Spur Award, actually.) A second Pulitzer struck me as ridiculous to even contemplate. So I’m grateful and humbled. Grateful, because I really want to write books that are informative and insightful and also have some artistic merit; the Pulitzer is meant to recognize books with those qualities. At the same time how can I not feel incredibly lucky? With the number of good books published each year, someone else who deserved it didn’t get it because I did. That is humbling. Custer, Vanderbilt, James. Any similarities? The similarities are much closer with George Custer and Jesse James. If Vanderbilt thought someone was talking about himself too much, he’d cut him off by saying, “That amounts to nothing.” But Custer’s ambitions led him to constantly play a role for the public, and the same was true with Jesse James. All three men were gamblers who loved cards, but only Vanderbilt was any good at it. Both Custer and James got themselves into extremely hazardous situations, again and again, and had to find a way out; there was a self-destructive side to their personalities. Custer repeatedly got himself out of trouble with his skill in combat—until the Little Bighorn. And the argument over that will never end. Why largely omit the battle from your book? My editor was entirely on board. Readers are sometimes thrown off, but the response has been terrific so far. I think that’s because keeping the Little Bighorn offstage really helps me recount Custer’s life in full; it doesn’t overshadow everything else in my 1 6 WILD WEST


book. I was inspired by James McPherson’s masterwork of history, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. When he got to Lincoln’s assassination, he left it entirely offstage. He ends one chapter with John Wilkes Booth swearing to kill Lincoln and starts the next with the aftermath of the assassination. It actually drives home the impact and significance of the event better than would a tick-tock account. In my case I wanted to acknowledge the importance of the Little Bighorn and sketch the basic course of events but not get sucked into it. I wanted to give the reader something of the experience of the American people at the time, who had to piece together what happened in the months and years that followed. I meant the experience to be jarring when I cut from Custer riding over the horizon to the opening of the Reno Court of Inquiry nearly two years later—in a fancy Chicago hotel, no less. And I don’t want to pretend that I have all the answers as to what happened. I left my account transparently incomplete, because there can be no definitive account. What’s your impression of George and Libbie? It’s hard to reduce my opinion of the Custers to a sentence or two. We all know how contradictory real human beings are, yet the historical record often leaves us with a flat portrait of people in the past. By contrast the Custers come across as vividly human, boiling over with emotions, ideas and plans. Armstrong was an extraordinarily talented combat leader but was badly flawed as a manager. Libbie was extremely impressive—well educated, perceptive and stylish in a role that demanded style. She was able to see the unfairness of the limits on women and make friendships across the racial divide, yet in the end she accepted the hierarchies of her time, even as others rejected them. History is not made by archetypes but by people, full of flaws and strengths. Why Chief Joseph and the Nez Perces? The Nez Perce War of 1877 was the last major Indian war fought over removal to a reservation—and the general who started it was Oliver O. Howard, a founder of Howard University and head of the Freedmen’s Bureau, providing a natural way of connecting this story to Reconstruction. Joseph lived through the long years that followed, facing federal attempts to break down tribal identity and assimilate individual Natives. It’s an important story for understanding the difficult history of freedom and equality. Read the full interview online at WildWestMag.com.



Flying Over the Hump Opium Wars Hot Day at Monmouth, 1778




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EVERYONE LIKES PRAISE FROM THE BOSS “General Pickett...wears his hair in

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Southern Generals You Need to Know


unsinkable sully The man behind the miracle Stealth fighter of the future or Nazi fantasy?


spying on grant Charles Dana, Fly on the Wall


glory ’s legacy Still the One to See



A Confederate officer puts his life on the line to lead Army of Tennessee troops late in the war.

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Ann-Margret, other celebs visit Vietnam

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The Extraordinary Heroism of Rick Rescorla


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From Ia Drang to 9-11


Long Day’s Journey: Army Truckers in Vietnam

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X Marks the vigilante John X. Beidler (who went by

the moniker “X,” a childhood nickname, not the initial letter of a middle name) was the most boastful of the Montana Territory vigilantes who in 1863–64 hanged Sheriff Henry Plummer and members of his gang of road agents then operating around Bannack and Virginia City. Born in Pennsylvania in 1831, Beidler migrated west as a young man and worked as a miner and trader in the Montana gold camps before moving to Helena to “quit prospecting for gold and prospect for human fiends.” In 1864 he was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal, though he often placed vigilante justice above the rule of law. In 1870, for example, after capturing a fugitive Chinese murderer, Beidler turned the man over to vigilantes for lynching. A decade later frontier photographer D.F. Barry took this photo of Beidler at Fort Assiniboine, a Hudson’s Bay Co. trading post in what would become Alberta, Canada, where the deputy had traveled in pursuit of fugitives. Like many frontier lawmen before him, Beidler was said to have been destitute when he died in a Helena hotel room on Jan. 22, 1890. He was buried in the city cemetery, but in 1903 the Society of Montana Pioneers had his remains moved to the more respectable Forestvale Cemetery. His memoirs, titled X. Beidler: Vigilante, were posthumously published in 1957. (Photo from the Tony Sapienza Collection) 1 8 WILD WEST


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angings in the Old West were an excuse for social gatherings, and the only execution in Klickitat County, Washington Territory, drew a crowd of some 3,000 men, women and children to Goldendale, the county seat, on April 6, 1888. The condemned, Jochin Henry Timmerman (aka Ed Beamer/Beemer), had been convicted on circ*mstantial evidence of killing teamster William Sterling on Oct. 4, 1886. Timmerman maintained his innocence to the end, going so far as to put a curse on the town. In the fall of 1886 Sterling, from Walla Walla, was hauling freight for a logging camp near Ellensburg. Timmerman was also employed at the camp as a teamster. In late September they left the job site in one another’s company, each driving his own team, and were last seen traveling south together on October 3. Susan Sterling expected her husband home by early October, so when he hadn’t arrived by the 14th, she reported him missing to Sheriff Archer S. Bowles of Walla Walla County. Six days later two men searching for stolen horses in the Horse Heaven Hills in

GUNFIGHTERS & LAWMEN northeastern Klickitat County happened across wagon tracks that left the road. Curious, they followed them some 60 yards to a man’s decomposing body, clothed except for his boots, with bullet wounds to the chest and head. Susan Sterling tentatively identified the body as that of her missing husband. On November 10 the Goldendale justice of the peace issued a “John Doe” arrest warrant for the unknown murderer of Sterling. Witnesses described the teamster’s traveling companion as a tall, wellbuilt 35-year-old man. Pursuing leads from Ellensburg, Sheriff Eugene B. Wise of Kittitas County learned that in early October a man fitting that description had crossed the Columbia River into Oregon driving a four-horse team with a second wagon in tow. Ferrymen noticed what appeared to be blood on the bed and canvas of the second wagon. Sheriff Wise went to see Sheriff Joseph A. Blakely of Gillam County, Ore. An informant soon reported the wanted man had stopped at the Pilot Rock trading post in Umatilla County, some 50 miles south of the Columbia. On arrival in Pilot Rock the lawmen learned the suspect had been drinking in a saloon that very day when he suddenly bolted on a bareback horse westbound toward Heppner in neighboring Morrow County. Taking a shortcut, Wise, Blakely and their posse made it to Heppner first. The fugitive arrived armed with two six-shooters, but he surrendered without a fight. The posse recovered the two wagons as well as Sterling’s hat and boots. Sheriff Blakely arrested Timmerman, holding him in Alkali (present-day Arlington) until Oregon Governor Zenas Moody granted Washington Territorial Governor Watson Squire’s extradition request. On November 22 lawmen transported the prisoner to the Goldendale jail. Goldendale, some 50 miles east of the Cascade Range and a dozen miles north of the Columbia, was first settled in 1872 and named the county seat six years later. Public donations had funded construction of the two-story county courthouse and an adjacent one-room wooden jail. Timmerman was arraigned in Goldendale, but authorities deemed the jail too flimsy to hold him against a possible lynch mob. He was moved to North Yakima until the trial, which began in the Goldendale courthouse on Oct. 25, 1887. Wallace Hughes, the lead witness for the prosecution, said he had traveled with Sterling and Timmerman from Ellensburg to North Yakima. Other witnesses testified having seen the men heading into the Horse Heaven Hills, where they were last spotted together on October 3. The next day sheepherder Martin Peck heard shots from the direction in which the body was found and soon after saw a lone man driving a four-horse team and pulling an extra wagon.

Timmerman, testifying in his own defense, claimed armed robbers had fired on him and Sterling, and he had returned fire, killing one of the bushwhackers—thus explaining the body tentatively identified by Susan Sterling. But he couldn’t explain why the corpse was bareheaded and bootless or why a black hat and boots had turned up in the bloodstained wagon. He claimed Sterling had run off in fear of prosecution for the killing. The jury returned a guilty verdict for first-degree murder, and Judge George Turner sentenced Timmerman to be hanged on Dec. 15, 1887. Defense attorneys filed an appeal on a writ of error, but on Jan. 28, 1888, the Washington Territorial Supreme Court upheld the findings of the lower court. A new execution date was set for April 6, and Timmerman was held in the Goldendale jail until then. Workmen built a scaffold on open ground across from the cemetery. On his day of execution Timmerman rode to the gallows in the back of a wagon, sitting astride his coffin and smoking a cigar. He was described as defiant and jovial, perhaps an aftereffect of the quart of whiskey he’d been granted that morning. Local legend has it that as he stood on the scaffold, Timmerman prophesied Goldendale would soon burn to the ground, and he would rise from his grave. His last words were, “All I can say is that if you ever get caught in a scrape like this, don’t let them take you alive.” Just over a month later, on Sunday May 13, 1888, a fire broke out in a livery stable and by day’s end had destroyed seven blocks of the business district, including the courthouse. As the blaze threatened the tiny jail, men sought to free the lone inmate by battering down the cell door with boards from Timmerman’s scaffold. The sheriff arrived with the keys in time to save the man. In 1890 Timmerman “rose” again when someone dug up his remains and dumped them in the Little Klickitat River. They later washed up and were reburied in an unmarked grave since lost to time.

Opposite top: On April 6, 1888, convicted murderer Jochin Henry Timmerman went to the gallows in Goldendale. Opposite bottom: This courthouse was the successor to the original wooden county courthouse, which hosted Timmerman’s trial before burning to the ground in the May 13, 1888, fire. Above: Goldendale holds a parade on July 4, 1878, a decade before the trial and mysterious town fire.






uling like a king—and hardly a constitutional monarchy—from Fort Union, in what would become North Dakota, Kenneth McKenzie (pictured at right) controlled the fur and buffalo robe trade along the upper Missouri River and retired with $50,000 to his credit after sanctions over his illegal sale of liquor to the Indians cut into his profits. But frontiersmen remembered him for his somewhat eccentric approach to justice. Born in Scotland on April 15, 1797, McKenzie had immigrated to the Americas in 1816, first to Canada and then to the United States. He learned the fur trade as a clerk before forming the Columbia Fur Co., which in 1827 merged into German-born John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Co. Taking the helm of American Fur’s Upper Missouri Outfit, the pugnacious McKenzie profited mightily from the operation of an illegal distillery at Fort Union, ultimately shut down by order of the federal government. His Indian customers remained loyal mostly because the trader didn’t doctor his spirits with an inordinate amount of tobacco, pepper, molasses or water. Even after he resorted to smuggling, his product remained mostly whiskey. McKenzie also had enough authority to keep his white and half-blood employees from slaughtering one another in feuds that would have shocked Sir Walter Scott or William Shakespeare. He ruled his domain with all the conceit of Pecos Justice of the Peace Roy Bean a half-century later. Charles Larpenteur (see P. 58), a French-born trader, clerk and interpreter, recalled one particularly self-serving 1836 incident while he was working for McKenzie at Fort Union—an admittedly extreme case of personal justice or injustice, depending on one’s perspective: A certain free trapper named Augustin Bourbonnais came down the Missouri in a canoe.…He had been lucky on his hunt and had about a pack of beaver pelts, worth something like $500, which made him feel rich and quite able to pass a pleasant winter. Bourbonnais was only about 20 years of age, a very handsome fellow,



and one thing in his favor was his long yellow hair, so much admitted by the female sex of this country. This they call pah-ha-zee-zee, and one who is so adorned is sure to please them. A few days before his arrival Mr. McKenzie, who was nearly 50 years old and perhaps thought it was too cold to sleep alone in the winter, had taken to himself a pretty young bedfellow. Mr. Bourbonnais had not been long in the fort before he went shopping and very soon was seen strolling about the fort in a fine suit of clothes, as large as life, with his long pah-ha-zee-zee hanging down over his shoulders.

Wasting no time, Bourbonnais asked McKenzie’s pretty young bedfellow if she might like to change beds, and she expressed interest. McKenzie began to flaunt a large cudgel. Larpenteur picked up the story: It happened one evening that Bourbonnais, encouraged by favorable returns of affection, went so far as to enter the apartments reserved for Mr. McKenzie. The latter, having heard some noises which he thought he ought not to have heard, rushed in upon the lovers and made such a display of his sprig of a shillelagh that Mr. Bourbonnais incontinently found his way not only out of the bedroom but also out of the fort, with Mr. McKenzie after him. It was amusing to see the genteel Mr. Bourbonnais, in his fine suit of broadcloth, with the tail of his surtout stretched horizontally to its full extent; but unfortunately for the poor fellow, he would not let the affair end in that way and swore vengeance.… Sure enough, he was seen the next morning dressed again in buckskin, with his rifle on his shoulder and pistol on his belt, defying Mr. McKenzie to come out of the fort and swearing that he would kill him if he had to remain on the watch for him all winter. Still thinking that such performances would not last long, Mr. McKenzie preferred to remain a day or so in the fort, rather than have any further disturbance. But Bourbonnais kept up his guard longer than Mr. McKenzie felt like remaining a prisoner in his besieged fort.



McKenzie first turned to the fort’s clerks for a solution. The clerks decided to ask Bourbonnais to leave quietly or face the consequences. Bourbonnais refused to go away. Larpenteur continued: A mulatto named John Brazo—a man of strong nerves and a brave fellow, who had on several occasions been employed to flog men at the flagstaff—was sent for and asked if he had nerve enough to shoot Bourbonnais, in case he should be desired to do so.… “Yes, sir—plenty!” “Well, will you do it?” “Yes, sir; I am ready at any time.” John was then ordered to take his rifle into one of the bastions and shoot when he got the chance. John, as good as his word, took his position. I recollect that it was early one Sunday morning, a little before sunrise, when Brazo came to my room, saying, “Mr. Larpenteur, I have shot Bourbonnais.”

Emerging from the post, Larpenteur and E.T. Dening, the bookkeeper and acting surgeon, found

the wounded Bourbonnais, shot clean through but not dying. That spring, having more or less recovered—and wisely steered clear of McKenzie— he drifted downstream in his canoe. After a long absence McKenzie himself returned to Fort Union, and things simmered down. Some years later a frontier ruffian named Malcolm Clark killed Owen McKenzie, Kenneth’s half-blood son. In his defense Clark claimed the younger McKenzie was drunk and dangerous, so he had cured Owen’s condition by putting three pistols balls through him. The shooter was a hardened veteran of the Texas Revolution, and this time there was no retribution. Years after the government forced him to close his distillery and fall back on smuggled hooch, Kenneth McKenzie sought to regain control of the wholesale liquor trade. But he continued to spend more than he earned, and his plans came to naught. Later in life he married, raised children, farmed, invested in land and made money, though never as much as when he was “King of the Missouri.” The fur baron turned farmer died in St. Louis at 64 on April 26, 1861.

Kenneth McKenzie ruled the fur, buffalo robe and liquor trade like a king from his upper Missouri River “castle,” Fort Union, depicted here in an 1833 painting by Karl Bodmer.






ar whoops startled Absalom Woodward as he rode through Thousand Springs Valley (in present-day northeastern Nevada) about 10 miles ahead of his eastbound wagon train. Looking back over his shoulder, he spotted the Indian warriors —Paiutes or Shoshones, he couldn’t tell. They were coming fast. He put spurs to his good horse and opened up ground between him and his pursuers. His job was to see the mail got through, and on this day, July 18, 1851, it would. Woodward didn’t ride for the Pony Express, which wouldn’t arrive on the scene for another decade. He was a partner in Woodward & Chorpenning, the first enterprise to carry mail overland to California. On Sept. 27, 1850, Congress enacted legislation to establish post roads connecting Salt Lake City and Sacramento, and that same year Woodward, 49, and fellow Pennsylvanian George W. Chorpenning Jr., 30, began planning a route. In January 1851 the U.S. Post Office Department sought bids, and in April Postmaster General Nathan K. Hall awarded a three-year, $14,000 annual contract to Woodward & Chorpenning. The mail went by horseback, muleback or wagon train. Previously mail was sent by steamship from the U.S. East Coast to the Isthmus of Panama, across the isthmus by canoe or pack train to the Pacific Ocean, then north by another steamship up to California. Of course the 2 4 WILD WEST


700-plus-mile overland mail route presented its own problems— rugged terrain, ice and snowdrifts in the Sierra Nevada, Indians —and the partners had plenty of work ahead, including setting up relay stations, buying stock and finding intrepid riders. Their delivery schedule called for the carriers—including Woodward and Chorpenning themselves—to set out on the first day of each month at 6 a.m. from both Salt Lake City and Sacramento and reach the opposing terminus within 30 days. The first runs were scheduled to go off on April 2, 1851, but were delayed until May 3. That day Chorpenning and seven others set off from Sacramento with 200 pounds of mail. They arrived in Salt Lake three days late on June 5. Needing men for the return trip, Chorpenning sought Brigham Young’s help, hired new riders and soon set off with the westbound mail. Woodward was making his first trip when he experienced that close call in Thousand Springs Valley on July 18, but that was hardly the company’s only brush with troublesome Indians on the route along the Humboldt River. That September Indians attacked the eastbound mail, carried by pack animals, near Goose Creek (in present-day Elko County, Nev.) and killed two men. The survivors continued on with the mail and reached Salt Lake in early October. The westbound post set out on October 1 in wagons protected by an eight-man guard. When several hun-


WESTERN ENTERPRISE dred Indians attacked, the mail carriers and guards left behind the wagons and drove their mules for nine days to reach Carson Station. On November 1 Woodward and four other carriers set out on horseback for Salt Lake City but never arrived. He and the others simply vanished. The mail still had to go through, but Chorpenning had trouble paying his riders, as his partner had been carrying the company funds. In May 1852 Chorpenning was carrying the westbound mail alone along the Humboldt River when he crossed paths with employee Edson Cady, who said he had discovered and buried Woodward’s remains a month earlier at Deep Creek Ford, Utah Territory. Apparently Woodward had escaped an Indian ambush, which had claimed the other riders’ lives, but he had later died of exposure or wounds. On July 1, 1852, Chorpenning loaded the mail on mules and rode alone to Sacramento in three weeks. All along he sought subcontractors to handle portions of the mail route but found no takers—too much risk for too little pay. With what some described as “adroit jawboning” and “creative credit arrangements,” he was able to rehire riders he had previously let go, but deliveries still remained touch and go through 1852. Not surprising, on November 18 Postmaster General Samuel Dickinson Hubbard canceled Chorpenning’s contract, awarding it to William Blanchard, but Chorpenning traveled to Washington, D.C., and successfully argued his case for reinstatement. Chorpenning fulfilled his first contract through July 1854. That year the Post Office awarded him a four-year contract to deliver mail between Salt Lake City and San Diego for a mere $12,500 per year. He petitioned Congress for an increase and got the per annum raised to $30,000. Subcontractors handled the daily operations, which continued to be plagued by Indian attacks, severe weather and rugged terrain. In 1858 Chorpenning signed a new four-year contract to both carry mail and provide passenger coach service every two weeks between Salt Lake City and Placerville, Calif. The Post Office soon modified the schedule to weekly service and nearly quadrupled Chorpenning’s $34,000 compensation. In September 1858 Chorpenning returned to California on a mission. Seeking to solidify his hold on the overland mail delivery and passenger service, he embarked on the return route with proponent U.S. Senator David C. Broderick as a passenger. The excursion turned into a fiasco when Broderick’s coach overturned at Silver Creek. Only then did Chorpenning realize the route was too rugged for his newly initiated scheduled passenger service. Making matters worse, accommodations were little more than hovels covered with brush or canvas


placerville sacramento

chorpenning mail routes 1851–60

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san pedro


new mexico Terr. san diego

1851–54 (winter) 1854–58 July–november 1858


DECEMBER 1858–60

tarps, and victuals at the crude roadside stations consisted of whatever game was hunted up. Chorpenning went to work making improvements—repairing roadways, replacing the shanties with reliable structures that offered better accommodations, better fare. In January 1859 Woodward & Chorpenning’s mail route (his late partner remained in the company name) followed a more southerly path, the Egan Trail (aka Central Overland Route), which traced through central Nevada, shaving more than 100 miles off the previous route. Chorpenning rode a financial seesaw that year. At the outset Postmaster General Aaron Brown assured him his stipend would be increased from $130,000 to $190,000. But on Brown’s death that March the department curtailed the schedule to semimonthly and reduced Chorpenning’s compensation to $80,000 per year. Meantime, Congress adjourned that spring without appropriating funds for the mail contractors. On Oct. 6, 1859, the sheriff of El Dorado County, Calif., attached the property of Woodward & Chorpenning at Placerville to satisfy claims of creditors. Chorpenning’s credibility suffered, and on May 11, 1860, Postmaster General Joseph Holt canceled his contract. It proved the death knell for the company, the nascent Pony Express taking over its stock and relay stations. Chorpenning subsequently petitioned the government, on behalf of himself and Woodward’s widow, to compensate them for losses due to Indian raids. In December 1870 Postmaster General John Creswell awarded Chorpenning $443,010, but Congress revoked the award. Chorpenning, largely forgotten, died in New York on April 3, 1894.

Opposite left: George Chorpenning sat for this portrait in his later years. Opposite right: His service used stages like this one to carry mail and passengers.










black-hatted cowboy dangles a lariat from the back of his saddle horse in the 16-by-20-inch oil Shaking It Out. At first glance you might mistake it for a Charles M. Russell or N.C. Wyeth painting, as it is authentic down to the minute detail. You’d be right about the authenticity, but the artist is 79-year-old Don Prechtel. Prechtel found the inspiration for Shaking It Out at the 320 Guest Ranch [320ranch.com] south of Big Sky, Mont., where he and other artists had come to paint. “We had a model come in wearing gear that belonged to another one of the artists, gear from about 1916,” Prechtel recalls from his studio [prechtelfineart.com] in rural Creswell, Ore. That in itself isn’t surprising—posing a model in authentic wardrobe “is typical for any artist like myself who does period paintings,” he says. What was unusual is that Prechtel hadn’t supplied the gear. “I started collecting in the early ’60s,” he says. “Over the years I’ve bought a lot of Western gear— some nice chaps, wrist guards, hats, antique guns. One day I got a complete Civil War uniform. I was working, making 125 bucks a week, and went to a show, and a guy had a complete saber, saber belt, holster and the hat. I bought the thing for 95 bucks, thinking, My wife’s going to kill me for spending a week’s wages.” Although interested in art since childhood and later choosing to attend a commercial art school, Prechtel didn’t get serious about art until the late 1960s. “I hung a painting at a gun show,” he recalls of the breakthrough moment, “and a gentleman came by and bought it—a young lawyer with not much money. One day I went to see him and asked, ‘Do you think you could find someone who could pay me a salary so I can paint?’ And he said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ So for three years he did that.” That was 1969, and the philanthropic attorney was John E. Jaqua, who helped form sportswear giant Nike and became a board member in 1968. “He donated money, time, expertise to many, many people in many different professions,” Prechtel says. The longtime arts patron died in 2009. By the early 1970s Prechtel had become a founding member of the Northwest Rendezvous Group of Artists, and his career was taking off. Could he have done it without Jaqua’s help? “I had a long

discussion with him about that,” the painter says. “He said, ‘You would have done it anyway.’” While the driven Prechtel might agree, he remains grateful for the support. His advice to beginning artists is simple: “Know how to draw if you’re going to be a painter.” Motivation is critical. “I met an artist once who at the time was a member of Cowboy Artists of America [cowboyartistsofamerica.com],” Prechtel recalls. “He told me he had met one of the great illustrators at a bar, and he asked this guy, ‘How did you learn to paint?’ And the guy said, ‘By going out and painting.’ Then the guy turned around and walked off.”

Opposite: A cowboy readies his lariat in Shaking It Out. Top: A Plains warrior draws a bead on a fleeing trooper in The Chase. Left: A lone traveler with a spare horse spends a Night on the Yellowstone.



INDIAN LIFE Left: Pawnees receive their annuity from federal Indian agents. Below: Pawnee hunters in wolves’ clothing approach a herd of grazing buffalo.



evere weather rolled in across Nebraska Territory that June afternoon in 1860, the thunder masking the sound of a Sioux raiding party as it slipped in among the Pawnee ponies, killed the herdsmen and cut away about 30 of their enemy’s animals. From their village on the Loup Fork of the Platte River, Pawnee warriors gave chase. When they caught up to the raiders, a fight ensued, but the Pawnees soon returned to their village bloodied and without their horses. A New York Times correspondent recorded a Pawnee’s description of the fight: “The wind blew strong—the rain fell fast— the Sioux arrows came amongst us like the rain, killing our men.” Historically, the Pawnee people were split into four independent subtribes. The Skiri (Wolf Pawnees) were the first to migrate into what became Nebraska. The Chaui (Grand), Kithehaki (Republican) and Pitahaureat (Noisy), collectively referred to as the southern Pawnees, arrived after 1760 and hunted together south of the Platte. The Skiris remained apart from the oth-



ers, hunting alone until the mid-19th century when dwindling Pawnee numbers (due to disease and warfare with the Sioux) prompted tribal leaders to end the ancient divisions. When farming, the Pawnees lived along the Platte in villages of dome-shaped earthen lodges. But after spring planting they drifted westward with the buffalo herds and lived in tepees. The Pawnees spent about eight months a year hunting on the Plains. In the 18th century Pawnee warriors raided the villages and herds of other tribes—leaving afoot and returning astride stolen horses. They met their first Anglo-Americans, including explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Zebulon Pike, during mostly cordial encounters in the early 19th century. In September 1825 the Pawnees signed a treaty with the United States in which they agreed not to harass American traders traveling to Mexicancontrolled Santa Fe. In return the government would “extend to them, from time to time, such benefits and acts of kindness as may be convenient and seem just and proper to the President.”




INDIAN LIFE In the 1830s the government removed the Delaware, Shawnee and other Eastern tribes to Indian country west of the Missouri, and they in turn encroached onto Pawnee hunting grounds. The year 1832 was an especially bloody one for the Pawnees. In a fierce three-day battle with heavy casualties on both sides they defeated the Sioux near the junction of the Big Sandy and Little Blue rivers (in present-day Jefferson County, Neb.). But the Comanches defeated the Skiris in a one-sided fight on the Arkansas River, and the Delawares burned the Grand Pawnee village on the Republican River. What’s more, smallpox decimated all four Pawnee subtribes, claiming some 3,000 lives. The next year U.S. commissioners persuaded the Pawnees to give up all land claims south of the Platte, thus allowing resettled tribes to hunt unmolested. The fall of 1834 brought missionaries to the upper Platte, soon followed by a trading post that drew thousands of unfriendly Sioux. And while the Pawnees had beaten them soundly in 1832, the Sioux usually got the upper hand in subsequent confrontations, further weakening the Pawnee population. The Pawnees were never at war with the United States, but conflicts were inevitable when the first wave of settlers encroached on Pawnee lands north of the Platte (without any payment to the tribe) in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. After a particularly tough winter of 1855–56 the impoverished Pawnees returned home that spring to find themselves largely displaced. A number of Pawnee men promptly signed on as scouts with Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner’s punitive campaign against the Cheyennes. Sumner gave them ponies and supplies when they mustered out, but a band of white frontiersman robbed them of everything. In the spring of 1857 a settler beat and then gunned down a young Chaui chief after the latter appeared at his door begging food. Tension mounted after that confrontation, as settlers feared retaliation from the “pestiferous banditti,” as one editor labeled the Pawnees. Newspapers called for their removal from settlement lands. On Sept. 24, 1857, the Pawnees relinquished their lands in a treaty signed at Table Creek, Nebraska Territory. In return they received a small reservation (30 miles east to west and 15 miles north to south) on the Loup Fork and government aid amounting to $40,000 per year for five years and $30,000 per annum thereafter. But the rampaging Sioux remained a problem. In successive raids on the reservation between June and September 1860 the Sioux killed 13 Pawnees, burned 60 lodges and ran off more than 30 horses. In 1864 the Sioux and Cheyennes mounted deadly raids along the Oregon Trail across Ne-

braska Territory. That December Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis approached the Pawnee Agency, seeking scouts. While eager to fight hated foes, those who joined Curtis’ command saw no action and soon returned to the reservation. Soon after, though, Curtis authorized 1st Lt. Frank North to enlist more Pawnees for regular service. His new scouts performed so admirably, North was promoted to captain and then major. The Pawnees called him Skiri Taka (“White Wolf”) and later the honorary title Pani Resaru (“Pawnee Chief”). The scouts guarded Union Pacific Railroad crews and also waylaid bands of Sioux, Cheyennes and Arapahos. North’s Pawnee Battalion delivered invaluable service during the 1865 Powder River Expedition and remained useful in the Indian wars through 1877. In 1868–69, when the U.S. government removed the Sioux and Cheyennes from lands between the Platte and Arkansas rivers, the Pawnees likely presumed they could now hunt unmolested. But it was not to be. The railroad they were protecting was bringing in thousands of settlers, who were establishing homesteads in every part of Kansas and Nebraska. At the same time buffalo herds were declining. The government continued to assist its Indian allies but actually helped the Sioux more. For instance, in 1871 the Pawnees were receiving the $30,000 annuity allowed by the 1857 treaty, while the Sioux were provided $1,314,000 worth of beef. On Aug. 5, 1873, a Sioux war party ambushed a Pawnee hunting party on the Republican, killing at least 70 men, women and children. Having had enough, the first group of Pawnees moved to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) that same year. A second migration occurred in 1874, and a third group (mainly Skiris) went south in 1875, when the Pawnee Agency was relocated to Black Bear Creek, about 8 miles southwest of the Arkansas River. Today the Pawnee Nation [pawneenation.org] is headquartered in Pawnee, with tribal jurisdiction over sections of Pawnee, Payne and Noble counties.

This Pawnee quartet scouted for the Army in 1869. Many Pawnees eagerly sided with the Army to fight their Sioux and Cheyenne enemies.




In this issue we present newly published works by Frank C. McCarthy, preview HBO’s new hit series Westworld, check out denim fashions past and present and more 3 0 WILD WEST 30



Amidst the Thundering Herd, by Frank C. McCarthy, limited edition of 35, 33 by 23 inches, $595, greenwichworkshop.com




Cheyenne War Party, limited edition of 50, 29 by 40 inches, $695, greenwichworkshop.com

McCarthy Captured Plains People New Yorker Frank McCarthy (1924–2002) left his living as a commercial artist to launch a career in fine art in 1968. Moving to Sedona, Ariz., he soon emerged as the “Dean of Western Action Painters.” His work remains unsurpassed for its drama and attention to detail. His retrospectives have shown at the Museum of the Southwest [museumsw.org] in Midland, Texas; the Norton Museum of Art [norton.org] in Shreveport, La.; the Gilcrease Museum [gilcrease.org] in Tulsa, Okla.; and the Museum of Western Art [museum ofwesternart.com] in Kerrville, Texas. He was a longtime member of the Cowboy Artists of America [cowboyartistsofamerica.com] and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators [society illustrators.org] Hall of Fame in 1997. Since 1974 the Greenwich Workshop has published more than 100 limited-edition prints of his paintings. For more info visit greenwichworkshop.com. 3 2 WILD WEST


Whirling, He Raced to Meet the Challenge, anniversary edition of 77, 26 by 17 inches, $750, greenwichworkshop.com

Westworld Redux

Westworld stars Anthony Hopkins (above), Evan Rachel Wood (left) and James Marsden (below).

In 1973 novelist Michael Crichton wrote and directed Westworld, a then-futuristic film (starring Yul Brynner) that has drawn far closer to virtual reality. Now producer J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible) has re-engineered the original into a highly rated, critically acclaimed 10-part series with a deep cast, including James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins. The action unfolds in an ultrafuturistic Western-themed amusem*nt park filled with lifelike androids that interact with—but never to the detriment of—the high-paying guests. The series’ debut on HBO garnered the network’s highest viewership ratings for a premiere since the first episode of True Detective in 2014—no doubt opening the door for a second season.




1892 Neustadter Bros. “Boss of the Road” overalls

Samuel Krouse patented shirt



My Old Blue Jeans One fashion that never seems to fade is the denim jean, which was born in the Old West—to be specific, in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Author Michael Harris provides an in-depth look at denim’s early years in his second edition of Jeans of the Old West (Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pa., 2016, $34.99). The 192-page book showcases more than a dozen other brands that helped shape the denim landscape, including Greenbaum Bros., Neustadter Bros., S.R. Krouse, A.B. Elfelt & Co., Heynemann & Co., Harman Adams, W. & I. Steinhart & Co., Toklas and Brown. A trove of 300 color and black-and-white images—including the shot below left of a 125-year-old pair of Neustadters—chronicles the history of these manufacturers who pioneered denim style. For more information visit schifferbooks.com.

Paint-splattered button-up shirt by G-Star, g-star.com; Levi’s distressed denim shorts, $58, levis.com


Everything Old Is New Again Witness these brand-new styles from Levi’s and G-Star Raw that feature rips and tears and paint splatters for a classic “old” look:


Men’s Levi’s 511 slim jeans, levi.com

Levi’s perfect tee with classic two horse pull logo, levi.com


High West Distillery in Wanship, Utah

Dining space at High West

Campfire is the world’s only, and possibly first, blend of Scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys.

Getting into the Spirits When biochemist David Perkins and wife Jane visited the historic Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Ky., back in 2001, it triggered a vision that has aged into the awardwinning whiskey brand High West. In 2011 Whiskey Advocate, America’s leading magazine on the subject, named High West its “Whiskey Pioneer of the Year,” and in 2015 the Perkinses proudly opened their 30,000-square-foot distillery in Wanship, Utah. The modern yet rustic facility centers on a 1,600-gallon copper pot still. Visitors are welcome to learn the ins and outs of making whiskey or, better yet, to drink it. For more information visit highwest.com.

Whiskeys wait their turn atop “barrel rails” on the deck of the High West Distillery.

Yippee Ki-Yay is a blend of two straight rye whiskeys.

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David Crockett was but the most famous of the handful of Tennessee Mounted Volunteers who ventured to the Alamo By Bob Palmquist


ome called them the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, though they included a contingent from Logan County, Kentucky, and members from other states. Some called them “Crockett’s band,” though William Harrison, not Colonel David Crockett, was their captain. One, James M. Rose, was the nephew of fourth U.S. President James Madison, while another, Richard Stockton, boasted a signer of the Declaration of Independence in his family line. The families of Dr. John Purdy Reynolds of Pennsylvania and Micajah Autry of Ten-



nessee erected grave markers in their respective hometowns, though the “graves” contained no remains, as Mexican troops had burned the bodies of all the Texian defenders, save one, after taking the Alamo. As the Alamo siege ended on March 6, 1836, none of the Tennessee volunteers had been in Texas more than three months. Though Eastern newspapers published fragmentary casualty lists that included all their names, a fictional publication attributed to their most celebrated member, David Crockett, ultimately eclipsed their memory. With the late summer 1836 release of Col. Crockett’s Exploits and Adventures in Texas the frontiersman’s Philadelphia publish-

Lionizing Davy


Crockett swings his rifle like a club in Remember the Alamo, by Frederick Coffay Yohn (1875–1933).

ing house, Carey & Hart, sought to capitalize on his unexpected demise in far-off San Antonio, Texas. While Crockett’s 1834 autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, had sold very well, a second work attributed to him, An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East (1835), had fared not nearly as well, many copies remaining unsold. Publishing house partners Edward L. Carey and Abraham Hart aimed at recouping their losses by turning out a third book ostensibly “written by himself.” They engaged a writer named Richard Penn Smith, who cobbled together several 1835 letters by the late Tennessee congressman, observations from Mary Austin

Holley’s Texas travel memoir and tidbits from other Texas narratives with purely invented passages, including excerpts from a bogus “journal” Crockett supposedly kept up to the day before Mexican troops stormed the Alamo walls. In place of the real men who had sided with Crockett at the Alamo, Exploits and Adventures had the colonel traveling with four companions: Ned, a young bee hunter (a character borrowed from James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tale The Prairie, an 1827 novel also published by Edward Carey); Thimblerig, a low gambler from Natchez who plied the shell game; an Indian hunter; and an aging pirate. Publishers since have reprinted



Celebrity Status

Colonel Crockett, depicted here in a John Gadsby Chapman painting, was the best known of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, but 16 others joined him at the Alamo.

crockett was a celebrity when he went to the alamo, and he has emerged as the biggest hero among the heroic defenders


Exploits and Adventures in conjunction with the legitimate Narrative, thus spin-off accounts of Crockett’s final exploits have often inserted this picaresque quartet in place of the 16 men who actually accompanied him. This is unfortunate, as it diminishes the real men of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers and obscures the motives behind those who launched the Texas Revolution. The Tennessee Mounted Volunteers fared no better in memory as years rolled by. Edwin Justus Mayer’s 1941 play Sunrise in My Pocket adopted Richard Penn Smith’s cast of characters, as did many other adult and juvenile Crockett biographies to follow. Walt Disney’s televised serial Davy Crockett (1954–55), which reintroduced the “King of the Wild Frontier” to 20th-century children and adults, retained two of the Exploits characters —Thimblerig the gambler (played by Hans Conried), and the Indian (Nick Cravat), whom the Disney screenwriters named Busted Luck. In John Wayne’s 1960 epic The Alamo Crockett’s companions become a band of boozing, brawling backwoodsmen —played by such veteran character actors as Chill Wills, Denver Pyle and Chuck Roberson—all of whom had followed “the colonel” for years through various frontier scrapes. In the 2004 Alamo film, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett, the colonel’s fellow Tennesseans are largely anonymous, the exception being Micajah Autry (Kevin Page), who seems to function as Crockett’s manager or press agent; “He prefers David,” Autry primly rebukes an Alamo defender who addresses Crockett as “Davy.” David Crockett was a celebrity when he went to the Alamo, and he has emerged as the biggest hero among the heroic defenders who died there. But the men who came there to fight alongside him should not be forgotten. From Texas land claims, letters and family recollections, it is possible to recover some sense of the real Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. On Dec. 7, 1835, Micajah Autry wrote wife Martha in Jackson, Tenn., to say he had reached Memphis and was commencing the long journey to Texas. “I have taken my passage on the steamboat Pacific,” he wrote, “and shall leave in an hour or two.” Others aboard Pacific, Micajah told Martha, were also “bound for Texas.” One, he noted, believed “the fighting will be over before we get there and speaks cheeringly of the prospects.” Autry himself remained upbeat. “I feel more energy than I ever did in anything I have undertaken,” he wrote. “I am determined to provide for you a home or perish.” A practicing attorney and War of 1812 veteran of a North Carolina regiment, Autry, 42, was older than many starting for Texas. The sometime painter, poet, teacher and failed merchant was looking for a new home for Martha and their two small children after serious business reverses. He picked the rebellious Mexican province of Texas, which since 1821 had seen an influx of Anglo settlers at the invitation of the Mexican government, but which a few months before had risen in revolt against that government

and its army under dictatorial General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Kentucky lawyer Daniel William Cloud, making a meandering journey through Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, explained the Texian conflict in a December 26 letter to his brother: “Our Brethren of Texas were invited by the Mexican Government, while Republican in its form, to come and settle; they did so; they have endured all the privations and suffering incident to the settlement of a frontier country.…Now the Mexicans with unblushing effrontery call on them to submit to a Monarchical, Tyrannical Central despotism,” enforced by Santa Anna. “Every true hearted son of Ky. feels an instinctive horror, followed by a firm and steady glow of virtuous indignation.” Arriving at the old French settlement of Natchitoches, La., Cloud traveled with another “son of Kentucky,” fellow lawyer Peter James Bailey III. Better educated than Cloud, who had followed the conventional practice of reading law with a senior Kentucky practitioner, Bailey had actually studied jurisprudence at Transylvania University in Lexington, graduating in 1834, the year before his arrival at the jumping-off point for Texas. Autry’s steamboat had made Natchitoches about 10 days before Cloud and Bailey hit town. “The war is still going on favorably to the Texans,” Micajah reassured Martha. “It is thought that Santa Anna will make a descent with his whole forces in the spring, but there will be soldiers enough of the real grit in Texas by that time.” Meanwhile, David Crockett was out hunting buffalo on the Texas plains. He had come by a different route than Autry, Cloud and Bailey, traveling through Arkansas and then overland across the Red River into Texas. Embittered over his unsuccessful bid for re-election as he left Tennessee that November, Congressman Crockett told Memphis constituents that since they had preferred Adam Huntsman over him as their representative, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” He had vowed to “explore the Texes [sic ]” before returning to the States. Years later Crockett’s youngest child, Matilda, recalled the family had not known “he intended going into the [Texas] army.” Others, however, had presumed he would join the fight and were surprised when he seemed to disappear. Eastern traveler Edward Warren wrote from Washingtonon-the-Brazos, Texas, on Jan. 1, 1836: “You may have heard that David Crockett set out for this country with a company of men to join the army. He has forgotten or waved [sic ] his original intention & stopped some 80 to 100 miles to the north of this place to hunt Buffalo for the winter.” Crockett had lamented in his Narrative that buffalo had been hunted out of his native Tennessee, so the bear hunter had clearly jumped at the opportunity to pursue new game. But a week after Warren voiced his disapproval of Crockett’s decision, Davy did surface in a round of speeches and parties between San Augustine and Nacogdoches, Texas, in “excellent health…and high spirits,” he



How Did Davy Die?

It remains speculation, but in this depiction a Mexican soldier bayonets the Alamo defender.

wrote daughter Margaret and her husband back in Tennessee. “As to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world.…There is a world of country to settle…[with] every appearance of good health and game plenty.” He was back on task as he rode to Nacogdoches. “[I] have enrolled my name as a volunteer for six months,” he continued, “and will set out for the Rio Grande in a few days with the volunteers from the United States.…I had rather be in my present situation than to be elected to a seat in Congress for life.” Judge John Forbes, who had administered the oath of allegiance to Crockett, used the standard form oath that required the volunteer to pledge to support the Texian provisional government “or any future government of Texas.” Crockett, wary of executive power after years of fighting President Andrew Jackson, insisted the oath be revised to pledge only to support “any future republican government.” Forbes, later reporting he had sworn in Autry, “the Celebrated David Crockett” and other volunteers, suggested this new contingent might fall in line to support the general council versus the governor. Though Crockett expressed interest in future political involvement in Texas, for the moment he was most interested in reaching San Antonio de Béxar. In early 1835, with the provisional governor and council at odds and issuing contradictory orders, and General Sam Houston still lacking an army, the nascent revolution seemed in free fall. But volunteers kept arriving. Walking overland from Louisiana for lack of a mount, Micajah Autry had joined the army: “I have become one of the most thoroughgoing men you ever heard of,” he wrote Martha from Nacogdoches on January 13. “I go the whole Hog in the cause of Texas.” He again sought to reassure his wife: “Be of good cheer, Martha, I will provide you a sweet home.” A postscript brought news of another’s arrival: “Colonel Crockett has just joined our company.” The “company” assembling at Nacogdoches by then included Daniel Cloud and friend Peter Bailey, and Pennsylvania physician Dr. John Purdy Reynolds and friend William McDowell. Among the older volunteers, at age 41, McDowell had moved from Mifflin County, Pa., to a new settlement named Mifflin in Tennessee; but as writer Michael Lind notes in his 4 2 WILD WEST


1995 book The Alamo: An Epic , “There would be no Mifflin, Texas.” Another Tennessee transplant, Ohio-born William B. Harrison, had been sworn in as captain of the band, soon dubbed the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. North Carolina physician Dr. John Thomson had joined the group, as had 18-year-old Virginian Richard L. Stockton. Stockton claimed kinship with Richard Stockton of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who had been captured by the British and had suffered horribly before being paroled. The men saw themselves as following in the footsteps of their Revolutionary War forebears. “Inheriting the old Saxon spirit of 1640 [and] 1776 in America,” Cloud had written a friend in Kentucky, “the inhabitants of Texas throw off the chains of Santa Anna.” By then Crockett may already have left Nacogdoches at the head of a smaller “spy” or scout company; at least one volunteer, 18-year-old Kentuckian B.A.M. Thomas, is known to have accompanied him. In leisurely fashion the little group made its way to San Antonio de Béxar, scouting possible homesteads along the route. They clearly expected the future government of Texas to establish a generous land distribution system much more attractive to struggling settlers than the public lands system they had left behind in the States. “I shall be entitled to 640 acres of land for my services in the army,” Micajah Autry had written Martha, “and 4,444 acres upon condition of settling my family here.” Crockett—who had battled on the House floor to permit his “squatter” constituents to keep their patches of Tennessee farmland—exalted in a new country where “it is not required here to pay down for your League of land,” which he correctly defined as 4,428 acres. “They may make the money to pay for it on the land.” Cloud thought the same. “[Texas] is immense in extent and fertile in its soil,” he wrote, “and will amply repay all our toil.” The path of the little company is traceable through vouchers signed by Crockett and others for food and lodging en route. “This is to testify,” reads one example, “that we on behalf of a squad of volunteers traveling to St. Antonio, being out of provisions, called upon John Y. Criswell, who fed us in his own house with his own provisions for the night & next mornings breakfast, eight of us 2 meals @ 25 cts. Say five dollars, for which the government will no doubt remunerate him, we being authorized to draw on said gov. for provision.” The voucher, dated February 11, was signed by M. Autry and D.W. Cloud. In San Antonio the small body of Texians led jointly by Lt. Col. William B. Travis and Colonel James Bowie had forted

The Commanders

Leading the Texians were Lt. Col. William B. Travis (left) and Colonel James Bowie. Colonel Crockett served as “high private.”


up in an old Spanish mission known as the Alamo, across the river from town. General Sam Houston had ordered Bowie to destroy the fortifications in town, but he was equivocal about whether also to blow up the Alamo, advising provisional Governor Henry Smith, “If you think well of it, I will.” Around the same time Smith had ordered Travis to lead a small group of Texian reinforcements to San Antonio. Bowie and Travis both concluded the Alamo should be held. The Tennessee Mounted Volunteers had arrived in early February. In town Crockett ran into old friend James M. Rose. An Ohio-born nephew of President James Madison, Rose had moved with his family from Virginia to Tennessee following the death of his mother, the president’s sister. His brothers later remembered Rose as “a man of sanguine temperament about thirty years of age, about 5 ft. 7 or 8 inches high, of fair complexion, disposed to freckle, but rendered sallow by continued attacks of chill & fever before he went to Texas, was partially bald on the top of his head, hair sandy, eyes light blue or grey.…Was apt to stammer when at all confused.” Susanna Dickinson, wife of Alamo artillery Captain Almeron Dickinson, recalled that Rose fell in with Crockett, the pair often taking meals at the Dickinson’s San Antonio home before the Mexican advance forced the Texians to the Alamo. Colonel Crockett declined a formal command, informing the troops he would serve as a “high private” to defend the “liberties of our common country,” though he had occupied that “common country” only a few weeks. Crockett asked Travis for an assignment, and the young commander requested that he and the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers defend a wooden palisade constructed between the Alamo chapel and south wall. Susanna Dickinson later recalled that to amuse the troops, Crockett scratched away at an old fiddle while Scotsman John McGregor played the bagpipes. One wonders if Autry, an accomplished violinist, took a hand in providing music or simply looked on, wincing, as Crockett attempted a tune. Santa Anna’s troops almost surprised the Texian garrison on February 22 as the rebels celebrated George Washington’s birthday with a fandango in San Antonio, but rain-swollen rivers delayed their advance. The next afternoon, as the Texians took refuge in the old mission, the siege commenced. The kin and friends of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers received no more letters. On March 6 the besieging army stormed the Alamo walls in darkness and overwhelmed the garrison. Mexican soldiers gathered the bodies of all the defenders, except Gregorio Esparza (whose brother was among Santa Anna’s officers), stacked them atop scrap wood and burned them. Given the communications of the day, news of the Alamo’s fall was slow in reaching the States. Micajah Autry’s family, recalled daughter Mary, got the “awful news…one lovely April morning.” The families of several of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, including that of David Crockett, received the land their men had earned from the new Republic of Texas, once Houston had defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto that April 21. “If we succeed,” Daniel Cloud had written, “the Country is ours.…If we fail, death in the cause of liberty and humanity is not cause for shuddering. Robert F. Palmquist is a Tucson lawyer and historian who wrote about Adelia Earp’s disputed memoir in the October 2016 issue of Wild West. Suggested for further reading: A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, Written by Himself and David Crockett: Hero of the Common Man, by William Groneman. See more reading and viewing suggestions in Reviews, P. 82.


Micajah Autry, a North Carolina– born volunteer, may have looked like this fellow, thought to be a descendant.

Sources vary as to the identities of all members of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers who followed Davy Crockett to San Antonio and the Alamo. This roster follows the list compiled by Alamo experts Phil Rosenthal and Bill Groneman for their 1985 book Roll Call at the Alamo. Rosenthal and Groneman consulted muster lists of the chaotically organized Texas Army, as well as the 1931 dissertation by Texas historian Amelia Williams, “A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and the Personnel of its Defenders,” subsequently reprinted in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and in book form as The Alamo Defenders (2010). Williams added a few names not accepted by Groneman and Rosenthal, including William H. Smith and John Harris. In alphabetical order, with approximate age at the time of the siege, birth state and, if different, the state each left to defend the Alamo, here are the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers: 1. Micajah Autry, 42, North Carolina; to Texas from Tennessee 2. Peter James Bailey III, 24, Kentucky 3. Joseph Bayliss, 28, Tennessee 4. Robert Campbell, 26, Tennessee 5. Daniel William Cloud, 24, Kentucky 6. David Crockett, 49, Tennessee 7. William Fauntleroy (also spelled Fontleroy or Furtleroy), 22, Kentucky 8. William B. Harrison (Captain), 25, Ohio; to Texas from Tennessee 9. William Irvine Lewis, 30, Virginia; to Texas from Pennsylvania 10. William McDowell, 41, Pennsylvania; to Texas from Tennessee 11. Dr. John Purdy Reynolds, 30, Pennsylvania; to Texas from Tennessee 12. James M. Rose, 31, Virginia; to Texas from Arkansas 13. Richard L. Stockton, 18, Virginia 14. B.A.M. Thomas, 18, Kentucky 15. Dr. John W. Thomson, 29, North Carolina 16. Joseph G. Washington, 28, Kentucky —B.P. FEBRUARY 2017


From Plays to Fess Parker

By the time David Crockett died at the Alamo on March 6, 1836, he was among the most famous Americans in the world—the subject of an exaggerated biography, a widely performed play (The Lion of the West, starring famed Shakespearean actor James Keteltas Hackett), a best-selling autobiography and a series of successful almanacs modeled after Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack. Newspapers from New York to London regularly printed his pithy comments on American politics and his adventures in the West. His heroic death only increased his fame, as he morphed from a symbol of Jacksonian democracy and the “Age of the Common Man” into a martyr on the altar of America’s “Manifest Destiny” to become a continental nation. He became the hero of dime novels and children’s books, usually centered on the Alamo, as well as a play featuring popular stage actor Frank Mayo that toured the boards for a quartercentury after the Civil War. Crockett’s fame subsided in the early 20th century, although he featured in a handful of films about the Alamo, until Walt Disney (top right) rediscovered the frontiersman and made him the hero of a five-part serial on the ABC television series Disneyland that first aired on Dec. 15, 1954. The show, starring then unknown Texas actor Fess Parker (right), was a spectacular success and was accompanied by a phenomenal merchandising bonanza. Coonskin caps were the big seller, but every conceivable type of toy carried the Crockett label—guns, knives, buckskin outfits, moccasins, pajamas, coloring books, board games, toy soldier sets, lunch boxes, even underwear —and the “Ballad of Davy Crockett,” written by Tom Blackburn as narrative filler for the shows, sold 10 million copies of the Bill Hayes (below right) recording and was America’s No. 1 record for 13 weeks. John Wayne kept the Crockett mania going in 1960 when he portrayed Davy in his epic film The Alamo. It was perfect casting, as an American icon portrayed an American icon. The Crockett legend shows no signs of fading in the 21st century, for in many ways he remains the perfect representation of the American national character. —Paul Andrew Hutton



Crockett Craze


Fess Parker’s heroic portrayal of Davy in the 1950s TV series captivated American kids— and their parents.



HORSEHEAD CROSS The water was a welcome sight, but the hazardous ford provided little else in the way of respite By Sherry Robinson


attlemen Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving set out on June 6, 1866, from north-central Texas with their combined herds—some 2,000 head of Longhorns—bound for Fort Sumner in New Mexico Territory. After crossing the arid southern Plains into west Texas, they threaded Castle Gap and then dropped



down to Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River. There the cattle, which had gone three days without water in the summer heat, ran wild-eyed into the water. “Those behind pushed the ones in the lead right on across before they had time to stop and drink,” Goodnight told biographer J. Evetts Haley. Riding point, Goodnight turned the leaders around, and they plunged back into the water, drinking as they swam. There were so many cattle in the river, they impeded

Troubled Waters

U.S. Boundary Commissioner John Russell Bartlett described his party’s difficult 1850 crossing of the ford, an episode that inspired Tom Lovell’s 1975 painting Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River.


ING ON THE PECOS its flow, and the water rose halfway up its banks. By the time drovers brought up the remaining 500 head, the wind had shifted, and the cattle could smell the water. The unmanageable beasts poured over the river’s east bank, taking the spare horses with them. For two days the cowhands tried to pull animals from the river, but quicksand and the shifting current claimed more than 100 head. In his memoirs the cattleman recalled somberly the 13 graves that later popped up in a small cemetery at the crossing: “I shall

never forget the impression made upon me by those lonely graves, where rested cowboys killed in battle with one another after having fallen out while crossing the long stretch without water.” Goodnight and Loving’s 1866 passage was typical of the infamous Horsehead, one of few fords on the Pecos. Cowhands, emigrants and soldiers might cheer the sight of water, but not for long. If their cattle hadn’t perished on the 79-mile waterless stretch from the Middle Concho, or succumbed on its salt



Rio Gra nde


playas, they might be trampled amid the stampede to the merciThe Pecos snaked across the desert without betraying its less river, die from drinking too fast too soon, poison themselves presence with a single tree or bush, never failing to surprise travelwith brackish water or become trapped in quicksand. Making ers who suddenly caught themselves staring down its steep banks matters worse, Horsehead was on the warpath of roving bands at swift, reddish brown water that was more canal than river. of Apaches and Comanches, who found easy pickings among travelers at the crossing. The first people to use KANSAS COLORADO Goodnight ultimately the crossing may have been TERRITORY pushed a quarter-million the Jumanos, who inhabCi ma Ar rro cattle across Horsehead, ited the region for centuries k an n sa s Ri ve Riv r e though he came to hate before being displaced by r River Fort Union ian ad Santa Fe an the Pecos, calling it “the the Apaches in the late 18th INDIAN TERRITORY Wash*ta R graveyard of the cowman’s century. Spanish explorer ive r Fort Sumner hopes.” Haley described Cabeza de Vaca is known Red Rive Bosque Redondo r Horsehead as “the most to have passed through CasBosque Grande NEW MEXICO noted ford along 600 miles tle Gap, a mile-long break TERRITORY of the sinuous Pecos; a river in the Castle Mountains Dallas less than 100 feet wide and a dozen miles northeast TEXAS Fort Worth always swimming; a treachof the river, and he may U.S. El Paso Pope’s Crossing MEXICO erous stream that squirmed have forded Horsehead Middle Concho Emigrants’ Crossing Castle Gap Fort Concho and fought its way through Crossing in his rambling Horsehead Crossing Fort Stockton r a vast arid world loath to 15 3 0s journey from the Colo Austin rad let it flow.” Gulf Coast through what oR ive would become west Texas San Antonio down into Mexico. The first Marking the Spot American to use the ford The above sign on Pecos may have been Texas merCounty Farm Road 11 stands 0 125 250 miles 500 miles chant Dr. Henry Connelly, near the site of the crossing. r Pecos R i v e


zo s











By loading their supplies into highclearance springmounted ambulances, most of the party was able to ford the river, which ran about 4 feet deep at the crossing

who in 1839 sought a trade route between Austin and Chihuahua. Ten years later Robert S. Neighbors mounted an expedition to open a wagon road between San Antonio and El Paso. On April 17, 1849, the party reached Horsehead Crossing, its banks strewn with horse skulls. Their Comanche guide explained that over the years Indian raiders returning from Chihuahua with stolen horses would drive them hard to the ford, where many would plunge into the water, drink too fast and die. “The banks are low, bottom firm and hard, and the water more shallow than at any point touched by the road,” Neighbors wrote, “yet the depth is too great for fording, and a good ferry boat will be requisite.” Expedition member John S. “Rip” Ford noted the water had an agreeable taste but suggested adding a pinch of roasted prickly pear to settle the sediment and clarify the water. During the following year’s survey U.S. Boundary Commissioner John Russell Bartlett was nearly swept away in the churning waters. “As we approached, we looked in vain for the usual indications of a stream,” he recalled, “for, owing to the want of trees or bushes, it was not seen until we were within a few yards of it.” The channel, he wrote, ran between “high perpendicular banks, cut through various strata of clay and sand. On both sides is a vast open prairie, entirely destitute of trees, though scantily covered with mezquit [sic ], and other plants of the desert.” At Horsehead the land dipped to meet the Pecos, enabling easy entry and egress. In an ominous note Bartlett also mentioned the horse and mule skulls lining its banks. By loading their supplies into high-clearance spring-mounted ambulances, most of the party was able to ford the river, which ran about 4 feet deep at the crossing. But as Neighbors tried to cross, the current either swept his team into deeper water or they lost their footing, and the lead mules turned downstream. The teamsters tried to bring the leaders around, but they balked and spread their panic to the rest of the team. Adding to the confusion, the driver of the last wagon attempted to pass, but his swamped vehicle collided with Neighbors’ ambulance, and Bartlett fully expected to be swept away. At that moment a man who had already crossed jumped into the river, half waded and swam out and attached a picket rope to the lead mules. With men ashore tugging the rope to turn the lead mules, horsem*n in the river urging the animals forward, and the teamsters applying the lash, the two wagons finally reached the far bank. In 1857, as increasing numbers of emigrants headed for California, the government appropriated $200,000 and sent road builder James B. Leach and crew to improve the southern route west of the Rio Grande. At Horsehead Crossing on Sept. 29, 1857, Leach recorded “a swift and turbid stream about 100 feet wide, flowing between abrupt precipitous banks.” By cleverly inverting two wagon beds atop eight barrels to form a raft, the party crossed their provisions with no losses.

Using the improved road, the first Butterfield Overland stage rolled toward Horsehead Crossing on Sept. 26, 1858. The sole passenger was Waterman L. Ormsby Jr., a 23-year-old correspondent for The New York Herald, who noted the skeletal remains of livestock as far as the eye could see. A stage station with fresh horses operated a quartermile north of Horsehead. The driver didn’t ford there, instead continuing to a safer crossing farther north. “If our driver had not been on the lookout,” Ormsby recalled, “we might have been wallowing in its muddy depth.” To better service forts along the lower route, in June 1859 the Butterfield Overland opened a ferry, described as a wagon body attached to ropes, which carried passengers and mail across Horsehead to waiting coaches. But the faltering company abandoned the ferry in March 1861. The next month when emigrant Noah Smithwick and family—fleeing secessionist Texas for California—arrived to use the ferry, they found someone had destroyed it. Soon Horsehead witnessed an episode of Civil War intrigue. In November 1862 Union Brig. Gen. James H. Carleton, commanding the Department of New Mexico, sent El Paso scout Brad Daily and former Army Captain Washington L. Parvin to watch the crossing. At the ford Daily found the tracks of wagons and men headed toward recently abandoned Fort Stockton. The scout soon caught sight of a party of men, some two-dozen Texans led by his friend and fellow frontiersman Henry Skillman. Skillman’s scouts in turn discovered Daily’s tracks and began trailing him. Daily managed to elude them. On hearing of the enemy scouting party, Carleton, expecting a large force to march up the Pecos, ordered delaying actions, but the Confederates never did attack New Mexico from the southern Plains. After the war other cattle drives tested the crossing on the trail Goodnight and Loving had blazed in the summer of 1866. That fall John Chisum joined Goodnight on a follow-up drive to Fort Sumner to feed thousands of starving Navajos and Mescaleros at nearby Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation. Chisum led the drive on his mule, wrote biographer Clifford Caldwell, with the herd stretched out behind him. As the cattle entered Castle Gap, they picked up the smell of the Pecos and made for it at a dead run, plunging in at Horsehead Crossing. This time the hands kept them moving across the swollen river, and they delivered their cattle to Fort Sumner. In 1872 Chisum moved his operation to the Bosque Grande, a forested stretch on the Pecos just south of Bosque Redondo. Despite its hazards, it was possible to safely negotiate Horsehead, as eight Texans driving a six-wagon train demonstrated in 1866. After watering their oxen at the head of the Middle Concho, they set out for the Pecos on a trail littered with animal bones, wagon parts and discarded household goods. Long before the oxen could smell the water, the men lashed each yoke to a



Harder Than It Looks

Irrigation and drought have taken their toll on Horsehead, but bootsucking mud remains a challenge.

wagon wheel to keep the creatures from stampeding. As the train approached Horsehead Crossing, captain Pearson Carlile recalled, “one could have jumped from one carcass to another without touching a foot to the ground.” After tying ropes around their oxen, the men allowed each animal to drink a bit before again securing it to a wagon wheel. Once they made camp, they released the teams to drink their fill. Their strategy worked, but a pack of wolves entered camp and killed their dog. Andy M. Adams may hold the record for the worst luck of anyone seeking to ford Horsehead Crossing. In 1867 the cattleman had a contract to drive steers from Texas to Fort Sumner, and he gathered four separate herds. Of his first herd Comanches drove off 365 of 656 head during a mid-April ambush at Horsehead. His cowhands recovered 38 steers, but a follow-up raid netted the Comanches 15 horses. In early May raiding Kickapoos drove off Adams’ entire second herd. Later that month trail boss Joel D. Hoy set out with Adams’ third herd, numbering 1,014 head. Hoy and his men reached Horsehead largely without incident. The next afternoon, however, a raiding party ambushed them at the ford and drove their livestock across the river. Three cowhands were wounded, along with Hoy’s wife, who loaded guns and tended to the wounded until collapsing with an arrow wound to the thigh. Lacking horses, Hoy and the other ablebodied drovers dragged a wagonload of the wounded upstream to the abandoned Butterfield Overland station, where the Indians besieged them. One man tried to escape by swimming the river only to drown. They held out for three days before a 100man party of California-bound prospectors led by Jacob Schnively and Colonel William Dalrymple happened by and scared off the raiders. The gold seekers gave Hoy working stock and supplies, and the drovers managed to recover 60 steers, but they had lost a staggering 954 steers, 23 horses and mules and four oxen. At month’s end, again at the cursed ford, Comanches and Kiowas took Adams’ fourth herd of 800 cattle and 15 horses and mules and torched two wagons containing $2,650 in sup5 0 WILD WEST


plies. Taking refuge in a sinkhole, the drovers survived only because they found a steer wounded by an arrow and butchered it for meat. Horsehead Crossing eventually supported a small settlement—mostly a place for cowhands to rest up—with a cemetery on the west bank. Over the years women also proved their mettle at the ford. In 1869 Ellen Eveline Casey saved her flock of sheep at the crossing after husband Robert Casey lost most of his 1,700 cattle, his work oxen, 16 saddle horses and his mule team to Apache raiders. When the Apaches tried to drive off the sheep, Mrs. Casey ran out from cover rattling corn kernels in a tin pan and calling her sheep by name. The racket meant salt and shelled corn to the woolies, and they turned back. Another gutsy woman was with an 1871 drive of 3,000 Longhorns and 40 horses led by G.F. Banowsky, who had cowboyed for John Chisum. On reaching Horsehead Crossing, the cowhands turned the cattle and horses loose and then pitched camp beside an adobe wall of the abandoned stage station. “Shortly after the noon meal,” Banowsky recalled, “when we were taking our ease, half of us asleep, we were startled by an Apache war whoop. We ran for the wall, firing as we went, and found ourselves opposed by about 100 Indians, whose plan evidently was to entertain us while another 100 of their number ran our cattle and horses off.” The unnamed woman took a bullet to the hip, which so unnerved her husband that he threw down his gun and stopped fighting. “But it only enraged the woman,” Banowsky said, “who fired faster than ever and abused the Indians for everything she could lay her tongue to, and there is no doubt that she got several of them.” The Apaches persisted until the party was left with but a yoke of oxen, two wagons and scant provisions. After treating the woman’s wounds, the men loaded her and the supplies into one


of the wagons, hitched up the oxen and walked them to Fort Concho, 140 miles to the east. In the wake of the Red River War of 1874 Comanches and Kiowas agreed to stay on their reservations. But the Apaches— Mescaleros, Lipans and other bands—retained their haunts along the Pecos and moved around, from the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation near Fort Stanton, New Mexico Territory, to the mountains of Mexico and the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico and Texas, sometimes raiding, other times just trying to reach safety. During a typical patrol in early 1879 U.S. soldiers and their scouts engaged in a frustrating pursuit of a band traveling with women and children. They traced a wide loop, from Independence Creek on the Pecos northeast to Castle Gap and on to the White Sand Hills, Horsehead Crossing, Antelope Wells in present-day Presidio County and the Guadalupes. Journey’s end was the Mescalero reservation. After 1882, with the Apaches either dispersed or contained on reservations, settlement finally came to the trans-Pecos. Three years earlier Robert K. Wylie had established the first ranch in Horsehead country, but he’d since moved on to New Mexico Territory. Among the earliest permanent ranches near the ford was the TX Ranch, run by partners John Dawson, Henry Byler and J.T. Word. By the 1890s the big cattle drives in the West were a memory, but local ranchers used Horsehead Crossing into the 1920s —and still it took the lives of humans and cattle. Eventually, however, a cycle of floods, followed by dams and irrigation projects, followed by drought erased Horsehead from the banks of the Pecos. Locals remembered, and in the 1930s they agitated for a historical marker. But where was Horsehead? In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission made an educated guess and placed a commemorative marker in the area. Sixty years later Joe Allen, who grew up in nearby Crane, and friend Bill Boyd pinpointed the site using old maps, written accounts, aerial photos and metal detectors. A trove of iron arrowheads, bullets and buckshot, military buttons, insignia and horseshoe nails bore out their findings. The historical marker was a quarter-mile off. Western novelist Elmer Kelton grew up in the region. “It was the last part of the state to be settled,” he recalled in his biography Sandhills Boy, “and then only because nothing else was left.” Now little is left of the ford on the Pecos. “Today Horsehead Crossing is but a phantom,” writes West Texas native Patrick Dearen, an award-winning author and authority on the region. “The waters which once raged between its banks are slow, sullen, green with moss, and polluted with oilfield residue.…The skulls of Horsehead have disappeared into dust and legend.” Longtime journalist Sherry Robinson of New Mexico is the author of the award-winning I Fought a Good Fight: A History of the Lipan Apaches (2013). Suggested for further reading: Crossing Rio Pecos, by Patrick Dearen; The U.S. Army & the Texas Frontier Economy, 1845–1900, by Thomas T. Smith; and The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail, 1848–1861, by Glen Sample Ely.


Horsehead Crossing inspired several writers with its danger and dramatic episodes. Historian Patrick Dearen (above left) filled chapters of two books—Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier (1988) and Crossing Rio Pecos (1996)—with accounts of the region, while Elmer Kelton (above right) named one of his novels Horsehead Crossing. Following are a few of the more colorful written observations about the infamous ford and environs. —S.R. “It was a place where death stalked. No Indian tepee, no herder’s tent, no cowman’s stone shack, no habitation had ever marked Horsehead Crossing. Men had to cross the Pecos there, but they shunned it as a pestilence.” —Zane Grey, West of the Pecos “Pitched battles were fought with Indians at and near Horsehead. Men were killed, horses and cattle lost to the red raiders. Until good roads and modern bridges caused its abandonment, Horsehead Crossing continued exacting a harsh toll upon those who used it.” —Elmer Kelton “The Pecos is the very abode and throne of Death, for even the cayote [sic] and the raven avoid it and leave the carcasses to waste away ungnawed.” —Stephen Powers, Brownsville attorney, postmaster, judge and mayor in the 1850s “But few places can be found more lonely, or that present a more dreary appearance, than all this region of the Pecos. Naught that is pleasing meets the eye—no sound falls on the ear. Here solitude reigns supreme, wrapt [sic] in the eternal silence of all ages past.…Civilization in its strength has not been here.” —Captain Samuel Gibbs French, U.S. Army assistant quartermaster, Dec. 26, 1849 FEBRUARY 2017



Joseph Bonnell was an officer in two armies when he sought to keep the Caddos from siding with Mexico in the Texas Revolution By Seldon B. Graham Jr.

A Million Regrets

This mural at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport depicts the signing of the 1835 treaty of cession in which the Caddos sold their lands in the United States—1 million acres.






Caddo Community

Life goes on in a Caddo village of grass huts, in a color lithograph by W. Langdon Kihn (1898–1957).

Choosing Sides

Aiding the Raven

Sam Houston was impressed by Bonnell and selected the young lieutenant as his aide-de-camp in the Texas Army.


Caddos like this unidentified man had to decide whether to fight for or against the Texians.


he U.S. Army had assigned 1st Lieutenant Joseph Bonnell to witness the signing of an 1835 treaty of cession in which the Caddo Nation would sell all of its lands in the United States—nearly 1 million acres—for $30,000 in goods and horses as well as $10,000 in cash for five years. Most of the Caddo lands were in Louisiana, though some were in disputed border territory and would become part of Texas when it achieved independence from Mexico the following spring. Before signing the treaty that July 1, however, Bonnell asked U.S. Indian agent Jehiel Brooks, commissioner of the proceedings, for his permission to read the text. The agent refused, raising Bonnell’s suspicions. After the signing Bonnell discovered a hidden provision inserted by Brooks that unjustly enriched the agent’s friends and Brooks by association. Such overt deception and theft went against the ethics Bonnell learned at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The lieutenant would not tolerate it and signed a deposition in favor of the Caddos against Brooks. His action in part prompted a lawsuit against the agent, which in 1850 worked its way to the Supreme Court in United States v. Brooks. Bonnell’s sense of duty and honor in support of the Caddos got wide attention in military circles. It certainly caught the attention of Sam Houston, whom the Texas Army would commission a major general that November. Bonnell and Houston, whom a Cherokee chief had nicknamed the Raven (roughly pronounced Go-la-na in Cherokee), became friends. The incident also earned Bonnell the friendship of the Caddo chiefs—a relationship that proved of great benefit at the outset of the Texas Revolution.

Fellow Cadet

Like Bonnell, Albert Sidney Johnston was a West Pointer who chose to help Texians win their independence.

Joseph Bonnell was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 4, 1802. In 1821 the 18-year-old entered West Point as a cadet. As a first-class cadet (senior) in 1825 Bonnell demonstrated military aptitude and was appointed a cadet lieutenant. The sergeant major cadet that year was Albert Sidney Johnston, who was a year behind Bonnell. ( Johnston would move to Texas in 1836 and enlist as a private in the Texas Army. He rose to assume command of the Army of the Republic of Texas on Jan. 31, 1837, and served as the republic’s secretary of war from 1838 to ’40.) Bonnell graduated with the 37 members of the West Point Class of 1825. On April 23, 1831, the

lieutenant married Anna Elizabeth Noble of Adams County, Miss., and returned with his bride to Fort Jesup, La., near the disputed international border with Mexico, where Bonnell was stationed with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. In July 1835 he traveled to the Caddo Agency on Bayou Pierre, south of Shreveport, to witness the signing of the U.S.-Caddo treaty. The Texas Revolution broke out that October 2 at the Battle of Gonzales, where besieged Texians flew their famed COME AND TAKE IT flag in defiance of Mexican army efforts to disarm them of their protective cannon. In the subsequent skirmish the Mexicans lost two soldiers before withdrawing. On November 22 Maj. Gen. Houston, commanding general of the Texas Army, selected Bonnell as his aide-de-camp, the provisional government of Texas approving the appointment in a resolution signed by the governor and lieutenant governor. On December 30 Bonnell sent Houston a “how to start an army” letter that included detailed explanations and sample documents pertaining to uniforms, military administration, logistical supply, pay, promotions, ordnance, ammunition and rations. It was a blueprint for building the Texas Army. Bonnell signed the letter, “Your sincere friend, J. Bonnell.” On Jan. 11, 1836, Houston wrote provisional Governor James W. Robinson, urging Bonnell’s appointment as a captain in the Texas Army. He was so recognized in a list of officers issued on March 10. In addition to the ongoing revolution, the threat of an Indian war hung over Texas in early 1836. Prominent members of the convention that declared Texas’ independence on March 2 were opposed to granting land to Indians, nullifying an earlier peace treaty Houston had negotiated. The Kadohadacho Caddos in particular had considerable influence with other tribes, and the Mexicans commissioned an agent, Manuel Flores, to coax the Caddos to fight Texians, with promises of money and plunder. By March 7 Caddo warriors, along with Nadacos, Hainais, Kichais and Wichitas, were reportedly stealing horses from white settlers. On that date Houston implored, for the safety of the frontier, the Cherokee treaty be ratified. It was not. His concerns that Indian depredations would increase unless the convention recognized Indian lands fell on deaf ears. In response Cherokee Chief Bowl assembled his warriors on the San Antonio road, east of the Neches, prepared to attack the Texians should the



Mexican army prevail. At that critical juncture David G. Burnet, interim president of the republic, commissioned respected Indian trader Michel B. Menard on March 19 to secure the neutrality of the tribes while avoiding any treaty relating to boundaries. The next day John T. Mason of Nacogdoches sent a letter to Major J.S. Nelson, commandant of Fort Jesup, warning of the impending Indian attack, and asking, “Is it not in your power to send a messenger to them, particularly the Caddoes [sic ], to make them keep quiet?” Meanwhile, Houston’s army continued its Runaway Scrape eastward from the banks of the Colorado River to San Felipe on the Brazos River on March 26 and then across the Brazos to an encampment on the west bank opposite Groce’s Landing. If the Indians were to aid the Mexican army, the Texians would be caught between two foes. While encamped on the Brazos in early April, Houston valiantly sought to organize his motley rabble into an army. At the same time a Texian messenger rode to Fort Jesup carrying a letter that explained the Indian threat in Texas. On April 4 Maj. Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines, commander of the U.S. military district, arrived at Fort Jesup to take command, but due to the strained nature of diplomatic relations with Mexico, he could not take any overt action in support of the Texas Revolution. What he did do was send Lieutenant Bonnell to parley with the Indians (his written order is dated April 7, though a vocal order may have preceded it).


Both the U.S. Army and Sam Houston thought highly of Bonnell, who as a U.S. first lieutenant, captain in the Army of the Republic of Texas and military aide to the Texian commander was uniquely positioned. Gaines authorized Bonnell to employ an interpreter and the quartermaster to pay any of the lieutenant’s related expenses. Bonnell’s task: Travel to the Caddo villages in east Texas to quell a possible uprising. Few officers have ever been assigned such a daunting mission. Gaines was also out on a limb. Sending a U.S. Army officer across the border into country at war with fellow Americans was a most unusual and risky course of action. In the general’s written orders he directed Bonnell to learn whether Caddo warriors were in Texas, determine their disposition toward white inhabitants and urge them to remain at peace. Should he manage to return alive, Bonnell could then apprise the Texians, still encamped opposite Groce’s Landing on the Brazos, of any hostile Indian movements. Although there is no record the infantry officer used horses on his mission, Bonnell almost certainly did, given the ground he had to cover. The four villages of the Kadohadacho Caddos were at the northwestern tip of Caddo Lake, south of present-day 5 6 WILD WEST


Smithland; the Nadaco Caddo village was on the Sabine River south of present-day Longview; and the Hainai Caddo village was on the Angelina River 15 miles west of Nacogdoches. Bonnell likely set out with Caddo Lake in mind, as reports received at Fort Jesup indicated the Kadohadacho warriors posed the greatest threat. Meanwhile, agents dispatched from Nacogdoches to Shawnee, Delaware and Kickapoo villages some 75 miles north of town learned that the Cherokees had asked them to take up arms against the Americans. C.H. Sims reported that some 1,700 Caddos, Kichais, Hainais, Tawakonis, Wacos and Comanches had amassed, and that the Cherokees, who had already murdered trader Brooks Williams, gave every indication they would join the other tribes. William Sims, who lived near a Cherokee village, also testified to the their hostile intentions and willingness to join the other tribes. The combined army of Indians, which outnumbered the entire Army of the Republic of Texas, was within 75 to 200 miles of Houston’s position and within 72 hours could deliver a fatal blow to the general’s tiny army. Houston was so concerned about the Indian threat that on April 13 he wrote his Cherokee friend Chief Bowl. His letter is notable in two respects: First, it grossly underreports the strength Everything to Gain

Major General Edmund Gaines sent Lieutenant Bonnell to parley with the Caddos, a band of whom lived on Caddo Lake (pictured at top).


of the Mexican army, and second, it includes a promise impossible for the general to keep. Houston told Bowl there are “not many of the enemy in the country” and assured the chief, “You will get your land as it was promised in our treaty.” The letter is flush with words of brotherly love uncharacteristic of Houston. Recognizing the Indian threat, it is likely the general hoped to mislead his friend turned potential enemy regarding Texian intentions. En route to the Caddos Lieutenant Bonnell heard of Mexican agent Manuel Flores’ efforts to persuade the Caddos to make war on the Texians. On reaching an all but deserted Caddo village on April 14, Bonnell learned from the few remaining Indian women that “their warriors had gone to the prairies in consequence of what Manuel Flores had told them, viz: that the Americans were going to kill them all.” At a second Caddo village a dozen miles away (probably north of Caddo Lake and south of present-day Smithland) he found several warriors, including Chief Cortes, “a very intelligent Indian…said to have great influence with his nation.” Doubtless Cortes was stunned to find a uniformed U.S. officer in their midst in Texas, where the Army was not supposed to be. Bonnell explained that he had come as a friend, that the Americans were the Caddos’ friends, and that his superiors desired the warriors to return to their villages and live and hunt in peace. When Bonnell asked what reply he should take to Gaines, Cortes answered, “Tell General Gaines, the great chief, that even if the Caddos should see the Spaniards and Americans fighting, they would only look on but take no part on either side; tell him that I will send and let the nation know what you have told me.” Cortes added that he was glad Bonnell had come, realized Flores had been feeding his people lies and would eagerly pursue peace. Clearly, the reputation for honesty the lieutenant had earned during the U.S.-Caddo treaty negotiations was paying dividends. Bonnell then returned to the first village, where he found “another very intelligent Indian, part Spaniard,” who told him that Flores, passing himself off as a Mexican officer authorized to enlist the Caddos to fight the Texians, had passed through the village and was at that moment with the warriors on the prairie. By April 16 Cortes’ message from Bonnell would have reached the Caddo war parties in the field. That morning Houston’s army decamped from Sam McCarley’s plantation (west of present-day Tomball) and began the march that led to the Battle of San Jacinto just five days later. That the route to San Jacinto was clear was a testament to Bonnell, who had singlehandedly defused the looming Indian threat against the Texians. On April 20, the day before the battle, Bonnell returned to Fort Jesup and officially reported to Gaines the Caddos would

Tribute to Bonnell

An honor guard from the “Old Guard” conducts a ceremony at his grave site in Philadelphia in 2005.

not make war against the Texians, despite the best efforts of Mexican agent Flores. (In 1839 Texas Rangers would chase down and kill Flores on the banks of the North San Gabriel River as he sought to deliver war materiel to the Cherokees.) During the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution General Houston carried as his only weapon a sword given him by friend Joseph Bonnell. The Houston/ Bonnell sword is on display at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum [samhouston memorialmuseum.com] in Huntsville. On learning of the Texian victory at San Jacinto, Gaines sent Bonnell’s report to U.S. Secretary of War Lewis Cass, who forwarded it to President Andrew Jackson. Today it is housed among the executive documents of the U.S. Congress. In 2005 the Texas Legislature adopted a resolution paying tribute to the memory of Lieutenant Joseph Bonnell, unsung hero of the Texas Revolution, and commemorating his significant contributions toward securing Texas’ independence. That Memorial Day weekend an honor guard from his old unit, the 3rd Infantry Regiment (aka the “Old Guard,” which now escorts the president of the United States and guards the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, among other ceremonial duties), traveled to Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery to extend Bonnell full military honors on the dedication of a historical marker at his grave site. The marker reads as follows: LIEUTENANT JOSEPH BONNELL On April 7, 1836, Lieutenant Joseph Bonnell, West Point Class of 1825, 3rd Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, Fort Jesup, Louisiana, was sent alone into Texas by U.S. General Gaines to quell an uprising of 1,700 hostile Indians which threatened the small Texas Army of General Sam Houston. Lieutenant Bonnell completed this dangerous mission by successfully negotiating with Caddo Chief Cortes to have the warriors return to their villages and live in peace. Bonnell’s success greatly assisted Houston’ Army in prevailing at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Captain Joseph Bonnell, who died on September 27, 1840, was the only active duty U.S. Army officer who was a Hero of the War for Texas Independence.

Seldon B. Graham Jr. writes from Austin, Texas. The author thanks Stan Bacon, Fred Bothwell and Dan Hickox, all graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, for their assistance with this article. Suggested for further reading: The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542–1854, by F. Todd Smith. To learn more visit www. west-point.org/joseph_bonnell.




Fur trader Charles Larpenteur survived four decades of rabid wolves, hostile Indians and ruffian competitors but ultimately lost out to the federal government


By John Koster

harles Larpenteur survived 40 years as a frontier fur trader. Along the way he experienced many trials and losses. He lost one Indian wife to smallpox and another to an Omaha war party, but he ultimately lost his business not to the unruly hostiles he knew how to handle but to government regulation. The French-born American recorded his harrowing exploits in Forty Years a Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri. First published in 1898—26 years after Larpenteur’s death— it is considered one of the best firsthand accounts of the 19th-century fur trade.

Downriver Sojourn

Charles Larpenteur had hard times on the upper Missouri but no doubt moments like the one depicted in George Caleb Bingham’s 1845 oil painting Fur Traders Descending the Missouri.



of all that beaver—all those mountain men unloading their mules in their strange mountain costume.” Larpenteur was entranced. Turned down by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Co., he approached William Sublette and Robert Campbell of the Rocky Mountain Fur Co., who had bought out General William H. Ashley, a Missouri militia veteran of the War of 1812. On Larpenteur’s pledge never to grumble, the leery Campbell signed him up for 18 months “for the sum of $296 and such food as could be procured in Indian county—that excluded bread, sugar and coffee.” Campbell took Larpenteur under his wing as the “green hand” learned his trade. “[He] gave me his favorite mule, Simon, to ride; old Simon was not so kind that he would not buck me off his back when he took a notion to do so, but on the whole was a good fellow in comparison to many others. My two pack mules were very gentle, but would kick off their packs sometimes.” Larpenteur’s first morsel of bison came from lean cows in calving season and was so tough he had to spit it out. But neither it nor the feisty mules, which threw a fellow packer into a patch of prickly pear cactus, made him grumble. The Campbell party reached the rendezvous on Green River on July 8. “There was,” Larpenteur recalled, “not a sober man to be found in camp but myself. For several days nothing but whiskey was sold, at $5 a pint.”


Born the youngest son of a Bonapartist family about 45 miles southeast of Paris in 1807, Charles Larpenteur immigrated to the United States as a child in 1818 when it became clear Napoléon would not return from exile. The family settled and farmed near Baltimore. At age 21 Charles ventured out on his own, bound for St. Louis. On his first trip up the Mississippi River in 1831 he struck up a friendship with an interpreter for the Sauk and Fox Indians. “He took me into the village [present-day Keokuk, Iowa] and introduced me to several of the leading men, of whom a great many were drunk,” Larpenteur recalled. “After the spree the old gentleman was very kind…and finally remarked that he would give me all the land I wanted if I should happen to make a match with his niece, Louise Dauphin.…I declined all overtures, although I confess that I came very near accepting the offer, for Louise was one of the handsomest girls I ever saw.” Thinking himself too young to settle down, the restless Larpenteur opted instead for adventure. “I returned to St. Louis with full determination to see more of the wild Indians.” In the spring of 1833 the fur trade would provide him the opportunity. “General Ashley’s party returned from the mountains with 100 packs of beaver. A pack of beaver is made up of 60 average beavers, supposed to weigh 100 lbs., worth in New York at that time from $7 to $8 per lb. It is impossible to describe my feelings at the sight



Riverbank Ambush

Indians rain arrows on passing fur traders on the Missouri in a W.M. Cary wood engraving from the May 23,1868, issue of Harper’s Weekly.

After returning from trapping, Campbell invited Larpenteur to his tent for the rare treat of fresh coffee and a warm biscuit. The boss said he had sold his interest in the business to his partners and would turn back with the 30 packs of beaver pelts he Intrepid Trader French-born fur trader had collected. He said Larpenteur was Larpenteur (1807–72) welcome to join him or remain with the survived four trying trapping party. “Mr. Campbell,” came decades along the upper Missouri. the reply, “I have engaged to you, you have treated me like a gentleman, and I wish to follow you wherever you go.” The other Campbell loyalists applauded him. Before Campbell could depart, a rabid wolf entered camp and savaged three of the men and the party’s prize bull. Within days the bull came down with hydrophobia and died. Larpenteur’s friend George Holmes had been badly mauled and soon 6 0 WILD WEST


came down with full-blown symptoms. “Holmes had gone mad,” Larpenteur recorded. As the unfortunate man subsided into spastic fits, he was left behind with two men to watch him. But his guards soon grew weary and returned to camp. When others went to check on Holmes’ progress, they found only a trail of clothing leading into the wilderness. “He had run away quite naked,” Larpenteur explained, “and never was found.” On September 3 they reached the mouth of the Yellowstone River opposite the main Sublette-Campbell camp and were obliged to swim the upper Missouri River, which Larpenteur did clutching the tail of a bull. There the men began to build a trading post they dubbed Fort William, after Sublette. They wrapped up construction in mid-November amid a spectacular meteor shower that lit up the skies across North America. It must’ve seemed an omen—but did it portend good or ill fortune? Larpenteur and his fellow Rocky Mountain Fur Co. traders were soon competing for Indian customers with traders from the American Fur Co., which in 1828 had built nearby Fort Union (on what would become the Montana/North Dakota border). Parties from both posts soon went out to greet Assiniboine Chief Gauche (Left), who was arriving with a cache of buffalo hides. The Fort Union interpreter was first to shake hands with the chief. “Well, I hope you will not fork today,” he remarked. “The great chief of the big fort has sent me after you, and he is well prepared to receive you. I hope you will not make me ashamed by going with those one-winter-house traders.” Gauche shot back, “If your great chief had sent any other but you, I would

‘liquor, at that early day, was the principal and most profitable article of trade, although it was strictly prohibited by law’


have gone to him, but I don’t go with the biggest liar in the country.” “We made our triumphant entrance into Fort William,” Larpenteur noted with delight. Despite the rapport with Gauche, most Indians continued to trade with established Fort Union. Larpenteur soon learned the reason. “Liquor, at that early day, was the principal and most profitable article of trade, although it was strictly prohibited by law,” he recalled. “The American Fur Co., having at one time been detected and had their liquor confiscated, erected a distillery at Fort Union and obtained their corn from the Gros Ventres and the Mandans.…The liquor trade started at dark, and soon the yelling and the singing commenced. The Indians were all locked up in the fort, for fear that some would go to Fort Union, which was but 2½ miles distant. Imagine the noise—upward of 500 Indians, with their squaws, all drunk as they could be, locked up in the small space.” On June 10, 1834, a letter arrived at Fort William informing the employees that Astor’s American Fur Co. had bought the trading post. Larpenteur, who had saved about $200 from his wages, had decided to return to Baltimore when, on July 2, Campbell ushered him into the presence of Kenneth McKenzie of the American Fur Co., the “great chief” of Fort Union. “[He] was at that time considered the king of the Missouri,” Larpenteur wrote, “and from the style in which he was dressed, I thought really he was a king.” To his surprise McKenzie (see Pioneers and Settlers, P. 22) offered him a job. “My reply was a short, ‘No, sir.’” Campbell explained that McKenzie wanted Larpenteur as a clerk not a common laborer. “You will eat at my table and fare the same as myself,” the Fort Union boss urged. A reluctant Larpenteur agreed to sign a one-year contract for $250 and a suit of clothes.

Cultural Studies

In 1832 George Catlin painted this Assiniboine woman and child. That’s John Jacob Astor’s profile on the peace medal below.

Soon after his arrival at Fort Union, Larpenteur, who seldom drank, noted dryly that drunken Indians often stole back their trade furs from beneath the noses of his fellow clerks, who were too drunk to notice. A malicious visitor from a passing boat unwittingly put an end to the problem when he reported the onsite distillery, and federal officials shut it down. When the time came to renew his contract, Larpenteur signed on for a second year and got a raise to $350. According to Iowa state records from the period Larpenteur had also taken an Assiniboine woman as a wife. Not everything went swimmingly. In the spring of 1837 an Assiniboine named Tortoise, very much in his cups, confronted Larpenteur in his quarters over a perceived slight. “You are the meanest white man I ever saw,” he growled. “I will kill you tonight!” Tortoise stormed out, soon returning with a sawedoff trade musket, fully co*cked. Larpenteur managed to wrest it away, and Tortoise stumbled off. At that moment an Assiniboine named Hooting Owl—“upward of 6 feet tall, blind in one eye, naked but for his breechclout, painted in a most hideous manner”—charged in with scalping knife in Fair Trade Larpenteur ran this hand, yelling in apparent tumbledown fur rage while slashing at the trading post just ground. Larpenteur exwest of Fort Union.



Assiniboine In-laws

Larpenteur had good relations with the tribe and married two of their women.

pected to die. But Pierre Garreau, a half-blood interpreter, explained Hooting Owl was in fact demonstrating what he would do to any Indian who tried to harm Larpenteur, a fair trader and possible in-law. “If I were to adopt a bird as an emblem,” Larpenteur later mused, “I would take the hooting owl in preference to the eagle.” Family tragedy struck Larpenteur in the summer of 1837 after a boat landed at Fort Union carrying several crewmen recovering from smallpox. “Our only apprehensions were that the disease might spread among the Indians,” the trader recalled. His fears were realized. “Many died, and those who recovered were so much disfigured that one could scarcely recognize them.” Among the dead was Larpenteur’s Assiniboine wife. That year’s strain spread to Indians all along the river, the resulting epidemic decimating many tribes. The peaceful Mandans were virtually exterminated in short order, while Larpenteur’s Assiniboine in-laws lost upward of 1,000 people. In the spring of 1838 the trader and three traveling companions witnessed the effects firsthand. “The Rees [Arikaras] had had the smallpox severely and were therefore badly disposed to the whites,” he wrote. The Canoe Assiniboines had also suffered and were hostile to the interlopers. “As we approached,” Larpenteur noted, “they seated themselves, steadied their guns with the ramrods to take good aim and let fly at us.” Runners then paced the canoe along the banks of the river, firing from several vantage points. “Bullets fell on the water like hail.” Larpenteur survived his close call and resumed the trading routine at Fort Union with many trials and a few triumphs. By 1842 he’d taken up with a second Assiniboine wife. “Like all other traders I had taken a better half,” he recorded that fall, “who had made me the father of my first child.” The couple had five children, in whom the now seasoned trader delighted. While living near a new post with his family in the winter of 1853–54, however, tragedy again struck. The trouble began when a Sioux war party killed four Omahas and stole their ponies. En route to their village, they camped on a riverbank near Larpenteur’s place and went deer hunting. Thinking to repay the trader’s hospitality, they propped a deer 6 2 WILD WEST


carcass in a tree and told his wife where to find it. Larpenteur recalled what happened next: Wrapping up warm in her blanket, and taking her daughter along, she started in quest of the meat.…She had been gone but a little while when a party of six Omahas came in. From their daubed appearance I soon found out that they were in pursuit of the Sioux and became alarmed about my woman; for although they knew her well and were aware that she was an Assiniboine, and therefore belonged among the most deadly enemies of the Sioux, yet they looked upon her as a Sioux, as she spoke their language. I did the best I could to induce them to stay long enough to give my woman time to return, but they appeared in a great hurry and soon started. Just as they were stepping off the entry, I saw her coming, about 300 yards from the house. When she saw them approaching, she exclaimed to her daughter, “My daughter, we are lost!” She knew who they were, their customs, and rightly judged that her time had come. On meeting her, they shook hands; but the next thing was the report of a gun, and she fell dead, shot through the heart. One among them wanted to shoot her daughter but was told “We have killed her mother—that is sufficient.”

Frontier life left little room for grieving, and in April 1855 Larpenteur married again and resumed the hardscrabble fur trade, some years turning a profit, other years barely scraping by. His third wife, Rebecca Bingham, was a white widow, and they soon had a son, Louis Henri. But in 1863 the trader had cause to recall his second Indian wife with gratitude. That summer the American Fur Co. replaced Larpenteur as manager of its Fort Galpin trading post with Owen McKenzie—half-breed son of Kenneth McKenzie and “a great drunkard.” Steamboat Captain John La Barge took the company’s side and spread rumors about the reasons. Larpenteur recalled his treachery: Captain La Barge…the meanest man I ever worked for, except his brother, told some of the men that I had given him a very bad account of their behavior. This set them against me; and now that I was no longer in charge, one gentleman among them—a bully nearly 6 feet 6 inches tall—took it into his head one fine day to give me a pounding. He would have done so had it not been for my son [Charles Jr.], who was about 20 years of age and much of a man. He saw me in a quarrel and, thinking that there would be a fight, went into the house and got his rifle. By that time we were engaged in the fight. I received a severe blow, which stunned me; and when I recovered, I saw my antagonist lying as if dead at my feet. I made sure it was none of my doing and next saw my son in the act of giving him another blow, saying, “Let me kill the son of a b__ _h.” McKenzie, who had come up, said, “Don’t strike him again, Charles; you have killed him.” During all this time the men were standing outside near their houses, not daring to approach, and when we left him, they came and took him in for dead; but he recovered.

In the wake of the 1863 fight at Fort Galpin, Charles Larpenteur and his formidable son booked passage on a steamboat


When the soldiers left in June 1865, Larpenteur continued as a post Trader at Fort Union and then for a new fur company out of nearby fort Buford

bound for St. Louis. The previous December the Sioux Uprising in Minnesota had ended with the mass execution of 38 Sioux prisoners in Mankato. In its wake the Hunkpapa Lakotas had refused their annuities and were determined to keep the other tribes from receiving any annuities, particularly guns or ammunition. The steamboat Shreveport, carrying the Larpenteurs, was ordered back upriver to help the steamboat Robert Campbell deliver annuities to the Blackfeet, Assiniboines, Gros Ventres and surviving Mandans. “The third day [out] we were fired on by a party of Sioux while wooding,” Larpenteur wrote, “but no one was hurt.” The steamboats anchored in mid-river about 100 miles below the mouth of the Yellowstone. The two inexperienced Indian agents aboard thought to parley with the Sioux and asked to be taken ashore in a yawl—to the dismay of the crew. “One young man [named Martin] of this crew, already in the yawl, caught hold of the steamboat, saying, ‘I don’t want to go—we’ll all be killed.’ The mate threatened to break his fingers if he did not loosen his hold, and he was obliged to go with the crew—never to return. As soon as they started, I took my double-barreled gun and ran up on the hurricane deck. When the Indians saw the yawl coming, they jumped down the bank, and the moment the yawl landed, discharged a volley, killing three men and wounding another.…The next day at 10 a.m. we buried the three poor fellows in one grave; the young man, Martin, was one of them.” Within days of the Sioux attack, Larpenteur received word that Malcolm Clark, a no-nonsense trader and veteran of the Texas Revolution, had shot Owen McKenzie during a business dispute at Fort Galpin. “McKenzie,” Larpenteur wrote, “got very drunk and commenced to quarrel with Clark, who, knowing him to be a dangerous man, took out his pistol and shot three balls through McKenzie, killing him instantly.” The company put Louis Dauphin, whom Larpenteur “knew to be a regular thief, and who did not know the a b c of the business,” in charge of the trading post, with poor results. “Finding themselves in a bad fix, they had the brass to ask me how I would like to go there again,” Larpenteur recalled, adding sarcastically, “but I bade them to be so kind as to excuse me, as they could find plenty of better men than myself.” That was hardly the end to the violence. Within a few months Fort Galpin witnessed the murders of four more men, among them Dauphin. In late May 1864 Larpenteur took charge of Fort Union, once the pride of the American Fur Co. His friend and fellow trader Charles Chouteau arrived at the post in mid-June accompanied by an Indian agent and Company I of the 30th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Though Fort Union was far removed from the Eastern theater of the Civil War, the soldiers were to garrison the post through war’s end. The Sioux made their duty hazardous enough. The following spring a sergeant and two privates sallied from the post after a grizzly bear only to walk into a

Lakota ambush. One private was shot and wounded, while the other shot and killed an Indian and then fled. The sergeant was suffering scurvy and could not run. “The Indians rushed upon him,” Larpenteur recorded, “shot nine arrows into him, pounded him with their war clubs and then scalped him, not leaving a hair on his head.” A relief party rescued the wounded soldier and left the body of the dead Indian dangling from a tree as a warning. Larpenteur reassured the nervous garrison through several other bloodless Indian scares. “If I had been obliged to leave the country whenever Indians threatened to kill me,” he told them, “I should have been gone long ago.” When the soldiers left in June 1865, Larpenteur continued as a post trader at Fort Union and then for a new fur company out of nearby Fort Buford—a U.S. Army post built the following year—at a decent profit. “I traded 2,000 buffalo robes, 900 elk hides, 1,800 deerskins and 1,000 wolves worth in cash $5,000,” he reported in 1868. But it remained a cutthroat business, and the company discharged Larpenteur, he wrote, due to malicious reports. After settling some accounts for cash in hand, he returned to Fort Buford as a licensed sutler. The soldiers liked him, and he remained in contact with some of his Indian clients. Personal tragedy continued to dog him, however; during this period he lost two more of his children, including the redoubtable Charles Jr. The 1870–71 seasons brought even more hardship. In February 1870 he broke his thigh, though he managed to bull through his pain on crutches. Then came the final blow. “Being born for misfortune,” he recalled, “I was ruined by the Army bill, which passed Congress… [in July 1870], allowing but one post sutler; this we did not learn till the following January (1871).” His last surviving daughter died in February, and soon thereafter the Army sent its official sutler to Fort Buford, putting Larpenteur and others out of business. “On the 14th of May, 1871, I left Buford, bag and baggage, for the States, and that was the last of the Indian country for me.” At year’s end Larpenteur’s 14-year-old son, Louis Henri, the last of his children, fell ill and died. “Forty years ago was my first winter in the Indian country, at Fort William, when the stars appeared to fall,” the trader wrote. “That my lucky star fell is plainly to be seen in this narrative.” Broken and bereft, Charles Eugene Larpenteur died on Nov. 15, 1872, at his Iowa farm, named Fontainebleau after his birthplace in France.

Wild West special contributor John Koster writes from New Jersey, where he was a longtime newspaperman. He is the author of Custer Survivor: The End of a Myth, the Beginning of a Legend. Recommended for further reading: Forty Years a Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri: The Personal Narrative of Charles Larpenteur, 1833–72, as well as The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, edited by LeRoy R. Hafen.



Heavy snows fell on Wellington, Wash., in February 1910, and on March 1 the snowpack above town gave way, snapping off trees and burying two Great Northern Railway trains.




‘This Winter Is a Hell of a Time’

BLOODY TRACKS IN THE SNOW Two deadly avalanches slammed into trains in Washington state and neighboring British Columbia in March 1910 By Chuck Lyons FEBRUARY 2017


Second Snowslide

Days after the Wellington disaster a slide in Rogers Pass, British Columbia, swamped a train carrying a snow-clearing crew.

i ve r Frase rR




Rogers Pass





The back-to-back March 1910 slides buried three trains and took 158 lives.

M T N S.



March 4, 1910




Double Disaster A L B E R TA


Canadian Pacific Railway


Columbia Ri


Stevens Pass


March 1, 1910

Spokane Great Northern Railway





Columbia River















250 miles

t seemed as if the world were coming to an end,” recalled a railroad worker caught in the first of two major avalanches that struck within three days of each other in March 1910. “I saw the whole side of the mountain coming down, tearing up everything in its way.” Both snowslides—one in Washington state and the other in neighboring British Columbia—crashed down on trains stopped in the mountains, hurling locomotives and railroad cars through the air and burying them and their occupants in drifts strewn with boulders and broken trees. One remains the deadliest avalanche in U.S. history, the other the deadliest in Canada. Together they claimed 158 lives. Snowpack in the mountains has long bedeviled American and Canadian railroads serving northwestern North America. Moist air off the Pacific Ocean climbs up and over the coastal ranges, leaving behind great swaths of precipitation. In winter such precipitation falls as snow. From northern California through Oregon and Washington on across the Canadian border, trains crossing the ranges have faced accumulated snowfall measured in the tens of feet, drifts capable of blocking tracks and too often cascading down mountainsides in devastating avalanches. The late winter of 1909–10 was especially hazardous. Snowslides had already been recorded in the U.S. Northwest and British Columbia that January and February, and longtime residents of the region had watched in concern as snow continued to pile up on the mountains. On February 23 the first of three storms hit the West Coast, initiating a familiar pattern of alternating cold and mild weather. Many areas recorded record cold temperatures. During the cold snaps heavy snow fell, some towns receiving as much as a foot an hour. Wellington, Wash., received 11 feet of snow in one day. “I had never seen a storm like this one,” remembered one railroad worker. “On the level snow was 8 to 10 feet, and in places it drifted 15 to 20 feet high. This winter is a hell of a time.” As the storms progressed, temperatures rose, and at times the snow changed to rain, leaving the top layer of new-fallen snow

500 miles

wetter and heavier than layers beneath. In Wellington the snow finally stopped falling on February 28, to be replaced by a mild breeze—textbook conditions for a catastrophic avalanche. In recent months a forest fire, perhaps started by sparks from steam-powered locomotives, had ravaged the slope of Windy Mountain above Wellington, destroying most of its ground cover, including trees that might have absorbed the force of any snowslides. Wellington lay just west of Cascade Tunnel, a 2.6-mile passage beneath 4,056-foot-high Stevens Pass. On the night of February 28–March 1 two Great Northern Railway trains bound from Spokane to Seattle—a mail train and a passenger train with people asleep in their berths—found themselves snowed in at Wellington station. At 1:42 a.m. the snowpack in the Cascades high above town gave way and raced downslope in a quarter-mile-wide slide— later estimated at a half-mile deep and 10 feet high—that shoved both locomotives and 15 railcars over a mountain ledge into the Tye Valley, burying them beneath some 40 feet of snow. “There was an electric storm raging at the time of the avalanche,” reported one survivor. “Lighting flashes were vivid, and a tearing wind was howling down the canyon. Suddenly there was a dull roar, and the sleeping men and women felt the passenger coaches lifted and borne along. When the coaches reached the steep declivity, they were rolled nearly 1,000 feet and buried.” Either a lightning strike or clap of thunder is thought to have triggered the snowslide. “I woke up and saw a flash of lightning zigzag across the sky,” recalled Great Northern telegraph operator William Flannery, who had been asleep in a trackside company shack. “Then there was a loud clap of thunder. The next thing I knew, I heard somebody yelling. We got up and climbed down on the bank to where the trains had been knocked by the slide.…I saw a man lying on the snow, and I went and got him and put him on my back.… While I started up the hill, another slide hit and knocked me down underneath it, and I lost this man. I was sort of dazed and



Never Safe

A crew mans a Canadian Pacific Railway plow in 1889. From 1885 to 1911, avalanches along the line claimed more than 200 lives

was underneath the snow some 10 or 15 feet. I started to dig and climb out along the side of a tree and finally got out, and I was in such a dazed condition that I walked down and walked into the river up to my shoulders, when I came to and realized what I had done.” The avalanche claimed 96 victims—35 railroad passengers, 58 railroad employees on the trains and three employees sleeping in the trackside shacks. According to after-accident reports the snow around the wreckage was pink with blood. Railroad employees rushed to the disaster site from a nearby hotel and other sleeping quarters, but it was six hours before they could pinpoint and dig down to the wreckage. As the avalanche had taken out the telegraph lines, Wellington was unable to summon outside help, leaving rescue efforts to area residents. Despite the risk of further slides, many pitched in to dig out survivors. Not until the night of March 2 did outside volunteers reach the devastated town. The rescuers managed to pull 23 survivors from the snow and debris. A few had been thrown clear when their coaches broke apart. Among them was a train conductor who had been asleep in the mail car when the avalanche hit. He reported having been bounced repeatedly from the car’s roof to its walls to its floor as the car tumbled downslope before finally disintegrating. Other volunteers transported the bodies of the dead on toboggans to waiting trains bound for Everett and Seattle. Due to the heavy snows and remote location, however, crews weren’t able to retrieve the last of the bodies from the wreckage until July. 6 8 WILD WEST


Three days later, just before midnight on March 4, a Canadian Pacific Railway crew working to clear an earlier avalanche from the tracks at 4,360-foot Rogers Pass through British Columbia’s rugged Selkirk Mountains heard a deep rumble and then splitting timbers as the snowpack above them let go. Soon after the completion of Canadian Pacific’s transcontinental line in November 1885 heavy snowfall and avalanches had closed the stretch through Rogers Pass. In response company crews had built wooden snowsheds over more than 30 vulnerable sections of the line, shielding the tracks from snowdrifts and slides. However, the 4 miles of track sheltered by the sheds represented less than half of the line through Rogers Pass. In 1886 the Canadian Pacific built Glacier House, the latest in a series of company hotels, by the tracks west of the pass. Due to its location and views of neighboring Ilecillewaet Glacier, the hotel became one of the most visited tourist destinations in western Canada. But weather is no respecter of popular whim, and in 1899 an avalanche destroyed the Rogers Pass depot, killing eight people. Through January and February 1910 snowslides had been as common at Rogers Pass as they had been below the border at Wellington. On March 4 the Canadian Pacific dispatched yet another snow-clearing crew to the troublesome pass, this time to remove drifts from a slide off Cheops Mountain. The group comprised a locomotive-driven rotary snowplow, its crew and two section crews—63 men in all. The men were rushing to reopen the line before Canadian Pacific train No. 97, westbound for Vancouver, reached the site. The passenger train had en-


lucky survivor was locomotive fireman Billy Lachance, who, moments before the avalanche struck, had climbed down to stretch his legs just beyond its path. The blast of air it generated tossed him upslope into brush but left him miraculously uninjured. He reportedly never worked for the railroad again. Responders instead bent to the task of clearing the tracks and recovering bodies, many frozen in the position in which death had found them, some standing eerily upright. “There would be no further slides in this area,” noted one rescuer, “for the mountain granite stood out crystal clear.”

tered the Rocky Mountains just as reports filtered in regarding the Cheops snowslide. As the crew arrived at the south end of Shed 17, sleet was falling, adding to the weight of the snowpack above them. They worked on regardless through the rain and sleet. But around midnight, as they were finishing up, the snowpack on aptly named Avalanche Crest, the ridge opposite Cheops, gave way. A wall of snow charged downslope, slamming directly into the work train and burying about 1,300 feet of track and everything in its way. British Columbia’s Province newspaper published a conceptual account of the avalanche: “In a few seconds, with a noise like a thousand thunderbolts crashing in unison, it leaped from shelf to shelf, uprooting and carrying with it a tangled mass of trees, ice and huge boulders.” The powerful slide tossed the 91-ton locomotive and plow some 50 feet onto the roof of a snowshed. It splintered the wooden crew cars, in an instant entombing the workmen in deep snow. When word of the disaster reached nearby Revelstoke, a rescue party of some 200 railway workers, citizen volunteers and medical personnel boarded a special train bound for Rogers Pass. “Here we met a devastating sight,” wrote one 16-year-old volunteer, “for the snow, mixed with pieces of timber shredded like matchwood, was packed almost as hard as solid ice.…The whole side of the mountain had been swept clear of timber.” The doctors and nurses found no injuries to treat, as the slide had killed all but one of the 63-man snow-clearing crew. The

Responders bent to the task of clearing The tRacks and recovering bodies, many frozen in the position in which death had found them, some standing eerily upright

Despite the best efforts of the Canadian Pacific, Rogers Pass was never safe. From 1885 to 1911 avalanches along the rail line claimed more than 200 victims. Conceding defeat, the railway in 1913 sent crews to begin tunneling through Mount Macdonald below the pass. Three years later the first train passed through 5-mile Connaught Tunnel, which remains in use today. Glacier House managed to keeps its doors open more than a decade after the railroad abandoned Rogers Pass; horse-drawn coaches met guests down near the tunnel entrance and shuttled them up to the hotel. But absent the railway and the commerce it generated, tourist traffic ultimately shifted to ritzy Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise. Glacier House closed after the 1925 season. Meanwhile, south of the border at Stevens Pass in the Cascades, the Great Northern made decisions almost identical to those of the Canadian Pacific. In October 1910 its crews began construction on concrete snowsheds along the 9-mile stretch of tracks around Wellington, which town fathers had renamed Tye in a bid to avoid notoriety. They needn’t have bothered, as within a decade the Great Northern abandoned the line, instead routing trains through the newly completed, 7.8-mile second Cascade Tunnel, which also remains in use. Residents soon abandoned the town, and fire eventually claimed its vacant buildings. The 1910 snowsheds alone stand in mute testimony to a dangerous era in Western train travel. Wild West contributor Chuck Lyons is based in Rochester, N.Y. He wrote “The Great Western Flood” in the April 2016 issue. Recommended for further reading: Vis Major: Railroad Men, an Act of God—White Death at Wellington, by Martin Burwash; The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America’s Deadliest Avalanche, by Gary Krist; and Railroad Wrecks, by Edgar A. Haine.



Leading Landmark

Oregon Trail emigrants in what would become western Nebraska kept their eye on Chimney Rock for many miles.





The Cornhusker State commemorates its sesquicentennial in 2017




pecial events are slated at the Capitol in Lincoln and throughout Nebraska in 2017 to mark its 150 years of statehood. Nebraska became the 37th state on March 1, 1867, and the Nebraska 150 Foundation [ne150.org] and Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission have been busy planning the yearlong commemoration to honor its heritage, promote future development and enhance its national profile. The name “Nebraska” derives from Otoe and Omaha words meaning “Flat Water,” a reference to the broad, shallow and, yes, mostly flat Platte River, which traverses the state. In the 18th century French, Spanish and British traders engaged with the various tribes in the region, and in 1819 the United States established Fort Atkinson as its first Army post west of the Missouri River. In the 1830s westbound wagon trains on the Oregon Trail skirted the Platte across the state. Granting emigrants early respite and a place to resupply was Fort Kearny, built in 1848 and named for Mexican War standout General Stephen Watts Kearny. But the Nebraska landmark that merits mention in period journals above all other sights is iconic Chimney Rock, which rises nearly 300 feet above the North Platte River valley. No surprise that it graces the state quarter. Under the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 Congress created Kansas and Nebraska territories, with the territorial capital set at budding Omaha. The Homestead Act of 1862 triggered miThinkin’ Lincoln

Cattle Country

A mixed herd of cattle graze in the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska.


This 1941 postcard features the state Capitol in the state capital.



Capitol Idea

The limestone edifice known as the “Tower of the Plains” was a decade in the making (1922–32).

Nebraska Tale


An ox-drawn wagon passes Chimney Rock on the tails side of the state quarter.

Tracking Progress

Omaha remains the headquarters of the Union Pacific.


The logo for Nebraska’s sesquicentennial celebration naturally features its leading crop. Designed by homegrown ad agency Bailey Lauerman, the logo centers on a rising ear of corn (backbone of the Cornhusker State) that also calls to mind a skyscraper (a nod to the thriving business community) and is the color of goldenrod (the state flower). As on the state flag, the background is bright blue. FEBRUARY 2017


gration to the territory, where settlers built sod houses on the largely treeless plains. The population growth led to statehood in 1867 and relocation of the capital to Lancaster, renamed Lincoln that fall. Work crews completed the first Capitol building that December, but a new Capitol replaced it in 1888, and construction on a third (the current one) began in 1922. Though supplanted as capital, Omaha was the starting point for the westbound transcontinental railroad, remains the headquarters of the Union Pacific Railroad and is Nebraska’s largest city. It was the railroads that brought settlers, stockyards, meat packing plants, grain elevators—in a word, prosperity. From the mid-1870s through mid-1880s Texas cowhands drove herds to the Union Pacific railhead at Ogallala for shipment to Eastern markets. “Too Tough for Texans” boasted one of the town mottos. The Sandhills, some 20,000 square miles of grass-stabilized dunes, proved ideal for raising cattle and is now home to more than a half-million head of beef. Though sometimes referred to as the Beef State, Nebraska adopted the nickname the Tree Planters’ State in 1895 before becoming the Cornhusker State in 1945, in honor of the University of Nebraska football team. Corn remains king, followed by soybeans, hay, sorghum, wheat and Spam (canned in Fremont since 1947). Aw, shucks, come see for yourselves.

Cow Town

Ogallala flaunts its reputation as Nebraska’s “Cowboy Capital.”

Green Thumb

Perched atop the capitol dome is the muscular striding statue of The Sower.

Great Seal

A train and a Missouri River steamboat back Smitty at his anvil.

Cody Cottage

Scout’s Rest, Buffalo Bill’s onetime home in North Platte, is the centerpiece of a state historical park.


The Old Cathedral

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lincoln holds four masses every Sunday.


Wild West has had only two editors in chief since its June 1988 debut. Founding editor William McKinley (“Wild Bill,” though more often “Mild Bill”) Vogt, who edited the magazine in Leesburg, Va., through the June 1995 issue, was born in Omaha, Neb., in 1935 and died in Virginia on Feb. 25, 1995. Though an East Coast transplant, Vogt remained committed to the celebration and preservation of the American West, and the Westerner at heart took great pride at having been born and raised in the Cornhusker State. He is buried in the village of Saronville, Neb. FEBRUARY 2017


COLLECTIONS In 2013 the Armstrong County Museum opened the Goodnight mansion as a paean to the “Father of the Texas Panhandle,” posing below circa 1880.



harles Goodnight remains the quintessential Texas rancher. In 1877 he and an investment partner established the JA Ranch, the first and now oldest privately owned cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle. In 1887, after dissolving the successful partnership, Charles and wife Mary Ann Goodnight had an impressive Victorian ranch house built in Armstrong County. Today it is the centerpiece of the Charles Goodnight Historical Center [facebook.com/goodnighthc], which holds a wealth of historical gems related to the trailblazing “Father of the Texas Panhandle.” Born in Illinois on March 5, 1836, Goodnight was 9 when he moved with his family to Texas, about the time the republic joined the Union as the 28th state. While still in his teens



he partnered with stepbrother John Wesley Sheek running cattle in the Brazos Valley, and in 1857 they took a herd up the Brazos to the Keechi Valley in Palo Pinto County. By 1860 Goodnight was fighting Comanches and serving as a scout and guide for the Texas Rangers, and he continued to serve during the Civil War, protecting settlers from marauding Indians and border bandits. After the war Goodnight returned to Palo Pinto to seek new range for his herd. The Texas cattle market was in free fall, so in 1866 he and acquaintance Oliver Loving blazed a cattle trail (later known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail) west to the Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos River (see P. 46) and then north along the Pecos to Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory. Loving was mortally wounded in an 1867 Indian fight, but Goodnight continued




In 1887 Charles Goodnight and wife Mary Ann had the 2,900-square-foot Victorian built in Armstrong County. It came to be known as the “Castle on the Prairie.”

the drives to New Mexico and farther north, delivering herds to the markets in Denver and Cheyenne. Charles married Mary Ann “Molly” Dyer in 1870, and they settled into his Rock Canyon Ranch west of Pueblo, Colorado Territory. In 1876, while scoping out rangeland in the Texas Panhandle, the cattleman found Palo Duro Canyon and set up a makeshift winter headquarters there. In June 1877 he and English investor John Adair, whom Charles had met in Denver, formally established the JA Ranch, with Goodnight as its resident manager. The next year Goodnight blazed a cattle trail to Dodge City, Kan., after forging his own peace treaty with Comanche leader Quanah Parker. In 1879 he moved the JA headquarters to its present location in Amarillo, from which descendants of the Adair family still run the ranch [jaranch.org]. In 1887, having dissolved the partnership, the Goodnights bought ranchland in northeast Armstrong County and had workmen build a 2,900-square-foot two-story Victorian house that came to be known as the “Castle on the Prairie.” Mary died in 1926, and after Charles’ 1929 death the ranch and home changed hands several times. In 2005 the latest owner donated the property to the Armstrong County Museum [armstrongcounty museum.com] in Claude. While the Texas Historical Foundation largely funded its restoration, two hardworking, dedicated women with ties to the Goodnights spearheaded efforts to transform the Victorian manse into a museum. Montie Goodin, past chairwoman of the Armstrong County Museum, was born in the house. In 1904 the Goodnights hired Goodin’s grandmother Ella Hubbard as a housekeeper, and Hubbard’s son Cleo (Goodin’s father) became foreman of the ranch and stayed on after Charles’ death. The Hubbard family was living in the ranch house when Montie was born. Anne Christian, whose grandfather-in-law cowboyed on

the ranch, joined Goodin in raising nearly $4 million toward restoration of the house and grounds. The Charles Goodnight Historical Center opened on April 13, 2013. Cutting the ceremonial ribbon was J. Evetts Haley Jr.—whose father befriended Goodnight in the 1920s and in 1936 published the biography Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman. The onsite J. Evetts Haley Visitor and Education Center presents exhibits on Goodnight’s early years with the Texas Rangers through subsequent cattle drives. Among the displays is a model chuck wagon, an innovation Goodnight conceived in 1866 to keep his hands fed on the trail. Goodnight’s prototype was a modified ex-Army Studebaker wagon with sturdy iron axles drawn by a team of six oxen. He equipped it with pull-down sides for food preparation and multiple drawers and shelves for storage, including a compartment devoted to medical supplies. Goodnight’s invention revolutionized trail herding. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house itself showcases many of the Goodnights’ original furnishings. The entrance hall centers on a majestic grandfather clock, while the parlor holds Mary Ann’s piano and the couple’s china. As a toddler Cleo Hubbard used the displayed child’s chair with raised seat, a gift from Goodnight. Handmade glass cabinets adorn several walls, which are lined with the original wallpaper. Visitors are invited to stroll the wraparound porch for views of the surrounding prairie, home to bison donated by the JA. In 1876, at Mary Ann’s urging, Charles set aside land to preserve a herd of native Plains bison, and a bronze outdoor sculpture of Mary Ann commemorates her efforts. The couple is interred in a nearby private cemetery on the south side of Highway 287, where visitors have adorned the fencing with bandannas in tribute to the pioneering cattleman. The Charles Goodnight Historical Center is at 4989 County Road 25 in Goodnight, 40 miles east of Amarillo. Call 806-226-2187 for more info.

Among the exhibits is a model chuck wagon —an 1866 innovation Goodnight designed to keep his cowhands fed while on trail drives.




Dixie carries a range of replica firearms by Italian manufacturers, including this Confederate version of the .44-caliber LeMat revolver from Pietta.



ixie Gun Works is a jewel of a company for those who collect firearms, whether long arms or handguns, originals or replicas. And it all began with a traveling wholesale jewelry salesman named Turner E. Kirkland of Union City, Tennessee. In the late 1940s Kirkland began buying and trading old guns, a business he conducted from the trunk of his car and only after working hours. In 1954, realizing he “just might be able to make a living at what had been a hobby,” he resigned as a salesman and started Dixie Gun Works out of a small garage. “By the fall of 1955 the business had prospered so much,” Kirkland recalled, “I had to purchase a 4,000-square-foot former automobile dealership building.” Five years later the company moved to a larger build7 8 WILD WEST


ing in Union City, and in 1968 it moved to its current address, 1412 W. Reelfoot Ave. A massive addition in 1974 brought the facility to 48,000 square feet, including warehouse, store and shipping space. Kirkland died at age 77 in 1997, but his sons have kept things humming, and his eldest, J. Lee Fry, remains president of the company. Dixie’s several-hundred-page annual catalog offers everything from 19th-century reproduction muzzleloaders to cartridge firearms and period garb, as well as page after page of parts for original and reproduction firearms. While the company still advertises antique guns in a separate annual catalog, its mainstay is the replica firearms business. Between 1978 and 2007 Dixie also published a yearly magazine, Blackpowder Annual (this author


GUNS OF THE WEST was a frequent contributor). Among the most popular catalog items are replica Kentucky (or Pennsylvania) and Hawken muzzleloading rifles, Henry repeating rifles, single-action Colt revolvers and Smith &Wesson Schofields. Since the early 1970s Dixie Gun Works has carried the popular line of replica Old West firearms made by A. Uberti [uberti.com], of Gardone Val Trompia, Italy. Back in 1957, recognizing the ever shrinking number of surviving 19th-century firearms, gunsmith Aldo Uberti began turning out replicas to the precise specifications of the originals. He first produced copies of the Colt Model 1851 Navy and Model 1860 Army cap-and-ball revolvers. Their popularity prompted Uberti to reproduce Remington’s Model 1858 and Model 1861 revolvers, followed by such cartridge firearms as the .45-caliber Colt Model 1873 “Peacemaker,” the Henry rifle, the Winchester Model 1866 “Yellow Boy” and the famed Winchester Model 1873. Dixie carries Uberti’s latest re-creation—the 1883 ColtBurgess repeating rifle and carbine in .44-40 caliber, the only lever-action guns introduced by Colt in the 19th century. Dixie also carries reproduction Old West rifles and pistols from other Italian manufacturers, including Pedersoli [davide-pedersoli.com], Chiappa [chiappafirearms.com], Pietta [pietta.it/en] and Euroarms [euroarms.net], each known for high-quality workmanship and reasonable prices. Spare parts and extras for these makers are provided by Dixie. Although Dixie itself does not manufacture replica arms, the makers do stamp its name on those gun barrels and frames sold exclusively by the company. The replica firearms cottage industry failed to thrive in the United States due to the prohibitive cost of setting up and producing the guns, particularly since the original manufacturers destroyed or dismantled much of the tooling. In the South, however, a few gun makers still produce for Dixie such muzzleloading rifles as trade muskets or Plains rifles, usually in small quantities and customizable on a per-gun basis. For six decades Dixie has remained a leading manufacturer in the black powder field and was the first to turn out replica flintlock and percussion rifles (made under the Dixie label by custom gun makers), as well as a replica large-scale cannon. It was also the first company to assemble a range of black powder products in one catalog. For members of the Single Action Shooting Society [sassnet. com] and other cowboy action shooting groups Dixie has long been a one-stop shop for the required firearms and period gear. Other companies also keep the interest in Old West firearms alive.

Cimmarron Firearms [cimarron-firearms.com], of Houston, carries replica guns and gear; Taylor’s & Co. [taylorsfirearms.com], of Winchester, Va., carries a full line of replica arms and accessories; and Buffalo Arms [buffaloarms.com], of Ponderay, Idaho, offers replica firearms and many types of brass cartridge cases, as well as bullet molds for almost every obsolete black powder cartridge. The world of guns keeps changing, but Dixie and these other companies have not forgotten today’s black powder shooters.

Above: Dixie specializes in black powder weapons such as this Pietta Model 1816 replica musket. Left: A closeup of a replica Pattern 1853 Enfield, a rifle used by both the North and South during the American Civil War.

Replica Colt revolvers remain popular items in the Dixie catalog. At top is a Uberti Model 1873 Colt Single Action Army, the classic “Peacemaker,” while above is a Colt Model 1860 Army.




This was the home of Oliver T. Jackson, who founded Dearfield in 1910 when he filed a claim on 320 acres.



rigid winds howled around settler Walter Spates as he huddled in the dark beneath his wagon, a ragged coat his only protection against plummeting temperatures. Would the blizzard of 1911–12 dash his homesteading dreams? At daybreak a half-frozen Spates gnawed on frozen sandwiches as he counted his blessings. His survival story was one of many in Colorado that brutal winter. With incentives from the federal government, the “back to the land” movement of the early 1900s had inspired Boulder businessman Oliver Toussaint Jackson to put his own savings toward establishing an agricultural colony some 30 miles east of Greeley. A descendant of slaves, Jackson was born in Ohio in 1862 and headed to Colorado in 1887, first settling near Boulder. He worked stints as a caterer, steward and messenger for several governors before turning to the land. His goal was to create a self-sufficient settlement for 200 black families in a place where they could “get on in perfect peace and harmony” with neighboring white settlers. In May 1910 he filed a desert claim on 320 acres of Weld County land near the South Platte River and advertised for colonists. The 8 0 WILD WEST


first to arrive named the settlement “Dearfield,” as the land would be just that to its impoverished residents. The surviving tumbledown buildings and weed-clogged streets offer little clue to the role this small community played in the American story. “It’s hard to look around today and see that fertile farmland when you’re kicking cactus and sagebrush,” Dearfield historian George Junne, a University of Northern Colorado professor, told USA Today in 2015. “Dearfield at the time was the most famous black agricultural community in the United States.” Jackson knew the Platte bottomland could grow bountiful crops, and in August 1910 fellow settlers planted 100 acres of winter wheat. Others soon arrived, many on foot, most barely scraping by. But with Jackson’s encouragement and financial assistance they bought parcels of their own. Jackson’s motto: “No big talk, but big work.” By the fall of 1911 seven families shared two teams of horses and two frame houses. Those early residents were “tenderfoot homesteaders,” noted an April 1919 article in The Southern Workman, with no knowledge of dryland farming or livestock. Regardless, they were deter-



GHOST TOWNS mined to scrabble out a living on land they owned outright. The first few years proved brutally difficult for Spates and the others. The severe winter of 1911–12 killed three of their six horses and left the surviving animals too weak to pull the empty wagon. “That as many [colonists] remained as did remain was due to the fact that they were too poor to get away,” the Workman added. At the outset most men commuted weekly to jobs in Denver, 70 miles to the southwest, while the women and children kept up on farm and garden chores. “For people coming from Denver it was a dream,” Junne said. “You could own your own land and make a good living.” Despite its hardships, the Dearfield dream drew other hopeful black settlers, initially from Colorado and then all points of the compass. Buoyed by unusually plentiful and consistent rains, settlers successfully raised such crops as corn, oats, barley, alfalfa, hay, potatoes, beans, sugar beets, cantaloupes and strawberries. By 1915 the revitalized settlement boasted 27 families in 44 wooden cabins with 20 teams of horses, 595 acres under cultivation and 300 acres of hay. Residents had built a concrete block factory, a dance pavilion, a lodge, a restaurant, two churches and a combination grocery store and boardinghouse. Livestock included cattle, hogs, ducks, turkeys, geese and more than 1,000 chickens. Some farmers had contracts with fruit and produce companies in Denver. Dearfield prospered during World War I as military demand drove up the price of grain and produce. Jackson laid plans to erect a cannery and soap factory, a 50-room hotel, a bank and even a college by selling off outlying land to neighboring white farmers. Eventually, more than 40 additional structures popped up, including a railroad depot. On summer weekends friends and family drove or rode the train up from Denver to attend dances and barbecues in Dearfield. By 1921 nearly 300 people lived in town, whose appraised net worth topped $1 million. In 1931 residents celebrated the

completion of U.S. Highway 34, which connected Greeley to Sterling with Dearfield the approximate halfway point. One hundred sixty cars transported revelers from the east and west in an event The Fort Morgan Times deemed “as impressive as the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point.” But Dearfield’s two prosperous decades ended with the crushing double wallop of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Both crops and demand withered, forcing families to default on loans and ultimately move away to find jobs. By 1940 only a dozen holdouts remained. Desperate to save the town, Jackson put it up for sale, but there was no interest. Wife Minerva’s death in 1942 left Oliver Jackson as its sole resident. He died six years later. The Dearfield site, including the service station, a diner and the Jackson home, sits on the south side of Highway 34, 30 miles east of Greeley. Denver’s Black American West Museum [blackamerican museum.org] owns much of the land and has shored up existing structures and emplaced a commemorative monument. The town site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but amid the shadows lies only a field of shattered dreams.




new mexico

Top: Dearfield’s service station kept busy. Above: What is left of the station. Below left: This was the once popular lunchroom.







A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF DAVID CROCKETT, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF (1834): Crockett’s autobiography is the starting point for all research on the Tennessean. Ghost written/edited by fellow congressman Thomas Chilton of Kentucky and reprinted many times, it covers Crockett’s life from birth to his 1833 re-election. The 1973 facsimile edition from the University of Tennessee Press features insightful annotations by Crockett scholars James A. Shackford and Stanley J. Folmsbee, while the 1987 Bison Books edition includes an introduction by historian Paul Andrew Hutton.



David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend (2009, by James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener): This well-executed volume contains the congressman’s correspondence, selected speeches and political circulars, along with the authors’ annotations and informed chapters on Crockett’s time in office. It dispels the myth he functioned as a naive tool of the Whig party, revealing him instead to be an independent-minded maverick. A must for Crockettphiles. Crockett: The Gentleman From the Cane (1986, by Gary Foreman): This slim but lavishly illustrated volume includes two paintings by historical artist Eric Von Schmidt and a trove of photos and drawings illustrating Crockett’s life. A second edition is forthcoming. Author-filmmaker Foreman has produced a number of fine documentaries on America’s early frontier for the History channel (see Boone and Crockett

review, following). He’s also committed to the rehabilitation of San Antonio’s Alamo Plaza Historic District. The Alamo Heroes and Their Revolutionary Ancestors (1976, by Alamo Daughters of the American Revolution): This genealogy, a staple of the Alamo gift shop, lists each defender in alphabetical order with information on his origins and ancestry. A useful tool for tracking the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers and others of the garrison. Wave High the Banner (1943, by Dee Brown): This novel about Davy Crockett, arguably the best of its genre, was the first published book by the author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970). The University of New Mexico Press issued a reprint in 1999 with an introduction by Paul Andrew Hutton. David Crockett: Hero of the Common Man (2005, by William Groneman III): Groneman, a longtime student of Crockett and the Alamo, has written the best short

biography of the “Gentleman from the Cane.” He explores the circ*mstances of Crockett’s death at the Alamo in more detail than any other author.

VIDEOS Boone and Crockett: The Hunter Heroes (2001): One of director Gary Foreman’s excellent documentaries. Featuring Mark Baker as Crockett and historian Paul Hutton as one of the talking heads, it provides a twofer with its biopic of Daniel Boone. Biography: David Crockett (2000): This version of Crockett’s life, produced by A&E for its Biography series, features talking heads Gary Foreman, Jim Claborn, Paul Hutton and Michael Lofaro, with excerpts from Crockett’s Narrative, read by Michael Martin Murphey. Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1954–55): This Walt Disney adventure series propelled Fess Parker to stardom as Crockett. The last of the three installments, Davy Crockett at the Alamo, included


“Dave.” This is the first Alamo film to correctly depict the assault unfolding in the predawn darkness.

Exploits and Adventures characters Thimblerig the gambler and Busted Luck the Indian hunter in place of any real-life Tennessee Mounted Volunteers. The iconic closing scene, fading out as a doomed Davy swings his rifle at onrushing Mexican soldiers, helped fix the heroic image of Crockett in the minds of Americans. The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory (1987): James Arness, who stars as Jim Bowie here, had missed out on portraying Crockett for Disney and on playing Sam Houston in the 1960 Alamo epic (Richard Boone got the nod). Filmed at Alamo Village in Brackettville, Texas (shooting location for the Wayne film), this made-for-TV movie directed by Burt Kennedy co-stars a young Alec Baldwin as Travis and Brian Keith as Crockett. As portrayed by Tom Schanley, Daniel W. Cloud of the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers comes across as more of a California surfer than a young Kentucky lawyer. Wayne’s son Ethan also plays one of the defenders, while Raul Julia portrays a menacing Antonio López de Santa Anna.


THE ALAMO (1960): John Wayne’s epic was intended as a tribute to the American spirit. He produced and directed the film and also played Crockett, alongside Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie and Laurence Harvey as William B. Travis. Unfortunately, in the hands of screenwriter James Edward Grant the Tennesseans come across as a band of eye-gouging, hard-drinking brawlers, featuring Chill Wills (unaccountably renamed Beekeeper, instead of the Bee Hunter character from Col. Crockett’s Exploits and Adventures in Texas) and Denver Pyle (Thimblerig the gambler). On the eve of battle Wayne’s Crockett resorts to deception to persuade the men into fighting for Texas. In fact, the Tennessee Mounted Volunteers had all enlisted earlier in Nacogdoches.

The Alamo (2004): Dennis Quaid portrays Houston, while Billy Bob Thornton gives an engaging though questionable portrayal of a cowardly Crockett, who ultimately tries to live up to his heroic legend. Defenders Micajah Autry

(Kevin Page) seems to double as Crockett’s press agent and nanny. “He prefers David,” Autry snaps at one defender who hails “Davy.” In fact, Crockett answered to either name and sometimes even referred to himself as

Powder River: Disastrous Opening of the Great Sioux War, by Paul L. Hedren, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2016, $34.95 The Great Sioux War of 1876 is arguably the best-known conflict to have pitted the U.S. Army against American Indians primarily because of the stunning June 25–26 upset at the Little Bighorn River. Among the campaign’s lesserknown clashes are two earlier strategic defeats of forces under Brig. Gen. George Crook—the June 17 Battle of the Rosebud and the March campaign along the Powder River. In his detailed study of Crook’s Powder River campaign Paul Hedren draws on a prodigious amount of research, from Army records and firsthand accounts as well as the recollections of Indian participants. The result is a compelling tale of textbook Army preparation and execution undone by circ*mstances that demanded more mobility and flexibility than Crook, despite his prior experience

fighting Apaches, was able to muster. Although casualties in the climactic clash —a March 17 raid on a Northern Cheyenne village under Chief Old Bear that troops mistook for Crazy Horse’s Lakota camp— were relatively low on both sides, its failure proved embarrassing and detrimental to the Army. Old Bear’s band reportedly had been en route to the Red Cloud Agency when attacked by troops under Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds. The soldiers burned tepees, destroyed food stocks and supplies and captured the Cheyenne pony herd. Soon thereafter, however, Old Bear’s warriors managed to recover most of the ponies, thus undoing the campaign’s primary objective. Moreover, the attack drove many Cheyennes into the Lakota camp. Chief Two Moons of the Kit Fox society addressed Crazy Horse in council that night: “All right. I am ready to fight. I have fought already. My people have been killed, my horses stolen; I am satisfied to fight.” Reynolds’ decision to burn the Indians’ stores also left his own men seriously low on food as it retired. Most egregious of all, perhaps, was the colonel’s callous




Western Movie & TV Books FESS PARKER: TV'S FRONTIER HERO By William R. Chemerka. Fess Parker grew up in Texas, and later became TV's incredibly Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Both are currently being shown on TV. Softbound, 410 pages, photos. $24.95 plus freight. HOPALONG CASSIDY-ON THE PAGE, ON THE SCREEN By Francis M. Nevins. The book covers each of Mulford 's books and each Cassidy theatrical films in full detail. Interviews, lots of photos. Hardbound, 520 pages. $39.95 plus freight. THREE BAD MEN-JOHN FORD, JOHN WAYNE, WARD BOND By Scott Nallen. The relationship between John Ford and his two favorite actors John Wayne and Ward Bond. The book provides a biography of each and a detailed exploration of Ford's work as it was intertwined with the lives and work of both Wayne and Bond (whose biography here is the first ever published). Softbound, 398 pages, photos and a detailed outline of their movies. Great book! $49.95 plus freight. THE WESTERNERS By C. Courtney Joyner. Interviews with Glenn Ford, Warren Oates, Virginia Mayo, Andrew V. McLaglen, Harry Carey Jr., Julie Adams, A. C. Lyles, Burt Kennedy, Edward Faulkner, Jack Elam, Andrew J. Fenady and Elmore Leonard. Great interviews and coverage of many classic westerns. Softbound, 256 pages, photos. $39.95 plus freight. NAMES YOU REMEMBER-WITH FACES YOU WILL NEVER FORGET By Justin Humphreys. Interviews with the movie character actors: R.G. Armstrong, L.Q. Jones, Bo Hopkins and seven more. Great read! $19.95 plus freight. THE WESTERN MOVIE QUIZ BOOK By Graeme Ross. Saddle up for 1250 questions and answers on the greatest movie genre of them all. Covers over 125 subjects. Softbound, 205 pages. $19.95 plus freight. WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN by David Rothel. This an updated book originally done back in the 1980's on the Lone Ranger. It examines the character from radio, TV and the movies. Interviews with actors and directors. Softbound, over 150 photos, 202 pages. $19.95 plus freight. LAST OF THE GREAT COWBOY HEROES By Robert Nott. The westerns of Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea and Audie Murphy. Arranged chronologically, and balanced amongst the three actors, the text concludes with Audie Murphy's last western in 1967. A filmography of each star. Soflbound, 60 photos, 195 pages. $39.95 plus freight. RAWHIDE By David R. Greenland. A history of TV's longest cattle drive. Cast bios, production details, summaries of all 217 episodes, directors, writers, guest stars. Softbound, 300 pages, 49 photos. $21.95 plus freight.

LEST WE FORGET-THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY By Bill Levy. This is the book dedicated to the stock company of actors, actresses and stuntmen who worked for John Ford. The book spotlights 112 members, with photos and bio. Softbound, 225 pages. $19.95 plus freight. GUNSMOKE CHRONICLES-A NEW HISTORY OF TELEVISION'S GREAT WESTERN By David R. Greenland. Published in 2013. It has a chronological account of all 20 seasons, classic photos, updated bios, complete episode guide, interviews and more. Softbound, 575 pages, photos. $34.95 plus freight. HOLLYWOOD AT THE OK CORRAL By Michael Blake. This book examines eight movie renderings of the legendary gunfight from Frontier Marshal (1939) to Wyatt Earp (1994). Good background information on Wyatt Earp and great behind-the scenes on making these movies. Period photographs are included. Soflbound, 256 pages, photos. $39.95 plus freight. BONANZA A VIEWERS GUIDE TO THE TV LEGEND by David Greenland. The book covers the production, cast, early classics, ranging wide, collectibles and complete episode guide. Softbound, color cover, 168 pages, photos. $24.95 plus freight. CRAZY CRAZY HOLLYWOOD by Steve Siporin. What really happens when the camera wasn't rolling. Great stories as he was an Assistant Director on all types of movies including many of your favorite movies and TV show. I really enjoyed it! Softbound, 246 pages, photos. $19.95 plus freight. LONE PINE, CALIFORNIA IN THE MOVIES. Each edition celebrates the Lone Pine Festival with articles and features on past and present films and stars. The books cover all your favorite cowboys that worked in the famous Alabama Hills of Lone Pine: John Wayne, Hoppy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott, Tom Mix and more. Books to-date: 2009,2010,2011, 2012,2013, 2014, 2015 and the latest 2016. Each book is softbound, 100 plus pages, color covers, tons of photos. Books are $12.95 each plus freight. I WAS THAT MASKED MAN by Clayton Moore. This is the book written by the man the world knows as The Lone Ranger. Softbound, 266 pages, 32 photos, color cover. $17.95 plus freight. JOHN WAYNE WESTERN 8" x 10" color photos from his classic westerns. 6 assorted $30.00; 12 assorted $48.00 plus freight. HENRY FONDA AND THE DEPUTY by Glenn Mosley. Interview, episode analysis, and more. Softbound, photos. $19.95 plus freight. MICHAEL LANDON-THE CAREER AND ARTISTRY OF A TELEVISION GENIUS by David R. Greenland. Softbound, 169 pages, photos. $19.95 plus freight A HISTORY OF TELEVISION's THE VIRGINIAN (1962-1971) by Paul Green. Softbound, 191 pages, photos, covers cast, episodes and more. $39.95 plus freight

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response to an appeal from Captain Anson Mills to return to the battle site for wounded Private Lorenzo Ayers. “You can do nothing,” Reynolds replied. “If you go back, you will renew the engagement and lose 20 men. You must move on.” Hedren relates the latter’s fate, according to Cheyenne warrior Wooden Leg, an eyewitness:

Bear Walks on a Ridge then fired his muzzle-loading rifle. His bullet hit the soldier in the back of the head. We rushed upon the man and beat and stabbed him to death. Another Cheyenne joined us to help in the killing. He took the soldier’s rifle. I stripped off the blue coat and kept it. Two Moons and Bear Walks on the Ridge took whatever else he had and they wanted.

Army officials soon recognized the Powder River expedition for the debacle it was, and Hedren devotes much of his book to the

court-martial proceedings that followed for several of its officers. He delves into the ironic award of Medals of Honor to two troopers for trying to save the wounded Private Ayers, though neither succeeded. —Jon Guttman

MOVIE REVIEW The Magnificent Seven, MGM/ Columbia Pictures, 133 minutes, 2016 Watching Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven, one is reminded how remarkably well John Sturges’ 1960 classic —itself a remake of Akira Kurosowa’s 1954 epic The Seven

Samurai—came together. And while comparing the 2016 remake to the 1960 version might be as unfair as comparing the 1960 version to the Kurosowa masterpiece, it remains an unavoidable exercise. Both Englishlanguage versions follow the Kurosowa blueprint—that is, the assembling of a handful of warriors with varied personalities and skill-sets to form a powerful and dynamic team. It’s a structure movie fans have seen replicated countless times over the years, whether in The Guns of Navarone or Inception. In the new Seven it is warrant officer Sam Chis-


Western N Movie & TV Books

Television Western Players of the Fifties by Everett Aaker. A biographical encyclopedia of all regular cast members in western series 1949-1959. Softbound, color cover of Gunsmoke cast, 576 pages, photos, and great information. Over 280 featured! $49.95 plus freight Western Film Series of the Sound Era by Michael R. Pitts. The book coves 30 western film series produced from the mid 1930s to the early 1950s. Hopalong Cassidy, The Durango Kid, The Three Mesquiteers. Wild Bill Elliot, Lone Ranger and 25 more. Hardbound, photos and illustrations, 480 pages. $44.95 plus freight. Hollywood Stunt Perfromers 1910s-1970s. A Biographical Dictionary by Gene Scott Freese. This book covers the best in the business from the early days to the later action films of Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. Covers the performers background, who they doubled, noteworthy stunts and noteworthy screen credits. A great book! Softbound, 356 pages, photos. $49.95 plus freight. The Golden Corral - A Roundup of Magnificent Western Films by Ed Andreychuk. The author examines: Stagecoach, Red River, High Noon, The Searchers, Wild Bunch, Unforgiven and seven more classics. Softbound, 192 pages, photos. $34.95 plus freight. Jock Mahoney-The Life and Films of a Hollywood Stuntmen by Gene Freese. Widely considered to be one of the greatest stuntmen in movie history doubling for Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Gregory Peck, The Durango Kid and more. TV show The Range Rider and Yancy Derringer and also played Tarzan in two movies. Softbound, 224 pages, photos. $39.95 plus freight.

Wild Bill Elliott by Gene Blottner. A complete filmography. Great information on his career. Discusses each of his 78 starring roles and well as supporting roles. Softbound, 328 pages, lots of photos. $39.95 plus freight. The Films of Randolph Scott by Robert Nott. Covers every film in which he acted, and provides biographical chapters throughout the stages of his career. Very detailed on the production of his movies and review. Interesting! Softbound, 235 pages, lots of photos. $29.95 plus freight. The Making of The Magnificent Seven by Brian Hannan. The behind the scenes story. Why John Sturges was not the first choice to direct. How the cast was selected, the film’s botched release date, the creation of Elmer Bernstein’s classic score, and more. Softbound, 288 pages, photos. $45.00 plus freight.



olm (Denzel Washington) who’s recruiting men after a group of homesteaders represented by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) seek his help in defending their town from vicious gold baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Chisolm proceeds to gather his six sidekicks: first, card shark Joshua Faraday (played by Chris Pratt with his usual brand of earnest buffoonery); second, Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a Confederate sharpshooter with PTSD; third, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Robicheaux’s business partner and a knife aficionado; fourth, Vazquez


(Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a wanted man with whom Chisolm strikes a deal; fifth, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a squeaky-voiced bear of a man; and sixth, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche warrior deadly with bow and arrow. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the new crew is its cultural diversity, though the film largely chooses to avoid this topic from a historical perspective. The all-white townspeople never show any prejudices toward their black, American Indian, Mexican or Korean saviors, nor do the seven exhibit much ethnic apprehension toward one another (with the possible exception of the first showdown with Red Harvest). The film, though set during the second half of the 19th century, is deliberately void of racial conflict and envisions something of a colorless utopia. About three-quarters of the way through the film there’s a wonderful little scene in which Robicheaux reveals his inner demons to

Chisolm. It’s a rare moment of true dramatic tension, and Hawke and Washington are given a few brief seconds to shine. One can’t help but react to this scene with lament, wondering why the film isn’t peppered with similar moments. By the time the battle starts, we’ve have barely had the opportunity even to meet the seven guys for whom we’re supposed to root. Lee and D’Onofrio are standouts when given the chance, but their lack of character moments leaves you craving more, while GarciaRulfo and Sensmeier simply recede into the background. There’s a magic number in team movies to allow players adequate screen time, but seven here feels like at least two too many. Sturges’ film achieved a remarkable level of narrative efficiency that proved fundamental to its success and enduring popularity (thanks in part to a wealth of memorable quotes). Each scene fueled the film’s momentum, with seemingly not a wasted line or moment. Missing from this remake are the classic’s blistering pace, snappy dialogue, score (Elmer Bernstein) and comic self-awareness, not to mention the irreplaceable elements like, say, Steve McQueen. The remake plods toward the climactic battle with more

gunplay but far less character development. Thankfully, that confrontation—ironically the great weakness in Sturges’ film, in that it was over before one knew it— is the centerpiece of Fuqua’s version. As Rocks and Horne slice and dice at close quarters, Red Harvest lobs fiery arrows from rooftops, and Chisolm squeezes off miraculous trick shots from horseback, the gunfight feels much larger and more dynamic this time around. As in Sturges’ classic, however, the enemy’s complete and utter incompetence deflates any tension one might have felt. Despite being massively outnumbered, they perform as if “swatting a few flies away from a village,” to quote the original film. Not until badman Bogue wheels out a Gatling gun (which for some reason has the stopping power of a modern-day Browning .50-caliber machine gun) do the seven break a sweat. During one magnificent scene in the 1960 classic Yul Brynner, Robert Vaughn and Steve McQueen contemplate the essence of a gunfighter: “Home? None.” “People with a hold on you? None.” “Prospects? Zero.” After a while the remake starts to feel a lot like the gunfighter they describe—hollow on the inside. —Louis Lalire

NOW AVAILABLE, the most famous depiction of the Battle of Little Bighorn The Anheuser Busch Company has granted permission for the Custer Battlefield Museum to issue a special high quality 36x27 limited edition print of the famous painting.


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To order call (406) 638-1876. The print is available for $79.99 delivered. Partial proceeds from the sale of this print will go towards maintaining the Peace Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the battlefield.




The bonds between human beings and the elements are ancient and inseparable in Alaska. This Inuit woman and child (inset)— who posed in 1912 for prospector turned photographer H.G. Kaiser—descended from the first to arrive on the continent. It is thought those first people crossed from Asia on a land bridge that later submerged into the Bering Strait. They carved their tentlike igloos from packsnow, like us pausing to wonder at the ethereal glow of the aurora borealis (or northern lights), as solar winds expended their energy in the heavens.




B LL Bu ig -NE tt ge W on r s

s o N act r nt Co

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