26 January 2014

January Disputes in the Old West

It might have been cold, but the weather never seemed to stop a man once his blood was up.

It was in mid January 1836 that Sam Houston sent Col. Jim Bowie and twenty-five men to San Antonio. What followed became history, became legend. Ten years later President Polk sent Gen. Taylor and 4,000 troops to the Texas border as war with Mexico loomed, and we know what happened after that.

They may have involved less men, but new-found mining deposits fuelled both disputes and organised crime, and in turn saw the rise of the Vigilance Committee. Virginia City, MontanaTerritory, had a lynching in 1864 of five members of The Innocents, including Jack Gallagher, a deputy sheriff. It wasn’t much better in the aptly named Hell’s Gate.

Disputes of a more personal nature were the norm, and we may never know of their extent or regularity.

In 1876, in Mobeetie (Sweetwater), Texas, Bat Masterson was dancing with a saloon girl when an army corporal from nearly Fort Elliot took offence. The woman, Mollie Brennan, died when the corporal opened fire. Bat Masterson was wounded before shooting the man dead, and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

In 1896 Albert Jennings was travelling with his eight year old son from Lincoln, New Mexico Territory, to his home near Las Cruces, but both were murdered along the way, the bloody scene but no bodies being discovered later. Talk was that notorious outlaw Black Jack Ketchum was to blame, but many looked to Oliver Lee, noted rancher, land developer and part-time Deputy US Marshall. No one was ever charged with the Albert Jennings' murder, and those charged with his son’s murder were acquitted. It was one of a number of incidents that contributed to the region's lawless reputation and delayed its statehood until 1912.

11 January 2014

Enjoying the Weather, Back in the Day

January is with us already. I hope you are coping with the weather, wherever you are pitched. I thought I’d start the year by looking back aways and the weather seemed a good place to start.

The first item I found was from January 2nd 1862: waters from the Colorado and Gila rivers flooded Arizona Territory between Fort Yuma and Pilot Knob. Reflecting more of today, on January 9th, 1875 in Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, the temperature fell to -38F. It wasn’t much better ten years later in Bismark, Dakota Territory, where it was reputedly -35F at noon.

We might grumble into our coffee about what’s outside our window, but we sure need to give thanks for modern clothing and houses, and think of those who made the best of what they had. I wouldn't want to change places.

Image "Prospect Park, Niagra Falls" c1893-1902
By Keystone View Company -- Publisher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons