Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ring-boned Politicians, Horse Restaurant, & a Con Artist by @JacquieRogers #western

March in the Old West
by Jacquie Rogers

Ah, the promise of spring energizes everyone, and so it did in the boom towns of the Old West.  

When we think of the Old West, sometimes we gloss over the fact that politics doesn’t really change much.  Idaho Territory was created in 1863 and in 1866, some Idahoans were pushing for statehood.  The Owyhee Avalanche editor, in the March 10, 1866 issue, wrote a column about the bill to create a constitutional convention in pursuit of their grand goal.  In part, he wrote:
The passage of this bill is probably well enough as a measure to convince a few old hulks of politicians the absurdity with which the real men of Idaho view the proposition.  The real question for the people to decide is whether they will ruin themselves by excessive taxation to sustain or boost into high places a score of old ring-boned and pole-eviled politicians, or whether they will consult self-interest by setting the seal of condemnation on the whole tribe.  The people have no heart in this move to rob them in a legal way.
Do you get the feeling he wasn’t all that enthused about statehood?

Once the winter weather breaks, everyone’s restless—Indians as well as the soldiers, settlers, and miners.  The reporter wasn’t a bit shy about his enthusiasm for hunting Indians.  Can you imagine today’s newspaper publishing an article like this one found in The Owyhee Avalanche, March 3, 1866?
WARLIKE.  The citizens of Boise City have raised and equipped a Company of Indian hunters for the Owyhee service.  It is said a band of savages is quartered at the head of Bruneau River on Catherine’s Creek.  If any one knows just where, let him speak out.  The citizens of Boise have done generously, and we should show our appreciation by aiding them and pointing out the game.  The right spirit is aroused and it should be kept active.  Add to the following $175, and it shows the aggregate amount raised in Boise City for Indian purposes, as we find by the Statesman: Grand total $2,939.
I admit I cringed when reading that, especially in referring to people as "game." Shudder.

Sometimes you run across an article that’s intriguing but has no substance.  You just know there’s a story there somewhere.  This was in the March 11, 1871 issue of the Winnemucca Register:
BILKED!  Several of [our] citizens have recently been bilked out of various amounts ranging from $10 to $25 by a feminine creature calling herself Annie Wilson, better known, here, however, as “Mormon Ann.”  But such is life and we must abide the consequences.  By way of warning we would say to all, with who[m] she may come in contact, to look out for the bilk.
It's interesting that the reporter, while warning the citizens of this con artist, also believed that it was their personal responsibility to steer clear.  If not, there were consequences.  Today, she'd be in court, both civil and criminal.

People then, as now, were concerned about their health.  Here’s some advice printed in The Owyhee Avalanche, March 4, 1871.
HEART DISEASE.  An eminent medical practitioner gives a hint in relation to this disease which it be well to remember.  He says that those who are predisposed to it need not despair but that they may expect to live to a good old age, if they will avoid violent exercise, stimulating food and drink, excitement, worry, eating so much as to get fat, and thinking about their heart.  This is not the only secret contained in his excellent advice, which is the mainspring of enjoying life as well as prolonging it.  If we would live in the sunshine, we must keep the clouds of despondency and unusual excitement away from the atmosphere of our soul.
Today’s specialists give similar advice, but fortunately for us, they have a much better toolkit with which to treat their patients.  

The well-being of horses was just as important as that of people since a healthy horse could keep a man alive.  Quality livery services allowed men to go about their business without worrying about their trusty steeds.  With mines all over the place, boomtowns sprang up—and they all needed a livery.  This is from the March 18, 1871 issue of The Owyhee Avalanche:
HORSE RESTAURANT.  Old man Springer is making arrangements to build a stable at Fairview to run in connection with his establishment in town [Silver City, Ida.Terr.].  Those who ride or drive on the Mountain can then put their horses in the stable and get them the same day or any day they choose at the simple cost of riding up and back.  Springer is a clever fellow, has plenty of hay and grain, and knows how to keep a livery stable.
Short items from various March issues of The Owyhee Avalanche from 1866 to 1873:
  • E.A. Thompson of Fairview desires to thank W.F. Sommercamp, Esq., for a keg of splendid lager beer.
  • A 50-ton run of Oro Fino was cleaned up at the Webfoot mill day before yesterday.  We have not learned the result.
  • A “shiner” from Boise City is the latest addition to the population of Silver City.
  • Next Wednesday evening the Silver City Dancing Club will introduce the “Kiss Quadrille,” in which the lady kisses the gentleman as they swing on the corner.  Who wouldn’t swing?
  • The road through Jordan Valley is in wretched condition on account of mud.
  • A young lady got on her muscle and gave a fellow a black eye in to the other afternoon.  Served him right.

March Events
  • March 27, 1836: 342 Texans were killed by firing squad at the Goliad Massacre.
  • March 1, 1845: The United States annexed the Republic of Texas.
  • March 3, 1855: Congress agreed to purchase camels for military use and appropriated $30,000.
  • March 3, 1863: Congress created Idaho Territory, an area larger than Texas.
  • March 1, 1877: Jack McCall, the man who murdered Wild Bill Hickok, was hanged and buried in an unmarked grave.
  • March 7, 1885: In an attempt to curb the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease, Kansas prohibited Texas cattle drives between March 1 and December 1.
  • March 12, 1856: Tom Bell, an accomplished surgeon turned bandit, and his gang robbed a mule train in California.
  • March 14, 1868: Lt. Col. George Crook led his men in a surprise attack on the Paiute.  Twelve Paiute and two cavalry were killed.
  • March 18, 1882: Morgan Earp died of a bullet wound in the back.
  • March 24, 1883: Cowhands in the Texas Panhandle go on strike for a 50¢ a day pay raise.
  • March 22, 1886: Abilene, Kansas and Seattle, Washington Territory, both got electricity.
  • March 6, 1887: A ticket on the Southern-Pacific from Missouri to California was $12.
  • March 8, 1893: Emmett Dalton went to prison for his role in the double bank robbery at Coffeeville, Kansas.  He got out in 1907, moved to California, and became a screenwriter.
May your saddle never slip.

Jacquie Rogers 
Romancing The West
Hearts of Owyhee series
#1: Much Ado About Marshals
#2: Much Ado About Madams
#3: Much Ado About Mavericks


  1. Jacquie, I always enjoy these posts of yours about what was going on each month. So interesting and informative--it's a way of looking into the past--even their speech patterns in the newspaper articles are something to study. Thanks so much for all the hard work you put in on these, and the research, especially! Very enjoyable!

  2. What, not a word about the Owyhee Candy Company and Idaho Spud Candy Bars? Love those things, but can't get them here in New England.

    Camels.... shows even back then the US Government was full of stupid people spending taxpayer money on stupid ideas.

    A fascinating post.

    Jim Griffin

  3. You're welcome, Cheryl. I enjoy reading old newspapers not just for the history, but to get a feel for the people--how they expressed themselves and what they considered funny or appalling.

  4. Jim, I'll have to send you a box of Spud bars next time I'm in Idaho. Warning: they're smaller than they used to be.

    The link to the camels bit goes to a post Caroline Clemmons wrote for Romancing The West. I'd heard of it before, but after I read her article, those camels show up everywhere. LOL. Apparently they didn't work out.

  5. LOVE IT!! these newspaper accounts are awesome! I think there's a story about that young woman putting on the muscle and giving that young man a shiner, as he deserved. LOL Horse restaurant! hoo-hoo!! maybe they got better "feed" than the men. ;-)

  6. Wow! There is so much great information here, Jacquie.
    This is a great post.

    I was interested to follow the link on Tom Bell, 'the Outlaw Doc' - the first person to organise a stagecoach robbery in the US.


  7. Meg, I bet that poor guy with the black eye took a lot of razzing from his friends. Served him right. LOL

  8. Keith, I included Tom Bell especially for you. :) He's interesting because most of the road agents and outlaws are portrayed as illiterate and uncouth. He was neither, but he couldn't seem to resist easy money, even after jail time.

  9. Jacquie- I enjoyed the "camel" link. From what I've read, the attempt to use camels as a transport mode was successful. The beasts could carry up to 600 pounds, but they "smelled horrible, frightened horses, and were detested by handlers accustomed to the more docile mules." Kinda glad the experiment failed. Somehow, seeing the Lone Ranger on a camel doesn't quite cut it.

  10. RTW has a lot of good articles, and Caroline always comes up with something interesting. Especially those camels. I can't see the Magnificent Seven riding camels, either.