Monday, January 28, 2019

The Strange Journey of Elmer McCurdy – The Outlaw Who Wouldn’t Give Up

Elmer McCurdy
What do an Oklahoma bandit, a traveling carnival, Skeletor, and the Six Million Dollar Man have in common? To find out, you need to know the story of Elmer McCurdy, the bungling outlaw who wouldn’t be taken alive, and who had more success in death than he ever did in life.

Elmer McCurdy was born on New Year’s Day in 1880 in the town of Washington in the southern part of Maine. He was the son of an unwed 17-year-old by the name of Sadie. The father was rumored to be Sadie’s cousin, Charles Smith, a name that McCurdy would use as one of his aliases during his later years. The baby was raised by Sadie’s brother George, and his wife Helen as their own. Ten years later, George died of tuberculosis, and Helen, Sadie, and Elmer moved sixty miles away to Bangor, Maine. Sometime during his teen years, Sadie confessed to Elmer that she was his real mother, not Helen, and that she wasn’t sure who his biological father was. During his mid-teen years, McCurdy worked with his grandfather as an apprentice plumber. He began drinking during this time, but was, by all accounts, a good worker.

In 1898, McCurdy lost his job, and in 1900 Sadie passed away, followed one month later by his grandfather. McCurdy left Maine after the death of his mother and grandfather and, over the course of the next few years, worked as a lead miner and as a plumber. His drinking continued and made it difficult for him to keep a steady job. On at least one occasion, in 1905, he was arrested for public intoxication.

Then in 1907, McCurdy joined the Army. He served as a machine gun operator at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1910. While in the Army, he gained some (little) knowledge of explosive ordinance, in particular, he learned how to work with nitroglycerin.

By 1911, McCurdy was living in Lenapah, Oklahoma where his short-lived career as a bungling bandit began. In March, he and three other men decided to rob the Iron Mountain-Missouri Pacific train. They stopped the train and located the safe, but McCurdy used too much nitro to blow the safe open and wound up destroying most of the money that was inside. Instead of making off with the four-thousand dollars that were inside the safe, they only managed to salvage four-hundred and fifty dollars, including silver coins that were melted and fused together.

Later that same year, in September, McCurdy and two of his gang attempted to rob the Citizens Bank in Chautauqua, Kansas with pretty much the same results. McCurdy, using nitroglycerin to blow open the door of the bank’s outer vault, wound up blasting the door of the vault through the bank, destroying the interior of the bank, but leaving the safe inside the vault untouched. Before they were able to successfully blow open the safe, their lookout man was scared off, so the remaining bandits grabbed one-hundred and fifty dollars in coins and fled.

The Guthrie Daily Leader October 09, 1911
The final entry in his criminal log took place on October 4, 1911, near Okesa, Oklahoma. McCurdy and his accomplices had heard that a particular train was carrying four-hundred thousand dollars that was on its way to the Osage Nation. However, in his usual bungling style, McCurdy and his gang stopped the wrong train. This was a passenger train with no big payday for the bandits. Instead of the four hundred thousand dollars they were expecting, they made off with forty-six dollars, a pocket watch, a coat, a revolver, and two jugs of whiskey.

McCurdy fled to a ranch belonging to a friend of his named Charlie Revard near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He spent the next couple of days hiding out in a hay shed, drinking the stolen whiskey. On the morning of October 7th, a posse, which had trailed him to the ranch, surrounded the hay shed and a gunfight ensued which lasted about an hour before McCurdy was killed by a single shot to the chest.

McCurdy’s body was taken to nearby Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to the Johnson Funeral Home where his body was embalmed with an arsenic-based embalming fluid that was in common use at the time. This type of embalming fluid was used, particularly when they weren’t sure if the body would be claimed by anyone within a reasonable amount of time because it helped preserve the features of the body for a longer period.

It’s probably a good thing that the undertaker, Joseph L. Johnson, used this method because McCurdy’s body went unclaimed for the next five years. Sometime during this five years, the enterprising undertaker decided that he might as well make some of his money back while he was waiting for someone to come and claim the body, so he propped McCurdy up in a coffin and charged onlookers five cents apiece to see “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up.” People would drop their nickels into McCurdy’s open mouth where they would later be retrieved by Johnson, who wound up making quite a substantial side income from McCurdy’s corpse.

Finally, in October of 1916, two men showed up claiming to be McCurdy’s brothers. After convincing Johnson and the Osage County Sheriff of their rightful claim to the body, they took possession and hauled McCurdy away to give him a proper burial. As it turned out, the two men weren’t McCurdy’s brothers at all. Instead, they were two carnival promoters named James and Charles Patterson, owners of the Great Patterson Carnival Show. After hearing of the success of Johnson in exhibiting McCurdy’s body to the public, they concocted the scheme to get McCurdy for their own use. For the next six years, “The Outlaw Who Would Never Be Captured Alive” traveled the country with the Patterson carnival. This was just the beginning of McCurdy’s strange journey.

In 1922, James Patterson sold his carnival to a man named Louis Sonney who operated the traveling “Museum of Crime” which featured wax figures of famous outlaws. In 1933, Sonney loaned the body out to director Dwain Esper who used it to promote his film "Narcotic." Esper would prop McCurdy’s body up in the lobby of movie theaters as an example of what drug addiction would do to a person.

Sonney died in 1949, and McCurdy’s body was placed in storage in Los Angeles for fifteen years. Then in 1964, Louis’s son Dan lent the body to another filmmaker, David F. Friedman, where it played a part in his 1967 film "She Freak."

In 1968, Dan Sonney sold the body, along with some wax figures, to the Hollywood Wax Museum. The owner, Spoony Singh, allowed the body to be exhibited in a show at Mount Rushmore. By now, the corpse had deteriorated quite a bit, the body shrinking in size and the skin hardening and tightening. To add insult to injury, while at Mount Rushmore, McCurdy sustained some damage, losing the tips of his ears and some fingers and toes in a windstorm. By now, he was probably already thought to be an actual wax figure. Singh retired poor old McCurdy until 1976 when he sold him to Ed Liersch who was part owner of an amusement park in Long Beach, California, where McCurdy found a place hanging from a gallows in the “Laff in the Dark” funhouse.

The amusement park, called the Pike, was in a rough part of town with tattoo parlors and bars, and it provided a rather seedy atmosphere that attracted several television shows including Columbo and The Six Million Dollar Man. It was on December 8th, 1976, when the production crew for The Six Million Dollar Man was preparing to film a scene in the funhouse at the Pike when a crew member went to move the body of Elmer McCurdy. The body had a waxy complexion and had been painted orange and looked out of place in the scene. When the crew member picked up the body, an arm fell off revealing human bone and tissue.

The authorities were called and over the next few days, a number of clues helped them to identify the body as that of the Oklahoma bandit, Elmer McCurdy. Among these clues were a 1924 penny and ticket stubs to Louis Sonney’s Museum of Crime that were lodged inside the throat of the corpse.

The Chief Medical Examiner for Los Angeles County allowed the body to be turned over to officials from Oklahoma, and on April 22, 1977, Elmer McCurdy reached his final destination in the Boot Hill section of the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Two feet of concrete was poured over the casket before the grave was filled in – just to make sure that McCurdy stayed put. As fate would have it, Elmer McCurdy, the bungling bandit who never pulled off a successful heist, was laid to rest next to one of the most successful outlaws in the history of the American west – Bill Doolin, founder of the Wild Bunch. Whether McCurdy has picked up any pointers from Doolin since being interred next to him is a matter of speculation.

Final resting place - Doolin and McCurdy
Although McCurdy was finally laid to rest, his influence continues. He has been the subject of several documentaries and television shows. He was the inspiration for a 2009 song entitled, “Body of an Outlaw” by the group Rotary Downs. He was the inspiration for the mystery book, “The Castlemaine Murders” by Kerry Greenwood. He even has a pizza named after him in the Washington General Store in his hometown of Washington, Maine. He is also suspected of being the inspiration behind the highly popular Jonah Hex comics and film franchise, as well as the inspiration of the Mattel toy, Skeletor, who was created by a Mattel toy engineer after recalling a scary afternoon in the Laff-In-The-Dark Funhouse in Long Beach as a child.


About the Author
Mike Ritt describes himself as Conservative, Christian, Pro-life, and Pro-gun. He is a drinker of copious amounts of coffee. Happily married to his redheaded sweetheart, Tami, they live in the mountains of western Montana. He is a writer of western short stories, poetry, and humorous fiction and has been published in a number of anthologies and magazines. He has finished his first western fiction novel and is patiently waiting for publication. You can visit his blog and his Facebook page by clicking on the following links:

Sunday, January 27, 2019

STEAMBOAT: "The Closest Thing to Perpetual Motion that ever Wore Hair" By VONN McKEE


Sunfishing. End swapping. Windmilling. Crow hopping.

Those are a few of the stylish moves the toughest bucking horses (aka “arm jerkers”) use to throw off whoever dares to climb onto their backs. Most broncs pick one or two of those specialties and get consistently good results. But there was one horse, long long ago, who used every trick in the cowboy playbook and some that hadn’t been written…

In 1894, a big black Percheron/Mexican hotblood cross with three white stockings was foaled near Chugwater, Wyoming. The Two Bar ranch hands hoped he’d be a fine cowpony. He was, in fact, gentle enough to be led around by the rancher’s kid. The colt’s only mishap was suffering a broken nose when he was thrown down for gelding, giving him a distinct whistling sound—like a riverboat—when he exerted himself, and he was thereafter known as “Steamboat.”

At three years old, the day came when a saddle was put on him, and all hell broke loose. “He blowed up at me and we had one of the damnedest saddle fights you ever saw,” said top hand Jimmie Danks. It became clear, after no one could successfully ride the outlaw, that the horse was born to buck, not cut cattle.
Steamboat was sold to a bucking horse contractor named John Coble and was soon wowing crowds and tossing cowboys like ragdolls in Denver arenas, then the Cheyenne Frontier Days, where he became a wicked, twisting, celebrity bronc. He threw off the best riders in the circuit. In those days, a win did not constitute an eight-second ride. The contest wore on until either the cowboy was on the ground or the bronc stopped bucking.

In 1903, Guy Holt managed to stick on and also happened to be photographed by B.C. Buffum, a professor at the University of Wyoming. The image of the desperate battle between the horse and rider inspired the university’s logo and, most agree, the iconic bucking silhouette pictured on Wyoming license plates.

Only a few riders would stick out a ride on Steamboat over his long career. When he retired, he became an equine star in the Irving Brothers Wild West show. In 1914, he was badly injured on barbed wire during travel and contracted blood poisoning. Steamboat was taken to his native Wyoming but the prognosis was grim. One of rodeo’s greatest bucking broncs of all time was put to death with a rifle that had belonged to the notorious Tom Horn, in a dramatic end-twist of Wyoming history.
Rodeo buff Jack Bowers described the legacy of Steamboat in a 1970 Sports Illustrated article:
"I've seen 'em all for 65 years and I never saw a buckin' hoss to top Steamboat. First off, he was big and powerful—1,100 pounds—and tireless. Fact is, he was the closest thing to perpetual motion that ever wore hair. He'd start to squat when they threw the saddle on him and by the time the bronc buster was set in the stirrups Steamboat's belly'd be almost touchin' the arena dust. Then, the second they'd jerk that blindfold he'd explode! He'd bust out to the middle of the arena as if he wanted the stage all to himself and he'd put on the damnedest exhibition of sunfishing and windmilling I ever seen. His best trick was to swap ends between jumps and come down ker-slam on four ramrod legs. His head and forelegs would be twisted one way and his rump and hind legs another. When he was goin' all out, he seemed to be on a great big invisible pogo stick. Few men could stand that kind of battering without bleeding from the nose, and most became nauseated as well. Sometimes, no matter how tight a rider laced his buckin' corset, he'd wind up with broken ribs. Bronc riders are harder'n scrap iron, but ol' Steamboat put some of the toughest into the hospital for repairs."


Steamboat lives on in bronze perpetuity on campus at University of Wyoming-Laramie. “The horse has a lot of Wyoming history in him,” explained sculptor Chris Navarro. “He was born and bred here, and he was a champion bucking horse in Cheyenne. They designed the logo for the state from him. When you see that emblem, it’s Wyoming, and that’s what makes it cool.”

(Recommended reading: Steamboat, Legendary Bucking Horse: His Life and Times, and the Men Who Tried to Tame Him by Candy Vyvey Moulton and Flossie Moulton)

All the best,

Vonn McKee

“Writing the Range”
2015 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Finalist (Short Fiction)
2015 Western Writers of America Spur Finalist (Short Fiction)
Like Vonn on FACEBOOK!


                 AT AMAZON

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Pueblo, The State Asylum and Women Doctors

Pueblo, Colorado is one of the early towns along the front range of Colorado. It began as a business fort located near the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. It was where Zebulon Pike built a stockade when he made his attempt to climb the peak that was named after him. Needless to say, he didn't make it. He even went so far as to say it could never be climbed. (Don't tell all those people who annually run the marathon from the base to the top and back again). Before 1900 Pueblo was one of the larger communities in the state.  

Image result for historic images of pueblo colorado
1890 map of Pueblo Colorado from World Maps online
It originally was separate towns which eventually became one. South Pueblo was the town that was created for the workers who manufactured steel for the rails of William Jackson Palmer‘s Denver & Rio Grande railroad. This in manufacturing plant became CF&I (Colorado Fuel & Iron) a major employer in the early days of the town and a great history read. 

Main Office- CF&I from Wikipedia
Pueblo also became the home of the Colorado State Insane Asylum, later known as the Colorado State Hospital. On October 23, 1879 it opened its doors to eleven patients, nine men and two women, from around the state.

The asylum also was an early institution to hire women doctors.  One such was Mary Alice Lake. Lake was born in 1865 and was a graduate of the  University of Colorado School of Medicine and received her  state license in 1896. She was an assistant physician at the State Asylum but also had a practiced in Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1896. 

Additional women also practiced medicine in the Pueblo area. Some who practiced before 1900 were:

Lizzie E. Jones born in Iowa in 1854 and graduated from the State University of Iowa in 1881. She was also one of the early female doctors to receive a license on January 3, 1882 , # 343 and had a  practiced in Pueblo. In June of 1882 she married Reuben F. Eldridge.

Mary F. Barry was born in 1859 in Illinois and attended Northwestern University Women’s Medical College where she graduated in 1887. She received her license to practice medicine in Colorado in 1895 and had her practice in Pueblo.  During her career she was the secretary of the Pueblo County Medical Society.

There is also a Genevieve M. Tucker who was born in Wisconsin in 1859 who received her Colorado license in 1893 and is listed as also practicing in Pueblo. Dr. Tucker wrote the book "Mother, Baby, and Nursery: A Manual for Mothers" in 1896. She was also elected president of the Colorado Homeopathic Society in 1898.

And if course one cannot forget Rilla G. Hay. Dr. Hay was an 1873 graduate of the University of Iowa Medical College and received her Colorado license in 1885. She had a practice in Pueblo, She was an assistant physician at the Asylum, and later moved to Denver where she continued her education. She was also the first woman to be admitted to the Colorado Medical Society, which had been founded in 1871.

There are more stories of women doctors in Pueblo, and the rip roaring outlaws and lawmen, but that is for a latter time. 

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Monday, January 14, 2019

Remembering Tex Ritter by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #countrymusic

To kick off 2019, let's take a stroll down musical memory lane, and take a quick look at the show business career of a talented man named Woodward Maurice Ritter, better known as Tex Ritter.

He was born on January 12, 1905 and he died on January 2, 1974. He was father to actor John Ritter and grandfather to actors Jason and Tyler Ritter.

Tex was a popular actor and country music artist in the early years of both industries. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tex was born in Murvaul, Texas and grew up on the family farm. After he graduated high school, he went to college with intent to become a lawyer. In 1928, he became interested in show business, and his law/government studies went to the back burner.

Tex Ritter - publicity image 1966*
Here is a timeline highlighting his business/music career:

Radio and Broadway

1928 - sang cowboy songs on radio in Houston, Texas
1928 - moved to New York City - sang in chorus of Broadway show The New Moon
1931 - appeared in the role of Cord Elam in Broadway show Green Grow the Liacs (basis for the musical Oklahoma!)
1932 - played role of Sagebrush Charlie in The Round Up
1934 - played role of Sagebrush Charlie again in Mother Lode
1932 - starred in New York City's The Lone Star Rangers radio show - sang and told Old West stories
1933-1936 - wrote and starred in Cowboy Tom's Roundup (daily radio children's cowboy program)
During this time, he appeared on WHN Barndance and sang on NBC radio shows.
1965 - moved to Nashville - worked for WSM Radio and the Grand Ole Opry - cohosted late-night program with country disc jockey Ralph Emery

Recording Career

1933 - signed with Columbia Records - recorded "Goodbye Ole Paint" and "Rye Whiskey"
1935 - signed with Decca Records - recorded "Sam Hall" and "Whoopie Ti Yi Yo"
1942 - signed with Capitol Records - he was the company's first artist they signed and also their first western singer


1936 - moved to Los Angeles
1936 - movie debut - Song of the Gringo - followed by 12 B-movie westerns (40+)
*Appeared in episodes of Death Valley Days and The Rebel
1938 - 1945 - starred in singing cowboy movies - teamed with Johhny Mack Brown (western actor) in several movies
1945 - starred as "Texas Ranger Tex Haines"
1950 - returned to show business in supporting roles or performing as himself
1966 - played himself in the film Nashville Rebel (side note: Waylon Jennings was also in this movie)

Musical Years

1944 - "I'm Wasting My Tears on You" - No. 1 on the country chart and No. 11 on the pop chart
1945 - "There's a New Moon over My Shoulder" - No. 2 country - No. 21 pop
1945 - 1946 hits: "You Two-Timed me One Time Too Often" and his cover of the song "The Deck of Cards", which is a recitation song
1952 - toured Europe
1952 - recorded the title track of the western movie, High Noon "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin'"
1955 - "Remember the Alamo"
1961 - "I Dreamed I was in Hillbilly Heaven"
1965 - moved to Nashville - one of the founding members of the Country Music Association

 'High Noon'

Tex Ritter's contribution to the western genre--movie, television, and country music--is a legacy that I hope will never be lost or forgotten. I hope someday to visit The Tex Ritter Museum in Carthage, Texas. Here is a quote from the museum's website:

The museum started in 1993 as the Tex Ritter Museum and expanded to include friends of Tex and other Texas-born country music legends. In August 2004, the museum expanded to add a significant Jim Reeves display which features the radio equipment from Jim's radio station KGRI in Henderson.

I grew up listening to Tex on the radio or watching his western movies on Saturday afternoon matinees at the theater or on late night television. I still have two 78rpm records of his:When You Leave Don't Slam the Door/Have I Told You Lately That I love You and My Heart's as Cold as an Empty Jug/Rock and Rye. Sadly, I've lost track of my record of Blood on the Saddle.

I mean no disrespect to his memory or his singing, but I cannot listen to Blood on the Saddle without smiling, if not actually giggling. You listen and let me know if you kept a straight face.

As I don’t send a newsletter, you might consider following me on these platforms:
Amazon (for new release notifications| BookBub (my book recommendations) | Blog (occasional posts)| Twitter (history trivia)

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time


“Tex Ritter.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Dec. 2018,
“Tex Ritter.” IMDb,,
Razor Tie Artery Foundation Announce New Joint Venture Recordings | Razor & Tie, Rovi Corporation,
*Capitol Records, Tex Ritter 1966, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Old West Recipes: Breads

For 2019, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some Old West cooking. For most of this, you’ll need an old-fashioned cast-iron Dutch Oven – that little 3-legged cookpot with a lipped lid. Dutch ovens have been in use since the 1700s, and nobody cooking over an open fire would be without one in the Old West. You can roast in one (place coals on top of the lid and underneath the pot), fry or boil (place coals underneath), bake (place coals on top of the lid in a 3-to-1 ratio with coals underneath, leaving most of the coals on top), and simmer or stew (place coals underneath in a 4-to-1 ration with coals on top of the lid, with most of the coals beneath). Legends of America has a great table showing how many modern charcoal briquettes to use in order to achieve specific cooking temperatures in your Dutch oven. 

Let’s start with some basic frontier bread recipes.

Bannock or Frying Pan Bread

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Grease and pre-warm a skillet or Dutch oven. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients, then add just enough water to make a stiff dough. Work dough as little as possible and form a 1-inch cake. Set cake into skillet and brown both sides, then set in front of the fire to bake. Test for doneness by thumping with a wooden spoon handle or stick. A hollow ringing sound tells you it’s done. Or, you can insert a clean stick or matchstick – if it comes out clean (no clinging dough), the cake is done.

Hoecakes or Johnnycakes

1 cup white cornmeal
½ cup flour (optional)
½ tsp salt

Lightly grease your skillet or Dutch oven. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Flour will improve the texture of the cake, but is optional. Add just enough cold water to make a stiff batter. Drop large spoonfuls of batter onto the skillet and cook slowly.

Ash Cakes

1 cup white cornmeal
½ cup flour (optional)
½ tsp salt
Mix dry ingredients and add just enough batter to make a firm dough. Form dough into thin cakes. Clear the coals from an area of your fire and lay the cakes on the hot earth. Rake coals and ash over the cakes and let them cook for five minutes. Test for doneness by thumping with a spoon handle. A hollow ringing sound indicates doneness.

And here’s a more modern recipe for an old-fashioned product:


2 cups stone ground flour
1 cup water

Combine flour and water and knead until smooth. Sprinkle some flour onto a smooth surface and roll the dough flat until it is one-fourth inch thick. Cut biscuits out with a can or glass, making each one about three-fourths inch in diameter. Poke holes into each biscuit with a fork. Place on a floured cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes. Biscuits should come out hard and dry.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Ranger Jim's Ramblings for January

Happy New Year, everyone.

With the snow flying, and below zero temperatures rolling in here in New Hampshire, I thought I'd write a bit about horses in winter.

I don't believe there are many instances in the movies or television where horses look as they do in teh wintertime. They are always slick and shiny. And of course, clean, hardly the way hard working cow ponies typically look.

In the wintertime, horses grow long, thick coats, which act as insulation. (When Yankee sheds out in the spring, I brush enough hair off him to make several more horses, or horsehair sofas). Depending on the breed, the climate, and the latitude, horses grow different lengths coats. Some in the South might not grow any at all. I recall when I lived in San Diego. I was surprised when Sam didn't grow a coat... until I realized the temperatures were still in the 70s. Of course, the San Diegans thought  that was freezing. They'd wear windbreakers and sweatshirts while I was in T-shirts. Horses up nroth can grow very long, thick coats, so they can look almost like bears, they are so fuzzy. I can also get a pretty good handle on how severe the winter will be by how long Yankee grows his coat. Some winters it is real thick, others, not so much.

Although you'd never know it today, with so many horses blanketed in the winter,  that long coat means horses can survive teh cold just fine. If you see horses standing outside in a snowstorm, you'll notice snow can pile up on their backs to three or more inches without melting. They also bunch up, to keep each other warm, and turn tails to the wind. The only real hazard for horses in cold weather is getting soaked in a cold rain, or a sleet and ice storm. On occasion, a horse might lose the tip os his ears to frostbite, but that's rare.

So, in your writing, if you're doing a story or chapter set in the cold weather, no slick, smooth coated horses, please, Give them the thick, mink coat look. And of course, when your rider gets to town, give  his or her horse a nice warm stall in the livery stable. The horse will appreciate it.

Ranger Jim

Saturday, January 5, 2019



Engineer George Ratcliff squinted into the darkness and spotted a red lantern on the tracks up ahead. When the big unit neared a small station at Alila, California, Ratcliff applied the handbrake on the Southern Pacific train #17.

In the darkness of February 6, 1891, three masked men leaped aboard the passenger train, making its run San Francisco to Los Angeles. Drawing their guns, Bob and Gratton Dalton rushed Radcliff and forced him to halt the train.

A third Dalton brother, Bill, bulled his way into the passenger compartment brandishing a rifle and ordered everyone to stay in their seats.

Bob and Grat forced Radcliff out of the engine and shoved him toward the Express car.

At this point, the robbery attempt took a turn for the worst. Radcliff tried to take advantage of the darkness and made a run for it. 

One of the brothers snapped off a shot and hit the engineer in the stomach. The Southern Pacific engineer would later die from his wound.

The bad luck continued when the Daltons reached the express unit. They ordered guard Charles C. Haswell to unlock the door. He refused.

 The brothers fired several rounds of buckshot into the door. But Haswell retrieved his gun. Utilizing a small hole in the door, he returned the Daltons' gunfire.

The Dalton Brothers first-ever attempt at train robbery had failed. The trio decided to call it a night and regroup.

A posse tracked down Bill and Grat. Bob managed to escape. A court released Bill but sentenced Grat to twenty years. Grat, however, succeeded in getting away. 

Southern Pacific lent some validity to the Dalton Gang by posting $6,000 rewards for each of them.

The three brothers made their way back to Oklahoma and reunited with their younger brother, Emmett.

Despite the botched, the Daltons didn't decide to go straight. 

Far from it. The Dalton Brothers figured there is strength in numbers and began recruiting other outlaws to join. Between May 1891 and June 1892, the Dalton Gang robbed four trains in Indian Territory.

Over the period, they stole between several hundred dollars to over $10,000.

Bob Dalton always considered Jesse James a rival, no doubt envious of the kind of publicity James commanded. 

He once boasted he could top anything the infamous Missouri bandit every did by robbing “two banks at once in broad daylight."

On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang rode into Coffeyville, Kansas, to rob the C.M. Condon & Company Bank and the First National Bank across the street.

Although gang members wore fake beards and other disguises, townspeople recognized them because the Daltons once lived In Coffeyville.

"The Last Day of the Daltons" proved a disaster with Grat and Bob Dalton, Bill Power, and Dick Broadwell killed by angry townspeople.

Emmett was shot twenty-three times but survived. He was sentenced to life in the Kansas penitentiary but won a pardon after serving fourteen years.

He played it straight the rest of his life as a successful real estate agent, author, and actor.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Cowboys in Chicago

I caught a History Channel documentary a bit ago on the Chicago Union Stock Yards.

In 1848, when Chicago was only a connection for transporting livestock from the West to the rest of the country, small stockyards such as Lake Shore Yard and Cottage Grove Yard were scattered throughout the city along various rail lines. As the railroads expanded westward, Chicago evolved into a large railroad center. As the number of trainloads of livestock increased, the need for a centralized stock center became obvious.
In 1864, a consortium of nine railroad companies acquired three hundred and twenty acres of swampland south west of The Loop, and the Chicago Union Stock Yards was born. By 1890 the yards were handling more than nine million cows, pigs and sheep a year. That’s a lot of hooves.

But I wanted to know who took care of all those critters.

Before the creation of the stock yards, tavern owners provided pastures and care for cattle herds waiting to be sold. Eventually they built 2300 livestock pens on the swampy site. They also built
hotels, saloons, restaurants, and offices for merchants and brokers, but that’s another blog.

My next question: who moved all those animals around? I had visions of cowboys throwing lassos in downtown Chicago.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a storyline there, after all. The cowboys only moved the doggies as far as Dodge City, Kansas City, and all the other termini of the cattle drives.

In the early days of the Stock Yard, drovers herded cattle, hogs, and sheep down two wide thoroughfares from the railroad cars to the pens. Then the railroad consortium built more rail lines, bringing the livestock right to the holding pens—and removing the need for the drovers.

It’s a shame really. A thousand head of longhorns moo-ing their way down Michigan Avenue ahead of a couple of swoon-worthy cowboys would have been entertaining.

Happy New Year!

Coming February 1 ~ GRACE