Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Still On the Trail

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Tandem Ox Yoke
 Photo (C) Doris McCraw

The Smokey Hill River Trail, one of the more treacherous routes to the Colorado Gold Fields, gave way to the Butterfield Overland Dispatch in 1865. This stage line only ran for about a year before its purchase by Ben Holliday, known as the "Stagecoach King". Holliday in turn sold to Wells Fargo who sold to the United States Express Company.

According to records, the cost for an individual ticket was $175.00 one way. There were a total of thirty-nine stage stops along the trail. It was here passengers could purchase a meal for an additional fifty cents to one dollar.

Map of the Smokey Hill Trail 
from Legends of America

Additionally, the Army built several forts along this route to protect travelers from attacks. The Smokey River was a favored hunting ground for the Plains Indians. Some of the Forts along the trail were: Fort Downer, Fort Hays, Fort Harker, Fort Monument, and Fort Wallace.

Despite the presence of the Army, the attacks cost the stage line but ultimately it was the railroad that resulted in the end of the travel on the trail but what stories you find when you start researching.

From the Smokey Hill River Trail exhibit at the Elbert County
Historical Society & Museum
Photo (C) Doris McCraw

As for the forts, some of the names probably sound familiar and many are now museums.

For those who might be interested here is a link to a PBS show talking about Four-Mile-House, the last stage stop before arriving in Denver. Four-Mile House

Until Next Time Stay Safe & Stay Well


Thursday, September 7, 2023

On This Day in the Old West: September 8

School in the 1800s was a far different thing than it is today. For one thing, did you know that most schools didn’t even have an American flag flying over the schoolhouse? This began to change starting in 1888, when Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of the patriotic circular The Youth’s Companion, began a campaign to sell United States flags to public schools. The magazine sent out 100 free cards to each student who wished to obtain a school flag, printed with these words: This Certificate entitles the holder to One Share in the patriotic influence of the School Flag. The students then sold the certificates for 10 cents each, and when they had sold all 100 of them, they would send the money to The Youth’s Companion and receive “a good-sized, substantial flag” to display at their school.

Four years later, the magazine had sold US flags to approximately 26,000 schools across the country. The market at this time was slowing, but Ford felt it was not yet saturated. Ford had already hired Christian Socialist Baptist minister and author Francis Julius Bellamy to work with Ford’s nephew, James B. Upham, in the premium department of the magazine. Upham had begun his campaign with an essay contest for students: “The Patriotic Influence of the American Flag,” with one winner chosen from each state and that winner’s school receiving a large US flag. Upham now had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas in 1492 to further bolster the schoolhouse flag movement. 


The Youth’s Companion called for a national Columbian Public School Celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition, scheduled for 1893 in Chicago, Illinois. Forty-six countries from all over the world were sending exhibitions to this World’s Fair. A flag salute was to be part of the official program for the Columbus Day celebration on October 12th, to be held in schools all over the United States. Francis Bellamy created a special pledge, published in the September 8, 1892 issue of the magazine.


Bellamy’s original pledge read as follows:


I pledge Allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.


This pledge was immediately put to use in the magazine’s campaign. Bellamy went to speak to a national meeting of school superintendents to promote the Columbian celebration. The superintendents liked the idea and selected a committee of leading educators to implement the program, including the immediate past president of the National Education Association. Bellamy was selected as the committee chair.


With the official blessing of the American educators, Bellamy’s committee now had the task of spreading the word around the nation and of designing an official program for schools to follow on the day of national celebration. Bellamy structured the program around a flag-raising ceremony and his pledge, which was accompanied with a salute known as the Bellamy Salute. Unfortunately, this salute resembled the later Nazi salute, so during World War II, it was replaced with the now-familiar hand-over-heart gesture.


Bellamy described his thoughts as he crafted the language of the pledge:


“It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution…with the meaning of the Civil War, with the aspiration of the people…


The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands.’ …And what does that last thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation—the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches. And its future?


Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity.’ No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization. But we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all…”


Bellamy thought of his Pledge as an “inoculation” that would protect immigrants and native-born but insufficiently patriotic Americans from the “virus” of radicalism and subversion. Whether or not this has worked, your characters could have either read The Youth’s Companion as a child, or may have perhaps participated in the Flag Day celebrations that the magazine encouraged after September 8, 1892.


J.E.S. Hays



Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Classic Country Ballads of Lost Love – They’re Hanging Me Tonight #westernfictioneers #countryballads #classiccountrymusic

 I grew up in the late 50s and 60s listening to the country music of that era. I stuck with country music through the 70s. I made it into the 80s but, by the late 80s, country music as I knew and loved was headed in a direction that, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t interested going. So I didn’t. (Get off my lawn.)

The old west gunfighter and trail ballads, drinking songs, and revenge songs had an influence on me that was, and still is, every bit as strong as the impact Louis L’Amour’s books left with me. My lifelong interest, perhaps fascination bordering on obsession, with everything old west—truth, legends, and myths alike—have roots in those old cowboy and country songs.

I’m inviting you to read along with me this year as I post one or two nostalgic-for-me country ballads on the first Wednesday of each month. I will share a snippet of trivia about each song along with a YouTube video.

Each month, I will include a link back to the previous month’s article as reference to those songs. The common thread that runs among the songs I’ve chosen for this musical memory lane excursion is tragic lost love.

January – Marty Robbins – El Paso and Feleena
February – Faron Young – TheYellow Bandana
March – Willie Nelson and Ray Charles – 
Seven Spanish Angels
April – Marty Robbins – San Angelo
May – Billy Walker – Cross the Brazos at Waco
June – Billy Walker – Matamoros
July – Marty Robbins – Running Gun
August – Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger

This month’s song is ballad They’re Hanging Me Tonight by Marty Robbins.

The story expresses the lamentations of a man facing his hanging for murdering Flo (ex-girlfriend?) and ‘her new love’. It’s also interesting to note that the man apparently didn’t evade arrest after he killed Flo and her new man, since they’ll bury Flo tomorrow, but they’re hanging me tonight. Not much time has elapsed between murder and punishment.

Conversely, if he did flee the scene at the dimly lit cafĂ©, he wasn’t on the lam for long. Reading between the lines suggests Old West ‘justice’ happened to bring about his hanging so quickly after Flo is buried. No lengthy trial for this man. Was this a case of vigilante justice for the double murders—these crimes of passion—since he freely admits what he did wasn’t right? Either way, his heart is filled with fear as he faces his imminent execution.

James Lowe and Art Wolpert wrote They’re Hanging Me Tonight. Marty Robbins released it in September 1959 on his album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. The album’s peak position on the country music chart for 1960 was No. 6 in the U.S. and No. 20 in the U.K.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time