Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Wrap up - Year End

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

Five days, just five more days left to 2023, and then on to 2024. It has been a year. 

Let's begin by finishing the story of the De La Vergne family, specifically Edward, the son of  George W. from the Fish Farm story.

Edward was one of the first to invest in the Cripple Creek Mining District. Some stories claim he was the one who located the first paying gold. After Robert (Bob) Womack located the mineral in Starvation Gulch he decided to invest despite what others were saying about the danger of another hoax.

Image from Find a Grave

He was born in 1846 in Marietta, Ohio, the youngest of ten children. He moved to Colorado Springs, in 1878 with the rest of the family. During his time in Cripple Creek, he was vice president and general manager of the Elkton Mining and Milling Company along with owning additional mining properties.  

Like many others, De La Vergne was involved in community affairs and politics. By 1904 he was elected to the State Senate and served until 1908 when his term ended.

He married Alice Hook in 1896 who was born in England in 1864.

Edward died in September 1917.

With that end tied up the rest of the year will be devoted to where I want to take my writing in 2024.

I would like to resume the author biographies, especially the new members. Also, if I'd asked you to participate earlier and didn't get it posted, let me know. I'm in the process of migrating files over to a new system and don't want to overlook anyone.

As 2023 ends, what are your plans for the coming year?

As always:

Until Next Time Stay Safe & Stay Well


Thursday, December 7, 2023

On This Day in the Old West: December 8

 Let’s talk outlaws this December. On December 8, 1874, the infamous Jesse James and the Younger gang robbed the Kansas Pacific Railroad in Muncie, Kansas. They made off with $55,000, which would be over $1,200,000 in today’s dollars! This robbery makes the claim of the Tishomingo Savings Bank of Corinth, Mississippi that they were robbed by the James-Younger gang on December 7 seem highly unlikely. That establishment only lost $10,000.

Jesse Woodson James was born in Missouri in 1847. His father was a Baptist minister, Robert James, and his mother, a Kentucky native named Zerelda Cole James. In 1850, Jesse’s father traveled to California to preach in the gold mining camps. Unfortunately, soon after the family’s arrival, Robert fell ill and died. Zerelda was left with three small children—Jesse, his future partner-in-crime Frank, and their sister Susan—and was plunged into “perilous financial straits.” Zerelda tried marrying a wealthy, older man, but the marriage didn’t last and she moved her family back to her first husband’s farm and married again in 1855. She was to have four more children with her third husband, and after Jesse and Frank grew up to become outlaws, Zerelda remained their staunch supporter.


Jesse’s older brother Frank fought in the Civil War with the pro-secession Missouri State Guard, then joined a band of Confederate guerrillas known as “bushwhackers,” who carried out attacks against Union sympathizers on the Missouri frontier. In 1863, while at his family’s farm, a teenage Jesse was ambushed and horsewhipped, and his stepfather hanged from a tree by Union militiamen seeking the whereabouts of Frank and his fellow insurgents. Miraculously, the stepfather, Dr. Archie Samuel, survived his torture.


By age 16, Jesse followed Frank as a marauding bushwhacker, with both joining a ruthlessly violent gang led by William “Bloody Bill” Anderson. Jesse was shot in the chest in 1865 during a skirmish with Union troops near Lexington, Missouri, a month after General Robert E. Lee had surrendered. After being nursed back to health by his cousin Zerelda “Zee” Mimms, with whom he would later marry and father two children, Jesse banded with Frank and other former guerillas to rob banks, stagecoaches, and trains.


During an 1869 bank robbery in Gallatin—the incident that first brought Jesse public notice as an outlaw—Jesse shot and killed the cashier, thinking the man was Samuel Cox, commander of the pro-Union militia troops who had “Bloody Bill” Anderson in 1964. After this heist, an influential pro-Confederate newspaper editor, John Newman Edwards, befriended Jesse and went on to promote the former bushwhacker as a hero and “defiant Southern patriot of the Reconstruction era.” Jesse himself wrote letters to newspapers defending his actions. Through his articles and editorials, Edwards helped create the myth of Jesse James as a Robin Hood figure, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor (a myth historians have debunked).


After Jesse and Frank robbed a train in January 1874, the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency was called in to hunt them down. In March, a detective searching for Jesse and Frank was found dead, while another agent who pursued the brothers’ fellow gang members Cole and Robert Younger was also killed. Catching the James brothers became a personal mission for Allan Pinkerton, an abolitionist who “had aided slaves on the Underground Railroad, uncovered a plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln, and gathered military intelligence for the federal government during the Civil War. 


Shortly after midnight on January 25, 1875, a group of Pinkertons, acting on an outdated tip that Jesse and Frank were at their mother’s farm, raided the place. They threw a smoke bomb into the farmhouse, setting off an explosion that killed Jesse and Frank’s eight-year-old half-brother and caused their mother to lose part of one arm. Following this raid, public support for Jesse and Frank increased. The Missouri state legislature even came close to passing a bill offering amnesty to the two. The brothers also launched an intimidation campaign against their perceived enemies near Zerelda’s farm and in April, one of her neighbors, a former Union militiaman who had assisted the Pinkertons prepare for their raid, was shot to death. Allan Pinkerton never resumed his hunt for the James brothers.


The James-Younger gang came to its violent end attempting to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. They targeted the bank after learning that Adelbert Ames, a former Union general and Republican governor of Reconstruction-era Mississippi, had recently moved to the town. Ames was rumored to have recently deposited $75,000 into the bank. During the attempted robbery, three members of the gang entered the bank and demanded the safe be opened, but the cashier refused. Meanwhile, townspeople outside got wind that a holdup was taking place and engaged in a shootout with the rest of the gang stationed on the street.


In the end, the gang killed the cashier and a passerby, while two bandits were shot to death by townsfolk before the rest of the outlaws fled. Two weeks later, the Younger brothers were captured, and another gang member killed in a gunfight near Madelia, Minnesota. The James brothers, who had split with the Youngers (and were the only gang members not caught or killed following the failed robbery), laid low for the next few years, living in Tennessee under assumed names. However, in 1879, Jesse recruited a new gang and began a fresh crime spree.


Jesse met his end when two of his new gang members conspired to betray him in his rented home in St. Joseph, Missouri. His wife and two children were in a nearby room when he was shot. Bob Ford, whose brother Charley was already a member of the gang, had arranged with Missouri’s governor to take down Jesse in exchange for a reward. The public was transfixed by Jesse’s murder and Bob and Charley soon began reenacting the event in a traveling show.


Following Jesse James’ death, speculation lingered that it was a faked event and someone else was buried in his grave. In 1995, scientists exhumed his supposed remains from Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri (where his remains had been transferred from the original site on the family farm). After DNA testing, the researchers concluded that the exhumed remains were “almost certainly those of the infamous outlaw.”


Your characters would almost certainly have heard of Jesse James, maybe even read a newspaper report of his escapades or of his passing.

J.E.S. Hays



Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Classic Country Ballads of Lost Love Series Finale – Two Songs to end the year on a happy note #westernfictioneers #countryballads #classiccountrymusic

I wrote an article every month this past year in which I shared my thoughts on classic country ballads that told the stories of tragically lost love. To jog our musical memories, here is the list with the links to those blog articles.


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
September – Marty Robbins – They’re Hanging Me Tonight
October – Lefty Frizzell – Long Black Veil
November – Johnny Cash – Give My Love to Rose

Here we are in December, and we’ve reached the series finale of country ballads of lost love.

My end-of-year blogging gift to myself and to you, my faithful readers, is to end the year on a positive musical note. I’m leaving us with a happy ever after feeling with these two songs that tell the stories of how two couples found a way around seemingly insurmountable obstacles to make it to their Happy Ever After.

The two songs are Saginaw, Michigan and Meet Me Tonight in Laredo.

Saginaw, Michigan was Lefty Frizell’s sixth and final number one U. S. country chart hit in 1964. The song was released in November 1963. Bill Anderson and Don Wayne wrote the song.

Saginaw, Michigan tells the story of the son of a poor fisherman in Saginaw, Michigan who falls in love with a rich man’s daughter. Her father forbids her to have anything to do with our young fisherman. But our young man is resourceful, and he takes off for Alaska to find a fortune in the gold mines. When his hopes of finding gold are crushed, he concocts a scheme to return home under the guise of having struck it rich. The wealthy man is a greedy fool and he asks Will you sell your father-in-law your Klondike claim? The deal is made and the wealthy man goes to Alaska to dig for the nonexistent gold.

It serves him right and no one here is missing him
Least of all the newlyweds of Saginaw, Michigan.

To reference a quote from Hannibal Smith, I love it when a happy ever after plan comes together. ;-)

This next song is my favorite classic country song as well as my favorite Marty Robbins song.

Meet Me Tonight in Laredo

Mabel Cordle and Ronny Robbins wrote Meet Me Tonight in Laredo. Marty released it on The Drifter album in July 1966.

This song tells the story of a woman who meets a wild Comanchero by chance one night in Laredo. We get the idea right away that she’s in love with this man, because people tell her he had lived the outlaw life and if she hooks up with him her life will consist of nothing but toil and hardships and heartaches and tears.

 But love finds a way and one day he sends her the message she’s been waiting for.

Meet me tonight in Laredo.
Wait ‘til the moon’s hanging low
Meet me tonight in Laredo
We’ll soon be in Old Mexico

They slip away through the darkness and ride deep into Mexico to begin their lives together.

The hands that once held a six gun are holding their baby tonight.

My gosh, but I love this song. I love it so much, in fact, that I wrote a novel based on the lyrics. The novel is The Comanchero’s Bride.


This is the scene in which the woman meets the Comanchero one night in Laredo…

The pause between songs interrupted her private ponderings, and Elizabeth realized Domingo Valderas was walking straight toward her across the dancing area. So intense was his gaze, it was clear she was his intended destination. Pleasant anticipation knotted inside her. His self-assured, swaggering gait suggested an earthy vitality she’d never encountered in any other man.

His ornately adorned black charro jacket hugged his broad shoulders and the ends of his midnight-black hair brushed the collar of the red shirt that opened low on his chest revealing a patch of dark curly hair. His flashy calzoneras hung long over his boots, and a black poblano dangled down his back by a cord around his neck. The silver conchos dotting the wide, black leather gun belt strapped around his narrow hips caught and reflected the wavering torchlight with glimmering sparkles. With each arrogant step, the rhythmical jingle-jangling twirl of his large-rowelled Mexican spurs against the stone plaza held her, enthralled, as a moth drawn to the flame.

 Upon reaching her, he took her right hand and with a pretentious bow, brought it to his lips for a light kiss. His grip was strong, yet gentle, his gaze penetrating to the very core of what made her a woman. The brash, simmering desire in his sultry eyes sent a tingling response shimmering through her body. His mustache quivered with a smile that provoked and beckoned her at the same time.

Buenas noches. I am Domingo Raoul Valderas y César, recently of Monterrey, Monclova, and Saltillo by way of Santa Fé and all locations in between. My friends call me Mingo. Your name, señorita?”

His English was strong and clear, although heavily accented with a deep, languid tone that washed over her, caressing her with intimate familiarity. This man was desire personified, and her body responded where words failed her.

His expression took on feigned alarm at her continued silence, and he swept his free hand histrionically to his chest. “No! Do I hold false hope…Señora? Tell me my heart will not be broken to learn that you belong to another.”


Thanks for sticking with me all year on this series endeavor. See you all in January 2024.

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