Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Captain Richmond Finch

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

Captain Finch died on September 28, 1898, in El Paso County, Colorado, of heart disease. His story, like many of the veterans who are buried here, is one both universal and unique. 

Born in Albany County, New York in 1837 the third child to parents John and Mary Finch. Around 1850, according to his sister Theresa, (Thirza), the family moved from New York to Prince William Valley, Virginia. However, by 1858 Richmond appears to have separated from his family. So far, the reason for the break hasn't been found.

His military career began on August 1,1861. At twenty-four in 1861, he joined the 3rd New York Cavalry as a quartermaster sergeant. By November 1863, he accepted a commission with the 15th New York Cavalry as a second lieutenant. By the end of 1865, he was a Captain.

In the letters and diaries of this sister Thirza, Richmond was in Washington, N.C. during the Confederate siege of the city. He was in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 and served under Sheridan in the campaigns of 1864-65. She mentions that he was ' an avid, apparently fearless soldier and was as aggressive as he was successful in pursuing a military career'.

He also had a younger brother, Edwin, who served with the 15th NY Calvary and also took part in Sheridan's campaigns. 

His older brother, Madison, was a Unionist sympathizer,  was drafted into the Confederate 4th Virginia Calvary. He served until November of 1863 when he was captured. After five weeks in Old Capitol Prison in Washington, he was paroled and returned to remain with his family for the duration of the war. 

His other brother, Foster, joined the 7th N.Y. Heavy Artillery in July 1863. He was captured by Mosby's Rangers and spent time in a Confederate prison in Virginia. Upon his release from prison, he spent time in the hospital to regain his strength. He rejoined his regiment in March of 1865. (One of the doctors buried in Evergreen just above where Richmond's headstone rests was with Mosby's Rangers.)

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

In 1870, Richmond married New York-born Caroline Smith. He spent two years after the war where he and his wife lived and ran a business. By 1880 the two moved to Leadville, Colorado where they had a Lodging House at 204 W. 2nd St. In 1890 the couple were in Colorado Springs where Richmond was the proprietor of the restaurant, The New England Kitchen. He had this business until he died in 1898.

As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, the stories of these veterans and those who followed, deserve to be found and shared. If you see a headstone of a veteran, take the time to research the stories. You never know what you will find.

For those who may have missed the earlier posts:

Sarah Jane Durkee Anderson - Prairie Rose Publications

Esther Walker - Veteran - Western Fictioneers

Esther Walker - Prairie Rose Publications

Alpheus R. Eastman - Western Fictioneers

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

14th Annual Peacemaker Awards Finalists and Lifetime Achievement Peacemaker Award


John Legg



14th Annual Peacemaker Awards Finalists

For Western Novels and Stories Published in 2023






GRAY’S LAKE, John Hansen (Summit Creek Press)

THE GOLD CHIP, Douglas Hirt (Wolfpack Publishing)

CHANGING WOMAN, Venetia Hobson Lewis (Bison Books)

RIDE A FAST HORSE, Kevin Warren (Kensington)

THE BOOT HEEL, Kevin Wolf (Thorndike)




THE GOOD TIME GIRLS, K.T. Blakemore (Sycamore Creek Press)

CHANGING WOMAN, Venetia Hobson Lewis (Bison Books)

. . . BY THE WAY THEY TREAT THEIR HORSES, M. Timothy Nolting (Austin Macauley Publishers)

THE PENITENT GUN, Rod Timanus (Thorndike Large Print)

RIDE A FAST HORSE, Kevin Warren (Kensington)




“Clarence Flowers”, John Neely Davis (FORTITUDE, Five Star)

“Prairie Blossoms”, Sharon Frame Gay (FORTITUDE, Five Star)

“The Sound of Buffalo”, Lisa Majewski and Del Howison (FORTITUDE, Five Star)

“Next to the Last Chance”, John D. Nesbitt (BRIGHT SKIES AND DARK HORSES, Five Star)

“The Great Burro Revolt”, P.A. O’Neil (SADDLEBAG DISPATCHES, Summer 2023)

“The Would-Be Bounty Hunters”, Michael R. Ritt (FORTITUDE, Five Star)


Winners will be announced June 15, 2024 on the WF website (www.westernfictioneers.com) and on this blog.

Western Fictioneers (WF) was formed in 2010 by professional Western writers, to preserve, honor, and promote traditional Western writing in the 21st century. Entries were accepted in both print and electronic forms.

The Peacemaker Awards are given annually. Submissions for the Peacemaker Awards for books and stories published in 2024 will be open in August 2024. Submission guidelines will be posted on the WF website. For more information about Western Fictioneers (WF) please visit: http://www.westernfictioneers.com

Western Fictioneers would like to thank the judges for the excellent job they have done and James Reasoner for being Awards Chair.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Loops and Swift Horses are Surer Than Lead, by Charles Marion Russell (1916)


Here is a wonderful action painting by our friend, Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926), the Cowboy Artist. I have been trying to get a sense of the man and his philosophy through his pictures. 


We can start with the obvious: the title of this work, Loops and Swift Horses are Surer Than Lead. In all the Western Art I have looked at over the years, I have had occasion to look at several pictures that include bears in an attitude of menace.  In fact, after Native Americans, bandits and over-zealous lawmen, perhaps the bear is the most frequently represented foeman in Western Art.


However, most any of Charlie’s contemporaries would take the obvious route, and paint a picture of Western figures shooting and killing the bear. (Or, reaching for their rifles to do so, or putting them down after they have done so.) Not Charlie. His cowboy heroes, though obviously well-armed, rope and scare the bear away to safer climes. Always more Roy Rogers than Clint Eastwood, Charlie didn’t see the West as a vast panorama of hardship and cruelty, but, rather, a boyish paradise of freedom and fun.


This is where Charlie differs most significantly from the artist frequently associated with him, Frederic Remington (1861-1909). For Remington, the West was unending hardship, merciless desert and physical exertion, a battle for survival to be won or lost. It is Remington, of course, who created in his work the now-familiar Western trope of the bleached steer skull that can still be seen in countless depictions of the West. Make a wrong move, Remington implied, and you’ll end up the same.


If this picture is any indication, perhaps Charlie’s vision was the truer one. Loops and Swift Horses now hangs in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and is based on a true-life incident. This painting came about by way of his friends, the Coburn brothers of the famous Circle C Ranch in eastern Montana, where they described the roping of a giant brown bear. Artistic license was taken when Charlie turned the bruin into a Grizzly, but the rest of the story was true right down to the landscape in the background: the scenic Coburn Buttes.


The dominant color of the picture is blue, but Charlie manages to mute or pop shades of it to represent everything from trees to sky to mountains, to foreground scrub. Yes, the color never becomes monotonous or gimmicky.  


Charlie was also the master of figures in motion. His horses move. Many of our greatest artists have been able to depict horses of majesty, of size, of monumentality, but Charlie’s horses are seen in dramatic action, twisting or jumping with a febrile life of their own. I can think of no finer painter of American horses than Charlie Russell


Finally, Charlie underscores the tumultuous action of the picture with a rainstorm in the middle-distant horizon. Like all Western landscape pictures, the view-horizon is vast, going on for miles.  Thus the far-off rain storm underscores the ‘storm’ of action going on between cowboys, horses and bear. 


Speaking of movement, take a moment to look at the bear. It twists and pivots on unsteady ground … you can almost feel the weight of the animal as it is pulled and slides down the natural incline. The cowboys, too, move as if in motion, alternately pulling or swinging their lariats.  And notice the cowboy on the right, looking over his right shoulder, with right leg raised as counter weight to keep in saddle.


This is a really good picture, and something mysteriously akin to the essence of Charlie – not only is his West a world of action, freedom and camaraderie, but it can be a fairly bloodless one, too. Charlie loved the animals he found out West (when visiting cities, he always went to the local zoo, where he said he felt most at home), and it’s not surprising that he would depict his heroes scaring away the threat of a grizzly, rather than killing it.  


Perhaps we should all take a page from Russell’s notebook, and produce work that preserves the best parts of ourselves (or, at least, the myth of the best part of ourselves). The more I look at Charlie’s work, the more convinced I become that we need more artists like him now.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

On This Day in the Old West: May 12

 On this day in the Old West, the first steamboat successfully navigated the Upper Mississippi. On May 10, 1823, the steamboat Virginia arrived at Fort St. Anthony (renamed Fort Snelling two years later), making the 729-mile trip from St. Louis in twenty days. The Virginia traveled to within eight miles of St. Anthony Falls with “a few passengers and a cargo of military supplies” bound for the site of present-day St. Paul, Minnesota. This marked the first time a steamboat traveled up the Mississippi all the way to the head of navigation.

Other boats, of course, had used the upper river for years: piroques, canoes, flatboats, and keelboats. The Virginia heralded a new era. Under steam power, people and cargo could be transported upstream far more quickly and efficiently, and in greater quantities, than on a boat with sails or poles or oars. Beginning around 1817, steamboats began to ply the lower Mississippi (and the Ohio) in large numbers, and travel from New Orleans to Pittsburgh soon became routine. But the upper Mississippi, more turbulent and filled with obstructions, was a different story. Long after the Virginia left St. Louis, skeptics postulated whether she would ever return. Some expected her to founder or give up when she reached the fearsome Des Moines Rapids. The Virginia did get stuck in the rapids, but removed cargo to lighten her load and was able to escape.

Despite “frequent groundings and delays, stormy weather, and a lack of navigational charts for the last two hundred miles,” Virginia reached Fort St. Anthony on May 10, having supplied other forts along her way. The journey was quite slow, with daylight travel only. Virginia took twenty days to cover seven hundred miles. At one point, a Native passenger named Great Eagle, irritated that the ship’s pilot had chosen the wrong channel, leaped from the boat and swam ashore to join his fellow Sauk tribesmen, who were walking upstream. By the time Virginia reached her next stop, the Sauks had already arrived, set up camp, and were dickering with fur traders. Still, sluggish as Virginia may have been, she proved a steamboat could conquer the upper Mississippi. The Virginia made two more supply runs during 1823 and before long, a fleet of steamships was carrying lead, furs, and grain down the Mississippi—and settlers upstream. The river remained an indispensable thoroughfare for decades, especially in the upper Midwest, where no railroad would reach St. Paul until after the Civil War.

After 1823, steamboat traffic grew quickly. One measure was the number of times steamboats docked at the upper river’s port cities. St. Paul recorded 41 steamboat arrivals in 1844 and 95 arrivals in 1849. By 1857, St. Paul had become a bustling port, with over 1,000 steamboat arrivals each year. But as quickly as the number of boats increased, they just couldn’t keep up with the demand. In 1854, a St. Paul newspaper, the Minnesota Pioneer, reported that every steamboat which arrived overflowed with passengers and freight, and that “the present tonnage on the river is by no means sufficient to handle one-half the business of the trade.” Every boat that docked created new business and an even greater backlog, as more and more immigrants disembarked to start farms and businesses. From famine to feast in just over thirty years—steamboat traffic had finally arrived in the upper Mississippi. 

Of course, the river hadn’t changed. Trees filled and surrounded it. Hundreds of islands and sand bars divided the channel. Above St. Paul, rocks and rapids kept the river unmanageable. Not until after the Civil War would the country look at creating a navigable channel in the Mississippi. The 1866 River and Harbor Act directed the Corps of Engineers to survey the river from St. Anthony Falls to the Rock Island Rapids and “ascertain the feasible means, by economizing the water of the stream, of insuring the passage, at all navigable seasons, of boats drawing four feet of water….”  In other words, Congress was asking the Corps to figure out how to create a continuous four-foot channel that would remain clear in high water or low. Low water was defined as the height of the water during the 1864 drought, so the Corps would need to ensure the river was at least four feet deep at that level. In 1867, they initiated a program of dredging sandbars, snagging, clearing overhanging trees, and removing sunken vessels to create that four-foot channel. This project didn’t greatly change the river’s character and didn’t actually improve the river much for navigation, but it started a series of navigation projects that would, in the end, do both. And it all started on May 10, 1823.

Your characters would have either taken a steamboat ride on their way West, or at the least, would know of the riverboats of the Mississippi. Just remember that the upper river would not have been as navigable until after the Civil War.

J.E.S. Hays

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Western Movie Taglines Blog Series - May Movie Taglines #movietaglines #westernmovies

My 2024 blogging series, Western Movie Taglines, began in January when I explained what a tagline is and gave examples of good non-western movie taglines followed by several disappointing taglines from western movies.

In February, I shared 15 western movie taglines that were clever or witty, real groaners, or just plain silly. March through September, I will share 10 movie taglines each month. October through December will be the Top 40 Countdown of Best Western Movie Taglines.

I compiled a list of 250 westerns and their taglines. From that 250, I plucked out the best 125 to share between February and December. These 125 taglines range from good to outstanding as far as doing justice to their corresponding movies.

The Top 40 taglines are the ones that capture and sum up the heart of the movie in such a fabulous way that we're amazed at how a handful of words can be that powerful or theme-descriptive. Also in December, I will 1) share taglines I've written for two western movies and one early-settling of the American frontier movie that deserved better taglines and, 2) offer a downloadable document of the 250 movies and taglines that I compiled.

Taglines by month:

January Movie Taglines
February Movie Taglines
March Movie Taglines
April Movie Taglines

Onward to the May Western Movie Taglines—

Angel and the Badman
Only a love like hers could conquer a man like him!

Blood on the Moon (1948)
A woman’s bullet kills as quick as a man’s!

 When there’s BLOOD ON THE MOON
…and death lurks in the shadows!

Dances with Wolves (1990)
Inside everyone is a frontier waiting to be discovered.

In 1864 one man went in search of the frontier…
And found himself.

The Gunfighter (1950)
His only friend was his gun…
His only refuge – a woman’s heart.

Legends of Fall (1994) 
After the fall from innocence, the legend begins.

The Rare Breed (1966)
A rare breed o heroic adventures…
A rare breed of fighting, frontier women.
A rare breed of bold young lovers…
Ready to meet the dangers of the West!

Tom Horn (1980)
See gun before he sees you.

True Grit (1969)
The strangest trio ever to track a killer. A fearless, one-eyed U.S. marshal who never knew a dry day in his life… A Texas ranger thirsty for bounty money… and a girl still wet behind the ears who didn't care what they were or who they were as long as they had

Wyatt Earp (1994)
The epic story of Love and Adventure in a Lawless Land.

Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
Always, the Kid strained to match Big Kelly’s stride…
And finally did, one Indian-screaming afternoon…

See you in June with the next ten western movie taglines.