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Legends Letter

January, 2009

 

Kathy and DaveIt's that "singin' the blues" time of year again. Kathy just doesn't do well in sub-freezing temperatures that last for weeks. Usually, to combat this, Dave and I plan a trip to a warmer destination each winter, but, alas, we had to cancel our planned escape to San Antonio next week due to other financial priorities. Though this is a little bit of a bummer, there's a real "upside," as we bought a little guest cottage for a our second home at the Lake of the Ozarks. This will eventually become the new site of Legends of America when we get moved down that direction in a couple of years. It's unfinished, so it will also keep me busy putting my limited construction skills to work and provide some exercise. In any event, I'll try to make up for the lack of a warm weather trip with bunches of new articles, getting  warm vicariously, through sunny travel destinations. 

 

Well, last year was the "year of the postcard" as far as our inventory for Legends' General Store goes, putting up thousands of vintage cards and expanding into our own line of custom postcards, which we are sending out in great numbers every day. 2009; however, will be the "year of the book," as I've got boxes and boxes of "new" Old West titles to unpack, inventory, and get on the website. Look for these this month. Also, as previously mentioned, I'm working on a custom line of books, that incorporate much of the writing found on Legends of America, as well as historic text, and our vintage photographs. The first title, which has been requested by many of our readers, will be Frontier Slang, Lingo and Phrases, published next month. It's all done, just got to do the proof-reading and it will be "up and running." 

 

If I'm gonna get all this done, I better get moving!

 

In the meantime, I truly hope you enjoy the newsletter and the website!!

 

Kathy Weiser, Owner/Editor

 

New Additions and Feature Stories

 

 

American Progress by John Gast in 1872One of our primary focuses over the last month was adding to our ever expanding Women List. While I tend to focus more on those women that were "intimately" involved with frontier characters, there were lots of female pioneers who made history that in many ways, more rightly deserve mention. See full articles on two remarkable women -- "Doc Susy" Anderson, who as one of the first doctors to practice in the Old West and Poker Alice, one of the best known poker players on the frontier. Summaries have also been added for Deborah Samson Gannett, the first known woman to impersonate a man in the U.S. Army; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the foremost figures of the movement for women's equality; Jemima Warner, the first woman to be killed in action during U.S. wars; Laura Ingalls Wilder, famed children’s author and "storyteller of the prairie;” and Victoria Claflin Woodhull, the first woman to run for President and the center of a scandal that rocked the nation. You'll also find two historic articles written in 1877 -- Woman As a Pioneer and Women in the Army.

 

We've also expanded on another of our endless lists - more historic forts of the American West. This time for Arizona, where a number of forts were established, especially during the Apache Wars. See full articles on Fort Defiance, Fort Grant, and Fort Breckinridge, as well as summaries for Camp Date Creek, Camp Hualapai, Fort Goodwin, Fort Lowell, Fort Mojave, Fort Thomas, and more.

 

And, while "stumbling" around the many forts of Arizona, I bumped into the fascinating tale of the Wham Paymaster Robbery, which took place near Pima, Arizona

While focused on the southwest, you'll also find the tale of Pancho Villa Attacks Columbus, New Mexico. Written by guest author Jesse Wolf Hardin, this is the tale of Pancho Villa's inglorious raid on Columbus on March 9, 1916.

 

You'll also find another historic article written for Harper's Magazine, in July, 1891 featuring the American cowboy -- see Some American Riders.

 

Back in November, we made a run to the Texas Panhandle to visit family, and if I'm taking a trip, you can bet I'll find some side jaunt I can take, regardless of how many times I've visited the same place. This time, it was the old Amarillo Air Force Base east of Amarillo. Once, Route 66 ran right through the base, but I hadn't ever had an opportunity to visit. So, you'll see a new article there and bunches of new photos of Amarillo's stretch of the Mother Road.

 

Finally back to our growing list of forts, you'll also find More Forts of North Dakota, that now include places such as Fort Abercrombie, Fort Abraham Lincoln, Fort Berthold, Fort Ransom and more.

 

We'll have bunches more next month, but for now, this ought to keep you busy.

 

 

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~~~~~~~

Old West Wisdom:

 

A faint heart never filled a flush.

 

Nobody ever drowned himself in his own sweat.

 

The length of a conversation don't tell nothin' about the size of the intellect. 

~~~~~~~

 

Custom Postcards - Always thinking of something new and a way to use our thousands of photos, and a bit of artistic talent, we've started our own line of postcards.

 

 

Featured Travel Destination 

 

 

Lincoln, New MexicoLincoln, New Mexico - Wild Wild West Frozen in Time - With the brain on warm places, I'm remembering where we were last year at this time -- southern New Mexico enjoying 60-70 degree weather. Ok, there were a couple of places that weren't that warm on just a couple of days, but, all in all, it was scores of degrees warmer there than it was up here in Kansas. During that great trip, we visited a bucketload of ghost towns including Ancho, Chloride, Jicarilla, Mogollon, Shakespeare, and more. But, the very best place, in my not so humble opinion, was Lincoln, New Mexico! Like last month's favorite -- Tombstone; Lincoln, New Mexico reeks of the Old West.

 

A walk down Lincoln's Main Street is a step back in time, to a place where such men as Billy the Kid, "Dirty" Dave Rudabaugh and Pat Garrett left their marks. It was here that Indians, Mexican American settlers, gunfighters and corrupt politicians made themselves known; it was in this small settlement that the violent Lincoln County War erupted between rival cattle barons, resulting in some 19 deaths and turning young Billy the Kid into a legend; and here that another bloody feud called the Horrell War, was waged. In fact, things were so bad in this lawless town in the late 1800s that President Rutherford B. Hayes called Lincoln's Main Street "the most dangerous street in America” in 1878.

 

During Lincoln's violent heydays, more than 450 people made their homes there and when the town calmed down, Lincoln continued to serve as a supply center for area ranches and mines and by 1888, reported a population of about eight hundred residents. However when the railroad moved to nearby Carrizozo, the town began to decline in population and by 1909 lost its county seat status to Carrizozo.

Over the decades, the population continued to decline to its current population of only about 75. However, amazingly, many of its old buildings were preserved. Today, the old settlement is officially referred to as the Lincoln State Monument and is the most widely visited state monument in New Mexico. The historic site includes 17 structures and outbuildings, three of which are museums.

 

Though there are more shops open during the summer months and a number of events to entertain visitors, one great thing about Lincoln in the winter was the total lack of crowds. Wish I were back there now.

 

More ...

 

Featured Book:

 

Kit Carson Days - 2 Volume Set - Christopher "Kit" Carson was a daring and brave explorer, mountain man, trapper, scout, soldier, and buffalo hunter. This fascinating two volume set provides a look at his escapades.

 

 

 

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The Old West

 

 

Rock Creek Station TodayRock Creek Station, Wild Bill & the McCanles Massacre - Established in 1857 along the Oregon and California Trails, Rock Creek Station, near what is now Fairbury, Nebraska, was not only a popular emigrant trail stop for travelers, but also the site of a shoot-out between Wild Bill Hickok and David C. McCanles, known as the McCanles Massacre. In March, 1859, David McCanles bought the Rock Creek Station where he operated a small store and built a toll bridge across the creek. The next year, McCanles leased part of the land to the Overland Stage Company, who built a stage and Pony Express relay station.

 

In April, 1861, McCanles sold his property and moved his family to another location about three miles south of Rock Creek Station. Always trying to make money, McCanles sold the toll bridge several times with a number of specific requirements in the contract. When the new owner failed to meet the stipulations, he would take it back and sell it again.

Shortly after the property sold, a 24-year-old James Butler "Bill” Hickok went to work for the new owners and immediately found himself at odds with David McCanles, who had earned a reputation as the local bully. Allegedly, McCanles teased Hickok unmercifully about his girlish build and feminine features, as well as nicknaming him "Duck Bill,” referring to his long nose and protruding lips.

 

Perhaps in retaliation, Hickok began courting a woman by the name of Kate Shell, who, even though McCanles was married, apparently had his eye on.

 

In the meantime, the Overland Stage Company had fallen behind on their installment payments and when McCanles, two employees, and his son appeared to demand payment, Hickok and McCanles soon got into an argument that led to gunfire. When the affair was over McCanles and his two employees were dead and numerous versions of what occurred began to circulate, with Wild Bill exaggerating the tale, and a story appearing in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in 1867, that tells a version that is embellished to the degree that Wild Bill had polished off ten of the West’s most dangerous desperados and was left with eleven buck-shot and thirteen knife wounds.

 

This was the beginning of Wild Bill Hickok's legendary reputation. It was also tales like this that has led to much 19th century history being so muddled that it is difficult to sort the truth from "dime-novel" fiction.

 

More ...

 

 

 

Did You Know??

 

Daniel Boone detested coonskin caps.

 

San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

 

John Wilkes Booth's brother once saved the life of Abraham Lincoln's son.

 

In the 1890's more than 30 people were axed, hanged, burned and mobbed to death in the United States for practicing witchcraft.

 

Elephant Hall, a museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, has the biggest collection of elephant skeletons in the world.

 

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Ghostly & Other Strange Legends

 

 

TommyknockerTommyknockers of the Western Mines -

Mining is an ancient profession and along with the back breaking work and dangers of working in the dark underground, comes century old superstitions, the most notable being that of the Tommyknockers.

 

These impish, gnome-like men are the Cornish equivalent of Irish leprechauns and English brownies. Germans called them Berggeister or Bergmännlein, meaning "mountain ghosts” or "little miners.”

 

About two feet tall, and often described as greenish in color, they look like men and are most often spied wearing a traditional miner’s outfit.  Living beneath the ground, they have been "known” to have committed both good and bad deeds through the centuries, often playing practical jokes and committing random acts of mischief, such as stealing unattended tools and food.

 

The Tommyknockers were first heard of in the United States when Cornish miners worked in the western Pennsylvania coal mines in the 1820’s. When the California Gold Rush began, these experienced Cornish miners were welcomed and often sought after by the mine owners. Attempting to recruit more minders, managers often approached the immigrants, asking if they had any relatives back in England who might come to work the mines. The Cornish miners would reply something like this: "Well, me cousin Jack over in Cornwall wouldst come could ye pay ’is boat ride."  Soon, these many immigrant miners took on the nickname Cousin Jacks, who formed the core of America’s early western mining workforce. As such, their superstition of the Tommyknocker thrived and spread throughout the mines of the west.

 

When these grizzled little gnomes were good, they were thought to bring miners favors and wealth. But when they were bad, they were said to bring about misery, injury, and death to those who doubted their power or who did not believe in them.

 

Later, the legend of the Tommyknockers evolved into the idea that the knockings were caused by dead miners who were kind enough to give warnings of danger to the living. In praise of these kind gestures, the miners would leave offerings of food and other items in order to secure their good graces and protection.

 

In some mines, where the Tommyknockers’ presence was known to be overwhelmingly malevolent, the mines were forced to close because of the mens’ fear of the spirits. When the mines played out, the legend continued as many said the Tommyknockers found "work” in the homes surrounding the old mineshafts. Superstitions continued when many a family death or disaster was allegedly foretold by a knocking in the house.

 

Belief in these diminutive miners remained well into the 20th century until modern systems and education replaced these earlier superstitions. Though not much is heard of the Tommyknockers today, they will forever have a place in our history, legend and lore.

 

More ...

 

What our readers are saying about Legends of America:

 

Thanks Kathy, for your Newsletter that you take so much time working on and sharing with others. It is greatly appreciated and your stories make one love and appreciate even more. --  Lyle

 

Thank you SOO much for bringing childhood memories back. Your photos and the entire website are fantastic. -- Charlene, New Hampshire

 

This is a nice site, I live close to a few ghost towns and love to go walking and letting my imagination run. I look forward to getting this monthly letter. Thank you. -- Lois, Wyoming

 

Having just found this site, I am enjoying it tremendously. I have always been a fan of the Old West, and now I can indulge my passion. -- Artie, Virginia

 

Wonderful site....I've been clicking on items in your website for a long time and never am disappointed at what I find. Thank you for all the info and obvious mutual love for the good ole days (especially in Kansas.) I have sent your site to many of my friends and they are all happy that I did. -- Wayne, Kansas

 

Sort of Wikipedia of the west. A lot of information about North American indigenous people, ghost towns, haunted motels.  Carry on and keep building. -- Dave, Michigan

 

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Legends of America

 

A Travel Guide for the

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Kathy Weiser

Owner/Editor

 

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