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Legends Letter

September, 2007

 Kathy Weiser

Hey friends and neighbors! I'm afraid I can't give you any "new" great destination reports, nor even any scary adventures in the last month or so. Home and family have been taking recent priority, but that doesn't mean there isn't lot's of new stuff!


Well, we did take a trip to Texas, for a family event. I can't get in a car and travel anywhere without always thinking about "work," which I don't think of as "work," but rather, as "fun." So, we did re-travel Route 66 from Kansas to Amarillo. You'll see lots of new photos and even two places that I hadn't written about before. The first, the Jericho Gap, I didn't have good enough directions to find before, but this time I got it. This was once one of the places that Route 66 travelers dreaded as numerous people often got stuck in it's 18 mile swath of muddy black soil. Huh?? In the Texas Panhandle?? Well, maybe that was because locals benefited so much from the many stranded vehicles on this stretch of the Mother Road, pulling stranded cars out of the quagmire, that supposedly, they watered down the road to increase their business.


I also discovered on this stretch that the famous "Rattle Snake" sign had blown down. Another Route 66 icon that will hopefully be saved. While at this exit I also visited the small community of Lela. While it was never big to begin with, Lela died when Route 66 went away.


In the meantime, I was madly working on lots of new material for the Old West and have been obsessed with the many forts of the American West. You'll see them!


I truly hope you enjoy the newsletter and the website!!


Kathy Weiser, Owner/Editor





In this Edition: 


New Additions


Featured Travel Destination - Calico, California


The Old West - Scoundrels of the Old West


Featured Book - Great American Bars & Saloons


Ghosts & Mysteries - Haunted Atchison







New Additions to Legends of America



Ohmagosh, in addition to my continuing obsession about forts all over the American West, I also went crazy over Kansas cowtowns, Indian Wars, and more great characters of the American West.

For forts, you're going to find not only an entire List of Forts, but also a bucket load of information on these historic places, that I have deemed to be "ghost towns" in and of themselves. Check out Fort Harker in Kansas, Forts Fetterman and Bridger in Wyoming, Forts Bayard and Cummings in New Mexico, Forts Abraham Lincoln and Totten in North Dakota, and lots more.

Then off on a tangent, I was perusing the many wild cowtowns of Kansas. Immediately following the Civil War, the East was demanding beef and Texas cowboys were ready to comply. As the developing railheads moved westward through Kansas hundreds of thousands of cattle were driven northward to be loaded on the trains. Beginning with the first major cowtown of Abilene, before expanding to Ellsworth, Caldwell, Wichita, and Dodge City, every one of these towns quickly developed wild and wooly reputations, with numerous Old West characters calling them home -- people like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, and John Wesley Hardin.

Researching the many forts of the West inevitably drew me into a number of Indian battles including the The Cayuse War in Washington and Oregon, the Modoc War, also in Oregon, plus more notable Indian leaders including Rain-in-the-Face, Victorio, and Walkara, the leader of the Walker War.

Lots of new famous and infamous colorful personalities can also be found, including Gunplay Maxwell, a dapper Utah gunfighter and outlaw; Bill Cook, who terrorized Oklahoma with the Cook Gang; Robert Ollinger, a killer with a badge; and Thomas "Bear River" Smith, who tried desperately to tame the wild Kansas cowtown of Abilene. More women also appear such as Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, who fought as a man in the Civil War; Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian woman who led Lewis and Clark; Lottie Deno, one of the most famous lady gamblers in the West; and Cathay Williams, who was the first and only female Buffalo Soldier.

Finally, taking up much of my time, has been working on a new line of custom postcards and posters - starting with Route 66! Stay tuned as these begin to appear over the next month.


Better get going, if I'm gonna keep up the pace!



Bumper Sticker Wisdom 


Are you drunk or just on your cellphone?


Silly cowboy, trucks are for girls.


My horse can buck off your honor student.


I had a handle on life but it broke.




From Legends' General Store

Postcard-O-Mania: From postcards of the Old West to Route 66, people, animals, and soon, every state in the union, you'll find hundreds of both new and vintage postcards HERE!

Route 66 Postcard




Featured Travel Destination 


Entrance to Calico, CaliforniaCalico, California - Revived From A Desert Grave - Three miles north of Interstate-15, midway between Barstow and Yermo, California, and not far off Old Route 66, is the historic and restored ghost town of Calico, California.


It all began in 1875 when roving prospectors first found silver on the south slope of the Calico Mountains. However, it wasn't until some five years later that additional ore discoveries worth $400 to $500 per ton brought about a small rush and the filing of many claims.


In the spring of 1881 came the discovery of the Silver King, Calico's richest mine and less than a year later, the new settlement supported several businesses on a commercial street flanked by tents and adobe buildings. It took its name from the myriad of colors in the mountains which are the backdrop for the town.


But in the spring of 1883, many of the local miners left Calico when borax was discovered three miles east at Borate. Later the same year, a fire destroyed much of the camp, but Calico again boomed in 1884 as additional silver discoveries were made. Gaining a population of some 2,500, the town supported two dozen saloons and gambling dives that never closed, as well as more legitimate establishments such as a church, a public school, a dance school and a literary society, along with dozens of retail businesses.

By the late 1800's, Calico was bustling with prospectors searching their fortunes and the Calico Mining District became one of the richest in the state.

During its heyday, the district would produce $86 million in silver, and $45 million in borax. However, when the price of silver dropped from $1.31 an ounce to 63 cents during the mid 1890's, Calico became a ghost of its former self.  The narrow-gauge Calico railroad was dismantled just after the turn of the century and the town officially died in 1907 with the end of borax mining in the district.

Today; however, the town has been revived as a tourist attraction, that exhibits one-third of its original buildings as well as numerous other structures that have been carefully reconstructed to recreate the spirit of Calico's Old West past.

It's admission price of just $6.00 and reasonable prices "inside" the town at its restaurants, shops, and additional attractions, make it one of California's best tourism values. For instance, it only cost an additional $1 to ride the train or tour the mine.


More ...


Did you know?......


Las Vegas has more hotel rooms than any other place on earth.


The Smuggler II Mine near Aspen, Colorado produced the largest silver nugget in the world in 1894. It weighed more than a ton.  


The Port of Catoosa, just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma is the nation's largest inland port.


What our readers are saying about Legends of America:

Thank you Kathy for this great site! I've enjoyed the Route 66 trip and your brief history of the towns along the way. I come from Las Vegas, New Mexico "The Town That Wouldn't Gamble" and am very interested in the historical and sometimes whimsical stories of our past. -- Ed, New Mexico

As I have a lifelong interest in the history of the American West
I find this site really brilliant. I was fortunate enough to be able visit your beautiful country in May and toured of some of the western
states. I am getting more travel ideas from your site for next year. -- Des, Ireland

Legends of America's is a great place to read about the history of Route 66. The photo gallery of the Route 66  historical sites are fantastic. Enjoy the ride. -- Mark, Detroit 

Tell us what you think!

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The Old West



ScoundrelScoundrels of the Old West - When we think about the rich history of the American West, visions of gunfighters, outlaws, and lawmen quickly come to mind. But, there were a number of other characters living during these times that we can best describe as "scoundrels."


Like today and all of history, scoundrels have unfortunately always been more than abundant. But, in history, they could often get away with their lies, cheating, tricks, and cons for much longer than they can today, as they moved from place to place, repeating the same old tricks before another new audience.

Without the media technology of today, these thieves and swindlers simply took the same con-game to a new place where they weren't known and repeated it again and again.

Sometimes, they changed their names, but often weren't even required to, as back in the days of the Old West , most people didn't ask questions of a newcomer's past.

From pimps, to card sharks, shell game artists, and simple picket pockets, you'll find our Scoundrel List includes a wealth of unsavory characters -- people like Big Time Charlie, who ran one of the most illicit prostitution rings in Denver, Colorado after the turn of the century. You'll also see Albert Bothwell, a self-important cattle baron who was one of the main instigators of the infamous Johnson County War in Wyoming. Here's a name you might recognize from our favorite HBO series "Deadwood" -- Al Swearengen. This guy was not only a real person but, in true life, was just as terrible as he was on the series.


Topping the list of scoundrels is Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, the most famous bunko man in the Old West. Smith was a con artist and gangster who had a major hand in the organized criminal affairs and operations of Denver and Creede, Colorado, as well as Skagway, Alaska until he was finally killed in a gunfight with vigilantes in 1898.


More ...



Old West Factoids:


Though the term "stick 'em up" is widely used in Western films, it wasn't actually coined until the 1930's.


The first biography of Billy the Kid appeared only three weeks after his death.


When John Wesley Hardin was awakened by snoring in an adjacent hotel room, he fired his six-gun through the wall in the direction of the snores, thus curing the man of snoring, and everything else, for that matter.


Annie Oakley, who's real name was Phoebe Anne Mozee, never lived farther west than Ohio.



Get photo prints of outlaws, lawmen, and other historic characters from Jesse James, to Bill Tilghman, to "women on the row." Hundreds of images available. Check it out HERE!




Ghosts & Mysteries



Haunted Atchison


Haunted Atchison - Most Haunted Town in Kansas - With Halloween around the corner, we've gotta include some spooks and Atchison, Kansas wins the trophy this month.


Atchison is proclaimed to be the most haunted town in Kansas, so much so that a haunted homes tour is available on the Atchison Trolley. This old town once played host to over 1600 wagons per day as settlers made their way west enroute to the gold Fields of California in the 1850's. Some of these early settlers have apparently chosen to stay in Atchison in a ghostly form. The town is full of stories about ghostly sightings and other paranormal events.


Located in northeast Kansas, Atchison is situated on the bluffs along the Missouri River and is one of one of the most scenic and historic towns in Kansas. Brick streets climb hills and wind along river bluffs, offering sweeping views of the river valley beyond. Grand Victorian homes with carriage houses recall glorious days when wealthy lumber merchants and railroad magnates walked the streets.


The town of Atchison is so haunted that the Travel Channel has done a special segment called Haunted Town that depicts many of the haunted places in Atchison, including Sallie's House, Benedictine College, and more.


While there are dozens of haunted stories of the town, one interesting tale is that of a woman by the name of "Molly," who is said to haunt Jackson Park. Supposedly, moaning and terrifying screams can be heard throughout the park around midnight. According to one legend, Molly was a beautiful young woman who was found dead in the park the day after her prom, hanging by her neck to a tree in a with her clothes badly torn. It was never determined if her death was by her own hand or was a murder. Though, some suspected that her prom date killed her, no one was ever charged. In addition to Molly's chilling cries, many witnesses also claim to have seen a ghostly figure hanging in the tree where her body was discovered.


Another interesting tale circulates at the Glick Mansion, which today serves as a Bed & Breakfast. This old home, built in 1873, allegedly plays host to a benevolent ghost, who rattles around at night opening and closing doors and walking the hallways.


And, right across the street is Atchison's most famous haunted house - the small home that belonged to Sallie - The Heartland Ghost. The tale of Sallie's ghost has been featured three times on the popular 1990's paranormal television show Sightings, as well as Unexplained Mysteries, as well as numerous other programs. The story alleges that the little house is haunted not only by Sallie, a sick young girl that died there under terrible circumstances, but also a malevolent spirit who attacked the male resident by leaving long bloody scratches on his body, an event that was evidently captured by one of the television crews.


These stories and more can all be heard by taking a tour on Atchison's "Creepy Crawly Trolley Tour." But, tickets for the event sell out quick, so act fast!


Featured Book:

Great American Bars and Saloons by Kathy WeiserGreat American  Saloons

By Kathy Weiser

  My first venture into the publishing world takes you into the many watering holes of America's past, particularly the numerous saloons that sprouted up during our nation's Wild West days. Hardcover, 2006, 224 Pages. Signed by ME!!


Reader Question:

When I was growing up in the"80's" and using the word "dude" a lot, my step dad, who was born in 1927 and grew up in Amarillo, Texas, told me that a "dude" was a boil or pimple on a horses rear end. My stepdad isn't around to verify this information anymore, and I have gotten into a recent debate with a twenty-something friend of mine, who is insisting I am wrong. Could you Please clarify this for me? -- Monika

Answer: Though it may have also referred to a pimple or boil on a horse's rear, it usually referred to an abrasion on a person's backside caused by an untrained rider being in the saddle all day. "Real" cowboys called many of the "wanna be" cowboys from the East, a "dude", as an insult.



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Legends of America


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Kathy Weiser







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