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Other Characters of the Frontier

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Sam Aaron (1866-1940) - The son of a frontiersman, Aaron was the first Jewish boy born in Salt Lake City, Utah and at a young age, moved with his family to various places including Galveston, Texas; New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and finally back west in 1877, landing in Butte, Montana. It was in Butte, that eleven year old Sam earned his first money, selling apples in saloons. The following year, the family moved again to Oregon, before making their way to San Francisco, California, and finally to Charleston, Arizona in the early 1880s, where his father operated a store. Sam clerked by day and gambled by night until he lost $1,000 of his fathers money gambling and to pay off the debt, took a job at the nearby Tombstone Mining and Mill Company. Later, he went to work as a Faro Dealer in Tombstone, where he met the likes of the Earps and Clantons. Late in life, he wrote his memoirs highlighting pioneer life, Apache raids, and some of the interesting characters that he met. He died on September 29, 1940 in Pomona, California.


Thomas Adams - Adams went west as civil engineer with the Isaac I. Stevens' railroad survey expedition in 1853 and later became expedition leader, Lieutenant John Mullan's assistant, as well as  topographer and artist for the survey. he then became the temporary Indian Agent for the Flatheads in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, and had a role in the Flathead Treaty Council of 1855. He continued to work with the survey expedition until it departed in 1857. Somewhere along the line, he briefly married a Flathead woman and the two had a child. In 1858, he was prospecting with Granville Stuart when the first Montana gold was found in Gold Creek. By 1864, Adams had returned to the east as was farming in Maryland and in 1866 was living in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, his life is lost in history.


Albert Gallatin "A.G." Boone - Son of Jesse and grandson of Daniel Boone of Kentucky, Albert Gallatin Boone was one of the most notable personalities of Westport, Missouri. At age 17 he joined the second Ashley-Henry trapping party out of St. Louis traveling to the Upper Missouri River. Later, he worked at the Fort Osage trading post in western Missouri mastering the Osage language and learning several other native tongues. He then became an Indian trader before opening a store and warehouse in Westport, Missouri to outfit travelers along the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.


With the opening of the Kansas Territory, he became the agent of Southern Pro-slavery interests for political control of the territory. In 1861, William Bent of Bentís Fort resigned as agent for the southwestern Indians and recommended his friend A.G. Boone as successor. Upon appointment, Boone moved with his family to Colorado in 1861, selling his property in Westport to James Bridger.

With his brother, Van Daniel Boone, A.G. bought a 1,400 acre ranch south of Pueblo, at a place now known as Boone, Colorado, where he opened a trading post. He served as U.S. Indian Agent for the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Kiowa, Comanche and Plains Apache tribes from 1859 through 1861, at which time he was removed from government office because his loyalty to the Union was in doubt. In 1868, Boone was made deputy to Colonel William B. Hazen, the newly appointed agent for the Commache and Kiowa at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He died at his daughter's home in Denver in 1884.


Samuel BrennaSamuel Brannan (1819-1889) - California's first millionaire started life in Maine in 1819 before moving with his family to Ohio when he was 14 years-old. He became a printer's apprentice and in 1836 began to move around as a journeyman printer. Converting to Mormonism in 1842, he moved to New York City to help publish several Mormon newspapers. Three years later, Brannan led a group of over 200 New York Mormons to California to find a better life. Briefly, he published a San Francisco newspaper before moving on to John Sutter's settlement, where he opened a general store. Soon; however, the Mormons accused him of diverting Mormon funds into his own business and expelled him from the church. When James Marshall discovered gold in 1848, Brannan capitalized by widely publicizing the discovery and outfitting the flood of prospectors. Before long, he became the Golden State's first millionaire. The next year he returned to San Francisco, were he was elected to the City Council and played a leading role in organizing the controversial Committee of Vigilance. Continuing in various business ventures, including land investments, banking, and railroad and telegraph companies, his wealth continued to grow. However, Brannan was a serious drinker, which ultimately led to his loss of fortune and his death in 1889.


Wayne Brazel (1876-1915?) - A stockman in New Mexico, Brazel allegedly killed Pat Garrett in 1908. Brazel was born in Greenwood City, Kansas in 1876 but the family soon moved to Brown County, Texas before making their way to Lincoln County, New Mexico in the early 1880s. At the age of 15, Brazel went to work as a cowboy on W.W. Cox's 100,000 acre ranch in San Augustine. Later, Brazel was running his own goat ranch on land owned by Pat Garrett, and the two got into a dispute when Garrett wanted to break the lease. Though the deal was not friendly, terms were finally agreed to and the pair were planning to close the deal in Las Cruces, New Mexico on February 29, 1908. However, as Garrett was traveling, Brazel caught up with him and words grew heated. In the end, Garrett was shot to death and Brazel confessed to the slaying, though many believed that the shooting was a conspiracy, involving two more people. Allegedly, Brazel took the "fall" for the murder because he was single. Brazel was later tried; however, he was acquitted of the crime. Later, Brazel moved to Lordsburg, New Mexico, where he married and fathered a son. However, when his wife died he sold out in 1913 and moved to Arizona. He later disappeared but was thought to have been killed by an outlaw in Bolivia about 1915.




George Donner (1786?-1847) - One of the leaders of the infamous Donner Party, George born of German descent in North Carolina around 1786. Later he moved to Kentucky before settling with his family just outside Springfield, Illinois. There, he worked as a farmer before deciding to join up with James Reed, who was leading a party to California. On April 14, 1846, George, his third wife, Tamsen, and their five daughters, began the journey westward. Also joining him was his brother Jacob, his wife, Elizabeth, and their seven children, as well as several hired hands. The group followed the Oregon Trail until they reached Fort Bridger, Wyoming on July 28, 1846. There, they met a man named Lansford Hastings who told them about a quicker way to California via the Hastings Cutoff. Hastings claimed that his route would reduce some 300 miles from the distance to Sutter's Fort. His short-cut left the California Trail at Fort Bridger in Wyoming, passed through the Wasatch Mountains, across the Great Salt Lake Desert, looped around the Ruby Mountains, and rejoined the California Trail about seven miles west of modern Elko, Nevada.


Hastings also promised them that the desert was only  40 miles across and that they would find water after 24 hours. However, the desert was actually 82 miles wide and water was only to be found after 48 hours of traveling. He also said that three wagon trains had already successfully traveled the route. This was untrue.


The Donner Party endured a grueling drive through the Wasatch Mountains that delayed them, arrive into California just as an early winter storm closed it. After becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada, many died and some of the emigrants resorted to cannibalism. George died at his camp in the Alder Creek Valley in Nevada County, California in March 1847.


Jack Langrishe (18??-1895) - An actor, impresario, and production manager, had been operating different theatres for some 17 years before his arrival in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1876. See HERE.


James Wilson Marshall (1810-1885) - Discovered gold in California in 1848 at John Sutter's Mill in Coloma, the area around which quickly became Coloma, California. His discovery started the California Gold Rush. See Full Article HERE.


Lucien B. Maxwell - (1818-1875) - The owner of the largest land grant in U.S.History, a friend of Kit Carson, and a frontier scout and guide, Maxwell, who has been called the "Emporer of the Old West," died in poverty in New Mexico. See Full Article HERE.


Peter MaxwellPeter Maxwell (1848-1898) - The only son of New Mexico land baron, Lucien B. Maxwell and his wife, Ana de la Luz Maxwell, Pete was born in in Taos, New Mexico on April 27, 1848. In 1870, the elder Maxwell purchased the old Fort Sumner buildings and surrounding land for some $5,000 and the following year, he relocated his family from northeast New Mexico and refurbished the buildings into proper housing. The family lived in a large house, which was once the officers' quarters. Lucien Maxwell soon turned over his affairs to his son Peter and passed away a few years later. Following the Lincoln County War, Peter became friends with Billy the Kid and other members of the Regulators, who had fled to Fort Sumner, even hiring Charlie Bowdre and Doc Scurlock to work on his ranch as cowboys. However, their friendship began to deteriorate when Peter found out that Billy was having a relationship with his little sister, Paulita, and was allegedly the father of her unborn child. It was in Pete's home that Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid on July 14, 1881 and has been theorized that Pete himself betrayed the Kid in order to put a stop to the relationship between Billy and Paulita. Pete died at Fort Sumner on June 21, 1898.


Alexander McSweenAlexander McSween (1843?-1878) - A lawyer in Lincoln County, New Mexico, McSween, along with partner, John Tunstall, opened a rival store in Lincoln, vying for the business that had been controlled by the Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking.


Alarmed by McSween and Tunstall's plans, Murphy and Dolan attempted to put the pair out of business, harassing them legally, and when that did not work, Dolan tried to goad Tunstall into a gunfight. However, Tunstall refused to use violence himself, but soon recruited Billy the Kid Billy the Kid, and a half dozen other tough cowboys to protect him and his investments. In February, 1878, Tunstall was killed by the rival faction, igniting the Lincoln County War.


On July 19, 1878, McSween and his supporters, including Billy the Kid, were besieged by their opponents in McSween's house. His home was set on fire and several people were shot dead as they came out of the house, including an unarmed Alexander McSween.


Joseph Smith (1805-1844) - The founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith was December 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont. Though the family moved ten times during his youth, Smith spent the majority of his childhood near near Palmyra, New York, in the heart of what was called the "burned-over district" for its frequent and fervent Protestant revivals. At the age of 14, he claimed to have had an intense spiritual revelation of God and Jesus Christ. At the age of 20, Smith claimed that an angel called Moroni had directed him to a collection of engraved golden tablets that had been buried in a hill near Palmyra. He said that a prophet named Mormon had produced the tablets over a thousand years ago and he was instructed to translate the history. In 1930, he completed the work and published the "Book of Mormon," which together with the Old and New Testaments and some of Smith's later revelations became the sacred scripture of Mormonism. Later that year he founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fayette, New York. In 1831, they moved their headquarters to Kirkland, Ohio, but there, they found persecution, especially due to spreading rumors of polygamy. In 1837, Smith moved the group to Missouri. But, they would find no peace in the Show Me State," as within a year, all out "war" broke out with their fearful neighbors. Missouri's governor soon ordered all Mormons to leave the state, and when the Mormons refused, their stronghold in Far West, Missouri was surrounded, and Smith, fearing an imminent massacre, surrendered.

The Mormons then fled back eastward, founding the city of Nauvoo near Quincy, Illinois in 1839, where the community thrived. In 1844, Smith announced that he was running for the Presidency of the United States and this, coupled with the practice of polygamy within the church, prompted his arrest. He was charged with inciting a riot after he attempted to destroy a newspaper that exposed the Mormon's practice of polygamy and imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois. However, before he could be tried on these charges, a mob broke into his cell and brutally killed both him and his brother.

Polygamy was avidly endorsed by the both Smith and his religion, but was practiced in relative secrecy. Smith was always thought to have married more than 30 women, producing numerous children, the details of which were uncertain due to the secrecy surrounding his plural marriages. The Mormon Church acknowledged for the first time in October of 2014 that Smith had between 30 and 40 wives in a series of church-sanctioned essays. His first, and only "legitimate" wife, Emma Hale Smithbore him nine children.

When Smith was murdered in 1844, the Mormons were temporarily left without a leader, but continued to grow and by the next year, Nauvoo boasted some 10,000 inhabitants and church membership increased to nearly 35,000. In 1846, Smith's successor, Brigham Young, moved the community westward, first to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and the next year to Utah's Salt Lake Valley, where young hoped the Mormons would at last find the freedom to worship and live as their faith decreed.

Granville Stuart (1834-1918) - Frontiersman, miner, Montana Land Baron, leader of the vigilante group called Stuart's Stranglers, author and more, Granville Stuart is recognized as a Montana pioneer and hero. See Full Article HERE.


John Sutter (1803-1880) - The owner of the property where gold was first discovered in California, his land was taken over by prospectors. He ended up experiencing economic setback and went bankrupt. See Full Article HERE.


John TunstallJohn Henry Tunstall (1853-1878) - Born in England on March 6, 1853,  Tunstall emigrated to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1872, where he worked at the Turner, Beeton & Tunstall, a business in which his father was a partner. Four years later; however, Tunstall moved to the United States with thoughts of becoming a sheep rancher. He first investigated land in California but soon headed to New Mexico, where land was more affordable. He first arrived in Santa Fe, where he met a Lincoln County lawyer and cattle rancher named Alexander McSween. After talking to McSween, Tunstall was convinced that there were profits to be made in Lincoln County and soon began ranching there.


But, he also found that the area was monopolized by two men by the names of Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan, who owned the only store in Lincoln County -- Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking. Murphy and Dolan, having influential ties with Santa Fe politicians, virtually controlled the trade of the county, a fact that neither Tunstall nor his friend, Alexander McSween, were happy with. The 24-year old Englishman and McSween soon set up a rival business called H.H. Tunstall & Company near the Murphy & Dolan Mercantile.

Alarmed by Tunstall's plans, Murphy & Dolan attempted to put the pair out of business, harassing them legally and when that did not work, Dolan tried goad Tunstall into a gunfight. However, Tunstall refused to use violence himself but soon recruited Billy the Kid, and a half dozen other tough cowboys to protect him and his investments.

In February, 1878, Dolan and Murphy obtained a court order to seize some of Tunstall's horses as payment for an outstanding debt. When Tunstall refused to surrender the horses, Lincoln County Sheriff, William Brady, formed a posse led by Deputy William Morton to seize them. After protesting the presence of the posse on his land, Tunstall was shot in the head on February 18, 1878. This incident started what became known as the Lincoln County War.

Billy the Kid was deeply affected by the murder, claiming that Tunstall was one of the only men that treated him like he was "free-born and white."  At Tunstall's funeral Billy swore: "I'll get every son-of-a-bitch who helped kill John if it's the last thing I do." Adding fuel to the fire, it was rumored that Tunstall had been murdered on the orders of James Dolan and Lawrence Murphy.

Brigham Young (1801-1877) - Leader of the Mormon movement to Utah, president of the church from 1847 to 1877, and the first governor of Utah. Young's legacy is varied, with praise for his many accomplishments and historical influence, as well as controversy, for a number of 19th century events, including the Mountain Meadows Massacre. See Full Article HERE.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated May, 2017.



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