Frontier Facts & Trivia

California bandit Black Bart robbed alone and wore socks over his boots so he could not be tracked. His real name was Charles E. Boles and was known as a gentleman outlaw who enjoyed writing bits of poetry which he left in empty strongboxes to confuse pursuing possemen.

By the 1600’s beaver was extinct in Great Britain and extremely scarce in other parts of Europe, giving rise to a great demand for American beaver skins and thus the many trappers that would roam the vast west.

One practice that is credited to the Old West is that of taking the scalp of an enemy. However, that actually started in the French and Indian War when General Edward Braddock offered £5 sterling to his soldiers and their Indian allies for each French soldier’s scalp. The Indians actually picked up this nasty habit from the British.

Cattle drives rarely went more than ten or twelve miles a day, as the cattle had to be given time to rest and graze. A drive from Texas to Montana could take up to five months.

Isom Dart, one of the few black gunslingers of the Old West was killed near Brown’s Hole by the feared stock detective and bounty hunter Tom Horn.

When the town prostitute and do-gooder, Virginia Marlotte, died in Pioche, Nevada, she was given the biggest funeral in the town’s history. Her epitaph read:

Here lies the body of Virginia Marlotte.
She was born a virgin and died a harlot.
For eighteen years she preserved her virginity.
That’s a damned good record for this vicinity.

With the great Chinese migration to the West Coast following the Civil War rose intense racist hatred which burst forth in riots against these hapless Orientals. In one such case in Denver, Colorado thugs attacked many of them in Chinatown, beating them ferociously and cutting off their pigtails. In Missoula, Montana cowboys were known to chase the Chinese through the streets and when they caught them, they would tie them up, cut their pigtails, strip them naked and often, shoot off their toes and fingers.

The Mayflower Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, not because it was their destination, but, rather, because they were running out of “victuals and beer.” Had these vital supplies not been so low, they would have continued on to their original destination of bottom Virginia

In 1881 Helen Hunt Jackson published A Century of Dishonor, the first detailed examination of the federal government’s treatment of Native Americans in the West. Her findings shocked the nation with proof that empty promises, broken treaties and brutality helped pave the way for white pioneers.

Dalton Brothers Dead

Dalton Brothers Dead

In the Old West, it was popular to take pictures of dead bandits after they were shot or hanged. The photographs would then be sold, for sometimes as much as one dollar, a heft price in those days for such a souvenir.

Twenty-three-year-old David ‘Davy’ Crockett, who was related to the famous Crockett of the Alamo, was gunned down by Sheriff Rinehart and two others in the streets of Cimarron, New Mexico on September 30, 1876.

Harry Tracy, the last of the Wild Bunch riders escaped from prison in 1902 and was trapped on a ranch by posse men. Shooting it out to the last bullet, he saved one for himself rather than return to prison. His body was later displayed for all to see still clutching his six-gun.

In 1873 754,329 buffalo hides were shipped from Dodge City, Kansas.

Vintage Bodie, California

Vintage Bodie, California

One of the worst hell-holes of the Old West was Bodie, California which boasted numerous gunfights or death threats at all hours of the day. Some of these included a fight that ensued when a pool player took someone else’s turn, a mountain man who insisted, at gunpoint, that he receive a drink in payment for a human ear he had recently sliced from and opponent, and a street fight that erupted when a man stepped on a cowboy’s toe. Bodie women were not much better. One one such occasion, a school teacher horsewhipped a local doctor for gossiping about her. On another, the notorious female cardsharp, Madame Moustache, fought off two thieves after a night of winning, killing one and wounding the other.

George Maledon, the official hangman for Judge Isaac Parker of Fort Smith, Arkansas, executed more than eighty outlaws and had no regrets. Upon his retirement, Maledon toured small town America, detailing to open-mouthed citizens how he had gladly “sent damned sinners to hell.”

Female bandit, Pearl Hart, was the last person to rob a stagecoach in the Old West in 1899.

In Deer Lodge, Montana a cowboy evangelist angered over a snoring parishioner once fired a bullet over the head of the dozing man.

Jesse James, the most celebrated bandit in western history reveled in his notoriety and one time he even wrote his own press release about the robbery, which he handed to the engineer of the train before riding away with his men.

In Fort Benton, Montana a cowboy once insisted on riding his horse to his room in the Grand Union Hotel. When the manager objected, they exchanged gunfire. The horseman was killed before reaching the top of the stairs and fourteen .44 slugs were later dug out of his body.

In September, 1857, 140 immigrants of a pioneer wagon train were massacred by renegade Morman bishop John D. Lee and his followers. Known as the Mountain Meadow Massacre in Utah, Lee promised the travelers that if they surrendered to him, giving up their gold and property, they would be spared. However, after doing so, they were killed anyway. It took twenty years before Lee was identified as the instigator of the massacre. He was shot by a firing squad at Salt Lake City, Utah on March 23, 1877.

Outlaws, who were afraid of little else, were curiously superstitious about one thing – dying with their boots on. They dying request of countless outlaws was to remove their boots before they died. If this request was denied, many pleaded with authorities not to forward the news to their mothers that they had died with their boots on.

In Colorado City, Colorado Paris-born Eleanor Dumont, a celebrated cardsmith also known as Minnie the Gambler, tolerated no quick deals. At one time she took a horsewhip to a dealer whom she caught slipping a cold deck to her sweetheart and fellow gambler, Charlie Utter.

Though Judge Isaac Parker sentenced 156 men and four women to death on the Fort Smith, Arkansas gallows, no women actually died by the hangman’s noose. All four of the women convicted of murder and sentenced to die were eventually spared through presidential commutations or Supreme Court reversals. Of the men, 79 were actually hanged.

A cowboy once made the mistake of arguing with a trapper over whether wildcats had long tails or not. The trapper settled the argument by displaying his skills with a Colt .45 revolver. The coroner’s decision was that any Hombre who was crazy enough to call a long-haired, whisky-drinking trapper a liar had died of ignorance.

On August 21, 1863, William Clark Quantrill and his band of ruthless raiders attacked Lawrence, Kansas in the ongoing Kansas/Missouri Border War the began six years before the start of the Civil War. Burning Lawrence to the ground and killing more than 180 men and boys, the men fled at the sound of approaching Union troops. Frank and Jesse James learned their methods of gunmanship and murder under the command of William Quantrill.

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