Happy day after Memorial Day to all. I’m out in California celebrating the high school graduation of one of my granddaughters, so I decided to rerun one of my very favorite blogs that I wrote long before I became a P&P Filly. I hope you enjoy it!
In 1852, celebrated Chicago hero and former Deputy Sheriff, Allan Pinkerton, founded the first detective agency in the United States. Hated and feared by criminals, the Pinkerton Agency eventually became known as the “Pinks,” enjoying a colorful history, which included averting a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the way to his inauguration.
During the Civil War, Pinkerton had a flourishing career as head of the American Secret Service. Adamantly opposed to slavery, he worked for the Union Army to trap southern spies. With his law enforcement agency, he garnered great success. His slogan “We Never Sleep” was painted on his door, along with a huge, black and white eye, resulting in the origin of the term “private eye”.
Said to have a third sense, Allan Pinkerton had an uncanny ability to identify guilty parties long before police investigators came up with a suspect. Although some thought he had mystic powers, he proclaimed it nothing but experience because he researched the habits and practices of not only specific criminals on the lam, but of the criminal mind in general.
By the late 1860’s his sons, William and Robert, joined him and opened branch offices in several cities. Predecessors to the modern day FBI, the agency focused on swindlers, confidence men, and other no-gooders plaguing the big cities and little towns of America. Their field agents clipped newspaper articles and pictures, organizing them in categories. By the 1870’s, they had the largest collection of mug shots in the world and became a data base of criminal activity, leading to the FBI identification system used today.
As the New Frontier spread west, so did the “Pinks”, chasing outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and “Black Jack” Ketcham, but it was the infamous outlaw Jesse James who, for a short time, created scandal and bad publicity for Pinkerton.
Until 1875, the agency held a stellar reputation that even some outlaws admired. But not the James brothers; Jesse, in particular, had an intense dislike for Allan Pinkerton. For years, the renegade managed to outwit the lawman. “Old Man Allan” knew if he continued widening his network of men hunting Jesse and kept pressure on him, the cocky, wanted man would eventually panic and do something stupid.
On January 5th, two members of the James family were innocently attacked by a Pinkerton-led posse. Believing Jesse was hiding inside, the men surrounded a cabin near Kearney, Missouri. When he didn’t surrender, an iron torch was tossed inside. Jesse James’ mother was maimed and his handicapped stepbrother killed.
At this point, fact and fiction collide. Some scholars believe this sparked Jesse James’ path of retaliation, taking him to Chicago for only one reason…to kill Allan Pinkerton. As the story goes, for weeks the outlaw roamed the city’s streets with a loaded gun. Inside was a bullet with the name “Pinkerton” on it. But the famous detective never knew James was in town. Being frustrated and unable to get Pinkerton at the right time and right place, James returned home. This tale has never been substantiated.
For certain, the incident involving James’ family strengthened the outlaw’s position of being viewed by some as a modern-day Robin Hood fighting the wealthy Yankee bankers and rail men tooth and toenail. Well into the 1870’s many Missourians were still riled that, in their opinion, the North had won the war. The “Pinks” were considered the tools of the tycoons. The atrocities against the gang’s family only fueled support for them. Allan Pinkerton staunchly denied that one of his agents tossed the torch and patiently waited his turn to take Jesse into custody.
As history would have it, the gang eventually got overconfident, made mistakes, and lead by Jesse ventured from their beloved south to hold up a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. They found a less sympathetic public, meeting with savage resistance. Because the Pinkertons had sent information in advance that the James Gang, which by then included three of the renegade Younger brothers, was heading north, the town’s citizens were prepared. Caught in a hellish barrage of bullets, the outlaw band withered. Several of the gang were captured. Wounded and bloody, Jesse and Frank escaped, but it was the beginning of the end for them.
On April 3, 1882, after another robbery and with a bounty on his head, one of Jesse’s own gang shot him. Two years, after writing eighteen books, Allan Pinkerton died in his Chicago mansion.
I’ve been asked why I decided my hero in “Ropin’ the Wind” in our anthology Give Me a Cowboy released in 2009 would be a Pinkerton Agent. I wanted a different kind of law enforcer. When you read a western historical romance you are pretty much guaranteed there will be somewhere a mystical, reputable Texas Ranger or a tough-as-leather-strop sheriff. You expect one, just like horses and sagebrush. I wanted someone unique; thus, out of my imagination and research surfaced a citified, undercover Pinkerton Agent with a Texas background. It was so much fun to once again partner with one of the founding fillies of Petticoats and Pistols, Linda Broday, along with Jodi Thomas and the late DeWanna Pace to write the anthology, “Give Me a Cowboy.”
I have to admit a Texas Ranger turns my head, even a modern day one. That’s why I cast my “Pink’s” Achilles ‘ heel a rebel-rousing, retired Texas Ranger. There’s just something about a fearless Ranger that ladies love, but I was sure happy how different my hero, Morgan Payne, turned out in “Give Me a Cowboy”.
What kind of cowboy turns your head and wiggles into your heart?
To one lucky reader who leaves a comment today, I will
send you a Bath and Body Works Gift Certificate
or you can choose one of my eBooks at Amazon.com.
Watch for “Out of a Texas Night” coming in the fall. It’s the second in the
Kasota Springs Contemporary Series and follows some of the families
from “Give Me a Cowboy” several generations later.