The Travails of Research and The Wild, Wild Women of the West

Ahhh, the perils of research.   I started out last night blogging on one subject, then became diverted.   So please forgive me this morning for a completely disorganized blog.
I love research. I wish I could spend nearly every waking hour doing research. It’s a curse.   When I wish to romanticize this obsession, I attribute it to a curious mind that led me into journalism. But — whispers that honest part of me — maybe I’m just an incredibly nosy person. I always have to know everything about everyone and every place I go.
My greatest problem is that I start out with one topic, and I end up with an entirely different one. It would take a psychiatrist to figure out how I got from wild women of the West to ghosts.  There’s really no logic. Just that devilish curiosity.
The internet is the most marvelous – and devilish – invention ever conceived by man. I should be working on revisions for the December book, and there I was at two a.m. researching, of all things, ghosts.
I ended up there by a round-about route. I started out innocently enough at eight p.m. last night.  I knew what I was going to blog about today: women rustlers.   I had all  the information at hand.   At least I thought I had.

I started and ran into a roadblock.   Then I started thinking .   (Always a dangerous thing).   What happened to my lady rustlers? 

Most received short prison sentences, if any, while men were often hung for the same offence.  I reasoned that the cause was lack of prisons for women.    Wrong.   Women were sent to territorial prisons along with the men.

Thus, a trip to the internet to research old west prisons. I methodically found Yuma Prison, the infamous prison named frequently in western films.
This looks interesting. Too interesting. It’s past midnight. But obsession rules.
Built in 1876, it housed a total of 3,069 prisoners, including 9 women, during its 33 years of existence as a prison. It was, above all, hot. Daily temperatures exceeded 100 degrees four months a year, yet the prison administration was ahead of its time. Despite the references in the film, “3:10 to Yuma,” there were no executions at the Yuma Territorial Prison and it was surprisingly enlightened. There was a library and educational programs, and many inmates learned to read and write. So much for that western lore.

On to other prisons. San Quentin. I didn’t know it was the oldest prison in the west. The current facility – or at least part of it – was built in 1852.

But by now I’m hooked. How many other prisons? There was the Montana Territorial Prison built in 1871. And Fort Selden, built in 1865 in New Mexico. And finally the Colorado State Prison in 1871. I visited them all via internet.  The latter has a ghost tour. Thus the diversion to ghosts. I just had to find out more about them.

It’s now two a.m.

Okay back to my orginal intent.   I wanted to blog about lady rustlers because they were a colorful lot. There was Cattle Annie and Little Britches, the Rose of Cimarron and Cattle Kate among others. The most fascinating to me was the Rose of Cimarron – Rose Dunn.

Rose was convent educated. Her parents came to Oklahoma during the Run in 1889. She met the Doolin gang through her brothers who were cattle thieves, and she was captivated by Bitter Creek Newcomb who was described as “handsome as a movie star.”  (Now how can you not fall in love with a guy named Bitter Creek.)

When she joined the gang, she became nurse, scout, spy, courier and horse holder for the gang but she was not a loose woman. According to “The Cowgirls” by Joyce Gibson Roach, the entire gang worshipped her. If anyone had ever dared to intimate that she was not all a good woman should be, any one of the crowd would have killed the accuser instantly.”

During one encounter between the law and the gang, she proved herself a true western heroine. The gang was holed up in a hotel when discovered by the law. Rose was upstairs when she looked through the window and saw Bitter Creek fall wounded by the livery stable. She buckled two belts of cartridges around her waist, grabbed a Winchester and bailed out the window holding on to sheets tied together to make a rope. Running into the line of fire, she gave Newcomb the revolvers while she manned the Winchester.” Bitter Creek survived that battle but not the next.

 She eventually married into a substantial Oklahoma family and lived a long and respectable life. There is some debate as to whether she served a term in prison or not. That’s another topic for more research.

Cattle Annie and Little Britches also rode with the Doolin Gang. Seventeen year old Annie McDoulet and sixteen-year-old Jennie Stevens were delinquent teenagers. It is reported they stole cattle and horses and peddled whiskey to the Osage. After the Doolin gang was brought to justice, a marshal was charged with bringing them in Little Britches saw the men coming, leaped out a window to a horse, and galloped off. The marshal, not wanting to shoot a woman though she had emptied her gun on him, shot her horse instead. It’s reported she fought like a wild cat until the marshal spanked her.

Then there was Mrs. Helen Loveless. According to the Texas Livestock Journal, Mrs. Loveless was found guilty of killing cattle belonging to stock raisers in Paradise Valley, Texas. She owned her own ranch but apparently fed her hired hands from beef on the range. The reporter added that although Mrs. Loveless was probably forty-five years old, she married a youth of nineteen who hightailed it with some of her horses. The conviction of a woman was unusual, and the reporter concluded that perhaps the jury might not have found her guilty if she had “been young and loveable” instead of “Loveless.”

These are only a few of the wild, wild women of the west. Most served only short prison terms, if any, although Cattle Kate was hanged. Overall, justice seemed much more lenient with women than with men.

And now from those tidbits of history, I have many other subjects to research, including western ghosts.   That may well be my next topic, unless, of course, I’m diverted again. 

Does anyone else here go through this ritual?   Do you stretch one hour into five, popping from one website to another in a search for another wonderful tidbit.   Are you, too, an internet  addict?





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17 thoughts on “The Travails of Research and The Wild, Wild Women of the West”

  1. Hi Patricia, I too am a addict on the internet but not because i like it it’s just a source of getting information however it ties into my book addiction as well. Whereas writters seek out information, readers research on what books are coming out and keeping up with favorite authors to see what their working on next. It’s a process but us readers have to keep up with what’s going on. Liked your info on your post!

  2. As always, an AMAZING post, Pat 😀 I was sad when it ended. *LOL* Love those wild women heroines and loved reading those research tidbits–THANK YOU for sharing!

  3. Hi Pat! Yes, I do the same thing. I can get on the Internet to find the answer to one thing and drift to entirely different subject. Before I know it, I’ve spent the better part of a day…or night. The Internet and emails are huge time-eaters if we let them be. It takes a lot of discipline which I have none of.

    Your subject today is really fascinating. You come up with some of the most interesting western tidbits. Those women cattle rustlers were sure rough and tough. I recently read about Belle Starr and some of her exploits. An interesting woman for sure. I think she did a little bit of everything. But she was murdered, not hanged. In fact, they never caught or tried her.

    Great blog! Looking forward to your blog about western ghosts. lol

  4. Hey Pat – an addict me? Never! Well, unless I get started looking at the coins up for grabs on ebay…of course the eharl site is very time consuming…and the writer blogs do take up a lot of my time, especially when they have contest days…but I wouldn’t count researching as being addictive. Mind you, it’s sort of like looking in a thesaurus – I look up a word which leads to another word and before I know it, I can’t remember what word I started with or what my original goal was.
    Oh – and there is that word game where they donate 10 grains of rice for every dictionary definition you get correct which I’ve gotten so engrossed with that I filled at least 2 bowls of the grain.
    But addicted? No, I wouldn’t say I was addicted at all.

  5. Your blog was a great read. I love research and like you, I can get lost in it. A far worse internet addiction for me is shopping. Even if I don’t buy anything I can spend hours looking for bargains and finding cool stuff on ebay. Bad! Bad! Bad!
    Thanks again for an informative and delightful blog.

  6. I am very much an internet addict!!! I am constantly on here looking at different stuff!

    I enjoyed reading your blog today!

  7. melissa I’m going over to coffee time just to see if you’re there i do believe you’re a internet addict. LOL

  8. Pat, this was fabulous, fabulous! Thanks for staying up so late :)! I am hoping to pitch a girl outlaw story at RWA so this inspires me more and more.

    I am kinda an internet addict too. Since I have ADD, I just keep bouncing around to another cool site LOL. Hmmmmm…how did three hours go by so fast?

    Thanks for the great post.

  9. Don’t get me started on internet research. No. Really. Don’t get me started. I may never stop. You never know when google page 812 might have the site that has just the info you might be looking for!

    And a good part of my problem is I can never stay to just one topic. Something new catches my eye and off I go!

  10. Cattle Kate was hanged?
    Pat, you can’t do that, just toss that in and go about your business? Who is Cattle Kate? I didn’t see her earlier?

    I am right at the beginning of the research I need to do about a bad woman. I want her to end up in prison and I’ve been wondering if women even went to prison back then. Thanks so much for doing a lot of the leg work for me. 🙂

    Of course it just gives me a starting point, now I’ll go get sucked into researching this.

    Also, what I heard about YUMA was, it was dreaded not because it was a cruel awful place, but rather because you could NOT escape. So once you were locked up in YUMA, you stayed. And THAT is why prisoners dreaded it so…also hot of course.

    Really, think about Yuma. Vicious heat, surrounded by bad guys, no escape.

    Yuma sounds a lot like HELL.

  11. Mary . . .
    Cattle Kate was really Ella Watson. She left a Kansas farm and the scrubbing and milking and working in the fields that went with it. She headed for Wyoming where she worked in saloons and bawdy houses. She could ride as well as any man and could swing a loop with the best of them. It was reported she could throw a steer and hold him while the men put on the brand. According to “The Cowgirls,” she was hailed as Wyoming’s Cattle Queen. She was 160 pounds of muscle but, some said, she had long brown hair and an easy smile. But, as usual, a man did her in. She became partners with a saloon owner and they had a side businesss of filling their corrals with cattle. Other people’s cattle. On one evening several ranchers in the area knocked on her door and told her to get in a wagon. Then they invited her partner to do the same. Both were hanged shortly thereafter. Apparently there was no trial.

  12. I loved this post! So much info.
    I only allow myself an hou and a half online, so have to stick to what I am looking up.

  13. Love your post today. I too am addicted to searching and I too seem to start in one place and ending in another.

    Thanks for the info.

  14. My only information on wild women of the west is
    bits and pieces picked up over the years, so I
    really enjoyed this posting. As to the addiction,
    would 8+ hours for most days be counted as a serious
    problem? LOL!

    Pat Cochran

  15. Loved your post, Pat! I want to read about those lady rustlers. I recently got hooked on vigilantes, which led to Cheyenne Wyoming, which led to the history of the florists, which led to railroads, the cost of fruit in New York City and flower farms in Lompoc, California. That last one didn’t fit my story at all, but it might lead to something else 🙂

  16. HANGED???

    Whoa, frontier justice. Yikes.

    I’ve got a woman in an upcoming book who throws longhorns. If anyone scoffs I’m sending them here to this blog. 🙂

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