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.
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?