Did you know the U.S. Marshal did far more than protect the Wild West from outlaws? These courageous men—in addition to wrangling criminals to justice—also delivered writs, subpoenas, served warrants, made other arrests, and transferred prisoners. Sometimes they were given special missions, too.
They paid attorneys, clerks, jurors, and witnesses if fees were due. They were known to go into the street and recruit jurors. I can hear some farmer about town, eyeing the marshal as he held a firm hand on his holster, sporting a shiny badge. The farmer might nod real slow as he considered his options and say, “Uh, yes indeed, Marshal Everett, I reckon purchasing a new hat for the Missus can wait until after we decide on a hangin’ or not.”
1880’s U.S. Marshal badge,
photo courtesy of the U.S. Marshal website.
Marshals also hired bailiffs, janitors, and usually their own deputies. Sometimes they’d fill the water pitchers in the courtroom to allow attorneys and judges to concentrate on the cases. They traversed rural areas gathering census information, as well. One account I read involved a U.S. Marshal chasing a drunk through town and on for miles, and finally, over a fence out in the countryside. Sometimes presidents even needed marshals to become involved in acts of espionage.
Much of the west was governed by circuit judges holding court perhaps twice or thrice a year, often in a town some distance from the jail. Marshals were responsible for prisoners until the court date. It could be a mighty long wait for both the marshals and prisoners.
Although the marshal hero in Lydia’s Lot is busy capturing outlaws and winning over a bride once forbidden to pursue, my research beckoned me to consider the time these lawmen spent in other capacities. My active imagination led me to decide U.S. Marshal Heath Everett might have a companion dog to assist with holding down the field office and aiding in the capture of gun-slinging outlaws—which naturally made me think Heath would want a glorious hunting friend, such as the red Irish setter.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Loyal, friendly, and intelligent, did you know the Irish setter is a fine hunting and companion dog? They were ideal for the prairie with their long, wiry, and bony frames. When trained properly, they will point out grouse, pheasant, turkey, or other wild game to their masters (possibly outlaws, too)—and all with the wave of a hand, and little or no verbal command required.
They will hunch down quietly on all fours, front paws stretched out ahead while the master aims the shotgun and fires directly over their heads at prey. The master will then reward him with a generous portion of the quail, fish, or hunting game this amazing breed helps to secure. However, don’t take a harsh tone with this breed. The setter will never forget it.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
When did the Irish setter arrive on the western frontier? This is debatable, but we know they became wildly popular in America. According to the first pure-bred dog registry in the U.S., “Elcho” became the first Irish setter imported by Charles Turner in 1870. He sired 197 puppies! Several presidents had famous setters, including Truman’s setter, Mike; Reagan’s setter, Peggy; and Nixon’s setter, King Timahoe.
Readers inspired the name Fitzgerald Murphy (nicknamed Fitz) for the Irish setter in Lydia’s Lot. Fitz plays a significant role alongside Heath. You’ll also find some entertaining outlaws and a sub-plot in the novel.
To win a paperback copy of Lydia’s Lot, comment with what kind of mayhem an unrefined mail-order bride matched to a young preacher might be up to in my next historical western. I’d love to hear from you.
Forbidden to marry Heath, the one man she truly loves, Lydia Catherine Hayden, an American heiress from Boston, boards a train and heads west to become a mail-order bride when matchmaker, Milly Crenshaw, introduces her to Wyatt from Iowa. Five years have gone by, and she isn’t interested in any of the society gentlemen of whom her father would approve. Her love for Heath has turned to a mild hate since hearing he married someone else.
When the Wild Whitman Gang involved in an Iowa train robbery use orphans traveling west as human shields to make their escape, they converge on Lydia’s marriage ceremony to Wyatt, killing him and abducting the heiress in the process. Things don’t seem to be going well for the architect’s daughter and she’s in a heap of trouble.
When Heath, now a widowed U.S. Marshal in Des Moines, returns home to Boston to visit family, he decides to sign up for Milly Crenshaw’s mail-order bride agency services in hopes of settling down and becoming a farmer. After Milly learns Lydia is now widowed and being held captive somewhere in Iowa with seven orphans from New York City, she pulls Heath into the case, urging him to find her, and marry her if possible. But first, he has to track down one of the most notorious, dangerous, gun-slinging gangs the Wild West has ever known. Then, he has to win Lydia’s heart all over again, if he isn’t shot and killed first in the process.