How Wild Was the Old West—Really?

MargaretBrownley-header
I heard a TV commentator liken the violence of Baltimore back to the Old West. Is that a fair comparison? Some historians would probably disagree. Some have even gone as far as to describe the Old West as “a quiet, peaceful and law-abiding place.” Hard as that is to believe they may be on to something for the following reasons:

The Old West Practiced Gun Control

dodge-gunsYep, that’s right. In fact, the very first law passed in Dodge City was a gun control law. Many towns including Tombstone had similar strict laws barring guns. Visitors were required to turn guns over to the stable owner or sheriff. Checks or receipts were issued much like they are today when checking coats at a restaurant. Gun owners could reclaim their weapons upon leaving town.

Not everyone followed the law, of course. Drunkenness and disorderly conduct would get you a free pass to the hoosegow, but so would toting a gun. The gunfight of OK corral was actually sparked by an effort to enforce the “no gun” law.

Gun control made economical sense. Towns wishing to attract businesses and commerce or even the railroad couldn’t afford to let crime run amok.

The Law of Wagon Trainswagon
Some wagon trains reportedly contained more than a hundred wagons and as many as 800 people, so keeping law and order was of primary concern. Many of these trains had their own constitutions which spelled out a judicial system. Ostracism and threats of banishment kept most travelers in line and there are few reported instances of violence on these trains. That’s pretty amazing considering the conditions and long months on the trail.

What About All That Cattle Rustling?

cowsIf we believed all those old time Western movies there wasn’t a steer in the land that hadn’t been rustled at least once. No question; Cattle rustling was a problem. That is until ranch owners got together and formed cattlemen associations. These groups hired private protection agencies, which pretty much put cattle rustlers out of business.

Bank Robbers Ruled, Right?

Wrong again. According to the book Banking in the American West from the Gold Rush to Deregulation by bankLynne Pierson and Larry Schweikart, only eight actual bank heists occurred in the 15 states that made up the frontier west during the forty year period between 1859-1900. (Holy Toledo! My little hometown has had more bank robberies than that just in the last decade.)

Why so few bank robberies in the Old West? The answer is simple; Banks were hard to rob. Banks were located downtown often next the sheriff’s office. People slept above shops so the town was far from deserted. The bank’s walls were often doubly-reinforced. Blasting through the walls would wake everyone in town including the sheriff.

Some, like Butch Cassidy simply walked in the front door, but even that type of bank holdup was rare. Robbing stagecoaches was easier. But transporting money by stage fell out of favor when trains came along. Robbers who shifted attention to trains soon had to contend with Pinkerton detectives.

What About All Those Gunslingers?

gunDime novels, old newspapers and movies would have us believe that shooting from the hip and quick draw duels were the norm. In reality, gunfights were few and far between.

Some well-known shootists (the word gunslinger didn’t come into play until the 1920s) deserved their reputations but, by today’s standards, most would be considered lousy shots. Some, like Wyatt Earp, killed nowhere near as many men as they were given credit for. A gunslinger’s reputation, however exaggerated, was sometimes more valuable than his skills.

Peter Hill, co-author of  the Not so Wild, Wild, West wrote “If one wants to see the “Wild, Wild West” in action one should turn to congressional hearings, political demonstrations and arguments over recreational and consumptive vs. non-consumptive uses of forest lands.”  Now there’s a thought…It kind of makes you wonder what those old cowpokes would have thought about the recent riots.

So what do you think? Was the Old West a quiet, peaceful and law-abiding place or wasn’t it?

Speaking of Wild:

Maggie Michaels is sent to Arizona Territory as an undercover mail order bride to track down the notorious Whistle-Stop Bandit. If she doesn’t prove the suspect guilty before the wedding—she could end up as his wife!

undercoversmallClick cover to Preorder

Available in print, eBook or Audio

‘A Criminal with a Badge’

DallasStoudenmireDesperate times call for desperate measures, and in April 1881, El Paso, Texas, was about as desperate as a town could get. Four railroad lines had converged in the city, bringing with them gamblers, gunmen, and “ladies of questionable virtue.” Within spitting distance of Old Mexico and the lawless western territories, El Paso became a haven for vagabonds, thieves, murderers, and other criminals.

The city was not entirely without a law-and-order presence. The county sheriff’s office was only fifteen miles away — a half-day’s ride on horseback. Fort Bliss was closer, but the Army had its hands full defending settlers from Indians and cross-border marauders. Nearest of all was an entire company of the Texas Rangers Frontier Battalion, headquartered right there in town. Even a force of forty fearsome men who a few years later would adopt the motto “one riot, one Ranger” couldn’t be everywhere at once, though, especially when they had a 1,250-mile unruly border with Mexico to police.

El Paso needed a tough city marshal, and it couldn’t seem to find one. During the eight months starting in July 1880, the town employed four different men in the position. One resigned after two months in office. Another was relieved for “neglect and dereliction of duty.” A third was allowed to resign after a dispute over his pay left El Paso full of bullet holes. By April 1881, the town drunk wore the badge because he was the only man who would take the job.

City fathers thought they were in luck when, on April 11, they enticed a six-foot-four shootist with experience as a soldier, Texas Ranger, and city lawman to claim the marshal’s star. Dallas Stoudenmire, 36, was described by newspapers of the day as a temperamental, physically imposing man with an even more imposing reputation for gunplay.

El Paso leaders realized they had made a hiring mistake in only a few short days, but a total of thirteen violent, frightening months would pass before they removed the new marshal from office. Ultimately, only Stoudenmire’s untimely demise freed the city of his presence. Some called the man a criminal with a badge; others credited him with doing more than any other single individual to tame El Paso’s lawless element.

The trouble started three days after Stoudenmire pinned on the marshal’s star. In an incident that came to be known as the Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight, Stoudenmire’s twin .44 Colts dispatched three people — one an innocent bystander attempting to take cover. The other two were an accused cattle rustler and one of El Paso’s former city marshals. The fourth casualty, whose death at the hands of the alleged cattle rustler started the ruckus, was a county constable. Stoudenmire, unscathed, received a raise.

Dallas Stoudenmire had the barrel of this 1860 Colt Army revolver sawed off so the gun could be concealed. The Colt was retrieved from the El Paso street where Stoudenmire was killed in a shootout on September 18, 1882. (from The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West by R.L. Wilson — I highly recommend the book)
Dallas Stoudenmire had the barrel of this 1860 Colt Army revolver sawed off so the gun could be concealed. The Colt was retrieved from the El Paso street where Stoudenmire was killed in a shootout on September 18, 1882. (from The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West by R.L. Wilson — I highly recommend the book)

Three days later, friends of the dead men hired another former El Paso city marshal to assassinate Stoudenmire. Eight or nine shots later, Stoudenmire had obliterated the would-be assassin’s privates.

The notorious gunman continued to collect enemies while he performed some aspects of his job admirably. Even his detractors credited him with a steel-nerved ability to face down miscreants, six of whom he reportedly introduced to Boot Hill. Stoudenmire collected fines and taxes with alacrity, at the same time shooting dogs whose owners neglected to pay the $2 annual license fee. He angered the local religious community by using a prominent church’s bell for target practice, usually in the middle of the night. The jail and prisoners were well tended, but the marshal’s records were a mess, and unauthorized expenditures caused friction with the city council.

Stoudenmire also drank heavily, often on duty, leading the editor of the El Paso Times to call into question his fitness as an officer of the law. When the Texas Rangers took an interest in Stoudenmire’s idiosyncratic approach to law enforcement, he called them a pack of cowards and liars and tried to get the entire force banned from El Paso, predictably without success.

The city decided it had endured enough in February 1882, when Stoudenmire and his new bride returned from their wedding trip to find her brother murdered and the accused killer absolved of charges. Vowing revenge, Stoudenmire went on a violent drinking binge. One writer called his behavior “as irresponsible and dangerous as the town hoodlums.” Right away the city council passed a resolution mandating a stiff fine for any lawman caught drinking in public. Since Stoudenmire collected the fines, the law was woefully ineffective.

Public sentiment against the marshal had reached a crescendo…and so had the city council’s fear of the monster they had created. In May the council called a meeting to fire Stoudenmire, but when the marshal showed up drunk and waving his infamous Colts, the meeting quickly adjourned. Two days later he sobered up and resigned.

Despite the public’s ill will, Stoudenmire and his wife remained in El Paso. The now ex-marshal continued to drink, get into fights, and settle arguments with his guns; nevertheless, in July he was appointed deputy U.S. marshal.

Dallas Stoudenmire had the barrel of this 1860 Colt Army revolver sawed off so the gun could be concealed. The Colt was retrieved from the El Paso street where Stoudenmire was killed in a shootout on September 18, 1882. (from The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West by R.L. Wilson — I highly recommend the book)
In May 2001, Dallas Stoudenmire’s Smith & Wesson American, serial number 7056, sold at auction for $143,000. His El Paso city marshal’s badge sold for $44,000 in a separate lot. (from Little John Auction Service catalog, May 2001)

Over the next few months, Stoudenmire’s feud with the man accused of his brother-in-law’s murder escalated. Stoudenmire mocked and insulted the man and his two brothers in public, daring them to fight. When other citizens ventured an opinion about his behavior, Stoudenmire cursed and threatened them. The El Paso Lone Star warned “citizens stand on a volcano,” and the streets might be “deluged with blood at any moment.”

On September 18, the volcano erupted. Stoudenmire and the three brothers met in a saloon and argued. One of the brothers and Stoudenmire drew their guns. Stoudenmire was hit twice: The first bullet broke his gun arm, and the second knocked him through the saloon’s batwing doors. Lying in the street, Stoudenmire pulled his second gun and wounded his attacker just before another of the brothers killed him with a shot to the head. The wounded brother pistol-whipped the body.

Separate trials acquitted the brothers of murder. They left El Paso and died of natural causes in 1915 and 1925.

Stoudenmire’s widow buried him in Colorado County, near Columbus, Texas, where they had been married a few months earlier. The Freemasons, of which he was a member, paid all funeral expenses for the destitute widow. No stone marks his gravesite, and all records of the grave’s location have been lost.

An obituary in the Colorado [County] Citizen called Stoudenmire “a brave and efficient officer, and very peaceable when sober.”

 

‘You Take that Back!’ — Texas Feuds

HatfieldClan_1897
The notorious Hatfield clan, 1897

Although lesser known than the notorious Hatfield-McCoy fracas that claimed about a dozen lives along the West Virginia-Kentucky state line between 1865 and 1888, six and a half of the ten bloodiest American feuds took place in Texas.

Yes, six and a half. Just hold your horses and I’ll explain.

Two of Texas’s feuds were deadlier than the quarrel between the Hatfields and McCoys, and most of them erupted over a bigger insult than laying claim to a wayward pig.

In ascending order of body count, the feuds were…

Early vs. Hasley, 1865-69

Sam Hasley did not take it well when he returned from fighting for the Confederacy to discover his elderly father had been roughed up by a member of the Union occupation force sent to keep order in Texas during Reconstruction. Hasley vowed vengeance not only upon the culprit, John Early, but also on every other Federal in Bell County. He and the friends and family who gathered around him openly defied the authorities, leading the Early faction to accuse Hasley’s group of any crime of any kind anywhere in the vicinity. Yankee soldiers ambushed and killed one of the Hasley contingent in mid-1869, effectively disbanding the gang. One rogue member, however, pursued one of Early’s friends into Arkansas and killed him later that year. Sam Hasley went on to become a deputy sheriff. In 1889, drunk on duty, he was shot and killed by a deputy city marshal while resisting arrest in Temple, Texas. Body count: two.

PlantationHouseColumbusTXBuilt1840Photo1933
A plantation house in Columbus, Texas, ca. 1840

Reese vs. Townsend, 1898-1907

The Reeses and the Townsends got crossways over politics. U.S. Senator Mark Townsend, the Boss Tweed of Columbus, Texas, withdrew his support from incumbent sheriff Sam Reese and threw his considerable political clout behind former deputy Larkin Hope instead. When Hope ended up on the wrong end of a broad daylight assassination in downtown Columbus, Reese was the most likely suspect, though no evidence surfaced. Townsend’s handpicked replacement won the election. Perturbed by the unanticipated turn of events, Reese picked a gunfight with a Townsend supporter, thereby moving out of politics and into a casket. The former sheriff’s family vowed to avenge him, provoking five shootouts in Columbus over the following six years. Four combatants died, including Sam Reese’s brother Dick. Body count: six.

Lampasas texas ca 1882
Lampasas, Texas, ca. 1882

Horrell vs. Higgins, 1874-1877

When the five Horrell brothers—Ben, Mart, Tom, Merritt, and Sam—took it on the lam to Lincoln County, New Mexico, in order to avoid a murder rap in Texas, they probably didn’t plan to leave one of their number under six feet of dirt before scrambling back to Lampasas barely ahead of a posse. They fared no better in their hometown, running afoul of former friend and neighbor John “Pink” Higgins right away. Higgins accused the high-spirited Horrell boys of rustling cattle…and that’s when the trouble started. A jury acquitted the Horrells of all charges, but continuing ill will led to Merritt Horrell’s death at Higgins’s hand during a saloon fight. Folks lined up behind both families, swore to wipe the opposing faction from the face of the planet, and set about their task with admirable devotion. By the time the Texas Rangers put an end to the running gun battles in June 1877, four men were dead, dozens more were injured, and the three remaining Horrell brothers were behind bars. Although they were released in short order, two of the three were arrested on suspicion of murdering a shopkeeper less than a year later. A vigilante gang shot them to death in their jail cells. The feud ended when both sides signed a written promise to leave one another alone. Amazingly, they kept their word. Body count: seven.

Boyce_Sneed_feud_1912_New_York_Times
1912 New York Times report about the Boyce-Sneed disagreement. (Click to read.)

Boyce vs. Sneed, 1911-1912

Wealthy ranchers John Beal Sneed and Albert Boyce, Jr. came to blows over Sneed’s wife. After more than a decade of marriage and two children, in 1911 Lena Sneed admitted to having an affair with Boyce and asked for a divorce. Sneed straightaway had her committed to an asylum. Boyce rescued the damsel in distress, and the couple ran off to Canada. Incensed when kidnapping charges were dropped, Sneed upped the ante: In early 1912, he murdered Boyce’s unarmed father in the lobby of a Fort Worth hotel. Widely publicized court proceedings ended in a mistrial, spurring a mob of Boyce supporters to storm the courthouse and kill four men. Sneed’s father was the next to go, in an alleged murder-suicide. Although John and Lena Sneed reconciled in mid-1912, he could not let the insult go: Wearing a disguise, he shot and killed Boyce in broad daylight on a Fort Worth street and then surrendered at the county courthouse. Juries later acquitted Sneed of all charges, calling the killings justifiable homicide. Body count: eight.

creed_taylor
former Texas Ranger Creed Taylor, ca. 1880

Sutton vs. Taylor, 1866-1877

Dewitt County Deputy Sheriff William Sutton set off the longest-lasting and most widespread feud in Texas history when, in three separate 1866 incidents, he shot and killed three members of former Texas Ranger Creed Taylor’s family. In 1867, two more Taylors died while Sutton was attempting to arrest them on a minor charge. After adopting the motto “Who sheds a Taylor’s blood, by a Taylor’s hand must fall,” the Taylors retaliated by killing two Sutton allies. Mob violence, ambushes, prison breaks, and lynchings ensued. Sutton himself was gunned down while attempting to board a steamboat and high-tail it out of the area. After numerous attempts at peacemaking failed, Texas Ranger Captain Leander McNelly and his Special Force put a stop to the violence. Body count: at least 35.

FredericRemington_Fighting_over_a_stolen_herd_1895
Fighting Over a Stolen Herd, Frederic Remington, 1895

Lee vs. Peacock, 1866-1871

Only Arizona’s Pleasant Valley War, which took the lives of twenty to fifty men between 1887 and 1892, outstripped the Lee-Peacock feud of northeast Texas. Like the Early-Hasley dustup, the Lee-Peacock fandango grew out of lingering animosity over the Civil War. Confederate veteran Bob Lee butted heads with an organization of Union supporters, leading Lewis Peacock, the leader of the Union bunch, to round up a posse and arrest Lee for alleged war crimes. To “settle the charges,” Peacock seized Lee’s valuables and exacted a promissory note for $2,000. Lee won a subsequent lawsuit, earning an assassination attempt along with the money. His doctor was murdered while Lee convalesced in the medic’s home. Thereafter, Northeast Texas fractured along Union-Confederacy lines and bands of armed men proceeded to track down and do away with their ideological opponents. The Fourth United States Cavalry’s arrival to end the fracas only made things worse: Although a house-to-house search failed to turn up Lee, it sparked several more gun battles. Lee was betrayed by one of his own men in 1869 and died during the cavalry’s attempt to arrest him. Fighting continued until Peacock’s shooting death in 1871. Body count: about fifty.

And now for the one-half Texas feud…

Brooks vs. McFarland, 1896-1902

Although most of the violence took place on Oklahoma land belonging the Creek Nation, a fatal attempt to rob a former Texas Ranger started the fight. After would-be robber Thomas Brooks was killed, family patriarch Willis Brooks accused neighbor Jim McFarland of planning the unsuccessful crime and then tipping off the Ranger. Not disposed to sit idly by and watch the family name besmirched, the McFarlands lined up behind Jim and faced off with the Brooks clan. Both sides vowed to shoot members of the other on sight. The conflict came to a head in a Spokogee, Oklahoma, gunfight in September 1902, when Willis Brooks and his son Clifton were killed along with a McFarland family ally. The survivors were arrested, but allowing them to make bail may have been a mistake: One month later, Jim McFarland died in an ambush at his home. McFarland’s death put an end to the feud.

 

Law Comes to the Nueces Strip

Texas always has been a rowdy place. In 1822, the original Anglo settlers began trickling into what was then Mexico at the invitation of the Mexican government, which hoped American immigrants would do away with the out-of-control Comanches. Texans dispensed with the Comanches in the 1870s by foisting them off on Oklahoma, but long before that, the Texans ran off the Mexican government.

Republic_of_Texas_labeled_smallFrom 1836 to 1845, Texas looked something like the map at right. The green parts became the Republic of Texas as a result of treaties signed by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana after Sam Houston and his ragtag-but-zealous army caught the general napping at San Jacinto. The treaties set the boundary between Texas and Mexico at the Rio Grande.

This caused a bit of a fuss in the Mexican capital. No matter how embarrassing his situation, Santa Ana did not possess the authority to dispose of large chunks of land with the swipe of a pen. Mexico eventually conceded Texas could have the dark-green part of the map—bounded to the south by the Nueces River, which lies about one hundred fifty miles north of the Rio Grande—but the light-green part still belonged to Mexico.

Arguments ensued.

While Texas and Mexico were studiously avoiding one another in the disputed territory, outlaws, rustlers, and other lawless types moved into the patch between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. After all, no respectable outlaw ever lets a perfectly good blind spot on the law-enforcement radar go to waste. The area, 150 miles wide by about 400 miles long, came to be known as the Nueces Strip.

NuecesStrip_smallIn 1845, the United States annexed all of the land claimed by Texas, including the disputed territory, and came to military blows with Mexico over the insult. By the time the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 to settle once and for all (sort of) who owned what, the lawless element was firmly entrenched in the strip of cactus and scrub between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. For nearly thirty years, brigands raised havoc—robbing, looting, raping, rustling, and killing—on both sides of the border before retreating to ranchos and other hideouts in the Strip’s no-man’s land.

That began to change in 1875 when Texas Ranger Captain Leander McNelly was charged with bringing order to the southern part of Texas. Newly re-formed after being disbanded for about ten years during the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Rangers were determined to clean up the cesspool harboring notorious toughs like King Fisher and Juan Cortina. With a company of forty handpicked men known as the Special Force, McNelly accomplished his task in two years…in some cases by behaving at least as badly as the outlaws. McNelly was known for brutal—sometimes downright illegal—tactics, including torturing information out of some prisoners and hanging others. He and his men also made a number of unauthorized border crossings in pursuit of rustlers, nearly provoking international incidents.

Nevertheless, the “Little McNellys” got the job done. By the time McNelly was relieved of command and subsequently retired in 1876, the Nueces Strip was a safer place.

McNelly died of consumption in September 1877. Though he remains controversial in some circles, the residents of South Texas raised funds and erected a monument in his honor.

 

 

‘War, War on the Range…’ – Texas Range Wars

Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word—

Hold up there just a cotton-picking minute. What gave anyone that idea? “Discouraging,” my hind leg. Nineteenth-century Lone Star language could get downright inflammatory, especially on the range.

Take these four Texas quarrels, for example.

Texas Vigilantes
Texas vigilantes, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Nov. 12, 1881 (public domain)

Regulator-Moderator War, 1839-1844
Also called the Shelby County War, the first major battle to pit Texan against Texan erupted in the eastern part of the newly minted republic. The whole thing started with a land dispute between a rancher and the county sheriff. The sheriff called for help from the leader of a lynch-happy anti-rustling vigilante bunch known as the Regulators, and the rancher soon thereafter shook hands with Saint Peter. The Moderators, a group of anti-vigilante vigilantes who called the Regulators terrorists, jumped into the fray, and before anyone knew what was up, a judge, a sheriff, and a senator died and homes burned in four counties. After a gun battle between 225 Moderators and 62 Regulators near Shelbyville, Sam Houston himself rode in with the militia and suggested both groups shake hands and go on about their business before he lost his temper.

Texas cowboys, circa 1880
Texas cowboys, circa 1880 (public domain)

Hoodoo War, 1874-1876
Also called the Mason County War, this Reconstruction-Era Hill Country dust-up over dead and disappearing cattle pitted Union-supporting German immigrants against born-and-bred, former-Confederate Texans. A lynch mob of forty Germans lit the match when they dragged five Texans accused of cattle rustling from jail and executed three of them before the county sheriff, elected by the Germans, reluctantly put a stop to the proceedings. In a sterling display of what can happen when a Texas Ranger goes bad, a vigilante gang led by a former Ranger embarked upon a series of retaliatory attacks against the German community. At least a dozen men died before still-commissioned Rangers restored order. Johnny Ringo spent two years in jail for his role on the side of the Texans, only to end up on the wrong end of Wyatt Earp’s good nature five years later in Tombstone, Arizona.

"Them Three Mexicans is Eliminated," Frederic Remington, 1897 (public domain)
“Them Three Mexicans is Eliminated,” Frederic Remington, 1897 (public domain)

El Paso Salt War, 1877
The only time in history Texas Rangers surrendered happened in the tiny town of San Elizario, near El Paso. An increasingly volatile disagreement over rights to mine salt in the Guadalupe Mountains began in the 1860s and finally boiled over in September 1877. A former district attorney, intent on laying claim to the salt flats, rather flagrantly murdered his political rival, who had insisted the flats were public property and the valuable salt could be mined by anyone. The dead man’s supporters, primarily Tejano salt miners, revolted. A group of twenty hastily recruited Ranger stand-ins rushed to the rescue, only to barricade themselves inside the Catholic church in a last-ditch effort to keep the instigator alive long enough to stand trial. Five days later they admitted defeat and surrendered to the mob, who killed the accused murderer, chopped up his body, and threw the pieces down a well. Then the rioters disarmed the Ranger puppies and kicked them out of town.

Fort Bend County Courthouse where the violence took place, 1889 (public domain)
Fort Bend County Courthouse where the violence took place, 1889 (public domain)

Jaybird-Woodpecker War, 1888-1889
The last major set-to in Texas took place in Fort Bend County, near Houston. The liberal-Republican Woodpeckers, mostly former slaves, swept the county election in 1884. The conservative-Democrat Jaybirds, primarily white former Confederates, opposed such inconsiderate behavior for racist reasons. After Woodpeckers swept every office again in the 1888 election, retaliatory violence on both sides resulted in the deaths of several people. During the Battle of Richmond—a twenty-minute gunfight inside the county courthouse in August 1889—four men, including the sheriff, were killed. The Jaybirds won the fracas, and with the assistance of Governor Sul Ross’s declaration of martial law, seized control of county government. Jaybirds forcibly ousted every elected Woodpecker and proceeded to disenfranchise black voters until 1953, when the Supreme Court put a stop to the whites-only voting shenanigans. Intermittent Jaybird-Woodpecker violence lopped over into 1890, when a white Woodpecker tax assessor, accused of murdering a white Jaybird who had been his political opponent, was gunned down in Galveston before he could be tried for the alleged crime.

 

I hope everyone’s holidays are shaping up to be much more peaceful than some of Texas’s merriest and brightest moments. To help with that, I’ll give an e-copy of Wild Texas Christmas to one of today’s commenters. The anthology of five Christmas romances set in the Old West will bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.

Available in paperback and e-book
Available in paperback and e-book

Available in paperback and e-book
Available in paperback and e-book

 

THE COLORADO RANGERS

Tracy Garrett

 

 

The Colorado Mounted Rangers / Colorado Rangers ~ It’s not a job. It’s an honor.

 

 

Did you know Texas is not the only state with Rangers?

While doing some unrelated research, I happened upon the fact that Colorado and New Mexico (late 1800s)—and probably some other states—have Rangers in their law enforcement arsenals.

logo
The Colorado Rangers “trace their roots to the Jefferson Rangers, first organized in 1859 to keep the peace in the unofficial Jefferson Territory during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Rangers were often found guarding shipments of gold coming out of the camps.”

In 1861, when Colorado became a territory, the Jefferson Rangers were reorganized as the Colorado Rangers, “serving as Colorado’s only statewide law enforcement through the late 1920’s. The Colorado Rangers were fashioned after the well known Texas Rangers and often served both law enforcement and militia roles in the early days of the Colorado Territory.”In the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass, the Colorado Rangers were instrumental in stopping the Confederate advance toward the gold mines, cutting off much needed funding of the war effort.

Rangers have been called upon by Colorado’s Governors to keep the peace during times of emergency, natural disasters, and during civVintageRangerCaptBadge-nobgil unrest, like the labor wars in Colorado’s mining towns. They upheld the law during Prohibition, have helped break up organized crime, and routed out corruption in the government.

Like the Texas Rangers, they protect the Governor of their state. And, like their Texas counterparts, they were “thanked” and disbanded in the late 1920s, only to be reinstated by Governor Teller Ammons, “who thought that the great, western State of Colorado should not let this colorful, historic group of lawmen ride quietly into the sunset and be heard from no more.” They were reorganized as a volunteer group, which is how the Colorado Mounted Rangers function today, serving as an unpaid auxiliary to any agency that requests their assistance.

The Colorado Mounted Rangers / Colorado Rangers have responded and assisted in natural disasters across Colorado and conduct search and rescue efforts, especially in the Southwestern part of the State.

A FUN FACT
In 1921, the Colorado Rangers adopted Harley Davidson motorcycles as their new “mount.”

ZMP CO RANGER

 

“Colorado Ranger Sergeant Zebulon Montgomery “Monty” Pike in Trinidad, Colorado, with his Harley Davidson motorcycle equipped with a sidecar, circa 1923. Note the extended wheel on the sidecar to fit in wagon ruts of the day. Sergeant Pike is a descendant of explorer Zebulon M. Pike, credited with discovering Pikes Peak. Photo courtesy of Grandson Brian Pike.”

 

 

 

 

[Source: the website history of the Colorado Mounted Rangers/Colorado Rangers by retired Ranger Carlton “Doc” McClure, official Historian and author of History of the Colorado Mounted Rangers and Colorado Rangers. http://www.coloradoranger.org/index.php/history].

 

Available now!  PRPLassoing a Bride Web

PRPLassoing a Groom Web

LAW and DISORDER

MargaretBrownley-header

“The closest any of those lawyers came to

‘passing the bar’

was to walk by a saloon.”

                                            -Courting Trouble from Four Weddings and a Kiss

In Courting Trouble  my heroine Grace Davenport is in big trouble.—the kind of trouble no sane man would want to mess courtingtroublewith   Not even Wild West attorney Brock Daniels.  Not only is his beautiful  new client charged with killing her husband, her two previous husbands died under dire circumstances.  Things sure didn’t look good for Grace and when I sat down to write her story I had no idea how my hero would defend her. It was time to hit the books.

 My research for this story turned up many surprises. Namely, the number of lawyers required for frontier justice. Whenever a large mining boom began lawsuits were filed in incredible numbers. “Go west young man” went double for lawyers.

“We didn’t need laws until the lawyers got here.”

                                                                                                                            -disgruntled citizen

The wilder the town, the more lawyers (and doctors) it required. Not everyone welcomed the onslaught of lawyers, of course, but most accepted them as the cost of doing business.

Tombstone became a favorite gathering place for lawyers many of whom became rich and ran for office.  Residents dubbed the street occupied by lawyer offices Rotten Row.

A court could be held indoors or out.  In one  murder trial the jury sat on the coffin containing the corpse of the victim.  Most trials allowed for regular recesses for “liquid refreshment.”  One well-known lawyer was routinely locked up in a hotel room prior to trial to assure he would be sober enough to defend his clients.

Three for the price of one

 One of the strangest trials I ran across took place in California in 1845.  During the trial of Joseph Wilson, William Ide served as judge, prosecutor and defense attorney. As the district attorney, he questioned his witness and was careful to object to his own questions when needed.  He then moved to the bench to rule on the objection.

Women didn’t have the right to vote, but that didn’t keep them from making their presence known in court. Margaret Cody of Denver owned a notions shop with her husband but spent most of her time suing and being sued.  I found a dozen lawsuits she was involved in and that was just during Colorado’s Territorial years. When Colorado became a state, she happily continued to enjoy litigation far into old age.

It seems like everyone in the Wild West practiced law in one way or the other, which led a  character in my story to lament,  “Unless you know the trial of having a wife, you know nothing about law and order.”

Okay, I admit it; I’m hooked on The Good Wife (or was until they killed off Will). Anyone have a favorite TV or movie lawyer? 

margaret-brownley.com

So how does my hero defend the woman the town called the Black Widow?  You’ll have to read the story to find out.  While you’re at it, you won’t want to miss the other three stories (one by our very own Mary Connealy) in our exciting new collection.  To order just click the cover.

Here’s our exciting new June release!

 To order click coverNew Picture