Tag Archives: American West

“COME ON, YOU DANITES” – THE MISSOURI MORMON WAR

MASCOT COWBOY 1The Latter-Day Saints aka Mormons, faced very real oppression and bigotry because of their faith. In Missouri in the 1830s the Church’s opposition to slavery added to the usual mistrust and suspicion that Mormons faced. The series of Mormon “Wars” were not truly large-scale wars (with the exception of one).

The Mormon Wars bore more of a resemblance to Range Wars of the American West, which is one of the reasons I’m covering them during Frontierado Season. I’m not claiming either side was entirely innocent. Only political propagandists and immature fools pretend conflicts are clear-cut “good guys vs bad guys” situations.

FOR MORE ABOUT WHY I FEEL MORMONS AND DANITES FIT IN WITH FRONTIERADO CLICK HERE

MISSOURI MORMON WAR (August 6th – November 1st, 1838) 

Missouri Mormon WarAUGUST 6th, 1838 – This was Election Day in newly-formed Daviess (sic) County in Missouri. One of the candidates, William Peniston, called Mormons “horse-thieves and robbers” and warned them not to vote. A band of 30-some Mormons DID show up to vote on August 6th and were blocked by roughly 200 Anti-Mormons.

Legend has it that a cry of “Oh yes, you Danites, here is a job for us” (sometimes claimed to have been “Come on, you Danites!”) rallied those Mormons who belonged to the armed sect of Mormon “Knights” called Danites, from the Book of Daniel. 

In the resulting clash the outnumbered Mormons drove off the Missourians who were illegally trying to stop them from voting. Continue reading

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GUNMEN OF MYSTERY FROM THE OLD WEST

masc chair and bottleForget Mysterious Dave Mather, most of whose real-life escapades are well-chronicled. THESE gunslingers are little more than names which popped up in occasional newspaper accounts or journal entries. So tantalizingly little is known about them that they’d make great RPG material for those so inclined. 

Dodge City Front StreetARKANSAS BILL – A gunfighter who made Dodge City, KS his home base in the late 1870s. Arkansas Bill was sometimes referred to in indignant articles about Western violence written in Washington DC’s Evening Star and other Eastern newspapers. The gunman claimed to be a Bounty Hunter who had slain twenty-two men thus far in his career.

Bill, who said he was nicknamed after the Arkansas RIVER, not the state, avoided having his picture taken, claiming that success at Bounty Hunting was reliant upon a certain degree of anonymity. Like many other gunslingers, Arkansas Bill was said to have served in the U.S. Civil War but on which side is not known. By the early 1880s this mysterious hombre disappeared from written accounts.

Potential Happy Ending: One could assume he eventually collected enough bounties to retire or to set up a legitimate business for himself under his real name, whatever that may have been.

Potential Unhappy Ending: Blown away by one or more of the desperadoes he was trying to bring in.

LONG-HAIRED SAM – Easily the most well-known of the neglected figures on this list, Long-Haired Sam Brown had a beard and long red hair, and was an outlaw active during the California and Nevada Gold Rushes. Long-Haired Sam and his boys robbed gold and payrolls in both locations. 

In 1855, at a cabin in Calaveras County, California, Brown and one of his gang members were gambling at cards with some gold prospectors from Chile. The Chileans supposedly tried claiming a pot that wasn’t theirs and Long-Haired Sam shot three of them to death in the following gunfight.     Continue reading

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DANITES: GUNSLINGING KNIGHTS OF THE OLD WEST

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 2nd!

Berenger Avenging AngelThe Frontierado Holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. The Danites – the gunslinging Knights of the Mormon faith – are an underutilized and underappreciated element of Old West fiction.

The opportunities for action presented to a Danite could start as early as the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. After that there’s the Illinois Mormon War in the 1840s which ended in the Siege of Nauvoo.

Following that conflict the Mormon Exodus to the West began, with “Deseret” (later called Utah) as the ultimate destination. Danites – like Christian Knights of long ago protecting Pilgrims headed for their “Holy Land” – safeguarded Mormon travelers from attacks by hooded anti-Mormon gangs, from armed outlaws and from various Native American tribes along the way.  

Berenger Avenging Angel 2In Deseret itself there were conflicts with Mexican raiders after the end of America’s war with Mexico (1846-1848). Danites would also be called upon to battle various Native American tribes in Deseret, in the role of oppressors rather than oppressed much of the time.

They would also fight Navajo armies to stop them from seizing Paiute Indians as slaves. (The anti-slavery aspect of Mormonism is often overlooked.) Plus the Danites faced the task of driving off armed bands of prospectors wanting the gold and other precious metals of the area.

There was also the Utah War with the Mormons fighting the United States Army from 1857-1858. Continue reading

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FRONTIERADO: HORSE SOLDIER BOURBON IS THE NEW OFFICIAL BOURBON OF THE HOLIDAY

Horse Soldier Bourbon bottleThe Frontierado Holiday is coming up on August 2nd and as the International Commissioner of that 3-day weekend it’s my privilege to announce the NEW Official Bourbon of Frontierado.

Horse Soldier Bourbon bears that distinction. Personally I go with barrel strength but anyone selecting Horse Soldier for their own Frontierado celebrations is, of course, free to choose their own preferred strength. Continue reading

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KID RUSSELL: EPISODE THREE

For Episode One plus background information click HERE  For a look at the Kid Russell legend click HERE 

William Smith good Kid Russell 4

William Smith would have made a good Kid Russell long ago.

KID RUSSELL

EPISODE THREE

Title: The Judith Basin Cattle Roundup

The Year: 1883

Synopsis: This episode will open up with Kid Russell (Charles Marion Russell) among the five or six players in a poker game at one of the saloons in Helena, MT. His regular saloon gal Dutch Leina is hovering nearby. Accusations of cheating eventually erupt and, while the Kid’s friend Charlie Bowlegs gets shot down, Russell himself manages to blow away the attacker. (The Kid’s real-life friend Charlie Bowlegs really did get shot to death in saloon card-game violence.)

William Smith good Kid Russell 5After a few days in jail, Kid Russell’s case comes up and he is found not guilty on self-defense grounds and released. While cooling his heels in stir the Kid got to talking to some cowhands getting ready for the upcoming Judith Basin Cattle Roundup, an annual event which was, even then, achieving legendary status.

Russell, always a romantic, can’t shake a desire to once again try the cowboy lifestyle he once aspired to. After his initial run at a sheep ranch getting leaned on by the Cattlemen (Episode One) and his two years guiding tycoons and European Blue-Bloods on big-game hunts with Lucky Boy Hoover (Episode Two), Charley finds himself itching for a change. Continue reading

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KID RUSSELL: EPISODE TWO

For Episode One plus background information click HERE

William Smith Kid Russell 2

William Smith would have made a good Kid Russell in the 60s.

KID RUSSELL

EPISODE TWO

Title: LUCKY BOY

The Year: 1882

Synopsis: We move on to the period in which future artist Kid Russell was working for the famed Jake “Lucky Boy” Hoover. Lucky Boy was a former prospector turned trapper, guide and professional big game hunter. After having been fired by his previous employer in 1881 (see Episode One), Russell struck up a friendship with Hoover.

William Smith good Kid Russell 2During the two years that Kid Russell worked for Lucky Boy, he learned all about trapping and hunting, though he never fully warmed up to either trade, however, since he preferred painting wildlife to blood-sports. He took much more enthusiastically to learning the survival lore that went hand-in-hand with them.

Charley’s favorite of all the businesses he and Lucky Boy pursued was serving as guides for wealthy Easterners as well as European and Russian Nobility and tycoons, many of whom flocked to the Montana area in the 1880s. These magnates and blue-bloods loved vacationing in the already romantic Wild West and enjoyed the scenery plus the big-game hunting. (See the Euro-Western Shalako as well as The Hunting Party for the kind of dangers such expeditions could encounter.)  Continue reading

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KID RUSSELL: THE TELEVISION SERIES – EPISODE ONE

Kid Russell

Self-portrait by Kid Russell

With the Frontierado Holiday coming up in just over a month and a half, Balladeer’s Blog decided to whet readers’ appetites with this look at a gritty cable western series based on the real-life gunslinger turned artist Kid Russell (Charles Marion Russell).

As always, Frontierado is about the myth of the American West, not the grinding reality. This ties it in with Balladeer’s Blog’s examinations of myth and folklore and the ways in which the human tendency toward embellishment crafts everything from religious lore to heroic legends.

Even in the 1800s the exploits of real-life gunslingers were being exaggerated in Dime Novels or overblown newspaper accounts to the degree that the surviving tales of Western figures often bear little resemblance to their actual lives. Television added another layer of distortion as the need for weekly stories saw Western shows presenting the likes of Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson and many others in adventures that dropped all pretense of being based on anything “real.”

Even a figure like Annie Oakley, who actually saw no action against outlaws, was depicted fighting crime out west in a weekly series. In that same spirit here’s my presentation of how the framework of fictional adventures can be used to familiarize modern audiences with occasional facts about the adventurers themselves.

William Smith good Kid RussellKID RUSSELL (Cable Series) – “Before he made the art, he LIVED it!” would be the kind of eye-rolling advertising tagline that one could picture being used for a show like this. I’m not implying any disrespect to Kid Russell or his artistic legacy. Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog are familiar with my regard for the man. (FOR MY LOOK AT THE KID RUSSELL LEGEND CLICK HERE )

I can’t help but speculate that the Kid’s fondness for “windies” would make him smile at the kind of concentrated embellishment I’m about to bring to his real-life adventures. Russell’s famously coy line about how he “… never said how law-abiding I was or wasn’t” made many of the wildest legends about the man seem like there might be more than a kernel or two of truth to them.     Continue reading

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