Tag Archives: Frontierado Sagas

RUSSIAN BILL: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

Frontierado is this Friday, August 2nd, so just a few days left for seasonal posts this calendar year! As ever, this holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. 

Wolf Kahler Russian Bill

Wolf Kahler would have made a good Russian Bill

RUSSIAN BILL – William Tatenbaum aka Waldemar Tethenborn aka Feador Telfrin was born in Russia as the son of Countess Telfrin. Russian Bill’s noble birthright was confirmed by the American Consul in Saint Petersburg, Russia after Bill’s death by lynching in 1881.

That’s important to note because during William Tatenbaum’s travels in the American West many people thought the smooth-talking Russian gunslinger was lying about being a nobleman. Apparently they assumed he was a forerunner of the 20th Century’s Mike Romanoff, who became a celebrity based on his brassy – but failed – attempt to pass himself off as a member of the fallen Romanoff dynasty.

The 19th Century’s William Tatenbaum might have lived a longer life if he had pursued a similar con-man’s career instead of falling into the life of a guns-blazing outlaw.

Wolf Kahler Russian Bill 3While serving in the Tsar’s Imperial White Hussars (cavalry) and after seeing action in the Khivan Campaign, the future Russian Bill had a violent falling out with a superior officer. The exact nature of the conflict is not known and years later the Countess Telfrin would refer to it only as “a political affair.”   

Bill left Russia under a cloud and at some point wound up in the American West. The wandering rogue made references to having gambled on Mississippi Riverboats and in assorted Texas towns while participating in periodic “duels” (gunfights) over ladies or related matters of “honor.” Given how true Russian Bill’s claims to nobility turned out to be, all the other claims he made about his mysterious past need to be taken with some seriousness.

Wolf Kahler Russian Bill 2Tatenbaum certainly looked and otherwise fit the part of the Old West Gambler better than the rougher outlaw he later became. He was described as a dandified dresser and sported expensive pistols. In addition he was well-spoken, well-educated and fluent in at least four languages, all of which would have accounted for his popularity with the ladies. His supposedly handsome face, curly blonde hair and moustache would have helped.  

By the late 1870s Russian Bill was in the Animas Valley in Southwestern New Mexico Territory where he fell in with the Clanton Crime Faction, whose control extended from there to parts of Arizona Territory. Some accounts claim Bill first took to committing crimes with them to pay off a gambling debt to one of the gang. Continue reading

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TOMAHAWK TAM: FRONTIERADO SAGA

The latest Saga custom written for Frontierado, which is coming up Friday, August 2nd!

TomahawkTOMAHAWK TAM – Tamara “Tomahawk Tam” Wise-Brosnan aka “The Houston Hellcat” led one of the most eventful and action-packed lives in the Old West.

Born in 1863 the ever-willful and rambunctious child ran away in a pouting huff from the westward-bound wagon train her family was traveling with in 1873. Elders from the Nevada Paiute Tribe which adopted her forever maintained that when they encountered the young lady in the desert she fearlessly walked up to them and told them she was hungry and inquired if they had any food to share with her.

Charmed by all this, the Paiute raised her as one of their own. By her teen years Tamara was a close follower of the outspoken Paiute woman Sarah Winnemucca aka Thocmentony aka Shell Flower. It was Sarah who introduced the young Tamara to Eleanor Dumont, the famous gambler/ gunslinger. Eleanor’s free spirit forever after served as an inspiration for the future legend. 

When she was 15 in 1878 Tamara’s tribe left the reservation and found themselves in a conflict with the United States Army, the Bannock War (June-August).

The Paiute tribe under Chief Buffalo Horn could only muster around 500 warriors at the time and during one of the battles Tamara, wielding a rifle and a tomahawk, fought back against the attacking soldiers. From that day forward the newly rechristened “Tomahawk Tam” insisted on fighting alongside the men of her tribe. With her body-count increasing in every clash no one dared say her nay. Continue reading

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KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH: GUNS & GAMBLERS FOR FRONTIERADO

MASCOT COWBOY 2Frontierado is on August 2nd, so two weeks from now blog posts related to that major holiday will wrap up for the year.

A neglected aspect of Wild West lore is the Alaskan Gold Rush. Klondike Kate was the only figure I’ve covered from the Yukon so it’s long past time for more. Think of dogsleds instead of stage coaches and instead of hot deserts, snow and temperatures so cold that whiskey freezes in the bottle. Think of winter storms of such magnitude that the entire city of Nome, AK was literally wiped out late in the Gold Rush. Boomtowns, gunslingers and gamblers are common to Gold Rushes in the frozen north AND in the continental U.S.

Klondike Gold Rush mapTHE MONTANA KID – Dan Egan, before his Yukon fame, was a boxer during the dangerous years when the sport was illegal in many areas and boxing matches were subject to being raided by the police. He had only limited success and his career as a pugilist is distinguished mostly by his losses to THE Billy Hennesy.

Already called the Montana Kid, Egan lost to Hennesy in boxing matches from Leavenworth, KS to San Francisco, CA between 1888 and 1892. Beginning around 1896 the Kid was in Alaska and made a name for himself smuggling whiskey from Juneau and Skagway to Dawson via his notoriously fast dogsled team.

Egan became a legend from his escapades eluding Canadian Mounties and American authorities with his ever-expanding inventory of smuggled goods. The Montana Kid would spend his down time between smuggling runs drinking and gambling in the many saloons in the Gold Rush boomtowns.  

When he was on a winning streak Egan would reward his sled-dogs with prime steaks from the best available restaurants.

This amiable but deadly man was a frequent participant in the marathon, multiple-day card games held at the Bank Saloon, along with equally colorful Klondike figures like Silent Sam Bonnifield, One-Eyed Riley, and the gambler known only as the Oregon Jew.   Continue reading

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“FARMER” PEEL: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

The Frontierado Holiday is coming up on August 2nd. As always, the holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality.

pistols and cardsFARMER PEEL – Gunslinger Langford Peel got the nickname “Farmer” Peel through the same sense of irony that earns some tall people the nickname Shorty and some fat people the nickname Slim. Peel was always well-dressed and smooth-tongued and the furthest thing away from the image of a Farmer that you could get among the high-stakes gambler/ gunslingers of his era. 

Peel was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1829 but his family moved to America during his childhood. In 1841, at the age of 12, Peel was accepted into the U.S. Army as a bugler. Buglers and drummers could indeed be enlisted into the service as company musicians with their parents’ consent. Education in their intended musical instruments was part of the bargain.

David Robb great Farmer Peel

David Robb would have made a great Farmer Peel

The young Langford Peel was shipped off to Governor’s Island, New York and then Carlisle Barracks, PA for his military and musical training. After 13 months he was discharged at Carlisle on October 24th, 1842 but chose to reenlist. Come 1845 the 16 year old blonde was with Company B of the First Regiment of U.S. Dragoons at Fort Atkinson, IA. (Yes, this would indeed have made him the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B when he was first posted there. I’m kidding!)

By the spring of 1846 Peel got his first action against Native Americans, bugling and fighting for his unit in what is now Pawnee County, Coon Creek and along the Arkansas River. Already skilled at gunplay, Langford notched 3 kills in his first battle and became even deadlier in the future, seeing a great deal of action against the Great Plains and Mojave Desert Tribes.  Continue reading

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DIAMONDFIELD JACK: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

Diamondfield Jack Davis

Diamondfield Jack Davis

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 2nd. 

DIAMONDFIELD JACK – Born Jackson Lee Davis this neglected gunslinger is a colorful example of the old west’s gunmen for hire. He’s also a poster child for the confusion and conflicting information that surrounds those figures. Various sources place his year of birth anywhere from 1864 to the mid 1870s and in several different states. Even the story behind his nickname is disputed as I’ll deal with in detail as we go along.

Diamondfield Jack is noted for the shotgun he carried in a holster on his back, like a quiver of arrows carried by an archer. He also sported three 45 caliber pistols in holsters and coatpockets and had a Bowie knife strapped to his leg.

By the late 1880s Jack was in Colorado during the Silver Boom. In return for various killings and acts of violent intimidation he performed for the railroad tycoons and the silver mine owners he was partially paid with several uncut diamonds. Later Jack’s own boasting and the usual embellishments that accompany men like him exaggerated the story to the point where he supposedly owned a hidden diamond mine near the Idaho/Nevada border. Jack cultivated the story by forever after carrying around a pocketful of uncut diamonds.

In 1892 Diamondfield Jack was in Silver City, Idaho, working for the Black Jack Mine’s owners to try to shoot down chances of the miners organizing a union. After a time he was wanted for questioning in some killings in the area and laid low in the mountains for several months. 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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