JUST ONE WEEK UNTIL FRONTIERADO! As always Frontierado is about celebrating the myth of the Wild West and not the grinding reality. Part of the fun each year is an examination of neglected gunslingers from the 1800s.
The likes of Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, Calamity Jane and Jesse James have been the subject of a variety of movies and folk tales. Unfortunately some figures from the Wild West led lives at least as interesting as the big names did but have not gotten nearly as much attention. Here is a look at ten such men and women. Continue reading
People who experienced their very first Frontierado with Balladeer’s Blog this year agreed it was a warm and beautiful experience they’ll remember for a lifetime. Anyway, to meet the demand for more Frontierado items til next year here’s one last neglected Wild West figure.
1. SAM SIXKILLER – Not only does this gunslinger have a name that screams out for cinematic treatment (or at least a cable television series) but he also saw more action than many western figures who are better known. Born in 1842 Sam Sixkiller was a Cherokee lawman in Oklahoma back when it was still being called Indian Territory and had not yet been opened up for white settlement. The unique setting of life in Indian Territory and the way it served as a microcosm of issues that the nation at large was dealing with after the Civil War adds layers of depth to Marshal Sixkiller’s tale that I find incredibly intriguing.
After starting out in the Confederate Army, in 1863 Sam enlisted in the Union Army as the Civil War raged and saw action in Arkansas and Indian Territory. Because many Native Americans owned slaves (black and mixed-race) as their tribes had for centuries the Indian Territory was as split in terms of support for the Union and Confederacy as were badly-divided states like Missouri. Between conventional battles and Bushwacker raids the Territory was reduced to a wasteland in many areas by the end of the war. In May 1865 Sam was discharged and returned to his wife Fannie to attend to their farm.
Following the Civil War the slaves in Indian Territory were declared Freedmen like the slaves in the late Confederacy, and as citizens of Indian Territory those Freedmen were in theory entitled to some of the money that was still being paid to the tribes in the Territory and to land. In reality the Five Civilized Tribes who called Indian Territory home were resentful of their former slaves’ new status and often used violence to drive out the freed slaves, even burning down their homes in many cases.
Outlaw bands would ride in to loot and pillage in the Territory then flee outside its borders to escape prosecution. In addition bootlegging and rustling were rampant and construction of railroads through Indian Territory brought new crimes. Throw in the usual inter-tribe conflicts that still surfaced and the Territory was a very dangerous place at the time. Continue reading
Frontierado is Friday, August 5th!
WHISPERING SMITH – James L Smith, aka Whispering Smith, led an action-filled life that bore little resemblance to the squeaky clean image of the man depicted in the movie, radio and television series based on his law enforcement career. Smith was a relentless lawman whom I often describe as “the Dirty Harry of the Old West.”
Whispering Smith was born in 1838 and by 1860 was making a living as a riverboat gambler up and down the Mississippi, where he acquired his famous nickname. He had his first gunfight in the form of a duel with a gambler named Larry Boyle on the Belle of Memphis. When the Civil War broke out James joined the Union Army, as did other future gunfighters like Wild Bill Hickok, Bear River Tom, Long-Haired Jim Courtright and others.
After the war he next surfaced in New Orleans, LA, as part of the city’s Metropolitan Police Force in 1868. By 1873 Smith had made detective and married his sweetheart Anna Mannion. Continue reading
The Frontierado holiday is Friday, August 5th!
GUNPLAY MAXWELL – This neglected gunslinger was born in Boston, MA as James Otis Bliss circa 1860. When he was 15 years old he got into a fight with a friend at a Boston tavern and shot him to death. Fleeing authorities the young man headed west and began a life of using various false names, including Charles L Maxwell or “Gunplay” Maxwell as he is best remembered.
Life on the run was bringing out both the dark violence AND the shrewd manipulative streak that would characterize the young man for the rest of his life. By late 1876 he was in Texas staying alive through assorted robberies, con games and increasingly frequent gunplay. Texas eventually became too hot for Gunplay Maxwell and by the late 1870s or early 1880s he moved north to Montana. Continue reading
Frontierado is Friday, August 5th!
PISTOL PETE – Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton was another of those real-life figures that some people mistakenly think are fictional characters. The elementary alliteration and the association of the name Pistol Pete with the mascot of the Oklahoma State University sports teams are part of the reason. That mascot was named after and was designed to look like the real-life Pistol Pete.
Eaton was a man who LIVED what would eventually become a cliche of Wild West fiction: the quest for revenge over the murder of a loved one, no matter how many years it takes.
In 1868 young Frank was eight years old and living with his parents in Twin Mounds, Kansas. Frank’s father had served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was being harassed by several former Confederate Army men who had ridden with Quantrill’s Raiders for a time. One day six of those men shot our hero’s father to death right in front of him, setting the course for the rest of the young man’s life. Continue reading
“Hold it right there,” the gunslinger exclaimed, “We got us some apparent paradoxes and their effect upon contemporary philosophy to discuss … you savvy?”
JUST 30 DAYS UNTIL FRONTIERADO! As always Frontierado is about celebrating the myth of the Wild West and not the grinding reality. Part of the fun each year is an examination of neglected gunslingers from the 1800s.
The likes of Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, Calamity Jane and Jesse James have been the subject of a variety of movies and folk tales. Unfortunately some figures from the Wild West led lives at least as interesting as the big names did but have not gotten nearly as much attention. Here is a look at ten such men and women.
10. RATTLESNAKE DICK – No, he’s not a porn star. Dick Barton was originally from England but migrated with his family to the United States.In 1849 he joined the California Gold Rush but, having no luck at prospecting, formed an outlaw gang and took to robbing gold and payroll shipments instead. His second-in- command Cyrus Skinner was once shot down in a gunfight with Wells Fargo detectives and the stolen gold that Skinner had hidden before dying was fruitlessly sought after for years. Continue reading
The Frontierado holiday is this Friday, August 1st! As we all count down to it like little kids excitedly awaiting Santa Claus here’s another look at the legends centered around even more neglected figures of the American west. Check out this Three of a Kind.
1. QUEEN KITTY – Kitty LeRoy was also known as Kitty the Schemer, Dancing Kitty, the Female Arsenal and much later as Deadwood Kitty. Queen Kitty is the most appropriate nickname in part because of her last name but mostly because she was variously known as “the Queen of the Hoofers”, “the Dancing Queen”, “the Queen of the Barbary Coast” and “the Queen of the Faro Tables”.
Kitty was born in 1850 and by the age of 10 was earning money for her family as a professional dancer and novelty act in her home state of Michigan. By 14 she was performing exclusively at adult venues and had added trick shooting to her repertoire. Her most famous shooting trick at this time was shooting apples off the heads of volunteers. At age 15 Queen Kitty was performing in New Orleans and married her first husband – the only man in the city brave enough to let Kitty shoot apples off his head while she was riding around him at a full gallop.
LeRoy loved flirting and sleeping around, however, and this led to the breakup of her first marriage within a year. By 1870 Queen Kitty had married a second time, to a man named Donnaly, with whom she had a daughter. The Queen had gravitated more and more to the Faro tables, making a killing as a celebrity dealer. With Dallas as a home base Kitty and her husband would travel throughout Texas with LeRoy earning money dancing and dealing Faro. Kitty also earned a name for being able to handle any violence that came her way from sore losers and was involved in multiple gunfights and knife fights in dangerous saloons. Continue reading