Tag Archives: gunslingers

BOONE MAY: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

Boone MayBOONE MAY – We ring down the curtain on another Frontierado holiday with this look at neglected gunslinger Daniel Boone May, better known as just Boone May.

Daniel Boone May was born in Missouri in 1852 and raised on the family farm in Kansas following a move around 1860. In the early 1870s Boone headed west with his brothers Jim and Bill. By some accounts Boone drifted into bounty hunting as a way of making a living while his brothers were into more sedate and settled livelihoods.

With the Black Hills Gold Rush raging in 1876 the three May Brothers headed to Deadwood, SD to seek their fortunes. Bill tried his hand at prospecting while Boone and Jim invested some of Boone’s bounty money in a series of horse-team changing stations between the gold fields and the railroad in Cheyenne, WY.  

Boone earned a solid reputation for being able to use his guns to keep the changing stations safe from bandits AND from bands of Sioux warriors. Before long he had made enough money to buy a home and land near the Platte River outside Deadwood.   Continue reading

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3 GUNSLINGERS: HAVE NICKNAME, WILL TRAVEL

Hunnewell, KSFrontierado is coming up this Friday, August 3rd. The holiday celebrates the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. With just a few days remaining until the big day I’ll be squeezing in some last seasonal posts.

Part of the appeal of old west gunslingers lies in their catchy nicknames. I’ve covered all of the big names over the years, so here are a few more who don’t get the attention they deserve.

cash hollisterCASH HOLLISTER – Cassius M “Cash” Hollister was born in Cleveland, OH on December 7th of 1845. Cash was a two-fisted and fiery man who felt too constrained living in the citified East. In 1877 he traveled to Kansas, where he did hotel work in Wichita before moving on to Caldwell. 

Hollister married Sadia Rhodes in 1878 and in late October of 1879 was elected Mayor of Caldwell following the violent death of the town’s previous Mayor. High office did nothing to diminish Cash’s high spirits and he continued to participate in frequent barroom brawls and street fights.

Choosing not to stand for reelection in 1880, Hollister held no further official position until very early 1883, when he was appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal by Marshal B.S. Simpson. Within months Cash was involved in a series of gunfights against horse thieves and cattle rustlers in the sprawling criminal organization headed by Jay Wilkinson. Continue reading

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TEN NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS OF THE OLD WEST

MASCOT COWBOY 2JUST 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

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FEMALE MARSHALS OF THE OLD WEST

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th!

As always, Frontierado is a holiday dedicated to the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here is a look at a handful of ladies who served as gunslinging Marshals.

Ada CarnuttADA CURNUTT

Around 1889 or 1890 Ada Curnutt moved to Oklahoma (formerly Indian Territory) with her sister and her brother-in-law. By some accounts Ada chose to head west to get out from under the influence of her Methodist Minister father and equally devout mother.

When she was 20 years old, Curnutt started working as a Clerk of the Court in Norman, OK. Finding a desk job too dull for her, Ada soon became a Deputy Marshal for United States Marshal William Grimes. Her duties included serving writs and warrants, escorting dangerous prisoners from one jurisdiction to another and, of course, making arrests.    Continue reading

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BLACK JACK KETCHUM: GUNSLINGER

FRONTIERADO IS FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th!

Black jack

Black Jack

BLACK JACK KETCHUM – Black Jack was one of the leaders of the many outlaws who made their home in Hole In The Wall, Wyoming, all of them roughly lumped together under the general name the Hole In The Wall Gang. Though Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch faction of the gang is by far the most famous grouping, Ketchum and his followers deserve a much bigger reputation than they currently enjoy.

Ketchum was born in 1866 in San Angelo, TX, and by 1887 he was working as an actual cowboy at various ranches in the Lone Star State. In 1890, after a cattle drive to Clayton, NM, Black Jack and his brother Sam were involved in a train robbery and would spend the rest of their lives as outlaws, vowing never to work as miserable cowhands ever again.

By 1892 Ketchum’s Hole In The Wall gang included his brother Sam, Will “Noose” Carver, Bronco Bill Walters and  Ben Kilpatrick, the Tall Texan. The Gang began alternating its time between launching train and bank robberies from their Hole In The Wall headquarters and running a shady saloon and gambling hall back in San Angelo. Continue reading

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X: THE REAL-LIFE VIGILANTE

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th!

X

The Vigilante called “X”.

JOHN XAVIER BEIDLER, AKA “X” – How does a real-life figure who was known by the cool nickname “X” fly under the radar as thoroughly as this man has? His real name was John Xavier Beidler with his nom de guerre coming from his distinctive middle initial.

Born in 1831 X was one of the most successful  Vigilantes in the history of the American West and his way of playing judge jury and executioner should have made him the subject of several gritty, “adult” westerns from the 1960s onwards. Spaghetti Westerns in particular could have romanticized him as a figure akin to that sub-genre’s famed Vigilantes like the Soldier of God and Sartana and others. 

By the 1850s Beidler was living in Kansas where he was associated with John Brown and some of the more active elements of the Abolitionist movement. In 1852 he took part in sabotaging the offices of a pro-slavery newspaper and the exchange of gunfire that accompanied the act. Whether or not X played any further role in the Bleeding Kansas violence is still being debated.

In 1863, after two years in the Union Army John took part in the Montana Gold Rush and found himself frequenting Virginia City and Bannock. As in the California Gold Rush outlaws took advantage of the chaos to prey on gold shipments and payroll deliveries.

In Montana, however, the situation was further complicated by the fact that the gunslinging leader of the criminal faction, the one and only Handsome Henry Plummer, was also serving as the head of the area’s law enforcement.

(This was similar to the way in which modern-day criminal organizations often outrightly OWN the local authorities. Back then the crooks assumed a more active role by just pinning on a badge themselves and using their office as a cover for their illegal activities.)

Frustrated, many Montanans formed groups of Vigilantes to handle what the lawmen were too crooked or too inept to handle. Beidler refused to hide his identity like the other members of the Montana Vigilantes and so in late 1863 his fame as “X” began. Continue reading

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SAM SIXKILLER: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

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. 

Sam Sixkiller

Sam Sixkiller

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

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