The Frontierado holiday is this Friday, August 5th! As we all count down to it like little kids excitedly awaiting Santa Claus here’s another look at legends surrounding another neglected figure of the American west. ** Special thanks to Jay Thorington, a descendant of Lucky Bill, for the correct spelling of the last name **
LUCKY BILL – William B. Thorington was the real-life inspiration for Bret Harte’s fictional gambler Jack Hamlin. Lucky Bill was born sometime in the 1820s in New York and after serving in the Mounted Rifles during the Mexican War of 1846-1848 had wandered as far as Michigan when word of the discovery of gold in California hit in 1849.
Thorington traveled west with one of the countless wagon trains, putting his Monte-playing skills and his con artist tricks to good use along the way. By the time the wagon train reached California, Lucky Bill had supposedly acquired a large amount of cash and valuables from his traveling companions. Periodic clashes enroute with the Pawnee and other tribes helped hone Lucky Bill’s gunmanship.
************** Sacramento in 1849, when it was inhabited exclusively by cartoon figures. Later they would move south and establish Toon Town.
Rather than spend his time prospecting for gold Bill settled in to fleece prospectors and other gamblers at the Monte table or with his skill at the Shell Game. Eventually, after winning many pots and losing a few others Lucky Bill settled in Sacramento, already with a trail of dead bodies in his wake courtesy of his Colt Walker pistol. Thorington played his game and his cons out of casinos like Jimmie Lee’s Stinking Tent, Mansion House, The Humboldt, New Orleans West and The Diana. He even spent time working The Empire – run by Andrew Butler – the brother of future Civil War General Benjamin Butler. 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