Tag Archives: Old West

JEFFERSON SMITH: 1800s GANGSTER

The Frontierado holiday is this Friday, August 6th. As always the festive occasion is all about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here’s another seasonal post.

soapy smithJEFFERSON “SOAPY” SMITH – This figure was one of the closest things to a 20th or 21st Century gangland chief in the 19th Century. Jefferson Randolph Smith II was born on November 2nd of 1860 in Coweto County, GA. In 1876 his family moved to Round Rock, TX, where his mother died of natural causes in 1877.

Jeff was one of the Round Rock citizens who witnessed the Sam Bass Gang’s shootout with Texas Rangers when the gang arrived in town intent on robbing the Williamson County Bank. The date was July 19th, 1878 and Smith would forever after state that he had yelled “I think you got him!” as Rangers Richard Ware and George Herold shot Bass, mortally wounding him.

soapy smith hatlessShortly after that event Jeff moved to Fort Worth, TX. The story goes that Smith had begun working at confidence games to make money when he was 16 and in Fort Worth his savvy and leadership qualities let him gather around him a gang of talented and experienced crooks and con artists. The group traveled from town to town running rigged poker games plus 3-card Monte, the shell game and similar rapid-fire, uncomplicated cons and ripoffs.

Jeff was soon on his way to earning a name as a crime boss, with his gang being called the Soap Gang and Smith himself being tagged with the nickname Soapy. The soap references came from one of the gang’s favorite grifts. Continue reading

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CANYON DIABLO: THE MOST LAWLESS TOWN OF THE OLD WEST

It is now less than a week to go until the Frontierado Holiday coming up this Friday August 6th. Balladeer’s Blog will be making a few more seasonal posts between now and then.

railroad over canyon diabloCANYON DIABLO: THE MOST LAWLESS TOWN OF THE OLD WEST – In 1880 construction crews for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad reached the wide chasm called Canyon Diablo in what is now Coconino County, Arizona. Construction had to pause for several months when the crews discovered that the wrong size bridge had been manufactured and would not reach all the way across Canyon Diablo.

canyon diabloWhile waiting for new bridge materials to be manufactured and shipped to the site, workers stayed in the area doing stonemasonry, surveying, cutting and preparing railroad ties and preparing the grade & bed. A quick Hell On Wheels town sprouted called Canyon Diablo, named after the canyon. Unlike most such towns this one lasted for decades, from 1880 into the 20th Century but was at its peak for a few years in the 1880s.

This wasn’t just another of the many Hell On Wheels towns that sprang up along all railroads under construction in the 1800s west. Canyon Diablo earned a reputation as the deadliest and most lawless town in the old west. Law enforcement officers of any kind were not welcome in the place and so, many drifters, criminals and fugitives paraded in and out of the town, sometimes even taking up residence there. The nearest officers of the law were located 100 miles away.

canyon diablo bridge 1882Canyon Diablo is not a household name like Dodge City, Tombstone, Deadwood, Silver City or others because not only law enforcement, but anything resembling newspapers, churches or schools or any other of the usual fixtures of civilization failed to survive there.

For that same reason, few details survive about the gunfights, knife fights and ambushes which filled the graves in the town’s nearby Boot Hill Cemetery. There was simply no one on hand to chronicle events in the town. And that’s exactly how the violent and larcenous denizens liked it. 

Boozing, gambling, prostitution and shelter for fugitives from the law were the figurative economic base of Canyon Diablo. According to one historian “Murder on the street was common. Holdups were nearly hourly occurrences, newcomers being slugged on mere suspicion that they carried valuables.” Continue reading

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FRONTIERADO PARTY ESSENTIALS

crossed pistolsHere at Frontierado international headquarters things are as hectic as you would imagine with the Frontierado holiday coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, Frontierado celebrates the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here are some party essentials that help make your family’s Frontierado get-togethers special.

buffalogalBUFFALO GAL – Balladeer’s Blog gets its Buffalo Steaks, Buffalo Burgers, Buffalo Chili and Buffalo Jerky from Buffalo Gal, which will ship to you wherever you are in the U.S. and abroad.

You can also buy Elk Meat, Wild Boar, Yak Meat and Swabian Hall Pork. There’s even Scottish Highlander Beef for those with more traditional appetites.

devils river bourbon picDEVILS RIVER BOURBON – Here’s one of the brands of whiskey that I like to drink either straight or mixed in my Cactus Jacks: Devils River (1840).

This Texas Bourbon is created with water drawn from Devils River (Devils is plural, so no apostrophe) and is 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley.

As usual I prefer Barrel Strength – I’m slamming down a 117 Proof bottle as I type – but naturally you’re free to make your own selections. Continue reading

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MARIE LORDS: 1861

marie lordsWith the Frontierado holiday coming up on Friday August 6th it’s time for another seasonal blog post. Marie Lords is still remembered for her 1861 quote “A cowgirl gets up early in the morning, decides what she wants to do, and does it.”

With increasing numbers of “menfolk” going off to serve in the Civil War that was raging, plenty of other women gained experience working as cowgirls like Marie had been doing.

From cowgirl to entertainer, Marie Lords’ life deserved a lot more attention than it has gotten. Continue reading

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THE APACHE KID

The annual Frontierado holiday arrives Friday, August 6th this year, so here is another seasonal post. As always, Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.

apache kidTHE APACHE KID – Born as Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl in the early 1860s this Apache legend and future outlaw leader was captured and enslaved by the Yuma Indians as a child. Freed by the U.S. Army the little boy became a street orphan/ camp mascot in army camps. Since his name was such a handful he was nicknamed the Apache Kid early on.

In 1881 former Union General Al Sieber was recruited by General George Crook to become his Head of Scouts. The Apache Kid enlisted that same year as one of the United States Army Indian Scouts whose tracking expertise was needed against their fellow Apaches who were actively fighting the army. Sieber grew to consider the Kid his finest Native American scout and by most accounts “practically adopted” the Apache Kid.

(Another figure who served as a scout under Al Sieber was Tom Horn, the future gunslinger and hired killer.)

apache kid wanted posterThe Apache Kid, who became a Sergeant by July of 1882, served under Sieber and General Crook during the Apache Wars, participating in the Battle of Cibecue Creek (August 1881), the Geronimo Campaigns/ War (1882-1886) and the Crawford Affair of 1886 which nearly started a second war between the U.S. and Mexico. American and Mexican troops inflicted a few fatalities on each other while hunting for Geronimo. Continue reading

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DALLAS STOUDENMIRE: GUNSLINGER

The annual Frontierado Holiday is coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, Frontierado is about the myths of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here is another often-overlooked gunslinger. 

dallas stoudenmireDALLAS STOUDENMIRE – Dallas was this figure’s real first name, and it was ideal for an old west legend, just like Sam Sixkiller had an ideal surname and John X Beidler had an ideal nickname in “X”, from his middle initial. His life was filled with whiskey, cigars, women and opium, all garnished with the smell of gunpowder. 

Stoudenmire was born on December 11th, 1845 in Aberfoil, AL.   

With the Civil War raging, 1862 and 1863 saw Dallas repeatedly trying to enlist by lying about his age only to be found out within months and discharged. Finally, on March 8th, 1864 Stoudenmire enlisted at legal age and served until the end of the war.

Immediately after war’s end, Dallas moved to Texas with his brother Abednego and his sister-in-law. While Abednego and his spouse settled in Colorado County, Dallas traveled to Mexico like many other former Confederate soldiers and served in the army fighting to keep the country’s Emperor Maximilian on his throne. Among the other southerners putting their military experience to use in Mexico was future gunslinger Ben Thompson aka Texas Ben aka Texas Thompson.

dallas stoudenmire 2After Maximilian fell and was executed in June of 1867 Stoudenmire returned to Texas and farmed with his brother in Columbus in Colorado County.

Between 1870 and 1874 Dallas wandered, working as a wheelwright and other odd jobs when on the Texas side of the border, but engaging in still-mysterious activities during periodic trips to Mexico. Some legends claim Stoudenmire was part of a rustling gang during those outings, while others have him contending with rival fortune hunters in searching for Emperor Maximilian’s lost gold

On January 17th, 1874 this figure enlisted as a Sergeant in the Texas Rangers – Company A under Captain J.R. Waller. That company’s jurisdiction ranged from western Erath County north to Stevens County and southwest to Brown County. Continue reading

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QUEEN KITTY LEROY: GAMBLER/ GUNSLINGER

Kitty LeRoy

Queen Kitty

QUEEN KITTY – The Frontierado holiday is coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, the holiday is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Balladeer’s Blog’s looks at the legends surrounding neglected gunslingers of the time period are popular posts at this time of year. 

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.

Mascot and guitar

Balladeer’s Blog

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

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DEVILS RIVER WHISKEY FOR FRONTIERADO

Devils River BourbonIt’s no secret that Balladeer’s Blog is a Lifestyle Brand. (I’m KIDDING!) At any rate the Frontierado Holiday will be here Friday August 2nd so before you know it, it will all be over for another year. Here’s another brand of booze that I like to drink either straight or mixed in my Cactus Jacks: Devils River (1840).

This Texas Bourbon is created with water drawn from Devils River (Devils is plural, so no apostrophe) and is 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley. As usual I prefer Barrel Strength – I’m slamming down a 117 Proof bottle as I type – but naturally you’re free to make your own selections.

Remember, to be a Frontierado Whiskey it’s got to have incomparable taste PLUS be strong enough to let you blow flies out of the air right after you take a drink.   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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