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CurlING Up With the West

Books that Satisfy . . .

Hornung, Chuck, Wyatt Earp's Cow-boy Campaign: The Bloody Restoration of Law and Order Along the Mexican Border, 1882 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016) 316 pp., notes, bibliography, index, softcover $39.95


Perhaps no more than a half-dozen living people have been researching and writing on the topic of Wyatt Earp as long as author Chuck Hornung.  He is widely respected for his knowledge, not only on Earp, but especially his work on New Mexico Mounted Police.  His credits include finding information about Wyatt Earp's involvement in the 1884 Colfax County, New Mexico troubles; Josie and Wyatt's Christmas holiday stay at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico; the 1884 description of Josie Earp in an Albuquerque newspaper; the only known issue of the Otero (New Mexico) Optic containing Doc Holliday's dentist office information, the only known issue of the Tombstone Echo, containing an account of Luther King's escape; records of Doc Holliday's many New Mexico business dealings and tax records; and Doc Holliday's drink tab in a saloon ledger from Fort Griffin.


Add to the above findings the "Otero Letter."  This reviewer is confident the controversial letter is genuine, that it was a great serendipity to locating a book of personal interest at a flea market, and the letter's contents are important to the study of Wyatt Earp.  Chuck Hornung may be a lucky man, but it is a certainty that he is an honest man.  His present book, Wyatt Earp's Cow-boy Campaign has long been anticipated and, as expected, it is filled with juicy morsels ripe for digestion.


The book is divided into three parts.  Part I - "Frontier Paladins and Some Jokers" which gives an introduction to Wyatt Earp, the man, the legend, the myth, as well as background on John Henry "Doc" Holliday, Bat Masterson, various men who rode with Wyatt and various ones who were his nemesis, such as Cochise County Sheriff John Behan.  Part II - "The Lion of Tombstone" which presents the Earp brothers as Tombstone businessmen and law enforcement officers, contains an extended chapter on The Cochise County Cow-boy War, as well as material on the assassination of Morgan Earp and the follow-up period of retributions orchestrated by Wyatt, concluding with the final departure of the Earps from Tombstone.  Part III - The "Otero Letter" is a detailed explanation of how the author came into possession of the much discussed, much disputed letter revealing previously unknown information about Wyatt and his party in New Mexico following what is generally called their "Vendetta Ride," succeeding events in Colorado, Wyatt's return to Arizona to kill Johnny Ringo, and finally, the relationship of Wyatt and Josie Earp.  The book concludes with a brief epilogue by Earp historian Jeffery Wheat.


This reviewer is caught in somewhat of a bind, coming from a background that has placed him in what is known as the "anti-Earp" camp. To a degree that placement has some truth as he does not consider Wyatt Earp to be the "Lion of Tombstone."  However, he does regard Wyatt Earp as one of his two favorite frontier characters (the other being Jack Stilwell) and relishes each and every article about the man, pro or con.  So, it is with this caveat - non-bias is difficult for 99.9% of all Earp students, but the objective of honest evaluation by this reviewer, in this review, on this topic, must shine through.  As Hornung says in quoting President Thomas Jefferson, "error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left to combat it."


One problem overrides all others in this volume: the minimal use of footnotes to document statements.  Not that the statements are necessarily wrong, but where is the documentation?  The author says, John "Turkey Creek Jack" Johnson is believed to have gone to Arizona Territory as an undercover agent for a cattlemen's association and joined the Tombstone area cow-boys to learn the methods of the area cattle rustlers."  Ok, but where is the documentation?  The author says Sherman Washington McMaster "...infiltrated the cow-boy organization and was a successful undercover operative for Wyatt Earp and possibly Wells Fargo Express Company."  Ok, but give us some documentation.  The author says, "Dan Tipton was reputed to have been one of Wyatt Earp's enforcers during the Dodge City Peace Commission episode...."  Ok, but what is the source of this statement?  The author claims on page 115 that Morgan Earp became a believer in "spiritualism" as he grew older; that the Earp brothers often discussed the meaning of Job 14:14; and "In later years, Wyatt Earp claimed that Morgan's spirit guided his actions during the Cow-boy campaign and twice alerted him of danger in time to save his life."  Ok, but what is the source of this information?  Most every page of this volume has undocumented statements that beg for clarification.


A major problem with the present printing of this book is that it was poorly edited.  What degree of responsibility this was of the author, or of the publisher, makes little difference, the errors, especially spelling errors, are many:  Jerry Ackerson, not Alkinson or Atkinson; Pete Spence or Spencer, not Spense; Ike and Bill Heslet, not Haslet; Justice Stilwell, not Spence; Milt Joyce, not Mike;  Joseph W. Evans, not Evens; F. C. "Frank" Stilwell, not T.C.; Willie Claiborne, not Billy; Lou Rickabaugh, not Dave; Frederick Bode, not Bodie; Hank Swilling, not Swelling; Willcox, Arizona, not Wilcox; Dragoon Summit, not Sammit; and perhaps some I missed.


Most disturbing are the number of hypotheses in the form of:  may have been, it might be, it is possible, it would seem, must have, very likely, one can envision, one can speculate, surely, safe to surmise, could have been, probably, I feel, hard to believe, it is assumed,  and so on.  The bulk of these appear in Part III, including thirteen on page 188, seven on page 193 and six on 194.


The author's thesis statement is, "...deputy U.S. marshal Wyatt Earp, acting upon direct orders, led a six-man federal strike force on a mission to restore law and order along the border with the Republic of Mexico."  And, this is why the author refers to the events after the killing of Morgan Earp to have been "Wyatt Earp's Cow-boy Campaign" rather than Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride.  The author claims the several killings by Wyatt and company were not "personal," but how could they be otherwise? Did he, or did he not say to Virgil after the killing of Frank Stilwell "One for Morg....!"  Then the author contradicts himself on p. 116 saying, "Morgan's murder... steeled his [Wyatt's] resolve for personal justice; ...the ancient Law of Retaliation... an 'eye for an eye.'"  "Wyatt burned with a righteous anger" (p 117).


Some statements that cause concern:  That Doc Holliday, Richard Elliot and John Gosper were roommates in Prescott.  Living in the same boardinghouse does not necessarily make people roommates and develop friendship (p. 17, p. 105).  That John Behan's "one act of courage" was in helping to break up a prison riot.  What about the posse ride following the attempted Benson stage robbery (p.28).  That the Earp brothers "prospected for ore-bearing rock and searched for a water source."  Where is any indication in the Earp brothers history that they had any knowledge of the actual physical act of mining (p. 33)?  That Morgan Earp was ever a "special deputy sheriff for Johnny Behan."  This reviewer has twice gone through every deputy's commission records in the Cochise County courthouse in Bisbee and not a single Earp was ever commissioned by John Behan (p. 35).  That "chief deputy Evens replaced Virgil Earp... as the lead federal marshal for the Tombstone district and elevated his brother Wyatt to the position via a request from former employers, the Wells Fargo Express Company and the Southern Pacific Railroad (p. 79).  That Frank Stilwell was "no relation to the territorial district judge in Tombstone" (oh, yes he was!) And, that "Stilwell's father was the agent in Bisbee for the Tombstone-Bisbee Stage Company" (this speculation, shared with the author and others, originated with this reviewer but has not been confirmed) (p. 83).  That Ike Clanton was "the less-than-lightbulb-bright braggart...." (p. 107).  That Morgan Earp's "killers were racing through the night to establish alibis in Tucson in Pima County" (p. 115).  The supposed "family meeting" as described in detail on p. 116 is made up of whole cloth.  The comparison of Wyatt Earp and his posse's tactics to the United States Marines is certainly a new take on what transpired after the killing of Morgan Earp (p. 117).


The author uses every opportunity to denigrate John Behan and William Breakenridge, starting with "Johnny Behan actively protected the Cow-boys and assorted riff-raff" (p. 38). That "Behan had a reputation for misplacing public funds" (p. 59).  That John Behan was a "self-declared debonair bonvivant and Casanova about town" (p. 60). That John Behan and his "accomplice" Milt Joyce prepared Kate Elder's signed allegation of Doc Holliday's complicity in the Benson State robbery attempt (p. 76).  That Milt Hicks and two others escaped "Sheriff Behan's jail" and that "Sheriff Behan finally (reviewer's emphasis) called on chief of police Virgil Earp to help organize a search for the escaped men" (p. 87).  That the Tombstone Citizen's Safety Committee "kept watch over the tiny jail to protect Earp and Holliday from an... unwarranted assault from the sheriff's special guard force" (p.92).  "For once, Sheriff Behan acted quickly...." and "'Uncle Billy' Breakenridge...." (p. 97, and later "Billy Blab").   That Johnny Behan had revived a charge against Sherman McMaster "as a means to embarrass Wyatt Earp...." (p. 105).  That Albert Thomas Jones was "a member of Johnny Behan's grifter ring" (p. 109). "Gentleman Johnny" (p. 121).


Starting on page 120 and through the rest of the book, the author refers to the Earp party as a "federal posse," though sometimes he calls them a "fugitive federal posse."  Their role as peace officers has long been debated by Earp researchers and writers.  It is a fact that both Wyatt and Virgil had tendered their resignations to Marshal Dake.  Typically, when someone resigns a position it is understood that they are quitting the job, they don't have to wait for a formal acceptance of their resignation.  And, one is wont to ask, at what point did either of the Earp brothers make Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, Dan Tipton, Sherman McMaster, Jack Johnson, John Vermillion, O.C. Smith, or anyone else who rode with this "posse" deputy United States marshals?  If the brothers and their associates were still officers during the "ride," then just when did they cease to be marshals?  If, as the author believes, Wyatt returned to Arizona and killed John Ringo (p. 133 and chapter 17), was he acting as a deputy marshal in committing that heinous act?  Furthermore, did Judge Stilwell tell Wyatt Earp, "I'd leave my prisoners in the mesquite where alibis don't count"?  Can one person be named who Wyatt took as a "prisoner" during the episodes following the murder of Morgan?  Did the top management of Wells Fargo give their "unconditional approval" (p. 122) for the Earps to capture and arrest or to shoot to kill those they were chasing?  And, how can men who are wanted for murder still hold their law officer appointments?  Charges of murder should have at least put the men on suspension from further action on behalf of the United States until matters could be settled.  This reviewer discounts the idea that the Earp party was, by any reasoning, a "federal posse."


The author relates in his introductory statements that he did not set out to write a book that was little more than a retelling of the Earp story but that his real purpose in this volume has been to present and discuss what is called the "Otero Letter."  That purpose the author has achieved in a most to-the-point manner.  He leaves no doubt in the mind of this reviewer that the letter is authentic, that it contains important information on the Earp party's stay in New Mexico, and that it relates the involvement of many people and entities working on behalf of the Earps during this period, involvement that might otherwise have never been known.  This information has already opened new doors for research into how Wells Fargo, the railroads, and certain highly placed people were deeply involved in Arizona and New Mexico law enforcement affairs well before the final Earp posse activity following the death of Morgan Earp.


The most controversial chapter of the book is chapter 17, "Wyatt Earp vs. Johnny Ringo."  There have been two major theories as to how Ringo came to his death - suicide or murder.  There are many thoughtful, diligent Earp researchers who come down on one or the other sides of these two possibilities.  Hornung is convinced that Wyatt Earp returned to Arizona and with a "strike force" including John Meagher, O.C. "Hairlip Charlie" Smith, Lou Cooley, and Johnny "Crooked Mouth" or "Cathouse Johnny" Green found Ringo and killed him on Thursday, July 13, 1882.  Hornung also includes the possibility of the involvement of "Goober" (a code name for Fred Dodge) in the party.  The author does not believe Doc Holliday had any part in the trip to Arizona or with this "strike force."  Through 18 pages of great detail, the author lays out his thesis with numerous phrases of "it is possible," "it's doubtful," "I suggest," "could have happened," "informed projections," "would seem to support," "it makes no sense," "it is reasonable to assume," etc., etc.  Additionally, the chapter begs for footnotes.  The great value of the author's point of view regarding Ringo’s demise is that it gives Earp students more fodder upon which to chew and most of these are continually looking for new avenues of research, such as Hornung presents in this chapter.


All Earp publication collectors will want this book, primarily for the "Otero Letter" material and the Earp/Ringo chapter.  It is a book that is hard to lay down; one that researchers will return to once and again.


Roy B. Young

Anschutz, Philip F., Out Where the West Begins: Profiles, Visions & Strategies of Early Western Business Leaders (Denver: Cloud Camp Press, 2015)  392 pp, index, color plates and black and white illustrations, hardcover $34.95. ISBN 978-0-9905502-0-4. Distributed by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.


This is not only a beautiful book but also a most interesting work because it briefly reviews  the biographies of men who contributed the most in creating the American West. The outlaws and lawmen, the gunfighters and gamblers, may have had more exciting episodes in their lives but in truth they contributed little. Each of the men whose biography is covered in ten pages or fewer had a vision and followed it. Although they experienced plenty of setbacks, they had the resolve to keep working to become successful.


The book, following the acknowledgments and foreword by Anschutz, is composed of seven parts, each part consisting of brief biographies of men who succeeded in a particular field. The parts are: Early Trade and Commerce; Agriculture and Livestock; Railroads and Transportation; Mineral Extraction; Manufacturing; Finance and Banking and Entertainment and Communication. Each part includes names familiar to  anyone who has a knowledge of American history, although some names are relative new, at least to this reviewer.


The time period covers the years from 1800 to 1920. In the early years such familiar names as Manuel Lisa, William Henry Ashley, John Jacob Astor with Charles and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain concluding the section. In the following section several names will be more familiar to Wild West scholars, such as cattlemen Charles Goodnight and John Wesley Iliff. The name of Brigham Young is also in this section because  his agricultural knowledge transformed a desert into a productive land.

Although one may have wished some attention to such outlaws as the James-Younger Gang or the Daltons, they were avoided as the section on Railroads and Transportation. This section deals with those who caused the tracks to be laid or coaches to be pulled. This section includes several names we are all familiar with: Henry Wells and William Fargo, George Mortimer Pullman, Fred Harvey and Henry E. Huntington. In the section dealing with Mineral Extraction only two names stand out, that of Meyer Guggenheim and John D. Rockefeller Sr.


The  section dealing  with “Manufacturing” stands out, and this section may hold the most interesting visionaries. Who could overlook Samuel Colt, Levi Strauss, Gustavus Franklin Swift, Andrew Carnegie, Charles A. Pillsbury, Adolph Coors and Henry Ford?  Some of these names are still part of our culture today. Four individuals made the cut in the “Finance and Banking” section and three in the “Entertainment and Communication” section, the best known being Buffalo Bill Cody, certainly king of entertainment.


If we can remember our pre-collegiate days, these names will be somewhat familiar to all. Some of course have become part of our culture, such as Colt, even though we may have never owned pistols, and Coors, although we might be teetotalers. The significance of this work is that Anschutz clearly stated his goals in the foreword and proved by his research and writing that he accomplished that goal. He writes: “The individuals selected were bold men of vision and considerable energy. They were able to accept both the concept and the burden of high levels of risk. Most risked their reputations and capital – some even their lives. They are examples of countless and nameless others who did the same, but upon whom good fortune never chose to shine.” [15]

Some may argue on the selection of these men. Certainly at least one woman could have been included, and in this day of political correctness that may be a fair criticism. And was the inclusion of Samuel Colt a token recognition of others involved in weaponry? Did not Smith & Wesson, or Winchester, or Remington have a similar vision? Another may find the miniscule amount of bibliographic entries disappointing, as most chapters have a half dozen or so – or fewer. The sources noted for Brigham Young has but four, indicating four good secondary works. In fairness, however, perhaps Anschutz intended only to list the major source materials for each subject. There is no total bibliography nor are there endnotes.


A gem for all who appreciate history as well as poetry is the inclusion of Arthur Chapman’s poem “Out where the West Begins.” We all certainly remember the closing lines if not the entire poem,

Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,

Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,

And a man makes friends without half trying –

That’s where the West begins.

Chuck Parsons

Dworkin, Mark J., American Mythmaker: Walter Noble Burns and the Legends of Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, and Joaquin Murrieta (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015) 296 pp., index, illustrations, notes, bibliography, hardcover $29.95. ISBN 9780806146850.


Excellent!  Superb! Highly recommended!  These and many more accolades are due the late Mark Dworkin for this valuable contribution to the literature of Wild West history.  Would that Mark were here to enjoy the full fruits of his labors.  This was a project done with true love of the author’s subject.


Dworkin’s contributions to Wild West history are many, including articles in the Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association Journal, the National Outlaw-Lawman History Association Quarterly, Wild West magazine, True West magazine and several others.  He was not new to the authorship of books, his first being a popular textbook, still in use in many schools, Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas: Mysteries of Ancient Civilizations of Central and South America .


The story of Walter Noble Burns (1872-1932) and his development of biographies of three of the Wild West’s most noted characters was one long past due.  Dworkin’s work on Burns began a number of years ago when he started a deep investigation into how Burns developed his account of Tombstone and Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, an Iliad of the Southwest.  Dworkin’s concern lay mainly in how Burns interwove legends and romanticism into what was accepted in the 1920s and 30s as popular “non-fiction.”  As he worked on Iliad, Dworkin recognized that he must broaden his work into how Burns handled the lives of Billy the Kid and Joaquin Murrieta in The Saga of Billy the Kid and Robin Hood of El Dorado.  The result is a monumental contribution to the literature on all three men, in addition to providing us with a detailed account of the life and letters of Burns.


Especially valuable in each of the three parts of this book is analysis of what Burns presented as “truth.”  This reviewer is more knowledgeable of Tombstone and the life and legend of Wyatt Earp than the lives of Billy the Kid or Murrieta, so it was with great pleasure to see that Dworkin’s section on Earp was dealt with so thoroughly.  This reviewer’s only criticism is that at times Dworkin’s personal view of Earp as a “hero” shows through, in spite of the lawman’s known inclinations to bolster his part in many of the events in which he participated and his “Vendetta Ride” that included the outright murder of at least two individuals who may, or may not, have participated in the killing of Wyatt’s brother Morgan.


It is unfortunate that Dworkin did not have the opportunity of a final review of his manuscript, for a number of errors are found that he would have corrected.  For instance, “John Parsons” on page 208, note 1, should be George Parsons.  The Earp, Cason, Ackerman manuscript mentioned on page 211, note 2 has not been part of the C. Lee Simmons collection for many years.   “Hank Snelling” on page 214, note 18, should be Hank Swilling.  “Jack Swartz” on page 216, note 51, should be Jack Stwart.  But, these errors are minor when held alongside the detailed presentation of Dworkin’s work  as a whole.


The University of Oklahoma Press is to be congratulated for recognizing the value of Dworkin’s work and seeing it through to publication in spite of the author’s untimely death.  The press is following up on Dworkin’s work with one on Owen Wister, entitled Owen Wister and the West, by Gary Scharnhorst (2015) which gives promise of more to come in presenting the stories of the authors behind the books.


Roy B. Young

Frates, Kent, Oklahoma’s Most Notorious Cases (Oklahoma City, OK, The Roadrunner Press 2014) 338 pp. , 30 photographs, notes, ISBN 978-1-937054-33-5, hardcover, $24.00.


This book covers six of Oklahoma’s most notorious law cases. The cases range from the Urschel kidnapping by Machine Gun Kelly to the death of Karen Silkwood to the Oklahoma City Bombing. The author is an Oklahoma City attorney and he has a lot of first-hand knowledge about many of these cases.


Charles Urschel was the uncle of the author. Much of the research for the book was done in the trial records and various court and other legal documents. There is, however, no legalese to wade through in this book. It is  well organized and written in down to earth language. The book is fast-paced and easy-to-read.


These cases all occurred after the period that we consider the Old West time frame, but the flavor of the Old West lingers on in Oklahoma in the law enforcement agencies and in the legal profession. A number of the lawmen and lawyers still adopt somewhat of an Old West or cowboy persona. Language and actions have an old western flavor and a few of these men still like their white hats to burnish their image.


I found all six of the cases fascinating from a law enforcement point of view. The close attention to the courtroom methods employed was also very interesting. Civil rights issues were raised is some of the cases and the influence of Indian culture was also very prevalent in one case.


I found it of great interest that the Urschel case was solved largely by the common sense and good judgment of the Charles Urschel, the victim. He was a very observant man. Even though he was kept blindfolded, he was able to make many astute observations about distances, sounds he heard (including an airplane that flew over on a regular schedule), and the weather. He was able to identify the location where he was held, a key factor in locating his kidnappers.


I was also very interested in both the Karen Silkwood case and the Oklahoma City Bombing. I had followed both of these cases rather closely. I read everything I could find on these cases and both still leave me with a lot of questions. This book did not resolve all of my questions and we probably will never know all the facts. This was another very penetrating look at a number of issues raised by both of these controversial events.


This book would be an excellent addition to the library of anyone interested in law enforcement, and trial procedures. Very highly recommended.


Nancy B. Samuelson

Stehno, Mollie and Jim Fulbright, Western Lawmen: U. S. Marshals and Their Deputies 1850-1920

(Goodlettsville, TN: Mid-South Publications, 2015) 244 pp., some illustrations, endnotes, bibliographical references, ISBN: 978-0-9664039-8-5, 8 ½”by 11”, softcover, $24.00.


This book is an excellent research tool for all of us who have an interest in the lawmen of the Old West. Genealogist will also find this a real boon to finding ancestors who served in any of the western states in the U. S. Marshals Service between the years of 1850-1920.


The book was compiled by Mollie Stehno of Oklahoma and written and edited by Jim Fulbright of Tennessee. The book is essentially a state-by-state index of all the men that served as either U. S. marshals or as deputy U. S. marshals in 23 states.


The authors do caution that this list may not be all inclusive. Many records for some areas have been destroyed and many of our early lawmen were not always the most diligent keepers of records. Never-the -less, this is the most complete listing of U. S. marshals and deputy U. S. marshals that has ever been compiled for the states west of the Mississippi.


The book contains an introduction that is a summary of the history of the U. S. Marshal’s Service. Then there is a section for each of the 23 western states. The introduction to each section gives information about the territorial days and then the statehood period. Also discussed briefly is how the territory or state was divided into districts for federal law enforcement. Included in the introduction is a list of sources used for each state/territory.


 The index for each state gives the district in the state/territory, name of the lawman, position held and all documented oath/commission dates. There are also notes for many of the lawmen as well, that may provide date of death, information about service in more than one state or territory and other details.


More data are provided for Oklahoma than for any other state. That is because Oklahoma was first Indian Territory, then Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory and finally Oklahoma. The various territories were divided into a number of districts. At times parts of Arkansas, Kansas and Texas had jurisdiction over parts of what is now Oklahoma. So researchers will find they may need to look in several places to locate all the listings for some of the Oklahoma/Indian Territory deputy U. S. marshals. A lot of them moved around over a wide number of locations.


This was a real labor of love on the part of the compiler and author. I commend them both highly for their dedication in doing excellent research and then for making the results available to the rest of us. I wish this book had been available years ago when I was doing a lot of research on folks in the Oklahoma area. My job would have been a lot easier. I highly recommend this book to anyone who plans to do research about lawmen of the Old West.


Nancy B. Samuelson

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