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Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen - Linda Wommack (Caxton Press, 2019) 247 pp., historical photos, index, softcover $17.50.

Ann Bassett is something of a legendary name in Old West circles. Stories say she hung with Butch Cassidy and members of the Wild Bunch (some truth to that).  She may have been Butch’s girlfriend (not true).  She was the first white child born in the Brown’s Park area of northwest Colorado (that’s a fact).  She rustled livestock from some of her neighbors (subject to interpretation).  We now have a chance to separate the true from the false.  Linda Wommack—a frequent contributor to this paper—has written the first full-length biography of Queen Ann.  And it is an engaging tale of a remarkable woman who left a mark on the people and places she came in contact with.

 

Ann kept her own diary and a manuscript and an unpublished memoir, and Wommack relies on those documents.  But not too much, since Bassett was a bit loose on the facts herself.  Wommack checks Ann’s claims against other sources and comes up with a good, accurate portrait of a strong woman who succeeded in a man’s world and industry.  She could be all woman—or as tough as any man on the frontier.  When Bassett’s fiance’ was murdered (by contract killer Tom Horn), she went on the vengeance trail against the man who was behind the killing.

 

Ann Bassett’s tale is worth the telling—and Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen is worth the reading.

 

Mark Boardman

Ben Thompson: Portrait of a Gunfighter - Thomas C. Bicknell, Chuck Parsons (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2018) 665 pp., illustrated, index, hardcover $34.95.

Refreshing!  For over fifty years gunfighter Ben Thompson was ignored by historians apparently more concerned with dealing with "popular" western figures such as Billy the Kid, Jesse James and twentieth century creation Watt Earp than adding to the knowledge of the old west.

 

Thompson was born in Knottingley, England November 2, 1843 and but for the quirk of fate that brought the family to the United States, the average reader of old west history would never know of Benjamin Thompson and his younger brother, volatile and violent Billy Thompson.  In this reviewer's opinion, we are fortunate that Thompson did come to America and even more fortunate that Thomas Bicknell found and researched him.

 

Thompson's career spanned some of the most turbulent periods of American's history.  Following his stint in the Confederate Army, Thompson fled to Mexico where he became a mercenary for Emperor Maximilian.  Following this, Thompson returned to Texas where he was one of the numerous victims of Radical Reconstruction.

 

Thompson was no stranger to the Kansas cow towns and to such figures as Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, Phil Coe, Texas Feudist John Ringo and a host of other colorful figures.  During his lifetime he was a gambler, mercenary, hired gun for railroading concerns, city marshal of Austin and much more.

 

This is a fine book into which the authors have poured a truly great effort and portrayed all of Thompson:  the good, the bad and the ugly.  While he could be a loyal friend, he was never a loyal husband.  He had a marked penchant for gambling, drinking and violence.

 

While the word definitive tends to be over used, this book is just that - an exhaustive and complete study of a complex man most writers have ignored in favor of those more easily researched.  The reviewer highly recommends this book to anyone interested in the old west.  It is a biography worthy of more than one reading.

 

David Johnson

A Wyatt Earp Anthology: Long May His Story Be Told - Roy B. Young, Gary L. Roberts, Casey Tefertiller, editors, John Boessenecker, foreword (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2019). 936 pp., 32 b/w illustrations, 2 maps, notes, bibliography, index, hardcover $45.00

During the forty-four years I’ve been researching and writing Wild West history, I’ve accumulated enough books on the subject to fill several bookcases in my home. During those forty-four years I’ve often wondered what books I would try to save in the event of a disaster.

 

There are two that have always been at the top of my list – Why the West Was Wild, by Nyle H. Miller and Joseph W. Snell, along with Six-Guns and Saddle Leather, by Ramon F. Adams. I can now report that a recently-published third volume has been added to my “grab and go list,” should fire or flood ever come my way.

 

That third volume is A Wyatt Earp Anthology: Long May His Story Be Told (the subject of this review). If that 936 page count doesn’t impress you, consider that the combined page count from my three most recently published books is 811 pages, which is still 125 pages shy of the page count found in A Wyatt Earp  Anthology alone. This impressive volume has 63 chapters,  each one of which is an article written by 39 different authors – or “contributors,” as they are termed. This reviewer has the honor to be one of those 39 “contributors.” The other 38, in alphabetical order, are:  Allen Barra, Bob Boze Bell, John Boessenecker, Peter Brand, Bob Cash, Nicholas R. Cataldo, Robert J. Chandler, Anne E. Collier, Paul Cool, Jim Dullenty, Mark J. Dworkin, Bill Evans, Truman Rex Fisher, David Griffiths, Chuck Hornung, Paul Andrew Hutton, Roger D. Jay, Paul Johnson, Anne Kirschner, Greg Lalire, Jane Matson Lee, Steven Lubet, Kara L. McCormack, Sherry Monahan, Jeffery J. Morey, Tony Ortega, Garner A. Palenske, Robert F. Palmquist, Chuck Parsons, Roger S. Peterson, Pamela J. Potter, William MacLeod Raine, Gary L. Roberts, Jeremy Rowe, Casey Tefertiller, William Urban, Erik Wright and Roy B. Young.

 

The 63 articles that comprise the chapters in A Wyatt Earp Anthology have all been chosen by Young, Roberts and Tefertiller. These three men have each spent years studying  Wyatt Earp, along with people and events associated with him. There are very few in  the Wild West history community who are as well-suited to this task as Roy, Gary and Casey. In addition, John Boessenecker has provided the foreword, and he is also an ideal choice. If there was anything concerning Earp that the three editors may have overlooked, John was sure to have caught it.

 

Before adding A Wyatt Earp Anthology to my home library, my bookshelves held 23 different books about Wyatt Earp including one that I wrote myself, The Earp Decision (1989). Along with those biographies were  several other books on Dodge City and Tombstone which detailed Wyatt Earp’s activities in those cities. There are undoubtedly other Earp-related books that I’ve missed, but the volumes that I do have should show that I’m no dilettante where Earp is concerned.

 

A Wyatt Earp Anthology is an instant classic guaranteed to become an invaluable source for future generations of Wild West historians.  A Wyatt Earp Anthology promises to enjoy longevity in the decades to come.  For now, it belongs on the short list of any serious buff or historian who prizes accurate and exceptional Wild West history.

 

Jack DeMattos

Graham Barnett: A Dangerous Man - James L. Coffey, Russell M. Drake, and John T. Barnett (University of North Texas Press, 2017)  400 pp. Illustrations, map, endnotes, bibliography, index.  Hardcover.  $29.95.

There often seemed to be a fine line between lawman and outlaw in the Old West.  Men who walked on both sides of the law became legendary.  Although most of these characters were products of the post-Civil War, one who lived and died in the twentieth century, was Graham Barnett, whose reputation grew as "a dangerous man."

Barnett had walked on both sides of the law for most of his life as a cow hand and rancher, bootlegger, hired gun in the United States and Mexico, hunting guide, "troubleshooter" for cattlemen’s associations and individuals, and Texas Ranger who was at the center of some questionable shootings.  Barnett also had a problem with alcohol, and was a different person when he didn’t imbibe.  When not drinking, Barnett was described as pretty even tempered.  But when he had been drinking he had the craving to get even with people whom he believed had done him wrong.  Although he could never stop drinking, toward the end of his life Barnett was trying to turn his life around and develop a legitimate cattle business but lacked funds and investors.  But fate stepped in. On at least two occasions, Sheriff Bill Fowler had given money to Barnett to get out of the county and "to avoid trouble."  Barnett thought that he might be able to get more money from Fowler after helping to arrange his winning the election for Sheriff.  It was not to be and Sheriff Fowler put an end to the mythical life of Graham Barnett on December 6, 1931, when he shot and killed him in Rankin, Texas with a Thompson submachine gun that belonged to Barnett.

But with the death of Barnett, his legend grew even larger.  He was the subject of a nineteen verse corrido (narrative ballad) written by Gaynor Armstrong, a cowboy at the Bar N Ranch in the Big Bend.  Like many corridoes, "The Ballad of Graham Barnett, Badman of the Big Bend in Texas," was a respectful homage to a folk hero that was more fact than legend.  The song spoke of the admiration that people had for him, even in death.

The collaborative effort of James L. Coffey, Russell M. Drake, and John T. Barnett (Graham Barnett’s grandson) has resulted in a biography that serves Barnett and his legend well.  Despite a few annoyances (such as repeatedly referring to a Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol as an "automatic") the book is well-researched and documented, and is a very engaging read of a very colorful character.  Numerous illustrations are sprinkled throughout the volume that nicely compliment the text.

Steven J. Wright

Forging the Star: The Official Modern History of the United States Marshals Service - David S. Turk (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2016) Pp. xviii + 540. Illustrations. Appendix. Endnotes. Bibliography. Index. ISBN 978-1-57441-654-1. Cloth. $29.95.

 

Even though the word “modern” is in the book’s title, suggesting a period of jet  skis and instant communication, the names of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are mentioned (but not Marshal Dillon) which reminds us that the days of the “old” Wild West are not so far back in history.  “Wild Bill” Hickok even rates a mention.  Many of our readers are old enough to remember that Jeff Davis Milton, of “Hell Paso” days, lived well into the 20th century.  There are enough glimpses into the past that readers may forget  this is “modern” history and Colt Peacemakers filled with only five cartridges are out of date.

 

David S. Turk, the official U.S. Marshals Historian, commenced his narrative in the1930s, not the turbulent 1870s and 1880s.  In some respects, there was not that much difference in the two periods.  For those of us who would have preferred reading about the Old West, Turk has capably written his history with plenty of drama.  The facts are there, as are many names, yes, which some may find distracting but are necessary.  Turk’s writing style is such that the reader is drawn into the narrative so well that the modernity is forgotten about.

 

Forging the Star is a fascinating study of the turbulent second half of the 20th century.  What many may not realize is that during the early days there was no central command for marshals and deputy marshals.  For “guidance and accountability” they turned to the office of the Attorney General.  This changed in 1935 when Salvatore A. Andretta joined the Justice Department.  He was the first person charged with the centralization of U.S. Marshals.  Under his guidance the duties of marshals and deputy U.S. marshals changed with the changes in society.

 

Since the 1860s, deputies and marshals have served overseas.  By treaty, these lawmen have handled legal matters and criminal cases of American citizens while outside the U.S. borders.  Better known to the average citizen is the duty of transporting federal prisoners.  Sometimes the deputy or marshal who escorted a well-known individual received unwanted publicity. For example:  Such high profile individuals as Tokyo Rose, Ezra Pound and Charlie Chaplin were targets of photographers, and in capturing their image that of the escort was also captured.  Other examples include that of Deputy U.S. Marshal Charles Cranford who was photographed while escorting the Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Collazo who, in the attempt to assassinate President Harry Truman, killed a policeman.  He faced two death penalty charges.  While being transferred from a Washington, D.C. hospital to jail, photographers captured his image, as well as his guard Cranford. Unwanted publicity for the man as well as for the marshals’ service resulted.  Cranford’s image appeared in the pages of “almost every major newspaper.”

 

Better known examples of the work of U.S. marshals and deputies that Turk explores include the protection and delivery to the executioner of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of espionage.  They met death in the electric chair at Sing Sing in 1953.  It was U.S. Marshal William A. Carroll and deputies who protected and guarded them from their trial through their execution.

 

One of the more turbulent periods of U.S. history was that of the 1960s with the desegregation issues.  Alongside these events were assassinations of leaders:  President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King Jr.  Violence became part of these men’s lives, seemingly a result of forcing societal change.  Potentially deadly were the confrontations at Little Rock Central; at Ole Miss University; with the Freedom Riders and others.  The marshals and their deputies, with additional manpower, played vital roles in these historic events.  As historian Turk so deftly points out, without these men at the front lines the mission’s objective would not have taken place; their history showed they were men willing to lay down their lives for a good cause.

 

A lesser-known incident remains that of the potential battle between followers of American Nazi- party leader George Lincoln Rockwell at the Culpeper, Virginia National Cemetery.  As a veteran of World War II, Rockwell had the right to be buried there. But those mourning his death wanted him buried in full Nazi regalia with all the symbols, flags, and so on that would be an egregious affront to all the veterans buried there who stood against what the Nazi party stood for. There was the potential for a brutal confrontation at the cemetery gates.  The possibility of a riot clearly existed, but because of Marshal Carl Turner’s bravery in standing down the neo-Nazi “storm troopers,” Rockwell was not buried in a national cemetery.  His silver draped casket was hustled away with its symbols of Nazism and his body was later cremated.

 

Every day was not a time of crisis as historian Turk points out, and there were times of a “feel good” moment in the organization’s history.  In early 2001, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Acting Director Louie McKinney presented a badge and credentials for an honorary U.S. Marshal to Astronaut Jim Reilly...and that badge did go into outer space.  Reilly was only the seventh person to become an honorary U.S. Marshal.

 

One of the worst times in U.S. history was on September 11 when terrorists used four airplanes to attack the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and Washington, but failed in the latter  target.  Many deputies aided in the rescue attempts to save citizens who were strangers to them.  Throughout early American history, U.S. marshals and their deputies worked for the court system and many other duties; now in the “modern” era their work continued.

 

Turk has known some of the individuals he has written about and knows the organization thoroughly.  His in-depth research is reflected in the endnotes, actually an impressive 104 pages of where he obtained his material.  There is one criticism of this work: several iconic images were painted by famous artists based on incidents described, such as the marshals escorting Ruby Bridges to school in the early days of school desegregation.  This is not one of the illustrations that should have been included.  Norman Rockwell’s painting, The Problem We All Live With, is nearly as famous as his Four Freedoms paintings.  Yes, one can easily find the painting on the Internet, but why not include it in the illustrations?

 

David S. Turk, Historian of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) since October 2001, has provided us with a comprehensive history of their work.  He serves on the U.S. Marshals Museum Board and oversees work on the agency’s historical programs.  Turk has authored five books, including one – Blackwater Draw:  Three Lives, Billy the Kid and the Murders That Started the Lincoln County War – relating to New Mexico’s favorite hero.  We look for more titles from this capable historian.

 

Chuck Parsons

Luling, Texas

 

Wyatt Earp's Cow-boy Campaign: The Bloody Restoration of Law and Order Along the Mexican Border, 1882 - Chuck Hornung (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

 

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