Initially, it took me years to arrive at a point where I thought I had the complicated timeline of the James-Younger Gang’s attempted robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, accurate.
Imagine my horror when the Minnesota Historical Society revealed and released freshly archived documents on-line, scanned by the Northfield Historical Society, many of which give greater depth and detail to this event — but all of which, whilst doing so, also completely revise the finer details of the incident.
I’m sure more documentation will eventually become available to the public. And I will probably end up revising and updating this sequence of events, yet again.
But for now, this is a much better timeline of what eye-witnesses report actually took place. A revised timeline, which, day-job permitting, took several months to properly integrate into my text.
**The following has been taken from the novel Western Legend by the author, revised for future publication.
Eight men mounted eight horses and fell into formation in three separate detachments. The first comprised of three men, then two, then three again. After spacing these detachments apart by roughly forty yards, the first five men nonchalantly rode forward to where they could see much of Mill Square beneath them. A horseshoe shaped blending of two dirt streets, Division and 4th; also known as Bridge Square due to its approximation to the 4th Street Bridge. And all of it covered in a mixture of dirt and mud.
(The James-Younger Gang at the time of their raid on the First National Bank of Northfield)
The initial detachment included the first of the two James Brothers (both were reportedly favoring a mustache, and were difficult to tell apart,) Samuel George Wells (alias Charlie Pitts,) and Robert Ewing Younger. These three horsemen cantered past Ames Mill, over the 4th Street Bridge, and down into the Square. Splitting up rather quickly, they were then seen taking alternate routs toward a mutual destination. While two took the long way around, eventually arriving at the bank via the opposite end of Division, the third simply followed 4th directly across the Square.
Catching sight of the men, a few local citizens took second and even third glances at them, with many eye witnesses later noting their appearance as, “marvelous.” In 1966 a Mrs. Maude Ordway, then a hundred years old, remembered being a ten year old girl on that Thursday afternoon. In her interview with the St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press, she remembered crossing with her father from Anselm R. Manning’s hardware store, to her Uncle Fred Shatto’s grocery store. And she remarked that as she watched the men approach, she was impressed with their big hats, clean linen dusters, and horse bridles decorated in silver.
Francis Howard had followed the horsemen across the bridge from a distance of “two rods,” before meeting up with Elias Stacy, himself watching the men from the sidewalk in front of the Scriver Building.
The two of them were so close to the men on horseback, Howard had to keep his voice down when he said, “Stacy, those gentlemen will bear watching.”
“I think so, too.” Stacy responded.
Mr. Howard and Mr. Stacy were now moving down the walk, following alongside the robbers, moving past the corner of Scriver onto Division Street.
* * *
When all three of the horsemen had arrived in front of the bank, they tied their horses to nearby hitching posts, and strolled several yards alongside the large Scriver Building to the corner of Lee & Hitchcock Dry Goods Store. One sat atop a dry-goods box stacked there, while the others leaned against the banister of a staircase that ran up the side of the building diagonally. This large, prominent building faced Division to the South, and along with other businesses, housed the bank.
Outside his store, J. S. Allen and Sons, J. Sim Allen himself remarked, “Who are these men; I don’t like the looks of them.”
Allen turned to find Mr. Howard and Mr. Stacy right next to him.
The aforementioned George E. Bates, and another man, C.O. Waldo, a “commercial traveler” from Council Bluffs, were standing in the doorway of Bates’ Store located across the street from the bank, when the men rode in. Bates and Waldo had a brief, trivial discussion regarding the appearance of the men, whom town scuttlebutt had labeled cattle buyers. The men even took note of their fine horses, but made nothing more of it, and withdrew to the far end of Mr. Bates’ establishment to look over sample trusses. Structural frameworks designed to hold up a roof or building corner.
A dentist named D.J. Whiting was at this moment inside his office, up the steel staircase of Scriver Building. When he happened to look out the window, he spotted the three men below, lingering at the bottom of the stairs. One of them was using his finger on a dry-goods box, illustrating something for the others. Mr. Whiting was suspicious, but shrugged it off and returned his attention to his afternoon work.
* * *
Back across the Square, the second detachment that included Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger and William McLelland “Clell” Miller was now stationed just a few feet behind the Bridge.
Cole turned his head to one side and gave a nod toward the three men comprising the third detachment, several yards back. And a man Younger later identified as “Woods,” reciprocated the nod.
Research has revealed that both Jesse and Frank used the aliases, “Woodson,” and “Howard” on numerous occasions. In fact, the James brothers appear to have traded these aliases routinely, to confuse their specific identity, in case their aliases were discovered.
Cole snapped his pocket watch shut, nodded to Clell, and the two men casually galloped across the bridge and into town. However, as they crossed Bridge Square, Cole realized something wasn’t right. He could now see that the area at the corner of Scriver Building and Division Street beyond was rather crowded.
“Surely the boys will not go into the bank with so many people about; I wonder why they did not ride on through town.” He commented to Clell.
Younger eventually discovered that when the first three men didn’t see any saddled horses, the men assumed this would be to their advantage, and went ahead with the robbery. Even though the streets were far too crowded to ever really get away with it.
J. Sim Allen, having walked down the sidewalk in front of Lee & Hitchcock’s, was again looking over the first three men habitating around the dry goods boxes just beyond the corner—when he suddenly heard horses. He turned to see the second detachment of men crossing the square, headed toward the bank.
Allen quietly remarked, “I think they are here to rob the bank.”
The first three men took note of the second detachment approaching, instantly slid off the dry goods boxes, and began walking toward the bank.
Cole and Clell slowed their horses, approaching Division Street.
With a hint of surprise in his voice, Clell commented, “They are going in.”
“If they do the alarm will be given as sure as there’s a Hell, so you’d better take that pipe out of your mouth,” Cole instructed.
Clell dumped the tobacco from his pipe.
Now J. Sim Allen, in apron, walked a few more steps, to the very spot where the first three men had been seconds earlier. From that vantage point, Allen watched as the first detachment of men entered through the wide open folding doors of the bank—and then watched as those doors were suspiciously left open.
Mr. Howard voiced his opinion to J. Sim Allen: “There is a St. Albans raid.” (Reference 4.)
It took a beat for it to sink in. But once it had, Allen slowly moved past the corner of the dry goods store, and began walking toward the bank. As he looked around the street, he saw a few others looking toward the bank as well. His breathing quickened, and incrementally, step by step, his pace quickened. At this time, another curious resident, Steven Budd, was only a few steps behind him.
Meanwhile Francis Howard had gone into a store and made his way to the roof, where he could observe the impending from a safe distance. Beneath him, and from his second floor window of Scriver Building, D.J. Whiting grew more suspicious when he saw Cole and Clell ride around the corner of Scriver Building onto Division—with Cole looking back over his shoulder, across the square. Younger was catching a glance of the last detachment of three men—the Second James Brother, his own brother, James Hardin Younger, and William Chadwell—cross over and take position at the foot of the Bridge.
Dentist Whiting now watched from the top of the steel staircase along Scriver Building, as Cole and Clell parked their horses directly in front of the bank.
* * *
Inside the First National Bank, Charlie Pitts, Bob Younger, and the first James Brother pulled their heavy pistols and rushed the bank counter. The first robber hurtled directly through a narrow two-foot bank teller’s window at the corner, flanked by a thirty-inch-high glazed rail, while the other two men vaulted onto the countertop to the far left, squatting between the teller’s window and the cashier’s desk. In tandem, each of the three men quickly extended an arm, placing the barrel of his heavy pistol at the head of the two men seated behind the counter: bank teller Alonzo E. Bunker, and assistant bookkeeper Frank J. Wilcox. A third banker, acting bookkeeper Joseph Lee Heywood, was seated upon a cashier’s seat to the far right, but was hidden by a “high front” to one side of the desk. He was not seen by the men at this time.
“Throw up your hands, for we intend to rob the bank, and if you holler we will blow your God Damned brains out!” barked Charlie Pitts.
The robbers then ordered the bankers on their knees, with one of them boasting, “We have 40 men outside, so there’s no need to resist.”
Within seconds, the robbers were calling for the two bankers to open the vault.
* * *
Out on the noisy street, Cole dismounted and made out like he was tying his saddle girth, while watching traffic in the eighty foot wide thoroughfare. Clell, meanwhile, sporting a white linen handkerchief around his neck, a new shirt with gold sleeve-buttons, matching gold ring, and a John Hancock felt hat, began re-packing his pipe. He was completely unconcerned.
No one on the street seemed to sense that anything was amiss. However, when Cole’s head swiveled around to the bank, he quickly perceived that the folding doors were still open. It was only a matter of time before someone on the street overheard what was going on inside. So he turned to Clell and instructed him to get off his horse and close the doors.
Clell finished lighting his pipe, dismounted, and walked up and took a step inside the bank to notify the men they had left the doors open. After shutting the folding doors, he stepped off the walk and leaned against a hitching post.
* * *
Back inside, the robbers quickly realized they were getting nowhere with Bunker and Wilcox. And the James brother finally demanded, “Which of you is the cashier?”
Joseph Lee Heywood now came out where the three robbers could see him, and stated defiantly, “He is not in.”
At that, the two robbers upon the counter jumped down, joining their fellow gang member already standing behind the counter, and got close enough that the bankers could smell the alcohol on their breath.
Amid this chaos, a pistol was placed against the side of Heywood’s head.
* * *
On the other side of the street, and nearly opposite the bank, was a hardware store owned by W.H. Riddell. The merchant was working inside when a customer came up to him, “before any kind of an alarm had been given,” and reported that something suspicious was going on over at the bank. Riddell initially paid it no mind. But then a Mrs. John Handy, a traveler from St. Albans, Vermont, happened to glance through an open doorway granting a direct view across the street, and sharply turned to Riddell exclaiming, “They are robbing the bank; I saw revolvers flash!”
Soon after this, Riddell guardedly exited his establishment into the wide expanse of Division Street, peering across at the men parked in front of the bank. After a second or two, he spotted J. Sim Allen approaching the bank on the sidewalk.
On the same side of the street as Riddell, was twenty-two year old Dr. Henry M. Wheeler.
Home for the holidays from the University of Michigan, the medical student was seated in his father’s rocking chair on the porch of Wheeler & Blackman’s drugstore, chatting with friends. And when he first saw Cole and Clell, he initially took them to be cattlemen, as intended. But when a passing farmer mentioned that eight men had come out of the woods to the west of town on saddled horses, and then added that he thought it meant something, Wheeler began turning the situation over in his mind.
Contrary to many fictional depictions, it was an unusual occurrence in 1876 to see a man mounted on a saddled horse. Let alone eight men mounted on saddled horses. For reasons of practicality, most traveled by wagon, or walked. Horses were an expensive commodity. You didn’t ride a horse; you tied it to a wagon filled with goods for trading, if it was a strong horse. Or you took good care of your investment if the animal was of good breeding.
Wheeler’s gaze again fell upon the street, and his eyes locked on Cole and Clell. He leaned forward in the rocking chair. He was coming to the realization that these men were something other than cattle buyers.
For a second time, Cole dismounted. Now both he and Clell were standing near their horses, suspiciously ranging the street around them.
Without saying a word, Wheeler stood and stepped into the street—and instantly spotted J. Sim Allen moving closer to the bank, evaluating the cattle buyers and the bank doors, with profound interest.
* * *
Inside the bank, the three robbers pulled the men back to their feet and began searching the bankers’ pockets for weapons, wallets, whatever they could dig out, all the while repeatedly accosting the three bank employees with, “You are the cashier,” and each time provoking a denial out of Heywood, Bunker, and Wilcox.
When Bob Younger found a large knife within assistant bookkeeper Frank J. Wilcox’s pocket, he asked, “What’s this?”
Wilcox, a young man just out of college with an impressive long, thick beard, responded that it was a jack knife. Bob ordered him back on his knees and into a corner under the counter.
Younger then rifled around, finding a drawer. He pulled it out, found only a roll of nickels, which he promptly removed and dropped with a clunk to the floor. He then turned to Wilcox, and demanded, “Where is the money outside the safe? Where’s the till?”
Wilcox pointed, but Bunker was the one that showed the Younger brother to an open box on the counter. Bob turned and ordered both men to get back on their knees, before procuring a two-bushel flour (or grain) sack marked H.C.A. from his coat pocket, and removing approximately $12 in scrip (paper money) from the box and shoving it inside.
In that instant, Bunker went for a small Derringer pistol on a shelf below the teller’s window—but Bob Younger snatched it before the banker could get to it, pocketing the little gun in his coat.
“Keep still!” Bob ordered. Then he scoffed, “You couldn’t do anything with that little derringer anyway.”
* * *
Back outside, Wheeler continued moving slowly across the street, glaring at Cole Younger. When Younger turned his back to him, Wheeler focused on Clell Miller.
Anyone could see that Clell Miller needed a shave. But many initially missed that in spite of Miller’s finer clothes, he was wearing two different types of boot—one of finer leather, the other a cheap brand. Wheeler took in these details and started to put it all together.
When Clell spotted Wheeler staring at him, he too spun around. But Wheeler continued walking. He wanted to see inside that bank.
Perceiving Wheeler, along with the attention of a few others, Cole instinctively re-mounted his horse and quickly trotted down the street, hoping to quell further suspicion.
But this only made the “cattle buyers” appear more suspicious.
* * *
When J. Sim Allen arrived at the bank’s folding doors, and reached out to open them, it was Clell Miller’s gloved hand that reached out and softly closed them again. Miller then grabbed Allen by his shoulders, spun him around, grabbed his collar, and pulled him close.
First Allen’s gaze was filled with Clell’s blue eyes, and then it was filled with the muzzle of the bandit’s .44 caliber pistol. The men were momentarily hidden from many on the street by the two horses.
“What’s happening here?” Allen demanded.
“Don’t you holler,” Clell said in heavy whisper past his pipe, “If you do, I’ll blow your damned head off.” Clell then pointed the barrel of his pistol over the merchant’s shoulder, and ordered J. Sim Allen to go back the way he came.
J. Sim Allen caught his breath, backed off quickly, and tripped running toward the corner of Scriver Building, shouting, “Get your guns, boys, they’re robbin’ the bank!”
Behind them W.H. Riddell shouted, “Robbers at the bank!”
And Wheeler shouted, “Robbers in the bank! Robbery! They’re robbing the bank!”
Clell fired over Wheeler’s head and shouted, “Get off the street or I will kill you!”
But it was too late. Citizens all over the street were now shouting, “They’re robbing the bank!”
Cole came galloping back down the street, drew his pistol, and shouted at Riddell, “Get in there, you God-damn Son-of-a-bitch!” Then he charged Wheeler, shouting “Get off the street! Get out of here, dingus!” (Reference 5.)
Cole then fired a full volley of shots over the heads of both men, shattering the glass window over Riddell’s head.
Riddell retreated inside his store, while Wheeler ran back to the drug store, screaming, “ROBBERY! ROBBERY!” Entering, he searched for his gun, but quickly remembered he had loaned the weapon to someone. Quickly, he dashed back out, running down a back alley toward the Dampier Hotel.
* * *
Many people on the street were very confused. They knew about the Indian circus show planned for later that evening. They also knew there could be a promotion involving “staged” gunfire. This led many to assume that these men had received special permission from the Mayor for such activity.
But other citizens on the street were in doubt.
They were scattering. And fast.
* * *
Across the Square, the last three men at the Bridge, the Second James Brother, James Hardin (Jim) Younger, and William Chadwell, heard the gunshots and pulled their revolvers, galloping across the Square and giving the “rebel yell.”
* * *
At this moment, Wheeler was speeding up the stairs of the Dampier Hotel with an old Civil War Army carbine rifle he had obtained from the hotel’s lobby. He had asked hotel owner and operator Charlie Dampier to find and bring him cartridges for the rifle. Now, racing into a third floor bedroom, he found an open window. And as he angled around, he saw the second iteration of three men cross the square, shooting their guns in the air.
* * *
At the top of the steel staircase running up the side of Scriver Building, dentist D.J. Whiting returned to the open door at the landing, and saw the last three men gallop around a corner onto Division Street, joining Cole and Clell. This made five robbers now firing in the air and at the ground, while zigzagging up and down Division and 4th, shouting variations of: “GET BACK INSIDE, YOU SONS-OF-BITCHES!”
* * *
Mr. Bates had been in the back of his store talking business to Mr. Waldo when the men heard the initial shots.
“Them men are going for the town; they mean to rob the bank!” Bates cried out, running to and through the open doorway, and onto the street. Once there, two of the robbers rode up to him with long pistols in their hands, shouting, “Get in there, you son-of-a-bitch!”
Bates retreated momentarily, returning with a shotgun. He pulled the trigger and the weapon misfired. He rushed back inside, reappearing quickly with an old, empty six-shooter. As a ruse he leveled and aimed the weapon at the two of the men as they passed, shouting, “Now I’ve got you!”
In response, Bill Chadwell shot the glass window behind Bates.
Not a moment later, Bates spotted J. Sim Allen turn the corner of Scriver Building, and run down 4th street, with one of the robbers firing two shots in his direction.
* * *
Clell slid from his horse and ran up to the bank entrance, pleading, “Hurry up, boys—they’ve given the alarm!”
* * *
Inside, there was still only chaos. Shouting merely bounced from the walls and rang in the ears. After hearing Clell’s message, the robbers glanced around at one another, before all gazes landed on Joseph Lee Heywood, still upon the cashier’s seat. Charlie Pitts leveled a long-barreled pistol at Heywood’s head, and in a harsh voice said, “You are the cashier. Now open the safe you goddamn son-of-a-bitch.”
Heywood referenced the safe within the vault, “It’s a time-lock and cannot be opened now.”
It was later revealed that the time-lock had never been set. The robbers would have instantly discovered this, if any one of the three had tried to open the safe door. In fact, between $17,000.00 and $18,000.00 was contained within an unlocked safe, easily within their grasp.
The men focused their attention on the Yale Chronometer Time-Lock mounted onto the safe, and visible through the open vault. The robber noted as being slim and dark skinned, with a black mustache (probably the James brother,) confidently stepped inside to take a closer look at the safe—and Heywood suddenly lunged forward, closing the newly installed Detroit Safe Company’s door on him; catching his hand and an angle of his upper shoulder in the door.
Pitts and Younger were truly shocked.
Bob Younger grabbed Heywood by the collar, jerked him away from the vault door, and opened it. Released, the James brother stepped forward; his stare locked hard on Heywood. Ringing out his wrist in extreme pain, the James brother reportedly referenced the interior shelves of the walk-in vault, motioned to Pitts, and said, “Seize the silver—put it in the bag.”
Younger handed Pitts the bag marked H.C.A, and Pitts gave a nod at Heywood and said, “All right, but don’t let him lock me in there.”
The James Brother suddenly shoved Heywood to the floor with little effort, stepped over him and pulled the banker’s head back, hard. Then pulling a knife, he placed it across Heywood’s throat, drawing blood.
“Damned liar!” he said, “You’ll open that safe, or I’ll cut your damned throat! You understand me?” At this, the James Brother fired a single shot over Heywood’s head, hoping to coerce the banker.
* * *
When Cole heard the pistol shot echo from within the bank, he spun on his horse, negotiating the animal to try and get a better view through the windows. But he was quickly distracted. In the street around him, several citizens appeared with shovels, boards, and anything else they could find handy, shouting and making a lot of racket. It was a futile attempt to drive the robbers away.
* * *
In the third floor bedroom of Dampier House Hotel, Wheeler turned to find Mr. Dampier handing him four cartridges for the old rifle. Wheeler loaded a round quickly, rested the rifle within one corner of the open window sill and searched among the robbers for a target. His first shot was a miss. Quickly, he reloaded.
* * *
Down on the street, the robbers continued galloping up and down division and around the corner and back. And ex-Marshal Elias Hobbs, Postmaster H.S. French, and a man known as Colonel (or Justice) Streeter, were throwing rocks at the robbers each time they passed.
Amid the melee, forty-three year-old Anselm R. Manning exited his hardware store with a breech-loading Remington rolling block rifle he had pulled from the window display of his store. Aiming hastily at one of the men on horseback terrorizing the street, he fired. But his shot went wild. Then Manning aimed and fired again. This time, his rifle jammed with the hand lever stuck. As he fiddled with it, Mr. Bates called out to him, “Jump back now, or they’ll get you!” Manning instantly turned, and ran back to his store to repair the weapon.
The sound of constant, overlapping gunfire echoed in the street. Northfield’s more prominent took cover within establishments as that gunfire tore through windows and partitions, just missing many of them. The wife of Mr. Bates was a good example. She was standing in the second story of Messrs. Skinner & Drew’s Store, situated directly across the street from the bank, when a .44 ball crashed through the wall within just a few inches of her. Others like her watched helpless from behind broken windows as their neighbors scattered all over the block, shouting and screaming at the sight of the raiders.
Edward Bill had procured a pistol and stepped out of Fred Shatto’s store, when the glass above his head shattered from a stray shot. His young daughter Maude was sprinkled with glass and huddled close to her mother, terrified.
“Father, please, I want to go home!”
“Don’t worry. Those men are trying to rob the bank, and won’t hurt you.”(Reference)
* * *
Within the walk-in vault, Pitts weighed the fifteen dollars worth of silver with one hand, but shook his head with belligerence and discarded it. Instead, his attention was drawn to a curious, locked tin-box on a lower shelf, promising paper currency. He stepped back, aimed carefully, and shot the box open. The blast echoed within the small space, and Pitts was late cupping his ringing ears with gloved hands. Shaking it off, and angry as hell, he flipped open the lid of the busted box.
Inside of it were only a few papers, such as land deeds, etc.
Meanwhile, banker Alonzo E. Bunker was weighing his own options. Seeing as Pitts had turned his back, and with the other two robbers already preoccupied, Bunker decided to make a run for it. Quickly stumbling around the corner into the narrow hallway adjoining the bank lobby, he raced to the rear exit. Reaching the door, he found the shutters closed, and this delayed him in getting a grip on the handle and escaping. A second later, Pitts appeared at the other end of the hallway behind him, and hastily took a shot. Lucky for Bunker, the robber missed. Frantic to get out, the banker struggled with the door.
On the other side of the door, a furniture store owner named Miller was on the steps, trying to see through the blinds. Miller was said to be quite deaf and thoroughly surprised when Bunker finally forced the door open. Miller went tumbling down the steps, and Bunker vaulted over him, onto Water Street. Instantly, Bunker caught sight of a few of the other robbers galloping past the end of the alley, waving their guns in the air.
When Pitts arrived at the open door, he fired a shot which landed in Bunker’s upper shoulder, just above the clavicle. The banker quickly fled, terrified and in shock. He was running for the office of a local doctor by the name of Combe,screaming, “They’re robbing the bank! Help!”
Behind him, Pitts remained stationary in the open doorway, listening. He heard the echo of a jarring racket coming from around the building: overlapping gunshots, shouting, and screaming.
* * *
Back in the bank lobby, there was a moment of quiet which allowed the men inside to hear the shots being fired outside. Everyone looked toward the windows. Wilcox noted that more of the men in long coats were now riding up and down Division, shooting off their revolvers. And Heywood was suddenly desperate to get loose from the James brother’s grip. Bob Younger came to the robber’s aid, but Heywood still managed to get loose and run around the corner toward the entrance, screaming, “Murder!” The James brother quickly followed, grabbing Heywood and slamming his pistol over the banker’s lower neck. Heywood dropped to the floor, stunned, and the robber dragged him back to the open vault, referencing the safe within.
“Open it!” he shouted.
But the banker remained in a daze, and never uttered another word.
It was then that the men within the bank saw Cole Younger ride up to the doors and shout loudly through the glass, with desperation, “The game’s up boys and we are beaten!”
Bob Younger moved around the counter to the entrance and peered out the windows. And what he saw alarmed him. The men inside had simply assumed that regardless of the noise, their brothers in arms outside had the situation under control. That was clearly not the case.
Bob quickly exited the bank.
* * *
Once outside, Bob Younger heard his brother Cole give an order to grab Charlie Pitt’s horse, so Bob turned and ran straight down the side of Scriver Building to retrieve a horse tied at the foot of the stairway.
Older brother Cole had dismounted his own horse and was returning fire whenever he saw anyone “with a bead” on him. After seeing Bob exit, Cole got back up on his horse, intending to ride around the corner, and launch across the square and over the bridge. He galloped only a few yards, when he spotted a man with a rifle up stairs across the street. It appeared to be a billiard parlor. Cole shot a pane of glass out over the man’s head and the man retreated from the window.
Then Cole turned back, searching for the rest of his party. He had assumed the remaining two men were right behind his brother.
But they were still inside.
Cole returned, and moved his horse close to the Bank’s open doorway and shouted inside, “Come out of the bank!” And a moment later, “For God’s sake, come out! They’re shootin’ us all to pieces!”
* * *
While J. Sim Allen passed out rifles and shotguns with price tags still attached to patrons within his own establishment, a Reverend named Ross Phillips laid out rifles and revolvers on a counter inside of Anselm R. Manning’s hardware store.
Soon, a number of citizens re-emerged in the street, armed and eager to find a target.
J.B. Hyde and James Gregg were good examples. Both arrived with ineffective shotguns, attempting to aid in the town’s defense, any way they could. But it was Elias Stacy who scored the first hit. As Clell Miller was re-mounting his horse, Stacy aimed a shotgun filled with birdshot and sprayed much of Miller’s face and upper chest, penetrating one of his eyes, off center. The result was described by one eye-witness as, “…a bloody mess.” The blow even knocked Miller from his horse.
Just then, Miller called out, “Cole, I’m shot,” and quickly remounted with blood smeared across a very stunned expression.
Cole turned to see Clell Miller’s face literally covered in blood.
But Stacy had only fired one barrel, and as Clell’s horse spun around and around, Stacy fired again, this time closer, and hitting Miller directly in the back.
* * *
George E. Bates was moving past Dampier House Hotel, when he heard a report over his head; he flinched, seeing Clell Miller hit a third time just below the left shoulder. Bates turned sharp and looked in the direction of the previous report, finding Wheeler in the open hotel window, hastily reloading the rifle. Bates turned sharp again and watched as Clell’s horse plunged forward, then suddenly stopped, remained on its forelegs, and allowed its rider to pitch forward and fall face first into ground still muddy from previous rain.
* * *
South on Division Street, approximately twenty feet past the corner of 5th Street, was a stairway that led to a basement cellar, servicing as a pub. A somewhat intoxicated man named Nicholas Gustafson climbed stairs from the below ground pub and ran across the street, with curious, ubiquitous interest.
Gustafson was a Swedish immigrant, who had come into town this day to sell some vegetables he’d harvested, and barter for goods. According to various witnesses, the men on horseback variously shouted at him to get out of the way, but Gustafson was a recent arrival to the U.S., and spoke only his native language. Members of the James-Younger Gang barked orders and shouted obscenities at him while waving their guns in the air. But Gustafson had little comprehension of the meaning, and a moment later he was grazed above the eye by a shot which wouldn’t immediately kill him, but strangely put him in critical condition less than a day later, resulting in his death on September 11th. The ball had gone under the skin, damaged part of the skull, and exited skin at the top of head.
Gustafson had been shot just as he ran past John Olsen. Olsen was running for the safety of the “cellar” when Gustafson had been shot and had fallen back, dropping on Olsen’s lower leg as he fell. Olsen ran down into the stairway, and found the door locked. He crouched, and after a few seconds, he raised his head up intending to go to the aid of Gustafson. But a robber on horseback looked down at him, his pistol aimed point blank and said, “Sit right still where you are, or I’ll kill you, too.”
Witnesses reported that Gustafson had meanwhile staggered and ran for the nearby Canon River, where he bathed his wound in the waters.
* * *
In a later interview, Cole Younger himself maintained that Gustafson, being in the South end of town, could only have been hit by a ricochet off a brick wall. However, he also added that if a member of their party had been directly responsible, he could only attribute that shot to “Woods.” (Reference 6.)
The attorney who prosecuted the Younger brothers wrote a letter to the pardon board in 1897 indicating that he traveled to Northfield in 1876, to interview eye-witnesses, and could find no one who could identify the “Swede’s” shooter. He said that residents had at that time determined that Gustafson had possibly been hit by stray gunfire. However, a jeweler named John Morton, whose store was located five doors down from the bank, watched from a nook “beside the door of his store,” and saw “the Swede” come around the corner, just as one of the robbers rode up to him, and shouted, “Get back, you Son-of-a-bitch!” Getting only a confused response, the robber brought his pistol around and fired upon Gustafson, who then fell. Morton also reported that soon after this, the robber who shot Gustafson went to the body of a dead robber (Miller,) and took off the man’s pistols and his other things. Morton also visited the Younger Brothers in prison, and identified Cole Younger as Gustafson’s killer. P.S. Dougherty also reported that he had seen one of the robbers “throw his pistol over his head,” and shoot “The Swede.”
* * *
Back in the bank, Pitts re-emerged from the hallway running straight to the front entrance. Through the windows, he saw what Bob Younger had seen before him: the attention of those within the bank had wavered, to say the least. Outside, the robbers had found themselves surrounded by a murderous mob, and consequently, the men had gone from shooting over citizens heads in hopes of scaring them back indoors, to shooting to kill to save their own lives.
This was a lost cause.
Reluctantly, Pitts exited through the folding doors and onto the sidewalk.
Behind him, the first James brother vaulted upon the side counter, and was angling for the door, when suddenly…he froze. He had spotted Clell Miller’s dead body lying in the street outside, and it took him completely by surprise. Two seconds later, he peripherally spotted Heywood returning to the cashier’s desk, sitting down, and opening a drawer. The James brother may have believed Heywood was acquiring a gun from the drawer. The last robber in the bank later confirmed to Cole Younger that as he jumped up on the bank counter to cross it, he could see Miller’s body lying in the street. And when he saw Heywood spring up and jump for a pistol hidden somewhere under the counter, he ordered the banker to stop, but Heywood took no heed of his warning. In rebuttal, banker Frank J. Wilcox later claimed that much of Younger’s version of Heywood’s shooting wasn’t possible. Mainly because Heywood was unable to stand without supporting himself; he had never recovered from the blow to his head. Wilcox also stated that Heywood was at this time leaning on the table in the center of the room. Said Wilcox, “When the robbers had let go of Mr. Heywood he was left on his feet and was reeling toward the desk in such a condition that anyone would know he was not reaching for a pistol and would not have used one had he held it in his hand.” (Reference)
In either case, the robber’s boots hit the floor of the bank lobby, and with one hand still on the counter, he turned back with nothing but violence in his eyes, and fired on Heywood. But Heywood had spotted the robber aiming for him only a second before, and had just enough awareness to quickly duck, almost under the counter. The James brother lunged; leaning across the teller’s window, placing his pistol very near the top of Heywood’s exposed head, and fired, striking Heywood in the temple. Heywood popped up, then turned, staggered a step, and fell. Drops of his blood were later found on a desk blotter.
Wilcox darted down the hallway, out the back door, and into the rear entrance of Anselm R. Manning’s store.
Joseph Lee Heywood only lived a few moments, breathing easy, but unable to speak.
Within the bank, the three robbers had left behind the grain sack filled with around $12 in currency, and a linen duster; possibly torn from its wearer during the preceding scuffle.
But it wasn’t over yet.
* * *
Out on Division, a barrage of unending gunfire thundered, and shots ricocheted everywhere. Bullets were whistling, revolvers glistened in the sun. A moving mural of violence had exploded like somebody kicked a hornet’s nest.
The first James brother, the last to step out, found himself witness to a war zone. He was truly shocked. With a quick look around, the men spotted dozens of citizens firing upon them from windows up and down Division Street, many using rifles with price tags dangling from their barrels and trigger guards. Adding to the gang’s dilemma, there were additional citizens firing from behind cover, on the ground all around them.
Quickly, the ZING of a shot went right by the James brother’s ear, and the three men moved to take horses, with a daisy-chain of shots striking ground all around them.
When J.B. Hyde returned to the scene, it was with a double-barreled shotgun. Quickly, he fired off both barrels, striking Charlie Pitts in both the shoulder and wrist, before retreating to reload.
It was during these confusing moments that Anselm R. Manning’s aim found Bob Younger. Earlier, Manning’s Remington rifle had jammed, and he had retreated to his hardware store and used a ramrod to eject the empty shell from the breech of the weapon. Now he was back on the field of battle and ready to defend the township. Younger spotted him, dismounted, and used Charlie Pitt’s horse as cover. He fired his pistol from under the neck of the animal more than once. In response, Manning shot the horse in the head!
Bob turned and lunged behind some crates stacked underneath the base of the steel staircase on the corner. Dentist Whiting, in his office above Bob Younger at the top of the staircase, was at this time bouncing back and forth from an open doorway to an open window, excitedly observing the melee. He could see Bob Younger hiding behind some crates which he described as being stacked on or near a lumber wagon. Whiting additionally claimed that he himself wasn’t armed and never fired a single shot. But in Cole Younger’s own personal recollection, the robber claimed Whiting was armed, and when he saw the dentist hovering over them above, he shouted, “Shoot that man up in the window!”
Mortar rained down on Whiting as a volley of shots struck the wood all around him. Whiting quickly moved away from the window and doorway.
In the street, Elias Hobbs, Colonel Streeter, and Ben Richardson threw rocks at the robbers, making it difficult for any one of the men to get a steady shot at Anselm R. Manning.
In response, Cole shouted to the others, “Kill the white livered son of a bitch on the corner!” Then Cole shouted for Bob to “charge up” on Manning.
Bob Younger immediately ran up to Manning, firing a volley. Manning took cover at the corner, but quickly resumed firing. Then Cole shouted, “Shoot through the stairs!”
Bob Younger re-positioned himself beneath the steel staircase. But due to the angle, witnesses reported that each man kept stepping out to shoot at the other, before darting back for cover—Younger using the crates and steel girders of the staircase for cover, Manning the corner of the building. The men were playing a very dangerous and peculiar game of peek-a-boo.
Younger charged again, and Manning retreated around the corner, into Lee & Hitchcock’s store. Once inside, Manning moved quickly to one of the windows on the side of the building, hoping to get a shot at Bob as he approached and possibly rounded the corner. But Younger retreated beneath the stairs, again. And unfortunately, this left him vulnerable to Wheeler in the upstairs room of the Dampier Hotel across the street.
Wheeler’s third shot shattered Bob Younger’s elbow, and Bob began scrambling to hide himself.
Cole looked over, saw his brother wince in pain, and change his pistol from his right hand to his left. Bob’s right arm now hung limp, broken by the shot. Bob then fired two, maybe three shots through the girders of the staircase, in his own defense. But gunfire continued in his direction, unabated. Soon Bob realized he was surrounded—and worse—separated from the other men.
* * *
Up in the third floor bedroom of Dampier House, Wheeler reached for his last cartridge, but it fell from a bed to the floor, breaking the tissue paper forming the cartridge, allowing the powder to escape. Wheeler’s ammunition was now exhausted.
* * *
Cole called out to Bob to run to him, before instructing his other brother Jim to catch Clell Miller’s horse for Bob.
Anselm R. Manning exited the store, moved carefully to the corner of the building, and stuck his head out. Mr. C.O. Waldo spotted Manning, and called out to him, “Take good aim before you fire!”
Manning took a breath, and launched around the corner, finding a position on the lower part of the staircase along Scriver Building. He then aimed carefully, and fired. The shot punched through a wooden post, continued on, and struck Cole on the left of his body, between the hip and thigh. Manning then retreated back around the corner.
Cole returned fire at random, not knowing where the shot had come from. Then, without letting the reins of his horse leave his grip, he crawled to Clell Miller’s lifeless body and jostled him. There was no response. Charlie Pitts was now at Cole’s side. Cole removed Clell’s pistols and cartridge belt, and instructed Pitts to help him lift Clell up onto his horse.
“Put him up with me; I’ll pack him out!”
But when the men turned Clell over, what both saw convinced them that Miller was dead.
Soon, Cole was having difficulty mounting his own horse with his own wound. It was awkward and with he and a wounded Pitts attempting to mount the same horse together, it made them both easy prey. So Younger told Pitts to run across the square toward the bridge, and Cole would catch up to him and pull him up onto the horse.
Pitts instantly took off running, fast as he could run while still being wounded.
“Let’s head out!” Cole shouted to the other men.
Cole mounted, and was simultaneously fired upon from both sides of the street. Someone, possibly Manning, had fired a round which struck Cole in the shoulder. And Wheeler, having returned to the hotel window after running out of cartridges and “hastening” for more, was reportedly just in time to shoot off Younger’s hat.
As Chadwell rode around the corner of Scriver Building, and onto Division Street, Manning revolved around the corner with him—and took a shot. But Manning missed. So once again Manning climbed the staircase which hugged the building. This time, he went a full halfway up. And from there, he leveled the rifle and carefully aimed. Seventy yards from him, Chadwell was turning around and preparing to ride back.
The shot went right through Chadwell’s heart, and the horse, with Chadwell still on it, was seen galloping up the street in Manning’s general direction. Witnesses reported that the robber swung his left arm around the horse’s neck, and bent over with a horrifying look of pain on his face, before the his body began to reel this way and that, and fell to the ground directly opposite an establishment known as Eldridge’s Store. His horse had kept running, and was later found loitering around a local livery stable.
Due to Frank having been shot in the calf at some point during the shooting, he had difficulty mounting on his own horse, and thus the James brothers would share a horse. The voice of the second James brother was heard stressfully shouting, “We’re beat—let’s go!”
* * *
Seeing the men preparing to flee, Bob Younger fatefully stepped out from under the stairs and began limping up the street. Almost instantly, he spotted Mr. Bates aiming at him. Bob strained to keep his hand steady, before firing a shot which grazed Bates’ cheek and the bridge of his nose, before burying itself in a collar box inside the man’s store.
Bob Younger then shouted, “My God, boys! Hold on! Don’t leave me—I’m shot!”
As the others had already fled to the town square beyond Division Street, this left Bob’s brother Jim the last man on horseback still on Division. Holding onto the reins of a second horse (Clell Miller’s,) Jim was racing to catch up with the others, when he unexpectedly heard the voice of his brother, Bob. Coming to a halt, he turned, and rode back to the area opposite an establishment referred to as Mr. Morris’s Store. Once there, he leaned over, and pulled his brother up onto Clell Miller’s horse. (Reference 7.)
As this time, J.B. Hyde reportedly fired a reloaded shotgun at Bob Younger, striking him in the wrist as the men fled; possibly shooting off his thumb. (Reference 8.)
* * *
Cole had given Pitts a suppressing cover fire, to allow for his escape. Now, somewhere between forty and a hundred yards later, Cole rode alongside Pitts who had climbed up onto a barrel on a sidewalk running down the right side of the Square. Cole strained, pulling him up onto the horse, and Pitts said jokingly, “What kept you so long.” Younger did not respond. It was then that Pitts revealed that the three men in the bank had consumed too much alcohol together in the woods, and “botched” the job, as a result.
Jim Younger, while holding the reins of the second horse his brother was mounted on, was shot first in the back of his right leg, and then his shoulder. Cole shouted to him, ‘Lead on ahead,’ and Jim took the lead across the square. Bypassing the Cannon River Bridge, and taking an alternate route out of town.
Cole and Pitts followed, with the James brothers bringing up the rear.
Behind them, an entire crowd chased the men across the square.
* * *
Cole Younger later confirmed in a hand-written letter, that a single quart of whiskey was essentially to blame for the unprofessional way in which the bank robbery was handled. The first iteration of three men had separated from the others earlier in the day, and consumed the whiskey in a wooded area outside of town. In fact, all three of them, including his brother Bob, were drunk. Cole opined that this clearly accounted for the lack of judgment on the part of the three men, in respect to the crowded street, and also explains why they left the folding bank door open. Cole Younger also stated that had he known the men were drunk, he himself would never have gone into town. Cole was not a drinker and did not approve of alcohol consumption.
Witnesses reported that soon after the departure of the rest of the gang, Clell Miller, having been left for dead, tried to rise up on his hands and knees one last time, then simply rolled over, finally dead.
As stated, the remaining men fled out of town to the Southwest, instead of back across the 4th Street Bridge, as planned. And as a result, their plan to flee back across the bridge, stopping at the railroad depot west of the river to cut the telegraph wires, had either been neglected. Now on the run, the surviving members of the gang left behind two of their party, dead, drifting gunsmoke propagating all over Scriver Block, extensively damaged and defiled building faces (a large area of town, up and down both Division and 4th Streets, resembled an actual war zone,) and the legacy of a melee which would be well remembered by history.
And only seven minutes had passed from the moment the first two men had crossed the square.
* * *
Later, the bodies of Bill Chadwell and Clell Miller would be searched. Identification would not be found on either. On Chadwell was a puzzling slip of paper torn from a two-week-old edition of the local Rice County Journal, detailing the new burglar-proof safe with its vault doors and chronometer time-lock. There was also a fine Waltham gold watch, ten cents, and unspent cartridges in a belt around his waist, along with many more within his pockets.
Among the effects of Miller, Northfield citizens discovered a fine Howard gold watch worth at least a hundred and seventy-five dollars, a pocket map of larger Minnesota purchased from Williams Bros., Minneapolis, a pocket compass, and five dollars seventy-five in currency. Another slip of paper was also found on one of the two men, with “A.S. Coywood”—or Haywood—“1,129 Eleventh N.W.,” written on one side in pencil, and a record of ballot for a U.S. Senator at the last election printed on the other.
Chadwell’s corpse had been later placed on display in a neighboring county, to discourage young children from a life of crime. When Dr. Wheeler’s vacation ended, he returned with Clell Miller’s remains to Ann Arbor, Michigan for his senior year, and utilized them for medical study. Possession of the corpse resided with Dr. Wheeler for many years to come. In fact, he was known to keep Miller’s skeleton in the corner of his medical practice office in the city of Grand Forks.
* * *
While direct involvement with the event had essentially concluded for the majority of Northfield’s citizens, it wasn’t over for the James-Younger Gang. Not by a long shot. Only fifteen minutes passed before two men, Jack Hayes and Dwight Davis, secured two of the horses left behind, and armed with two rifles and several revolvers, pursued after the surviving members of the gang. And they weren’t the only hunting party dispatched. As news of the incident spread, the Governor of Minnesota offered a one thousand dollar reward for each of the surviving men, while The First National Bank of Northfield, offered five hundred dollars. In an interview conducted years later, Cole Younger remarked that if they’d remembered to “wreck” the telegraph office following the robbery, as planned, much of their trauma evading armed citizens and agents of law enforcement would have been cut by two-thirds.
On a curious note, the Chief of Police is said to have been later found hiding inside a dry goods box behind Skinner & Drew’s store. This is where he had been throughout the entire incident.
Every time October 26th rolls back around, I find myself wondering: what would it have been like, to be an eyewitness to the most famous gunfight in history?
At one point there was footage readily available on the internet of a reenactment from the late 20’s or early 30’s, which reportedly placed the participants in the gunfight, in various areas on large expanse of Fremont Street where they had actually been seen, by a handful of living witnesses. That footage along with a few stills from it, has long since vanished from the internet. But my memory of that footage lingers. It was so curious and intriguing, it mesmerized me that much. Somewhat like that widely circulated YouTube footage “appearing” to show a woman talking with a cell phone to her ear, around the turn of the last Century. A trick of the mind, that for about 48 hours or so, had several members of the media believing time travel might actually be possible, and taking it seriously. LOL And that reminded me of why I wrote Western Legend in the first place. In 1992, I started working on material for a time travel story, and the bygone era time traveling romp within the larger science fiction story, got bigger and spiraled out of control. In fact, it took on a life of its own, eventually generating a separate screenplay, and then a book called, WESTERN LEGEND.
Sometimes I remember how the story came to be, and the original intention of that material. And I’m left wondering. If the motion picture camera had been in use and present in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26th, 1881 … what would have been more fascinating: the shocking reality of what we are watching ? Or the mystery of how we are seeing it ?
And thus, for stimulating my imagination, I wish a Happy Birthday to the infamous streetfight in Tombstone. Otherwise known as The Gunfight at the OK Corral.
(Below are some photos I discovered on the Internet, related to the incident in Tombstone)
This photo was taken from Fremont Street, and features the vacant lot located between the little house formerly owned by William A. Harwood (still present on the right,) and the former location of the Boarding House operated by Mollie Fly. (In back of which was located Camillius Fly’s Photographic Studio.) By the time this photo had been taken (sometime in the 1940’s,) Harwood’s House was decrepit, and Fly’s Boarding House and Photographic Studio, was long gone. Having been replaced by what appears to be a barn. In fact, almost half the lot space formerly occupied by Fly’s is seen vacant in this photo, somewhat extending the original 18 foot wide vacant lot, where the infamous street fight began.
This much earlier photo, however — taken from “behind” the Vacant lot, instead of the street — appears to show Camillius Fly’s Studio at right, and Harwood’s little House on the left, with the 18 foot wide vacant lot intact, in-between. The donkey, of course, is unrelated. The photo is said to have been taken sometime in the 1920’s, or perhaps earlier.
This photo of Fremont Street, was taken by someone standing near the Vacant Lot where the street fight began, and shows Grid Block on the left, followed by the Court House where the Wells Spicer hearing was later held. Best guess for a date would be the early 1900’s.
This photo was taken in 1931 looking down Fremont from the other direction. The white building on the left is the Post Office (Notice the Flag pole,) still in its original location from 1881, located at the intersection of Fremont and Allen. Beyond, would be the Court House and Grid Block, and far down on the right, and out of sight, would be the location of the Vacant Lot where the street fight started.
The real OK Corral, taken sometime between the early 1900’s and 1930’s. It was located one block over from where the gunfight actually took place. When newspapers around the Country initially picked up the story, they had been told that the gunfight had occurred, “… at the West End of the OK Corral, in a Vacant Lot that served as an exit, out back.” Thoroughly confused and without a confident geography of the area, the newspaper men shorted that description to simply, The OK Corral. Thus, for many years, even before John Sturges’ film, Gunfight at the OK Corral, the street fight in Tombstone was known under the aforementioned monicker, in print all over the world.
This illustration gives one a general idea of the size of the street, and how the fight spread out and quickly — and also the general location of the buildings. Though the the size of the lot is misrepresented as being much larger than the acknowledged 18 ft. width, and the corner of Third Street is erroneously represented as being far closer to the melee than it actually was. (Please Note: the Telegraph Pole at right was several yards further from Harwood’s House, than represented here.) Also, none of the citizens present in the street that day, are represented. But the illustration does give a certain perspective, with it’s bird’s-eye view of the incident.
A very interesting “authenticated” photo of Virgil Earp when he was 19 years old. Many years before the incidents in Tombstone, Arizona.
A blow-up of one individual in a photograph taken of the dedication of the Tombstone Engine Co. No. 1, in the summer of 1881. It is believed by some to be Wyatt Earp.
Another “authenticated” photo, this one of Morgan Earp, taken shortly before the events in Tombstone.
And a photo of Allen Street in Tombstone, around the early 1900’s. (This was the street the actual OK Corral was located on, one block over.) Notice the board (plank) sidewalk running through the dirt. This is the style of walk that remained prominent all over town, well into the early 20th Century. It is this style of sidewalk which originally stretched in front of the Vacant Lot between Harwood’s House, and Fly’s Boarding House and Photographic Studio. Morgan Earp was standing on a walk just like this one, facing the men in that lot, alongside his brothers and John “Doc” Holiday, when the shooting began.
Anniversary of the James-Younger Gang’s failed robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota
Been a while, hasn’t it. I’ve been so busy with work, I haven’t had a chance to update this blog. But as of today, that is changing.
What follows will be the first of three posts, commemorating the Anniversary of the James-Younger Gang’s very badly planned and executed robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, on September 7th, 1876. Over the next three weeks, I will be presenting the “revised” Chapter (9) from my book Western Legend — which greatly details this historical incident.
This Chapter has been revised incorporating new sources, only recently made available by the State of Minnesota, and the Northfield Historical Society.
So, without further adieu or pomp and pageantry, I give you …
Chapter 9 — Northfield
In addition to some truly inaccurate ramblings found in a multitude of period dime novels, the September, 1876 incident in Northfield, Minnesota has been depicted on film and television many, many times. Most notably in the 1940’s with The True Story of Jesse James, the 1970’s with The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, and in the 1980’s as both an action center piece in the film, The Long Riders, and an interesting episode of the ‘mysteries of the unexplained’ style television show, In Search Of. But all such depictions have been produced for the purpose of entertainment, and generally eschew the complexity of the incident, without delving into the finer details of the robbery. And while it’s true that a handful of recent cable television recreations have focused on portraying the incident with definitive accuracy (such as The History Channel’s Shootout,) limitations in such productions have illustrated the bank robbery in a manner which strays from the facts and inserts false details into the general narrative. And to make matters worse, a routine internet search reveals numerous, somewhat expected inaccuracies far too frequent to mention here.
In lieu of this, and for the purpose of attempting a relative degree of accuracy in respect to an attempted bank robbery now more than a Century old, this author has first consulted the recollections of Frank James, and for further clarification, the two most regional newspaper reports to be printed within days of the “affray.” The first of these being Northfield’s own Rice County Journal, and the second being the Winona Daily Republican, from the distant but regional town of Winona County, Minnesota. These accounts were made first- or second-hand, by journalists who were either eye-witnesses themselves, or who rushed to Northfield in the aftermath of the incident, and spoke directly with eye-witnesses directly involved. For obvious reasons, reports from these papers have been utilized, as opposed to accounts printed in other well-known, distant publications, such as The Pioneer Press and Tribune, The San Francisco Examiner, or The Chicago Tribune.
I have also utilized documents recently made available on-line by the Minnesota Historical Society. These include statements made in 1897 by Frank J. Wilcox, D.J. Whiting, John Morton, P.S. Dougherty, and W.H. Riddell. Said statements were made to the parole board when Cole Younger was lobbying for his release from prison. I have additionally consulted Cole Younger’s own personal recollection printed in The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself. But use of this information has been tempered with the understanding that Younger distorted certain facts, in an attempt to further leverage his attempt at securing parole, and also to protect Frank and Jesse James.
Finally, although supplementary conclusions have been drawn with the assistance of a handful of internet pages, these have been carefully selected. This information was helpful in taking an aggressively convoluted event and reverse-engineering it into a clearer narrative. And also helped pepper what follows with further details, colorizing an otherwise static moment in history.
* * * *
Setting the stage: two weeks before the fateful day, two of the men involved visited a local man named John Mulligan, residing approximately two and half miles west of Northfield. Both men claimed to be “prospecting for land,” and opened an impromptu negotiation with Mulligan for his homestead. After a brief argument, they apparently agreed on a price. It is not recorded whether this was a legitimate and mutual negotiation, or whether this was a negotiation conducted with the use of intimidation. Certain members of the James-Younger Gang were known for using bullying tactics to get what they wanted. And given that none of the gang would have been interested in sticking around after having robbed the local bank, this meeting is suspected to be a confrontation.
The men stated that part of their currency was in another bank in the town of Red Wing, located on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, and that the remaining amount would be raised soon. It was also later confirmed that four horses had been purchased in Red Wing on August 21st from a P. Watson, together with equipment such as blankets, rain coats, etc.
Next the men quizzed Mulligan on the subject of the nearby city of Northfield, the “general character of her people,” and whether they were a “peace-loving people.” Their rational for this line of questioning reportedly being, that they preferred to “…cast their lot with such people.”
When Mulligan described the town and its citizens with apparent accuracy, one of the two men declared, “Why, according to your statement of (sic) Northfield people, a very few men so inclined could capture the town, couldn’t they?”
“Of course they could,” Mulligan replied.
The men held Mulligan at bay for some time. Further questioning him about local roads and where they led, and local woods and how far they extended.
Eventually, though, the two men left and never returned.
* * * *
Within a week or so later, two men arrived in Northfield around midday; hitching their horses at posts a few feet north of an establishment known locally as Mr. Trussell’s Brick Block, or Trussell’s Corner. Moseying over, the larger of the two men sparked a conversation with Trussell, who was in process of selling a plow to a local farmer named Mr. Jones. The larger man reportedly did all the talking, questioning Trussell and his patron, Mr. Jones, for around half an hour. The larger man-made inquiries about the roads in the area, specifically the road to St. Peter. Trussell admitted that the better route was through Faribault, and so on, but due to the manner of the two men, Trussell was immediately suspicious. In fact, feelings of intimidation were described by all who entered into conversation with these men, with their manner being described as almost confrontational.
The Night of the sixth of September, four of the men attempted to gain lodging at the home of a certain Mr. Ross. Unable to accommodate them, Ross simply directed them to search for lodgings in town. Instead, the men later found accommodation with a Mr. C.C. Stetson, three miles south of town, on the road to Faribault.
On the morning of the seventh, the very day of the bank raid, an African-American man named Walter Lewis drove from the nearby town of Dundas. Arriving at Trussell’s Corner at approximately ten in the morning, he mentioned to Trussell that he had seen four men on horseback exiting the woods and coming toward town. And specifically, he remarked that they looked suspicious. This would seem conclusive proof that many around the area of Northfield were aware of these men as a potential threat, or at the very least, a curiosity. And also, that such a view had been disseminated among numerous local residents within just a few days time.
Moments after being seen by Walter Lewis, the four men rode into town, two by way of Division Street and two by way of Water Street. One hitched his horse near the bank, and waited. The other hitched his horse near Trussell’s Corner as he had the previous week, and proceeded to pace past the bank to a business known as Misses’ Whittier & Balch’s Store.
Then, he suddenly did an about-face, and hastily walked back.
For the second time, Trussell observed the strange behavior of these men, and now filled with suspicion, followed on the opposite side of the street, passing Dampier House—a hotel. But another man named Elias Hobbs—reportedly the town Marshall—assured Trussell that the men were cattle buyers, and in response, the second of the two supposed cattle buyers remarked to Trussell that he was “too suspicious.”
Sometime between eleven and noon, two men crossed the 4th Street Bridge to dine at J. G. Jeft’s Restaurant. An establishment located on the North side of the Cannon River, and in the near vicinity of the local railroad station and Ames Mill. After each of the men had finished off a plate of ham and eggs, their party left—and two other men arrived to take their place. All four were said to be dressed noticeably alike, in their long, glowing duster coats, with their pants tucked into their boots. And Mr. Jeft himself noted that their horses were, “…sleek and clean-limbed, and showing indications of good blood.”
It was sometime later, when the two n had a drink at John Tosney’s saloon on the west side of town. One had wine, the other whiskey, both drinking lightly. Meanwhile, two additional men visited the Exchange saloon on the east side of the river, with both consuming whiskey.
Ascertaining just how many of the men had actually entered town at this point, was then, and is still today, difficult. But their repeated presence speaks volumes in respect to just how conspicuous these experienced bandits had actually made themselves. In fact, conspicuous would be a rather powerful understatement, something all eight of the men may not have been conscious of.
That afternoon, the full complement of men, again, all in long prairie linen “Ulster” duster coats light beige or white in color, fine suits, and hats—huddled and squatted in a field of grass, “two or three miles” away from the 4th Street Bridge. These coats were essentially “cavalry style” stockmen coats, and were complete with a short cape. They conferred over one of two maps they’d procured weeks earlier. The first, a pocket map of larger Minnesota, and the second, a hand-drawn map of Northfield reportedly purchased from a bookstore in another town. A map which crudely evidenced the placement of major streets, a few businesses, the bridge itself, and prominently, The First National Bank of Northfield.
As later reported by both Cole Younger and Frank James, little was said. And what words were spoken, were done so quietly. The vote was merely taken. And the majority agreed to rob the bank. Then, one of the robbers removed an expensive pocket watch from his person, thumbed open the cover, and revealed the time to everyone. It was now one-fifty in the afternoon. They were ready.
In addition to earlier forenoon visits made to local saloons, the men had also perused local hardware stores, gauging the town’s potential weapons ordinance. Afterward, they had generally roamed around for a couple of hours, killing nothing more than time. And they had been further observed by Mr. George E. Bates, who later remarked, “Four nobler-looking fellows I never saw, but there was a reckless, bold swagger about them that seemed to indicate that they would be rough and dangerous fellows to handle.”
Having regrouped here, the men now deliberated whether or not to “make a go” for the bank. And their reasons for choosing this town, and this bank, remain debatable even today. Through interviews and scuttlebutt, various surviving members of the gang later cited two motives. The first being a deep-rooted hatred retraced to two prominent generals of the Union Army: Benjamin Butler and Adelbert Ames—and their connections to the bank. Ames—as in Ames Mill—had actually owned stock in the bank, and the fact that he’d recently relocated to Northfield was reprinted in several regional newspapers. As for Butler—hatred in his direction went deep. He also held political views the men violently opposed. And according to Cole Younger, his party believed both men had money in bank at Northfield. It was eventually revealed that Ames did have money in the bank, Butler did not.
The second motive centers on hearsay that gang member William Chadwell had prior knowledge of Northfield as a result of having been a previous resident. And though that alone could have been the decisive factor in the town being chosen as a target of opportunity, it’s also possible that Chadwell’s prior knowledge came from him only having served as a scout for the gang’s recent activity in the area.
Regardless of the catalyst—this was their decisive moment.
The men had allegedly attempted another bank robbery in the regional town of Mankato, only to abort. And it’s probable that by now, all were running low on currency, and in need of further finances. Each had money squirreled away someplace for sure, but getting at it was another matter.
It has additionally been suggested that the principal loot from their many successful heists was in actuality being diverted to a covert Southern cause; a group still bitter over the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox, and the outcome of the War in general. This reveals the possibility that these men were not merely thieves, but terrorists as well.
* * * *
Frank sat in the saloon in Nacogdoches, contemplating a chosen point-of-view for his tale. He took a long breath, and blew it out, puffing his cheeks.
After a beat, he finally nodded and addressed the room. “Now keep in mind,” He said, “We were experienced at this, and nothing like what I’m about to tell you, had ever happened to us before. So, if I had been there, here’s the truth behind the umm … the legend, if you will.”
He looked down at the four boys, and started with, “There were eight of us.”
* * * *
Eight men mounted eight horses and fell into formation in three separate detachments. The first comprised of three men, then two, then three again. After spacing these detachments apart by roughly forty yards, the first five men nonchalantly rode forward to where they could see much of Mill Square beneath them. A horseshoe-shaped blending of two dirt streets, Division and 4th; also known as Bridge Square due to its approximation to the 4th Street Bridge.
The initial detachment included the first of the two James Brothers—both were reportedly favoring a mustache, and were difficult to tell apart—Samuel George Wells (alias Charlie Pitts,) and Robert (Bob) Ewing Younger. The three rode on, passing Ames Mill, crossing over the 4th Street Bridge, and riding down into the Square.
Splitting up rather quickly, these three horsemen were seen taking alternate routs toward a mutual destination. While two took the long way around, eventually arriving at the bank via the opposite end of Division, the third simply followed 4th directly across the Square. And when all three arrived, they tied their horses to hitching posts in front of the bank, and strolled several yards alongside the large Scriver Building to the corner of Lee & Hitchcock Dry Goods Store. One sat atop a dry-goods box stacked there, while the others leaned against the banister of a staircase that ran up the side of the building diagonally. This large, prominent building faced Division to the South, and along with other businesses, housed the bank.
Catching sight of the three men, a few local citizens took second and even third glances at them. Their appearance was remarked as, “marvelous”.
J.S. Allen and Sons — Allen remarked, “Who are these men; I don’t like the looks of them.” Allen then crossed the street, returning to Lee and Hitchcock’s, while
The aforementioned George E. Bates, and another man, C.O. Waldo, a “commercial traveler” from Council Bluffs, were standing in the doorway of Bates’ Store located across the street when the men rode in. Bates and Waldo had a brief, trivial discussion regarding the appearance of the men, whom town scuttlebutt had labeled cattle buyers. And even took note of their fine horses. Mr. Bates and Mr. Waldo made nothing more of it, and withdrew to the far end of Mr. Bates’ establishment to look over sample trusses. (Structural frameworks designed to hold up a roof or building corner.)
A dentist named D.J. Whiting, was at this moment inside his office, up the steel staircase of Scriver Building. He happened to look out the window and spotted the three men at the bottom of the stairs. And one of them was using his finger on a dry-goods box to illustrate a plan for the others to follow. Mr. Whiting was suspicious, but shrugged it off and returned his attention to his afternoon work.
* * * *
Elsewhere, the second detachment, including Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger and William McLelland “Clell” Miller, was now stationed a few feet behind the Bridge. Cole turned his head, and nodded at the men of the last detachment, several yards back. The nod was reciprocated by one of the three men.
Years later, Younger credited this “third man” as “Woods.” Research has revealed that both Jesse and Frank appear to have used the aliases, “Woodson,” and “Howard” on numerous occasions, and even appear to have traded them routinely, so as to confuse specific identity, in case said aliases were discovered.
Cole snapped his pocket watch shut; nodded to Clell.
And with that, the two galloped across the bridge into town.
But something wasn’t right. Crossing Bridge Square, Cole noted that the area at the corner of Scriver Building, and Division Street beyond, was rather crowded.
“Surely the boys will not go into the bank with so many people about; I wonder why they did not ride on through town.” He commented to Clell.
Younger later stated that the initial three men couldn’t see any saddled horses visible, and assumed this would be to their advantage. That was the factor that convinced the initial three to go ahead with the robbery, even though the streets were far too crowded to ever get away with it.
On the sidewalk in front of Lee & Hitchcock’s, J.S. Allen was again looking over the first three men habitating around the dry goods boxes just beyond the corner, when he suddenly heard horses. He turned to see the second detachment of men crossing the square, headed toward the bank. Allen quietly remarked to another, “I think they are here to rob the bank.”
The first three men took note of the second detachment approaching, instantly slid from the dry goods boxes, and began walking toward the bank.
Cole and Clell slowed their horses, approaching Division Street.
Clell commented simply, “They are going in.”
“If they do the alarm will be given as sure as there’s a Hell, so you had better take that pipe out of your mouth.” Cole instructed.
Clell dumped the tobacco from his pipe.
Now J.S. Allen, in apron, walked a few steps to the very spot where the first three men had been seconds earlier. From that vantage point, Allen watched as the first detachment of men entered through the wide open folding doors of the bank—and then watched as those doors were suspiciously left open.
It took a beat for it to sink in. But once it had, Allen slowly moved past the corner of the dry goods store, and began walking toward the bank. He looked around the street and saw a few others looking toward the bank as well. His breathing quickened, and incrementally, his pace quickened.
From his second floor window of Scriver Building, D.J. Whiting grew more suspicious when he saw Cole and Clell ride around the corner of Scriver Building onto Division—with Cole looking back over his shoulder, across the square. Cole was catching a glance of the last detachment of three men—the Second James Brother, James Hardin Younger, and William Chadwell—cross over and take position at the foot of the Bridge.
Whiting now watched as Cole and Clell parked their horses directly in front of the bank.
The voice of a citizen was distantly heard, shouting, “It’s a St. Albans Raid!” But due to the sound of street traffic, few heard this muffled plea.
Meanwhile, inside the First National Bank, Charlie Pitts, Bob Younger, and the first James Brother pulled their heavy pistols and rushed the bank counter. The first man immediately hurtled directly through a narrow two-foot teller’s window, flanked by a thirty-inch-high glazed rail. While the other two men jumped upon the counter and squatted, preparing to pounce. Their heavy boots left lasting scuff-marks on the counter, which remain visible today. Each man quickly extended an arm and placed the barrel of his pistol close to the head of one of three— Joseph Lee Heywood, seated upon a cashier’s seat at the far right end of the counter, Alonzo E. Bunker, and Frank J. Wilcox, both seated at the adjoining counter to the left.
“Throw up your hands, for we intend to rob the bank, and if you holler we will blow your God Damned brains out!” barked Charlie Pitts.
“Which of you is the cashier?” The James brother demanded.
Heywood was defiant, and said, with almost disinterest, “He’s not in.”
Instantly, the two men upon the counter jumped down and got close enough that the bankers could smell the alcohol on their breath.
Out on the noisy street, Cole dismounted and made out like he was tying his saddle girth, watching traffic in the eighty-foot-wide thoroughfare. Meanwhile Clell, sporting a white linen handkerchief around his neck, a new shirt with gold sleeve-buttons, a matching gold ring, and a John Hancock felt hat, began re-packing his pipe, now completely unconcerned. No one on the street seemed at first to sense that anything was amiss.
Cole’s head swiveled around and he quickly perceived that the bank’s folding doors were still open. It was only a matter of time before someone on the street overheard what was going on inside. So he instructed Clell to get off his horse and close the doors.
Clell finished lighting his pipe, dismounted, and walked up and took a step inside the bank to notify the men they had left the door open. He closed the door, and then leaned against a hitching post.
Cole mounted his horse, and rode further down the street and back, hoping to quell any suspicion.
W.H. Riddell, who owned a store almost directly opposite the bank, had a customer come up to him, “before any kind of an alarm had been given,” and report that something suspicious was going on over at the bank. Riddell, guardedly exited his establishment into the wide expanse of Division Street, looking over the men parked in front of the bank, and watching J.S. Allen as he approached the bank on the sidewalk.
On the same side of the street as Riddell, and on the porch of Wheeler & Blackman’s drugstore, twenty-two year old Dr. Henry M. Wheeler was seated in his father’s rocking chair, talking to a couple of friends. As his gaze fell upon the street, they locked on Cole and Clell. For the second time, Cole dismounted. Now both men were standing near their horses, suspiciously ranging the street around them.
Without saying a word, Wheeler stood and stepped into the street—and soon spotted J.S. Allen moving closer to the bank, evaluating the bank with profound interest.
Inside the bank, there was only chaos.
The three robbers were repeatedly accosting the three bank employees with, “You are the cashier,” each time provoking a denial out of Heywood, Bunker, and Wilcox.
Back outside, Wheeler continued moving slowly across the street, glaring at Cole. Cole instantly turned his back to him, so Wheeler focused on Clell. Anyone could see that Clell Miller needed a shave. But many initially missed that in spite of Miller’s finer clothes, he was wearing two different types of boot—one of finer leather, the other a cheap brand. Wheeler was starting to put it all together now. Clell spotted Wheeler staring at him, and spun around. Wheeler continued walking. He wanted to see inside that bank.
Instinctively, Cole re-mounted his horse.
J.S. Allen arrived at the bank’s folding doors, and reached out to open them—and Clell Miller’s gloved hand reached out and closed them again, softly. Instantly, Clell grabbed Allen by his collar, pulling him close. Allen’s gaze was filled with Clell’s blue eyes. Then it was filled with the muzzle of the bandit’s .44 caliber pistol. The men were hidden by the two horses.
“What’s happening here?” Allen demanded.
“Don’t you holler,” Clell said in heavy whisper past his pipe, “If you do, I’ll blow your damned head off.”
Allen caught his breath and backed off quickly, and ran around the corner of the Scriver Building, shouting, “Get your guns, boys, they’re robbin’ the bank!”
Behind them W.H. Riddell shouted, “Robbers at the bank!”
And Wheeler shouted, “Robbers in the bank!”
Many citizens in the street were reportedly confused. They were expecting a circus in town, and at first assumed this was part of the promotion for that venue.
In the bank, Bob Younger ordered Bunker and Wilcox on their knees and demanded the location of the cash drawer. “Where is the money outside the safe?”
Wilcox pointed, and Bunker showed Bob to a box on the counter. Bob Younger opened the drawer, finding only a roll of nickels; which he promptly removed and dropped with a clunk to the floor.
Cole came galloping back down the street, drew his pistol, and shouted at Riddell, “Get in there, you God-damn Son-of-a-bitch!” Then charged Wheeler, shouting “Get off the street! Get out of here, dingus!”
Cole reportedly then fired a volley of shots over the heads of both men.
Riddell retreated to his store, while Wheeler ran to the Dampier Hotel, screaming, “ROBBERY! ROBBERY!”
TO BE CONTINUED …
It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything here, I had almost forgotten about this blog. Got an IT assignment at GE through Robert Half, starting May 1’st. And I’ve been toiling away since then, hoping for the best at the end of my three-month contract assignment. (Hoping to go permanent, but you never know with these companies) Hell, they even gave me an office; what do I have to complain about. Moving on, my contract with Whiskey Creek Press as publisher of Western Legend expires in July, and I am anticipating not extending it. Book didn’t really do as well as I’d hoped, and I get the feeling that I chose the wrong genre. While I love westerns, I seem to be in the minority there. And what I really love writing is a good adventure story, in any genre.
Sooooo, you can expect some changes here soon. Western Legend will probably wind up being republished as a self published e-book, and possibly a limited edition softcover. Naturally, the book’s cover will change, along with the focus of this blog. That will need to happen, allowing for two books, possibly three to co-exist in the sidebar and menus here. The first, of course, being the western, and the second and third being of other genres. I hope those who enjoyed my writing the first time around will stick with me into new territory. I write just as well in any format, genre and general state of mind. And I’m really planning something distinctive.
For now, please know I have NOT abandoned this blog. Just been busy working and taking care of other business.
Very busy. As you can plainly see.
My book is now being featured on a web site that promotes mainly novels of western heritage. Good attention if you can get it. It’s only a synopsis and a link to Amazon, and I’m sure everyone following this blog has seen that a thousand times by now LOL but check it out anyway. Perhaps you’ll like the website and cruise around a bit.
I’ve done writer’s conferences a lot; done a lot of those things. And writers talk at conferences. In panel rooms, waiting in line to pitch projects or get coffee, tidying up in the restroom, having a drink in the hotel bar; everywhere really. And one of the things I’ve heard repeated by writers over and over again, is a certain discussion about the tricky task of altering their story. More specifically, editing without altering the parameters of one’s own story too much. Changing something that intentionally alters a bit of framework here or there, or a little something which can completely change the focus, without destroying what has been created. In other words, “fixing” something, without being accidentally self-destructive.
And after hearing this discussion jump from one person to the next, and from one room to the next, I realized there’s a certain ongoing anxiety among many, many writers when it comes to this topic. It’s a fear some writers live with, and thus feel the need to talk about with anyone they feel can relate to it. They describe it like being given a small box and being told to keep it on a shelf and not to open it, and if you can do that — you will be rewarded. How many people do you honestly know, crazy or not, who can live with that little scenario for an extended period of time ? That’s the type of thing that could eventually drive a person bugfuck crazy. It sounds like Chinese water torture. Or something worse.
Writers often regard changing anything already written, a very big gamble. Or at least sacrilege; that’s a given. But changes often do need to be made to streamline or clarify the work. For example, I worked on the Introduction to Western Legend for a very long time, just trying to get it right. There was one version, which went on page after page, and for so long, that I eventually realized it was just another prologue and way to much for the reader to take in — and so I simply removed it, altogether. Then there were other drafts. All of which introduced the story from various distinctive points-of-view.
They were all interesting, but it became obvious after a protracted interval, that I would have to settle on a much briefer introduction of some kind. Mainly to allow the reader more immediate access the story. And while the completed and printed introduction seems to have worked, I really miss some of those initial concepts. The very last of which, and the introduction I almost used (see below,) described an old photograph, and the untold story behind that photograph. This aspect of my introduction did not survive to the final draft, though the creation of a such a photograph as described did survive to be included in a single chapter.
The reason I removed this ? The larger story structure didn’t really need it; too much fat.
But for some, strange reason, I miss it anyway. Like an amputated limb. And I wonder if I inadvertently opened the box.
The image had not been seen for many years.
It had been publicly displayed only once before; sometime around 1915 in the window of a local bookshop. A great deal of immediate controversy had followed, and rather hastily, the photograph had been permanently removed from any form of exhibition. An action reportedly attributed to a universal sense of fear and dread on the part of the township.
It had been visible for only a single day. And after that, the image vanished from sight for generations. Some even claimed the infamous “picture” had been destroyed. While further gossip suggested that the image had simply been stowed away in an attic somewhere; though curiously, no one could ever seem to remember exactly where.
Decades passed, and selective memory issues reportedly plagued the population during those years when The Charleston was en vogue, the Second World War raged, and “flower power” reigned. Elements of the story traveled the sewing circles for sure; with many viewing such incidentals as nothing more than conjecture. Those in-the-know, however; those who were witnesses, to at least some of it, if not much of it — remembered well the full story behind the so called, “picture.” They would never forget. And among them, all agreed it was inexorable that the image would one day re-emerge. One day, they would say, scrutiny will scrape away layers of bullshit, revealing an astonishing truth.
And in the high summer of 1979, that is exactly what happened.
Only weeks following the death of legendary western movie star John Wayne, the photograph was discovered by a local family preparing an estate sale. Not instantly realizing what they had, and exceedingly curious, the owners promptly dusted and cleaned the heirloom, before inviting a local television crew to tape a human interest piece about it.
Within mere hours, viewers would sit entranced before television sets all over town. The effect the ghostly image had on the public was that instantaneous; hypnotizing anyone who laid eyes on it; young and old. The eighty-year-old photograph, a remarkable antique window into a lost era, had become a sensation trumping any other aspect of pop-culture.
The image itself, a large Gelatin silver black-and-white print (now yellowing like so many other prints of its age,) measured approximately twenty-seven by fifteen inches around the aging, wooden frame. Birthed of a photographic process which reportedly involved elaborate prepping, developing, and printing methods, the result clearly evidenced that the Photographer had both: A) considered this “specific moment” of very profound interest, and B) had somehow determined this, in advance.
Viewing the image more carefully, the aspect which always grabbed the attention first, was the angle. The photograph appeared slightly crooked, as if the picture taker had either been nervous, or hurried. Then, when peering deeper, through cracked glass at the central area of the image, four majestic figures stood out. Portrayed with light and shadow, these four men favored a group of children, who appeared to see them off at the local train station.
And although from a distance, even the larger details were a definite curiosity, the area of the image which finally mesmerized — the part of the photograph which hypnotized — featured the distant, spooky eyes of a single individual. A prominent figure draped in a long, white linen duster and black slouch hat.
The only initial clue to the photographs origin, as well as the identity of the participants, had been some inked writing on the reverse; which read: “Virgil, Jim, Frank, Tom, and the boys — taken by local photographer, Phillip Lee Hollis, using his brand new mail-ordered box-make camera, November 20, 1899.”
Seasons would change, and in time, an aura of electrifying mystery would grow around the legendary photo’s presumed origin. Talk of the image would rip through discussions across the entire region, like an air-born virus. And when finally cemented as a genuine source of East Texas pride, the community’s aging citizens would find their long held attitudes toward the infamous image, changing. In fact, those who had survived, era after era, agreed it was time for the world to know. After all, the eyes had it.
The story presented here recounts a minor episode of some historical importance. An incident concerning men of general personage–emeritus to their former positions as active participants in the Wild West–waging battle with a full company of violent cattle thieves in the County of Nacogdoches, Texas, at the turn of the Twentieth Century.
Since the task of elucidating any unknown part of history is never an easy one, and taking into account that much of this isn’t recorded in very many places outside of Texas, anyway–everything depicted has been thoroughly researched, fact checked, and triple checked, for the purpose of communicating what newsman Carl Bernstein has called: the best obtainable version of the truth.
The narrative has been constructed using a variety of County and State Records readily available from various libraries and historical societies. Referenced materials have included: court transcripts, medical reports, County Sheriff’s reports, land ownership records, relevant newspaper items, audio tape histories, affidavits made out by eye-witnesses, and a handful of maps and historical photos.
Please check the Bibliography for further clarification.
The author has chosen to inaugurate with the most violent in a handful of incidents, all existing as prologue to the larger episode fully represented here, and all involving the theft of livestock. This sadistic attack on a local farmer was described by one anonymous citizen as, “…the damn near death of a poor young Irish feller known well by the community as Tommy Henderson.”
Sales of e-books are booming with the a thunder-crack, that’s no secret. Electronic books read on computers and e-readers currently account for 20% of all book sales. And it has been projected that sales will climb within the next year or two, giving the e-book equal standing among print formats, and eventually creating very lopsided sales figures in the opposite direction. And that’s across the board, we’re talking world-wide.
In a year when Border’s Bookstore and Apple iPad innovator Steve Jobs both died, and a year that saw Amazon’s Kindle e-reader become their best selling product of the entire year (remember, it was only introduced late in the last quarter of the year, ) books delivered electronically have taken over pop-culture, to a degree that they’ve actually pushed aside all comers. And they’ve also relegated marketing for traditionally printed books to a diminutive status. Flipping the business model of just a few years ago.
The e-book — a digital print file typically available for your perusal in file formats that match the devices they are being sold for — has completely embedded itself in our culture. And some people have benefited enormously from this phenomenon. One very lucky writer made over $300,000 (before taxes) off the sale of approximately 800,000 e-books. And when analyzing the cultural impact of the e-book, be aware that things have changed so radically and so quickly, that even college students are now being allowed to download and bring to class textbooks on e-readers. Something many of us would have been kicked out of school for had we tried it in our own youth.
Soooo many people fought this massive alteration in our literature climate. And now their vain efforts have become unintentionally comical. I, myself, balked at the e-book “revolution.” Like so many others, I assumed it would be a fad. Who wouldn’t prefer to hold an actual book in their hands ? Who wants to trust this new electronic format for delivery of a product ? What if something goes wrong and my payment gets lost, then what ? … However … when I found it impossible to be published any other way, I went the way of submitting my novel Western Legend to e-book publishers — and got 9 responses within two weeks. Since then, I’ve become more acclimated to both the format and the industry, and like so many others, my disposition has changed radically.
The e-book is here to stay. And I need to get back to work.
I have been away from this blog for a bit due to other responsibilities. And I haven’t really had sufficient time to plan a solid blog post, so below you will find Chapter 5 from Western Legend. This Chapter takes place in the first third of the story, and involves a local Sheriff and a retired Texas Ranger doing their best to ease tension among an angry crowd of local citizens; all of whom are disturbed by the recent arrival of some very controversial persons in a local saloon.
btw I promise to work on something really outstanding for next week.
Chapter 5 — Committee
One street over, Armstrong was following the Sheriff into a small office dressed with little more than a desk and a gun cabinet. The room measured a mere twenty-five feet by twenty-five feet, and was currently packed to the pine walls with an irate crowd of more than eighty citizens from all around the surrounding community, creating an incredible commotion that left “The Major” singularly stunned.
Multiple voices were overlapping, mostly arguing and shouting in various languages with a good portion of the accents echoing former nationality, slightly corrupted by Southern vernacular. Among them Armstrong discerned Swedish, German, Irish, French, and Scottish; with none, he perceived, being more than a single generation distant from another hemisphere.
He glanced about, taking in the raised fists, the strained, shouting red faces, and correctly surmised that this “mob” was simply the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce. There were those who had influence, those who had prominence, and most vocally, those directly affected by the community’s current crisis with livestock rustling. And the most vocal of them all, was the rancher everyone knew as Charlie. Ensconced behind the Sheriff’s desk, he prompted the room by shouting inciting comments, which many in the crowd in turn repeated in total agreement. And with Charlie mediating, this was quickly becoming a full-blown vigilance committee, aimed squarely at the men now gathered in the saloon.
“By God…” Armstrong simply whispered. He was taken aback — almost flustered.
But the Sheriff … well, this was his town and these were his people. He may not be experienced in other matters, but he knew how to manage, and even command, an out-of-control mob. Without hesitation, or even a hint of weakness, Sheriff Alton Thompson easily pushed his weight through the crowd. He bullied past the wanted posters adorning the walls, around the locked rifle case, and commanded the rancher with a heavy cadence, “Get the hell out from behind my desk, Charlie!”
“Fine,” Charlie whined. “You’re the Sheriff! Do your job!”
The sound of the crowd diminished to heavy whispering.
“Sheriff,” the local hardware store owner spoke up, “this here’s the official committee for the people who wanna know what in the hell’s going on over there!”
Suddenly, the room was filled with loud agreement.
“And we have a right to know,” the store owner added, bringing even louder agreement.
“Now hold up!” the Sheriff shouted. “The Earps were sent here by the State to advise on a County matter, and the other men are passing through!”
“Sheriff, them men could be the ones what attacked that Irish boy, and you know it!” Miss Spinners said, conspiratorially.
The crowd became agitated, and the school teacher stepped forward. “Charlie — you found Tommy, what did you see?”
“It was dark,” Charlie said. “And they went in the trees…I didn’t get a look at ’em. Sheriff, they could be the ones!”
“We don’t believe that to be the case,” Armstrong shot back.
“Well I wanna know what you’re gonna do about protecting our livestock!” Charlie shouted.
“We’re investigating!” the Sheriff shouted back at him, “and now that the Earps are here—”
“Well then,” the teacher interrupted, “you won’t mind askin’ those men to prove their loyalty to this town — ” and she slapped the desk six times hard when she said it, “ — by killin’ — the — hell — outta — them — rustlers!”
“Who said rust — ” The Sheriff stopped himself. “That’d be the stupidest thing we could do right now!”
“How?” the teacher retorted. “How is that stupid, Alton? They’ll either say ‘Yes,’ or they’ll say ‘No,’ right? You say they’re not in with them rustlers; then prove you believe it; get off your complacent butt, and go ask ’em for ALLEGIANCE TO THIS TOWN!”
The crowd rallied at this, and someone in the back shouted out, “You put a thief to catch a thief, Sheriff!”
Sitting behind his desk, the Sheriff mumbled with a wavering and uneven voice, “Ohhhhhhh, meee…”
“I hear that Tom Horn fellow is in that establishment,” a local man said in a thick German accent. “All know he to be a killer of the cattle thief.”
“Cattle detective, please, sir,” Armstrong said.
In response, the hardware store owner rattled off, “Ranchers report cow-thieving, Tom Horn gets dispatched, and the outcome is always no more cow-thieving — where’s the detecting in that, Mister?”
The crowd again responded, loudly.
“Let me say it like this!” Armstrong shouted above them, “There are some awfully strong personalities in that saloon — you don’t wanna impose upon them — ”
“I say you go ask for their guns,” Miss Spinners crowed, “That’ll light a fire under the arse of each and every one of ’em.”
The Sheriff instantly shot her a look. “The hell I will.”
“Fine,” the teacher snarled. “So what if they get out of hand, Alton? Do you intend to take any action at all, when that time comes?”
“Stop right there!” the Sheriff said, pointedly.
“Yea and where’s your one Deputy?” Charlie stated, derisively.
“Right behind you, Charlie,” the Deputy said, entering the office. The crowd turned and evaluated a healthy adult man, but every one of them knew it was only one man. And that neither eased their fears, nor placated their anger.
“That’s good! Good!” Charlie shook a fist. “While I’m here in town, I want him out there watching my property and livestock!”
“Why don’t you be smart and get back out there and watch your own damn property and livestock,” the Sheriff said, “instead of gawking at that saloon.”
A man with a strong French accent spoke up from the back of the room. “We need to organize a vigilance court and discourage these desperadoes…” He waved his arm. “…all away from here!”
Again, the crowd rallied, and the Sheriff gave up his hope of calming them.
“That’s enough!” he said, “I don’t want anyone else get-ting hurt. Return to your establishments, homes, wherever you should be on such an afternoon, and don’t concern yourselves further with what goes on in that saloon.” He stared around at the mob and concluded with mock-melodrama, “Rest assured, the desperadoes will be dealt with soon enough.”
The school teacher leaned over his desk and stared him down. “Oh you mean rustlers, Sheriff — I’m sure you do. Quite possibly the same men that killed folks over in Abilene.”
The Sheriff’s eyes narrowed.
She added, “And that’d be Abilene, Texas, Alton — not Abilene, Kansas.”
The room went quiet. He looked like he wanted to shoot her.
Amid the near silence her outburst had created, quiet mutterings of surprise and agreement were beginning. Calmly, the Sheriff pulled his revolver … and the school teacher backed way off. Now, with anger in his eyes, he spun the pistol in his hand, striking the butt against his desk hard and twice, like a gavel.
“Meeting adjourned, people.” His voice was harder now. “Now you best get the hell outta my office!”
“You heard him, people!” the Deputy shouted. “Let’s go, everybody out!” He was ushering and even pushing them out the door.
Armstrong took a seat in the chair next to the Sheriff’s desk and put his feet up. “Damn” was his only comment.
“Good riddance, that’s all I got to say,” the Sheriff said.
The Deputy shut the door, and said, “So I did see Tom Horn ride in this morning?”
“That you did.” Armstrong leaned to shake hands with the younger man. “John Armstrong. Good to meet you, son.”
“Drayton Solly — please, call me Bud.”
“That, I can do. So, Bud, you’re the lone Deputy?”
The Deputy nodded. “Others are fightin’ the war. We have volunteer policemen, and some voluntary Deputies … but not a one of ’em have any experience or grit to ’em.”
“You can say that again,” the Sheriff added. “ At least two of them were just in here with that silly crowd.”
“And some are hell bent on taking up arms, crossin’ that street, and makin’ a name for themselves,” the Deputy said.
The Sheriff began picking crust out of the inner corners of his eyes. “Please don’t tell me that,” he said.
“I told them all to stay away from that saloon,” the Deputy continued. “I catch ’em, they’re going right down that hall.” He was pointing toward jail cells down a dark hallway, at the far end of the office.
“Any of ’em go in that saloon, with said intention, they’ll be going right down that street and straight into Oak Grove Cemetery,” the Sheriff said. “Speakin’ of which, why don’t you head out, keep an eye on the roads. See what you can see.”
The Deputy nodded in acknowledgement, and exited.
“You ready to head back over there?” Armstrong asked the Sheriff.
The Sheriff looked at him, blinked twice. Then he said, “Look at this,” and held out his hand, laterally.
His hand wasn’t trembling. It was vibrating.
Armstrong had a belly laugh that turned his face bright red.
Read more in “WESTERN LEGEND,” by James Allder.
e-book available from Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon.com, and Fictionwise.
Pub. Date: 07/01/2011
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
E-book Now Available for Purchase ►
Written in a literary style known as “false document,” Western Legend tells of an amazing chance encounter in the autumn of 1899 — and the pulp-style high adventure that results from it.
On a bustling Sunday morning, four notorious men have arrived separately in the crowded metropolis of Nacogdoches, Texas. Former outlaw Frank James, lawman Virgil Earp, his brother and confidence artist James Earp, and the cattleman’s assassin, Tom Horn. Recognized instantly, the men ease discord among the populace by seeking respite in a local saloon — and unexpectedly find themselves entertaining adventurous children with two-fisted tales of the West.
Spiriting an honest, forthright effort to convince these impressionable young boys that being notorious isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, the men identify the truth behind “that fancy printed fiction” regarding their legendary exploits, and play down the controversy generally associated with their person.
But as the day wears on, and these western legends learn that a full company of sadistic cattle thieves is terrorizing local citizens, each man wastes no time in volunteering his services to the community. And the subsequent actions of each proves much of “that fancy fiction,” to be true.
EXCERPT: From Chapter 16: Invented for killin’ a man
J.D. rose to his feet and carefully approached the table, looking over the guns resting there.
“Can I hold one?” he asked.
The men around the table were taken aback and stared at him in shock.
“You’re creakin’ on a trestle bridge, boy,” Jim said.
“You wanna hold a six-shooter?” Frank asked. “Not a rifle, made for huntin’, but a pistol—which was invented for killing a man—that’s what you want?”
J.D. nodded, and without hesitation, Frank began unloading his pistol.
Virgil literally bit his lip, and moaned.
Jim said, “Hmmm…Frank, you know that’s not a proper thing—”
Tom’s response came right on top of him. “I’m not sure that’s such a wise idea, Frank. Boy could get the wrong idea from something like—”
“I know what I’m doing!” Frank’s voice boomed over them both.
Tom cleared his throat. “Yes, sir.”
The other men were watching with discomfort as Frank began to hand over the weapon to J.D., then held off for a brief moment. “Now, it’s heavy; supposed to be. Only a man should be holding it. Boy your age tries to fire one of these, and it’ll kick back into your head, and kill ya,” Frank said.
“Which is exactly what should happen if you’re stupid enough to point one at anybody,” Tom said. “You understand, J.D.?”
J.D. hid a smile. “Yes, Mr. Horn.”
Frank looked at J.D. and nodded to the gun as he placed it into the boy’s hands. “Hold it with both hands, so you won’t drop it. And hold it up, like a man. Go on.”
J.D. grasped the heavy instrument with both hands for a moment, before trying to hand it back.
Frank refused it.
“No. Hold it for a minute longer,” Frank said.
The other boys watched as J.D.’s skinny arms started to shake, and he began huffing his breaths instead of simply breathing them.
“I can’t—it’s heavy,” J.D. pleaded.
“I know,” Frank asserted.
J.D. continued to try to hand the weapon back to Frank. Then he tried to hand the weapon to Tom. Both men threw up their hands and waved him off. And J.D. was really shaking.
“Now. What if you could never give it back?” Frank asked.
Desperate, J.D. tried to lift the pistol up onto the table, but couldn’t quite reach the tabletop with the weight of it. Then he started to lower it to the floor, and Frank stopped him.
“Don’t put it down! You can never put it down! You do that, you’re a dead man!”
J.D.’s eyes began to tear up, and finally, Frank reached over and relieved the boy of the burden.
“Good,” Frank said. “Now don’t ever pick up one of these God-damned things again. They’re more trouble than you care to know. You can’t change a leopard’s spots once it’s grown them, boys. I left home, joined the Army, ended up an outlaw…now I can’t really ever go back home. This gun is the reason for that.”
Amazon’s new #KindleFire e-reader was officially released earlier this week, and hot on it’s heels will be Barnes & Noble’s #NookTablet, tomorrow (11/18.) On behalf of potential buyers of these devices, as well as potential readers of my own e-book, I decided to take a look at these fairly affordable devices and compare and contract their attributes. For the casual buyer, I’ll try not to get too technical or redundant.
For a hot minute, the most popular will undoubtedly be the Kindle Fire. At a price point of $199.00, the Fire will make a likely gift for anyone purchasing an inexpensive color e-reader for a friend or loved one. It’s a $300 difference in price from Apple’s iPad. The next thing you need to know is that the Kindle Fire is Wi-Fi ONLY ! That means no cellular access. Although you can read or watch any downloaded content on it without wireless internet access, you will need wireless internet access in order to get the content onto the device. Typically any coffeeshop or bookstore (if there are any left) provides free wireless, but you need to know this in advance of Christmas morning. The positive side, is not having a required monthly cellular subscription tied to your device. Re: the Apple iPad. (Note: Kindle does make earlier model e-readers which do utilize cellular technology; why they have not included it here, has not been explained.)
And Amazon is offering something unique with their tablet — a FREE month of something called “Amazon Prime.” It’s a free one month access to Amazon’s “lending library.” Just like checking out a single book at a time, and reading it, then returning it when your finished. This temporary month of Amazon’s Prime program is designed to get the user hooked on borrowing books, as opposed to buying them. And to demonstrate the ease of ordering product from Amazon.com.
Downside ? While the iPad and the Nook Tablet offer the ability to download books from third party vendors, such as Amazon, etc., the Kindle will only download books from Amazon. (Note to comic book fans: Amazon Kindle has an exclusive deal with DC Comics, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook line now has an exclusive deal with Marvel Comics.) Kindle’s own comic reading app has quickly garnered some negative criticism. Though the Kindle does allow comic book readers to purchase and download the “Comixology” app for reading comic books. Of course, as always, you have to pay through the nose for each comic. The days of 35 cents an issue are long gone. Expect around $4 to $6 per comic book. Which will be a major issue with comics addicts. Most perpetual readers of comic books can easily set up a discount deal at their local comic book store of between 15% and 20%, and save a bundle, in comparison to current digital comics prices.
Getting into the technical specs, the Fire has a 7″ scratch resistant screen, a single power button (everything is done by touch on this device,) a power jack and a headphone jack. And it’s very portable. About the size of one of those lengthy paperbacks you now see on stands. Because it’s in color, you can view magazines and comic books on it. But, the text is often too small and you may prefer to use the Kindle’s “text only” mode for viewing this media. I got around this by simply turning the device sideways. It increases the scope and size of everything. I should also note that I found the Fire curiously too narrow to read a book on, unless turned sideways. Vertically, there are two few words per line and that creates a very bizarre reading experience. This is also a problem with Barnes & Noble’s new Nook device. If reading is your only vice and you have no need of a small tablet to watch the occasional movie on or check your email on, then you might simply prefer the new black & white Kindle Touch.
It’s only $99.00, reportedly 25% faster than the former model, and the screen — though not as long as the Fire — is a bit wider. And after handling it myself, it seems to provide a better reading experience. There is a $79 version, but you have to negotiate pesky, unwanted advertisements on it, and for that reason, I cannot recommend it.
Kindle Fire arrives with a free Netflix application. A software that allows Netflix account users to watch movies and TV direct from an already established account on their tablet. To aid in this, are two small stereo speakers on top of the device, which seem to work well unless in a crowded environment. Please note the Kindle Fire is a standard Definition tablet. NOT HD ! So while you can buy and watch High Definition content on it, you will be watching it in Standard Definition. If you want HD, you will want to go with a higher end tablet like the iPad, or the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Faster than the previous Kindles, the Fire has a duel core 1GHz Processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 full hours of battery life, without utilizing the Wi-Fi. Utilizing Wi-Fi for downloading or surfing, uses more power and drags down the battery life. In fair comparison, the Apple iPad gets 10 hours with Wi-Fi, and the Nook Tablet (which I will be discussing momentarily) gets 11.5 hours of battery life — but like the Fire, that’s with Wi-Fi OFF.
Another negative is that a lot more apps are available for the Apple iPad. But, given the price point, it’s a trade off. Amazon has admitted that they will definitely see losses given the price point of their product. Their base cost for manufacturing each Kindle Fire device, is $210. Therefore, their suggested retail price point should probably be set around $300 — and yet they are selling this item for $200. Keep that in mind.
Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet
The new 7″ Nook Tablet is very similar to the Kindle with some notable exceptions. First off the price point is one dollar shy of fifty bucks more, bringing it up to $249.00. (Note: if you are already a Barnes & Noble member, you get $25 off the price, making the Nook Tablet only $25 more than the Kindle.) But the reason for the price difference becomes obvious with a quick look at the specs. As opposed to Amazon, who are utilizing off the shelf components, Barnes & Noble have elected to optimize their device. With 16 GB of storage, the Nook Tablet has twice the storage capacity of the Kindle Fire, a 1.2GHz Processor, and a full 1GB of RAM. (To be fair to the competition, Amazon offers an on-line storage bay, where everything you buy from them is mirrored and stored permanently. So you can delete it from your tablet and re-add it again, at a later time.) There’s also an SD card slot for an additional 32 GB of storage, should the user choose to upgrade. It also has the free Netflix app — along with Hulu and Pandora, already integrated. As stated in the previous dissection of the Kindle Fire, the Nook’s battery life is 11.5 hours, but it’s also cut down to 9 hrs. when watching movies/TV.
The Nook is also a weightier device. Thicker and heavier. That’s a knock against it. But the screen, despite being laminated for reduced glare, is actually brighter than the Kindle.
Getting back to the subject of reading Comic Books, both the #KindleFire and the #NookTablet come with their own built in comic book e-reader, but both will also allow download of popular comic book reading applications, such as “Comixology” and “Perfect Reader.” Both apps cost around three dollars and have a slight lag in the page turning department, which is surprising given Kindle’s duel core processor. But software updates to remedy this are said to be forthcoming. Actually, if you’re anticipating reading comics on one of these things, I would simply recommend the 10.1 screen size of the larger Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s a big jump in cost, but it’s worth it for reading comics. (Remember that ‘electronic comic book’ idea Tom Hanks character had in the movie “BIG?” The Samsung 10.1 Galaxy Tab is precisely THAT item. The screen is 1280 x 800; perfect for comics.)
A big drawback for the Nook, is that Amazon has a much larger library than Barnes & Noble. And another knock against both, is that neither device has a camera — though the Nook Tablet does have a microphone. Again, if interactive features are more attractive to you for some reason, you might want to go with another tablet, such as the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
In summation, if you’re just going to buy one of these to read books, I would personally recommend the smaller black-and-white Kindle Touch for $99. If you want to also occasionally watch a movie and check your email (when near Wi-Fi,) I would recommend the Kindle Fire. If you’re a student and want to hide the fact that your reading comics, get the Nook Tablet — it’s amazingly smooth at this, due to better processor and memory. And if you can afford a better option, and want full interactivity, including HD video, a camera, a microphone, etc., then I would suggest either the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I hope this information helps you make your decision. Whether you intend to purchase for yourself, or as a gift. However, as always, you should really get out there and physically hold these things “before” purchasing anything on-line.
Amazon’s Link for the Kindle Fire: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Fire-Amazon-Tablet/dp/B0051VVOB2/ref=tsm_1_fb_kin_111114_B0051VVOB2
Barnes & Noble’s Link for the Nook Tablet: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/nook-tablet-barnes-noble/1104687969?cm_mmc=Facebook-_-NOOK-_-product_page-_-acclaim_buy_now
Samsung’s Link for their Galaxy Tab 10.1: http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxytab/10.1/index.html
Apple’s Link for their iPad 2: http://www.apple.com/ipad/
*(The following passage is taken from the novel, “Western Legend.”)
On the evening of September 29th, 2008, a gunfight exploded within a nightclub located in Ciudad, Juarez, in the Mexican State of Chihuahua. According to an article posted the following day at elpasotimes.com, four men were killed in a shootout occurring shortly after midnight. The participants wore western style clothing and cowboy boots, and investigators found a total of fourteen bullet casings at the scene.
The name of the nightclub: “The OK Corral.”
* * * *
Today, over a century of speculation has illuminated, and yet in the same masterstroke, thoroughly convoluted facts surrounding a violent police action occurring in the year 1881. Alternately known as “The Shootout in Tombstone,” and, as taken from the 1957 film title, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, this historical event has evolved into not simply a pop culture cliché, but moreover a narrative terminally fractured in its own era by biased opinions and erroneous hearsay. And though many researchers have drawn solid conclusions concerning the patchwork of conflicting information available, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal pretty much guarantees that almost anyone who studies this history will inadvertently obscure a needed truth. A simple detail, held within an intricacy of riddles, propagating what is arguably the most infamous gunfight in American history.
At the time of this writing, countless television programs either depicting or merely referencing this event have grown so numerous it would be impractical to catalogue them all here. But of relevant interest to the historical narrative retold here, would be certain programs which attempt to professionally analyze the event.
Programs such as those airing on the Discovery Channel and the BBC have independently sought to capitalize in solving this enigma. And their respective methods have varied, wildly. For example, while the Discovery Channel’s Unsolved History: Shootout at the OK Corral employed the services of a seasoned criminologist, the BBC’s The Wild West: the Gunfight at the OK Corral added the use of actors and mock melodrama to assist in visualizing glimpses of court testimony. And regardless of these elaborate efforts, the reliability of the results achieved remains debatable.
Meanwhile, among the many fictional televised depictions, a general example of what pop culture can do to history, would be a peculiar 1968 episode of the third season of the original Star Trek television show. A surrealistic science-fiction interpretation, which passively weighs in by making a number of bizarre assertions, including that the Earps were themselves the criminal element, “…bad mouthin’ somethin’ fierce all over town,” and that “people in this town are counting on you”—the cow-boys—“…to get rid of the Earps for them.” The episode takes a further step into fantasy by referring to Morgan Earp as, “the one who kills on sight.”
The episode also lists the time of the notorious gunfight as five in the afternoon, and humorously places Captain Kirk in the person of Ike Clanton. A rather interesting comparison when taking into account both the iconic Kirk’s gun-slinging personality, and the historical Ike Clanton’s refusal to display such character in the heat of battle.
Closer to the big budget Hollywood front, two motion pictures stand at the head of the class. First up, the enormously popular and successful Tombstone, released in 1993; a film which appears to utilize various themes and scene constructions from the 1957 release Gunfight at the OK Corral, to rather successfully recreate the traditional western as an Epic theme park attraction. And next, Wyatt Earp, released in 1994; a noble attempt at creating a genuine biography, which though somewhat accurate, still utilizes as much of the Earp mythos as anything else ever has.
These two films respectively portrayed the iconic gunfight with minor, intentional inaccuracies. Something any layman can detect with the proper documentation in hand. Though in defense of each, the gunfight was only featured as a dramatic element of plot, re-created with a measured, significant increase in accuracy above what had come before. A meticulous investigation would doubtless have brought production of each film to a standstill.
* * * *
In painting the perspective of Tombstone’s residents at the time of these events, it should be noted that many people—some of whom had seen all kinds of hell in their lifetime and still genuinely regarded this fight a very disturbing event—were aghast at the shooting. A 1929 reenactment staged during a celebration in honor of Tombstone’s Fifty-year Anniversary, called “Helldorado,” prompted former mayor, John Clum, to denounce its inclusion in the celebration. This from the Arizona Historical Review, circa 1930: “The mock street battle between the city police and the rustlers was a grim exhibition that should have been omitted. The spectacle of men engaged in mortal combat is repulsive and distressing.” And he added, “The lamentable clash between the city police and the rustlers on October 26, 1881, occasioned more partisan bitterness than anything else that ever occurred in that community—and traces of that bitterness linger even to this day. There was no justification for the inclusion of that gruesome act in the Helldorado program, and, in my judgment, the mock street fight was reprehensible—even from a Helldorado standpoint.” (Reference 9.)
And while such a statement could have been an earnest attempt at explaining how tasteless the recreation of the gunfight was—thus citing an era example of modern exploitation—it was still a telling, and some said overdue “official statement,” regarding the entire event. And it had finally been made by a person of great prominence in the community.
* * * *
Clearly, the facts behind the most famous officer involved shooting in history have been thoroughly maligned by time itself, making research of everything which follows vital. Therefore, in addition to Virgil’s own remembrance, consultation has been made with County records obtained from both the Arizona Historical Society and the Bisbee County Courthouse. And subsequently, smaller pieces of the puzzle have been explored for comparison by first utilizing the thorough investigative works of author Paula Mitchell Marks—And Die in the West: the Story of the OK Corral, and author Allen Barra—Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends.
Additional interviews given to newspapers by both Virgil and Wyatt have also been analyzed, along with notes made by Alford E. Turner—O.K. Corral Inquest, and a handful of articles available on-line at historynet.com.
* * * *
Virgil leaned forward and dove head-long into a detailed description of the events which lead up to the fight.
“All right…” he began, “You boys know about the Cowboys Gang, right?”
In its infancy, the generalized term “cowboys,” or “Vaqueros” in Spanish, referred to Mexican cattlemen working the plains of Texas, though there is evidence that the term may actually pre-date this. However, by the mid-19th Century the meaning of this term had evolved into a myriad of connotations, one of which applied to men engaged in what by then had become an often sordid occupation—cattle thieving. (Reference 10.)
“Not regular cowboys,” Virgil continued, “But cattle thieves, stage robbers, and the like? Thieves who mostly profited from raiding cattle in one territory, and trading in another; you’ve heard names, I’m sure: the Clantons, the McLaurys, John Ringo, Curly Bill Brocius—and others…
“Well, them Cowboys we had that street fight with, the Clanton and McLaury brothers, made Tombstone their favorite watering hole—and were real trouble. But they kept local merchants prosperous, and flat had the run of the place when we arrived. They were also used to lawmen lookin’ the other way. And my brothers and I didn’t do that. We did our best to run them bastard rascals off. Thus by the time of that fight, Cowboys had threatened our lives and taken it back so much, was just common place.”
“Story goes,” Jim said with one eyebrow comically raised, “Cowboys had a meeting down in a deep, dark canyon at midnight, and drew up a death-list for us Earps, inked in crimson blood!”
The kids all gasped.
Frank shook his head, and hid a smile with his palm.
Tom had his tongue placed firmly in cheek.
Virgil, thoroughly embarrassed, cocked his head in his brother’s direction.
“True,” Jim argued, “Read it—read it myself, Virg.”
“Are you done?” Virgil asked.
“Say what you wanna say, I’ve spoken.”
“Anyhow,” Virgil continued, “As expected, things between us and them Cowboys finally went from bad to worse. Like a snowball headed for hell.”
Virgil briefly described the incident occurring on the night of March 15th, wherein a small compliment of men had attempted to halt and rob the evening stage on its way to Benson, Arizona.
J. D. Kinnear & Company’s Arizona Mail and Stage Line, operated locally out of the Tombstone Wells Fargo & Co. office, and that evening carried tens of thousands of dollars in either silver or currency, or both, dependent on which version you believe.
The attempted holdup went bad immediately, resulting in the deaths of two men aboard—Bud Philpot, the stage driver, and Peter Roerig, a passenger seated precariously upon the rear of the coach. Then, amid the chaos, the bandits panicked and fled into the night, reportedly without ever actually taking possession of the coach’s cash box.
“So Cowboys used Doc Holliday’s name in talk of that. We all knew about this talk goin’ around, but we didn’t know who started it… And though it was common knowledge Cowboys had done it—that talk went all over the territory. The Sheriff—a fella named Behan, a good friend to the Cowboys, but also an instigator of a lot of trouble between us and them—heard Doc and his lady-friend Kate were fightin’ again. Behan found her, got her soused, and tricked her into signing paper stating that Doc had confessed as much to her that he had been involved…”
Mary Katherine “Big Nose Kate” Harony, at one time or another alias Kate Elder, Kate Fisher, and Mary Katherine Cummings, was a known prostitute. And all that has been ascertained regarding the origin of the name “Big Nose,” is that it was not given for a protruding facial appendage. Perhaps she had a penchant for curiosity, and made it her “business” to know everything. That would explain Sheriff Johnny Behan’s interest in her. According to court records and a story in the Daily Nugget, Behan and one of his cronies, county supervisor and owner of the Oriental Saloon, Milt Joyce—supposedly a member of Behan’s notorious “County Ring”—found Big Nose Kate drunken at the bar inside the Oriental Saloon, following yet another row with Holliday. Confirming Virgil’s remembrance, it was testified that they flanked her, fed her as much alcohol as she could intake, and finessed her into signing the aforementioned affidavit declaring Holliday’s involvement in the March stage robbery.
Virgil went on: “When Kate sobered up, she of course recanted. But the damage was done. So Wyatt went to Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury—knowin’ they’d be one’s to know who was really in on the robbery—and he offered to make a deal with those two t’give up the three men responsible. Doc’s name would be cleared of it all, Ike and Frank would share the reward money, and Wyatt would get all the glory.” This was an unorthodox maneuver said to have been an attempt by Wyatt Earp to facilitate a better political position in an upcoming election for County Sheriff. “Turned out that deal suited Ike just fine,” Virgil laughed. “See, Clanton had already taken possession of a ranch belonging to one of the men responsible for the holdup. Ike assumed that dude was long gone. But boys, that man came back, and he demanded that Ike either get off his property, or pay him for it. So when Wyatt made his offer, Ike’s mind did some quick calculations, and came up with a solution to his dilemma. If he assisted Wyatt, the owner of that ranch would get captured…” Virgil added mock excitement to this part, “Or better still, killed!
“And Ike would get to keep the man’s ranch—along with a good portion of that reward money. So, in Ike’s hard head, things was sprucy.”
If the reader judges this to be a perfectly hilarious illustration of the common, brash, and arrogant recklessness of the Cowboys—that reader’s not far off. Researchers are quick to note that excepting Ike’s personal motivation, both he and McLaury knowingly put themselves in danger of being exposed as traitors to their own breed in making such a curious alliance.
Virgil continued by ticking off the first finger on his hand. “There were just two problems. First, it was just a matter of time before the Cowboys’ entire organization found out who gave up their own. Didn’t seem to bother Frank McLaury much, but got under Ike’s skin and festered—turned that man into a worry wart. He knew when them Cowboys found out about his secret deal, he’d be dead in two ticks of a clock.” Virgil ticked off his second finger, “Second…” The next word was spoken with equal caution by both Virgil and his brother—
John Henry “Doc” Holliday was well known for being fearless. And while in part this was due to his terminal illness, tuberculosis, it’s also likely that he suffered from manic depression as well. Hence, he was literally suicidal. When Joseph Isaac “Ike” Clanton took the step of implicating Doc in the stage robbery via gossip, Holliday became a walking, lit powder keg, looking to ignite in Clanton’s face. And everyone, no matter how tough they thought they were, knew never to make John Holliday angry. Not unless you just really wanted to die with him—and real damn soon.
“All kinds of talk was just, all over town. Doc had returned to town few days earlier, and had been looking for Ike for a spell. The night before that fight, he finally found him sittin’ in the Alhambra lunch counter… and if you were within a square mile, you heard what followed.”
* * * *
A favorite pit-stop for many, the Alhambra was a saloon adjoining a neighboring lunch room by a small counter. And by proxy, such dining areas were commonly referred to as “lunch counters,” or sometimes, “lunch stands.” To set the scene, Doc Holliday had possibly seen Joseph Ike Clanton enter the Alhambra lunch counter from somewhere on the street that evening, crossed over and entered to confront him. Wyatt was already seated within the lunch room at the actual counter having a meal, while his brother Morgan was in the saloon next door, talking with the bartender. Doc entered at around one in the morning, his golden-tinted mustache glinting within the candle-light. Catching Ike in the act of sitting down, he exploded, “You SON-OF-A-BITCH COWBOY—get out your gun and get to work!”
Clanton replied that he wasn’t armed, and Doc shouted, “Pull out your gun, if there’s any grit to ’ya, and get to fighting!”
Doc may’ve added a comment about Ike using his name in connection with the Benson stage robbery. Though whatever he said, Ike feigned ignorance of it, and Doc responded with, “You’re a damned liar, and you been threatening the Earp boys, too!”
Again, Ike’s response is argumentative. Between Clanton and Wyatt’s testimony, it’s difficult to ascertain the exact truth of this confrontation. Initially, Ike misstated that the confrontation had taken place in a “lunch stand” located at the Occidental Saloon, which was incorrect. During later testimony, he identified the location as a lunch stand near the Eagle Brewery, somewhere on the North side of Allen Street, which wasn’t true either. Clearly, Clanton was already intoxicated at the time of this incident, and couldn’t be counted on for accurate eye-witness testimony.
According to Wyatt, the shouting lasted three or four minutes. Following that interval, Earp called to his brother Morgan in the adjoining saloon, and suggested that he put a stop to it. Morgan crossed the bar room, and hopped up and sat on the counter. Clanton even claimed that the younger Earp slid his hand inside his vest and kept it there, staring Ike down with a cold glare. Ike said he then turned and saw Doc’s hand under his coat, possibly on a hidden pistol.
Instantly, Ike began crying foul. (Reference 11.)
The confrontation raged on. Ike and Doc continued screaming at one another, and Wyatt again urged his younger brother to deal with the situation. Morgan slid off the counter, grabbed Doc, and dragged him out the door and into the street.
Exiting, Doc shouted, “If you ain’t heeled, go and heel yourself!”
Ike, now angry as hell, followed.
* * * *
“Whole thing spilled out into the street,” Virgil said, “I came out of the Oriental down the street there, and threatened to arrest ’em both, then ordered ’em both to separate. Doc went on to bed, directly…but Ike was rattled. He hung around, told Wyatt he wasn’t fixed right; said in the morning he’d have man-for-man with Holliday. Said fightin’ talk had been going on long enough, was time to fetch it to a close, blah, blah, blah…” Virgil rolled his eyes. “Wyatt told him that he didn’t want to fight anyone if he could help it, because there was no money in it… (Reference 12.)
“Soon after, Ike dealt himself into a poker game with myself, Behan, Tom McLaury and another gent—game went on, rest of the night.”
“Very interesting game of cards.” Frank commented.
“They usually are.” Tom retorted.
“Uhm, hmm.” Frank baited Virgil.
Jim laughed at this. But Virgil merely bit his lip and mumbled, to keep any elaborate commentary from escaping.
“Come sun-up,” he continued, “I was ready to get to bed, so I cashed in my winnings.” Virgil mimicked the following described movement for the boys, “I always kept my six-shooter in my lap during a game, so naturally, when I stood up from the table, I holstered it…and Ike took notice.”
* * * *
By the morning of Wednesday, October the 26th, Ike Clanton was drunk and destroyed, and in every sense of that description.
It was cold, and patches of snow hop-scotched the ground all over town. Virgil had left the Oriental Saloon at around seven in the morning, walking Northwest down Allen Street toward the Cosmopolitan Hotel. He took out his pocket-watch to confirm the time, and yawned. Suddenly, Ike Clanton appeared at his side, and Virgil’s eyes rolled. Ike smelled of booze. And it may have made even a hardened man like Virgil slightly nauseous at this hour.
“You stood in with them the whole time, didn’t ya?” Ike said, awaiting a response. When none came, he added, “If that’s so—I’m in town,” and threw his arms wide, staggering to keep up with Virgil. “I was abused last night, but I’m in town this morning!”
“Ike, I’m going to bed.”
“Will you give a message to Doc?”
“What?” Virgil asked with fatigue.
“The damned son-of-a-bitch has got to fight.”
Virgil turned on Ike in an instant, pointing and scolding, “Ike, I am an officer—I don’t want to hear you talking that way! I’m going down home now, to go to bed. I don’t want you raising any disturbance while I’m in bed.”
Virgil walked on, leaving Ike behind. He got ten steps away, when Ike shouted, “You won’t carry the message!?”
“No, of course I won’t,” Virgil replied, with a forceful wave over his shoulder.
“You may have to fight before you know it!”
Again, Virgil waved Ike off, and kept walking.
Read “Western Legend” for More of This Narrative and to Learn More About the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
Told in false document and researched for historical accuracy, Western Legend is an homage to the pulp-style narratives of yesteryear. Complete with cowboys & outlaws, and heavy helpings of dime novel high-adventure.
It’s Autumn, 1899. And the coffin is closing shut on the Wild West. Enter four legendary figures held-over from this era: lawman Virgil Earp, his brother and confidence artist James Earp, the cattleman’s assassin Tom Horn, and retired desperado Frank James. Amid morning traffic and much commotion, these men meet by chance in the burgeoning metropolis of Nacogdoches, Texas, and roost in a local saloon. Having discussed the coming Century, the men find themselves entertaining precocious children with tales of their more infamous exploits. Addressing the controversial fallacies associated with their notorious pasts, and dispelling longstanding gossip of notches on their guns.
When late afternoon rolls around, an ugly situation reveals itself. Murderous cattle thieves are terrorizing the surrounding community. And these four men, western legends all, will not hesitate in volunteering their services.
Hang the hell on for danger and adventure — on the rocks, with a twist, and a hair trigger. And while you’re at it, carve another notch.
NOW AVAILABLE IN E-BOOK FOR YOUR PC, KINDLE & ALL E-READER DEVICES
See Links at Right of Page
It had already been an interesting year by that October. In addition to the sociopolitical strife in Tombstone, President Garfield had been inaugurated in February, shot by a lawyer with a concealed handgun in July, and died of his wounds in September. In April, Billy the Kid had escaped custody in New Mexico, killed two Jailers and stolen a horse. By July, Pat Garret had caught up to him outside Fort Sumner and killed him for that and other crimes. And in August a Hurricane hit Florida and the Carolinas, killing around 700.
Then October arrived … and the proverbial shit really hit the proverbial fan.
When I adapted my original screenplay of Western Legend into a historical fiction novel, I made the centerpiece of the script the same as the novel: The Gunfight at the OK Corral. And the amount of research I had to do to get it right was beyond anything I expected. Fried my brain as a matter of fact. But the experience did grant me one unique gift. An appreciation for this piece of American history.
So, since the month of October signals the 130th Anniversary of that now world-famous Thursday afternoon street fight, I am commemorating this very violent incident in a brief series of posts. The first being a few YouTube links, evidencing just a sample of the many movie and TV versions of the gunfight. (Excluding documentary recreations — which I will be focusing on later.)
Please remember, although this incident has become a permanent part of pop-culture, and is endlessly referenced–often humorously–this nonetheless, actually happened. It is not fantasy. And it was one helluva bad day for everyone involved. You can read all about it in Western Legend.
The first is a link to edited scenes from the 1956 film, The Gunfight at the OK Corral. You will find the gunfight itself toward the end of this 5 min. video.
The link below shows the gunfight from the perspective of the British in the 1960’s, and was part of a Dr. Who Television show.
This is something I referred to in the opening pages of the chapter in my book on the gunfight. It is a rather bizarre interpretation, again Science Fiction.
A more interesting version, was this one from director John Sturges, who earlier had made Gunfight at the OK Corral. This was said to be Sturges’ attempt at showing a more accurate version of the actual gunfight, as opposed to that shown in his earlier film. At the time, this was the most accurate recreation ever put on film. Still with glaring errors, but it’s the thought that counts. Hour of the Gun is unique in that it opens with the gunfight and then proceeds from there.
Now we arrive at the first of the two most accurate versions. And while not quite as accurate as Wyatt Earp, Tombstone has nonetheless become much more popular over time.
And finally, although still massively flawed, the most authentic “movie” version of the gunfight to date filmed. Note that among other inaccuracies, the cowboys were actually lined up with their backs to the little house to the right, and the Earp party came into the lot haphazardly. (Read more about this in Western Legend.) This is only one issue I have with this version. Which could have easily been so much more accurate. But oh well.
In keeping with this month’s 135th Anniversary of the James-Younger Gang’s foiled robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, I offer a handful of videos which give additional context to the incident. First up, is a two-part episode of the 1970’s Television program “In Search Of.” The episode was one of the first attempts at correctly depicting the robbery and the surrounding facts. And while there are clear inaccuracies, the episode still offers a proper context for the robbery — and was filmed on location in Northfield.
Next, are two Minnesota Historical Society videos, which give a further geography and history of the area of Northfield where the bank was robbed. And following, are two videos taken during Northfield’s Annual celebration of their city’s triumph over the bank robbers. One of which is a theme-park style re-creation of the chaos in the street, as the bank raid was taking place. It is not a completely accurate “re-enactment” of the bank robbery, however, it offers needed perspective on the incident and is very entertaining.
All videos are presented in specific relation to a single chapter in my book “Western Legend,” which describes in detail the bank robbery on September 7, 1876.
Or I should say “attempted” robbery. On this day in 1876, just a few months following Custer’s last stand a Little Big Horn, the citizens of Northfield, Minnesota realized that their bank was being robbed — and reacted with extreme prejudice. The result, was a brief, private little war with the James-Younger Gang.
One of the interesting details I found while doing research on this incident, was the coat you see at left. The men were reportedly dressed in identical “cattleman’s coats.” The coat you see here was discarded by one of the robbers, and was taken possession of by the Northfield District Attorney, before eventually being donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. Given that two of the Robbers were killed and remained in the street, one would assume that more than one coat had been left behind. However, this supposedly, was not the case.
Notice that the coat is not the form-fitting, trench-style duster that has always been portrayed in entertainment. In fact, though eye-witnesses in 1876 accurately reported the color and style of coat the men wore as a light beige linen duster — the coat left behind is actually fitted with a “cape,’ and takes on the further appearance of a Calvary Coat.
You can read a further detailed account of the Northfield, Minnesota Bank Raid in “WESTERN LEGEND.” Available in e-book through “Whiskey Creek Press,” “Amazon.com,” and “Fictionwise.” See links ——>
(UPDATE:11/07/2011. Almost finished with adjustments. The Minnesota Historical Society recently digitized certain documents, which give further testimony by eye-witnesses into the gunfight. This information, along with conflicting testimony by Younger in both a separate hand-written letter, and his personal published autobiography, is being incorporated into my book’s prose.)
(Please Note: The screenplay for “Western Legend” is registered with the Writer’s Guild of America West and has been Copyrighted with the Library of Congress.)
Nothing too elaborate today — just a mess of type for your reading pleasure. Thursday’s post on My Summer Box Office included so many pics and YouTube links, that every time I log onto my blog, it takes two minutes. So, I decided to replace the main blog page with an excerpt from the original screenplay from which my novel “Western Legend” is based on. Below the scripted scene, you will find the corresponding passages from the novel, for comparison and reference.
This script, originally titled “American Western,” began with a one page treatment I fiddled with in 1992 while watching the Pilot episode of The X-Files. After I saw “Tombstone” and “Wyatt Earp,” I added to the treatment. I had no way of knowing that I would eventually write eleven drafts of this sucker between 2003 and 2007. Let alone the various drafts of the novel which followed.
Below is much of the Northfield sequence. This incident has been portrayed in films and on cable, but unfortunately, never this close to the way it actually happened. You can click WESTERN LEGEND PHOTO GALLERY at the top of the blog page for pics that will give you visual reference of the town of Northfield, Minnesota in 1876.
For those who’ve never read a screenplay before, keep in mind (EXT.) means “Exterior,” in other words, Outside. (INT.) means “Interior,” in other words, Inside. The SCENE HEADINGS have all been underlined. Additional HEADINGS which are NOT labeled with EXT. or INT., are merely separate set-pieces of the same location.
Everyone has their own script style based on the various “accepted” current formats. I learned in the 1980’s, so my own style mirrors the accepted formatting guidelines of that era. Pay not attention to the little Astrix that keep popping up on the left; those are only there because WordPress kept giving me issues with the formatting.
EXT. OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN – 4’TH STREET BRIDGE
The Eight Men mount eight horses and fall into formation in three separate echelons: the first comprised of three men, then two, then three again. Spacing each echelon apart by roughly forty yards, the first five men ride to where they can see Mill Square beneath them, past Ames Mill and the 4’th Street Bridge.
A signal is given, and the initial echelon pass the Mill and ride across the Bridge at a leisurely clip: THE FIRST JAMES BROTHER (identical in appearance to the SECOND,) SAMUEL GEORGE WELLS (alias CHARLIE PITTS), and ROBERT (BOB) EWING YOUNGER. WE SEE them split up …
EXT. SCRIVER BLOCK – DIVISION & 4’TH STREETS
… Two arriving from Division St., & One from 4’th, meeting up at the ‘First National Bank of Northfield,’ housed in Scriver Building. Local CITIZENS stare, curious.
GEORGE E. BATES & C. O. WALDO, standing in doorway of Bates’ Store. They note the First Three Men arriving, and marvel at their noble appearance.
DIVISION STREET – 4’TH STREET
The Three Men dismount, tie up their horses, and walk down to the corner of Lee & Hitchcock Dry Goods Store. Once there, one Man sits on drygoods boxes stacked in front of the store, while the other two lean against the staircase banister.
EXT. OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN – 4’TH STREET BRIDGE
TWO more of the Eight Men now rode up to the foot of the Bridge. THOMAS COLEMAN (COLE) YOUNGER & WILLIAM McLELLAND (CLELL) MILLER. Cole looked back at the third echelon, and nodded. The nod was reciprocated by THE SECOND JAMES BROTHER.
Cole snaps his pocket watch shut, nods to Clell, and they cross the Bridge.
The last THREE immediately ride up and replace them at the foot of the Bridge: The Second James Brother, JAMES (JIM) HARDIN YOUNGER, and WILLIAM STILES (alias BILL CHADWELL).
EXT. 4’TH STREET – DIVISION STREET
The First Three Men spot the second Two of their party approaching down Division St., and begin walking toward the bank.
VOICE OF CITIZEN
It’s a St. Albans raid …
J.S. ALLEN & SON (HARDWARE STORE)
J.S. ALLEN has followed the First Three, a few steps to the corner of Scriver Building — there he watches them enter through the wide open folding doors of the Bank — and he watches those doors close behind them. He looks around the street, others have seen this as well, and stare, curious. Allen’s breathing becomes erratic. After a beat, he moves past the corner of Lee & Hitchcock’s, walks toward the bank.
INT. FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF NORTHFIELD
The Three rush the counter, pulling their heavy pistols. The First James Brother hurdles the desk at the left, and Pitts & Bob Younger through the two foot window, their boots scratching the counter …
Placing the barrels to the heads of JOSEPH LEE HEYWOOD (seated on cashiers seat at end of counter,) ALONZO E. BUNKER, and FRANK J. WILCOX (both seated at the desk, center floor).
The smell of alcohol on their breath, clearly makes one or two of the bankers queasy.
Throw up your hands, for we intend to rob the bank, and if you holler we will blow your God Damned brains out !
FIRST JAMES BROTHER
Which of you is the cashier ?
He is not in …
Instantly, the two men upon the counter jump down and get close enough that the Bankers can smell alcohol on their breath.
EXT. DIVISION STREET – BANK
In the street, the Second Two Men, Cole Younger and Clell Miller are now tying up their horses at the bank. They watch traffic in the street, closely. Division Street is 80 ft. wide, and crowded. Clell lights a pipe, unconcerned.
DRUG STORE – DIVISION STREET
DR. HENRY M. WHEELER is seated in a rocking chair outside the Drug Store, talking to friends. His eyes range the street, locking on Cole Younger and Clell Miller, conspicuously standing near their horses, looking around. Without saying a word, Wheeler stands, steps into the street. Then he spots J.S. Allen approaching the bank doors, peering with profound interest.
INT. NORTHFIELD BANK
CHAOS. OVERLAPPING SHOUTING as the Three Robbers accost the three bank employees, with ‘You are the cashier,’ each time provoking a denial out of Heywood, Bunker, and Wilcox. Bob Younger orders Bunker and Wilcox on their knees, and demands the location of the cash drawer. Wilcox points, and Younger open the drawer, finding only nickels, he drops them to the floor.
EXT. DIVISION STREET – BANK
Wheeler, giving the bank a wide birth, eyes Cole and Clell. He’s starting to put it all together. He makes eye contact with Clell, and Clell spins around, placing his back to Wheeler. Wheeler now moves to where he can see inside the bank, just as …
… J.S. Allen makes it to the bank doors, and reaches to open them, just as Clell’s gloved hand reaches out, and closes them, softly. Now Clell grabs Allen by his collar, aims muzzle of a .44 caliber pistol right in his face –
What’s happening here ?
(past pipe, low)
Don’t you holler, If you do, I’ll blow your damned head off.
Allen catches breath, backs off quickly.
Get your guns boys, they’re robbin’ the bank !
Cole reels, draws and points a pistol at Wheeler -
Get outta here, dingus !
Wheeler runs to the Dampier Hotel, screaming ‘Robbery !’
SEVERAL CITIZENS appear before them with shovels, boards, anything they could find handy; SHOUTING, and making quite a racket, trying to drive the Two Men away.
Cole and Clell exchange a look, mount their horses, and ‘in tandem’ FIRE in the air ! Citizens in the street scatter. And J.S. Allen runs back toward his store as …
EXT. OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN – BRIDGE
Jim Younger, Bill Chadwell & the Second James Brother, pull their firearms, and ride at full gallop into town …
EXT. DIVISION STREET – BANK
Clell steps his horse close to the doors, pleads through the glass –
Hurry up, boys –
INT. NORTHFIELD BANK
— they’ve given the alarm !
WHIP PAN to the First Three Men, still getting nowhere, they glance around at one another … eyes of all three eventually landing on Heywood, still at Cashier’s seat. The First James Brother levels his long barreled navy colt at Heywood’s head -
FIRST JAMES BROTHER
You are the cashier; now open the safe you goddamn son-of-a-bitch.
(references safe in vault)
It’s a time lock and cannot be opened now.
INSERT OF SAFE AND THE ‘YALE CHRONOMETER TIME-LOCK’
First James Brother steps into the vault to take a look at the safe inside — and Heywood lunges, closes the door on him; catching his hand and an upper angle of his shoulder in the door. Pitts and Younger are in shock at this action. Bob Younger grabs Heywood by the collar, pulls him away and opens the vault door. James Brother steps out, his eyes wide and locked on Heywood. He wrings out his wrist in pain.
FIRST JAMES BROTHER
(to Bob Younger)
Seize the silver; put it in the bag.
First James Brother pushes Heywood down to the floor, steps over him, places a knife across his throat, drawing blood.
FIRST JAMES BROTHER (CONT’D)
Damned liar ! You’ll open that safe, or I’ll cut your damned throat; you understand me !?
Pitts has stepped inside the vault, removes a grain sack from his pocket, marked H.C.A. He weighs the silver, disregards it, removes $12 in scrip and pockets it. Spotting a locked tin-box on the bottom shelf, he aims, shoots it open. The SHOT ECHOES. Pitts covers his ears, in pain. Inside the box are only papers.
EXT. SCRIVER BLOCK
The last Three Raiders gallop past, joining Cole and Clell, all FIRING into the air and at the ground, zigzagging up and down Division & 4’th streets SHOUTING: “Go back inside, you sons-of-bitches !”, “Get inside !”, “Get back inside, you sons-of-bitches.” Elias Hobbs and Justice Streeter throw rocks at them each time they pass.
INSERTS – VARIOUS POV’S
from inside establishments, at the ensuing melee. Shocked Citizens scatter all over Scriver Block SCREAMING !
GEORGE E. BATES’ STORE – FRONT DOOR
Mr. Bates runs into his store, quickly grabs a shotgun, appears at the door and pulls the trigger. The weapon misfires. He rushes back, reappearing quickly with an old, empty six-shooter. Using the pistol as a ruse, he aims at two of the Robbers as they pass.
GEORGE E. BATES
Now I’ve got you !
In response, both men turn, firing. SHOTS pierce and shatter the glass behind Bates.
drunken, walks out of an underground pub, and down the street into the line of fire. The Five Robbers shout at him, but he shakes his head, speaks only Swedish. A STRAY SHOT grazes above his eye.
INT. J.S. ALLEN & SON (STORE)
INSERTS: J.S. ALLEN is passing out firearms to the CITIZENS OF NORTHFIELD, many with price tags still attached.
EXT. SCRIVER BLOCK
ANSELM R. MANNING runs into street with a breech-loading Remington rolling block rifle, hastily aims and his shot goes wild. Manning aims, fires again, and his rifle jams. He fiddles with it. G. E. Bates calls out to Manning …
GEORGE E. BATES
Jump back now, or they’ll get you !
Manning turns, running back to his store to fix the rifle …
J.B. HYDE and JAMES GREGG now appear in the street, both with ineffective shotguns.
ELIAS STACY fires upon Clell Miller with a shotgun loaded with Birdshot, and peppers him in the face and upper chest. Clell is knocked from his horse, but quickly remounts, blood smeared upon his face. His horse spins around and around, and Stacy aims and fires again, this time hitting Clell in the back.
INT. DAMPIER HOTEL – UPSTAIRS ROOM
WE HEAR Wheeler’s footsteps pounding the stairs, fast. He races into the room, with an old Civil War Army Carbine Rifle. Going straight for an open window, turns finding CHARLIE DAMPIER right behind him, feeding him ammunition. Frantically, Wheeler loads the weapon, rests the rifle on an open window-sill, aims … His first shot is a miss. Quickly, he reloads.
EXT. SCRIVER BLOCK
George E. Bates hears a REPORT over his head, and flinches as Clell is hit just below the left shoulder … by Wheeler’s rifle.
Bates turns, sees Wheeler up in the window reloading, turns again, watches Clell’s horse makes a faltering plunge forward and then suddenly stop. Clell pitches over with his face to the ground. For a moment, he attempts to rise up on his elbows, then rolls over dead.
Cole dismounts, with his horses reins still in his hands. He moves to Clell and jostles him. Within the moment, Cole takes Clell’s pistols and cartridge belt, rolls onto his back. As his own cover fire, he repeatedly cocks and fires the pistols, in both directions. Then, remounts his horse.
Manning reappears, creeps to the corner. MR. WALDO calls out to him …
Take good aim before you fire.
Simultaneously, Cole is fired upon from both sides of the street. Manning hits Cole in shoulder — Wheeler (from the window) shoots off his hat.
Manning now climbs the outside stairway at the corner of Scriver Block, aims carefully 70 yards away at Chadwell — farthest south on Division St.
Chadwell is shot through the heart, and his horse starts up the street. Chadwell begins to reel to and fro in the saddle, and falls to the ground, opposite Eldridge’s store.
INT. NORTHFIELD BANK
First James Brother struggles with Heywood. Bob comes to his aid. Heywood gets loose, runs around the counter -
First James Brother grabs Heywood, slams pistol over the back of his lower neck, drags him back to the vault -
FIRST JAMES BROTHER
Open it !
He fires off a wild shot ! Bunker goes for a small derringer pistol off a shelf below the teller’s window, and Pitts snatches and pockets it. When he turns away, Bunker sprints around the corner, and heads for the back door …
HALLWAY – BACK ALLEY
Pitts races after Bunker … Standing in the open back doorway, he aims at the fleeing man, and fires — hitting Bunker in the collarbone, and quickly turns away. Bunker is seen stumbling, running toward Water Street, terrified … He runs toward Dr. Combe’s Office …
They’re robbing the bank ! Help !
Before returning to the bank lobby, Pitts pauses. He hears the echo of gunfire. And it’s a jarring racket.
The game is up and we are beaten !
Bob moves to a window, peeks out, spots a riot outside. Pitts re-emerges and joins Bob at the door. A second later, both reluctantly head outside. Behind them, the First James Brother hurdles the counter — but with one hand on the counter, he turns …
As Heywood staggers back to his desk, sits, opens a drawer, the James Brother fires a shot that misses Heywood. The banker had quickly ducked under the counter.
Now the James Brother lunges across the counter, places the pistol near the top of Heywood’s head, and fires; striking the banker in the temple. Heywood pops up, spills blood on the desk blotter, staggers forward, and falls.
EXT. DIVISION STREET – SCRIVER BLOCK
A BARRAGE OF UNENDING GUNFIRE THUNDERS, SHOTS RICOCHET EVERYWHERE. The First James Brother is the last to step out, and ZING — A SHOT goes right by his ear ! The Three have stepped out into a war zone.
Several SHOTS daisy-chain, striking the ground around the Men, with increasing rhythm. Bullets WHIZ BACK & FORTH. The Men find DOZENS OF CITIZENS firing from windows up and down the street, and the ground on both ends of the street. The Men are under fire from below and above …
- RIFLES (PRICE TAGS ATTACHED) FIRING FROM WINDOWS !
– THE MUD BEING RIDDLED WITH BULLET HITS !
– BUILDING FACES ARE DEFILED AND WINDOWS SHOT OUT !
– CHILDREN, WATCH FROM BEHIND BARRELS, HOLDING THEIR EARS.
BACK TO SCENE
The First Three Men quickly mount their horses …
J. B. HYDE arrives on scene with double barreled shotgun, fires off both barrels, striking Pitts in both the shoulder and wrist, and retreats to reload …
Manning fires on Bob Younger, and Bob hides behind his horse. So Manning shoots the horse in the head. Bob jumps behind some boxes stacked underneath the stairwell, at the corner of Scriver Building. (where the first echelon had waited earlier)
Bob and Manning play peek-a-boo for a few seconds, until Manning fires a shot that shatters Bob’s right elbow. Bob scrambles behind the crates and under the girders. Then Wheeler, up in the window across, fires, hitting Bob in the right thigh. Bob winces, his pistol changes hands, he grips his right leg in pain. He returns fire a few times.
Fatefully, Bob steps out and begins limping back up the street. Spotting Bates aiming at him, he strains to keep a steady hand, fires a shot which grazes Bates’ cheek and nose.
SECOND JAMES BROTHER
We’re beat; let’s go !!
The James Brothers (now both on the same horse,) head back across the Bridge. Right behind them, Charlie Pitts, Jim Younger are following, when Jim is hit from two different angles, in the left shoulder and the back of the right leg. He continues on, with Cole following up the rear …
Suddenly, Bob Younger reaches opposite Mr. Morris’s Store -
My God, boys; hold on ! Don’t leave me; I’m shot !
Cole turns, rides back for brother Bob. Pulls him up onto his horse, rides across the Bridge.
SIX MEN RIDE OUT OF TOWN, speeding across the Cannon River Bridge …
SERIES OF SHOTS OF SCRIVER BLOCK
Drifting Gunsmoke over a broken Crowd …
Damage done to area …
William Stiles (Bill Chadwell) lies dead in the street …
Clell Miller lies dead in the street …
And from CHAPTER 9: NORTHFIELD
Eight men mounted eight horses and fell into formation in three separate echelons. The first comprised three men, then two, then three again. After spacing these echelons apart by roughly forty yards, the first five nonchalantly rode for-ward to where they could see much of Mill Square beneath them. A horseshoe shaped blending of two streets, Division and 4th, also known as Bridge Square due to its approxima-tion to the 4th Street Bridge.
The first echelon included a James Brother—both were reportedly favoring a mustache, and were difficult to tell apart—Samuel George Wells, alias Charlie Pitts, and Robert “Bob” Ewing Younger. The three rode on, passing Ames Mill, crossing over the 4th Street Bridge, and riding down into the Square.
Splitting up rather quickly, these first three horsemen were seen taking alternate routs toward a mutual destination. While two took the long way around, eventually arriving at the bank via the opposite end of Division, the third simply fol-lowed 4th directly across the Square. And when all three ar-rived, they tied their horses in front of the bank and strolled several yards alongside the large Scriver Building to the cor-ner of Lee & Hitchcock Dry Goods Store. One sat atop a dry-goods box stacked there, while the others leaned against the banister of a staircase that ran up the side of the building di-agonally. This large, prominent building faced Division to the South, and along with other businesses, housed the bank.
Catching sight of the three men, a few local citizens took second and even third glances at them. Their appearance was remarked as, “marvelous”.
The aforementioned George E. Bates, and another man, C.O. Waldo, a “commercial trav-eler” from Council Bluffs, were both standing in the doorway of Bates’ Store located across the street when the men rode in. Bates and Waldo had a brief, trivial discussion regarding the appearance of the men whom town scuttlebutt had la-beled cattle buyers. And following this, they withdrew to the far end of the store to look over sample trusses, which are structural frameworks designed to hold up a roof or building corner.
* * * *
Elsewhere, the second echelon, including Thomas Cole-man “Cole” Younger and William McLelland “Clell” Miller, was now stationed a few feet behind the Bridge. Cole turned his head, and nodded at the men of the last echelon, several yards back. The nod was reciprocated by one of the three men.
Years later, Younger credited this “third man” as “Woods.” Research has revealed that both Jesse and Frank ap-pear to have used the aliases, “Woodson,” and “Howard” on numerous occasions, and even appear to have traded them routinely, so as to confuse specific identity, in case said aliases were discovered.
Cole snapped his pocket watch shut; nodded to Clell.
And with that, the two galloped across the bridge into town.
Behind them, the Second James Brother, along with James “Jim” Hardin Younger, and William Stiles, alias Wil-liam Chadwell, began riding forward to replace them at the foot of the bridge.
* * * *
Not a moment later, the first three men, already posi-tioned at Lee & Hitchcock’s, spotted the second two ap-proaching and began walking toward the bank. The voice of a citizen was distantly heard, shouting, “It’s a St. Albans Raid!” But due to the sound of street traffic, few heard this muffled plea.
J.S. Allen, in apron, had left his nearby hardware store and walked a few steps to the corner of Scriver Building—the very spot where the first three men had been seconds earlier. Once there, Allen watched as the initial three entered through the wide open folding doors of the bank, and then watched as those doors suspiciously closed behind them.
It took a beat for it to sink in. But once it had, Allen slowly moved past the corner of the dry goods store, and be-gan walking toward the bank. He looked around the street and saw a few others looking toward the bank as well. His breathing quickened, and incrementally, his pace quickened.
Meanwhile, inside the First National Bank, Charlie Pitts, Bob Younger, and the first James Brother pulled their heavy pistols and rushed the bank counter. The first man immedi-ately hurtled directly through a narrow two-foot teller’s win-dow, flanked by a thirty-inch-high glazed rail, while the other two men jumped upon the counter and squatted, preparing to pounce. Their heavy boots left lasting scuff-marks on the counter, which remain visible today. Each man quickly ex-tended an arm and placed the barrel of his pistol close to the head of one of three men—Joseph Lee Heywood, seated upon a cashier’s seat at the far right end of the counter, Alonzo E. Bunker, and Frank J. Wilcox, both seated at the adjoining counter to the left.
“Throw up your hands, for we intend to rob the bank, and if you holler we will blow your God Damned brains out!” barked Charlie Pitts.
“Which of you is the cashier?” the James brother de-manded.
Heywood was defiant, and said, with almost disinterest, “He’s not in.”
Instantly, the two men upon the counter jumped down and got close enough that the bankers could smell the alcohol on their breath.
Out on the noisy street, Cole and Clell had dismounted and were tying up their horses near the bank, while also watching traffic in the eighty-foot-wide thoroughfare. Younger was on the lookout for trouble. While Clell, sport-ing a white linen handkerchief around his neck, a new shirt with gold sleeve-buttons, a matching gold ring, and a John Hancock felt hat, began to pack his pipe, completely uncon-cerned.
On the porch of a drugstore not far away, twenty-two-year-old Dr. Henry M. Wheeler was seated in his father’s rocking chair, talking to a couple of friends. As his gaze fell upon the street, it locked on Cole and Clell, both of whom were suspiciously standing near their horses, ranging the street around them. Without saying a word, Wheeler stood and stepped into the street—and soon spotted J.S. Allen moving closer to the bank, evaluating the bank’s closed doors with profound interest.
Inside the bank, there was only chaos.
The three robbers were repeatedly accosting the three bank employees with, “You are the cashier,” each time pro-voking a denial out of Heywood, Bunker, and Wilcox.
Bob Younger ordered Bunker and Wilcox on their knees and demanded the location of the cash drawer. Wilcox pointed, and Younger opened the drawer, finding only a roll of nickels; which he promptly removed and dropped with a clunk to the floor.
Back outside, Wheeler continued moving slowly across the street, glaring at Cole and Clell. Cole instantly turned his back to him, so he focused on Clell. Anyone could see that Clell Miller needed a shave. But many initially missed that in spite of Miller’s finer clothes, he was wearing two different types of boot—one of finer leather, the other a cheap brand. Wheeler was starting to put it all together now. Clell spotted Wheeler staring at him, and spun around. Wheeler continued walking. He wanted to see inside that bank.
J.S. Allen arrived at the bank doors, reached out and opened them—and Clell Miller’s gloved hand reached out and closed them again, softly. Instantly, Clell grabbed Allen by his collar, pulling him close. Allen’s gaze was filled with Clell’s blue eyes. Then it was filled with the muzzle of the bandit’s .44 caliber pistol.
“What’s happening here?” Allen demanded.
“Don’t you holler,” Clell said in heavy whisper past his pipe. “If you do, I’ll blow your damned head off.”
Allen caught his breath and backed off quickly.
At that instant Wheeler’s voice was heard among street traffic, shouting, “Get your guns, boys, they’re robbin’ the bank!”
Cole reeled. He drew and pointed his pistol point blank at Wheeler.
“Get out of here, dingus!” Cole shouted.
Wheeler began running to the Dampier Hotel at the near opposite side of the street, screaming, “ROB-BERY!”
Several citizens were now in the street with shovels, boards, and anything else they could find handy, shouting and making a lot of racket. It was a futile attempt to drive the robbers away.
Cole and Clell looked at each other, mounted their horses, and in-tandem fired their pistols into the air. Citizens in the street scattered. And fast. J.S. Allen began running back toward his store.
The last three men at the Bridge heard the dual gunshots, pulled their revolvers, and galloped into Mill Square.
At the exterior bank entrance, Clell stepped his horse close to the doors and pleaded through the glass, “Hurry up, boys—they’ve given the alarm!”
Back inside the bank, the initial three men were still getting nowhere. After hearing Clell’s message, they glanced around at one another, before all turned to stare at Joseph Lee Heywood, still upon the cashier’s seat. Charlie Pitts lev-eled a long-barreled pistol at Heywood’s head, and in a harsh voice said, “You are the cashier. Now open the safe you god-damn son-of-a-bitch.”
Heywood referenced the safe within the vault. “It’s a time-lock and cannot be opened now.”
It was later revealed that the time-lock had never been set. If any one of the men had tried to open the safe door, they would have instantly discovered this. How much, or how little currency was actually within the vault at the time, was never publicly revealed.
The men focused their attention on the Yale Chronome-ter Time-Lock mounted onto the safe, and visible through the open vault. The man noted as being slim and dark skinned, with a black mustache, probably the James brother, confi-dently stepped inside to take a closer look at the safe—and Heywood suddenly lunged forward, closing the newly in-stalled Detroit Safe Company’s door on him; catching his hand and an angle of his upper shoulder in the door.
Pitts and Younger were truly shocked.
Bob Younger grabbed Heywood by the collar, jerked him from the vault door, and opened it. Released, the James brother stepped forward, his stare locked hard on Heywood. Ringing out his wrist in extreme pain, he reportedly refer-enced the interior shelves of the walk-in vault, motioned to Bob, and said, “Seize the silver—put it in the bag.” Then he pushed Heywood to the floor with little effort. He stepped over him, pulled a knife and placed it across the banker’s throat, drawing blood.
“Damned liar!” he said. “You’ll open that safe, or I’ll cut your damned throat! You understand me?”
Bob, meanwhile, had promptly stepped inside the vault, and procured a two-bushel flour or grain sack marked H.C.A., from his coat pocket. And though initially he weighed the fifteen dollars worth of silver with one hand, for some unknown reason his head shook with belligerence, and he disregarded it. Instead, he chose to remove twelve dollars in scrip—paper money—from a shelf, before spotting a curi-ous locked tin-box on another lower shelf. Stepping back, he aimed carefully, and shot the box open. The blast echoed within the small space, and Bob belatedly cupped both ringing ears with gloved hands. Shaking it off, and angry as hell, he flipped open the lid of the busted box. Inside were only pa-pers such as land deeds.
Out in the street, the last three men galloped around a corner onto Scriver Block, joining Cole and Clell. This made five raiders now firing in the air and at the ground, while zig-zagging up and down Division and 4th, shouting variations of: “GET BACK INSIDE, YOU SONS-OF-BITCHES!” And Elias Hobbs and “Justice” Streeter were throwing rocks at them each time they passed.
Northfield’s more prominent took cover in establish-ments as gunfire tore through windows and partitions, just missing many of them. The wife of George E. Bates was a good example. She was standing in the second story of Messrs. Skinner & Drew’s Store, when a .44 ball crashed through the wall within just a few inches of her. Others like her watched helpless from behind broken windows as their neighbors scattered all over the block, shouting and screaming at the sight of the raiders.
Mr. Bates went into his store, quickly grabbed a shotgun, appeared at the door and pulled the trigger. The weapon mis-fired, and he rushed back inside, reappearing quickly with an old, empty six-shooter. As a ruse he aimed the weapon at the two of the men as they passed, shouting, “Now I’ve got you!” In response, both of the men instantly turned and fired upon him, their shots piercing and shattering the glass window be-hind him. Bates apparently repeated this action several times, each instance achieving the same response from the various men on horseback.
Down the street, a man named Nicholas Gustafson stepped right into the line of fire as he exited a pub intoxi-cated, with curious, yet ubiquitous interest. The men on horseback variously shouted at him to get out of the way, but Gustafson was a recent arrival to Northfield, as well as the U.S., and spoke only Swedish. Members of the James-Younger Gang barked orders and shouted obscenities at him while waving their guns in the air. But Gustafson had little comprehension of the meaning, and a moment later he was grazed above the eye by a stray shot. A shot which wouldn’t immediately kill him, but strangely put him in critical condi-tion less than a day later, and result in his death within a week. In a later interview, Cole Younger attributed that shot to “Woods.”
While J.S. Allen passed out firearms—many with price tags still attached—to citizens within his store, forty-three-year-old Anselm R. Manning exited his own hardware store with a breech-loading Remington rolling block rifle. Aiming hastily at one of the men on horseback terrorizing the street, he fired. But his shot went wild. Then Manning aimed and fired again. This time, his rifle jammed. As he fiddled with it, Mr. Bates called out to him, “Jump back now, or they’ll get you!” Manning instantly turned, and ran back to his store to repair the weapon.
Additional citizens now appeared in the street, armed and eager to find a target. J.B. Hyde and James Gregg, both with ineffective shotguns, attempted to aid in the town’s de-fense. A reverend named Ross Phillips, his weapon unknown, and Elias Stacey who was armed with a shotgun loaded with birdshot, each appeared, firing upon the raiders. And finally, Stacey’s shot sprayed much of Miller’s face and upper chest, and penetrated one of his eyes, off center. The result was de-scribed by one eye-witness as, “…a bloody mess.” The blow had even knocked Miller from his horse. He quickly re-mounted with blood smeared across a very stunned expres-sion. But Stacey had only fired one barrel, and as Clell’s horse spun around and around, Stacey fired again, this time closer, and hitting Miller directly in the back.
At this moment, Wheeler was speeding up the stairs of the Dampier Hotel with an old Civil War Army carbine rifle he had possibly obtained from the hotel lobby. It was re-ported that he requested the hotel’s owner and operator, Charlie Dampier to obtain some cartridges for the rifle. Now, racing into an upstairs room, he first found an open window, then turned to find Mr. Dampier handing him cartridges for the old rifle. Wheeler loaded a round quickly, rested the rifle upon the open window sill and searched for a target. His first shot was a miss. Quickly, he reloaded.
Down in the street, Mr. Bates was moving past the Ho-tel, when he heard a report over his head and flinched, seeing Clell Miller hit a third time just below the left shoulder. Bates turned sharp and looked in the direction of the previous re-port, finding Wheeler in the open hotel window, loading the rifle a third time. Bates turned sharp again and watched as Clell’s horse plunged forward, then suddenly stopped, re-mained on its forelegs, and allowed its rider to pitch forward and fall face first into ground still muddy from previous rain. Once on the ground, Clell attempted to rise up on his el-bows, but then merely rolled over, dead.
Cole arrived, dismounted, hit the ground and crawled to Clell. He jostled Miller several times, but quickly realized Clell Miller was already gone. Cole quickly took Clell’s pis-tols and cartridge belt, rolled onto his back and in two direc-tions, gave his own cover fire. After several shots, he jumped up and mounted his horse, which hadn’t strayed far, its reins still within his grip.
Manning reappeared in the street, creeping to the corner of Scriver Building. Mr. C.O. Waldo called out to him, “Take good aim before you fire!” Cole was then simultaneously fired upon from both sides of the street. Manning’s rifle finally found a target, striking Cole in the shoulder. Wheeler had re-turned to the hotel window, having run out of cartridges and “hastened” for more. He was just in time to shoot off Younger’s hat.
Manning now proceeded to climb the outside staircase which hugged Scriver Building. Halfway up, he carefully aimed seventy yards away, at Bill Chadwell, farthest South on Division, and fired. He shot Chadwell through the heart, sending his horse with Chadwell still on it up the street in Manning’s direction. Chadwell’s body began to reel this way and that, and fell to the ground directly opposite an estab-lishment known as Eldridge’s Store. His horse then bolted all the way to a local livery stable. Citizens of Northfield would later remove unspent cartridges from a belt around Chad-well’s waist, and many more from his pockets.
Back inside the bank, and concurrently, the first James brother still struggled with Heywood. Bob Younger came to his aid, but Heywood still managed to get loose and run around the corner toward the entrance, screaming, “Murder!” The James brother quickly followed, grabbing Heywood and slamming his pistol over the banker’s lower neck, dragging him back to the vault.
“Open it!” he said, firing off a wild shot, hoping to in-timidate Heywood.
At that instant Bunker went for a small Derringer pistol on a shelf below the teller’s window. But Pitts snatched it before Bunker could get to it, pocketing the little gun in his coat. Pitts then turned away, and Bunker dashed off; stum-bling around the corner into the narrow hallway adjoining the bank lobby, and racing for the rear exit. Pitts made chase, and when Bunker exited onto Water Street, Pitts fired, hitting Bunker once in the upper shoulder. Now utterly terrified, and possibly in shock, Bunker ran for the office of a doctor by the name of “Combe,” screaming every step of the way, “They’re robbing the bank! Help!”
Before returning to the bank lobby, Pitts paused. He could hear the echo of a jarring racket coming from around front.
In the bank, the men all turned to see Cole ride up to the doors and shout through the glass, with desperation, “The game’s up boys and we’re beaten!”
Cole’s brother Bob moved around the counter to the front doors and peered out the windows. What he saw alarmed him. The men inside the bank had simply assumed that regardless of the noise, their brothers in arms outside had the situation under control. When Pitts re-emerged from the rear of the office, he ran straight to join Bob at the door. Both men now knew their attention had wavered. Reluctantly, the two men exited through the folding doors and onto the side-walk. Behind them, the first James brother hurtled the side counter. But then, with one hand remaining on the counter, he turned back and watched as Heywood staggered back to his desk, sat down, and opened a drawer. In pure spite, the James brother fired, and missed. Heywood had spotted him a second before, and quickly ducked, almost under the counter. The James brother lunged, leaning across the teller’s win-dow, placing his pistol very near the top of Heywood’s head, and fired, striking Heywood in the temple. Heywood popped up. Then turning, he staggered a step, and fell. Drops of his blood were later found on a desk blotter.
He lived a few moments, breathing easy, but unable to speak.
The three robbers had left behind the grain sack, and a linen duster; possibly torn from its wearer during the preced-ing scuffle.
Out on Division, a barrage of unending gunfire thun-dered, and shots ricocheted everywhere.
The first James brother, the last to step out, found him-self witness to a war zone. He was truly shocked. With a quick look around, the men spotted dozens of citizens firing upon them from windows up and down Division Street, many using rifles with price tags dangling from their barrels and trigger guards. Adding to the gang’s dilemma, there were ad-ditional citizens firing from behind cover, on the ground all around them.
Quickly, the ZING of a shot went right by the James brother’s ear, and the three men moved to take horses, with a daisy-chain of shots striking ground all around them.
Now J.B. Hyde returned to the scene with a double-barreled shotgun. Quickly, he fired off both barrels, striking Charlie Pitts in both the shoulder and wrist, before retreating to reload.
It was during these confusing moments that Manning’s aim found Bob Younger. But just before Manning fired, Younger spotted him, dismounted, and used his horse as cover. In response, Manning shot the horse in the head! Find-ing his back to the Scriver Building, Bob turned and lunged behind some crates stacked underneath the stairway. Then, for several seconds, Bob Younger and Manning played a pecu-liar game of peek-a-boo, with Bob using both the crates and the steel girders of the staircase for cover. Manning fired a shot, which shattered Bob’s right elbow, and Bob began scrambling to keep any part of himself out of Manning’s line-of-sight. This, however, left him vulnerable to Wheeler, who up in the window across, fired and hit Bob in the right thigh. Bob winced, shifted his pistol to his other hand, and gripped his leg in pain. In his defense, he fired two, maybe three shots through the girders of the staircase, but shots continued in his direction, unabated, and soon Bob realized he was sur-rounded—and worse—separated from the other men. Fate-fully, Bob Younger simply stepped out and began limping up the street in the direction of his party. And swiftly spotting Bates aiming at him, Bob strained to keep his hand steady, be-fore firing a shot which grazed Bates’ cheek and nose.
The voice of the second James brother was heard stress-fully shouting, “We’re beat—let’s go!”
Due to Frank having been shot in the calf at some point during the shooting, he had difficulty mounting on his own, and thus the James brothers would share a horse. At this time, they galloped from Division, across 4th, and headed over the bridge and out of town. And Charlie Pitts and Jim Younger, both on horses, were right behind them. But as Jim galloped away, he was hit in the left shoulder and the back of his right leg.
Cole Younger was the last to follow. As he raced to catch up, he heard his brother Bob shouting, “My God, boys! Hold on! Don’t leave me—I’m shot!” Cole then rode back to the area opposite an establishment referred to as Mr. Morris’s Store, leaned over, and pulled his brother up onto the horse.
J.B. Hyde then reportedly fired a reloaded shotgun at Bob Younger, striking him in the wrist as the men fled; possi-bly shooting off his thumb.
The remaining men fled through Mill Square and back across the 4th Street Bridge. Now on the run, they left behind the dead bodies of two of their party, drifting gunsmoke propagating all over Scriver Block, extensively damaged and defiled building faces—a large area of town, up and down both Division and 4th Streets, resembled an actual war zone—and the legacy of a melee which would be well re-membered by history.
This was something that had been in the works. I had over the past few weeks corresponded with Robbie Goodrich a handful of times at the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, in Nacogdoches, Texas. And something was going to be printed, I just didn’t know what yet.
Last Sunday (08/14) they printed a blurb on my book under “Book Release” in section D, page 5 of their local paper. Which is kind of neat, given that much of the story takes place in Nacogdoches.
It’s a brief column announcing the book’s release and describing the story.
Click here to view the page: Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel pg. 5D
For the record, when the time came, I chose not to go see this movie. At first that perplexed even me. I had a good excuse; I had work to do. I had just published my first book (a Western.) However, I also knew given the genre that it would be in my best interest to take in this movie, and critique it’s merits or similarities to my own work.
But something just didn’t feel right — didn’t seem right. Something about this movie just didn’t interest me. In fact, I really just did not want to watch it, at all. Still don’t, actually. Probably end up watching it on TBS three years from now. And that’s just fine with me. And apparently, a whooooole lot of other people felt the same way. But WHY ??
Like many people, I like Sci-Fi, and I like the occasional Western. This should really appeal to many people, right ? Best of both worlds. So what the hell HAPPENED !?? And how does this bode for the Western as a genre ? I mean apart from the fact that there is too much light clearly coming from the wrong direction in that image above.
There is no definitive, or even perceptible answer to that question. Although a few who’ve seen Cowboys & Aliens responded positively, “…they didn’t make it too cheesy, as I feared they would,” there are others who simply didn’t want to see it at all, and some who saw it and only gave a mild recommendation to those who hadn’t.
And people have been paying to see shitty movies all summer long, so even if it is bad that still doesn’t explain it’s failure with the public. It shouldn’t matter. Bad movies make money in our current culture. And yet, this film made around $36 Million over the course of its opening weekend. That’s not a single day total, like many other previous summer blockbusters — that’s the ENTIRE WEEKEND !
So is it worse than bad ? And are patrons blaming the “western” element, or the “sci-fi” element ? Well, no, and no. No one is claiming this to be one of the worst films of the year. And while the western element seems to be getting the better response, both genre elements seem to be taking the blame, unfortunately. With the design of the Aliens themselves being cited as a big issue with most audience members. Again, haven’t seen it, but I hear they look derivative and don’t really scare anyone.
Warner Bros. did MASSIVE publicity for this thing. They went to Comic-Con twice; once in 2010, and then again, just a few weeks ago. They even had the premiere there — they actually screened the movie, with E! Entertainment News and all the major players present — including Producers Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. Had a red carpet and everything. Looked like the Golden Globes for crying out loud. Great publicity. Whether or not the San Diego Comic-Con is good publicity for a major motion picture, is another subject for argument. I don’t think it is. But … many disagree. And they cite all kinds of additional marketing techniques, etc., that were used to publicize this film wayyyyy in advance of its release.
Harrison Ford even made appearances on TV. Including a moment wherein earlier this week he seems to respond to the movies lackluster opening weekend by ripping off the head off a large stuffed Smurf. Cute.
There was also another, earlier appearance on Letterman. Here Ford, while not n his prime, is nevertheless very appealing. He gets a good response from the crowd. There’s is some discussion of the film, and a brief clip is screened. But it’s a clip which doesn’t inspire much confidence or interest. There is also some of Ford and Letterman riding horses down Broadway at the end. Which is a lot more interesting than a clip from Cowboys & Aliens. I’d call that an ouch moment for the Warner Bros. marketing department.
So will the film’s performance improve ?
There’s not much competition for the rest of the summer. A few movies will get prominent attention. But next week is the last of the BIG SUMMER MOVIES for 2011: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This would be a great time for Warner Bros. to relaunch, or re-tune their marketing campaign for Cowboys & Aliens. If it were to work, they would end up with a bonafide sleeper on their hands, rescue themselves from their perilous situation, and remove what is quickly becoming an embarrassing stain on the western genre. Word-of-mouth can work against you, but it can also work in your favor.
As of right now, the Western genre is a pariah, incarnate. Every time a western under-performs at the box office, this happens. And Producers begin having issues getting financing for a large scale film production, if the genre is Western. In fact, many have changed their genre, just to get their movie made. And that sometimes daisy-chains across the board. Books, TV, Comics: all are labeled a bad investment if they’re western related.
Making it very, very difficult for those of us who work in this genre to prosper. I can only hope that either A) the film begins to do better, or B) the western sees a better example, and very soon. Many people have already forgotten True Grit. Both the entertainment industry and the public have a very, very short memory.
In Addendum: Addition Info:
So who won, Smurfs or Cowboys & Aliens ? This was the question all weekend.
The situation was clearly so unexpected that many went straight for desperately claiming the “top spot” as the win-win. It’s truly unbelievable how fast the focus changes when they realize they have a potential bomb on their hands. Urban jungle time.
Here’s an extensive article at Deadline Hollywood that breaks it down: http://www.deadline.com/2011/07/first-box-office-cowboys-aliens-40m-smurfs-29m-crazy-stupid-love-18m/
Here are also the current numbers for Cowboys & Aliens: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=cowboysandaliens.htm
And The Smurfs:http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=smurfs.htm
UPDATED DATA (8:00 PM CST):http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-update-smurfs-is-219478
To sum it up, Smurfs did better than expected, and Cowboys & Aliens did much worse than expected. Analysts even describe C&A as almost “tanking.” Their box office prediction (which was universally expected to be a low figure,) was $45 Million — and no one’s saying whether that was intended as a one-day gross, or a weekend gross. In any event, at weekend’s end, Cowboys & Aliens tallied to just the mid 30’s. With an “unofficial” budget between $163 – $200 Million, and only a few weeks guaranteed in a prime exhibition in theaters, this picture cannot afford that kind of lackluster box office tally. Therefore, The Smurfs, with a budget significantly less, at $110 Million, is the clear winner. Both have home video and cable revenues coming their way, but those numbers are also generally commensurate with the box office take. And they won’t see a dime of foreign theatrical revenue, either. They never do, the taxes and tariffs are too high. One of those industry secrets the studios don’t like discussing. No matter that fantastical “World Wide Box Office Total,” they generally see little more than their share of the domestic (US) box office take. Behind that, video and cable. At this point, it has been forecast that Cowboys & Aliens will eventually break even, but not make a profit for a very long time.
And you wanna know the sad part ? ROFL The Smurfs has gotten the expected reviews a movie like that always gets. Critics and Parents don’t like it, small kids inexplicably do.
2. a list of errors and their corrections inserted, usually on a separate page or slip of paper, in a book or other publication; corrigenda.
That word, “errata” is one every published writer must become familiar with. The industry uses it to describe errors, and then list them. Which brings me directly to my point. I finally had the opportunity to purchase and take a look at my book Western Legend on the free Kindle application. I don’t have a Kindle, but you can download their app for free and use it to read e-books on any PC.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back a few weeks. You see … either the Publisher got swamped, or they waited until the last minute to assign me an editor, because there was a palpable feeling that we were rushing to get this thing out on time. Now come forward to the end of July, and me dreading taking yet another look at this thing in yet another format — I had already gone over the pdf, and the grammatical and sentence structure errors I found there, left me dumbfounded. But I knew this would happen. Stephen King had discussed this many, many years ago as being common place, and I still had that anecdote in the back of my head. And to be fair, these errors cannot simply be thrown on the Publisher’s doorstep. I went through it, too; wasn’t just the fault of the Publisher’s editors.
But, I was hoping for no nasty surprises in the Kindle version.
Keep on dreaming, Jimbo. I’d had this gut feeling that something else was gonna pop up while reading through it. And, my instincts turned out to be correct. Moments ago, I was horrified to discover a glowing blue footnote link — which when clicked, leads to a blank page. LOL !
Please see the following text in Chapter 4: An excitement on main …
“Ahhh…well, joined up for the War, in Florida — had myself a bout with malaria. Rode over to Navasota; visit some people. On my way up to Denver now, do some damage to the place.”
“You keep a pigeon hole up there?” Virgil asked.
Tom nodded. “As well, yea.”[i] <——– THAT RIGHT THERE !!
That’s the little varmint !
That was originally a number, in place as a footnote, back when the book was submitted with the footnotes intact. The publisher mentioned nothing about their practice of not including footnotes when they agreed to publish the book, but that’s another matter. So they moved them all to the back of the book. Problem was, they had no context there. Footnotes are external information, which have to be connected to the passage they reference, in order to have meaning. And traditionally, they are placed at the footer of the page. But, alas, word comes down from the Publisher, “no footnotes.”
So the publisher moved them to the rear of the book, and I naturally elected to simply remove them, altogether to avoid embarrassment. And I can always replace them and resubmit the book elsewhere at a later date, so it isn’t really that much of an issue. However, when the publisher accidentally left that little [i] there — they created an issue. Some people will get frustrated when they click on something like that and get a blank page. I did, and then spent several minutes trying to get back to where I was, in the book !
For those of you who’ve had this experience already, or for those of you who will eventually come across it while reading my e-book — I humbly apologize for this error. I know it’s irritating, because it irritated the shit outta me.
I had earlier found an additional error in the pdf, which also embarrasses me. In Chapter 10: Street Fight, there is the mention of a small house, which figured prominently in the street fight in Tombstone, commonly referred to in pop culture as The Gunfight at the OK Corral. The name of the house is actually “Harwood” house. But due to some oversight, it reads: “Hardman.” Given that there is a character earlier in the story named “Hardeman,” I can only assume that this was a change offered by Microsoft Word, that neither myself, nor the two editors I worked with caught. “Hardman” is clearly the same as “Hardeman,” only without the “e.” Clearly, when you’ve done the amount of research I did on this thing — even though it is just a pulp story — it is galling to find this kind of a novice error. Lemme tell ya, folks, not a nice moment.
My point this hot and muggy Thursday is this: although I am very aware that this is not an unusual occurrence (I found similar errors in books I used for reference and research,) I am nonetheless, annoyed by it — as I’m sure the average reader will be, when they spot things like this. So, if you have read my book and found additional items you believe to be errors, PALEEEEAASE do not hesitate to mention them in the comments selection below.
And now … for something completely different !
THE COWBOYS & ALIENS TELEGRAM
There was a promotion held yesterday for the film Cowboys & Aliens which involved a website that allowed you to send a Cowboys & Aliens telegram to anyone, literally anywhere in the world — and for free, with a special coupon code. You had to enter an email address for confirmation, therefore I assumed it was only one free telegram per e-mail. I initially sent three, to three separate production companies in the Los Angeles area. A few minutes later, I decided to try my luck and go back and enter my three separate email addresses again, just to be sure. Imagine my surprise when all three worked. LOL ! I sent a total of SIXTY telegrams. And each time I got an emailed confirmation. Most of these went to production companies in Hollywood, and reading: “My book WESTERN LEGEND would make a much better movie !” With my blog typed underneath.
[Although the telegrams that went to the producers of the movie, got a slightly altered version reading: "My book WESTERN LEGEND would make a great movie !" I'm bold, I'm not stupid. ]
For fun I additionally sent one to my publishers Debra and Steven Womack at Whiskey Creek Press, and another to the managing editor of True West Magazine, Bob Bell. For potential publicity I sent along two more to editors of Kirkus Reviews, one to the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel (I’ve had previous contact with them about a possible article on the book,) one to the Northfield Historical Society, and one to the Tombstone museum for the Tombstone Epitaph. I would have sent more, but by seven o’clock the code had expired … rofl. I hope Warner Bros. got something out of that — I certainly did.
READ ‘EM COWBOY ?? OK, SUITS ME
Apparently the 23rd (Saturday) is “Read ‘em Cowboy !” National Day of the Cowboy event. At least, someone said it is. I read this on-line, and honestly have no idea if this is an actual designated movement to support literature. It seems to be coming out of a single Barnes & Nobles store in Redlands, California. But it fits with marketing my book, so I thought I’d mention it. Read my book on Saturday. Be good for ya. Keep ya outta the HEAT !
I keep getting questions on the stats of sales of the book. How many have been sold, etc. I have no idea; the Publisher apparently generate this information quarterly, and not before.
GNARBLE IN THE SUN
My friend, Tiffany Turrill did this for a children’s book (The Journey of the Noble Gnarble) to be published October 1st, and written by Daniel Errico. Amazing. You can visit her website at: http://tiffanyturrill.daportfolio.com/
COMIC-CON, A PERSNICKETY COMMENTARY
This is the week of the now MASSIVE Comic-Con in San Diego, California. I went to this thing in the summer of 2001. Met Ray Bradbury for the first time; shook his hand. Got snarled at by George Clayton Johnson (one of the writers on the original Twilight Zone,) attended a panel for the then soon to be released, remastered Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — which was graced by the presence of Robert Wise: editor on Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons; director of The Body Snatcher, The House on Telegraph Hill, Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain. Got to watch a screening of The Last Starfighter – on film and pretty much alone; not a single sole was in there other than me. LOL. Watched the promo for the original Smallville pilot, featuring a much older couple playing Ma and Pa Kent. Sat in on the first Will Eisner Awards Ceremony — few people were there; this was a subdued yet incredible experience. Saw lots of faces I knew from the comic book store I was working at in Burbank at the time. Had dinner with some friends at the Lasagna House III, then saw Jurassic Park III … meh.
Stayed at the Marriott there at the Marina, in a very nice room. Close ? All I had to do was walk next door to the Convention. Was amazing. Had a breakfast in the Marriott Restaurant and when it proved vastly more expensive than what was quoted on the menu, I told the guy to bill it to a room number I came up with on the fly, and mentioned charging it too the “Underhill’s” account — and believe it or not he walked away content with that bit of bullshit.
Toured the ground floor and saw, in addition to the occasional Movie or TV tie in, a LOT of dealer’s tables filled with COMICS and TOYS, etc., etc. Took a nice walk around the Marina one evening with a beautiful girl, then lost her name and number a day later. Shit. Did a few of the panels — most pertaining to writing the field of comics and writing in general. All in all, it was a good time.
And none of it could be had, again. I went back once more, and just stepped in for a visit with a complimentary badge. (I was with someone with pull.) And even then, I could see everything had changed. No more dealer’s tables. No more comics for sale, no more toys, no more artists allowed to advertise and sell their work in the main room. Oh, no, they had been pushed out, into another wing somewhere. I mean I just wanted to leave, immediately. And from what I have been told since then, everything has only gone further down hill. Into the toilet of Hollywood commercialism. It is now simply a convention wherein Hollywood connects with the fan-boy culture. Panels about Movies and TV shows, lots of big banners and over-hyped entertainment properties. Anything else you’ll see, be it toys or art or whatever, is directly tied to a major corporation.
Yet they still call it a Comic book Convention. Comic-Con.
I’m told you can find the old school convention, but you have to walk for it and it isn’t what it used to be. And you can no longer get a room at the Marriott, because while they put them up for reservation every year, they seem to go very, very unbelievably fast, and are said to be quite mysteriously occupied by guests of the Comic-Con, i.e. celebrities.
Two years later, I suggested to someone that when they go to the Comic-Con, they take a walk around the beautiful Marina at sunset with someone, like I did. They came back in shock at my suggestion. It was so crowded, there was no where to walk, and no privacy to really enjoy. And it appeared to them to be that way, constantly.
I’d like to go back. But the convention I once visited is not there anymore. The public have been duped, completely into believing that the Comic-Con has simply “evolved.” But in truth, the San Diego Comic-Con has been kidnapped and replaced with an imposter. And a Corporate one at that. The Con is no longer owned by the same people, and reportedly is co-owned by a few of the Studios. Making it nothing more than a fucking marketing tool.
Oh well, so much for the idea of repeating my wonderful one-time excursion.
I got away from making Thursday blog posts for a while, mainly due to the “surprise” lol July 1st release of my book. But as of today, I’m back on track. Today is the 130 Year Anniversary of the shooting and death of the outlaw known today as Billy the Kid. History.com has a brief article on this here: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/billy-the-kid-is-shot-to-death
Below, is an excerpt from my book wherein the principal characters discuss their knowledge of William Bonney a.k.a. Billy the Kid. And as you’ll see, I’ve made it somewhat of an interactive experience. Enjoy.
The following passage is taken from Chapter 8 — Incidentals on the merely Legendary
The men around the table discussed their own one-time associations with [James Butler "Wild Bill"] Hickok and their associations with others who knew him, and somehow, it all led back to the question of just how many men such a notorious figure had actually killed. That is, as opposed to the oft-spoken hearsay that had eventually become the tale. And that brought out the subject of the one and only …
“What was that kid’s name?” Virgil asked, “Oh, hell, memory fails me.”
“Who?” Jim asked.
“Called ’em the left-handed gun …” Virgil said.
“Bonney?” Tom offered.
“Billy “Kid” Bonney, that’s him. They’ve written so much about that kid — under no circumstances could all of that possibly be true.” Virgil said, “Maybe some, but not all, not possible.”
“That kid didn’t kill half as many men as they write he did,” Frank said, “He didn’t have time, he was only nineteen when they killed him.”
“Well, I think Billy was at least twenty-one, if not twenty-two, by ’81 — ” Tom attempted to interrupt.
“He didn’t, and we know he didn’t, because they’ve written the same exact shit about us,” Virgil said.
There was chatter between the boys, and suddenly J.D. blurted out, “Lincoln County, New Mexico — ”
William Henry McCarty, alias “Kid” Antrim, alias William Harrison Bonney, alias Billy “Kid” Boney, and Billy the Kid — a name known to have been acquired during his lifetime, though no source seems to point to how or when — lived a brief life colored blood-red by violence. And the facts aren’t clear as to whether he was an instigator of said violence, or merely a victim. He was a literal “kid,” who never truly reached manhood due to his association with cattle baron Jon Tunstall and his business partner Alexander McSween, during their land and cattle war with a local Sheriff, and a band of rustlers in the Sheriff’s employ.
(Various Unauthenticated Photos, Purported to be of Billy the Kid)
“Jesse met that kid back in ’79 — hotel in Hot Springs, New Mexico,” Frank said.
“Is that right?” Jim said.
“Jesse ask him to join up with him. Kid declined the offer.”
“Why’d they call him the left-handed gun, sirs?” Sean asked.
“You boys wanna know how ‘the kid’ got called the left-handed gun … ” Tom began.
“You know about that, I heard about that as well — ” Frank was saying when Tom cut him off.
Standing from his chair, Tom proceeded to illustrate. “Billy Bonnie had a man come up behind him, knowing he was right-handed; grabbed Billy’s right arm and twisted it behind to keep him from drawing on him; Kid twisted his wrist around and pulled his right gun with the left hand; pointed the barrel underneath his arm and behind him — and shot that sucker dead!”
When he finished, the other men were staring at him, dumbfounded.
“Now Tom, that’s not what I heard,” Frank said.
“Now what I heard, either,” Virgil said.
“I don’t remember reading that,” J.D. added.
Jim was laughing, “He just made that up — I know he did.”
Horn simply smiled, mischievously.
Virgil said, “You’re not helping history at all, Tom.”
“I heard that every time he would have to draw in a hurry,” Jim said, “He would draw from his right holster, with his left hand across his chest — border style, like Virgil here.”
“Heard his wrist was double-jointed,” Frank stated.
“Heard it was hogwash,” Virgil stated.
Scuttlebutt had Billy the Kid drawing his pistol in a variety of styles to justify the nickname, “the left-handed gun.” And it was rather comical the way the men around the table offered up their individual versions of how Bonnie would draw a pistol. There were all manner of complex movements suggested to explain away “The Kid’s” famous nickname. And the explanations depicted Bonney from one end of the spectrum to the other. From smooth, calculated gunman to utter buffoon, who shot men clumsily and mostly by luck or accident. But in documented fact, the reason for the misnomer was a famous “verified” photo of William Bonney, with a pistol strapped at his left waist, and a rifle being held to the floor with his right hand. It was a photo, which at some early point in its history had been reversed, erroneously placing his six-gun on his left side. A fact which only came to light late in the 20th Century when someone noticed that the rifle’s ejector in the photo was on the wrong side.
Still, there are today those who continue to argue that Billy drew “border style,” meaning across himself, with his left hand. A belief which can best be described by this author as charming.
“I know you won’t believe this,” Tom began again, “But I crossed paths with him, just not long ago, under a different name.”
The other men exclaimed utter disbelief at this, and instantly began shouting over one another in response.
The boys merely laughed.
In the immediate years following his death, “The Kid” was seen and identified by a handful of persons who claimed to have known him during his lifetime. Persons who may, or may not, have ever met him when he was alive. Today, most historians believe this to have been the catalyst generating the myth that William Bonney either survived being shot by Pat Garret, or was simply never shot by Garret at all, and lived out the remainder of his life under an alias. It’s a truly bizarre myth that has fascinated even educated scholars, as well as filmmakers, who retold the legend as a framing device for the motion picture Young Guns II.
Nonetheless, Billy the Kid’s reincarnation, as it were, appears to have been nothing more than repeated fanciful attempts by aging men wishing to reclaim his identity in their golden years. All instances of those claiming to be the aging Bonney were in time disproved using the advanced science of DNA analysis, good detective work, and basic rudimentary math.
“Hell, I was born in the mornin’, but it wasn’t this mornin’,” Frank said.
“I’m serious. Garret didn’t kill him. I don’t know who that was he killed, but it wasn’t Bonney,” Tom continued.
“He was killed in ’81, Tom!” Jim argued.
“I saw him alive and kicking, right in front of these eyes, I’m tellin’ ya!” Tom replied.
“And I say maybe he had a twin brother!” Frank laughed.
“Okay men,” Virgil laughed, waving both arms across the table. “Call if off! Call it off!”
(CLICK BOOK COVER AT RIGHT FOR PURCHASE)
“WESTERN LEGEND” SYNOPSIS
By the Autumn of 1899 the coffin has all but closed shut on the American Wild West.
Men once considered the quintessence of the term, “desperado” now seek legitimate standing in their respective community. Some, even long for redemption.
Enter Four such men; each legendary in his own right. The elusive desperado Frank James, divisive lawman Virgil Earp, his brother and confidence man James Earp, and a notorious assassin of cattle thieves, named Tom Horn.
Various authenticated accounts detail a chance encounter, wherein these men arrived separately in the burgeoning metropolis of Nacogdoches, Texas on a lazy Sunday morning, sought respite in a local Saloon, and quickly found themselves entertaining adventurous children. Hastily crafting and illustrating tales of the West, the men threw adventure around the room; dismissing the many myths surrounding their more infamous exploits, and denying the existence of “notches” on their guns.
However, when finally called upon to dispatch a new breed of desperado terrorizing local citizens, these western legends proved every one of those myths true — and in high style.
Carve another notch.
(For those who came in late, please click synopsis at top of blog “before” reading.)
Within the Nacogdoches saloon, the boys have encouraged Virgil Earp (with some input from his brother, James Earp) to relate his version of events of the infamous street fight, today known as the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Thorough research by the author has better informed Virgil’s retelling of this historical incident. This rather healthy excerpt is taken mid-chapter, from …
CHAPTER TEN — STREET FIGHT
Once they began moving, eye-witnesses observed Virgil trade Holliday the Wells Fargo shotgun for his cane. Holliday concealed the weapon under a long gray coat he wore, that reached beneath his knees.
In their wake, and from a discrete distance, the four men were being shadowed by many from the crowd that had congested Hafford’s Corner. In the group trailing them were Sills, Hatch, and William H. Soule. Once reaching the intersection, and turning onto Fremont, Sills stopped and watched as the other two men continued on.
Also keeping pace with the Earp party were small groups of citizens seen through the alleyways on both sides of the street. One of these being William Allen, a Cowboy ally, whom having heard of the situation, had made his way across the streets of Tombstone, down alleys, over fences, and now kept pace with the men as they traveled.
The Earps and Holliday peered down the street with a cat’s glare. More than two hundred feet ahead, they discerned Behan, Frank, Tom, and Billy at the edge of a vacant lot. Behan turned and spotted the Earps and Holliday coming his way. Instantly, he began briskly walking toward them, throwing repeated looks back over his shoulder, checking on the men in the vacant lot.
Frank could be seen stepping out and speaking to him, “You need not be afraid, Johnny, we’re not going to have any trouble!”
The Cowboys retreated deeper into the lot. Now all the Earp party could see was the rear end of a horse. Doc and Virgil deviated onto the left sidewalk, staying close to the buildings. Wyatt and Morgan remained on the street. They were moving steadily ahead, four across.
* * * *
Virgil interrupted himself to orient the four boys.
“Now this was around two o’clock — ”
“Was three, Virgil.” Jim said.
“It was two, Jim — ”
“Beg to differ — was three.”
“I had just wound this here watch I’m still carrying here, in my pocket.”
“Well then you best have it checked, ’cause every clock in town read three.”
“Skip it,” Virgil said to the boys, finally, “Let’s just move on — ”
“Was three, boys.” Jim said.
* * * *
As they approached Bauer’s Meat Market, a citizen standing in the open doorway turned and shouted to everyone inside, “Here they come!” In response, the door was speedily blocked by a number of people. One of them was housewife Martha J. King, who specifically testified that due to a steady wind, Holliday was having a hard time concealing the shotgun. Fuelling further disquiet, the crowd may or may not have also seen the nickel-plated pistol sticking out of Holliday’s coat pocket, as well as Virgil resting his right hand lightly on the pistol pushed into the waist of his own pants.
As they passed the open door of Bauer’s, Mrs. King overheard Morgan, as he bent his neck slightly forward to catch Doc’s line of sight, and finish the statement, “ … let them have it.”
“All right,” Doc replied.
Sheriff Behan kept looking back over his shoulder as he met Virgil coming out from underneath the awning of Bauer’s. “Hold on, boys, I don’t want you to go any further,” he said, “I’m not going to have any trouble if I can help it,”
The men initially passed without even acknowledging him. Turning, Behan quickened his pace, and said quietly, “For Christ sake, don’t go down there; you’ll be murdered — ”
“Johnny, I’m gonna disarm ’em,” Virgil replied in a quiet, even tone.
“I’ve been down there to disarm them,” Behan stressed.
But the men ignored him. Briskly moving along the side of the street, they could just see Ike, his brother Billy, and someone else — probably Billy Claiborne — step past the corner, and back again.
Behan now shouted, “I’m the Sheriff of this County, and dammit, I want this thing stopped!”
Again, every member of the Earp party ignored him. It was too late for arguments. Behan stopped in the near center of the almost eighty-foot wide street.
Wyatt, possibly feeling that if the Cowboys were indeed unarmed, this could all result in public embarrassment, placed his long-barreled Colt into his pistol pocket — a bottomless coat pocket that gave access to either a holster, or simply his waistline.
Within the eighteen-foot wide vacant lot, the Cowboys overheard the footfalls of the Earps and Holliday approaching, along with the sound of whispering voices trailing them. Six men were now present in the vacant lot. Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, a friend of theirs named Billy Claiborne, and an acquaintance named Wesley Fuller. Hearing the Earps and Holiday approach, Fuller immediately retreated deeper into the lot, hiding in a space between Fly’s Lodging House and the small building in back, which Fly used as his Daguerreotype Photographic Studio and Gallery.
Ike had taken a step forward to meet the men, when suddenly, the Earp party turned the corner of Camillus Fly’s Lodging House, in a diamond formation, with Virgil out front, Wyatt and Morgan directly behind, and Holliday bringing up the rear. Virgil remained within sight of citizens watching from around the corner; Wyatt, planted himself right at the corner; Morgan centered himself on the sidewalk, facing down Billy Clanton; and Doc stepped just past the sidewalk, six feet away from Frank McLaury.
Also in the lot, were two horses which figured prominently in the orchestration of the fight — Tom McLaury had his hand on a Winchester rifle in a scabbard on Billy Clanton’s horse, while Frank had one hand wrapped tightly around the reins of his own steed.
As the following crowd got closer to the lot, Robert Hatch referenced two men now visible in the vacant lot and asked of a stranger, “Who are they?”
“The McLaury brothers,” The stranger replied.
Ike had initially moved straight to Wyatt, and Wyatt pulled his pistol and pushed Clanton back with the barrel, barking, “You sons-of-bitches have been looking for a fight; now you can have it—”
Ike quickly backed off; Frank and Billy each rested hands on holstered six-shooters. The second part of Wyatt’s statement overlapped with that of Virgil’s. “ — throw up your hands!”
“Boys, throw up your hands,” Virgil said, “I want your arms!”
In the street, Behan’s hands had gone straight up into the air, as if he himself were under arrest. He began shouting, “Put up your guns, boys! Put up your guns, boys!”
Robert S. Hatch turned to Deputy Sheriff & Jailer William H. Soule and said, “This is none of our fight. We had better get away from here.”
Ike backed into the approximate center of the lot near Billy Claiborne; both men clearly agitated. Within a second of Virgil giving the order for the Cowboys to throw up their hands, Claiborne had the common sense to throw up his left hand, and quickly dart deeper into the rear of the lot. He may’ve even dropped a pistol to the ground. Then came the sound of two hammers being cocked: CLICK, CLICK.
In sequel to this sound, Virgil’s hands went straight up, with Doc’s cane still in one of them. “Hold!” he said sternly, “I don’t mean that! I’ve come to disarm you!”
In front of Bauer’s Butcher Shop, Reuben Franklin Coleman was afraid he was too close. And while in the act of turning to move back up the street, he heard — BA-BANG! Coleman jolted in spasm with the initial two shots. He turned and saw Ike Clanton being shoved away by Wyatt, then spin at the corner of Fly’s, and jump inside the Gallery — with Behan right behind, his hand on his shoulder. In that instant, a stray shot struck the wagon parked right next to Coleman.
Both sets of testimony hint that before this, much of the crowd had begun to move en masse, back up the street. And all at the same instant. Possibly accounting for a lack of reliability on many eye-witnesses in nailing down the exact sequence of shots fired at that very moment.
“And the rest is history.” Virgil said, definitively.
* * * *
The four boys were still leaning forward on the floor of the saloon waiting for more … When it became strangely obvious that there would be no more. Jim was trying to hold in his laughter, but eventually, he cracked into an uncontrollable cackle.
“What happened next?” J.D. said.
“What about the rest of the gunfight?” Sean exclaimed.
“The gunfight?” Virgil smiled, “The gunfight!? That all you care about, the gunfight?”
All four of the boys answered at once, and without reserve, “YEAH!”
“It was like what Frank said about Minnesota, just sheer racket.” Virgil had now tossed both hands in the air in gun pose and was firing off shots around the room, “BANG, BANG! — BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG! BANG, BANG, BANG!”
While out the window behind him, several Nacogdoches citizens were alarmed by the sight of this. One young woman turned the corner, saw Virgil’s motion, and fainted dead away.
Meanwhile, those inside the saloon were simply having a good time. Virgil continued, “BANG, BANG! BANG, BANG! BANG, BANG, BANG! Men shootin’, horses going crazy, dogs barking … Krakatoa didn’t make that much racket.”
Virgil finally appeared to be finished when his brother offered up a suggestion which intrigued him, “Go on,” Jim said, “Set the record straight. Give them boys the blood-and-thunder.”
Virgil looked around at the men, half-smiling, and then peered down at the boys with complete seriousness. “All right,” he said, “Let me draw it out for you. And don’t blink.”