Welcome to Amber

Roger Zelazny had a series of books based on the idea that there were two realities in the Universe, Amber and Chaos. Everything else that stretched between Amber and Chaos was a shadow of one or the other.

Amber is meant to be that one reality, a reality where thought, study and rational discussion help us understand our lives through the lives of people who lived before us…without the study of the past and the people who lived before us, we are left with Chaos, where anything goes….

So welcome to Amber…and I hope you contribute your own thoughts to what is written here…and enjoy the lives I present of those who came before!

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Butch Cassidy’s Burial in Nevada

The story that Butch Cassidy spent his last days in Nevada has been around a long time, long enough that a dirt road near the abandoned gold mine at Johnny, Nevada, where Butch is rumored to have died, is named Butch Cassidy Pass. So how did that tale get started?

“It’s very difficult to prove anything where outlaws are concerned,” said Kerry Ross Boren. “They change names as often as they change horses.”

Outlaw researcher Kerry Ross Boren has spent decades trying to unravel the dozens of competing theories that have clouded the story of Butch and Sundance. The two bandits have inspired dozens of books, hundreds of articles, movies and TV shows but Western historians disagree on almost every detail.

The tale is made murkier by imposters who have claimed to be Butch or Sundance. William Phillips of Spokane looked enough like an older Cassidy to fool some of his former associates, and historians, at least for a while.

What’s known for sure is that the gang plundered banks and robbed trains, then Butch and Sundance relocated to South America, along with the mysterious Etta Place. The duo reportedly died in a shootout in Bolivia 1909, the same story told in the hit movie.

The graves of the banditos yanquis became something of a tourist attraction, but when a world-famous DNA detective analyzed the remains in the 1990s, it was proven conclusively the dead men were not Butch and Sundance.

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Billy and Me, or how I started this

In 2001, I found it necessary to go with my wife to visit a Shaman for a soul retrieval. The theory behind  soul retrieval is that when a person undergoes a trauma, their soul is split, and often does not come back together. The Shaman attempts to contact the shattered pieces of ones soul and bring them back, to form a whole. As it turned out, this soul retrieval had a surprising occurrence which explained much of my later life, especially the reasons for my investigations.

Certainly, I felt I had undergone more than one trauma. Over the past ten years, I had lost three jobs, been out of work for a year and a half, descended into a grand funk, culminating in the divorce of the woman with whom I had been with for close to 22  years. She was my best friend, the woman who I considered to be the person who was closest to me than anyone else, and did not deserve the divorce, but my life was in a tailspin, and I felt that I needed to change my life, somehow…to go into another direction. So I divorced my wife, and sought something new.

I found a job in Illinois, a change of place, and a new start…I had a woman friend, who was also willing to seek a new life, so I invited her to come along. She was eager. I did not love her, but maybe a relationship would develop, and at least I would know someone in Illinois for the few months it took me to get settled. Maybe in six months, she would get a job and move on, or not. It did not matter to me.

Six months later she was diagnosed with cancer. She had no medical insurance, and I was not uncaring of her, so I married her. I thought she would either get better, or die…I did not think that it would take her ten years to die, ten horrible, painful, mind-numbing years with trips to the hospital in the middle of the night, changing her bandages twice a day to stop the bleeding, etc. etc.

So, it did not seem untoward to seek Shamanistic help. Both of us felt that it might give us some insight into why both our lives were tending so far downwards.

The soul retrieval was interesting, and I think it did some good. However, with respect to this account, there was one feature that stood out. The Shaman, a young woman named Jaes, a very well-known Shamen from Wisconsin, told me that there were five 19th century people overseeing my life. I immediately knew who one of those, 19th century gentlemen was…..because I had been involved with his life for close to ten years up until that point, and still am. He was Billy Merritt
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Stories of Butch Cassidy and Ann Bassett in Leeds, UT

The following is taken from the book “Leeds; Historical Events in Little Pieces” by Wilma Cox Beale.

Ann Willis

A friend of mine, Dorothy Spendlove, from Hurricane, Utah, asked me if I knew where Ann Willis was buried. She said she had looked throughout the Leeds cemetery and couldn’t find her grave. I told her I knew she had died while living in Leeds, but I was sure she was cremated.

Now this was quite a coincidence. It wasn’t too long after the above visit when a couple, by the name of Dick and Sara Sawyer dropped in to see me. They asked if I knew “Queen Ann” from Brown’s Hole. I asked if they were talking about Ann Willis and they said they were.

We visited a little about Ann, then Mr. Sawyer asked me if I would like a book telling about her life. I told him I had heard lots of stories first hand but it would be interesting to read more. didn’t expect to hear from him again, but I did. He brought me the book.

Ann’s own stories, with Frank chipping in every so often, when the stories concerned him, tell you a little of her spicy escapades.

start this story with how Ann came to be here.

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Sullivan County, New York

I wanted to share some information I received about the county in which I grew up, Sullivan County, New York…my hometown was Livingston Manor, named after Edward Livingston, relative of Richard Livingston who helped draft the Constitution…the county seat is Monticello, and there is also a small town named Jeffersonville…it just occurred to me (after 60 years), that this was an interesting coincidence…that there was a town named for Thomas Jefferson, and another town name for his plantation…I asked a friend of mine, the local historian, and this is what he said:

“The naming of Monticello and Jeffersonville are related only in the sense that they were both named…nearly fifty years apart…by great admirers of Thomas Jefferson for his role in crafting the Declaration of Independence and as President. When the Jones brothers founded Monticello in 1804, Jefferson was President and very popular…as born out by the fact that he defeated Charles Pinckney in the Presidential election of 1804 by some 45 percentage points in the popular vote. When Charles Langhorn named his hotel the Jefferson House around 1840, the country had changed considerably, but the Jeffersonian ideals were still revered by some, and Langhorn was one. Jeffersonville took its name from his hotel. And Livingston Manor was named for Edward Livingston, a relative of Robert (Robert was a member, along with Jefferson, of the Committee of Five which drafted the Declaration of Independence and the man who administered the Presidential oath of office to George Washington) who lived in the area then known as Purvis and was so highly regarded by his neighbors that they renamed their community for him after his death. I hope this helps clarify things.”

As an aside, the county is named for General John Sullivan, a hero of the Revolutionary war

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The House Where Ann Bassett Died

I am so excited, and have to get this out, somewhere…since no one in the world really cares, but…

Anyway, Butch Cassidy’s long time friend and lover (IMO) was Ann Bassett, the “Queen of the Rustlers…she moved to Leeds, Utah, and died there in 1956. Part of the reason I went to Utah last week was to find her house, but no one there would give me a clue. Very frustrating, really, but they really don’t seem to like outsiders…

I got a book from interlibrary loan discussing whether the Etta Place who went to South America with Butch Cassidy was actually Ann Bassett (a fascinating book with lots of stories, if anyone wants a copy), and, to make a long story short, it says that when Ann moved to Leeds, UT, she lived with the McMullins…and, as it turns out, if one Googles “McMullin house” one can get a picture of the house as it looked in the 1950’s and how it looks now….AND, using Google Maps, I found the house! Here is how it looks today. This is how I get my kicks, historical detective work…

Brigham Young McMullin home

Photo of the Brigham Young McMullin home at 10 S. Main Street in Leeds.

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The US-Dakota War of 1862 – the Trials and Hangings

“The trials of the Dakota were conducted unfairly in a variety of ways. The evidence was sparse, the tribunal was biased, the defendants were unrepresented in unfamiliar proceedings conducted in a foreign language, and authority for convening the tribunal was lacking. More fundamentally, neither the Military Commission nor the reviewing authorities recognized that they were dealing with the aftermath of a war fought with a sovereign nation and that the men who surrendered were entitled to treatment in accordance with that status.”
Carol Chomsky, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Law School

On September 28, 1862, two days after the surrender at Camp Release, a commission of military officers established by Henry Sibley began trying Dakota men accused of participating in the war. Several weeks later the trials were moved to the Lower Agency, where they were held in one of the only buildings left standing, trader François LaBathe’s summer kitchen.

As weeks passed, cases were handled with increasing speed. On November 5, the commission completed its work. 392 prisoners were tried, 303 were sentenced to death, and 16 were given prison terms.

President Lincoln and government lawyers then reviewed the trial transcripts of all 303 men. As Lincoln would later explain to the U.S. Senate:

“Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I ordered a careful examination of the records of the trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females.”

When only two men were found guilty of rape, Lincoln expanded the criteria to include those who had participated in “massacres” of civilians rather than just “battles.” He then made his final decision, and forwarded a list of 39 names to Sibley.

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Who Was Etta Place

From Geni.com, this is the best discussion of the mystery of Harry Longabaugh (“the Sundance Kid”)’s girlfriend, Etta Place.

About Etta Place (wife of the “Sundance Kid”)


Etta Place (born c. 1878, date of death unknown) was a companion of the American outlaws Butch Cassidy (real name Robert LeRoy Parker) and the Sundance Kid (Harry Alonzo Longabaugh), both members of the outlaw gang known as the Wild Bunch. Principally the companion of Longabaugh, little is known about her; both her origins and her fate remain mysterious. Despite Longabaugh and Parker’s fame, by the mid-20th century it was the mysterious vanishing of Place that sparked the most interest, which continues to the present day.

Life with the Sundance Kid According to a Pinkerton Detective Agency memorandum dated July 29, 1902, she was “said…..to be from Texas,” and in another Pinkerton document dated 1906, she is described as being “27 to 28 years old”, placing her birth around 1878. This is confirmed by a hospital staff record from Denver, where she received treatment in May 1902, which reports her age as “23 or 24,” (therefore again, c.1878), although both records may transpire to be from the same original source, the hospital staff.

Even her real name is a mystery; Place was the maiden surname of Longabaugh’s mother (Annie Place) and she is recorded in various sources as Mrs. Harry Longabaugh or Mrs. Harry A. Place. The one instance where she is known to have signed her name, she recorded it as “Mrs. Ethel Place.” It is possible that she met Parker and/or Longabaugh in Fort Worth or in the brothel of Madame Fannie Porter in San Antonio, which was frequented by members of the Wild Bunch gang and which resulted in several gang members meeting girlfriends that later traveled with them, to include Kid Curry’s meeting of prostitute Della Moore. Gang member Will Carver also began a relationship with one of Porter’s “girls,” Lillie Davis, and Wild Bunch female gang member Laura Bullion is believed to have worked at the brothel from time to time.

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The Lost Tomb of King Arthur


Having spent many years reading all that I can find on the historic Arthur, I have to say that Graham Phillips has the best, possibly provable, theory on who was the historic Arthur, and where he might be buried. This site, gives his ideas, along with some wonderful photos

The story of King Arthur is known throughout the world. The fabled Camelot, Sir Bedivere casting Excalibur into the lake and Arthur’s secret burial at the isle of Avalon: these are just a few of the enchanting themes in the ancient saga that historians have long considered to be pure fantasy. Now, in The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, Graham Phillips presents compelling evidence that such legends were actually based on real events. During a quest lasting over twenty-five years, he has followed a fascinating trail of historical clues showing Arthur to have been a living warrior who led the Britons around the year 500. He has discovered that the legendary Camelot, Excalibur and Avalon were based on a real city, a real sword and a real island. And, most astonishing of all, Graham has found what he claims to be the location where Arthur was finally buried. An ancient manuscript still persevered at Oxford University, Graham believes, reveals the whereabouts of King Arthur’s long-lost tomb. Not in the South West town of Glastonbury, as the popular myth maintains, but at an ancient site in the isolated countryside of central England. With the help of archaeologists employing the very the latest scientific equipment, Graham now has what he is certain is the final proof that this disregarded Dark Age text really does reveal

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Rosa May

I often tell people that most of my friends are dead, and this is what I mean…I love this woman. Don’t ask me why, except she was a good woman and had a wonderful life, but I have read everything I can about her and she has a place in my heart.

This chapter is excepted from “the Story of Bodie,” by Ella M. Cain…Rosa May was a prostitute in the town of Bodie, which is now a ghost town protected by the State of California…her story is charming, and I think it would be of interest to anyone interested in the life of the Old American West. Visit my photo gallery of the ghost town of Bodie, CA here

rosa may2

Story of Rosa May

Virgin Alley had a new sign, “The Highgrade.” It swung back and forth in the breeze over the latest house of ill repute on that long street inhabited by the demi­monde of the camp.

The newly arrived occupant of the Highgrade was a dark-eyed, curly headed, petite French girl by the name of Rosa May. She had lived at 18 D Street in Virginia City, and later at No. 1 Ormsby Street in Carson City, Nevada. Then Bodie beckoned with its golden, and what turned out to be, its diamond-studded hand, and Rosa answered the call.

In a short time she became the idol and toast of all the men who frequented the sporting district of the town, and they were many.

One miner was heard to remark, ” She was a gal who had a smile you’d go to hell for, and never regret it.” Yes, Rosa was the undisputed queen of Bodie’s under­world !

It was most natural that Ernest Marks, owner and proprietor of the Laurel Palace Saloon, should fall head over heels in love with her. That was no surprise to anyone; but the surprise and disappointment was that Rosa seemed to have a “hankerin” after Ernest.

Ernest wasn’t bad looking. He was tall and dark, with a slight mustache, and, true to the Hebrew blood in his veins, had inherited the traditional trait of making money. He lavished plenty of it on Rosa, in diamonds and furs. He allowed the other girls from the Red Light to frequent his place at night, and dance to the tunes that the old fiddler played, but Rosa was never there. A shade of jealousy and rage would pass over his face if her name was mentioned lightly by any of his drinking customers. One evening a Cornishman named Billy Owens, who had come into some money on the death of his mother, called “Fire in the Head !” and the whole house rose up for a drink. “Make it champagne, Ernest,” he ordered; then, mounting a chair, with his glass raised in his hand, he shouted : “Here’s to Rosa May, the darlingest, sweetest little bunch of loveliness that ever came into this camp. She’s mine!” Ernest turned as white as a sheet, and, reaching down behind the bar. He grabbed the pistol that he had kept there for emergencies. He pointed it straight at, Billy, and coolly and deliberately said, “Don’t drink to that toast, Billy—or I’ll fill you full of lead. No other man but me can toast Rosa at this bar, or any other bar in this whole damn camp.” Billy was raising his glass to drink, when suddenly pistol shots sounded from behind him—and the lights went out, for some level headed customer knew Ernest meant what he said. From that time on bad blood was known to exist between Ernest and Billy.  Continue reading

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