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This is a fascinating article about one mining town and how they took care of a thief:
They granted him a respite of three hours to prepare for his sudden entrance into eternity.”
Mrs. Louise Clappe was the wife of a physician and lived in the mining area known as Indian Bar that bordered the Feather River in Northern California.
In the period from 1851 to 1852, she wrote a number of letters to her sister in Massachusetts describing her experience.
These letters were originally published in Pioneer Magazine (1854-55) and then as a book in 1922.
A copy of this book resides in the Library of Congress.
In a letter written on December 14, 1851, Mrs. Louise Clappe describes how the mining community established its own form of law and order:
Cowboy Joe – The Last of the Wild Bunch
While thumbing through the Letters to the Editor section of my Fall 1992 issue of Old West magazine I was surprised to discover reference from a reader to an article I had written for Westerner magazine back in 1975. The article was an interview with Joseph Claude Marsters, an octogenarian friend of mine who just happened to be the last known survivor of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. The letter’s author, Mr. Clyde Dykes of Doyle, California, claimed to have recently purchased a piece of ground near Doyle which was once part of Joe Marsters’ old ranch. On that ground, according to Mr. Dykes, was a small cemetery plot containing the graves of Joe, his wife Nellie, and a brother Claude.
I have since heard directly from Mr. Dykes, who sent me photos of the graves, and memories of my old friend Cowboy Joe came flooding back. It seemed appropriate to share a few of those memories in these pages.
Joseph Claude Marsters was born at Tillamook, Oregon, near Portland, in 1894. In 1907, when Joe was a lad of 13, his best friend was his uncle, a young retarded youth in his early twenties. Some local fellows took advantage of the young man’s simpleness to blame a local crime on him, and he was dragged away kicking and screaming, and summarily hanged. Joe had followed, and he witnessed the gruesome death of his favorite uncle. The trauma caused him to run away from home.
“My poor mother,” Joe told me, “was quite a business woman in Portland, Oregon and through the lodges of Eastern Star and Rebeccahs, she had a small reward offered for me.” But Joe was nowhere to be found.
I have a copy of Ann Bassett’s autobiography on this blog, but if one really wants to get to know Ann Bassett, her sister and the residents of Brown’s park, one needs to read Grace McClure’s excellent and readable book about Ann and her sister, Jose, “The Bassett Women,” which you can get on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle…here is an excerpt about a most unusual Thanksgiving dinner given by the Outlaws, including “the Wild Bunch,” lead by Butch Cassidy, for the citizens of Brown’s Park:
“In that little group of socially acceptable lawbreakers were, for instance, the Bender Gang. These men “worked” in the summer and spent their winters in Brown’s Park. Ann Bassett wrote in detail about a Thanksgiving dinner the outlaws gave for the families in the Park around 1895, recreating it for Esther Campbell so that Esther might use it for a community program. Ann is quoted here, with the faulty spelling and casual punctuation she used in letters to her personal friends:
. . . Brown’s Hole was a rest retreat for the men we called the “Bender gang.” Billie Bender and Les Megs were men of education and refinement. They had several younger men who came with them regularly. It became known in our country that Bender and Megs were agents for smugglers working from the Mexican border to Canada. Several years after they no longer came to Brown’s Hole, Bender died in Wyoming and Megs became a real estate broker in Los Angeles. None of them ever gave the people of Brown’s Hole any trouble. They were quiet peaceful citizens while there. Their profession or business was rather a mystery to the settlers but it was not our business to question that since they were well behaved and kept their boys in line.
Butch and Lay were on friendly terms with Bender and Megs and their boys, so they gave the Thanksgiving party for the Brown’s Hole families together and did not spare expenses in putting over a grand spread of the best delicacies Rock Springs could supply.
Tom Davenport raised the turkeys and the “gang” bought them. The dishes, linens, and silver waS furnished by the women of the Hole.
I make no claim as to the truth of this interview…but it feels right. Source
San Francisco, California
Newspapers have me dead twice already—burned up in a house fire and shot by a lover, but I got out of the fire in time, and the bullet missed. The fire was here in San Francisco, and the shooting was in Argentina. Been stalked by the reaper since I was born, in ’78, a yellow fever year.
I disappeared into the pages of history, yet here I am, ninety-two. But you want to learn about Sundance—Harry Longabaugh. Don’t ask me to spell it.
For the longest time, the Pinkertons was after Harry and me. Now I miss them. There was one fella who asked to be taken off the trains so he could hunt for me fulltime—oh, a woman likes being chased. Detective or sweetheart, don’t make much difference. The U.S. marshals hounded us too, and private eye-types hired by Wells Fargo and the banks—spies or cops or whatever you want to call them. Thugs, mostly.
Frank Smith, H.A. Brown, Harry A. Place, Harry Long. Those was Harry’s other names. Alias Sundance.
You might say Harry and me was in demand.
He was horrible. Write that down. Said he’d tried to please everybody all his life, and all it got him was mad. He picked his nose—with two fingers. Never mind what you’ve heard, I was never his girl. I wouldn’t even touch his sleeve. He and Harry was not as loyal to each other as you might think. George LeRoy Parker was his real name. It took Harry’s image down, to associate with the likes of him. I told him so.
How It All Began
Every nation has a history and an era that defines that the nation; when the people of that nation think of themselves, that moment of glory is how they think of themselves as a member of that nation. For England, the national glory was during the era of Empire…Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, Francis Drake, India, the Raj…for France, it is Napoleon and when the Arabs think of their ages of glory, it is the Bedouin lifestyle, and the rise of Islam that forms their self-image.
For the United States, the dominant national image was formed during our Westward expansion; when foreigners think of this country, they think of cowboys and Indians…and most of us, today, who grew up during the 1950’s and 1960’s remember cowboy shows…Wyatt Earp, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, Dodge City…this image of the brave settler, the noble Marshall, the fierce, noble savage Indian Warrior was a major part of the nation’s psyche for almost a hundred years. Children at the turn of the 20th century snuck behind the barn to read the latest ‘dime novels’ about Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane.
The unique aspect of the American mythos is its emphasis on goodness. The British Empire had its dark side, Napoleon was a butcher and the Arab Bedouin image is one of lying and deceit, but the American cowboy image was based on honesty, trust and faithfulness. Americans have always seen themselves as good people, moreso than most other cultures. In fact, Americans have often been reviled by the more ‘sophisticated’ Europeans for their naivety, To us it is our strength, to Europe it is our weakness.
Butch Cassidy (Robert Leroy Parker) and “the Sundance Kid” (Harry Longabaugh) were two American outlaws, operating primarily in the Western States of Utah and Wyoming during the late 19th century. They were part of a very loose, leaderless conglomeration of horse thieves, bank robbers and cattle rustlers known as “the Wild Bunch,” and became famous when a movie was produced, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Neither man was a violent criminal; in fact, none of the dozen or two men in the Wild Bunch was ever accused of murder. They robbed banks and trains, and stole cattle…and for many the argument has been made that their activities were a reaction against big moneyed interest in the ranches, railroads and banking industry which were driving the small rancher and cowboy out of livelihood.
Be that as it may, both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid found that they were not making it as outlaws; none of their thefts were large enough to allow them to leave that dangerous life which had no future…and, yet, they couldn’t stop. Their names were known, they couldn’t a job doing what they knew best, herding cattle, because the law, especially in the form of the Pinkerton detective agency, was hot on their trail and their faces were well known…therefore, in 1901, Butch and Sundance left the country, traveling to South America, hoping to find a new life, there.
What happened, then, is the stuff of legend; according to local history, in the town of San Vicente, Bolivia, Butch and Sundance tried to rob a bank, failed, were chased by the local army and were killed. They were buried, there, and one can go, today, visit their graves and see, in the local museum, the events of that fateful day, so well portrayed in the movie, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”