Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and Other Bad Men
Deputy Sheriff Watson and Other Horse Thieves
ON Tuesday evening, September lo, 1889, Sheriff John Williams of Douglas and the sheriff from Sundance, in Crook county, arrived in Casper on a special train, and about midnight they served warrants on Phil Watson, Jess Lockwood and James ("Pecos") Hughes, on the charge of horse stealing. At the time he was arrested Watson was the town marshal of Casper and deputy sheriff in this part of Carbon county; Lockwood was an ex-cow puncher, but at that time was a hanger-on around the saloons; "Pecos" was a gambler, and was wanted as a witness against the other two men. The men were taken to Sundance and given a preliminary examination, and they were held to the district court for trial, Watson's bond being placed at $1,500 and Lockwood's at $5,000. Hughes' deposition was taken and he was allowed to go his way. About ten days later E. J. ("Tex") Healy, whose homestead was on Fish creek, about thirty miles southwest from Casper, was arrested upon the charge of being an accomplice of Lockwood and Watson. He was placed under bond of $500, which was secured by J. J. Hurt. "Tex" lost no time in leaving the country, and has not since been seen, and his bond was forfeited.
At the trial in the district court it was proven that Lockwood, Watson and Healy were connected with an organized gang of horse thieves, who operated in Montana and Northern and Central Wyoming. The horses were gathered up in Montana and the northern part of Wyoming, and driven into the Sweetwater country by a couple of the gang, where they were turned over to Lockwood and "Tex";, they were then driven to the homestead of "Tex" on Fish creek, and then brought to Casper and turned over to Watson, who would sell them here or ship them to an eastern market.
P. C. Nicolaysen bought one of the horses from Watson that had been stolen from Crook county, and Dave Graham loaned some money on several others, and these two citizens of Casper went to Sundance as witnesses for the state. Both of the defendants were convicted, and Lockwood was sentenced to serve a term of eight years in the penitentiary and Watson was sentenced to a term of five years. When they had served their time they are said to have gone into Montana, but they have ever since gone around Casper.
It will be noted that Lockwood and "Tex" were on the coroner's jury who inquired into the death of James Averell and Ella Watson, who were hanged by Sweetwater cattlemen in July of that year, and that Watson was the officer who went out from Casper and cut down the bodies, and it has been said that the whole gang, including Averell and the Watson woman, were working together, but whether that is true or not, it will be noted that none of them escaped being punished for their misdeeds.
Not long after Watson had been convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary. Sheriff Frank Hadsell came to Casper from his home in Rawlins, and he was indulging in considerable raillery with the people of Casper over the fact that they had signed a petition requesting him and the board of county commissioners to appoint Watson deputy sheriff for this section of Carbon county, and after telling the people that all one had to do was to take one good look at Watson and they would have known he was a rascal and a thief, a letter was produced which Sheriff Hadsell had written to some of his friends in Casper asking them to circulate a petition requesting Watson's appointment. Like the good sport that he is, Hadsell acknowledged writing the letter, and openly said that up until the time he was arrested he thought Watson was all right, "but," he said, "people have no right to keep personal letters like that, and springing them on a fellow when he has no chance to get out of it."
While he was an officer it pleased Watson to prove to the people of Casper that he was a competent official and a brave man, and one afternoon when a "bad man" rode into town from the west and had imbibed freely of corn juice he became so boisterous that some one in the saloon requested him to tone down a little. In a flash the "bad man" whipped out two six-guns and fired them into the ceiling, then backed up to the wall and threatened to shoot the first man that made a menacing move. Just about that time Watson happened to come in his sheriff's badge was prominently displayed, and the "bad man" pointed both pistols at him, warning him not to come forward another step. Watson said not a word; neither did he stop, falter or hesitate to walk straight ahead toward the "bad man" and the two big guns pointing directly at him. When within two feet of the man the deputy sheriff made a quick draw, and in less than a second his two six-guns were pointing from his hip in the direction of the man's stomach.
"Give me those guns," said Watson, just as cool as though he were asking the fellow for a match. The big "bad man" eyed Watson for a second and then handed over his artillery. Watson then told him to get out of town and to get quick, and the fellow got. Watson's act of bravery was told and retold for months afterwards, but the people at that time did not know the "bad man" was one of Watson's horse thief pals; that he and Watson had been out on the range together all morning, and that the whole proceeding had been fixed up and rehearsed several hours before.
The "Tex" ranch on Fish creek was on the old Oregon Trail, near where a government stage station had been located, and it is said of "Tex" that the hungry and tired traveler who passed that way never left the place without being well fed and properly cared for. The "Tex" ranch extended about seven miles south of his Fish creek ranch house to the Platte river, about twenty-five miles from Casper, where there is a sharp bend in the stream. The banks on the south and east are protected by high walls and to the north there is a stretch of meadow land, and it was here that "Tex" kept the horses that were brought in from the north by the gang of thieves. In those early days this was the smoothest gang of thieves that operated in this part of the country. Half of the gang worked in Montana and Northern Wyoming, while the other half carried on their operations in the central part of the state. The horses were kept in this stretch of meadow land, and it was here that the exchange of horses was made, the northern horses being brought to Casper where they were sold and shipped and the horses that had been stolen from the central and southern part of the state were taken to the north where they were disposed of.
No two names in Wyoming are so well known to the outside world as the Hole-in-the-Wall and Powder river. To many they epitomize all that might be written of our lawlessness, our feuds and our state's wild youth with its trappings of guns and holsters, spurs and lariats. Many a boy in the detective story stage of his literary studies is thrilled by the magic spell of these names pregnant with tales of rustlers and banditti. It is singular that these two most widely known names should be so closely linked geographically. The Hole-in-the-Wall is in the Powder River country. The water flowing through the "Hole" empties into Powder river, and its ensanguined waters, red with the blood of 10,000 mythical bandits, finally mingle with the more peaceful but muddy tide of the Missouri.
Our soldiers in the great world war carried the slogan of "Powder river" to every part of Central Europe. Boys from Salt Creek shouted it as they helped turn the tide of the whole war at Chateau Thierry. It echoed through the forest of the Argonne and cheered the lads who bravely rushed the bridges of the Meuse. Where less serious work was in hand and Sammy knew a little relaxation this yell of "Powder River" was a vent for his spirits. Parisians who knew no other English word could say "Poudre Rive," and fan the air with a hat. It is something of which we might boast that a state with a population equal only to the city of Denver and a congressional delegation of three gave the entire Union its battle cry in the biggest war ever waged by man. Such phrases as "Powder river, let 'er buck," "Powder river, a mile wide and an inch deep," can be heard in the logging camps of Maine and the salmon canneries of Oregon. The ancient war cries of "St. Denis" and "St. George, "the helmet of Navarre waving its white plume over Ivry's bloody field, must make room for a noisy and barbaric successor from the pinnacled summits of a new continent.
No one can say just when or just where the shout of "Powder River" had its noisy birth. But it certainly was a lusty and well-lunged child from the beginning. It first grew into popularity at either Casper or Buffalo. These two towns were the chief resorts of the "boys" from the Powder River country. Even a drunken man will shout for the home ball team and bet on a home horse. Men from Powder river, with a few drinks under their belts, had to yell. So did men from Meadow creek and Sweetwater. You were expected to proclaim that the locality you hailed from was about the toughest on earth and try to prove it. "Powder River" is more easily shouted than such names as Sweetwater, Stinking Water or the Platte. Its vowels gave it a pre-eminence. It grew to be almost universally used when you felt the need of intensive yelling. There are moments when nothing but yelling will do. There are times to laugh and times to sing, but there are other times when we simply want to get out and yell. As to date, it can be said that throughout Natrona, Johnson and Converse counties its general use on festive occasions dates from the period between 1895 and 1900. There can be no registry of birth for a thing of such slow growth.
The Hole-in-the-Wall first gained a national notoriety through the train robbery at Wilcox, Wyoming, on June 2, 1899, The robbers left the Union Pacific railroad and headed north to Casper. Crossing the Platte on the Casper bridge, they headed toward the Hole-in-the- Wall and eventually escaped into Montana. This robbery attracted wide attention, and newspaper men all over the Union were smitten with the spell of the name of " Hole-in-the-Wall." Paragraphers and joke-smiths roped and hogtied it in record time. Following this, every fugitive from justice in the Rocky Mountain region was reported in Chicago and New York papers to be "headed for the Hole-in-the-Wall." Escaped convicts in New Mexico and embezzling cashiers from Denver were said to be en route for the capacious Hole. One nauseated writer on a Chicago paper asked why Wyoming did not fill up the Hole with dirt. He suggested fresnos and wheel scrapers as a remedy for police inefficiency. The name "Hole-in-the-Wall" is such a hint and help to a lurid imagination that a famishing literary hack seizes on it with a fiendish avidity.
It is scarcely necessary to once more announce to our Deadwood Dicks and Nick Carters that the fearsome Hole is no hole at all. It is a wide and beautiful canyon by which a stream finds its way through a remarkable ridge about thirty miles long, known as the Red Wall. This wall of red earth and sandstone parallels the Big Horn mountains for many miles on their southern extremity in Natrona county. Between the ridge and the mountains lies a broad valley through which flows Buffalo creek. On the upper waters of this creek lies the old Houck and Mahoney ranch, one of the oldest in the county and now owned by the Buffalo Creek Cattle company. The creek winds eastward between the Big Horns and the Red Wall, seeking a chance to break through, but does not find it until the break in the wall is found near the border of Natrona and Johnson counties. Here the creek escapes into the lower country and gives to the world the name of "The Hole-in-the-Wall." Who first gave the canyon this name is not known. There is a probability that it came through the group of Englishmen headed by the two Frewens who in 1878 located a ranch on the Middle and North forks of Powder river. These men had birth, money and brains. Yet, with all three, they failed to make a success of the range cattle business.They built a fine log ranch house with fire places and mantels reminiscent of the stately homes they had known in England. They gave names to many localities. A great castled rock on Castle creek is called "Frewen Castle," after Mr. Mortimer Frewen, one of the party. They also gave Castle creek its name. Their native isle was a land of castles. There was a spot in London known as the "Hole-in-the-Wall." As early as 1722, Mr. Tom Brown, a well known writer of that day, says: "Address me at Mr. Seward's at the 'Hole-in-the-Wall,' in Baldwin's Gardens." Some of these Londoners at the Frewen ranch in the early eighties probably christened the canyon with its unforgetable name.
A cowboy battle near the Hole-in-the-Wall in July, 1897, gave the locality its first bit of state-wide notoriety. In this fight Bob Smith was killed, while his brother-in-law, Al Smith, and Bob and Lee Devine were wounded. Peace held her reign for two years and then, in 1899, came the Union Pacific train robbery at Wilcox. The sensational escape of these bandits to Montana through the Hole-in-the-Wall region drew the eyes of the whole nation to this canyon and hung the picture of its rugged beauties in the Hall of Fame among other immortal cavities. The name of the Red Wall was also lurid and suggestive enough to please. Perched on its liver-colored rimrocks a morbid imagination could run wanton and youthful bandits could stalk precociously. We will write of these two battles in their chronological order.
Bob Devine was foreman of the CY Cattle outfit. The CY was one of the largest cattle companies in the state, being owned by J. M. Carey & Brother. The CY riders, together with those of the Ogallala company and the Pugsleys on Meadow creek, in Converse county, were preparing to work the Red Wall country, but had been warned to keep out.
In 1897, Devine, who was a very determined man, gave public notice that he intended to cover that region and recover anything with a CY brand on it. Bob and Al Smith, who were brothers-in-law, with Bob Taylor, put themselves at the head of the army of defense and called out the home guards. The reckless spirit and calm courage of an earlier day on the open range was certainly not lacking, even in 1897, as witness the following notice from Devine, published in the Casper Tribune in July, 1897:
"Casper, Wyoming, July 19, 1897."Editor, Casper Tribune.
"I have seen all sorts of reports bearing upon the John R. Smith and Nolan gang stopping the round-up from working the Hole-in-the-Wall country. They will have a hard time of it. Neither the CY boys, the Keystone nor the Pugsley outfits are hunting a fight. We are all working men and only want such cattle as belong to our employers and it is an indisputable fact that the Hole-in-the-Wall is a hiding place for thieves, and has been for years. Thousands of dollars' worth of cattle have been stolen by these outlaws, brands burned out and their own brands substituted. Their friends then help them to dispose of the burned cattle. Every year I have gotten back cattle from them that were taken from their mothers and lots of cattle on which the brands were changed. I am going to work that country and have asked the sheriffs of Natrona and Johnson counties to work with us and see that everybody is treated right. The time has come for all honest working men to declare themselves in favor of law and justice. And, if those men want to fight us, when we know we are right, I say fight.
"R. M. Devine."
As a further illustration of the spirit of the times and the nature of this feud we reprint a reply to Devine. It is also a good example of that sharp and incisive literary style so much affected by our "Riders of the Purple Sage." A lack of this directness and this pro- fanity is what spells failure for all western plays. The hero cannot swear hard enough. To the western listener it all sounds weak and insipid. When in the arena our finest swearers, like our finest wrestlers, find their best holds barred.
The answer to Devine's letter follows:
"Bob Devine you think you have played hell you have just begun you will get your dose there is men enuff up here yet to kill you. we are going to get you or lose 12 more men you must stay out of this country if you want to live we are not going to take any chances any more but will get you any way we can we want one hair a piece out of that damned old chin of yours you have give us the worst of it all the way through and you must stay out or die. you had better keep your damned outfit out if you want to keep them, don't stick that damned old gray head of yours in this country again if you don't want it shot off we are the 12 men appointed a purpose to get you if you don't stay out of here.
Devine and his men disregarded the threat of the "Revenge Gange" and went to the Hole-in-the-Wall at the appointed time to gather their cattle, and on July 23, 1897, the fight occurred. A condensed description of the fight, which appeared in Casper newspapers under date of July 29, 1897, and several subsequent issues is as follows:
"All Casper was precipitated into a feverish excitement last Friday morning when a party of eight riders, headed by R. M. Devine, foreman of the CY round-up, came into town with a captured cattle rustler and announced that a battle had been fought between the round-up boys and some rustlers up in the Red Wall country, about three miles west of the far-famed and notorious Hole-in-the-Wall ranch. Devine and his son, Lee, both of whom were m the party that brought the prisoner in, participated in the fight and both had been wounded, the senior Devine receiving only a slight flesh wound from a bullet from Bob Smith's six-shooter, and Lee Devine having a bullet wound from Bob Taylor's six-shooter which passed diagonally through the muscles of his lower right forearm, ranging from the elbow toward the wrist. The others of the party saw that their prisoner was safely locked within the steel cage in the county jail.
"The news of the battle had been anticipated, since Devine had gone in the face of the oft-repeated threats made by the cattle thieves that they would kill him if he ever dared to come to their country.
"Last Wednesday night the two round-ups camped at the famous Bar C ranch, which is ten or twelve miles from the notorious Hole-in-the-Wall ranch. On the afternoon of Thursday a party of twelve men rode from camp in search of a bunch of cattle that they had been told was thrown up back of the McDonald pasture and were being held there. The party consisted of R. M. Devine, Lee Devine and Tom McDonald, of the CY; Bill Rogers and Lee Mathers, of the Ogallala; Ike Dedman, Doc Dildine, Frank Ramsey and Charles Davis, of Pugsley's outfit; and Joe LaFors, United States deputy marshal; and Jim Drummond, Montana live stock inspector; and Walter Monnett, a "rep" for the Circle L outfit.
"In passing the Hole-in-the-Wall ranch the cow-boys stopped to inquire about the cattle they were in search of, but found no one there. Riding on, they had gone about three miles in a roundabout course when they saw three men on horseback coming toward them. These men were Bob and Al Smith and Bob Taylor. When they came up together many recognized and addressed each other in a friendly way. The men in both parties stopped and the three men were asked if they had seen any cattle belonging to the CY or the other outfits. Without answering the question Bob Smith commenced to draw his six-shooter and remarked to Devine: 'You damn old son of a b , I am going to get you this time!'
"Devine said, 'Don't you shoot me, Smith.'
"Bob Smith yelled: 'Yes, I will, you old son of a b ,' and leveling his six-shooter at Devine, fired.
"The war then commenced. More than an hundred shots were fired by the men on both sides, and when the smoke of battle had cleared away, it was found that Bob Smith was mortally wounded. Bob Devine's horse was killed, and Devine and a number of the men on both sides were slightly wounded. During the shooting the men were yelling and cursing, the horses were running and pitching, and the dust raised by the horses and the smoke from the firing of the guns made it almost impossible for the men to see each other.
"In five minutes the shooting ceased. Al Smith escaped on his horse after his six-shooter had been shot out of his right hand and the bullet had torn the flesh from his thumb and entered his wrist. Bob Taylor had dropped from his horse and got into a little washout, and threw up his hands and asked for mercy; Bob Smith was lying on the ground, calling for the men to come to him. The men went to him and rolled him over. He told them not to shoot him again; that he was already mortally wounded. He said that he had commenced the fight and had fired the first shot.
"Taylor was placed on a horse without a bridle, but a rope was around its neck. He was taken to the Bar C ranch and subsequently was brought to Casper, but the tragedy having occurred in Johnson county, the authorities in this county had no jurisdiction over him, and he was turned over to the Johnson county authorities, who brought no action against him.
"Bob Devine gave himself over to the Johnson county authorities and was placed under bond of $15,000 to appear for trial at the next term of the district court, but the officers of the law from both Natrona and Johnson counties thought it best to avoid further trouble and discontinue the feud, if possible, and the case against Devine was dismissed.
"About the first of August, Devine and twenty-seven men again went to the Hole-in-the-Wall prepared to fight if necessary and get their cattle out of there. They succeeded in bringing several hundred head of cattle out of the Hole, and although they could see a great many men on horseback at a distance, they were not disturbed."
In contradiction of the above story, the details of which were gleaned from Devine, Bob Taylor said that after Smith had been shot he rode with him about half a mile into a gulch, when Smith became so weak from the loss of blood and the suffering from his wound he could ride no farther. He helped the wounded man off his horse and laid him on the ground, remaining with him a short time, and then he came back toward Devine and his men with his hands raised, and asked for help for Smith. He said he voluntarily surrendered in order that he might get help for his wounded companion. They all started for the spot where Smith was lying helpless and dying, and while on their way Devine shot at him while his hands were up, and no doubt would have murdered him had it not been for Joe LaFors, who knocked Devine's gun aside just as he was about to fire and remarked: "For God's sake, don't murder the man!" When they reached the place where Smith was lying on the ground the wounded man was pleading for water, but Devine refused to allow anyone to give him water or relieve his suffering in any way. They remained here for nearly half an hour when Tom Gardner and several other men came riding up. Devine ordered Gardner and the other men to hand over their guns, but they refused to do so. Gard- ner said he was going to get some water for Smith, and Devine said he would kill anyone who attempted to help him in any way. In the face of this threat Gardner went to the creek, which was close by, and getting some water in his hat brought it to the dying man. Devine did not attempt to shoot Gardner.
Bob Devine and his son remained in Natrona county with the CY outfit for several years, and subsequently moved to Missouri, where they established themselves on a farm and they have lived there peacefully ever since.
Although Bob Devine claimed the credit, or blame, whichever the case may be, for the killing of Bob Smith, it is said that Joe LaFors, who was the only cool-headed man in the bunch at the time of the shooting, fired the fatal shot.
The Hole-in-the-Wall country is now a quiet, peaceful pasturage for sheep and cattle. The automobile has made State street and Broadway safer haunts for the bandit and robber than was the rough mountain and the gloomy canyon in the day of the saddle-horse. The same swift auto makes the Hole-in-the-Wall a pleasant picnic ground for pleasure-seekers from Casper. On any Sunday you can enjoy its scenic beauties and meet nothing more deadly than an occasional kodak fiend or a chicken sandwich.
The Wilcox Train Robbery
The Union Pacific continental west-bound mail train was held up, dynamited and robbed at about 1 o'clock on the morning of June 2, 1899, near Wilcox, a lonely station on the Wyoming division about 100 miles south of Casper. The train was flagged, two men entered the engine cab, and with drawn revolvers ordered the engineer to pull across the bridge and stop. The order was complied with, and then the bridge was blown up with dynamite in order to prevent the second section of the train, which was ten minutes behind, from crossing. The first section of the train was then run a couple of miles farther west and the express, baggage and mail cars were looted and the safe in the express car was blown open with dynamite and about $60,000 in unsigned bank notes were secured. More than one hundred pounds of dynamite was found near the scene of the robbery the following day. The robbers had their horses tied a short distance from where the robbery occurred, and after securing their loot they mounted their horses and headed toward the north.
Word was received in Casper for the authorities to be on the lookout for the men, and W. E. Tubbs, with six men, was sent to Alcova to guard the bridge at that place. These men were on guard thirty-six hours, nearly all the time being exposed to a heavy downpour of rain.
On Saturday afternoon a special Union Pacific train arrived in Casper over the Northwestern tracks with half a dozen railroad detectives, and Sheriff Joe Hazen, of Converse county. Sheriff Hazen, Sheriff Oscar Hiestand of Natrona county, and Detective Vizzard of the Union Pacific were put in charge at this point. No trace of the robbers was discovered until Sunday morning, when Al Hudspeth came in from the north and reported that three men were camped in a cabin on Casper creek, about six miles northwest from town. He said he rode up toward the cabin and two men came out with rifles in their hands and told him to "hit the road, and hit it quick." Hudspeth came to town and reported the occurrence. It was learned afterwards that the three men were in Casper Saturday night and secured food and provisions, and undoubtedly were assisted by friends in making their escape out of town and across the Platte river bridge. Up to this time the identity of the robbers was not known, but it was later learned that they were George Currie, whose brother was an employee in the Chicago & Northwestern railroad round house here, Harve Logan, and one of the Roberts boys, three of the worst outlaws in the west.
A posse of men composed of Sheriff Hiestand and Sheriff Hazen, Dr. J. F. Leeper, E. T. Payton, AI Hudspeth, J. F. Crawford, Sam Fish, J. B. Bradley, Lee Devine, Tom McDonald and Charles Heagney immediately left in pursuit of the outlaws.
The robbers had left the cabin, but their tracks were followed to a point about five miles west from the Horse ranch on the Salt Creek road. At this point the robbers dismounted behind a hill and when the pursuers were within half a mile of them the robbers fired about twenty shots at the officers. A horse belonging to one of the posse was shot, and while Sheriff Hiestand was adjusting his rifle, with the bridle rein thrown over his left arm, a bullet struck the ground in front of his horse and the animal broke loose and ran away. The sheriff walked fifteen miles to secure another horse and then he came to town to get a better mount and to order provisions for the men on the chase, who had been in the saddle from Sunday noon until Monday night without anything to eat. Sheriff Hazen and the other men kept on the trail of the bandits all Sunday night, and on Monday in the forenoon Sheriff Hazen and Dr. Leeper dismounted and were walking up a draw, following the track of the outlaws' horses. The sheriff and the doctor were about one hundred yards apart when the sheriff called that he was on the trail. Dr. Leeper came up to within about six feet of Sheriff Hazen when the robbers, who were concealed behind a rock, opened fire on the two men. Sheriff Hazen was hit in the stomach and the bullet went through his body. Dr. Leeper fell to the ground, to avoid being hit by the bullets that were being shot at him by the bandits, the firing continuing for about ten minutes. The doctor administered to the wounded man as best he could when the firing ceased and the robbers took this opportunity to make their escape to Castle creek, which was only a short distance below. They waded down this stream for several hundred yards in order to throw the posse off their trail. They left their horses and some of the plunder they had taken from the train. Their horses were caught and were ridden by some of the posse in pursuit of them.
Sheriff Hazen was brought to Casper, and from here he was taken to Douglas on a special train, and on Tuesday morning at about 5 o'clock he died from the effects of his wound. By this time more than fifty men were scouring the country in pursuit of the outlaws, and all kinds of reports were brought in by the men who came from the range after provisions and ammunition. The robbers, according to reports, were seen in half a dozen different places at the same time, and the number in the gang ranged from four to ten. It was finally learned, after about a week, that the three bandits, after shooting Sheriff Hazen, went north down Castle creek, and the next morning ate breakfast at Jim Nelson's sheep camp, which was located on Sullivan's springs, where John DeVore was herding sheep, but at the time DeVore was ignorant of the identity of the men or the crimes they had committed. From here they went into the Tisdale mountains and then made their way to Hill's ranch, on the north fork of the Powder river, near Kaycee, where they were furnished, or at least secured a change of clothing, and with fresh horses made their escape farther north. By this time the United States marshal, with a number of deputies, ten picked men from the Buffalo militia, a dozen railroad detectives and at least one hundred men, and half a dozen bloodhounds had joined m the hunt, but the outlaws were now among friends and they were furnished with food, shelter and horses, and their trail was covered up by their friends, and they made good their escape, probably to the Hole-in-the-Wall country, and from there they scattered in different directions, and nothing definite was heard from any of them until April 19, 1900, when Sheriff Oscar Hiestand received a telegram from Thompsons, Utah, which stated that George Currie had been shot and killed by Sheriff Tyler of Grand county, Utah. Currie had been stealing cattle in that country for a number of months. The sheriff came upon Currie unexpectedly, and ordered him to surrender. Currie said: "I will not surrender to you or to anyone," and thereupon shot at the officer, but missed. Currie immediately mounted his horse, and a running fight ensued for about six miles, but finally the sheriff succeeded in shooting Currie through the back of the head, killing him instantly. Currie was positively identified by John DeVore, the sheep herder from Casper, at whose wagon the bandit visited while being chased through Natrona county the year before. The body of Currie was taken to Chadron, Nebraska, by his father where it was interred, and thus ended the career of "Flat Nose George," who was a cow puncher in Central Wyoming in the early days until he turned bad and joined the "wild bunch." He had robbed postoffices and country stores, stolen horses and cattle, and had held up trains and looted the mail and express cars, and justly merited the ignominious death that was meted out to him.
Harve Logan, alias "Kid Curry," the leader of the bandits, and undoubtedly the boldest and worst desperado that ever infested the west, who was positively known to have killed at least nine men, but who was accused of having committed more than forty murders, went to Montana from the Hole-in-the-Wall country, where he remained for about two years. On July 3, 1901, he and his gang held up a Great Northern train near Warner, Montana. They secured $40,000 in new bank notes, but the notes lacked the signatures of the bank officials, as did those that were secured at the Wilcox robbery. Logan then left Montana, going to Knoxville, Tennessee. In Knoxvllle he went into a clothing store and made a purchase of some wearing apparel, tendering a fifty-dollar bank note in payment. The clerk did not have enough money in the register to make change and asked Logan to wait until it was sent to a nearby bank. At the bank the cashier recognized it as one of the notes stolen at the hold-up of the Great Northern train in Montana. A telephone message was sent to police headquarters, and two detectives were detailed to arrest Logan. The officers entered the clothing store with drawn revolvers, but had not counted on their man. Logan saw them first, and in the fight that followed he shot both, wounding one so badly that he was in a precarious condition for several months, but finally recovered. Logan escaped from the store, and knocking the driver off an ice wagon, drove away in the vehicle at top speed. He was later run down and captured.
He was tried in Knoxville at the November term of the United States court, being charged with canceling bank notes to the amount of $9,620, and with forging the names of the Montana bank officials to the notes, and with passing and having in his possession illegal money. He was convicted on ten counts, and he stood to receive a sentence of not less than thirty years and not more than ninety years in the federal prison, but before he was sentenced he escaped from the Knoxville jail. One afternoon at about five o'clock, while the guard in the jail had his back toward him, Logan threw a wire over his head, lassoing him and tying him tight to the bars of the cage. He secured the wire by unwrapping it from a broom handle that had been left in his cell. Having one entire floor to himself, Logan next secured two pistols that had been placed in the corridor of the jail for use by the officers if needed. When the jailer appeared in answer to a knock on the door of the corridor, Logan covered him with a pistol and forced him to unlock the door and take him to the basement of the jail. Then he forced the jailer to take him to the sheriff's stable and saddle the sheriff's horse. This done, Logan mounted and rode away in the direction of the mountains. A posse started in pursuit of the des- perado within an hour, but they did not succeed in capturing him. A few months afterwards Logan was seen near Kaycee, in Wyoming, by a man who knew him well. He was on foot and was with another man. From Kaycee the men went to the Hole-in-the-Wall country. John May and Robert Tisdale were stopping at the McDonald ranch that night, and some time during the night one of Mr. McDonald's horses and a saddle were stolen, and John May's horse, saddle, chaps and six-shooter were stolen. Mr. McDonald sent a man to Kaycee who notified Deputy Sheriff Beard of the theft. Beard and Alva Young trailed the thieves up the Red Valley to Buffalo creek, and from there they followed the trail to Walt Putney's ranch, on Bridger creek, about forty miles southwest. W^hen the officers came in sight of the Putney ranch, they saw two men riding over a hill to the west. The officers followed the men, and while they were riding down into a gulch they saw a man coming back afoot over the top of a hill. The officers dismounted and got into a small ravine. The man on the hill shot at the officers and the fire was returned. The battle continued until the man on the hill, who was Logan, was hit. It was then that Logan's companion came in sight with two horses. Logan was helped on his horse by the man and they made their escape into the hills.
Two nights after this fight occurred two men rode into Thermopolis at about nine o'clock. They were wearing masks when they called at Dr. Julius A. Schulke's office. They were heavily armed, but they informed the doctor that they would do him no harm if he would do as they said. They ordered him to gather such instruments and procure such medicine, bandages and other things necessary to treat a human being suffering from a serious gun-shot wound, and to do the things they ordered quietly and quickly. The doctor complied with the demands with dispatch. He was then blindfolded and led out to a buggy and assisted into it. The men then drove away with him, and they were on the road several hours, but the doctor did not know how far or in what direction he was from Thermopolis when the team stopped. He was assisted out of the vehicle and into a house, and was taken into a room where blankets were hung up around a bed so he could not recognize the room if he had ever been there before or if he ever came again. It was here that the blindfold was taken from his eyes, and he saw a man of very dark complexion lying on the bed. The man had been shot through the groin with a soft-nosed rifle bullet, which was similar to the bullets used by Deputy Sheriff Beard. The wound was dressed and the physician left medicine and directions for the treatment of the patient. The doctor was then blind-folded again, and was taken from the house to the buggy and returned to his home in Thermopolis, arriving there just before daylight. He was given a liberal fee and was told to remember nothing that had transpired that night. A few nights later two men again appeared in the same manner and at about the same time as the previous visit. He received the same orders and was carried away in the same condition and to the same place as before, and he administered to the same wounded man, but the wound had become infected and the patient was delirious. The physician told the men that, in his opinion, death would result within a few days. The physician was then blindfolded and returned to Thermopolis as before and he was again given a liberal fee.1 The doctor received no more calls of the same nature, and Harve Logan has not since been seen or heard from.
It is said by some that he did not die, but after he recovered he went away, with the declaration that he would never again steal a horse or a cow, that he was through with the train robbing business, and that he intended to settle down and live a quiet, peaceful life. The physician who treated him, however, was of the opinion that he died. The supposition is that the patient was Harve Logan and that he was shot by Deputy Sheriff Beard.
It is said of Logan that before he robbed the train in Montana, he killed the sheriff who had shot George Currie, and he had killed every man he imagined had ever done him an injury; that he always came back and got his man, and he had no more compunction about killing a man than he had in stealing a bunch of cattle or horses. That he never came back after the officer who shot him strengthens the hypothesis that he died. That the officer who shot him did the best job that was ever done in Wyoming there is no question.
The Currie Gang
The Currie gang operated in Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota, from 1894 to 1900, stealing horses, robbing postoffices and trains and holding up stores and banks and committing murder upon the least provocation. The leaders were Harvey Logan, alias "Kid Curry," George Currie, alias "Flat Nose George," and Tom and George Dickson, alias Tom and George "Jones," alias the "Roberts Brothers." They were also at the head of the notorious Hole-in-the-Wall gang, and were noted as the most desperate of all the marauding bands who terrorized the district where they carried on their operations. People were in constant fear of them and property was in jeopardy.
Two members of this gang appeared at Wolton, an interior town sixty miles west from Casper, one evening about 9 o'clock early in June, 1898. Entering the store, they selected about sixty dollars' worth of goods. After the package had been wrapped, a third man came into the store with a handkerchief over his face and the three men drew their guns and ordered the manager of the store, R. L. Carpenter, and the clerk, Jay Harmon, to throw up their hands. While two of the men covered the manager and clerk with their guns, the third rifled the safe and robbed the postofiice. About $300 in money and goods were taken. Carpenter and Harmon were then marched out to the corrals and were backed against the fence while the robbers prepared to leave. The bundles were tied on the horses and a buggy team belonging to H. B. Brower, the hotel proprietor, and Carpenter's saddle horse were stolen. Carpenter and Harmon were warned if they valued their lives, not to report the robbery for twenty-four hours. The outlaws then bade the men "good night," and rode away. The next day at noon the hold-up was reported and a posse was organized and followed the trail of the robbers southwest for twenty miles, where they found Carpenter's horse, but all trace of the men was lost. The gang was next heard from at Belle Fourche, South Dakota. After adding three more desperate characters to their party they held up the bank at that place on the 28th of June and secured nearly $4,000 in cash.
At about 9 o'clock in the morning, the six men rode into town on horseback and went immediately to the bank. Upon entering, they covered the customers and employees of the bank with their guns and took all the money in sight. One of the thieves rushed out of the front door and the others went out the side door. They had six-shooters in each hand and fired in all directions. Then they deliberately tightened the cinches of their saddles and mounting, rode out of town. One of them was unable to mount his horse, which shied, broke away from him, and started after the others. He made a frantic eflPort to secure another horse and finally rushed around the crowd and attempted to cut the harness off a mule, which was hitched to a cart, but he was captured. He had in his possession $392, and gave his name as Tom O'Day. The others were followed by a posse of fifty men, who overtook them at the Clay ranch, twelve miles from town. A gun fight ensued in which some of the posse were hit by bullets and some of their horses were killed. Several hundred shots were fired, but the robbers escaped without being hurt. O'Day was taken to the jail at Deadwood, but made his escape after about two weeks. He was retaken, however, and at the trial, the state's attorney was unable to prove that he was one of the hold-up men and he was turned loose.
The Currie gang was again heard from on August 20, when they held up Postmaster Budd at Big Piney, Uinta county, and secured about $300. They also made an attempt to rob the store and postoffice at Granger, Wyoming, but were unsuccessful.
Government detectives and county sheriffs trailed the thieves up Green river and on to the headwaters of the Gros Ventres, and in a narrow defile of the mountains the sheriff's party was ambushed and fired upon by the fugitives and one of the posse was badly wounded. The surprise was so complete that the robbers succeeded in making their escape without even being shot at. The sheriff's men were carrying their guns with the stocks down and could not get them in action until the robbers had fled. Upon going to the spot where the attack was made, it was found that the shots were fired at a distance of only fifteen paces. The robbers were driven back into the rocks and were followed to a point on the Shoshone Indian reservation forty miles below Fort Washakie. There they disappeared and there was no trace of them for several days, but on September 9, they were seen crossing the Big Wind river thirty-five miles above Fort Washakie. On September 14, they crossed the Belle Fourche river near the Missouri Buttes and the Devil's Tower. By this time they had ridden more than 400 miles in five days. They covered one stretch of 150 miles in twenty-four hours, which conveys the wonderful endurance of the fugitives. The authorities were on their trail for more than six weeks and the chase led them through Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and finally almost to the Canadian line, in the region of the Pecatts rapids. Here they were overtaken while they were in camp, wholly unaware of the proximity of the officers. They were all seated on the ground with their guns within easy reach and their horses were unsaddled. When the officers were seen, the men with the agility of cats jumped to their feet, seized their guns, and in a moment were mounted bareback and in full flight. As they retreated, both sides opened fire and many shots were exchanged, but no one was injured. The posse returned to the camp after the fugitives had made their escape and they found a fine assortment of saddles and fifteen head of horses, which had been stolen.
The fugitives returned to the Big Horn basin country about ten days later and took up their rendezvous in the country which is said to be the most romantic in North America. The roads wind through beautiful natural pastures and deep, dark gullies, the district for 200 miles north and south and 100 east and west being a mighty basin, once the bed of an ancient lake. In the rugged mountains which border the basin are retreats with which the fugitives were perfectly familiar, and it was here the most skilled sheriffs and county officers of Wyoming and Montana were baffled, acknowledged defeat, and gave up the chase.
Rode Out of Town on a Rail
On the 14th of September, 1901, when President William McKinley died from his wounds which were inflicted by a bullet fired by an anarchist, a man named Wagner, who had been in Casper but a few days, remarked that "he ought to have been shot a year ago." The fellow made the remark in one of the saloons in the evening, but nothing was done or said about it at the time. The next morning, however, about 9 o'clock when some of the business men of the town were told about it, eight prominent Casper men went to the saloon and took the fellow out and led him to the Nicolaysen lumber yard. He was then put on a 2 x 6 scantling, and with four men at each end of the piece of lumber, the fellow was carried to the railroad where he was unloaded and told to travel east, and not to look back. The fellow complied with the order and thus saved the citizens the trouble of giving him a coat of tar and feathers and probably a severe beating which he justly deserved. The men who put the fellow on the rail and carried him out of town were criticized by most of the people in the town–because they let the fellow off so easy.
"Driftwood Jim" McCloud
"Driftwood Jim" McCloud, who shot Ben Minick, a sheep owner in the Black mountain district, east of Thermopolis, in 1902, and who robbed the Buffalo postoffice, blew a safe at Thermopolis and held up the Buffalo-Sheridan stage, all within a year's time, was arrested at Thermopolis in the summer of 1903 upon a charge of robbing the Buffalo postoffice. He was taken from Thermopolis to Cody in a wagon drawn by four horses and from Cody he was taken to Basin. "Driftwood Jim" and the driver occupied the front seat of the wagon and in the rear seat were two guards with rifles and revolvers, and surrounding the wagon were six men on horseback, all of whom were armed with revolvers. "Driftwood Jim" wore handcuffs on his wrists and shackles on his ankles. McCloud had been arrested many times before, and had as many times made his escape from jail and the officers. The notorious Tom O'Day, with his gang, had planned to rescue Jim from the officers on this occasion, but when Tom and his men, who were hidden in the brush along the roadside about ten miles out from Thermopolis, saw the strength of the officers, they did not make the attempt to deliver their comrade and partner in crime. "Driftwood Jim" was taken from Basin to Cheyenne under an escort of six men. In Cheyenne he escaped from jail with Tom Horn, the killer, but both men were recaptured within half an hour after their escape. Horn was hanged in the Laramie county jail on November 20, 1903, and at the January, 1904, term of the federal court, "Driftwood Jim " pleaded guilty to robbing the Buffalo postoffice on the 27th of April, 1903, and was sentenced by Judge Riner to serve four years in the federal prison at Leavenworth. Before he came to Wyoming he robbed the postoffice at Topeka, Kansas, and was arrested upon the charge and was placed in the county jail to await trial, but he made his escape and came west. After having served his term in the federal prison for the robbery of the Buffalo postoffice he was rearrested and taken to Topeka, where he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to serve two years in the prison from which he had just been released. After having been released from prison the second time he has not made his presence known in Wyoming. Like Tom O'Day, McCloud was a coward at heart, and always showed the "white feather" when in a tight place, but when he had the advan- tage of his victim he was a vicious brute and cared no more for human life than a decent man would care for the life of a coyote.
Horse Thief Tom O'Day
Tom O'Day, the notorious horse thief and all 'round bad man, was captured at the break of day on the Big Horn mountains, no miles from Casper on Sunday, November 23, 1903, by Sheriff Frank K. Webb. At the time of his capture, O'Day had twenty-three head of horses in his possession which he was attempting to drive into Montana where he hoped to deliver them to some of his confederates. The sheriff and his prisoner arrived in Casper at 1:45 the following Tuesday afternoon, the trip being made on horseback, O'Day riding ahead and the sheriff and two deputies in the rear.
The sheriff trailed O'Day to a cabin on the mountains in the evening, but waited until morning before the attempt was made to take him. O'Day had gathered the bunch of horses in Converse and Natrona counties and had been driving them for a week before he was overtaken. When he came out of the cabin, the sheriff had the drop on him and demanded that he throw up his hands. O'Day was taken by surprise, and at first hesitated to raise his hands, but the sheriff threatened to shoot him if he did not comply immediately. O'Day said, "Good God, Webb, don't kill me," and raised his hands in the air. He had on his person a .45 six-shooter and there was a .30-.30 rifle in the cabin which he carried on his saddle in the daytime while he was driving the horses out of the country.
The horses were taken to Lost Cabin where they were put in a corral, but during the night the animals were turned out and driven away by men who were supposed to be friends and in partnership with O'Day. Twenty-one of the horses were recovered in about a week and they were brought to Casper and in due time were turned over to their lawful owners.
O'Day's trial came up at the February, 1904, term of the district court. The first jury did not agree, there being six in favor of conviction and six for acquittal. This was not a great surprise to the lawabiding people, for it was the common talk that O'Day had too many friends in the country and that a conviction could not be reached, no matter how strong the proof of his guilt might be. Another jury was drawn and it also disagreed, there being eleven for conviction and one for acquittal. This gave the officers and the good people some encouragement. The third jury was drawn and the trial was again the center of attraction. Judge Craig was presiding. A verdict of guilty was soon reached by this jury after the testimony was adduced and the instructions of the court were given. The verdict seemed to be a great surprise for O'Day, and he displayed considerable temper toward the sheriff, the prosecuting attorney, the court, and the jury. Six years in the penitentiary was the sentence of the court, but before the sentence was pronounced. Judge Craig gave the convicted man a lecture. "In the early days of Wyoming," the court said, "it was the custom to rustle stock, and if a list could be compiled of all the men who had gotten a start in life by this method, it would make quite a large catalogue. But those days are past, and Tom, you ought to have quit when the rest of the boys did. If I were to sentence you for all the crimes you have committed, you would go to the penitentiary for the remainder of your life, but your sentence shall be only for the crime upon which you have been convicted.
"No man ever made himself rich by stealing; men will always be better off if they take only that which rightfully and lawfully belongs to them; men who are dishonest never have very much to leave to their widows and children. After you serve your sentence, try and lead an honest life; you will find that it pays; there is but one result for those who steal."
After the sentence, O'Day said to Sheriff Webb, "If I had a gun you would never put me in that jail again and I'm not in the pen yet. I want you to remember that." The sheriff told him that he was careful to see that he didn't have a gun, and therefore there would be no trouble in getting him back to jail, "and it won't be long until you are in the pen, I want you to remember that."
A few days after the sentence the sheriff put O'Day and two other men who were under sentence in the baggage car, where he was securely ironed. An attempt was made by O'Day's sister, who was in Casper from Omaha, to visit her brother in the car, but she as well as all others were denied that privilege.
He was landed safely in the penitentiary without trouble except at Wheatland where they were eating supper. O'Day attempted to get the sheriff's gun from its scabbard. Failing, he tried to pass it off as a joke. He served his sentence, making a model prisoner. After his release he went to Iowa, bought a small farm, followed Judge Craig's advice about being honest, at least as far as horse stealing was concerned, and became a prosperous, horny-handed son of the soil.
The three court trials cost the county $2,684.05, and the expense of his capture was $586.55, making a total of $3,270.60, but it was money well spent, for it was the means of breaking up one of the worst gangs of horse thieves that ever operated in Central Wyoming.
Otto Chenoweth, the Gentleman Horse Thief, and "Stuttering Dick"
Otto Chenoweth was known as Central Wyoming's "Gentleman Horse Thief." He was a man of good appearance, well educated, a good conversationalist, and acceptable company anywhere. He came to Wyoming from the effete east in 1884 or '85 and worked for the 4W cow outfit on the Cheyenne river. His purpose in coming out west from Worcester, Massachusetts, was to get ideas on painting western–scenes he was an artist of considerable ability. Instead of cultivating artistic ideas, he formed a friendship with Kid Anderson and Dad Young, two notorious thieves, and the three of them drifted to the Sundance country where they rustled cattle and stole horses until one day Chenoweth came face to face with Joe Elliott, a "killer" for the stock association. He knew Elliott and Elliott knew him and he knew what Elliott would do to him, but he made his getaway and went to Chadron, where he sold his horses.
He then went home to his mother, where he intended to remain and reform, but he could not shake off the western fever, and in the fall of 1892, he came to Casper. He went to work herding sheep for Robert Parkhurst, and one stormy night in the spring of 1893, while camped about fifteen miles northeast of Casper, on the north side of the river, he heard his sheep commence to move. He arose from his bed and in his underclothing ran out to see if he could not stop them from drifting with the storm. The night was dark and the blinding snow storm soon caused him to lose the location of his camp.
Finally he started for Casper, and after traveling for hours and hours through the storm and over a rough country, he reached the Platte river bridge west from town, almost exhausted and nearly frozen. From here he had but a mile to walk, but in traveling that mile he fell numerous times and made part of the distance by crawling on his hands and knees. With a supreme effort he finally reached town, and after a few days recovered from his terrible experience. He did not return to work on the range, but went to work as a gambler, and followed this occupation off and on for about seven years. He finally went into the sheep-raising business with Nick Schreiner, but in the fall of 1900 was arrested upon the charge of stealing 150 head of sheep from Leslie Gantz. At the first trial the jury failed to agree and when his name was called for the second trial in July, 1901, he did not appear, and his bond of $500 was forfeited.
He went to the Kaycee country where he and Richard Hale, alias "Stuttering Dick," alias "Black Dick," formed a partnership and went to Medora, South Dakota, where they stole a bunch of blooded horses belonging to the Little Missouri company. The horses were valued at $10,000. While the thieves were driving the stock away, they came across a number of CY cow-boys whom they thought were officers and a running battle ensued. They abandoned their horses and made their escape, but the officers later took up their trail and followed them to Billings, Montana, where Chenoweth was captured, but Dick escaped. Chenoweth was taken to Medora and placed in jail and after two months had won the friendship and confidence of the sheriff to such extent that he was made a trusty, and one day while the sheriff was absent, he walked away. In due time he arrived in San Francisco, where he worked in a restaurant. Later he went to Seattle, then to Montana, and then returned to the Lost Cabin country. He made his headquarters at the Walt Putney ranch, where in a short time he was captured by Sheriff Webb. The sheriff brought him to Lost Cabin, arriving there at about 10 o'clock at night, where he intended to remain until morning and come to Casper the next day. While lunch was being prepared in the J. B. Okie residence for the sheriff and his prisoner, Chenoweth told the sheriff he was going into the kitchen for a drink of water, but instead of stopping in the kitchen he ran through to the parlor, where a dance was in progress, and a great many ladies and gentlemen were present. The sheriff, with a drawn revolver ran after him, and naturally there was considerable of a commotion and excitement among the dancers. Chenoweth escaped into the open, with the sheriff m hot pursuit, and after firing half a dozen shots and running at top speed for a distance of at least three hundred yards, the officer finally recaptured the prisoner and brought him back to the house, where the two men had their lunch, after which Chenoweth sent apologies to the ladies in the parlor for so unceremoniously intruding upon their presence, and he also apologized for the rudeness of the sheriff in entering the parlor in such an ungentlemanly manner, and having a revolver in his hand. The next day he was brought to Casper and from here he was taken to Medora to stand trial upon the charge of horse stealing, but instead of being convicted of stealing horses, he was adjudged insane, and sent to the asylum at Jamestown, S. D. After a short time his mother came and got him and took him to his former home at Worcester, Massachusetts, promising to have him confined in a private sanitari- um, until he recovered from his mental aberration and his desire to steal and rob.
"Stuttering" or "Black" Dick Hale was never captured, but he came into the limelight again by being classed as one of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang. He was charged as a cattle rustler, horse thief, and train robber, and rewards aggregating more than $3,000 were offered for his apprehension. In November, 1901 the Johnson county authorities overtook him at Wolton and after a battle in which Dick's horse was shot and killed, he pretended that he was severely injured when the horse fell with him. He was taken to the Buck Camp ranch and put to bed in the bunk house with a sheep herder guarding him. During the night. Hale overpowered his guard, took his six-shooter and went to the ranch house where he held up the inmates and secured a rifle and a belt full of cartridges. He then went to the barn, saddled and bridled a horse, and rode away. A number of shots were fired after him and one bullet took effect, but he was not dangerously wounded. The next day. Hale was trailed a distance of thirty miles by spots of blood that fell from his wound, but he took to a stream and threw his pursuers off the trail. William Madden offered a reward of $1,000 for his capture. Early in January, Dick was located in Routt county, Colorado, but he got wind of the officers' coming and fled to Utah. About the middle of February, he was located in the mountains near Thompsons, Utah, but he was warned by friends of the approach of the officers and again escaped and was never captured. The story that he had killed a number of men was not true. So far as known he never committed murder. He was desperate, however, and would fight to the last ditch if cornered. He was a superb horseman, a crack shot with both rifle and pistol, and an expert in handling the lariat.
Tom Horn, the "Killer"
Tom Horn made his living by killing people. He was hired under the guise of a detective by the Wyoming Stockgrowers' association, but his real business was to "dispose" of men who were "marked" by some of the members of the association. Although there is no record of anyone in Natrona county ever having been "disposed" of by him, it was known that he often came here and was seen during the evenings in the vicinity of the homes of ranchers whom the members of the association accused of using a long rope and a branding iron on cattle and calves that were picked up on the open range. The men who were "marked" were aware of it and whenever Horn came to the country, the "marked" men kept out of sight until the killer went away, and more than one man has slept in the brush while Horn lurked about.
Horn came to Wyoming in the early '90's from the Pinkerton Detective agency. Shortly after he commenced operations, two men, named Powell and Lewis, were shot and killed in the Iron mountain district. Horn did not deny being responsible for their deaths and he is said to have told publicly how Powell begged him to spare his life, and he joked about how he killed them. Numerous other men came to their deaths from bullets fired by this professional killer, and for a long time many business men, as well as the men on the range, and even some of the officers of the law, seemed to be afraid of him.
On July 18, 1901, he shot and killed Willie Nickell, a thirteen-year-old lad, in the vicinity of where Powell and Lewis were killed. A stone was placed under the dead boy's head, which was said to be the manner in which Horn always left his victims so that his employers would know that he was responsible for the deed. The boy's father, Kels P. Nickell, was marked as a rustler, and while Horn was lying in wait for the father, the boy came past and discovered him. Horn realized that he had been seen by the lad, and in order to prevent his informing his father, Horn deliberately killed him and then left the place with all possible haste. About ten days later, Kels Nickell, while working in his garden, was shot at twice from ambush, both shots taking eflFect, one in the arm and the other in the hip.
The crime of killing an innocent boy was so dastardly that the whole state became aroused and demanded that the guilty party be apprehended and punished. Deputy United States Marshal Joe LaFors, who was also a detective for the stockmen, but who, it may be said to his credit, never stooped to cold-blooded murder, was reasonably sure that Horn committed the crime. On January 10, 1902, he obtained a confession from Horn, while Horn was intoxicated, that he had killed the boy, remarking that it was the "best and dirtiest shot I ever made." LaFors had made arrangements for Horn to come to his room, and had concealed two expert stenographers in an adjoining room who heard everything that was said and took it down in shorthand. Horn told of the many killings that he had made and among the rest, he described how he killed the Nickell boy. A few days after he made the confession, while standing in the lobby of the Inter Ocean hotel at Cheyenne, he was arrested by Sheriff Smalley of Laramie county. Every precaution had been made by the sheriff to kill Horn if he attempted to resist, but when he was placed under arrest he merely treated it as a joke, unaware that he had been tricked by LaFors into making the confession and relying upon the strong organization back of him to prevent his conviction. At the October term of court his trial was had. Walter R. Stoll, one of the best criminal lawyers in the west, prosecuted the case. Horn was represented by able counsel, but on October 24, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree against the defendant, and he was sentenced to be hanged in January, 1903, but a stay of execution was granted by the supreme court. In the meantime, Horn's friends left nothing undone to effect his escape, even to making arrangements to blow up the county jail where he was confined.
On August 6, Horn and "Driftwood Jim" McCloud did escape from the jail by their overpowering the jailer, taking away his keys, and arming themselves with two automatic revolvers which were in the jailer's possession. The men did not know how to use the automatics, however, for that kind of firearm had come into use after they had been incarcerated. They were recaptured within half an hour after they were on the streets and after that every precaution was taken to avoid another jail delivery.
The time set for Horn's hanging was November 20, 1903, and several days before the execution, members of the state militia were put on duty around the jail and no one was allowed to pass the guard without having an official permit. On the day of the hanging, the streets in the vicinity of the jail were crowded with people, but they were kept away from the jail by the militia, Horn mounted the gallows without a tremor and remarked, "A man must die some time, and it may as well be one time as another." After a brief ceremony, the trap was sprung and Horn shot down through the opening and the ignominious death that he so justly deserved was meted out to him, and his soul went staggering into the lowest and darkest depths of hell, there to suffer for evermore the torments of perdition.
The Trout-Biggs Kidnaping Case
At the February, 1904, term of the district court in Natrona county, Anna E. Trout and her daughter, Viola Biggs, were convicted of kidnaping the three weeks' old baby boy of William J. Biggs and Viola Biggs, and Mrs. Trout was sentenced to serve eighteen months in the penitentiary at Rawlins and Viola Biggs was sentenced to serve twelve months. William Biggs and his wife, Viola, separated before their child was born and the young wife lived with her father and mother. After the child was born, the young mother claimed that she could not support it and she asked her mother to take it away and have it placed in an orphans' home. Mrs. Trout took the child to Denver and attempted to have it placed in an orphans' home, but she refused to answer the necessary questions before the child was taken in and the infant was refused admission. Mrs. Trout then took the baby to the Union depot, pinned a note on the little one's clothing, giving its name and date of birth and left it in a seat in the waiting room. The depot matron found the child and took it to the police station and from there it was taken to the orphanage, where it was recognized. Subsequently, it was brought back to Casper, and the mother and grandmother were arrested, tried, and convicted.
The two women served about six months of their sentence in the penitentiary when they were released by the supreme court upon some technicality in the proceedings of the court. These were the only women at that time who had ever been sentenced to the penitentiary from Natrona county, and it was a most pitiful sight to look upon the young woman twenty years of age and her mother about fifty years of age, taken to the state's prison, especially when the grandmother was leaving two daughters, one eight years of age and the other fourteen years of age, to have the finger of disgrace pointed at them from every direction.
Other women in Casper, who have committed the most coldblooded murders, have been given their liberty in recent years and by some people have been lauded for the part they played.
Lincoln Morrison Shot
Lincoln Morrison, a Casper boy, was shot on Saturday night, May 29, 1904, while herding a band of sheep on Alkali gulch, on Kirby creek, in Big Horn county, about fourteen miles from DeRanch and twenty miles from Thermopolis. The bullet entered the boy's stomach and passed through his body in an oblique direction. A reward of $2,500 was offered for the arrest and conviction of the party who did the shooting; $1,000 was offered for a chain of evidence that would lead to the conviction of the person who did the shooting; $500 was offered for corroborative evidence sworn to and used on behalf of the state in the trial of the guilty party, and $1,000 was offered for the dead body of the party who did the shooting. Morrison recovered from his wounds, but the guilty party was never appre- hended.
Deputy Sheriff Ed Lee, et al, Steal Horses
Lee Clubb, alias Ed Lee, George Jones and Dave Meckley, alias J. Z. Clark, the first two acting as deputy sheriffs of Natrona county, did a thriving business in horse stealing during the early months of 1905. Jones and Meckley would go out on the range and round up a bunch of horses, and then Lee would join them and the three men would change the brands. After a few days the horses were brought to Casper, and Lee, as deputy sheriff, would inspect them according to law, before they were shipped. He would turn a copy of the inspection certificate in to the railroad agent but no record of the inspection or the shipment was made in the sheriff's office. Sheriff Frank K. Webb became suspicious that there was something crooked, and in March, 1905, made a trip to Omaha, Saint Joe, East Saint Louis and other markets, where he found a number of horses that had been shipped by different parties, all of which had been inspected by Lee, but upon which no returns had been made in the sheriff's ofiice. From East Saint Louis, Sheriff Webb sent a telegram to the prosecuting attorney of Natrona county apprising him of the thefts and ordering Lee's arrest. Lee's arrest created considerable surprise, for he apparently was a trust-worthy officer and a model young man, and he had many friends who were firm in their belief that it was all a mistake, but he was lodged in jail. At the preliminary trial Jones turned state's evidence and Lee was bound over to the district court for trial without bond, upon the charge of stealing horses, returning false brands upon horses that he had inspected and accepting bribes. By this time it had been learned that Lee and Meckley had been convicted of stealing cattle in Colorado and that Meckley had served a term in the penitentiary and that Lee, who, at the time of his conviction, was less than twenty-one years of age, had served time in the reform school.
On Friday, May 13, 1905, which proved to be a lucky day for Lee, at 5 o'clock in the evening, as the deputy sheriff unlocked the cage door to hand in some food for the prisoners, he was overpowered by Lee, Martin Trout and a man named Wardlow. The deputy's keys and a gun were taken from him, and he was locked in a cell The three men then went to the residence portion of the jail where they overpowered Mrs. Webb, wife of the sheriff, and locked her in the cell with the deputy. They told the deputy and Mrs. Webb that they would leave the keys where they could be easily found and when the sheriff returned he would have no trouble in finding them, and that they would be locked in the cell only a few hours. The three men then bade the deputy sheriff and Mrs. Webb good-bye and departed. Wardlow was soon captured, but Lee and Trout could not be found. A reward of $1,000 was offered for Lee's capture, but no trace of him could be found. In February, 1906, Sheriff Webb made a trip to old Mexico, where he was informed that Lee was located. The sheriff was absent six weeks, but returned without his man. He said, however, that for several weeks he was hot on the trail of Lee, but the fugitive always kept a few days ahead of him. Hope of capturing the prisoner was practically abandoned, and in a few years the charges against him were stricken from the docket of the district court, but in February, 1910, it was learned that Lee was in Rock Springs, and ex-Sheriff Webb went there, arrested him and brought him to Casper, but when the ex-sheriff attempted to have him confined in the county jail, the sheriff would not accept him as a prisoner, and the prosecuting attorney said that inasmuch as all the charges against him had been stricken from the court docket he would not file an information against him or reinstate the cases on the docket until he was assured that competent witnesses could be secured to appear and testify against him. The witnesses were not secured and Lee was given his liberty, told to go his way and sin no more. He remained in the city several days and then left for Rock Springs where he had a wife and had established for himself a comfortable home. He said that when he escaped from the Natrona county jail in May, 1905, he went in a southwesterly direction, to the CY pasture, where he laid down in a ditch until dusk, and then he started to walk toward the Laramie Plains and after three days and nights of traveling he arrived in Carbon county where he herded sheep for nearly two years; then he took charge of a saloon at Wamsuter for a year; then he went to Rock Springs and was in charge of a saloon for a year, then moved to Great Falls, Montana, and remained there for a few months. While at Rock Springs he was married. He claimed that the two men, Jones and Meckley, "double-crossed" him while he was deputy sheriff, and that he was always honest with his horse inspections. His statement about being "double-crossed" and being honest with his horse inspections was doubted by everybody who knew anything about the case, but it was then immaterial, and the taxpayers and stockmen of the county were satisfied to let him go and prayed that he would never return.
Frank Davis, Alias "Black Mike"
Frank Davis, abas "Black Mike Smith," sneak thief, horse thief, check forger, and postoffice robber, on May 11, 1905, attempted to pass a forged check in the Wolton saloon, which caused trouble and in order to make his escape he pulled his six-shooter and shot promiscuously into the crowd. One bullet went through Pete Nutson's hat and furrowed the top of his scalp. Manuel Armenta and Oscar Hoback, deputy sheriffs, then attempted to place Davis under arrest, and the fellow shot off Hoback's thumb. Four shots were fired at the deputy sheriffs and Davis made his escape from the saloon. He ran to a cabin about 300 yards distant where he secured a rifle and fired several shots into the crowd of men. He then made a run for the hills, and after going about 200 yards dropped into a small ravine. He was surrounded by about twenty men, but he held them at bay by shooting at them, and although several of the men were hit, the remainder stood guard for several hours until Joe Marquis, Jack Peterson, and Manuel Armenta had filled a cart with bales of hay and bedding, and pushed it ahead of them to where the desperado was hidden in the ditch. Davis shot into the cart numerous times, but the men behind it were perfectly safe and proceeded on their way until they were within a distance of fifty yards of him. Davis then surrendered and was brought to Casper. He pleaded guilty to shooting at Nutson with the intent to commit murder and was sentenced by Judge Charles E. Carpenter to serve three years in the penitentiary. Davis had a number of forged checks on his person at the time he was arrested, and he was identified as the man who two months previous to his Wolton escapade held up the saloon at Lost Cabin and secured $200. He was also accused of being connected with the hold-up of the Cody bank where Cashier Middaugh was shot and killed. At the time these crimes were committed, there was no railroad west from Casper and the interior towns were easily robbed. After serving his sentence in the penitentiary, Davis went to Colorado and has not since made his appearance in Wyoming.
Country Postoffice Robbers
John Williston, a burglar, who had served two years in the Montana penitentiary, and Frank Connors, a horse thief, who had escaped from the Oregon penitentiary, robbed the postoffices at Moneta and Powder River on March 12 and 13, 1913, and on the morning of the 14th they were captured by Henry A. Johnson near the Johnson ranch, and brought to Casper. They were turned over to the federal authorities and taken to Cheyenne where they pleaded guilty to robbing a United States postoffice and each was sentenced to serve five years in the penitentiary. Their criminal career in Wyoming was short, but they were desperate characters who were capable and inclined to establish for themselves a record that would compare with Tom O'Day, Jim McCloud and many other horse thieves and postoffice robbers, had they not been apprehended so soon.
George W. Pike
George W. Pike was a horse thief, who operated in Central Wyoming for many years, but never served a term in the penitentiary, and died a natural death, and the people who knew him said he was lucky. His headquarters were in Converse county, but occasionally, when his business required it, came into Natrona county to pick up some loose stock. He committed perjury in the Tom O'Day trial in Casper in 1904 and a warrant was issued for his arrest, but he was never apprehended. When he died in 1908 he was given a decent burial in the Douglas cemetery, and a monument was erected over his grave by Lee Moore, a cattleman, with this inscription:
George W. Pike
Under this stone in eternal rest
Sleeps the wildest one of the wayward West;
He was a gambler, sport and cowboy, too,
And he led the pace in an outlaw crew,
He was sure on the trigger, and stayed to the end,
But he was never known to quit a friend.
In the relation of death all mankind is alike,
But in life there was only one George W. Pike.
Tied on the Railroad Tracks
At about ID o'clock on the night of November 11, 1911, two masked men bound Adolph Kuhrtz, the fireman and watchman at the Midwest Oil company's refinery plant, and, after chloroforming him, dragged him to the Wyoming & Northwestern railway tracks, a distance of several hundred yards, where they bound him to the rails, his head being bound to one of the rails and his feet to the opposite rail. His hands were tied behind his back with a piece of rope. The man was unconscious for some time, but when he regained consciousness he worked his hands loose from the rope, but by this time they were so numb from the cold that he could not free himself from the track. Horace Evans, who was to relieve Kuhrtz at mid night, found the water low in the boiler when he appeared for duty and suspected that an accident had occurred and immediately made a search for the man, but it was half an hour before he found him. Evans released the half-unconscious and almost frozen man and helped him back to the plant, and from there he was taken to the hospital where it was found that both hands and both feet had been frozen. The motive for the crime was never solved and the men who committed the act were never caught. A reward of $1,000 was offered for their apprehension and detectives worked on the case several months, but finally gave it up as a mystery.
Would Blow Up the Refinery
L. A. Reed, superintendent of the Midwest Refining company, received a letter on November 18, 1915, which threatened to blow up the refining plant unless he provided the writer of the letter with $5,000. The letter was as follows:
"Mr. Reed, Sir: We wish to inform you that for the last six weeks we have laid about 600 pounds of dynamite under tanks, stills and boiler houses with the intention of blowing the Midwest straight into hell. Do you get that? Now, Reed, you gave us a damn dirty deal a while back, and it is up to you to make good or we will set off that dynamite as sure as there is a gray hair in your head. We have pledged our lives to put this thing through, and we will if we burn the entire town of Casper. There is a concrete bridge on the road that leads out east of town, the first bridge after you get past the brewery going east. Come to that bridge between 6:20 and 7 o'clock Saturday, the 20th, with $5,000 in bills or gold. Drive on the bridge and drop it over the upper side. Come alone, and be damn sure that you are alone. If you bring anybody with you or drop anything over that isn't money, or try in any way to stop this deal, we will touch off the dynamite. There is not men enough in the state of Wyoming to stop us from this stunt. One shot at the bridge and we will blow the Midwest to hell. "A B C D E F."
"Put this money down as we say and we will remove the dynamite. Fail and we will blow up the Midwest as sure as there is a God in heaven."
Suspicion pointed toward W. L. Frank as being the author of the communication. He had been working at the Midwest plant but was discharged. He was arrested on Sunday, the 21st. Paper similar to that on which the note was written was found in a valise belonging to him, and upon other evidence produced he was held to the district court for trial under bond of $1,000. At the January term of the district court he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to serve a term of from three to four years in the penitentiary. He made a model prisoner, and after his term expired returned to Casper and has been a peaceable, quiet, law-abiding citizen.
Bill Carlisle, the Train Robber
William Carlisle's career showed a flash of the old time "bad man" days. He was a tall, red-headed, loose-jointed fellow, who first came into prominence when he was about twenty-seven years old. His first known banditry was perpetrated on February 9, 1916, when he held up a Union Pacific passenger train west ot Rock Springs With a six-shooter in each hand, he covered the brakeman and forced him to collect money from the passengers, then jumped from the moving train with his loot and disappeared. Train robbing is a capital offense in Wyoming and the crime drew nation-wide interest. A reward of $1,000 was offered for his capture by the railroad company, but without result.
. A few weeks later, the railroad company received a note from the fugitive warning them that before long he would commit another robbery on one of their trains in Wyoming. Although the letter was not taken in absolute seriousness, armed detectives were placed on all the trains in the state and the search for Carhsle was renewed. On the night of April 4, 1916, Carlisle climbed onto the observation platform of the Overland Limited as it was leaving the Cheyenne yards and after holding up a guard employed to protect the train against him Carlisle robbed the male passengers of about $600 in money and jewelry. The women were gallantly undisturbed. As the train was pulling into Corlett Junction, seven miles west of Cheyenne, the robber dropped from the observation platform and escaped into the darkness. Frantic efforts to capture him were made. All the trains that had passed that point on the line that night and the next day were searched. It did not occur to the searchers that their quarry might attempt to escape by walking, but that is what he did. He walked directly north from the railroad, obtaining food and shelter at ranches and homesteaders' places. He arrived in Casper April 10, and while here bought for himself a suit of clothes and some other wearing apparel. From Casper he went to Denver, where, it was said, he lived in the most extreme luxury for a short time, but he was smart enough to avoid suspicion of being the train robber.
Before going into the train robbing business Carlisle was a freighter in the Sussex and Kaycee country for about a year, and on account of his good nature and good behavior, was well known and well liked. He was known there as "Paddle Foot, the nickname having been given him owing to the extraordinary size of his feet.
His love for adventure and notoriety did not permit him to remain in obscurity long and in a short time he again wrote the officials of the Union Pacific of his intention to commit a train robbery on one of their trains in Wyoming. As evidence of his identity, he enclosed a watch taken from one of his victims on the Overland Limited. The railroad officials were thoroughly aroused this time and droves of heavily armed detectives were on guard from Pine Bluffs to Evanston,
A sick man boarded a train at Greeley, Colorado, on the after noon of April 21, 1916, and took a berth in a Pullman which was switched onto train number 21 at Cheyenne. The man's suffering seemed so great that it gained for him the sympathy of his fellow passengers. He recovered, however, entirely and quickly as the train was leaving Hanna, 140 miles west of Cheyenne. He was Carlisle. He held up the guard, fired one shot to convince the conductor that he was in earnest and then took $400 from the men passengers and leaped from the train as it neared Edson tunnel. The railroad company and the sheriff of Carbon county rushed searchers to the scene immediately. A special train bearing horses and a posse armed to the teeth was run out from Cheyenne. The Union Pacific announced a reward of $5,000 and the state offered $500 for the capture of the outlaw. Hundreds of men turned out to look for Carlisle. It is said that there were so many men on the hunt that they were in constant danger of shooting one another. Late in the afternoon on the day after the robbery, Carlisle was captured about thirty miles north of the railroad. On the 10th of May, he was found guilty of train robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment in the state's prison. There were so many claims for the $5,500 reward that the matter was finally settled in court.
For three years and five months, Carlisle served time in the Rawlins penitentiary. He was a good prisoner and never broke a rule. His life term was commuted on September 8, 1919, to from 25 to 50 years' imprisonment and this seemed to please him greatly and cause him to be more content with his fate.
On Saturday, November 15, 1919, Carlisle did not respond to roll call at supper time. An alarm was sounded and a search of the prison was made. It was subsequently discovered that Carlisle had escaped by concealing himself–with the aid of two fellow prisoners–in a box of shirts sent out from the prison factory that afternoon. A saw had been smuggled in to him a few days before, and after the box had been deposited in the railroad freight house and the freight agent had gone home for the night, Carlisle effected his freedom. Boarding a freight train, he traveled west fifteen miles to Creston, where he was forced to leave the train on account of the bitter cold. Bloodhounds were taken out and a large posse took up the search, but no trace of the fugitive was found until Tuesday night when he boldly boarded and robbed the Union Pacific Los Angeles limited, number 19, between Rock River and Medicine Bow, ninety-five miles west of Cheyenne. As was his custom, after robbing the passengers, he dropped from the moving train into the darkness. Just before he left the train, some one fired a shot at him, the bullet striking his hand. This injury proved to be his undoing, but not before he had stirred up the entire country and aroused the citizens to a high pitch. One feature of the man hunt, one that infuriated the railroad officials, was the apparent sympathy of the general public for the criminal. The entire state was searched and researched. Rumors of Carlisle's appearance in widely separated cities confused the authorities and made the pursuit more difficult. A man who looked like Carlisle, entered a Casper newspaper office and gave the excited reporter an interview and then filed a message at the telegraph office addressed to the Union Pacific at Cheyenne, which read, "Thanks for haul on your limited. Some detective force. Carlisle." These incidents occupied the detectives for several days. Then messages and letters purporting to be from Carlisle, began pouring in to the civil and railroad authorities. They were written in every tone from ridicule to pleading.
In the meantime the fugitive had been innocent of all the letter writing. He had gone to the Laramie Peak country south of Douglas and was being sheltered from day to day by the residents of that section. Sheriff Roach of Converse county was trailing him and Carlisle was going as fast as he could to keep ahead of him. The bullet was still in his hand and he was suffering intense pain so that his pace became slower and slower. The posse overtook him once at a ranch house, but he escaped through a window. A heavy snowstorm covered his tracks and the posse did not find him again until the next day when they discovered him at the Williams ranch house in the wildest part of the region. The sheriff commanded him to throw up his hands, which he did. A paroxysm of pain in his wounded hand caused him to lower it and, at this, the sheriff shot Carlisle through the lung. He was taken to the Douglas hospital where he remained until his wounds healed sufficiently to permit his removal to the state's prison.
Since being returned to the penitentiary, he has made a model prisoner, as he did before his escape. During his spare time he manufactures many novelties and places them on sale at different towns throughout the state at the holiday season. With the proceeds from the sale of these, he purchases law books. He is studying law and hopes to become an attorney if he lives out his sentence or is paroled.
Mexican Shoplifter Attempts Murder
A. J. Cunningham, president of the Casper National bank and the Richards & Cunningham store, was shot in the left arm, near the shoulder, and A. E. Biglin was shot through the fleshy part of his left leg, above the knee, on February 24, 1922, by a Mexican named John Cisenaros. The Mexican had stolen two pairs of shoes from the Cunningham store and Mr. Cunningham apprehended him and was about to call the sheriff when the shooting commenced. The first shot took effect in Mr. Cunningham's arm, and two other shots were fired without hitting any one, and it was the fourth shot which took effect on Mr. Biglin. Mr. Cunningham was confined to his home for three months and Mr. Biglin was out within a week. The Mexican pleaded guilty in the district court to shooting with intent to kill and was sentenced to thirteen years and six months in the penitentiary.
The city and county authorities and a committee of citizens on the 28th of the month rounded up about two dozen Mexicans and negroes who had no visible means of support, loaded them in a box car and they started north, and they were given to understand that they would not be protected by the law should a citizens' vigilance committee decide to operate upon them. They seemed as anxious to leave as the people were to have them go, and it is not likely they will ever return.
1. Dr. Schuike, who died near DeRanch from an overdose of morphine in August, 1903, in a stage coach, while on his way from ThermopoHs to Casper, told of this incident to one of his closest friends, who, after the doctor's death, felt at liberty to make it public.
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