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NEWS STORIES OF THE OLD WEST

The Tombstone Epitaph, LESLIE’S LUCK, Nov. 18, 1882

“Billy the Kid” Takes a Shot at “Buckskin Frank.”
The Latter Promptly Replied and the
Former Quietly Turned His Toes Up to the Daisies

Statement of Frank Leslie

I was talking with some friends in the Oriental Saloon when Claiborne pushed his way in among us and began using very insulting language. I took him to one side and said, “Billy, don’t interfere, those people are friends among themselves and are not talking about politics at all, and don’t want you about.” He appeared quite put out and used rather bad and certainly very nasty language towards me. I told him there was no use of his fighting with me, that there was no occasion for it, and leaving him I joined my friends. He came back again and began using exceedingly abusive language, when I took him by the collar of his coat and led him away, telling him not to get mad, that it was for his own good, that if he acted in that manner he was liable to get in trouble. He pushed away from me, using very hard language, and as he started away from me, shook a finger at me and said, “That’s all right Leslie, I’ll get even on you,” and went out of the saloon. In a short time a man came in and said there was a man waiting outside to shoot me, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. A few minutes later another man came in looking quite white and said Claiborne was waiting outside with a rifle.
To Shoot Frank Leslie. I then went out, and as I stepped on the sidewalk, saw about a foot of rifle barrel protruding from the end of the fruit stand. I stepped out in the street and saw it was Claiborne, and said, “Billy, don’t shoot, I don’t want you to kill me, nor do I want to have to shoot you.” Almost before I finished he raised the gun and shot, and I returned the fire from my pistol, aiming at his breast. As soon as I shot I saw him double up and had my pistol cocked and aimed at him again, when I saw, or thought I saw, another man by him putting his arms around him, and lowered the pistol, and when it was discharged the bulled went in the sidewalk. After I fired, I advanced upon him, but did not shoot, when he said, “Don’t shoot again, I am killed,” which I didn’t but watched him, with my pistol at full cock, as I didn’t know what game he might play to get me off guard. At that moment Officer Coyle came up and took hold of my pistol hand. I told him to be careful as it was at full cock. I then uncocked it and gave it to him , and said I would go with him. I told him I was sorry; that I might have done more, but I couldn’t do less. He then placed me under arrest.

 

The Star, CURLY BILL, May 26, 1881

The Noted Desperado, Gets it in the Neck at Galeyville

The notorious Curly Bill, the man who murdered Marshal White at Tombstone last fall and who has been concerned in several other desperate and lawless affrays in South Eastern Arizona, has at last been brought to grief and there is likely to be a vacancy in the ranks of out border desperados. The affair occurred at Galeyville Thursday. A party of 8 or 9 cowboys, Curly Bill and his partner Jim Wallace among the number, were enjoying themselves in their usual manner, when deputy Sheriff Breakenridge of Tombstone, who was at Galeyville on business, happened along.

Wallace made some insulting remark to the deputy at the same time flourishing his revolver in an aggressive manner. Breakenridge did not pay much attention to this “break” of Wallace but quietly turned around and left the party. Shortly after this, Curly Bill, who it would seem had a friendly feeling for Breakenridge, insisted that Wallace should go and find him and apologize for the insult given. This Wallace was induced to do after finding Breakenridge he made the apology and the latter accompanied him back to the saloon where the cowboys were drinking. By this time Curly Bill who had drank just enough to make him quarrelsome, was in one of his most dangerous moods and evidently desirous of increasing his record as a man killer. He commenced to abuse Wallace, who, by the way, had some pretensions himself as a desperado and bad man generally and finally said, “You d-d Lincoln county s-of a b—, I’ll kill you anyhow.” Wallace immediately went outside the door of the saloon, Curly Bill following close behind him. Just as the latter stepped outside, Wallace, who had meanwhile drawn his revolver, fired, the ball entering penetrating the left side of Curly Bill’s neck and passing through, came out the right cheek, not breaking the jawbone. A scene of the wildest excitement ensued in the town.

The other members of the cowboy party surrounded Wallace and threats of lynching him were made. The law abiding citizens were in doubt what course to pursue. They did not wish any more blood shed but were in favor of allowing the lawless element to “have it out” among themselves. But Deputy Breakenridge decided to arrest Wallace, which he succeeded in doing without meeting any resistance. The prisoner was taken before Justice Ellinwood and after examination into the facts of the shooting he was discharged.

The wounded and apparently dying desperado was taken into an adjoining building, and a doctor summoned to dress his wounds. After examining the course of the bullet, the doctor pronounced the wound dangerous but not necessarily fatal, the chances for and against recovery being about equal. Wallace and Curly Bill have been Partners and fast friends for the past 4 or 6 months and so far is known, there was no cause for the quarrel, it being simply a drunken brawl.

 

Epitaph, JUDGE GEORGE WASHINGTON SWAIN, Jan. 28, 1943

Mrs. Martha Swain Recalls Arrival in Tombstone

Shortly after arriving in Tombstone the Swains moved into a house located adjacent to the courthouse which was completed in 1882. Some of the chairs used to seat spectators at the courthouse dedication came from the Swain home as well as from those of other residents nearby.

Mrs. Swain liked to recall the days of bustling Tombstone and its fascination as well as its hardships. The camp was really booming. When she arrived there the Bird Cage theater was just finished. There was no water supply other than that packed into the town on the backs of burros from Sycamore Springs. The precious fluid sold at the rate of two buckets for 25 cents and was used sparingly. The price of foodstuffs was sky high. Eggs sold for as much as 25 cents apiece.

Tombstone made up in action what it lacked in polish. The town never slept. Throngs jammed the gambling halls and saloons 24 hours a day. Freighters with great cargoes of merchandise filed in and out of the camp in a steady stream.

The carpenter’s saw and hammer were continually busy erecting a new frontier community. George went to work in the mines to support his family, his first experience underground. But it wasn’t long before he was elected justice of the peace, in 1883.

Recalls Execution
The five Bisbee holdup men who were hanged in a group, Daniel Kelly, Omar W. Sample, James Howard, Daniel Dowd and William Delaney, were a cheerful quintet as they languished in jail waiting for their day of doom. Mrs. Swain recalled. They sang throughout the day and often hollered at the Swain baby from behind their cell window. The quintet were tried in Tombstone before George Swain, then justice of the peace.

The dwelling on occasions, however proved too close to the courthouse for comfort or safety. After Nellie Cashman and her miner friends had destroyed bleachers which were to seat uninvited guests to the hanging of the five Bisbee holdup men and slayers on March 28, 1884, the curious began to climb any tree or roof nearby from which they could overlook the hang-pit below. So many of them climbed atop the Swain roof that the entire building threatened to collapse under their weight and the Swain family was forced to hire a couple of special policemen to keep the crowd from the roof.

Mrs. Swain recalls the mob that hanged Heath.
Mrs. Swain recalls to this day the scenes of violence when the mob removed Heath from the jail, threw a rope around him and half carried, half dragged him to the telephone pole out of town where he was unceremoniously hanged. With her frightened children clinging to her skirts, she stood on the steps of her front porch as the gruesome bit of drama was enacted.

INTERESTING ARTICLE TELLS OF CUSTER’S LAST BATTLE

(Monroe Evening News, July 25 & 27, 1925)

Monroe folks are interested in the history of General George Armstrong Custer, famous Indian fighter who lived here in his youth and the following story, “Custer’s Last Battle” written by L.M. Prill, famous lecturer on “Buffalo Bill’s Country” is very interesting. The writer is a distant relative of the famous General and throws a new light on the final great Indian fight in the Northwest. The article was taken from the current number of “The Sample Case”. The article follows:

June 24 commemorated the forty-ninth anniversary of the Custer Massacre, the terrible Indian victory which took place in Southern Montana in 1876. While this event is rather modern history details are still more or less unknown to the average person.

Various reasons can be advanced for this seeming ignorance. The battle in which General George Armstrong Custer and his entire command were annihilated took place in a section of the West which was devoid of settlement at the time. The scramble to absolve officers involved in the expedition created much controversy at the time and is still being agitated. It is only of recent years that Indians who took part in the massacre have thrown any light on the subject having a fear that their misdeeds would be punished. And those who were directly concerned never lived to recite their part in the affair – their lips were suddenly sealed in death.

Without going into the history too far in advance of the massacre the reader must be prepared somewhat. The massacre was one of the most terrible in Indian warfare and the thought is had as to confusing this history of prolonging the controversy that has arisen in the War Department and the press of the country. Custer and his men all died in battle. They may rest in peace.

Government treaties made with the Indians gave the latter vast domains in the West. The Indians felt they had a right to the country and when gold was discovered in the Black Hills they resented the intrusion of the Whites. Instead of respecting the treaty with the Indians, soldiers were sent to protect the invading miners and settlers.

Strife became common and orders were issued to round up all Indians and place them on reservations. Commonly it was felt among the leading chiefs that they were being wronged and many battles were fought prior to the battle on the Little Big Horn.

All through these troublesome times the Indians were well equipped with ammunition. The Government kept both infantry and cavalry at various forts in order to subdue the savages but traders on river fronts were exchanging firearms for furs and pelts at every opportunity.

The massacre on the Little Big Horn meant the death of Custer and five troops of the Seventh Cavalry, but in all fairness it may have been termed anything but a massacre. The Indians were fighting their last big battle in an endeavor to protect their rights, their lands, their freedom. Custer’s command was the one picked to make this last big stand in Montana and apparently he was designed for sacrifice. He did his duty, obeyed orders given him and if he did feel he was discharging an unjust duty he obeyed orders from his superiors.

The Little Big Horn river meanders through a valley which is from a half to two miles wide; flowing in a north and westerly junction with the Big Horn River 15 miles below the battlefield. On the right hand side of the stream, or more plainly, eastern side, high hills rise in two terraces. These hills are barren of trees and are cut apart in many places by deep gulleys or ravines. Along the river is much timber and it is plain today there is less underbrush than at the time of the massacre.

General Custer and the Seventh Cavalry marched about one hundred miles in three days, starting at the mouth of the Big Horn River where it empties into the Yellowstone. General Terry in command of General Custer and his troops, was operating from this point, having brought his infantry this far on the river boat “The Far West”.

He had proceeded west from Bismarck, N.D.; General Gibbons east from Fort Ellis (where Bozeman, Mont. Now stands) and General Crook from Fort Fetterman (east of Casper, Wyoming), all three commands were thus dispatched with the idea of surrounding the Indians, but the plan failed.

Crook had a skirmish with the Indians shortly after crossing where the state line now exists. He retreated and fell back one day’s march. If he had succeeded in holding his ground, the one day’s march in a forward direction would undoubtedly have place him in a position so as to have participated in the battle of Little Big Horn.

As noted before, Terry held his infantry at the mouth of the Big Horn river, about a hundred miles to the north; while Gibbons did not arrive at that point until several days after the battle was over.

The march was made by Custer, followed up the Tongue river and crossed west over the divide of the hills and south of the battle field. Many have called this march a “forced” one, as the day before the battle 40 miles were made, and after resting only a few hours, the call to again proceed was given before daylight.

Scouts gave news of a large Indian village, so camp was broken and at daylight the valley of the Little Big Horn was cited and the plan of action formulated.

Custer planned to keep in plain sight on the high hills and march along the crest to the north. Benteen and his men were to proceed across the valley to the hills paralleling the river and see if any more Indians were camped on the other side of the valley. Later he was to rejoin Major Reno and attack the southern end of the village, which extended about three miles up and down the Little Big Horn valley.

This village was larger than anticipated by Custer, or even his Crow Indian scouts, of whom there were six. Historians have estimated various numbers but Indians who participated in the battle state that there were 17,000 in camp there. About 2,000 tepees comprised the village and 6,000 men and boys constituted the fighting strength. It is only fair to believe this number was correct.

Many different tribes of the Sioux and friends were camped together and not a thought of a battle was in their minds as they had been enjoying the great buffalo hunt and merrymaking had been general. The way the village was scattered along the river bottom denoted they were not looking for trouble.

Custer rode along the hill in full sight and the Indians watching this movement began to mass their warriors at the lower end of the village, not knowing Reno and his soldiers were at the rear.

Reno appeared at the proper time and threw the Indians into a panic. A concerted defense was hastily made and Reno called a retreat and ended by dismounting his men in the timber. Later a mad dash was made through the river and up a ravine to the hills. Several soldiers lost their lives before the skirmish was over.

Historians all agree that it was over two and a half hours before Benteen rejoined Reno at this point. It was not recorded where he was in the meantime. He was an inexperienced Indian fighter and this was his first real participation in Western warfare.

At about the time Reno started his fight, Custer began a march down into the valley at the north end of the village. A part of the men reached the bluff immediately above the river, but a retreat was called and the sacrifice in life began. The frenzied Indians were … bluff, and creeping over the brim, they began a forward movement at the same time others who had flanked either side of Custer’s men began to close in on the scattered groups of soldiers.

The battle was a short one and Custer’s signals of alarm and messages to Reno were unavailing as they were never heeded. Custer not only fired signals for help, but also sent couriers asking for reinforcements and ammunition. It is claimed by the Indians that less than an hour after they had made their attack the last soldier had answered the call of death.

The point where Custer fell was the commanding portion of the hill. His body was found reclining against those of some of his valiant soldiers and eye witnesses after the battle claimed he appeared to be sitting among them with a peaceful expression on his face.

He had not been scalped, and Indians assert he was thus respected as – was he not the big chief?. Contrary to the popular conception, Custer did not wear long hair at the time he was killed. He had but lately returned from Washington where he had been called by President Grant and this accounts for his change in style.

Historians who have attempted to uphold the acts of Major Reno have intimated that the reason Custer was not scalped as were the rest of the soldiers, was due to the fact that he had destroyed himself after seeing his command perish. This has been denied by every Indian interview. He was a true soldier and savages knew from past experience that he was just in all his acts. They respected him for what he was – “a Great Chief”.

In the immediate group with General Custer were found the body of his brother, Captain Tom Custer and his nephew, Autie Reed. His brother, Boston Custer, civilian, was found in the foreground near the river and his brother-in- law, Lieut. James Calhoun was killed about a quarter mile to the east.

The body of Toms Custer was found to have been terribly mutilated and this was credited as having been done by Chief Rain-in-the-Face. The story goes that Rain-in-the-Face who previously had been arrested by Tom Custer, swore to eat the heart of the white man in token of victory and also as “medicine” to make him brave. This has been denied and especially so by Rain-in-the-Face when he was finally apprehended and punished for participation in his many acts of lawlessness. All soldiers were mutilated, but this was a practice of the savages, in addition to scalping their victims. It is true that all bodies were left nude upon the field as all clothing, guns, and ammunition were taken.

Three days after the massacre, Major Reno ventured on the scene and began to cover the bodies of the slain. No graves were dug, dirt being piled upon the bodies where they were found and identification was made as best the comrades could. To insure this identification, the name of the soldier was written on paper, which was placed in an empty cartridge and this was driven into stakes placed as markers.

General Terry having arrived by this time with the infantry, the body of General Custer was reverently placed in a hasty built coffin and transported overland to “the Far West” and thus the journey was started, which ended by his remains being interred in the Arlington National Cemetery at Washington, D.C.

A year after the massacre the bodies of his entire command were gathered together and placed in one common grave over which a massive monument was erected. The officers were for the most part, taken east at the request of relatives, but the men, the soldiers who braved their lives in order to make the frontier safe live at peace in one of the bloodies spots in the West.

The number killed with Custer was 203; with Reno, 67; making a total of 270 in all. In addition to the men killed under Reno’s command 67 were badly wounded.

Today this spot is a national cemetery and over 1,448 other graves were found in the one mile square plot of ground. The bodies of men, women, and children – soldiers and civilians – from 12 forts in Montana and two in Wyoming have been transferred here as the old forts were abandoned by the government.

Ten boys who lost their lives during the past great war are peacefully resting here, and of the many only one grave is that of an Indian. Curley, the Crow scout, who died at the Capital agency in the spring of 1923 requested he be buried with the white brothers with whom he labored, as it had to be, he was buried in the Indian cemetery but almost a year later he was reburied on the battlefield through orders of the War Department. It is unlikely that there will be any more Indians thus honored.

The battlefield is taken care of by Sergeant Eugene Messenger, who has been Supt. For the past 12 years. Sergeant Messenger served in Custer’s command and at the time of the massacre was under Reno. He helped in locating the bodies and rehelped in burying the dead. In the following year he again helped in locating the bodies and reburying them in one common grave.

The Custer battle field lies one mile from the main highway known as the Custer Battle Field highway and thousands of tourists visit the historic spot each year.

General George Armstrong Custer was born on December 5, 1839 at New Rumley, Ohio. A …at the home of his half sister in Monroe, Mich. And being of studious nature he prepared himself so thoroughly he was enabled to pass examinations to West Point at the age of seventeen.

Graduating from West Point with honors in 1861 he entered the army as second Lieutenant in the Fifth U.S. Cavalry and fought in the first battle of Bull Run. Energy and bravery created quick promotion in the army of the Potomac. Custer gallantly leading his men into action and suffering defeat but once.

He received due recognition for his work and was repeatedly brevetted in both the volunteer and regular service after the battle of Gettysburg.

He also fought at Cedar Creek and as a member of Sheridan’s corps was present at Waynesboro, Dinwiddle, Five Forks, and other battles. March 13, 1865 he was promoted Brevet Major General in the regular army for meritorious service.

After the Civil War he served at various points in the west and took part in Hancock’s expedition against the Cheyenne Indians in 1868 and against the Sioux in 1873.

Custer was a dashing soldier and was popular with his men. He had a commanding presence, being tall and handsome in figure with long flowing blonde hair and brilliantly colored clothing. In western warfare he usually dressed in beautifully make buckskin clothing.

General Custer’s private life was exemplary. He had striven for an education and made good. Early in life he made a vow to abstain from all intoxicating liquors and he never used tobacco in any form, nor took the name of the Diety in vain.

Everything was vim and dashing throughout his comparatively short life, and his courtship was one of the truest love affairs known. On February 9, 1864 he was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth Bacon at his adopted home in Monroe. This union was an ideal one and although he lost his life twelve years later at the age of 37, Mrs. Custer has ever held his memory sacred. She has always made her home at Monroe, Michigan, but at present is living in New York City.

(Monroe Evening News, July 25 & 27, 1925)

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