April 2021 Readers’ Letters

Shotgun Messenger

There was a mistake on P. 73 of Matthew Bernstein’s “Homicide within the Black Hills,” within the December 2018 challenge. The treasure coach from Deadwood to Cheyenne and Sidney was not owned by Wells, Fargo. It was owned by Jack Gilmer. His shotgun messengers (referred to as the “Elite Eight”) had been Boone Could, Scott Davis, Jesse Brown, Jimmy Brown (who left for Wells, Fargo in 1877), Gale Hill, James Could, Invoice Could and Billy Pattern (who left for Wells, Fargo in 1880). Gilmer’s stagecoach was the Black Hills Stage and Specific Co., aka the “Deadwood Stage.” The bimonthly ironclad gold coach was guarded by the earlier than talked about on Homestake cleanup days. No passengers had been allowed on the down journey.
The treasure coach went to Cheyenne, till Sept. 26, 1878, when it was robbed, and Galen Elliott Hill was shot by the lung. Then Gilmer modified the gold cargo to be delivered to the railroad in Sidney, Neb. The day by day passenger coaches had small salamander safes that may have passenger gold, jewels, notes, and it was robbed very regularly. These coaches utilized by passengers had been totally different than the 2 ironclad treasure coaches. The identical shotgun messengers guarded the passenger coaches. There have been a couple of aid guards whereas the regulars had been shedding. Every guard was assigned a stage station. Could was assigned Robber’s Roost Stage Station, and he was probably the most feared by the highway brokers. Of the 5 trails resulting in Deadwood, the treasure first ran to Cheyenne, then Sidney and the final yr to Pierre. The Bismarck path had no treasure coach, solely passengers. All trails had passenger robberies, however the one profitable theft of the treasure was Sept. 26, 1878.
Patricia A. Campbell

Deadwood, S.D.
Ambrose Bierce (Huntington Library)
Matt Bernstein responds: Hats off to Patricia A. Campbell, creator of Deadwood in My Blood: Boone Could, Gale Hill, Shotgun Messengers on the Deadwood Stage and Their Historic Households. I used as my supply Ambrose Bierce (at proper). In an 1890 essay printed in California’s Oakland Day by day Night Tribune Bierce famous that relatively than permitting their coaches to be plundered “the mine house owners had adopted the extra practicable plan of importing from California a half-dozen of probably the most well-known ‘shotgun messengers’ of Wells, Fargo & Co.—fearless and trusty fellows with an intuition for killing.” That that they had modified corporations in addition to territories had escaped me. Bierce additionally associated using from Deadwood to Rockerville in an ironclad coach “loopholed for rifles” with $30,000 in his possession and Boone Could at his aspect:
Could sat hunched up beside me, a rubber poncho over his shoulders and a Winchester rifle in its leathern case between his knees. I assumed him a trifle off his guard, however mentioned nothing. The highway, barely seen, was rocky, the wagon rattled, and alongside ran a roaring stream. Abruptly we heard by it all of the clinking of a horse’s footwear instantly behind, and concurrently the brief, sharp phrases of authority: “Throw up your arms!”
With an involuntary jerk on the reins I introduced my group to its haunches and reached for my revolver. Fairly useless: With the quickest motion that I had ever seen in something however a cat—nearly earlier than the phrases had been out of the horseman’s mouth—Could had thrown himself backward throughout the again of the seat, face upward, and the muzzle of his rifle was inside a yard of the guy’s breast! What additional occurred among the many three of us there within the gloom of the forest has, I fancy, by no means been precisely associated.
Swinging Doorways

It appears to me this query was answered beforehand in Wild West, however I can’t recall. Have been there truly swinging doorways on the entrances to Outdated West saloons?
Ken Haines

Taylor, Mich.
Historian Richard Selcer responds: Sure, they appear to have been a typical function on saloons throughout the nation. I believe the thought was to offer somewhat privateness from harmless, prying eyes and to permit in somewhat recent air. All of the drawings and photos of saloons displaying swinging doorways are sturdy proof they weren’t a creation of Hollywood or dime novels.
Pete Spence
Spence Photograph

I’m an awesome fan of your great journal and have even given my father-in-law and brother-in-law subscriptions as Christmas presents. Within the October 2020 challenge in John Boessenecker’s article “They Shoot Cowboys, Don’t They?” the image of cowboy Pete Spence (at left) seems an awesome deal like among the photographs of Harvey Logan, aka “Child Curry,” of the Wild Bunch. I’ve seen the jail picture of Spence and he seems an awesome deal totally different from this image. What do you suppose? Sustain the good work. I stay up for your subsequent challenge.
Paul W. Harper

Dallas, Texas
John Boessenecker responds: Roy B. Younger, creator of Pete Spence: Audacious Artist in Crime, researched the picture and located it got here from Spence household descendants within the Nineteen Forties. It was found by one of many well-known Southwest historians—probably C.L. Sonnichsen, although I can not recall. I’ve heard the identical remark about this picture, although from individuals who haven’t seen mug pictures on the topic’s entry into jail—one in road garments with facial hair, the subsequent in stripes with head shaved. Such photographs usually appear to be totally different males however are the identical man.

Ship letters by e-mail or to Wild West, 901 N. Glebe Highway, fifth Ground, Arlington, VA 22203. Please embody your title and hometown. These letters had been printed within the February 2021 challenge.

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