Archive for the ‘Horse Thief Thursday’ Category

“Flopping Bill” Cleans the Ranges of Desperados

February 26, 2009

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Thirty Horse Thieves and Cattle Rustlers, in Two Months, Were Hanged and Shot by the Determined Vigilantes of the Northern Montana Plains. Prominent Men Were Involved in the Raid That Cleaned the Ranges of Desperados. Death Was Quick and Sure. Prisoners Were Taken From United States Troops and Lynched. The Story Told for the First Time. The Law Called a Halt.

It is a story of which little has been told. Most of those who rode with “Flopping Bill’s” vigilantes have left the state or crossed the Great Divide. Those who have remained are reticent. As to the 30 or more desperate horse thieves and cattle rustlers who operated in Northern Montana in the early eighties — well, bleaching bones on wind-swept prairies tell no tales.

In 1885 the cattle and horse business in Northern Montana was becoming more and more unprofitable, for the reason that there were organized bands of horse thieves who had stopping places from the Canadian line to Mexico, and who made more money in the business of stealing horses and live stock than the real owners could in raising them. Of course more horses than cattle were stolen, because they were easier to get away with, and in those days were worth a great deal more money.

The stealing became so serious that the cattlemen of Northern Montana were forced to do something, and in the fall of 1885 they did it. When the cattlemen start to do anything they do it up brown, and it was so in this case.

The tale of the hanging of the road agents of 1863-4 by the vigilantes of Alder gulch has been told so often that it became known from one end of the world to the other, and it is looked upon as the biggest thing of its kind which was ever pulled off in Montana. This is a mistake and the cowboys of Northern Montana during the year of 1885, from September to November, hanged and shot more men than the vigilantes of Alder gulch ever dreamed of. This may seem like a fairy tale at this time, but it is a fact, and there are men in Northern Montana at the present day who have the papers to prove the assertion.

During the fall round-up of the Judith in the fall of 1885 it was decided to do some hanging. Who proposed the matter, or by whom meetings were held, it is not necessary to state, as on of the leaders of the cowboy vigilantes in now a prosperous stockman within a few miles of old Fort Maginnis, another is a prosperous sheepman living near Ubet, and another lives in Butte, after having spent a number of years abroad. And there are others, but the matter of the real extermination of the rustler was carried on under the direction of “Flopping Bill” Cantrell.

“Flopping Bill” was a desperate character himself and worked against the rustlers because it paid better than to work with them. From September, 1885 until the weather became too cold to ride, “Flopping Bill” and his band of cowboy exterminators worked, and when they had finished there was no count of the men whose candles had been snuffed, but there are men in Great Falls today who can name at least 26 of them, and it has always been estimated that about 30 people were hanged or shot by “Flopping Bill’s” band during that fall.

The first performer in the bloody drama of extermination as carried on by “Flopping Bill” was a half-breed near Fort Maginnis. Some one believed that he had stolen a steer and butchered it, and one night during August, 1885, he was taken near the ranch of Reese Anderson and strung up to a cottonwood tree without a chance to say his prayers, if he knew any.

That was the beginning, and shortly after “Flopping Bill” called for volunteers to search for horses which had been stolen from the herds of several well known stockmen. The requisition was made upon the round-up, which was camped on the Musselshell about 60 miles above the mouth, and reckless riders and desperate men only were chosen.

The posse made a hard ride that day, and by night they came to the cabin of a man named Downs, near the mouth of the Musselshell. Downs kept a sort of trading post, and was suspected of being in league with the thieves. It was early daylight when the posse arrived and they at once surrounded the cabin, and when Downs came out it was “hands up.”

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A search of the corral and vicinity discovered 22 D.H.S. horses, and Downs was asked to explain. He saw that he was up against it, and gave a full list of all the men connected with the “rustling” business, and indicated where they had their rendezvous. The Missouri runs swift and deep where the waters of the Musselshell enter it, and the banks are high and steep. A rope was placed about the neck of Downs, and a convenient tree was looked for. Some one spied a large grindstone which stood alongside of the cabin.

“Tie it to his neck and drop him in the river,” was the suggestion, and it was carried out literally. To-day the big round grindstone, with the hole in the center, lies in the bottom of the Missouri near the mouth of the Musselshell, and if time and water have not proven too much for the hempen rope the neck bones, at least, of Jim Downs are the grindstone’s companion.

Armed with the information derived from Downs the posse rode south to the mouth of Lodge Pole creek, where there were several “rustlers” located, and in the early morning light three of them were captured and strung up on some cottonwood trees which surrounded the cabin where they had lived. One of the hempen ropes with which the hanging was done swung in the breeze for many years, and perhaps is there yet — it was up to five years ago.

Some of the cowboys in the posse began to get more than they had bargained for, and wanted to quit the business, but “Flopping Bill” pointed out to them that they would be hanged by the civil law if their share in the impromptu hanging was known, and that together with other cogent reasons prompted them to remain.

The next bunch of rustlers was located along the Missouri. They passed as woodchoppers, and a large number of them had rendezvous at Long John’s Bottom on the Missouri, a short ways below the mouth of the Musselshell.

“Flopping Bill’s” posse came upon the camp early one morning, and was discovered by the horse herder, whom they promptly shot, and charged upon the camp. There was a block house with a stable attached, belonging to the rustlers, but most of them were sleeping in tents, and when they shooting began one of them was shot while getting to the block house. Once there they defied the posse, and it was only by strategy that they were dislodged. While the posse kept a hail of bullets against the house, one of the cowboys sneaked up there through the grass and set fire to the stable, and it in turn fired the block house. Just how many rustlers were killed will never be known, but there were at least 11 in the house and six were taken prisoners, while one escaped.

The one who got away was Dixey Burroughs, a half breed, and well known in Northern Montana. Burroughs managed to get away from the house, and was stopped by one of the outer guards, bu dropped behind a log and at the fourth shot managed to get his man, and escaped. Who the cowboy was that was shot has never been divulged. He was buried where he fill and a hint given that nothing was to be said about it.

That night “Flopping Bill” went away and during the night a number of men rode up to the camp of the cowboys, and after a sham battle, took six prisoners, and in the morning their bodies were decorating the Cottonwoods, on the east end of Long John’s Bottom. “Flopping Bill” came back and said the men who had taken the prisoners were a posse from Miles City — and nobody inquired further.

When Dixey Burroughs escaped he crossed the Missouri on a raft, and met old man James and his two sons, Dick and Jim, together with two others. This part of the gang had not been home when the cowboys called, and when Dixey told his story they saw that there was death in the air, and started down the river on a raft. They knew the cowboys were after them and that they would be shown no mercy, and so when near Poplar, they surrendered to a sergeant and a detail of seven United States soldiers, and asked to be taken to Fort Maginnis for trial. The sergeant and his detail started with the prisoners for Maginnis, and early the third morning they awoke to find themselves in the hands of a dozen masked men.

“Hitch up your outfit and drive straight on,” said the leader of the party, “and we will not injure you at all; refuse and we will kill you all. The prisoners are ours.”

The sergeant, whose name is not recalled — the whole affair appears in the records of the post during this year — hitched up and drove on as requested, and the dozen masked were left behind. The prisoners were never seen again, except that a couple of years ago an old-timer told a story of meeting Dixey Burroughs over the Canadian line, and he said he had been spared his life by promising to leave the country.

After these the hangings were desultory, but the aggregate for the two months of September and October is believed to have amounted to about 30. The cowboys would be riding the round-up, and some night word would go around and in the morning 20 of them would be gone for a day or a week, and no questions asked.

That winter, it is related, a crowd of men rode up to the place where the cowboy vigilante crew were quartered, and served notice that everyone of them must leave the country or die. The majority of them left, and have met death in one way or another, but there are still two or three of the posse remaining in Northern Montana, but they do not boast of having belonged to “Flopping Bill’s avengers” in ’85. “Flopping Bill” also found it advisable to leave the country many years ago, and less than two months ago his death was recorded in old Missouri — for Bill was a Missourian and had ridden with Quantrell.

The 1885 episode of the rope and gun has not been written about very much, but the advertising it got was such as to discourage “rustling” in Northern Montana for many years, so that it is only the pilgrim of recent years who has been reviving the business — the real old-times of the bad lands would not take any one’s stock as a gift — but “Flopping Bill,” the man of nerve, without human feeling, has gone over the divide, and perhaps the stock inspectors may be given more work in consequence.

The Anaconda Standard: Sunday Morning, Aug 11, 1901.

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AS IT WAS In Billing 45 YEARS Ago Today
(From the Billings Gazette, May 28, 1885)

William Cantrell, one of the stock inspectors of the territorial association, and known in the Maiden country as “Flopping Bill,” is attending court, as a witness. (Cantrell was an important figure in the cleaning out of the rustlers along the Musselshell by Granville Stuart and his cowboys in 1884.)

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) May 28, 1930

Hoisting the Black Flag

February 19, 2009

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FROM THE WEST.
Correspondence of the New-York Times.

CHICAGO, Monday, May 7, 1866
Horse-stealing has been practiced of late so extensively, in some sections of this State, that the black flag has been hoisted by the citizens, and no mercy is shown to the thieves. Last week two men were hung in Calhoun County, and one in Hardin. Five men were caught stealing horses in Jersey County, and instantly killed by shooting. WILLIAM ROLLINS was shot, but escaped by feigning death. He went to St. Louis, was arrested, taken back to Jersey, fell into the bands of the Vigilance Committee and was shot dead. Another was shot in Pike County. These occurrences make the business rather unpleasant than otherwise.

The New York Times (New York, New York) May 13, 1866

Willard DeWitt: Indiana Pioneer, 1776-1881

February 6, 2009
Dewitt Family 1880 Census

Dewitt Family 1880 Census

The Oldest Man in Steuben County.
Correspondence of the SENTINEL.
CHAMBERLAIN, Oct. 1, 1880.

I have been up in Steuben county visiting Father De Witt, the oldest man in the county. He will be one hundred and six years old next March. When I went there he was out husking corn. He carried the corn in a twelve-quart pail–I helped him pick up four or five bushels. He then told me to go to the house and visit with them, he said that he must husk some more corn. He said that he would come up after while. He has four daughters, the youngest is ten years old. Before I came away I asked him to read to me. He then turned to his wife and asked her what he should read in. The Bible was handed to him, he turned to Romans, the ninth chapter, and read from the first to the twenty-third verses–he read without specs. He was an officer in the M.E. church for about forty years. I believe he is now a member of the Wesleyan Methodist. He resigned his office in the church about nine years ago. Below will be found a piece written by his own hand.
WM. H. SAFFORD.

“Whereas has been circulated in the Steuben Republican, and I am informed other papers, that I had been a class leader in the Methodist church; and now, when over one hundred years of age, that I am a Universalist. Let me state a few facts: I feel very much grieved that any one should think that the devil had got me as he had Mother Eve. I have been a member of the M.E. church for forty years, and filled various offices in that society, and exhorted men to flee from the wrath to come. It is true I have been a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church for many years, endorsing its reformatory principles. I am trying to live Godly in Christ Jesus, and only regret whatever I may have fallen short in my efforts so to do. I believe there is a devil to despise and regret. I believe there is a God to love and obey, a hell to shun, a heaven to gain. I am looking earnestly toward the place Jesus is preparing for me, that where he is I may be also, and I would disown the kinsman that would circulate so base a falsehood on an old man whom God has blessed and helped in the world for more than a hundred years. As many papers as have circulated the former, please copy. This is signed with my own hand.”

WILLARD DEWITT.

Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Oct 13, 1880

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This is a second  marriage for Willard. Previously, he was married to a woman named Elizabeth Mosier, who died in 1860.

Name:  Willard Dewitt
Spouse Name: Sarah B. Flood
Marriage Date: 26 Mar 1861
Marriage County: Dekalb
Performed By: S. W. Widney
Source Title 1: DEKALB COUNTY, INDIANA
Source Title 2: EARLY MARRIAGE RECORDS 1837 – 1882
Source Title 3: BOOK II
OS Page: 88

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From a newspaper clipping (Steuben Republican)–28 Jan., 1881. Sent by Robert & Harriet Hippenhamer.

“Last Friday morning, at a little past midnight, Uncle Willard DeWitt, the oldest surviving soldier of the War of 1812, and the oldest person in this section of the country, closed his eyes on the scenes of this world. According to the best authority obtainable, he was born March 25, 1776, therefore, was about 105 years of age at the time of his death. He served for some time in the War of 1812, being a member of Capt. I. Bartlett’s New York militia. For the past nine years he has received a government pension of $8 per month, obtained for him by Lawrence Gates*. He was married a few years ago to a woman many years his junior. She bore him several children, She still resides with them on their farm in Scott township.”

Posted by an anonymous source on Ancestry.com.

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*CAPT. LAWRENCE GATES, an honored veteran of the Civil war and one of the organizers of the First National Bank of Angola, was born in Germany April 25, 1839, and received his early education thee and then came to America. He arrived at Angola in 1853 and had some further education in the schools at Nevada Mills in Steuben County. He worked as a clerk in Angola until 1862, when he volunteered in Company H of the Seventy-Fourth Indiana Infantry. For his meritorious service he was promoted to first lieutenant and later to captain. and served until May 15, 1865. He was in the battles of Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and in the Atlanta campaign. Two weeks after the fall of Atlanta he lost a leg during a railroad wreck. After the war Captain Gates engaged in the dry goods business at Angola, and was one of the local business men who organized the First National Bank. He held the post of director as long as he was content to serve. In recent years he has busied himself with a fire insurance agency. He is a Republican and cast a vote in 1860 for Abraham Lincoln and Oliver Morton. He was first city clerk of Angola after the incorporation of the town. He is a past grand patriarch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and he and his family are members of the Christian Church.

History of northeast Indiana : LaGrange, Steuben, Noble and DeKalb Counties
Volume II
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1920

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Lived to be 105 years old. Politically a Whig but subsequently became a Republican and Abolitionist. He was a strong and zealous Methodist class leader.

[Ellis and Owens Families.FTW]

Posted by Harold McClure on Ancestry.com.

Driven Away by Brace of Fair Horse Thieves

February 5, 2009
Woman with Horse and Buggy 1918

Woman with Horse and Buggy 1918

WELLDRESSED WOMEN ARE STEALING HORSES AND RIGS

Several Buggies Left Standing on Streets Have Been Driven Away by Brace of Fair Horse Thieves.

Two women, whose descriptions have been furnished the police, are stealing horses and buggies left standing by their owners in the business section of the city. Yesterday afternoon about 3 o’clock the women were seen driving away from Austin’s real estate office on Broadway in a buggy, belonging to E.O. Johnson of the Kentucky stables. The rig is still missing and the authorities have been unable to learn of its whereabouts or who the two women thieves are. The women are stout and welldressed. Both are dark complexioned and one is thought to be of Spanish descent. The stolen horse is a sorrel, with one white ankle. The buggy is a business vehicle, with a black body and red running gear. It has rubber tires. The police believe that the women have been implicated in the theft of several buggies and thus far they have been able to successfully elude the strong arm of the law.

Duncan McMullen of 4906 Broadway has reported that a bay mare, weighing about 850 pounds, fourteen hands high, was stolen yesterday from a lot at Forty-ninth street and Broadway.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Jun 28, 1907

No Arm Jack: Horse Thief

January 29, 2009
Stolen Horses

Stolen Horses

An Armless Horse Thief.

Dallas, Texas, has had a visit from a singular character — Jack Hall, alias No Arm Jack — en route to Stephenville jail, from which institution the prisoner escaped six months ago after receiving a sentence of ten years in the penitentiary for horse-stealing. Both his arms are off above the elbow, having been crushed in a sugar mill when he was a child, but the bones grew out several inches from the flesh, and their surfaces are rough like corncobs, and Jack writes a beautiful hand by holding a pen beside his chin and pressing the protruding bone against it. He shoots a pistol or firearms expertly, and manages a horse as well as the average two-handed man. The height of his ambition appears to have been stealing horses successfully. He is about thirty years of age. He was arrested in the Choctaw Nation.

The Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio) Aug 14, 1882

The Notorious ‘Doc’ Middleton

January 22, 2009
'Doc' Middleton

'Doc' Middleton

From the (WOLA) Western Outlaw Lawmen History Association website, which provides a good amount of information about ‘Doc.’

Doc Middleton** was born James M. Riley in Bastrop County, Texas (his death certificate says he was born in Mississippi). Family members state the middle name was Middleton. Doc’s early years are confusing, but sorted out nicely by Harold Hutton in his book. Suffice to say, Doc got into some trouble in Texas, joined a cattle drive and headed to Nebraska.

The website link** above doesn’t seem to work anymore, so here is a link to the WWHA site, which also has a good article about Doc Middleton.

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NEBRASKA.
Fight with Outlaws.

OMAHA, July 26. Hazen, the detective wounded in a fight with Doc Middleton, has arrived here. Lewellyn, third detective in the fight, arrived at Fort Hartsuff and has left with soldiers from there for the place where Middleton is.

Later report shows the detectives treacherously fired on the outlaws, during negotiations. The outlaws promptly returned the fire. Middleton is severely wounded. Hazen badly and Llewellyn slightly. Black George and another outlaw were killed. The result will be the capture of Middleton and breaking up the gang.

Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine) Jul 28,  1879

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A DESPERATE CONFLICT.
Chicago, July 24. — An Omaha special to the News gives meagre details of a desperate fight between a body of detectives and four desperadoes of Doc Middleton’s gang of thieves and murderers infesting the cattle country on the Niobara river which occurred Monday on one of the branches of the creek called Long Pine, 140 miles north of Grand Island. Shots were fired by two of the detectives and returned by the desperadoes, with effect upon each side, although no lives were lost. Hazen, one of the detectives, received three balls — one in the neck, one in the arm, and a third through his body below the ribs, coming out near the backbone.

S. Lewellyan, another of the detectives who was present at the fight, is missing, and the remaining detectives escaped without a scratch, and made their way to Columbus, 150 miles distant. Hagan reached the place safely and his wounds are not serious, though painful. Middleton would have been killed, had not the detective’s revolver missed fire four times. He was badly wounded in the groin, and it is thought he will die. He is being cared for by friends.

Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Jul 30,  1879

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NEBRASKA.
Captured.

CHEYENNE, July 31. Doc Middleton, the notorious horse and cattle thief for whose capture large rewards were offered by different counties in Nebraska, was taken last Sunday in his camp on the Nebraska river, about 200 miles northwest of Columbus, Neb., and brought into that town this evening. Sunday morning, detectives and soldiers from Columbus and Grand Island surrounded the house of Richardson, Middleton’s father-in-law, and captured Middleton and five of his gang.

Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine) Aug 1,  1879

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“Doc.” Middleton, the notorious horse and cattle thief, has been sentenced to five years in the Nebraska penitentiary for stealing horses from Carey Bros, of that Territory. There are other indictments against him in Nebraska.

Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) Sep 21,  1879

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Killed by Gamblers.
OMAHA, March 26 — A gang of gamblers, supposed to be Doc Middleton’s gang, went to Covington, Neb., Tuesday night and opened up a room. Yesterday morning they killed John Peyton, a gambler, and fled. The sheriff is in pursuit.

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Mar 26,  1891

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–Covington, the Nebraska suburb of Sioux City was the scene of another saloon and gambling house murder. James Peyson, ex-mayor of the town, is nearly dead, and Doc Middleton, a young gambler, has a dangerous wound in the abdomen. The trouble grew out of a game of craps in the White House, a notorious place kept by Sioux City saloon men. All were drunk.

The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Apr 1,  1891

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A DARING DESPERADO
SOME ESCAPADES OF THE NOTORIOUS “DOC” MIDDLETON.

For a While He Ran Things With a High Hand in the Black Hills Country — Defied the Federal Authorities and Made a Judge Quickly Throw up His Hands.

“‘Doc’ Middleton was the most daring desperado that ever terrorized the Elkhorn valley and ruled the Black Hills country with a high hand,” said John C. Barclay, a shoe drummer, at the Lindell, as a party of western traveling men were swapping stories.

“Middleton always bore the soubriquet of ‘Doc,’ but nobody seems to know how he was so dubbed. Before the railroads were built into Deadwood, S.D., I used to make one trip a year by stage to that country, and I saw ‘Doc’ Middleton several times. He was a powerful fellow, with quick, elastic step, and wore a dark sombrero, an overcoat of wildcat skins and a bright handkerchief, and his cowboy make-up gave him the appearance of a typical western frontiersman. Leading a band of rangers, he waged war on the Sioux Indians and protected the settlers of the Elkhorn valley, Neb. Government officials in those days feared him, and for years he was the chief of desperadoes in those parts. But he settled down to a respectable life in Nebraska over 15 years ago and was engaged in the cattle business.

“When I first knew ‘Doc’ he was freighting from Sidney, Neb., to the Black Hills. One night, in a Sidney dance house, a half-dozen soldiers engaged in a quarrel with ‘Doc,’ and there was a shooting scrape. Middleton escaped and his in the hill sands on the Platte river. While living in the hills he picked up a bunch of horses and started out with them. He was captured and thrown into jail in Sidney. The second night there he got the jailor drunk and walked away. He next appeared at a road ranch up the Elkhorn, having been without food for five days. Soon after that he was hurrying down the Elkhorn valley with a bunch of horses that belonged to the Indians. ‘Doc’ and his party were pursued by a company of United States soldiers, about 50 settlers and a band of Indians. The white men gave up the chase in a few days, but the Indians kept on the trail. One night the thieves were overtaken by the Indians. The red men dared not shoot Middleton, so they took the horses and returned home. Middleton’s front teeth were filled with gold, and he was known to all the redskins as the ‘Gold Chief.’ The Indians believed that ‘Doc’ must have been favored by the Great Spirit in oder to have gold teeth, and they would not kill him.

“One of Middleton’s escapades was known all over the country. He was at North Platte, and a deputy sheriff tried to take him. ‘Doc’ mounted his horse, pulled a couple of revolvers and rode over all the town daring any man to shoot at him. The government finally made a determined effort to capture ‘Doc’ and sent out four secret service men. They met ‘Doc’ at a Fourth of July celebration at Atchison, Neb. He took their pistols away and made them run foot races and join in the other festivities of the day. Once Judge Moody of Deadwood demanded Middleton’s surrender. He made the judge throw up his hands and then took all the valuables he had.

“Middleton was finally captured by Deputies Lewellen and Hazen, who were sent out by Governor Thayer of Nebraska. ‘Doc’ was taken to Omaha, where he received a sentence of five years in the penitentiary. He was shown leniency because he always protected the white settlers and only stole the stock belonging to the Indians. At the expiration of his term ‘Doc’ returned to Atchison, Neb., and became a law-abiding citizen.” — St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

New Oxford Item (New Oxford, Pennsylvania) May 6,  1898

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“Doc.” Middleton, well known to pioneer Nebraskans twenty years ago, who served a term in the penitentiary and afterwards engaged in the saloon business at Gordon, is now in the same business at Ardmore, South Dakota. He is also town marshal and so gets pay for “running men in” after he has “filled them up.”

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Dec 21,  1900

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Doc Middleton Had Asked Malone for Job as Detective
“I knew Doc Middleton well,” said Chief Malone, in discussing news of the outlaw’s death. “My relations with him were very friendly. When he was at Whitman I got acquainted with him. Some months ago Doc asked for positions for himself and his son as specials in the railroad secret service. I have his letter of application in my possession now.” The chief said that Middleton wanted a job at Crawford.

A Burlington man tells a good story of the outlaw and gambler and an old time detective of the road. The latter had gone to a western town in the state with the avowed purpose of cleaning out the Middleton gang. He and his assistants were quartered in a freight car when it reached the town. The gang heard of the arrival of the detective and his force of exterminators and when the train pulled in shot after shot was fired into each freight car. Quick orders from the sleuth resulted in the train being pulled outside of the corporate limits of the town. The job of extermination was nipped in the bud.

Lincoln Daily News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Jan 1,  1914

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SIXTY YEARS AGO TODAY.
(From the Journal Files.)
Five of Doc Middleton’s gang, including Middleton, passed thru Sidney, Neb. Local officers were in hot pursuit and shot one of the outlaws within city limits.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Apr 28,  1939

Sixty Years Ago Today.
It was learned that Doc Middleton, the notorious outlaw, had paid a quiet visit to Lincoln during the week.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Sep 13,  1944

Doc Middleton's Gravestone

Doc Middleton's Gravestone

TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY.
Doc Middleton, Nebraska “bad man” of the seventies, died at Douglas, Wyo. In the early history of the state his gang was the terror of settlers in northwestern Nebraska. He belonged to the “Wild Bill” and “Calamity Jane” period in that section. He had a ranch at Rushville said to be the rendezvous of many noted road agents.

The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) Dec 30,  1933

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Santa Fe Publisher Puts West in Books
By DON TURNER
Of Our Staff
(excerpt from article)
The other two, “Doc Middleton, The Unwickedest Outlaw,” by John Carson, and “The Lynching of Elizabeth Taylor,” by Jean Williams, are based in Nebraska…
The story of Doc Middleton — horse thief, gambler, accused murderer and Texas fugitive — also is interesting reading. A lot happened between the time Middleton came to Nebraska in 1876 at the age of 25 and his death from a group of diseases while in the Converse County jail in 1913 at the age of 62.

Amarillo Globe-Times (Amarillo, Texas) Nov 10,  1966

Golden Empire: A Novel of the Northwest
By Chalmer Orin Richardson
Published by Greenberg, 1938
274 pages

…by Chalmer Richardson now superintendent of schools at Vesta. “Golden Empire,” by Mr. Richardson, is a story of Custer county of the 70’s and 80’s and brings into prominence the Olives, well known Nebraskans because of the Mitchell and Ketchum case long in the courts of the state. Mr. Richardson does not say that none of his characters are drawn from life. He admits that several are fairly close copies of early people of Custer county. Doc Middleton, another well known and lawless early day resident, is easily recognizable. The original title of the book was “Buffalo Grass,” which has sufficient meaning for people brought up in close proximity to this familiar landscape covering, but evidently not enough for Mr. Richardson’s publishers. The book made its appearance as “Golden Empire, a novel of the northwest: blandly ignoring the fact that Custer county is far from being in the northwest of Nebraska, to say nothing of the territory usually known as the northwest.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 9,  1938


Frank Wade: A Dyed in the Wool Criminal

January 15, 2009
Oregon State Penitentiary-Salem

Oregon State Penitentiary-Salem

A DYED-IN-THE-WOOL CRIMINAL
Frank Wade Must Wait Four Years Before His Next Theft.

J.G. Birdsey, of Jacksonville, sheriff of Jackson county, arrived in the city yesterday evening, after having left an inveterate horse thief at the penitentiary at Salem.

The prisoner, Frank Wade, well illustrates the incorrigible character of criminals in their career, and justifies in great measure the conviction of the officer of the law that these people never reform. They are no sooner out of prison walls that they are at their old tricks again.

“Last spring,” explained Mr. Birdsey “Wade began stealing horses in our country, and after two or three operations was arrested. After he was confined he was examined for insanity, and go off on that dodge, being committed to the asylum. He lost very little time here in filing his way out, and on his way from Salem to Jefferson stole a horse, got caught, and was sent back to the asylum. The latter part of the summer he was discharged as cured and came back to Jackson county. As soon as opportunity offered he forged an order for money, which he got cashed, stole a horse and skipped.”

“Well, he took this horse and crossed over the mountains by way of Klamath and Lake counties, going through the snow, without an overcoat or blanket, over the mountains into California. Upon the conclusion of this exploit he tumbled into the hands of Deputy Sheriff Walker, of Klamath county, near Alturas. There Sheriff Childers turned him over to me at Medford. His indictment soon followed. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced by Judge Webster to four years for the forgery, and the indictment for the theft of the horse still stands against him. He confessed interesting portions of his career to me on the way down.”

Sheriff Birdsey returns home to-day after the convention.

Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) Dec 7, 1889

May Colvin: She was Fond of Horses

January 8, 2009
May Colvin, Horse Thief

May Colvin, Horse Thief

This is the first in what will be a series of articles on horse thieves,  featured every Thursday.

SHE IS FOND OF HORSES.
May Colvin Does Not Hesitate to Appropriate Her Neighbor’s Nags.
Kansas holds the trumps in the game of horse stealing. She has outdone all other states in the line of phenomenal thieves and still has a few, despite the known fact that her Anti-Horse Thief association is noted for carelessness of life in dealing with thieves. In truth, there is a proverb in the southern boarder counties that a murderer has a much better chance of life than a horse thief; yet Washington Waterman, famous as the octogenarian horse thief, died last year in the Kansas state prison at the age of 92 and in the first year of a 20 year sentence, and now a handsome miss of 18 years is awaiting her second trial for a similar crime.

May Colvin is the name of this heroine of darkness, and her home was with her parents near Thayer, Mo., till her mania for horseflesh made her a fugative. A true mania it is, no doubt, for she steals fine horses and gallops away on them without thought of the consequences. In early womanhood she showed such a passionate desire to fondle and caress fine horses that the neighbors declared she was insane, and her father, evidently not a very wise father, resorted to hard whipping and close confinement. She was then 17 and took to thieving.

Entering a neighbor’s barn in the night, she bridled and saddled the first animal that sped her away from its owner, and she has since been either a refugee or a prisoner. After perpetrating several successful thefts and adroitly eluding the officers of each locality in which she operated, she made her appearance in Fort Scott last summer and was for a short time known as a girl of the town. Suddenly she disappeared, and with her a fine buggy and valuable trotting mare from Louis Albright’s livery stable. She drove all night and the next day and was heard of three days later at Weir City, Kan., where she was captured and the animal recovered.

Here was a queer case, and the prosecuting attorney decided to rate it as one of true mania. She made an attempt to escape by sawing off one of the bars of her cage with a steel saw procurred from a fellow prisoner, but was frustrated at the vital moment. Hon. Eugene F. Ware, known among Kansas writers as “Ironquill,” made an earnest plea for her, and the prosecuting attorney was induced to nolle pros the case against her. Consequently she was released from jail immediately.

In less than 12 hours she was on the dead run behind a span of stolen horses and a buggy taken from a farmer’s barn in Crawford county. With insane daring she drove to Fort Scott, called on some of her fast friends, then drove furiously on to Nevada, Mo., where she put the stolen team in a livery barn as security for another team, with which she continued her journey, she cared not where.

Another day, however, found her in the grasp of the sheriff of Vernon county, Mo., just as she was driving into Irwin, Boston county, and she is now a prisoner in the jail of Crawford county, Kan., where the next to the last theft was committed.

And now the question is, What shall be done with her? It is perhaps worth noting that the women say, “She ought to be hanged,” while about half the men say, “Poor thing.” She is pretty, that’s certain, and aside from her peculiar mania seems to be ordinarily bright and sensible. Nevertheless a year or two of quiet life, honest industry and strict moderation in the use of rich food — just such advantages as she will enjoy in the Kansas penitentiary — will doubtless go far to cure her.

The Anti-Horse Thief association has recently effected several very sudden and radical cures of male patients, and the only wonder is that in such a country Washington Waterman lived so long. That man served five full terms in Missouri and Kansas penitentiaries, yet kept right on stealing horses and died in prison, as aforesaid, at the age of 92. Truly he was “possessed.”

The News (Frederick, Maryland)  Mar 4, 1893

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Female Horse Thief Captured
FORT SCOTT Kan. June 19 — May Colvin the female horse thief who escaped from the Carthage (Mo.) jail last Friday, has been captured by the officers and posse of citizens who were in pursuit.

Bismarck Daily Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota) June 20, 1893
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May Colvin, who escaped from the jail at Carthage, Mo., where she was confined for horse stealing, was recaptured on the border of Indian Territory.

The Salem Daily News (Salem, Ohio) June 21, 1893

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A BEAUTIFUL HORSE THIEF.
She is May Colvin, an Ozark Girl of 18, and as Pretty as a Picture.
The female department of the penitentiary undoubtedly furnishes the most depraved types of humanity. Primarily the partiality of courts and juries for women characterizes every judical system of civilization, and so it must be a depraved and dangerous woman indeed whom a jury of Americans will sentence to penal servitude.

Decidedly the most unique personality of the female population of the prison is May Colvin. May is only 18 years old and is a rustic beauty. Dress her in the gorgeous paraphernalia of Lillian Russell and she would be a more brilliant beauty than that stage celebrity. She has great blue eyes and a mass of touseled hair of Titian tint. Her form is luscious — well rounded and plump — and her cheeks are red with the vigorous life of the Ozarks, whence she came. Her mouth is one that an impressionable artist would go wild over, with its cherry red lips of sensuous curves, the whole forming the most perfect Cupid’s bow. And, withal, May is a horse thief and doesn’t deny it. Certainly the confinement in the penitentiary has brought out her native beauty, that must have been blurred or obscured by her exposure to all sorts of rough weather while fleeing over the plains and mountains of the southwest from the officers or else no jury could have ever been induced to giver her a term in prison, especially for so common and plebeian an offense as stealing horses.

But May is not only a horse thief, but a jail breaker as well by her own confession. Her feat in breaking from the jail at Girard, Kan., where she was confined about two years ago for horse stealing, her escape to Jasper county, Mo., and her subsequent capture there and prosecution on an old charge will be recalled by the readers of newspapers.

“Well, I have no hard luck story to tell,” was the way May greeted The Republic representative. “They made no mistake in my case. Nearly everybody else in here is innocent, according to their own statement, but I’m not. I’m here for horse stealing.”

“When I heard you were here and wanted to see me, I thought you were an officer from Girard, Kan., and wanted to take me back there for breaking out of jail. I’m glad you are not, but I guess they’ll come for me as soon as my term is out here, which will be in about 14 months if I behave myself. I’ve been a pretty good girl since I’ve been here. The reason for it, I guess, is that I haven’t had a chance to be bad. However, I’ve so managed to break the rules as to be put in the dark room two or three times. But I’m going to behave myself from now on so I can get the benefit of the three-fourths rule.”

“I don’t know why I’ve turned out so bad unless it is that it was just born in me. My mother is a good woman, only 35 years old now, a member of the Methodist church and has been married three times. She raised me right, and my father, who is a dentist, was always kind and indulgent to me. I went to the public schools in Webb City until I was 16, and then the devilment began to crop out in me. I don’t know why either.”

“Nobody ever taught me any wrong. I’m not like other women, either, in blaming my downfall on any man.”
–St. Louis Republic.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) June 14, 1894