Charley Parkhurst was a stagecoach driver. So, needless to say, Charley spent long days traveling through thunderstorms and other miserable weather and battled bandits determined to rob the passengers while hauling upwards of 18 people packed into the wobbly old wooden box.
Charley handled the reins with expertise despite missing one eye. Allegedly, Charley managed to cross a raging river just before the bridge collapsed, was able to halt a runaway coach while being dragged through the brush, and once shot an outlaw who tried to hold up the stage. Eventually, the rough life Charley led caused a bad case of rheumatism to set in and forced Charley to give up driving and take up a life of ranching and lumbering. Pankhurst’s last days were spent alone in a cabin before dying of cancer in 1879. Saddened, friends came to prepare the body for the funeral, and then Charley’s ordinary existence took on a strange turn.
As the doctor started to undress Charley’s body, he discovered that one of the best stagecoach drivers in California had an unusual secret—Charley was a woman. Documents show that Charley registered for the 1868 election. So, One-Eyed Charley might have been the first woman to vote in California.
People may imagine the Old West was an anything goes place when it came to guns, but towns like Abilene, Kansas actually had very strict rules when it came to firearms. One of the man who enforced these laws was Marshal Tom Smith. Legend has it Tom was involved in the accidental death of a teen and turned in his badge and headed west. During his travels, Smith cleaned up towns like Kit Carson, Colorado and Bear River City, Wyoming, but it was when he showed up in Abilene that he really came to fame.
The town was full of disorderly Texas cowboys who enjoyed games like “Harass the Citizen” and “Burn Down the Jail.” Fed up with these unruly cattle-punching criminals, Abilene’s officials hired Smith and turned him loose on the cowpokes.
Riding out on his horse Silverheels, Smith enforced the town’s most unpopular law: No guns inside city limits. As one might imagine, many of the cowboys grew irritated with this regulation, and on two separate occasions, the obnoxious cowboys challenged Marshal Smith to take their pistols. Smith happily obliged them. When pistol-packing thugs got tough, Smith just knocked them out cold.
Despite his extraordinary fighting skills, Smith couldn’t manuver his way out of every situation. On November 2, 1870, he armed himself and went after the wanted murderer Andrew McConnell. When he showed up at McConnell’s house, the suspect shot the marshal in the chest. As Smith fired back, another outlaw named Moses Miles rushed Smith and almost completely decapitated him with an axe.
The killers were caught and sent to prison. Smith was buried in the local cemetery, leaving the town without a lawman—until a man named Wild Bill Hickok rode into town.
Orrin Porter Rockwell
Orrin Porter earned the name of the “Destroying Angel” because, it was said, he murdered 100 men. The body count was probably lower, but still, Orrin certainly knew how to fill a few graves. Born in Massachusetts, Rockwell traveled to Missouri where he became one of the first Mormon converts and founder Joseph Smith’s personal bodyguard. Rockwell was what you might call a “prayer warrior,” and when Gov. Lilburn Boggs ordered all Mormons out of Missouri, Rockwell allegedly tried to show him the light—the one at the end of the tunnel. Now I just want to say this reminds me of “the Swede” in the TV series “Hell On Wheels.” Just sayin’…
Anyway, Rockwell was jailed for his attempted “conversion” of Governor Boggs, but was released after a year behind bars. As soon as his boots hit the ground on the outside of that jail, he quickly made his way to Nauvoo, Illinois, where things took a Biblical turn. Like a scene taken from the Old Testament, Joseph Smith happy to see Rockwell again, gave him a special blessing. Smith declared no one could harm the gunman so long as he never cut his hair. Just like Samson, this Latter-day Saint disobeyed his boss—just once, supposedly to fashion his long hair into a wig for a woman who’d lost her hair.
Even though Rockwell may have had a soft side, but he wasn’t afraid to kill in the name of the Lord. After Smith’s arrest and assassination in 1844, Rockwell took revenge on Frank Worrell, the militiaman who was supposed to guard the prophet. Later, when Brigham Young moved the church to Salt Lake City, Rockwell was appointed the town’s marshal.
In 1857, President James Buchannan tried to forcibly replace Young as Utah’s governor with a non-Mormon. Infuriated, American Moses ordered Rockwell to torment incoming troops. Rockwell, obedient to the orders given, killed two men who were trying to supply them. It took 20 years before the gunman Rockwell was charged, but by then, it was of no consequence. The Destroying Angel had died an old man in his bed.
Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: