Saturday, April 20, 2019

Fort Concho and the Concho Pearl

Yesterday, my dear friend Charla Chin (Sharla Rae) passed away after a long, painful battle with cancer. She was a wonderful western romance author, whose career was cut off by the monster disease. I am filled with sadness at her loss and frankly can't think of anything to write about. Instead, I am reblogging a post from a few years ago about Fort Concho and the Concho Pearl.

Concho PearlThe Concho River was named after mussels found in the river and lakes surrounding the town of San Angelo in west Texas. Called “Concha” by early Spanish explorers, the large gray mussels produce “Concho Pearls” in purple, lavender, pink and orange. The Spanish were enthralled by the lustrous pearls and enlisted local Indians to help harvest them. There may even be Concho Pearls in the Spanish Crown Jewels.

Centuries later, Fort Concho was also named after the mussels, or more likely the river. The fort was established as a frontier U.S. Army post in 1867, with five companies of the Fourth Cavalry commanded by Col. John P. Hatch. Situated beside the North Concho River, the fort replaced the earlier Fort Chadbourne north of San Angelo.  Although built on flat, treeless prairie, Concho was described as “one of the most beautiful and best ordered posts in Texas.”

Fort Concho cropped
The fort was vital to settlement because five major trails crossed the area. An active post for twenty-two years, Fort Concho protected settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and the United States mail, and kept trade routes open. The Army launched campaigns against the Comanche and Kiowa from Fort Concho, as well as actions against the Comancheros who traded illegally with the Indians.

Pecan wood was first tried as a building material for the fort, but it proved too hard to work with. Next, the soldiers tried adobe bricks but they didn’t know how to properly make adobe. Consequently, when heavy rain came, it dissolved the bricks. Finally, it was decided to build the fort out of native limestone, and the Army hired German stonemasons from Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country to the south. Construction went on throughout the fort’s active period and was never completed.

Today, Fort Concho is a National Historic Landmark owned and operated since 1935 by the city of San Angelo. Over time several buildings have crumbled into ruins, but the remaining buildings are repaired and preserved by the city, assisted by the Fort Concho Foundation. While attending a conference in San Angelo several years ago, my husband and I visited Fort Concho and snapped a number of photos. Below are the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, I neglected to add captions after hubby loaded the pics to our old computer, and now I can’t recall what all the buildings are. I’ve labeled the ones I know. For more historical information and photos from the fort’s active period, visit

Officers Row
Officers Quarters
Enlisted Men's Mess Hall
Enlisted Man's Space (I think)

Reconstructed Post Hospital
Doctor's Room and supplies

Human Litter Box???

Not sure what this building was used for.

Ruins of Fallen Building

The Kiowa and Comanche Indians were the most feared raiders on the southern plains. Subdued for the most part by the mid 1870s, by soldiers from Fort Concho and other posts, the tribes were confined to a reservation in the Indian Territory.

Can romance blossom between a timid Irish colleen with a healing touch and a half-breed cowboy in a time when such a love drew violent hatred? Find out in Dearest Irish, recognized as a Reviewers Choice Award winner by the Paranormal Romance Guild.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Aftermath of Ella Watson/James Averell lynching

Both Ella Watson and James Averell were left to hang for two and a half days in the July heat. When their bodies were cut down, they were taken to Averell’s roadhouse, where Justice of the Peace B.F. Emery, a Casper attorney, solemnly swore in those present and held an official coroner’s inquest over their bodies. Further, he made the resulting verdict to the effect that the deceased met their death at the hands of John Durbin, Tom Sun, A.J. Bothwell, Robert Conner, Robert Galbraith and a man named Earnest McLean.

Ella and James's remains were then returned to Averell's ranch about 3:00 a.m. on July 23, 1889 by E. Joseph Healy, who was a juror on the inquest panel.  Ralph Coe, along with another man by the name of Jess Lockwood, buried the couple. With the formation of the Pathfinder Reservoir, Ella Watson's and James Averell's graves were covered with several feet of water. 
At the time of their deaths, Jim was 38 and Ella was 27.

Deputy Philip Watson arrested the six vigilantes: Albert Bothwell, M. Earnest McLean, Robert “Captain” M. Galbraith, John Henry Durbin, Robert Conner, and Tom Sun, and took them to Carbon County, where they were turned over to Sheriff Frank Hadsell. The following day, on July 26, 1889, the Cheyenne Daily Leader reported:

“A Rawlins telegram says that all the men were arrested by Sheriff Hadsell of Carbon County and given a preliminary hearing yesterday afternoon. Bail was fixed at a $5,000 bond. Each lyncher was allowed to post each others bond.”

The Grand Jury was convened for August 25, 1889, but before the witnesses could testify, they begin to mysteriously die or disappear. Shortly after the hangings, Gene Crowder disappeared, never to be seen again. Some said that his father heard of the affair and took him away to protect him from the powerful members of the Stock Association. John DeCorey, the boy who worked for Ella, allegedly went to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but was never summoned for the hearing.

Then Frank Buchanan also disappeared before the hearing. He was reportedly last seen in protective custody in Cheyenne, Wyoming. However, a year or so later, W.R. Hunt, a reporter working for the Chicago Inter Ocean reported seeing him.  A notebook by Hunt, found years later in the attic of a Kansas City home, tells where Buchanan wandered all over the country for the next year or two, hiding from the powerful cattlemen and fearing for his life.

Ralph Coe, Jim Averell’s nephew, mysteriously died on the very day of the scheduled hearing, possibly from poisoning.

With no witnesses to testify, all charges were dropped against the six cattlemen. No attempts were ever made to investigate the death of Ralph Coe, nor the three disappearances of the primary witnesses against the six ranchers.

Rumors abounded that Bothwell had some of his cowboys ride to the different homesteaders and small ranchers telling them, if they testified against the ranchers that they would be burned out or worse – end up like Jim and Ella.

A neighbor would later say that the whole affair grew out of land troubles. Averell had contested the land Conner was trying to hold, had made Durbin some trouble on a final proof, and kept Bothwell from fencing the whole Sweetwater Valley. He also stated that Ella Watson had a small bunch of cattle and had come by them honestly – freshly branded because she had only recently recorded her brand. Nevertheless, this unnamed neighbor did not come forward for the hearing.

There were others too, who did not come forward, either because they feared retribution from the powerful forces of Bothwell and his cadre or because they sided with the cattlemen – two from the local newspaper, the Sweetwater Chief. H.B. Fetz, editor of the Sweetwater Chief and his assistant J.N. Speer witnessed the abduction with field glasses from the rooftop of the newspaper building. Both men claim they were tipped off about the events by unnamed cattlemen. Watching the angry procession file very near, they first saw the procession as they made their way to examine Ellen’s calves and again later, when they had abducted Ella and Jim. Neither volunteered to give testimony at the grand jury hearings that were later held in Rawlings.

 Another witness to the abduction was a man by the name of Dan Fitger. While Fitger was plowing a hay meadow, he could clearly see the lynching party down in the river bottom, with Buchanan following far behind. Fitger never came forward at the hearings, but years later told this story to his family.

George W. Durant was appointed administrator of Ella's and James's estates. The land, which was not yet legally theirs as the length of residing on the property as per the terms of the homesteading act had not been fulfilled, would have to be turned back over to the government. Ella’s property, with the exception of a few personal items, was sold at auction for $322.75. Averell’s property netted $657.90. Durant also filed a lawsuit against A.J. Bothwell and John Durbin for the return of 41 head of cattle with the LU brand, but the lawsuit was never ruled upon.

In the same year as the lynching, both Albert Bothwell and Tom Sun were made members of the Wyoming Stock growers Association Executive Committee and Captain Galbraith were elected to the legislature. John Durbin served one year on the committee with his two neighbors in 1894.

A few years after Ella’s death, Bothwell finally acquired both Watson’s and Averell’s homesteads and moved his house onto what had been Ella’s homestead claim.

Much of the confusion surrounding this entire affair, as well as the apparently inaccurate information about the victims, resulted from the abundance of bad press that “Cattle Kate” and Jim Averell received from the Wyoming newspapers following their deaths. It appears that the press was also in the “pockets” of the powerful Stock Growers Association. In order to protect themselves against the public outcry, the Stock Growers Association used the power of the press. The three newspapers in Cheyenne trumped up the backstory that Ella was a prostitute and a rustler, while Averell was accused of being not only her pimp, but a murderer--that accusation resulting from the death of the man Averell shot and killed in Buffalo, WY, some years prior. 

The death of Ella Watson and Jim Averell prompted the organization of the Northern Wyoming Farmers and Stock Growers Association in direct opposition to the very powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association. The formation of the NWFSGA ignited the cattle wars in Johnson County in the early 1890s.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

84 years ago – April 14, 1935 – 'Black Sunday' by Kaye Spencer #sweetheartsofthewest #DustBowl #coloradohistory

 April 14, 1935 went down in history as “Black Sunday”.

A dust storm that people later described as a black blizzard swept over the Oklahoma Panhandle area in the afternoon and made it to Amarillo, Texas that same evening. People who left the region later gained the name, 'exodusters'. That the dust bowl years coincided with the Great Depression made the entire decade one of extreme hardship for a large population (estimates of upwards of 2.5 million people) of the United States.*

The dust bowl years were roughly 1931 through 1939, with the worst of the drought between 1934-1937. The map shows the general area of the United States that was affected the most and labeled the ‘dust bowl’ region. I added the green arrow to show where I live, which is right smack dab in the bowl itself.

(Google maps/Creative Commons): %20bowl%20map.htm
For people who lived through the “Dirty ‘30s”, dust and dirt became a nearly permanent yellow-brown haze in the atmosphere or it was a series of rolling walls of black dirt depending upon your location. People breathed dust and dirt. It sifted through walls. It found its way into the ice boxes (pre-refrigerators). It settled in bedding. It garnished your meal. People walked in it. Livestock died from dust pneumonia. Children wore dust masks when playing outside and when they walked to and from school.

Even when you were inside your house, when the dirt blew, you wore a wet bandana tied over your mouth and nose to keep from choking on the dust. Crops blew away, and farmers were helpless to do anything to intervene. Women hung set sheets and blankets over windows and doorways in futile attempts to stop the dirt and dust from coming into the house. In some areas, dirt that was fine as sifted powdered sugar would pile in drifts just as snow drifts.

The dirt blew from a combination of prolonged drought and that grasslands had been plowed and planted to wheat and/or over-grazed, which proved to be a poor agricultural endeavor for the particular time and place. So because of this, the top soil was unprotected and vegetation roots were so shallow, that the winds simply scooped up the dirt as it blew along.

If you've watched the mini-series Centennial or read the book by James. A. Michener, you'll recall the episode (The Winds of Death) in which a woman has a total breakdown when she discovers dust on the food bowls inside the icebox. This episode does end happily.

These images are the iconic representations of Black Sunday. Internet location/reference for these images HERE and on the Library of Congress website HERE.


Ken Burns made a PBS documentary in 2012 about the Black Sunday storm. Click HERE for his website and information about this miniseries.
Ken Burns - The Dust Bowl
 Author Timothy Eagan compiled a book of memories from people living in the dust bowl region. The book is The Worst Hard Time

In 1936, a short documentary film entitled The Plow that Broke the Plains was released. The purpose was to link uncontrolled agricultural farming with the devastating consequences of prolonged drought that led to the Dust Bowl years. In 1999, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant'.**

This is the film. It's grainy and the sound is just as grainy, which makes this video a test of patience to stick with

This is the an excerpt of the music used in the film. It was composed by Virgil Thomson. The sound quality is good. You'll hear familiar American folk music throughout the Suite - 14 minutes long. (There is only this image while the music plays.)

To bring this article full circle, here are the ‘history repeating itself’ pictures that I took on April 22, 2013. This is three miles north of Campo, Colorado on US Highway 287. I could see it coming, so I pulled over instead of driving blindly into it.

Photo by Kaye Spencer
4/22/2013 - north of Campo, Colorado on US Hwy 287
Sandy Soil Church on left side

Photo by Kaye Spencer
4/22/2013 - north of Campo, Colorado on US Hwy 287
Sandy Soil Church engulfed in blowing dirt.

Photo by Kaye Spencer
4/22/2013 - north of Campo, Colorado on US Hwy 287
Sandy Soil Church on left side

There have been a few more dust storms in recent years in southeastern Colorado like the one I took the picture of. They say history repeats itself, and that makes me shudder.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

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*Here are links toreferences in this article, resources, further reading:

Sunday, April 14, 2019

You Have to Eat…Everyday Restaurants in Wild Frontier Towns by Shirleen Davies

Did you ever think about what frontier town restaurants served to those who couldn’t or preferred not to cook for themselves?

In early frontier days, menu items were limited to local, seasonal foods. Meals were made up of the basics like meat, bread, syrup, eggs, potatoes, dried fruit pies, cakes, coffee, and vegetables. Beef was plentiful, and most everyone drank coffee.
19th Century Common Restaurant Fare

For dinner (or lunch) and supper, people usually ate bread and an overdone steak. Lamb fries (testicles) and Rocky Mountain oysters (bull testicles) were considered a delicacy. Some served rattlesnake meat. In parts of the southwest, the only vegetables were beans, corn, and squash. People ate wild onions sometimes to prevent scurvy.

Things were different in California with the gold rush. Bayard Taylor—a New York Times reporter, who traveled there in 1850, wrote, "It was no unusual thing to see a company of these men, who had never before thought of luxury beyond a good beefsteak and glass of whiskey, drinking their champagne at ten dollars a bottle, and eating their tongue and sardines, or warming in the smoky campfire their tin canisters of turtle soup and lobster salad."

Surprisingly, pioneers out west kept up with food fads. By the 1880s, French food was popular, and restaurants served a variety of meats, fish, vegetables, sauces of all kind, fancy desserts, cheese, and milk, plus the menus were often printed in French. The big trend was oysters shipped in from the coast.

Cost of Food
Saloons, hotel restaurants, and bars were known for their cheap eats.  Also, there was such a thing as a free lunch—at least at some saloons. Patrons had the option of eating the free lunch or paying for the lunch of the day if they preferred. The lunch buffet offered a wide assortment of free food like cold roast beef, corned beef, sardines, olives, various sandwiches, bread and butter, clams, clam-juice, bouillon, and much more. Some saloons also served a hot dish at noon, another at five o'clock, and a final meal at midnight. At some saloons, for the purchase of a 25¢ drink, you’d get a free meal that included soup, fish, roast, an entree, and dessert. 
Loin of Lamb
Where Did They Get the Food?
Restaurants served regional and seasonal food purchased from local farmers, hunters, fishermen, and dairymen, or from the public market. However, over the course of the 19th century, thanks largely to demographic changes and technological developments, a wider range of food became available to people living in cities, allowing restaurant menus to become more varied. In the latter 1800s oysters shipped in from the coast were a big trend.

Keeping Food Fresh
Before freezers and rapid transit, menus were grouped by season and the food was made fresh each day. This limited what could be served. If the restaurant was in a town where steamboats docked or on a main railroad line a variety of food products were available such as flour, fruits, spices, raisins, crackers, ketchup, mustard, vegetables, oatmeal, glycerin, hog lard, dried fruit, cane sugar, molasses by the barrel, baking soda and baking powder, cooking oils, maple syrup, corn meal, canned fish and meats, and more. In towns with a railroad depot, there'd be hogs, sheep, cattle, stockyards, corrals, pens, and a feedlot, so fresh meat was readily available.

However, restaurants were able to keep food fresh and have more variety once technology and the railroads advanced. With cold storage warehouses and refrigerated railcars, restaurants were able to buy out-of-season produce. Also, cheese and butter were easier to get since they were made in factories in the latter part of the 19th century. Moreover, once mechanically frozen ice was available, the restaurants used it to keep the food fresh. 
Well-Known or Infamous Frontier Towns
In the wild west of the 1800s, pretty much every frontier town had at least one restaurant. Boarding houses and saloons also served meals.

1.  The Occidental Saloon in Tombstone
This saloon was frequented by Wyatt Earp and his brothers, plus Ike Clanton, and Doc Holiday. You could get a 50¢ Sunday dinner which included the following choices:
Occidental Hotel, Tombstone

·     Soups:
Chicken Giblet and Consommé, with Egg 
·     Fish:
Columbia River Salmon, au Beurre Noir
·     Hot Meats:
Filet a Boeuf, a la Financier
Leg of Lamb, Sauce, Oysters
·     Cold Meats:
Loin of Beef, Loin of Ham, Loin of Pork, Westphalia Ham, Corned Beef, Imported Lunches
·    Boiled Meats:
Leg of Mutton, Ribs of Beef, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Russian River Bacon
Poulet aux Champignons

·     Pinons a Poulet, aux Champignons
·     Cream Fricassee of Chicken, Asparagus Points
·     Lapine Domestique, a la Matire d'Hote
·     Casserole d'Ritz aux Oeufs, a la Chinoise
·     Ducks of Mutton, Braze, with Chipoluta Ragout
·     California Fresh Peach, a la Conde Salade
·     Loin of Beef, Loin of Mutton, Loin of Lamb, Leg of Pork
·     Apple Sauce, Suckling Pig, with Jelly, Chicken Stuffed Veal
·     Peach, Apple, Plum, and Custard Pies
·     English Plum Pudding

2.  The Cowboy Bar and Outlaw Café in Meeteetse
In the 1800’s the town of Meeteetse, Wyoming had no law enforcement of any kind. So, the occasional bank robber used it as a sanctuary when a posse was hot on his tail after a holdup in Cody. Poses typically turned around when Meeteetse came into sight. And if that lucky outlaw was hungry or thirsty he’d go to the Cowboy Bar, which is still around today. 
Cowboy Bar & Outlaw Cafe Present Day

The Cowboy bar and Outlaw Café has been in continuous operation since 1893, serving food and drink to wild west gunslingers, businessmen, saloon girls, cattlemen and cowboys, as well as gold-seekers riding into town from the Kirwin mines.

Nowadays the Cowboy Bar and Outlaw Cafe is known for its prime ribs and pork chops and that was most likely the case in the 1800s as well, since steaks and chops were a standard menu item. 

3.  The White Elephant in Fort Worth
The White Elephant began as a modest saloon and short-order kitchen. Then, in 1885, cigar shop owner, John Ward, and his brother bought the business, transforming it into a premier establishment that attracted both high stake gamblers and Fort Worth high rollers. A year later, John Ward became the main proprietor, and he added an elegant restaurant that attracted its own clientele. Ward introduced family dining and gourmet food. He advertised in the local paper—‘Stop here for good dinner or lunch'.

White Elephant Saloon
In addition to steaks and chops, he added fresh fish and wild game, but the house specialty was fresh oysters imported from the gulf in ice-filled kegs. After their meals, diners were served the choicest wines and liquors and smoked cigars from the house stock.

In 1894 the White Elephant relocated to another building in Fort Worth since it had outgrown its original one. The restaurant’s reopening menu included lake trout, Spanish mackerel, black bass, Gulf trout, redfish, pickerel, and fresh lobster.

Angel Peak, book 12, Redemption Mountain historical western romance series, takes place in Splendor, Montana, a town with several old west restaurants and cafes. It is available in eBook and paperback.

You may also buy direct from Shirleen before the formal release date at:

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