Tuesday April 20, 1880 Fire at the Ostermiller's House
Entry of Saturday May 1st, 1880
I am still amazed even after the events of last week's Tuesday that I am still here to record anything about what happened. Bruno Ostermiller and his wife had 12 children, and lived just a few doors south of the closed up Pete's Snake's Eyes Tavern, which has since been bought and will turn into a place to eat or somethin'. At least that's what the rumor on good authority is. Last year I had shot a varmit shootin' in my direction from inside the outhouse behind the Tavern, and when I shot back, had I missed, I might have shot through and accidentally shot one of these Ostermiller family folks, as the entire 12 children was home when that shootout happened.
Unknown to most all the folks in the town, for whatever reason, Bruno Ostermiller took up with a married woman who was not his wife, and was found out by his own wife about it. So Mrs. Ostermiller had relations with that woman's husband for spite, allegedly told her husband what she had done, and then threw a birthday party startin' at 2 o'clock in the afternoon for her triplet daughters aged 11. A few days afore the party, Mrs. Ostermiller had invited near a score of other children and their parents to accompany them. 6 mothers would attend with 15 more children, including one of my nieces, Beth's child, though I didn't know it at the time.
The day started out well enough. I spent 4 hours in Court testifyin' as to various facts and arrests for near 62 folks that Judge Hollister processed through like a man in a chicken feather pluckin' contest. Get them in, get the facts, fine them, generate revenue by takin' it away from that other fella he had just fined and tell them to hurry up and pay or get fined some more, have them leave, do the same to the next fella that was comin' in. As I watched the Judge in action like some Carpetbagger, I sneaked out while he stopped to look up something in Blackstone and imbibe about six or eight snorts. I quickly selected and sent 14 folks home and returned, and told the Judge I had dropped the charges upon those numbers of citizens I had scratched from the list to be brought before him. I let it be known that I personally dropped the charges as they was my arrests, and I sent them home with a warnin'. He was none too pleased, but as we had no town prosecutor at present, and the Marshal was away testifying at the Capitol, he was just drunk enough to accept that he just had to take my word for it. Court that day had commenced at 10 in the mornin', and we ran through without rest except for the 5 minutes pause I so stated, and continued until about 1:55 in the afternoon, according to the Judge's 2 foot long and 1 foot wide clock.
As Court broke, with only one prisoner given 30 days hard labor for bein' unable to pay his fine for brawlin' and bustin' up private property worth $12.30 that I had to confine to the Jail and give over to Sheriff Bond who would decide who he owed favors to have repairs and chores done for, after deliverin' him to Sheriff Bond, I went to the outhouse after that for about 10 minutes to rid myself of last night's dinner. Having finished, and washed up in soap and water, ready to call it a day, only then did I hop Reindeer and then headed over to Beth's General Merchandise Store for some things the wife wanted me to pick up afore I came home. As I was going over the things to buy inside the store with my nephew, who was behind the counter waitin' on me with an odd look, across the street and two doors further south, was the two story Bruno Ostermiller place, habitation of 14 souls. The Ostermiller house was notable as it was the first two-story house in town that was built, and also it was the first house in town that was built with a cellar. Bruno Ostermiller generally used that cellar to run his still, and he mostly made liquor from corn, from potatoes, and from rye. He generally made anywhere from 40 gallons to 200 gallons of liquor a month, folks wantin' more label on the bottle liquor from back East, so business was gettin' slower of late, and his stock was a pilin' up.
About 10 minutes after 2 o'clock, while I passin' through in the outhouse, Bruno closed up and storm latch sealed and locked the last of theextra heavily fortified against tornado windows of his house from the outside, while the social event was happenin' inside. He then went in the back, and out of sight and hearin' of the guests, he took a hatchet and brained his wife, leavin' her on the floor. I reckon I probably had just entered the General Merchandise Store just as Bruno killed his wife at the back of and inside of his house. He then barricaded the back door to prevent anyone from leavin' that away, and as I was goin' over the list, I looked out and saw Bruno put 3 locks on the front door of the house. He then walked to the one side and began throwing buckets of what looked like water on the house, as if he was washin' off the dust from the house. "He's washin' his house?" I mused to myself.
I turned for a moment and asked if anyone knew if the birthday party was called off, and there were several replies of "no" inside the store. As I looked back, I faintly caught a whiff from a breeze all of a sudden startin' to blow and blow hard, and noticed an odor of coal oil and corn liquor. And at that moment, the whole outside of the house, and one room on the second floor lit up in an explosion of fire. "BOOM!"
Suddenly, things were a poppin' in the same kind of sound as if you threw jugs of corn liquor into a camp fire, a poppin' and a "fhoomin" in the one second story room and then the other next to it nearest the street, and screams could be heard comin' from inside. I bolted out the door knockin' 2 women and a man aside, and ran like blazes across the street as hard and as fast as I could, and made a runnin' kick at the front door, breakin' only one of the latches through fer sure and seriously loosenin' a second almost free. About 5 or six kicks later, I was able to force the front door all the way through, as thick hot black smoke billowed out like from a furnace already from waist high on up, and counted I 19 children and 4 women come past me. I bent over to see if there was more and called out as I heard at least two women and some children in a large room to the right of the front door. I made my way about on my knees, and guided the 2 women out, and had to tear off two layers from one of the women's dresses when it caught fire and began to rapidly spread over her outer lower dress.
There were yet 8 children that were left who were tryin' to make it out the back, and were now screamin' in terror as they found Mrs. Ostermiller's corpse as well as findin' that this wasn't a safe way out, as smoke began to pour that way and fill up the back of the house with thicker and thicker burnin' hot black smoke mixed with white smoke from somethin' or other as well.
Suddenly, there was an explosion over the front doorway, and flames licked up the walls and across the ceilin'. I grabbed a chair, took a deep breath, and tried breakin' the glass of the nearest window I could reach with my foot from the floor and kickin' through, but it was no use. I guided the children to the hallway in the middle and back of the house by the stairway, a hallway that lead directly to the front door, and noticed that if one were to make a runnin' slide past the now near 16 feet long path of flames, they might make it through just toasted and singed a bit. But even I didn't think I could make a runnin' slide across an unvarnished floor not made slick, and perhaps might not make it even if it were slick.
I heard Beth callin' out my niece's name and she called back to her mother from behind me. I then called out to Beth to get 2 ropes, tie them together and have it tossed low through the front door as far back as someone was able, and loop the rope about the horse hitchin' post and the other end of the rope to the horn on Reindeer's saddle. I needed him to bolt and someone to cut the rope with an axe or something as soon as we got the children clear of the house.
I didn't realize how hot it was outside, as the flames were sunburnin' Beth and anyone anywhere near the house, so that it was difficult to even be 7 rods close, let alone 1 to 2 rods close as Beth and one of the men of the town, who I could not identify merely by his boots and no spurs, was. I think it was he who threw the rope, and it was a really good throw, with 4 feet of rope to spare, from whoever he was.
At about this time, the whole town was seein' the black plume of smoke just a chunnelin' up in great fury, and even my Danish in-laws had made it over toward my place and was watchin' in awe with the wife, when a shout relay made mention that I was trapped inside with a bunch of Ostermiller children bein' burned alive. The wife lost no time saddling her mare Hannah in a Confederate minute, like I showed her and had her practice last year, and was soon a gallopin' my way as my in-laws instinctively looked after our children.
While the wife was gallopin', I had by this time tied a back hall rug about all 8 of the children, and we was all coughin' and chokin' somethin' awful. I ordered them to hang on extra tight, as it meant their lives to hang on and to do so. Then I had a coughin' fit just as I finished shoutin' that. I was unable to shout to Beth to bolt Reindeer now, so I sounded off two slugs from my right .45 six gun, and the children was off like a shot. Just then, the floor opened up where the children just was, and there was Bruno, havin' a look of insanity and anger and lost desperation all in one look. He left the 3 foot by 3 foot cellar access wide open and kicked free the ladder underneath him, as he leaped upon me and we struggled as he grabbed for my gun with his left hand, and tried to knife me with his other. The smoke grew lower and lower to the floor so that it was maybe less than 4 inches off the floor, when the face was driven down, that you could blurrily see any clearness past the burn of the smoke in the eyes, and the ash that was now flyin' and swirlin' about. The walls on either side was aflame now by feel, though we could no longer see. Bruno Ostermiller drove me into the flames twice, and I pushed him against the flames of the wall once, and then, just as I did this, I fell through the openin' in the floor into the cellar.
My wife had now just rounded the corner of Main Street into South Road when the still and whatever else was in the basement and the whole house blew sky high into smithereens. 18 folk were injured just in bein' knocked to the ground, 7 from wood shrapnel, but thankfully none were wounded seriously. Every window within 30 rods in most any direction was blown in by the blast, and "the Earth", those that were there outside on South road and the part of Main Street connectin' to it said, "it rippled like water and knocked man and beast all off their feet." When the explosion happened, I was just clearin' the hole in the floor, as if suspended in time and space. I blacked out, and awoke under a 16" by 12" thick rafter beam and some debris, and what was left of the house on top of me was still on fire. The townsfolk rushed off to put out debris spread fire on at least 5 rooftops, and lost one tree that was also set ablaze near the barber shop that had hot baths available for 25 cents a bath.
The wife ran about the circumference of what used to be the Ostermiller's place, and called out my name. I felt a burning of my left shoulder, and awoke what was probably about 6 or 7 minutes after she first called out, and answered her. Then, all of a sudden, it began to rain down in sheets outside, even as she moved this and that board and was quickly joined by about 18 men of the town, until they pulled an opening where I was and I could see through that openin' that there she was. The wife threw down a lasso and tied it to Hannah, and slowly pulled me clear. I remember I felt a couple of sprains, but at least I had no broken bones, and was sure glad I hadn't got caught on a nail or a sharp broken board. The top left of my clothin' was gone, and as she touched my shoulder, a whole section of skin, 6 inches by 8 inches just all slid off and I screamed in agony several times over afore regainin' my wits and composure, seein' stars, and then passin' out again.
That was Tuesday of last week. Since then, the Ostermiller children have been placed in the care of their maternal grandparents, who then packed up and took them back to Wisconsin to live and settle among other relatives there. The wife has told me she is expectin' again, and if things work out right, I should be back to Deputy Marshalin' the first week of June. I can still hear alright, but I lost some of the finer senses of it, and they still haven't come back yet. I notice a loss in certain very high pitches, especially.
-- Deputy B.
[June 15, 1898 - One mention of note. The land that was owned by Bruno Ostermiller was defaulted to the town based on tax delinquency. Later, that land was scraped away, filled and leveled, and put up for sale. Folks claimed that the ghost of Bruno Ostermiller haunted the land, and later it was purchased at a very low price and a Church was built on that same spot. As soon as the land was accepted and then consecrated with holy water and blessings and prayers by the new minister, the ghost of Bruno Ostermiller was never again seen, but probably went to hell where he belongs.
Oh...and in case you wondered, it took near 8 months for all my burnt off skin I lost on my left shoulder from that Ostermiller fire to grow back.
-- Deputy B., (Retired). ]
Different Journeys, Of A Sort
August 6, 1880
Me and the Mrs. just got back from a just less than 2 month trip in which we went to her birthplace in Denmark. and later to her paternal grandparent's home in Maastricht. The old battleaxe, her mother, is breathin' fire because I wouldn't take her and pay for her to come along on the trip. My sentiments was to take that dang mother-in-law to Denmark and leave her thar', but the old Norse fisherman might have mistook her blow and harpooned her for a whale. (But don't tell the wife I said so.)
In fact, just before the trip me and the Mrs. had words regardin' her mother, and I was perfectly content to spend my last $1500 from rewards and savin's I collected that I was savin' here in the States for the kids and any needs they had while we was gone, I was willin' to spend all that just to buy the wife's mother a very nice small place that she could manage herself for up to $500 gold in Denmark, pay $200 in advanced taxes, and leave her the rest or $800 and say "Good Riddance", as I get tired of her blamin' me for not payin' to send her and her whole family back to Denmark, as if I had 20 times what I've got.
While I enjoyed seein' Denmark, after a brief day and night stop in London with some sight-seein' first, still I really enjoyed seein' Denmark by rail car with the wife snuggled close in for near the whole way, and then visitin' her Danish family awhile before driftin' about to see how the town and harbor was.
I was taken aback at how curious they was of a stranger, especially one from the States dressed the way I was: normal, unlike these gazin' harbor foreigners who seemed more dressed for whale huntin' and blubberin' than just normal fishin'. I found myself havin' difficulty communicatin' as alot of the fisherman wonderin' who I was, as so many of them seemed to speak a real old Germanic dialect I wasn't familiar with. Apparently, the language some of these fishermen from the islands and Jutland was usin' was itself dated back as far as the Vikings, I came to find out. Luckily, Lars the Blacksmith and my Mrs. and her late father (when he was alive) taught me just enough Norwegian to make myself understood, and they also used that Norwegian language to make themselves known to me, although more than half the time I had no idea what they was talkin' about and didn't quite make out so many of the words, even after gettin' the rhythm pattern they was speakin' in. Even a big 7 foot 2 inch giant Swede did the same in comin' over and speakin' to me in Norwegian and happily makin' himself my new friend, and we were only able to functionally abide in communicatin' by way of Norway. The palm of his hand was so big, I thought it was almost as big as my whole face when he held it out in front of me and said somethin' about his callouses and knowin' the wife's uncle by way of his business at the wharf. (He had seen me and the Mrs. greet them, and one of their family had already passed the word before we arrived that we was comin'.) In fact, these Danish and other nationalities of fishermen accepted me so well, afore I knew it, I was crowded in and grabbed and pushed into a bar, and soon found myself buyin' near 30 of them 5 or 6 rounds of drinks (and the giant Swede near 20 steins of beer he glugged down in just under a half an hour all by hisself) before I could wrest my way out from those overly friendly folk slappin' and rubbin' up against me with their fish slime.
Of course, I came back nose clogged up, red faced tryin' and red nosed from constantly blowin' my nose out, smellin' like fish and booze (even though I only had perhaps a sip of just one drink of Schnapps, which the rest of it spilled all over me as they slapped my back red), and the wife saw red. She got hold of a more than 20 pound fish that someone in her family just brought home and left on a barrel in front of the place, and did she let me have it: first with a cricket swing in the mouth and cheek that picked me right up off my feet and back another 5 or more down onto my rump! What little I do remember after that whack upside the mouth with that big foul tastin' slimy fish, was that as soon as my back end hit the ground, I looked up and she was wieldin' it like a sword, following through with a couple quick steps even as she half eight circular motioned it round and over her head, and like some sort of Viking Warrior Queen crashed it down so hard on my head, all I know is the next mornin', I was already bathed and redressed and on a train goin' to another set of her relatives who recently moved from thar' and south to a part of the Country taken over by Prussia some decades earlier or somethin'. All I know fer sure is that it almost took me 3 days to come full back to my senses to know more than half of where I was and what was goin' on around me. The swellin' knot on top of my head was near 3 inches high, and her relatives kept wantin' to treat it and nick-name me the "knot-head" of the family.
Then after less than 2 day later, we made our way to Holland, and visited the wife's Dutch grandfather, whom I thought I got along real well with. He was of the old Dutch Guard, and a Garrison Commander or somethin' at one point for King William I. But that part of Holland called Limburg thought themselves somewhat more akin to Belgium, but this was where the wife's paternal grandparents moved after havin' come from family livin' at the dikes and windmills outside Amsterdam at various towns and settlements along the ocean for 300 years and more.
While the wife's father's father and me was out shootin' the breeze, walkin' up a small road through a field between two woods, we saw this bearded grandfatherly lookin' fella with someone I took to be well along and carryin' child at first to be his grand-daughter, and then the way they was actin', that didn't quite appear to be correct. It was something other than that they was blood kin. She got tired and since I was carryin' a stool for the wife's grandfather, and a large goat wineskin of water with just a touch of wine to make it safe for me to drink, we saw the poor gal get the wobbly legs. So we rushed over and gave her the stool to sit upon, and the Mrs. grandfather produced two collapse-able silver cups, and I poured them both 4 or 5 cups as we talked a while. It was one of the nicest and polite chats I've had in quite a long time, and we spake about all sorts of things from the weather, to Holland, to what I saw in Denmark and how life was back in the United States, a bit about the wife and kids, and even a little about the Great War. Somewhere in thar' the gent spoke about baby names, and the young lady says that if it's a boy they will name it Willem, and if it's a girl, she shall be Willemina. They both obviously were extremely happy and had a close bond of happiness just lookin' at one another. I reckon it was close to an hour, if not more, as we enjoyed a very soft and comfortably partly cloudy and fine sunny just right in coolness day. Then the wife comes from one direction and bows and curtsies, and stay down with her head bowed. It was the Dutch King, Willem Alexander Paul Frederik Lodewijk (William II) and his 41 years younger wife, Emma.
The wife's grandfather bowed and begged his majesty's pardon, as the beard was only a recent thing, and he only remembered him with always a clean shaven face and smart mustache. The good king smiled and gently laughed, being happy and fully amused, and touched the Mrs. grandfather and spoke how he had recognized him from many years ago, and on many occasions havin' seen him since when he too was a young man, but could not help findin' not bein' known by him right off so delightful (and I think the good king even said that he even found it "delicious", if I heard him correctly).
Then from out of a wood from one direction, a troop of 20 Cavalry, and from the other another 30 with a horse and carriage from some other place of concealment. He then shook my hand and then gently patted me on the lump still on top of my head and said, "You're a good boy" as he wife gave us a "Bless you" afore they was helped by their military guard and servants and rode off. After he rode off and was long out of earshot, I turned to the wife and her grandfather who were also standin' up, and said, "You hear that? He called me boy! Not a good man, but boy!"
The wife replied, "Well, what do you want ME to do about it? Either stomp your foot now or grow up, I don't care." Then she turned to her grandfather and invited him back to the house, and told me after I called out for her to "Wait" that I was not invited, and to go have supper in Maastricht and be back no later than 2 hours after dark if I know what's good for me. I pulled a sling shot her grandfather and I had just made that earlier that day out of my pocket, and then I grabbed a smooth stone from the other pocket, and I was tempted to aim for the wife's rump. I debated this in my mind for perhaps 20 seconds. But alas, instead, I threw the slingshot and the rest of the smooth stones I had in my pocket away, and then looked at them goin' further and further away.
So I stood thar' and watched as she and her grandfather marched off arm and arm, and when she was out of sight, I went to the big city, and ate at a place where there was nothing but music and singin' of a lot of songs I never knew, and learned a few of. Most all of Maastricht is into Popery or Roman Catholicism (as others call it). And of all things, I saw a hungry couple of priests who was prayin' for bread or somethin', and bought them not only enough for themselves, but enough to take back to more than 4 others they made hints regardin' to one another. I thought we would be able to talk religion and history, but they wasn't interested as I wasn't "Catholic" I wasn't one of them. But they was at least grateful for the food, and did pray I find my way, or somethin' or other.
I went astray on my bearings, and spent an extra two hours tryin' found my way back to the Mrs. grandfather's place in the dark, and arrived about two hours after midnight, and as the door was bolted shut, I pitched myself a bed in a haystack. I found the wife's homelands fertile and a well-watered green and saw many places for good livin', but I wasn't free like I was back in the States, and I wasn't a block that would fit in the wall of citizenry for either of her childhood countries. And in many ways, I think the wife knew after livin' in the States and becomin' a Citizen through marriage, and bein' free herself, she no longer was totally at home in either place here in Europe as well. She found that by goin' home to a home country most of her closest relatives that she left behind as a child weren't so close to her as they once was, so that home wasn't really home anymore; but it was with me, and the children, and her nearby mother and sisters and brothers and cousins and aunts and uncles and the like. It took her thousands of miles and weeks of travelin' back to find we was her real home now, and at the first, it was very unsettling to her, and took most of the way back home afore she could finally let it all go (in spite of her mother's refusal to do the same). For her to realize this and to settle that down in her mind was worth every penny and every hour we spent away.
We got back to town and settled in, and on the mornin' of August 4th I was back to work as a Deputy Marshal assistin' the town Sheriff, so that Marshal Jackson could also get revenue on the side for arrests I would bring in (usually bein' mostly gamblers and rowdies of all types passin' through).
About 7 in the mornin' I was lecturin' a group of 10 year olds on how NOT to get rid of a bee-hive, such as with the brick. I really don't know how young 'uns get such ideas as the one of them who intended to use a brick on a huge wasp bee-hive from 10 feet away. The wife's mother came by in a carriage and said some things to me in Danish that really set me off. When she laid into profanities, the children saw her rage and flingin' spit as she chewed those words out like she was a mad cow chewing the cuds, and ran away. Then, Sheriff Bond passed me at a trot goin' one direction and the old battleaxe seein' him passin' and lookin' went in the other direction with a vengeance, whippin' the horses furiously, leavin' a trail of dust one would think a witch would leave behind ridin' through the night sky on her broom-stick in a child's tale or somethin'. I was so mad. I fumed there for about half a minute, maybe more. Then, in a fit of rage, I took that brick, and flung it full force right into that wasp's nest fom near 15 feet away. It was a loud crack and a "POP!" sound, and then a huge black cloud with that angry buzzin' hum. I ran like blazes west toward out of town, and hurriedly warned Sheriff Bond "Sink spur! Nest of wild bees a comin'!" He sunk spur, but I guess I outran his horse. Afore I knew it, he was off his horse divin' into a water trough, as his horse was stung to death more than 800 times (I was later told).
About a half hour later, the Marshal himself angrily brought me into court at gunpoint, and a puffy faced Sheriff Bond who was stung 43 times, refusin' as yet to see a doctor, glared at me as he cocked his revolver and kept half-pullin' it from his holster and puttin' it back. Judge Hollister berated me for actin' like an overgrown child in bein' so stupid as to toss a brick at a Wasp nest like I did. Then he gave me 6 suspended sentences, and fined me $100 payable immediately to the Sheriff for the 19 year old horse Sheriff Bond was ridin', another $50 payable to him for any medical expenses and sufferin', and 30 days or $30 for disturbin' his honor's afternoon nap. Although yesterday on August 6th I made the money back gunnin' down 2 rustlers of U.S. Army horses and arrestin' 3 more and collectin' a reward of $50 a head on these, still it would have been nicer to have had a $250 profit than just $70. But I can't complain, as the average field labor earns only about 70 to 75 cents a day, and very few not in business for themselves or card sharps will earn more than 8 or 10 dollars in a good week. After two days the wife has forgiven me, and liberated me of $50 of that $70 profit. Most likely, as I always pay all the bills myself, I'd bet that of the $50 I gave the wife, it's almost all goin' to that old battleaxe who upset me enough to through that dang brick into the Wasps nest in the first place.
-- Deputy B.
The Carnie Raiders
For my entries on these days, I simply listed the dates with words, like Sarah June, Carnie Raiders, Zeke Blunt, Carnack. While Sheriff Bond and Marshall Jackson was still livin', I swore to them I would nary say a word, even in my sleep, of what happened. Both passed on. One went up, and the other is burning and a cracklin' and probably a poppin'. I hope he isn't a cracklin' and a poppin' that much. He was the best United States Marshall I ever knew. Both he and the Sheriff were good men when I knew them, and maybe for the one who went down instead of up, maybe all the good he did will keep him from a cracklin' and a poppin' too much (like what happens to wood with bugs when it burns in the fire after a while).
- Deputy B.
April 5, 1882 Word Jesse James Died and My First Taste of Beer
We got word on the death of Jesse James two days earlier. It kinda surprised most folks around here, as at that time, we had someone with round 40 riders living in the woods and prospecting for silver at Rustler's Pass out in Tombstone Canyon some 3 miles north by northeast beyond the outskirts of town, being led by a Carnie (a carnival cheat) sharp shooter pretendin' to be him, Jesse James.
I first heard the news of how Jesse got from behind in his own house while I was tastin' my first beer in Maywood's Saloon. That beer was was come to town a few hours after daybreak and delivered the news that came off the telegraph in the next town, and that's how we heard about Jesse James. Maywood's was the first saloon to get the beer and Maywood bought the whole Circus wagon it came on, which was driven by a whiskey drummer who was now selling beer in huge barrels. They were the only barrels I have ever seen that needed 6 men to unload them with block and tackle, and at almost 280 gallons apiece made of the finest oak I have ever seen, and that thar' was so mighty high falootin' for a rain barrel, I was determined to git me 1 or 2 for my own family's rainwater collection. 14 barrels of beer were delivered to Maywood's Saloon, and in two days nuthin', it was all drunk up.
Maywood made sure that I got not only one, but two of those barrels, all soaped out and clean, and even set it on two large slabs of slate at both ends at the front of the house, ready to collect and drink out of right from reach of the front porch I had just built for the missus. We had just married on Pilgrim's Thanks Day, late last fall, and were expecting our first of what would eventually be 8 young uns'. By the time we had 5 of these, we was the only family to have four outhouses with walking stones to where they was 30 feet back of the house. Yes sirree. You know you are really comin' up in the world as something special when you can boast that you and yours have more outhouses out back than any one else in town, and good looking white-washed clean ones at that. For real country folk, we calls THAT as lux-ur-ree!
April 7-9, 1882 The Imposter Pretendin' to be Jesse James
Kills Marshall Jackson's Niece,
and Events Of What Happened Next
Marshall Jackson's sister was more than 20 years younger than him, and about a year before what was about to happen, she moved here with her husband and three children. Josiah age 6, Uriah age 5, and Sarah June age 3. Sarah June was the delight of the town. She just had to make an appearance on any street, and horses and gun-slingers alike pulled a hard rein being genteel like around her. The child was a beautiful blond-haired blue eyed sparkle of sun and fizzle, and no matter how you was feelin', folks just naturally felt better and smiled. There were some who hadn't smiled in years, who I never woulda known were missing so many teeth or had rotten gums. No wonder they drank so much corn liquor, whiskey, and rye for breakfast as at any other time. Even Marshall Jackson hisself gave up chawing tobacco just to be around Sarah June, which were most of the only times I ever seen him smile.
Round about late December 1881, a carnie sharp shooter took up with a group of busted prospectors. The Carnie was pretendin' to be Jesse James in search of his brother Frank and hidin' from the Law. He eventually got about 60 together and started raiding farms and lone homesteads for food and supplies, rustling cattle and horses, sometimes doing dastardly things that one would figure more from savage tribes than from white men to their own kind. In early February 1882, they crossed paths with Horseshot Harry and decided to shoot him down where he stood. Even the Siouxs, the Commanche, and the Blackfeet are not so bold as to take on Horseshot Harry when he was mean and sober. After that, then they was about 40 taking flight as if the Army gave them all yellow streaks down the back, and they was a living up to it. But even with 40 out of the 60 gettin' away, Horseshot Harry got 3 of those 40 so shot up in the back parts with rock salt from his Injun Special (as I heard Marshall Jackson once call his 4 barreled double over and under shotgun), that they never rode a saddle again, and it would be years before any of these, from what I hears, would ever even sit again. They was lucky, if you could call it that, as they would be the only survivors of the Carnie Raiders.
At about 3 pm, Marshall Jackson's little sister and niece was returning home on an afternoon walk next to Harned's Harness shoppe, when Zeke Blunt, pretendin' to be Jesse James rode in at a gallop up main street at a high gallop, shootin' and a poppin'. Even though bullets would be fired by the Carnie Raiders just about every which way and where, it was in the first two shots fired by Zeke Blunt that Sarah June was struck in the back and chest. The first bullet in the back spun her around out of her mothers hand, and the second bullet struck her straight through the heart, and knocked off her feet almost 10 feet back into a horse hitching post.
Not one of the 36 riders with Blunt took notice. Not a one of them no good skunks! Six of them raiders jumped off their horses, kicked open the doors of the town bank, while another 4 charged across the street one door over and shot everyone in the Wells and Fargo.
The raiders blew the safe at Wells and Fargo, and blew the safe at the bank almost at the same time. They used so much dynamite at the bank, they knocked down 23 feet of the east wall, the adjoining corner with the whole 30 feet of the north wall, and that adjoining corner with about 19 feet of the west wall. We had more of the bank blowed out into the street, alley, and vacant lot next door than was left to the first story of the bank when it blowed. As the raiders went to get their loot out of the bank, the 14" by 10" upper support beams and roof collapsed under its own weight, I reckon: killing 3 Carnie Raiders, and trapping 1 more (who I was later told had died when those trying to chop him out accidental like missed a couple times with their axes. It happens.). The two carnie raiders at doing the stick up left with only about 1700 dollars in gold, silver, and paper. Most of the rest of the remaining 6,000 dollars lay mixed in with all the rubble, and there wasn't much time to get off the horses and scoop it all up.
At the Wells and Fargo, those 4 Carnie Raiders, two who was Jay-hawkers, knew how to blow the safe and got just 580 dollars in gold. They was so busy going after the safe, they left a strong box just sittin' right thar' in the far corner, with just a lock they could have shot open, with almost $24,000 waiting for the morning stage that never showed.
When all this began to happen, the Sheriff and me was out west of town about half a mile stopping two neighbors from killin' each other with pitch-forks when we heard the shootin.' We was just about 40 rods short of Main Street at a high gallop when the dynamite exploded. Marshall Jackson tendin' his horse in the Livery, out on Chestnut 22 rods past the Beavers place. When he heard the shootin' he saddled and scidattled, and came at a high gallop about 4 lengths behind me and the Sheriff. As we rode down main Street, it was like the whole world was slow and time was thick like molasses. Seconds that felt like minutes, it was if we was back at East Calvary Field for Marshall Jackson, and as if I was back in the war at Trevelian making charge after charge. I pulled and fired 14 rounds from my 1873 Winchester .44-.40, pulled and fired all 12 from both Colt .45s, before my horse was shot dead and pinned me down, resting on both legs at the boots. I reloaded both pistols quickly, and kept firing until after getting several pistol grazes, and my dead horse taking more than 90 shots, a Carnie Raider rifle shot grazed me near the heart and knocked the wind out of me for a moment as I struggled to breathe and reload once again, but couldn't. Both the Sheriff and Marshall Jackson also lost their horses, but was firing back as quick as they could from behind an anvil and water trough at Lars's Blacksmithy.
Having got their loot, the raiders left town, 9 of them laying dead in the street, 3 in the bank, with 1 more trapped there. At least 13 more of them were shot, and they lost 11 horses, but took the ones already tied up to the rails and hitchin' posts that didn't break free and run away from all the shootin'. 4 townsfolk horses lay dead or wounded at the rails on either side of the street wher the raiders was, and another 7 down the street from where we rode were down had to be put down.
Round about as the last reload and the last two or three score of shots were being fired, a travelin' Methodist circuit preacher pulled me out from under my horse, and out of my boots. When the shootin' stopped, he helped boot up my soaked with black horse's blood soaked stinkin' feet, threw a hat full of water from the water trough Marshall Jackson had fired from, and then me and the Sheriff and Marshall Jackson all high-tailed it to the stalls, and rustled 3 Kentucky horses Wells and Fargo was supposed to take to a breeder somewheres, and we used these thoroughbreds shod for battle, and snortin' and rarin' to go to run them Carnie Raiders down to the ground.
All three of us, me and the Sheriff and the Marshall could only see and hear only what we was directly lookin' at, as if the whole rest of the world was like the rustlin' of the leaves, the flowing waters over the rocks of a running brook, or somethin'. The whole town lay a cowering behind shot out windows and closed doors, and it was a quiet like I hadn't heard since before the fightin' stopped in 1865. Having got my boots on, I stomped a couple of times, and spied the Blacksmith's livery.
Even tho' I beat Marshall Jackson's time saddlin' a horse, I still had to gallop up the street a few buildings past Marshall Jackson's sister, who was caressing Sarah June and wailing. I dismounted and went over to see if there was anything I could do, as I called out to Marshall Jackson for him to come quick, but he already had heard and recognized his little sister grieving and was thar' immediately.
Harned came out of his Harness store in a bee-line to Marshall Jackson, carrying his brand new made double sawed off shotgun overlay, a leather flap that mounts over the saddle's horn and gullet. It held 2 sawed off double barrel shotguns and 6 rounds of 00 buck like a Mexican bandolier besides. Harned handed the entire and outfitted rigging to Marshall Jackson and quickly told us what happened. All Marshall Jackson could say in response was, "They shot my niece. Them no good skunks killed my niece!!!" And in a quiet rage, before I could even mount, Marshall Jackson jump straight up over the rear end of the horse, into the saddle, and was at a full gallop down Main in the direction the raiders had fled before I could even turn around, leap a few steps into a running jump and even place one foot in the stirrup. But once in the saddle, I hesitated.
The whole town must have heard the Marshall, as they now were a peekin' through their windows and coming out their doors like they was dreamin' and tryin' to wake up. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the General Store's owner, my cousin Beth who was known as the Widow Bennett, despite bein' in her 40s now, at a full run. She must have read my mind, as she -- running briskly-- came out with 6 boxes of bullets, 3 of the right kinds in each hand. From her right hand I took one for my repeatin' rifle and two for my Colt .45s, as the sheriff, already mounted, reached down and grabbed his 3 boxes from gently her left hand, nodded a "thank you Ma'am", and sunk spur. I quickly followed,. Even tho' I quickly caught up to and sided Sheriff Bond as we rode at a gallop, me and him never got closer than what must have been 100 rods, near 333 yards I reckon, to that lead Marshall Jackson had on us until the Marshall pulled up.
The raiders had just enough time to dismount and begin running into the woods at Rustler's pass, where the road narrows briefly to only a wagon wide about a stone's throw, with steep wooded hills on both sides about 300 feet high. The road then widens out enough for 4 or 5 wagons to ride side by side for about a mile before narrowing again and winding this way and that like a snake on a downhill slope that drops about 120 feet, and is about a wagon and a horse rider wide for about 350 rods or more, and comes out into an open plain at the base on the other side.
The raiders having just jumped their britches off them high ponies upon reaching the narrows of Rustler's Pass, trying to ready themselves to bush-whack any who followed. With his horse a foamin', Marshall Jackson comes at a high gallop and pulls up just in time, a blastin' with both sawed offs blazin' out of both hands into their backs, his reins in his teeth. Marshall Jackson and them varmits went smoke for smoke for almost half a minute before Sheriff Bond and I could reach him. By then he hisself had been shot 6 times not counting the 18 holes he had in his hat: 2 deep grazes in the left leg, one through the muscle in the back of his lower right leg, one lodged in the hip and one lodged in the shoulder on the left side, and a through shot to his upper right arm. For another 4 or 5 minutes, me and the Sheriff and the Marshall went smoke for smoke with those raiders, and all the while that no good Carnie was always way out to the rear of the action tightly behind a tree or a rock somewheres. After that, some 30 or more of the townsfolk, enraged at the death of Sarah June, rode in and in less than another 2 minutes more, went smoke for smoke and with us, snuffed out almost half of the Carnie Raiders.
Of those varmits, what was left of them at Rustler's Pass, 15 lay dead and 3 wounded, and the remaining 6 (one of which was Zeke) lit out down Tombstone Canyon to what lay on the other side.
Later me and the Sheriff found out from that Posse that was sent by the on the street insistence of Judge Hollister , that in fact, all 18 raiders died. The last 3 he later said was shot right between the eyes with big black powder burns, all of them corpses being cross-eyed, the court ruling their deaths as self-inflicted and suicides.
Sheriff Bond and Marshall Jackson then argued back and forth for a couple minutes, and it ended with Sheriff Bond giving the Posse instructions to follow what Marshall Jackson tells them to do. Marshall Jackson then deputized me and Sheriff Bond as Deputy U.S. Marshalls for the purpose of avenging his niece and bringing in Zeke Blunt and those who escaped with him as dead, rather than alive. We could hear thunder rollin' in on the other side of Tombstone Canyon, as me and the Sheriff mounted, were given another two boxes of bullets sent from Cousin Beth, and a pack that had jerky, beans, a small pan, a small coffee pot with two cups, and a small bag of coffee. Durn that woman, if she didn't knows my mind since we was kids. Sometimes she reads me like a dang book and peeks at the next chapter before I even get thar'.
For 2 days through wind and constant rain and mud and dark skies, we chased those raiders as best we could. It was nearly 40 miles over to Fudrow's woods, and there we found some hard ground above the trail that gave us the edge we was needin'. By the time we caught up to them, it was 5 or 6 miles further on, about 2 miles past the Carnack & Carnack saw mill at Potato Crick. Potato Crick flows North west to East by Southeast just south of Carnack, more of a village than a town, population around 260, which lay about 20 rods north of the Crick.
Luckily for us, and bad for the Carnie and his raiders, Carnack was where Horseshot Harry was staying a spell, having slept about 10 rods north of the river by an open fire.
The raiders had now been reduced to riding jack-asses stolen by them at gunpoint from the Carnack & Carnack saw mill 2 miles south of Potato Crick, and did not recognize Horseshot Harry, who was buried under buffalo hides for blankets and coats, looked just like some fat half-breed Injun warming hisself by a real nice and invitin' camp fire at the first. The 6 also freezing but surviving raiders also saw that it wasn't just the invitin' camp fire, but it also must have been the smell of the hot coffee he was having, which me and the Sheriff could also soon smell twice or more as we also forded the Crick moments after the raiders did, and as the wind blew this way and that.
Likely as not, the Carnie and his 5 raiders with him probably only noticed the one leaning single shot .50 caliber Buffalo Rifle, and figured Horseshot, who theys figured was probably some half-breed, to be easy pickins. Being too dadburned cold to think straight, these 6 dumb jack-asses got those jack-asses they was ridin' to ford a near ice cold Crick some 16 foot or more deep to get to Horseshot's side, but not yet being able to recognize him. We was about 20 rods through the trees and about 80 rods by trail to Potato Crick when the Raiders plunged into the waters. Had we a clear shot, we woulda took it then as those varmits were first crossin.'
Horseshot Harry, being the man he was, immediately recognized those varmits and as soon as all 6 made it across the Crick (which was now about two stone's throw) onto his side, Horseshot suddenly jumped up a blastin.' Me and the Sheriff was not quite half way across, watching them all, when Horseshot, going smoke for smoke with these varmits, in four blasts from his four 40 inch barreled Shotgun "Injun Special" shot the 4 behind Zeke the Carnie, then dropped his own just for hisself special made 4 40 inch barrel shotgun and pulled a Colt dragoon and shot the rider in front of the Carnie deader than a coon-skin cap.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Bond and me was fording a current that was so strong, and it was all we could do to hold on to our horses and get across. We eventually came out of the current about pistol shot downstream from Horseshot about a minute after it was all over.
As Horseshot shot the hired help, the Carnie shot Horseshot six times. Even so, Horseshot didn't go down. 6 times at the heart, and Horseshot didn't go down!
Having spent a cold night, Horseshot had cloaked himself in more than 6 layers of Buffalo hides, and as it happened, during the hoppin' and a poppin' the left side folded over on itself and covered Horseshot's heart with a thickness of more than 12 Buffalo hides. He never felt a one of them. The Carnie's fingers numb from the cold, fumbled for his bullets and never had a chance to reload. Horseshot reached over to his leaning .50 caliber Buffalo Rifle, laying against a large fallen tree log he was settin' on, and blew a hole through the Carnie's head where his nose used to be.
After Sheriff Bond and me reached Horseshot, and found out who he was, and he found out what happened to his friend the Marshall.... Well...Horseshot being well deserving of his reputation, then disarmed me and the Sheriff at gun-point, tied us up to a tree, face first into the bark, and shot our horses for not keeping up with his friend Marshall Jackson or catching the varmits sooner. He then lynched all 6 jackasses used by the raiders on 4 century old or older trees with the aid of the ropes me and the Sheriff had on our saddles, and the aid of a block and tackle he got out of the village. Horseshot then threatened that if Marshall Jackson died, he would avenge his death by killin' us. He then left.
For the next 7 hours those stupid townsfolk, mostly women and old men and children (as the working men of the village were away at the saw mill), watched us -- the Sheriff and me -- tightly tied face first into either side of that huge old acorn tree and rope pinned into the bark . And it was for more than 47 times that stupid squirrel that lived in that tree ran up and down my back and sides, even hiding his acorns in my holster and in other places I don't reckon I have a mind to mention. Only when I asked to be released by saying I had "to go pee", did one of the children come up with a hatchet and cut us loose. I should have said "I had to go" sooner, as I was holding it the whole 7 hours!