January 2019 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
I am going to start off with a link to another web site.

It has an article that I think is worth reading.
"False facts about the Wild West you always thought were true."

5 ridiculous myths everyone believes about the wild west. - from Cracked

The Wild West, aka the Old West, was an astoundingly awesome period in American history that every person who has ever played Red Dead Redemption wants to emulate. Now, clearly pop culture has turned much of the true West into bullshit legend -- there were never quick-draw artists who could shoot a six gun out of your hand with another six gun. But the basics were true, right? The lawlessness, the guns, the constant Indian attacks?

Well ... not exactly. Some common myths you probably still believe include .

5 Settlers Were Constantly Clashing With Indiansames

The Myth:

Old Westerns treat Native Americans kind of like The Walking Dead treats zombies -- sudden, murderous ambushes could come from anywhere, at any time. Any expedition into "injun" territory came with the warning that you'd better go well-armed. When wagon trains saw a raid of Cherokee or Sioux coming, they would "circle the wagons" to form a defense perimeter -- and to this day, "circle the wagons" is shorthand for "hunker down and fight back."

And all of this has to be true; we know that horrific numbers of people died when settlers expanded West. Those frontiersmen must have been firing bullets and dodging arrows on a daily basis, right?

The Reality:

Well, not really. Granted, between the United States cavalry and, uh, pretty much every tribe you can name, things certainly got good and massacre-y. But skirmishes between Native Americans and the typical American settler trundling along in his covered wagon hardly ever happened. Of the hundreds of thousands of pioneers who willingly trudged all the way through Nebraska, only a few hundred died in clashes with Native Americans.

We repeat: not tens of thousands, not even thousands. About 300 to 400. To put that number in perspective, the total number of pioneer deaths on the Oregon Trail from all causes (including disease) numbered 10,000 to 30,000, which means only 1 to 4 percent of all trail fatalities can be attributed to Native Americans. Hell, we bet more settlers were accidentally trampled by their own cows.

During this same period, settlers killed over 400 Native Americans. Again, that's not zero, but it does mean that the vast majority of settlers never got into a murderous conflict with hostile tribes. It was far more likely that the average settler would trade with Native Americans or hire members of various tribes as guides, rather than fight them. It wasn't necessarily because they were open-minded and peace loving that they abstained from violence, but rather that it's never good business to kill your customers, or vice versa. Especially when you're talking about someone providing a potentially life-saving service (a guide kept you from getting lost, when getting lost meant getting dead).

Native American deaths caused by the U.S. government and the military likely number in the millions. No one's disputing that one. But deaths due to wagon train clashes were few and far between. As for the "circling the wagons" thing, that ring formation was done each night not to keep hostile Indians out, but to keep their absurdly expensive cattle from wandering off. Hell, it wouldn't even be possible to "circle the wagons" in an emergency -- these wagon trains typically traveled spread out in a line several miles wide, rather than in the column that the term "train" suggests, in an effort to avoid each other's dust, wheel ruts, and debris. It would have taken hours to get everybody together and hooked up in circle formation.

4 Bank-Robbing outlaws rules the west

The Myth:

Black Bart, the Dalton Gang, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid all were famous for their daring robberies. They could take entire fortunes from banks that had slightly less security than a modern hot dog stand.

And why not? Lawlessness ruled, vaults didn't exist, and criminals didn't give a shit. The banks might as well have left their big white bags of gold sitting out on the porch.

The Reality:

Research can find evidence of only about eight true bank heists, and that's across 15 states in 40 freaking years. Eight. As a point of comparison, bank robberies in 2010 amounted to 5,600. Hell, even if we'd never seen a Western in our lives, that would seem like a low number.

But there are several things to consider. First, towns back in those days were much smaller, with the sheriff's office, saloon, general store, and bank usually clustered together for convenience. This one-stop social-needs block usually made up the dead center of town. Being that the sheriff's office was usually no more than a few doors down, you were probably pulling your big heist within earshot of the law.

Second, the banks actually weren't that easy to get in and out of. Old West buildings were usually built pretty close together, meaning the bank would be flanked by other buildings, while a reinforced back wall would keep anyone from intruding from behind (you can sort through the Freudian implications of that). When you walk out the front door with the loot, there's the sheriff waiting for you. Now, the most famous robberies -- the jobs pulled by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -- were actually true. But that's the point -- they got famous for a reason. They were doing what nobody else was crazy enough to do.

But for everyday criminals, common targets were often trains and stagecoaches because they were more isolated, easier to get into, and easier to escape. So why bother with a bank, which would be a suicide mission in comparison?

3 Cowboys are an American creation.

The Myth:

One reason Americans have always been so in love with the Old West is that it's so distinctly American. Today, if you find a political rally of people proclaiming themselves to be patriots, you can damn well bet you'll find cowboy hats in that crowd. The more of a cowboy you are, the more American you are. Even Cracked favorite Teddy Roosevelt got in on the act by calling himself the 

The Reality:

Cowboys weren't an American invention at all. In fact, they precede Plymouth Rock by some 20 years, meaning they're older than America itself. The original cowboys were Mexican cattlemen known as vaqueros, and they are literally everything you imagine a cowboy to be.

They came up with all of the cowboy lingo, including "bronco," "lariat," and even "stampede." Vaqueros rode the long-haul cattle drives, and their sombreros were probably the precursor to cowboy hats. They also wore chaps, held rodeos, and lived the life of a cowboy in relative anonymity for some 200 years.

When Americans moved westward, it was these vaqueros who knew the land and wildlife enough to help teach the future American cowboys everything they knew. The settlers in turn did the right thing and outright stole the entire culture, including the title of "vaqueros," which was turned into "buckaroos."

But it's not like vaqueros went the way of the cowboy at the time, either. Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, not every cowboy (or human being, for that matter) was a white male. One in three cowboys were Mexican vaquero. One in four are believed to be black men who were released from slavery but didn't have the ability to flee far from their captors. Even the Native Americans would help move the cattle with their white, Mexican, and black brethren. It was a rainbow cowboy coalition! Except if you were Chinese. Then you were building railroads in hellish conditions.

2 Cowboys Wore Cowboy Hats

The Myth:

The ultimate item of the cowboy outfit is of course the Stetson hat, which most of us just call a cowboy hat. There's always the boots, too, but they kind of go together as a pair.

The hats were practical, lightweight, and made with utility in mind. They had curved edges that could defend you from both sun and rain, and they made you look incredibly stylish while doing what amounted to staring at cows for weeks at a time. The curved brim, those dips in the crown, the band -- the Stetson is about as iconic as clothing gets. So if you get in your time machine and set it for 1870, you'd damn well better be packing one of these:

The Reality:

Lots of people wore hats back then, that part's true. But they seemed to wear everything but what we think of as "cowboy" hats. Billy the Kid wearing some kind of fucked-up top hat.

Wild Bill Hickok wearing a woman's flat pancake hat.

But what you would have seen mostly back then were bowler hats.

They were more popular because they were a little more versatile in various social situations, especially in a time when all men wore hats all the damn time. In fact, famed Western historian Lucius "Clearly a Fake Name" Beebe went so far as to call it "the hat that won the West." Looking back on most portraits from the time, you can find that almost every single major name in the West owned a bowler hat, at least if they had class.

Even the cowboy hats that Stetson was making in the late 1800s didn't look like the Stetson hats we call "cowboy hats" today. Originally known as "the Boss of the Plains," it looked more like modern Amish hats, and may have been just a modified sombrero.

All of the curling and ornamentation came later, but this hat is the granddaddy of every cowboy hat in the world today. And that's not exactly what your mind jumps to when you think of cowboy hats, is it?

1 Guns Were Rampant in the Old West

 Well, even if cowboys didn't have cowboy hats, we sure as hell know they had six-shooters on their hip. Back then, every man, woman, and child came pre-equipped with an old-timey revolver, which was used for everything from personal defense and hunting to celebrating.

The Reality:

Regardless of the public's perception, gun control laws may have actually been stricter back in the 19th and early 20th century than they are now, especially in the West. In the beginning, there was definitely gun violence, as there was neither standardized law nor a good way to enforce it, but the Wild West didn't stay wild forever.

As towns formed and communities grew, the need for and tolerance of handguns started to fall. Starting in 1878, some 25 years into the westward expansion, action was finally taken -- even places as wild as Dodge City started posting signs like this:

 'The Carrying of Firearms strictly Prohibited"

In fact, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral was caused by one gang being unwilling to abide by the anti-firearm rule of Tombstone.

But it's not like the six-shooter of the time was very dangerous anyway. They didn't even use regular bullets like they currently do, instead opting for the so-called "cap-and-ball" system that was little more than a marble launched by black powder. It had an effective range of maybe 50 feet. The Adams, one of the first revolvers introduced at the time and a hallmark weapon of the era, would burn the living hell out of your hand while launching the bullet. So you had to be really sure you wanted to shoot that dude.

That's why, even among those who used guns, six-shooters weren't the favorite. They were little more than a weapon of last resort. Shotguns and rifles were the preferred weapons, having both the power and the range to put down a mountain lion or a card-cheating son of a bitch. But who would ever want to watch a Western where cowboys were meeting at high noon to shoot each other in the face with huge shotguns?

Well, actually ..

Susan Shelby Magoffin - from Wikipedia
Susan Shelby Magoffin (30 July 1827 – 26 October 1855) was the wife of a trader from the United States who traveled on the Santa Fe Trail in the late 1840s. The diary in which she recorded her experiences has been used extensively as a source for histories of the time.


Susan Shelby was born into a wealthy family on 30 July 1827 on their plantation near Danville, Kentucky. Her grandfather was Isaac Shelby, a hero of the American Revolutionary War and the first governor of Kentucky. On 25 November 1845, when aged eighteen, she married Samuel Magoffin. Samuel was the son of an Irish immigrant who had prospered in Kentucky. Samuel and his brother James Wiley Magoffin had been active in the Santa Fe trade since the 1820s, travelling widely in the United States and Mexico and gaining considerable wealth. James became U.S. consul at Saltillo in 1828 and married the daughter of a prominent Chihuahua merchant in 1830.

Samuel Magoffin took his bride with him, travelling in as much comfort as possible, on the next trading journey, leaving Independence, Missouri on 10 June 1846. According to Susan Magoffin, their outfit included "fourteen big wagons with six yoke each, one baggage wagon with two yoke, one dearborn with two mules (this concern carries my maid) our own carriage with two more mules, and two men on mules driving the loose stock." They brought a maid, a cook and a coop of live chickens with them. Susan thought she was the first "American lady" to have made the trip.

On 31 July 1846 Susan Magoffin suffered a miscarriage at Bent's Fort, just after her nineteenth birthday. The Magoffins reached Santa Fe, New Mexico on 31 August 1846. From there, they headed south to El Paso del Norte, Chihuahua and Saltillo. Susan's health began to suffer from the hardships of the journey. While sick with yellow fever in Matamoros, Chihuahua, Susan Magoffin gave birth to a son, who did not survive. The Magoffins returned to Kentucky in 1848, where a daughter was born in 1851. In 1852 they moved to Barrett's Station, near to Kirkwood, Missouri, where Samuel bought a large estate. Susan's health had been irreparably damaged by the hardships of the Santa Fe expedition. A second daughter was born in 1855. Susan died soon after, on 26 October 1855, and was buried in St. Louis, Missouri.

Susan Shelby

Born - 30 July 1827
Danville, Kentucky
Died 26 October 1855 (aged 28)
St. Louis, Missouri
Nationality United States
Known for
Down the Santa Fe Trail and into Mexico: 
the diary of Susan Shelby

Susan Magoffin shared the common Anglo-American prejudices of the time about Indians and Mexicans, at first assuming they were primitive and brutish, but was quick to adapt her views as she came to know them better. Thus she was astonished that an Indian woman who gave birth to a healthy child then went to the river half an hour later to bathe herself and her baby, and repeated this practice each day. She said "No doubt many ladies in civilized life are ruined by too careful treatments during childbirth, for this custom of the hethen is not known to be disadvantageous, but it is a 'hethenish custom.'" She said, "I did think the Mexicans were as void of refinement, judgement etc. as the dumb animals till I heard one of them say 'bonita muchachita' [pretty little girl]! And now I have reason and certainly a good one for changing my opinion; they are certainly a very quick and intelligent people." When she reached El Paso del Norte, Susan was greatly impressed with the civilized manners and learning of her Mexican hosts.


Susan Magoffin's journal covers the journey from its start until 8 September 1847. The Magoffins traveled along the Santa Fe trail and down into Mexico in the wake of the invading United States army during the Mexican–American War (1846–1848). It is an invaluable source of information on the conditions of the time, the people and the events, often providing a unique woman's perspective.

Across the plains

The journey took the Magoffins due west from St. Louis, Missouri, across the prairies of what is now Kansas, where she observed many migrating buffaloes. She recorded, "Such soup as we have made of the hump ribs, one of the most choice parts of the buffalo. I never eat its equal in the best hotels of N.Y. and Philada. And the sweetest butter and most delicate oil I ever tasted tis not surpassed by the marrow taken from the thigh bones." By 13 July some of the novelty had worn off. She wrote, "Passed a great many buffalo, (some thousands) they crossed our road frequently within two or three hundred yards. They are very ugly, ill-shapen things with their long shaggy hair over their heads, and the great hump on their backs, and they look so droll running." She witnessed a burial on the plains, and was impressed by the great pains taken to protect the body from wolves with a deep grave covered in stones and the earth tamped down by cattle. Their carriage rolled over on 4 July, and on the 21st their tent collapsed in a violent storm.
Bent's fort and Santa Fe

Susan became ill, and when they reached Bent's Fort on 27 July she 

Sante Fe Trail
took to bed in the spacious private rooms that they had reserved. The "Army of the West" was at the fort when the Magoffins arrived, ready to launch their invasion south into New Mexico. Shortly after her nineteenth birthday she suffered a miscarriage, which forced them to delay their onward journey. Leaving Bent's Fort on 14 August 1846, they reached the Mexican settlement at Mora creek on 25 August, where Susan was shocked at the primitive housing, and the next day came to Las Vegas, New Mexico. They continued south to Santa Fe, which they reached on 31 August.
The army under General Stephen W. Kearny had entered Santa Fe on 15 August 1846 without opposition, since the Mexican governor Manuel Armijo had told his soldiers not to fight. Susan's brother-in-law James Magoffin, who had been sent to parley with Armijo by Kearny, may have bribed Armijo to prevent resistance. In Santa Fe the Magoffins became part of the "high society" of the town, mingling with wealthy traders, army officers and the elite of the Hispanic society.  She described Doña Gertrudes Barcelo as "the principal monte-bank[a] keeper in Santa Fé, a stately dame of a certain age, the possessor of a portion of that shrewd sense and fascinating manner necessary to allure the wayward, inexperienced youth to the hall of final ruin."

Visitors to Bent's Fort today can visit Susan's Room located on the upper level in the Northeast corner of the building. It is a recreation of how the room may have appeared with period correct furnishings.
South into Mexico

The Magoffins left for the south on 7 October 1846, ten days after the army. Travelling along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the main route south, they encountered Pueblo Indians, the main farming people of New Mexico. Susan found that they would pay twice as much for empty glass bottles than would be charged for the full bottles in the United States. They spent some time at San Gabriel, where Susan fell ill for a while with a fever. A lady there taught her to make tortillas, which she found to take much more work than she expected, and also showed her knitting techniques. Leaving there towards the end of January 1847 they traveled south through the Jornada del Muerto to Doña Ana. The Taos rebellion had broken out, so they were in fear of attack by Mexicans in addition to the danger of the desert crossing.

At El Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez), on 17 February 1847 they lodged at the house of the priest Ramón Ortiz y Miera, a spacious house surrounded by orchards and vineyards. A fierce nationalist, father Ortiz had been taken prisoner by Colonel Doniphan for encouraging armed resistance to the U.S. army. However, he was known for his hospitality to visitors. She was struck by the civilized atmosphere of the house, and particularly taken with a little girl who, "...only six years of age, carries with her the dignity of our girls of eighteen. It attracted my attention particularly the evening I came, with the same ease of a lady much accustomed to society, she entered the room, with a polite bow and 'Bonus tardes',[b] shook hands with me and seated herself."

The Magoffins continued south in the wake of Colonel Doniphan's army, with Susan's health deteriorating due to the rigors of travel. Her journal ends on 8 September 1847.
Television dramatization
The actress Linda Marsh was cast as the historical Susan Shelby Magoffin in the 1965 episode, "No Place for a Lady", on the [Television syndication|syndicated television] anthology series, Death Valley Days. Simon Scott played Magoffin's husband, Samuel, and host Ronald W. Reagan was cast as frontiersman William Bent.

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