CowboySpirit.com – Two vile betrayals are remembered in this edition of old west history, along with celebrations for the birth of a nearly-forgotten classic western actor who deserves to be better known.
1911: Movie cowboy, musician, composer, and inventor Smiley Burnette was born on this day. While he has regrettably been mostly forgotten today, during the 40s he was a comic sidekick who was often as popular as his leading co-stars. He wrote more than 400 classic western tunes, some played on instruments he invented, and many of which are still in singers’ repertoires today!
1879: A shooting in old west Texas wasn’t always remarkable, but it is when the person shot was Maurice Barrymore, patriarch of the Barrymore acting family. A drunken railroad engineer named Jim Currie drew Barrymore into a fistfight, lying about being unarmed, then shot him three times at point-blank range once his guard was down. Miraculously, Barrymore survived, but never again went to Texas.
1868: The legendary old west James-Younger gang pulled off an impressive heist today, seizing more than $14,000 from the Southern Bank of Kentucky. That’s more than $230,000 in today’s Dollars!
1890: The distinguished General George R. Crook died on this day. Despite being one of the fiercest fighters during the Indian Wars, he was widely respected by white and red men alike, and he spent his later years advocating for tribal rights. According to Chief Red Cloud, “He never lied to us.”
1886: Civilization was coming to the old west, whether it wanted it or not. On this day, both Abilene, Kansas, and Seattle, Washington, received their first electric lights. With electric lighting, and the power it gave us over nature, the west would never be the same.
1877: More than twenty years after the infamous Mountains Meadows Massacre, the Mormon Elder John Lee was hanged for his role in it. It was Lee who convinced the besieged Baker-Fancher settler party to surrender, promising safe passage, but instead leading them into a trap that killed all but the smallest children.
1834: Famed old west explorer John Powell was born today. Powell would go on to be the first known passage (by white men) down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. He also worked with the US Geological Survey group, as well as contributing to the Smithsonian Institution.