The North American Frontiersmen Association

A communication link to this organization.



3RD Quarter 2013

Jake Jacobson




July 4, 1776:  Today is Independence Day, and throughout the nation there will be traditional celebrations and fireworks displays.  One of the Founding Fathers responsible for American independence was Benjamin Franklin, and one of his most famous quotes comes to us from this day.  (Actually, the quote was first recorded years after the 1776 date, and may not have been said by Dr. Franklin at all, but none-the-less, it certainly expresses his point of view.)  Acceptance of the Declaration of Independence was decided on July 4th, and the president of the Congress, John Hancock, suggested that the vote for acceptance should be unanimous.  Reportedly he said, “There must be no pulling different ways, we must all hang together.”  To which Franklin replied, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  Without a doubt, as rebels, their signatures on the Declaration of Independence put their very lives on the line.  On July 2, 1776, Congress had voted to approve a motion calling for independence. Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by 12 of the thirteen colonies.  New York , that final 13th colony, then approved it on July 19, and on August 2, 1776 the declaration was signed.  There are certain words in the human experience destined to live forever: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."   

July 18, 64 AD:  On this date started the great fire which destroyed much of the city of Rome.  It seems every disaster has its legend, and much like the story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow starting the Great Chicago Fire; most of us have heard of Emperor Nero callously fiddling while allowing Rome to burn.  Certainly there is truth to the fire, for it raged out-of-control for three days and of Rome’s fourteen districts it totally destroyed three and damaged most of the others.  Hundreds of people died and thousands were left homeless.  But Nero wasn’t fiddling as the city burned.  In fact, at the time the fire started he wasn’t even in town.  Not only that, but as of 64 AD the fiddle had not yet been invented.  As for being callous about the fire, he allowed his palace to be used as a shelter.  So what then is the source of the legend?  It probably comes from Nero’s actions after the fire, for he politically used the disaster to institute changes.  Having been unhappy with the pre-fire beauty of Rome, he ordered new building codes, and suggesting that the growing Christian movement had something to do with the fire, he ordered hundreds arrested.  Many of these innocent people were tortured and executed.           


July 31, 1869:  Hays City, Kansas, was established in August 1867, and as an “end-of-track” town during the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, it quickly gained a well-earned reputation as a wide-open town.  The haunt of soldiers, buffalo hunters, track layers, prostitutes and cardsharps, it was described as “a row of saloons” – a “Sodom of the plains.”  From the start, law enforcement was both questionable and sporadic.  Several elected sheriffs simply disappeared; possibly murdered or fled to safer ground.  One, Isaac Thayer, who had earlier volunteered for Forthsyth’s Scouts and had fought in the famous Indian attack at Beecher’s Island, was certainly no coward.  Thus, Hays City law enforcement usually fell to a controversial vigilance committee and/or an occasional city policeman.  Two men who offended the vigilance committee were Joseph Weiss and Samuel Strawhun.  Both of definite criminal background, Weiss was a saloonkeeper, while Strawhun was a teamster.  It fell to postal clerk, Alonzo Webster, an active member of the vigilance committee, to inform Weiss and Strawhun to leave town forthwith.  Instead of leaving, however, Weiss and Strawhun attacked Webster in the Post Office.  According to the Junction City Union published on this date, Weiss and Strawhun “abused, slapped, and finally drew a revolver on Webster...”  But like many a western man, postal clerk Webster was no wall-flower.  Webster drew his own pistol and shot Weiss “through the bowels.”  Taking a quick parting shot, Strawhun fled for his life.  The real conclusion to this story was subsequently told some twenty years later in Webster’s 1887 obituary.  Strawhun returned to the Post Office in company with several of his friends only to find James Butler Hickok sitting on the counter.  Wild Bill, then apparently a Hays City police officer, informed Strawhun and his friends that should they wish revenge on Webster, he (Wild Bill) would be more than willing to make an accommodation.  Apparently Strawhun and his group determined discretion was the better part of valor.



August 1, 1801:  A line in the U.S. Marine Hymn reads: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”  The name “Tripoli” refers to one of the Barbary Coast countries of North Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea.  Traditionally these countries include today’s nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.  In the early days of the United States, these Barbary nations (the name Barbary derives from the nomadic Berber people) committed nationally sanctioned piracy against “western” nations, which included the fledgling United States.  Interestingly enough, documents surviving from this era reflect some of the same Middle-Eastern religion-fired prejudices recognized today.  At any rate, the Barbary Coast Pirates raided Mediterranean shipping, and the crews of the seized ships were inhumanly imprisoned to be sold into slavery.  The typical solution to prevent a nation’s merchant ships from attack was to pay the exorbitant tribute demanded by the sultans.  Determining such payments were both overly expensive and morally dishonorable, the United States decided to handle the situation militarily.  At the time, however, the United States did not really have much of a navy.  Yet, on this date was fought the first naval engagement of the Tripolitan War resulting in a victory for the United States Navy.  The armed schooner Enterprise caught a 14-gun Tripolitan galley and during the ensuing three-hour battle killed or wounded sixty of its crew without any fatal or serious injuries to the American crew.  Twice during the battle the Tripolitan attempted to fatally trick the American commander by lowering his flag, allowing the Enterprise to close, and then re-commencing fire.  With the battle won, the American commander, Lieutenant Andrew Sterrett, was unsure if a Tripolitan vessel could be taken as a prize, so he ordered the vessel’s masts cut away and her guns thrown into the sea.  Crippled, the vessel limped back to Tripoli, where the angry Bashaw ordered the Tripolitan captain beaten and to ride backwards on a donkey through the streets while wearing a necklace of bloody sheep intestines.   

August 4, 1892: A skipping rhyme or skipping-rope rhyme, often also called a playground rhyme, is a folk rhyme chanted by children usually while playing jump-rope.  They have been recorded world-wide and may range from recent origin to centuries old.  One American playground rhyme went as follows:


          Lizzie Borden took an axe

          And gave her mother forty whacks.

          When she saw what she had done

          She gave her father forty-one.


On this date, Andrew Borden, an unpopular wealthy textile mill owner and banker in Fall River, Massachusetts had breakfast with his wife, made his usual rounds of the banks and post office, and returned home about 10:45.  There were three others in the house, his wife, his daughter Lizzie, and a maid, Bridget Sullivan, who was in her third-floor bedroom.  Uncle John Morse had been there, but had stepped out for the morning.  The other Borden daughter, Emma, was out of town.  Just before 11:00, Lizzie called up the stairs, “Maggie, come quick!  Father’s dead.  Somebody came in and killed him.”  Andrew Borden lay on the first-floor sitting room couch, his head a mass of wounds from a hatchet-like weapon.  Neighbors, doctors and the police were summoned and while they administered to Lizzie, the maid found Mrs. Abby Borden in an upstairs guest bedroom with her head also mutilated.  It was later believed that she was murdered first – possibly while Mr. Borden was still out.  A hatchet was found, which both was free of blood and missing much of its handle.  On August 11, after Lizzie was seen burning a soiled dress in the kitchen stove, she was arrested for murder.  Due to the grisliness of the crime and the spinster defendant, the trail was a sensation, but there was very little actual evidence.  At one point, however, when the preserved, mangled skulls of the Borden’s were displayed, Lizzie feinted dead away.  After an hour and a half of deliberations at the trial’s conclusion the jury acquitted Lizzie.  No one else was ever charged, and officially it remains an unsolved crime.  Speculation continues to this day, which include books, web-sites and movies.  No one will likely ever know the truth, for even the playground rhyme is wrong: Andrew was whacked 10 or 11 times, Abby was whacked 19 times.


August 16, 1903: Well-known people in the news have historically had to tolerate harassment from lessor people.  Good examples today can be found in many of the articles in “checker-counter newspapers” such as The National Enquirer.  Published this date in the New York Sun was a story recounting a supposed run-in between Wyatt Earp of Tombstone fame and a somewhat small in stature Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.  According to the story, although Earp was well along in years since his famous marshaling days, when he arrived in the yet wide-open Canadian town of Dawson he decided to turn his back on peaceful old age, slip a Colt into his belt, and push his reputation as “a bad man.”  Changing out of his respectable suit, he supposedly loaded up on bad whiskey “ballyragging” the saloons and gambling halls, and taking occasional shots at “men who resented it.”  Word of his bad behavior finally got to “a little five foot cockney member of the Canadian mounted police.”  Earp apparently did not know much about the mounted police nor the “manner of men who composed it,” so when the policeman quietly told him to either get rid of the gun or hand it over, Earp was shocked.  His mouth dropped open, his eyes widened; he let off a string of curses, and threatened to fill the policeman full of holes.  But the little policeman smiled and said, “Now you have to bury it or I’ll take it away from you, sir.”  Earp reportedly stalked away, but before he got to the door, the policemen said, “…if you come out again with a gun in sight tomorrow, I shall have to take it away from you.”  Supposedly later Earp received some sage advice from bystanders, which led him to sober-up and thoughtfully return to the street wearing his respectable suit.  Of course, not a word of the story was true, and when Earp saw another version of the story published in the Los Angeles Herald, he responded with a letter to the editor.  In that letter, published on September 8, 1903, he stated, “The falsity of the article is shown by the fact that I never was within 1000 miles of Dawson City.”  Further he added, “…neither I nor my brothers were ever ‘bad men,’ in the sense that term is used…we have been officers of the law and have had our experiences in preserving the law...”              




September 2, 1945:  There are certain American flags that have their own special stories.  The Star Spangled Banner, which is the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 bombardment is one such example.  The Star Spangled Banner is an unusual American flag, in that it is the only flag having fifteen stripes rather than the usual thirteen stripes.  Another flag with a well-known name is Old Glory, but few know the source of that name or the number of stars on that particular flag.  Traditionally world-wide symbols of liberty, certain American flags that have flown at crucial times in history have been flown again to symbolize the struggle for freedom.  A flag with just such a special story is the flag that flew over Washington during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  On December 8, 1941, when Congress declared war on Japan, that same flag was raised again over Washington.  It was raised again when war was declared on Germany and Italy.  During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt personally carried that flag to different conferences and events.  He called it the “Flag of Liberation.”  In 1943, it traveled to Casablanca with F.D.R. when he met with Sir Winston Churchill.  On this date, the Flag of Liberation flew from the mast of the battleship U.S.S. Missouri as the Japanese signed the formal surrender ending World War II.

September 20, 1944:  Expecting to die, Waclaw Sobczak, a Polish prisoner and slave laborer at the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, stuffed a stolen bottle containing a note between the bricks of a building.  The note listed his name and the tattooed number on his forearm as well as those of five other Poles and one Frenchman.  It was a feeble yet courageous attempt to leave at least some trace of existence to posterity.  Surprisingly, it worked, for in April 2008 that note and bottle were discovered by demolition workers.  They were tearing down the wall of a present school – a wall that in 1944 had been part of the WW II death camp.  Since discovery of the note, three men on the list including Sobczak were found to still be living.  Sobczak, age 84, with the number 145664 still on his arm, was living in western Poland.  Interviewed by telephone, he recalled that as slave laborers they were constructing the building when he hid the note.  However, he could not recall whose idea it was to write the note.  Karol Czekalski, age 83, explained that they were taught to be masons by other prisoners, primarily French Jews, and were building anti-air raid bunkers.  The Frenchman on the list was Albert Veissid, age 84, who was found living in southeastern France.  “It’s incredible.  I remember everything from the camp…I can see the images before my eyes.”  About the bottle, he said it was, “The biggest surprise of my life.”  As a worker in the camp, he remembered meeting the six named Poles, but it was a mystery why his name was included.  “It’s true I did do them some favors,” he said.  Irene Jankowiak, age 49, of Sweden, identified the writer of the list as her father, Bronislaw Jankowiak.  Auschwitz number 121213, Jankowaik also survived the death camp and immigrated to Sweden after the war.  He died in 1997.  Seeing published photos of the original message, she compared the handwriting to surviving examples written by her father.  Between 1940 and 1945 more than one million people were systematically killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.  Located in southern Poland, the camp was liberated by Soviet troops in January 1945.                   

September 26, 1808: Man has always been drawn to the romance and raw power of the sea, and early seafarers had to temper that draw with a fear of the unknown.  Somewhere was there an edge to the world off which a ship could plunge?  Could monsters hidden in its great depths rise to devour a ship?  Such sea monsters had been reported.  On this date, a Scottish farmer named John Peace discovered the rotting corpse of a huge beast among the rocks of Orkney Island.  He thought it a dead whale, “but as he approached, he discovered that it was like no whale he had ever seen.  The putrefying monstrosity had several fins, or arms, and when Peace lifted the largest one with his boat hook, he found that it was surrounded by a row of ten-inch bristles.”  Was it a sea monster?  In 1852, the whaler, Monongahela, out of New Bedford harpooned a strange creature in the mid-Pacific.  After a lengthy chase the crew hauled it aboard dead.  It was 103 feet long by 50 feet around its widest part; it had four “swimming fins,” an alligator-like head with two spout holes, and 94 sharp teeth.  As in a whale, the crew rendered the creature’s blubber into oil, and then preserved the head in a barrel.  But neither the creature’s head nor the Monongahela ever returned to port.  Then how do we know about it?  The account of the creature was given in a high-seas conversation with another whaler.  The Monongahela nameboard was found years later washed up on an Alaskan island.



Published Quarterly to keep our membership informed of association status and upcoming events.

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