3rd QUARTER 2015

Jake Jacobson





July 1, 1898:  Sometimes tough guys can have a surprisingly human weakness.  Buckey O’Neil, who was killed on this date as one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders (Troop A, 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry) in the famous battle for San Juan Hill, Cuba, is possibly a good example.   His stone in Arlington National Cemetery reads: “Who would not die for a new star on the flag?”  Before becoming a Rough Rider, Buckey was well-known in Arizona.  Elected for three terms as sheriff of Yavapai County (Prescott, Arizona), he was known for his honesty, integrity and courage.  Several times as sheriff he demonstrated that courage with his six-shooters, and when the call went out for volunteers to fill the ranks of Roosevelt’s new cavalry unit, Buckey was there.  (He got his nickname for his habit of “bucking the tiger” in gambling games – his real name was William Owen O’Neil.)  But Buckey showed his other softer side in February, 1886.  Prescott was the home to a small-time bandit named Dennis Dilda.  A series of small crimes became linked to him, but rather than stealing money, he stole food: poultry - ducks and chickens - and some cattle.  When a lawman named John Murphy began nosing around, Dilda ambushed him and buried him on his farm in an oat sack.  But, a suddenly missing lawman tends to arouse further suspicion, and Dilda fled.  When authorities unceremoniously threw his wife in jail, she spilled the beans, and a posse tracked him down near today’s Kingman.  He was returned to Prescott and sentenced to hang on a public gallows constructed on the corner of Willow and West Gurley Street.  Buckey O’Neil was one of the guards at the execution.  Being a public execution, Dilda rode to the execution’s location in the back of a wagon sitting atop his own coffin.  All this apparently worked on Buckey’s normally steady stomach, and when Dilda dropped through the trap into eternity, Buckey passed out.


July 14, 1938:  For whatever reason, the heavy cruiser USS Houston was the favorite navy ship of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Four times during the 1930’s FDR traveled on long voyages aboard the Houston.  Eventually, as an aging heavy cruiser, the Houston was made the flagship of the U.S Asiatic Fleet, where during the dark early days of World War II she was sunk in the Battle of Sundra Strait by vessels of the Imperial Japanese Fleet.  Of her compliment of 1061 officers and men, only 368 survived to be then employed as prisoner-of-war slave laborers on such Japanese military projects as the bridge over the River Kwai.  But, on this date, the Houston was docked in San Francisco again waiting to transport the President of the United States.  As usual, shipfitters and machinists had installed conveniences for the wheelchair-bound Roosevelt.  One of these conveniences was a forty-foot ramp called a “brow,” which reached across from the ship to the dock.  As the presidential limousine pulled up to the brow, Houston sailor Red Reynolds noticed that FDR’s wheelchair was already sitting on the quarterdeck, and he wondered how the president was going to come aboard.  The following is his description of what he witnessed:  “…to my amazement, I watched him lean from the back seat, reach out, grab the brow rails with both hands, and, hurtling through the air, draw himself to an upright position.  Then hand over hand, he slowly progressed up the brow, his feet dangling inches above the deck of the brow.  Stopping occasionally, smiling and nodding to the crowd.  Saying a few words to the crowd and leading off with his old familiar words, ‘My friends.’  As he reached the top of the brow, he reached out, grasping the arms of his wheelchair, swinging his body into the air.  Raising his right hand to a smart sailors’ salute to ‘Old Glory,’ as she waved back from her station on the main deck aft.  As he dropped the salute all honors were rendered and his first words were, ‘It’s good to be back home again, Captain.’”     


July 27, 1806:  Meriwether Lewis, George Drouillard, with Joseph and Reubin Field leave Camp Disappointment to travel down the Marias River.  One of the chores assigned to Lewis by President Jefferson was to determine if a tributary of the Missouri would reach far enough north to expand the natural boundary of the Louisiana Purchase.  While investigating that, Lewis also hoped to discover a portage route between the Marias River and the Saskatchewan.  Because neither of these ideas materialized, Lewis named this northern-most campsite Camp Disappointment.  As they traveled down the Marias, they came upon eight Blackfeet warriors – members of a branch tribe known as the Piegans.  Making camp with the Piegans, he sought information on the local area and a nearby British trading post.  He also wanted to seed the idea of trading with Americans and keeping peace with their neighboring tribes: the Nez Perce and Shoshones, who also would be trading with the Americans.  He had little idea that such notions – trade by neighboring and thus competing tribes with representatives of the U.S. – would be unsettling to the Piegans.  Such trade would directly affect the balance of power between the tribes, which presently favored the Blackfeet.  In the morning Lewis awoke to a disturbance in camp – the Piegans were stealing their firearms.  Lewis and Drouillard quickly recovered the guns, but during the struggle Reubin Field stabbed and killed one of the Indians.  A second struggle ensued when the Piegans attempted to steal the horses.  Shots were exchanged and as a rifle ball closely missed Lewis, he killed a second Piegan.  Immediately they broke camp and continued down the Marias.  During the expedition of the Corps of Discovery, there were several touchy moments between the explorers and native peoples, but this incident involved the only real violence and resulted in the only Indian causalities.  It also happened to be the first contact between the Blackfeet people and the American government.  It was not to be forgotten.  (The only loss of a member of the Corps was that of Sergeant Charles Floyd, who succumbed to natural causes on August 20, 1804.)    



August 6, 1945:  In the early morning - 2:45 A.M. – the silver fuselage of a B-29 Superfortress lifts off the runway at Tinian Island in the Marianas Islands of the Western Pacific.  Painted on its lower left nose in black block letters is the name, Enola Gay.  At the controls is pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets, whose mother’s name is Enola Gay.  In the bomber’s bomb bay is a new weapon: the world’s first atomic bomb; code-named Little Boy.  Two other B-29’s join in the flight: one assigned as an observation plane and the other as an advanced weather plane: their names are The Great Artiste and Necessary Evil (named later).  The mission’s target is the city of Hiroshima, which is located in the southwest of Japan’s largest island and has an estimated population of between 300 and 400-thousand souls.  At approximately 6:45 A.M., Colonel Tibbets announces to his crew that they are indeed carrying an atomic bomb and Little Boy is then armed and prepared for release.  At 8:16 A.M. at an altitude of 26,000 feet, the bomb is dropped.  The Enola Gay immediately executes a radical 159-degree turn and within approximately one minute is engulfed in a flash of blinding light.  At some 1900-feet above the ground, Little Boy has exploded.  Putting on protective goggles, Colonel Tibbets and the crew of the Enola Gay observe a deadly-looking cloud rising into the upper atmosphere.  An estimated 80,000 people have been killed instantly, and of the 90,000 buildings in Hiroshima, only 28,000 remain.  Many more people will die in the following days and weeks.  Many more will suffer; some of them for years.  (In 1976, the United Nations estimated that the final death total was 140,000 plus or minus 10,000.  In 1990 persons qualified to receive A-Bomb Victims Medical Care still numbered 352,550.)  As history well-knows, the horror of this first atomic bomb was not enough and another B-29 Superfortress dropped a second atomic bomb – Fat Man – 3 days later on the city of Nagasaki.  When Paul Tibbets was 87-years old, in a conversation with the Pulitzer Prize winning author / historian Studs Terkel, he discussed several little-known facts involving his atomic bomb experience.  (1)  Because of secrecy issues, it was initially intended to drop atomic bombs simultaneously in both the European and Pacific Theaters: two missions conducted at the same time.  With the surrender of Germany, this became unnecessary.  (The atomic bomb was not a weapon intended just for the Japanese as some would like to believe.)  (2)  The Hiroshima bomb cloud was not a “mushroom” cloud – Tibbets called it a “stringer,” which “just came up.”  It was “black as hell,” contained light, colors, white and grey, and had a top like a “folded Christmas tree.”  (3)  And, there was a third atomic bomb: “I got a phone call from General Curtis LaMay.  He said, ‘You got another one of those damn things?’  I said, ‘Yes Sir.’  He said, ‘Where is it?’  I said, ‘Utah.’  He said, ‘Get it out here.  You and your crew are going to fly it.’”  However, by the time the bomb was transported to California, the Japanese had surrendered.

Note:  The fuselage of the Enola Gay is on display in the World War II Aviation Exhibition Station at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA.  The Superfortress that dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki, Bockscar, is on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio.  

August 10, 1872:  This is the 21st birthday of J. Wright Moore, and although his name is not as well-known as the likes of Buffalo Bill, J. W. Moore was one of the most successful buffalo hunters in the American West.  On this date, Moore and his party were standing on the north side of the Arkansas River somewhere on today’s mid-Kansas plains.  The river, being in flood from melting winter snows, stretched from bank to bank some seven hundred yards.  From their vantage point the party bore witness to the beginning of one of Mother Nature’s strangest events: the start of the southern bison herd’s great migration.  It was a scene never seen before, nor to be ever seen again.  For miles across the plains masses of buffalo – a heard of millions of prime animals strangely devoid of old or very young – began crossing the 


river.  Pressing against each other in a solid mass, they crossed in ever-growing relays.  For six to seven weeks the herd crossed the Arkansas to then slowly trek ever northward toward Montana .  Still following summer they migrated between the Mississippi , Missouri , and the Red River of the North into Canada ’s Hudson Bay basin.  There, trapped by the heavy snow of winter blizzards, the majestic animals simply perished.  Although throughout the journey, hunters set up stands along the flanks of the herd to unmercifully harvest their prey, it was not the heavy bullets of long-range Sharps and Remington rifles that decimated the herd, it was their own unaccountable urge to forever march northward.


Side Note:  What was a buffalo worth?  The meat – only the best of cuts – sold for 2 ½ cents per pound, while the hides sold for $3.05 each.  In one-month-long camp some 40 miles from Fort Dodge , J. W. Moore took 305 hides and twenty-thousand pounds of “short-cut hams.”  

August 23, 1804:  Two of the America’s first six frigates, the 44-gun President and the 38-gun Constellation, are sailing across the Mediterranean Sea to relieve a third frigate, the 44-gun Constitution, in the blockade of Tripoli.  The Barbary Coast nations located along the southern coast of the Mediterranean have been raiding American merchant shipping and demanding tribute for safe passage.  Refusing to pay such tribute, the young United States intends to gain the respect of these pirate nations by military presence.  As the two warships slip through the waves, a sudden shudder runs through the lead ship.  Sounds of rumbling and grinding vibrate up through the President’s hull, and the deck lurches throwing crewmen off their feet.  Commodore Samuel Barron, who described the incident as: “a violent shock like striking on an uneven, rocky bottom, which at every stroke seemed to lift and let fall the ship about one foot,” ran up from his cabin to the quarterdeck.  He, like all the other men on the ship, wondered what they had struck in the open sea.  However, Barron “discovered no appearance of the shoal, nor had the ship lost her way (slowed down).”  The Constellation then maneuvered in close with her officers reporting that she too seemed to have “grounded,” but like the President the Constellation had not slowed nor suffered any damage.  Discussing and eliminating every conceivable explanation, the officers finally agreed that they must have sailed through the seismic disturbance of an undersea earthquake.  The officers had heard of such things, but did not realize the noise and violence that could accompany such an experience.  The common seamen, being of the naturally superstitious nature of the period, were shaken with fear.  Of this Barron commented, “Their alarm, agitation, and amazement appeared much greater than what had been created, I believe, had the ship been actually aground.”              






Septemebr 3, 1752:  Did you know that this day never happened?  For the citizens of England , this day as well as the next 10 days in September of 1752 were erased from the calendar.  In 46 BC Julius Caesar replaced a lunar calendar with a 365-day calendar that included a leap year every four years (called the Julian Calendar).  However, by 1582 AD that calendar had become out of step with the seasonal cycles by 10 days.  Pope Gregory XIII, to adjust the calendar, ordered ten days subtracted from October 1582 and a leap year removed every one hundred years except for the years devisable by four hundred.  The beginning of the year was changed from March 25 to January 1 (called the Gregorian Calendar).  England adopted this new Gregorian Calendar some 200 years later in 1752, but as there had been a disagreement over leap year in 1700, an eleventh day was also removed from September.  The citizens of London violently rioted over the adoption of this calendar, as they believed eleven days had been stolen from their lives!


September 18, 1932: One of the famous landmarks of Southern California is the Hollywood sign that overlooks Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills.  Originally the sign read “Hollywoodland,” and was advertising for a real estate development in Beachwood Canyon .  As the movie industry developed, the sign became synonymous with the success and glamour of “ Tinsel Town ,” and was repeatedly repaired until it was finally restored in 1978.  Sadly, however, the Hollywood sign has not always reflected success and fame, for on this date, an attractive aspiring young actress climbed to the top of the “H” and threw herself to her death.  Her name was Peg Entwistle - originally Lillian Millicent Entwistle - from London , England .  She had some initial success on Broadway in New York , but when the depression reduced theater attendance, she moved to Los Angeles .  She was thrilled to be signed by RKO studios for work in Thirteen Women, staring Irene Dunne, but when the film flopped and her studio options were dropped, she became depressed.  On the night of September 18, she climbed up to the Hollywood sign, took off her coat and folded it neatly next to her purse, took the worker’s ladder to the top of the “H,” and dove off headfirst.  Found in her purse was the following note: I am afraid I am a coward.  I am sorry for everything.  If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.  In cruel irony as only Hollywood can provide, the day after her death a letter arrived from the Beverly Hills Playhouse offering her the lead in a play – it was about a woman driven to suicide.    


September 24, 2011:  Unveiled today in Founder’s Plaza on the grounds of the El Pueblo History Museum, Pueblo, Colorado, is a statue of Teresita Sandoval.  In that same plaza is a statue of mountain man, James Beckworth, which was dedicated in May.  Teresita Sandoval and James Beckworth are considered two of the founders of the City of Pueblo.  The statue of a third founder, Mathew Kinkead, is scheduled to be honored in 2012.  James Beckworth, a frontiersman of African-American ancestry is arguably one of the most famous of the mountain men.  His life’s experiences stretch from General William Ashley’s original 1823 establishment of the Rocky Mountain Fur trade, to becoming accepted as a member of the Crow Nation, to scouting for General John C. Fremont, to establishing a pass through California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains during the Gold Rush.  In 1837 he was establishing trading posts in Colorado.  His wife was Luisa Sandoval.  Teresita Sandoval was born in Taos, New Mexico around 1811, married Manuel Suaso, and in the early 1830.s moved to Mora, New Mexico.  (Mora is located SE of Taos on Highway 518.)   Hispanics began settling the Mora Valley in the late 1700’s, and the town of Mora was officially founded as a farming community in 1835.  The governor had granted some 75 families land in the Mora area.  At this same time, Teresita left her husband and moved in with Mathew Kinkead; a native of Kentucky and a naturalized Mexican citizen.  Some trading companies of the era officially forbid interracial marriages, but people being what they are, such marriages – either formal or informal – happened anyway.  In fact, unofficially, trading companies usually encouraged agent liaisons with either Hispanic or Native American women.  Quite simply, it was good for business, and these cross-cultural women possessed the skills necessary to successfully maintain life in sometimes very primitive conditions.  To quote a source, “Their skills and connections gave some of these women enough power and independence to control their own destinies…they generally enjoyed higher status and better standards of living than many other pioneer women.” Kinkead and Teresita moved to the Arkansas River and establishing trading partnerships with Beckwith and others founded the early plains trade center they called “El Pueblo” – today’s Pueblo, Colorado.        






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