He was known to have killed at least 14 people, but according to legend, the number could have been as high as He was eventually caught and put in jail in Oklahoma, where he ended up being killed by a lynch mob who stormed the prison and hung him in a barn. An early photograph of Billy the Kid shows him with his gun belt on his left side, leading people to believe that he was left-handed. Also of note was that the model of Winchester rifle that he carried only loaded on the right, and it would have therefore been impossible for him to carry it on his left side.
After two years, most of the expedition members returned home, but Colter decided to stick around and try to make it as a fur-trapper. The band supposedly killed his partner, stripped Colter naked, and gave him a head start before chasing after him. Colter supposedly managed to outrun most of them before killing the closest pursuer with his own lance.
The whiskey that was sold in American saloons was a combination of burnt sugar, alcohol and chewing tobacco, and was extremely strong. Cactus wine was also a popular drink and was made from a mix of tequila and peyote tea. Firewater, a common term for whiskey at the time, originated from early traders throwing whiskey on a fire to prove to the Indians that it had a high alcohol content.
When alcohol was combined with a game of cards, deadly gunfights could break out, and having some solid shooting skills was a wise idea for protecting their stuff and themselves. The Wild West was a lonely place for men. In most towns, they outnumbered women , and in California, it was as much as To help entertain the men, saloons would hire girls to dance with the men, sing to them, and basically keep them drinking and playing cards.
Although they were often lumped in with prostitutes, they were not the same thing. Saloon Girls were generally considered to be good girls and were usually treated like ladies. Being a Saloon Girl could also be quite dangerous, and it was customary for the girls to carry a small pistol or dagger for protection. As a teenager, Pearl Hart was more interested in adventuring than school, and at age 17, she left her home in Canada to elope with the gambler Fredrick Hart. When Hart turned out to be abusive, she left him, and moved to Arizona where she met and married Joe Boot. Unable to make money at mining, the pair took up robbery.
In , she formed a plan to rob a stagecoach with Boot. They might have successfully gotten away, but they got lost in the desert and were caught. She became the second woman to rob a stagecoach and the first not to be killed while doing so. She was pardoned after 18 months due to lack of accommodation in the prisons for women.
Horses played an important role in settling the West, and along with the new settlers came folklore about horseshoes. According to superstition, horseshoes drove away evil spirits when nailed above a doorway or a sailing mast on a ship. Eventually, the spirit part became less important, and they became a lucky symbol.
The shoes became a common symbol of the west, and could be found above doors and tossed onto pegs in a game of the same name.
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The Wild West had a language all its own and many phrases are still in use today. In , gold was discovered in California, which brought a rapid influx of settlers to the West. Over the years, the shootout at the O.
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The shooting actually took place at the intersection of Third Street and Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona which is behind the corral, but the bloodshed involved was no exaggeration. Three lawmen were injured, and three cowboys were killed. Texas is known as the Lone Star State for its flag with the singular 5 pointed star, but the symbol of the star originated with German Settlers, who would paint stars on their barns.
The settlers brought many of their customs with them to Texas, and the barn star is the likely inspiration for the Texas flag. Many of the settlers coming to the West traveled along a path known as the Oregon Trail, which started at Independence in the East to Oregon City in the West. Many people died on the journey succumbing to illness or in conflict with the Native Americans who were defending their land. It was from this westward movement that the image of the wagon trail seen in movies was derived—as well as one of the greatest early computer games mankind has ever seen, despite how frustrating having your family repeatedly die of cholera can be.
Delmar, Nevada became a Wild West town known for the dangerous conditions of its mines. In , gold was discovered in nearby Monkey Wrench Gulch, and within a few years, Delmar grew to a population of 1, with a hospital, a school, and multiple saloons.
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In , a mill was built to refine the gold, and it exposed the miners and the townspeople to silicon dust which when breathed in could damage the lungs and cause death. At one point, there were as many as widows living in Delmar which gave it its reputation as the Widowmaker. The mill was torn down in , and though the mines briefly restarted, they also ceased. By , all the residents had moved away, and the town was abandoned.
She moved West and became notorious for her skills at the poker table. Billy the Kid was one of the most infamous outlaws of the Wild West. He claimed to have shot 21 people in his lifetime and was eventually shot by lawman Pat Garrett. The Texas Longhorn is a type of cattle known for its vast horns. They were brought to the US by the Spanish and were central to cattle drives. It was used as a dust mask during cattle drives to protect the men from the dirt that was kicked up by the cattle, it protected their necks from sunburn, their ears from the cold, and even worked as a pot holder for hot pots and branding irons.
Outlaws also used the bandana as a mask to hide their faces while robbing the stagecoach or bank. They could be made of silk, linen, or cotton, and most often, were red. Other than a bandana, Cowboys had another essential accessory. The chaps were made of leather or suede and would have a belt attached that cowboys used to buckle them over their trousers.
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Chaps are still used today in many horse-related activities both for work and for show. Mary Katherine Haroney was born to wealthy parents but was tragically orphaned at age 14 and placed into foster care. She ran away from her foster home to marry a dentist and when he died, she went to Texas where she became a dance hall girl and prostitute. After meeting Doc Holliday, she followed him across the country as his sidekick and sort of girlfriend. She earned the nickname Big Nose Kate for her prominent nose. Among her famous exploits was setting fire to an old shed as a distraction so that she could free Doc Holliday from incarceration.
Gold was discovered there in , but the government tried to keep it a secret to honor a treaty with the Lakota-Sioux. In , a miner found gold in the Deadwood Gulch, and within a year, the town was overrun with miners anxious to get rich quick. As more and more brothels, saloons, and gambling parlors sprang up, the danger increased. A Methodist minister was murdered while walking to church, and Wild Bill Hickock, who was a feature in the town was shot in the back of the head during a poker game. Typical cowboy clothing was designed to withstand rough conditions and be warm and comfortable.
In addition to the jeans, chaps and bandana, cowboys wore wide-brimmed hats called Stetsons which would protect their heads from the sun. Also essential for a cowboy were his guns and pistols, which would protect them from any dangerous characters they might meet along the way. The six-shooter revolver was the preferred weapon of gunfighters like Wild Bill Hickock and is a recognizable symbol of the Wild West.
Today, the image of two crossed six shooters can be found on t-shirts, in sculptures, and on gravestones throughout the west. Wild Bill Hickock was probably the most legendary gunfighter in the West. He arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota, and was frequently found at the poker tables.
Annie Oakley was an expert markswoman who became the first female superstar in what was traditionally a male profession. She performed with the show for the next the next 17 years and amazed audiences with her ability to split cards on the edges, shoot the corks off of bottles, and put out candles with a shotgun. What happened after his death is far more interesting. In fact, he was a carnival owner. Carnivals did a brisk trade in outlaw corpses to attract crowds in the early days of the 20th century.
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McCurdy's body also spent time as repayment for a bad debt, playing a mummy in a freak show, and collecting dust in a wax museum storage space before he became a funhouse prop. Were it not for a clumsy prop crew member, who knows where he'd be today. It was later reported to be a weather balloon and even later a nuclear spying apparatus , but by then the concept of flying saucers and government conspiracy theories were well-entrenched in the American imagination.
Not by a long shot. Long before close encounters with off-planet visitors offered relief from the tensions of the Cold War, two men from Lodi, California reported an attempted abduction by three alien strangers in That year, Col. Shaw and Camille Spooner were traveling from the small town of Lodi to the Fresno Citrus Fair when, they said, they came across three beings that were, well, not human. They were reportedly seven feet tall and very slender. According to Shaw, the aliens tried to abduct the two men , but Shaw and Spooner were much too heavy to kidnap.
Their attempt was foiled, and the three beings leapt back into their spaceship and left. Lodi resident John Callahan, who is writing a book about the encounter, has tracked down later incidents of UFO sightings in the area.
47 Untamed Facts About The Wild West
He shares some of his research, including the original news story by Col. A year later, Texas residents reported a strange sight: Cigar-shaped airships oddly similar to Col. Then, one of these crafts crash-landed outside Aurora, Texas. In , Mary Evans, who lived in Aurora at the time of the crash, shared her memories with a reporter. That was years before we had any regular airplanes or other kind of airships.
While Evans was not allowed by her parents to go to the crash site, they told her about the alien pilot who was found and its burial.
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In the same story, one physics professor shared that iron had been found near the purported crash site—iron that did not display the usual magnetic properties of the metal. Did either story really involve aliens? Probably not. UFO fans have been searching for the alien gravesite in Aurora for decades now with no luck—though they have not been permitted to exhume what they believe is a likely grave , either.
The tales may show nothing more than that cowboys believed in alien encounters, too. Or that the thirst for adventure that took many to the Wild West was directed outward, to the skies, as cities grew. Dig deep enough in the western United States, and you have a decent chance of finding a fossil. From ichthyosaurs in Nevada to an apatosaurus in Colorado , relics from earlier epochs dot the West.
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The creature two cowboys claimed to have bagged near Tombstone, Arizona in April was reportedly very much alive before they met it. After a chase, they shot the bird down, and reported that it was about 92 feet long and and feet from wingtip to wingtip. The head, as near as they could judge, was about eight feet long, the jaws being thickly set with strong, sharp teeth. A photo of the supposed thunderbird, which resembled a prehistoric pterodactyl, was also taken.
Or was it? The story was likely a hoax, and the photo was almost certainly fake. While there are claims the photo was printed with the original article, it was not; the first mention of it appears in If not for the Civil War and a Washington lobbying group, the Wild West might have been populated by camelboys instead of cowboys.
When Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a Texan war veteran, saw how poorly horses fared in the deserts of the Southwest, he suggested importing camels. It was in that the idea first took off, under then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Two years later, the U. Army Camel Corps. But with the Civil War looming on the horizon, U. Congress was not inclined to pay for still more camels. Mule breeders fought the idea, too.
And when the fighting broke out, Confederate forces captured the Texas herd and let most of the camels loose. The camels really were exceptionally suited to the desert. And most cowboys had never seen the beasts, meaning that as they roamed Arizona and New Mexico until the late s, they spawned a lot of strange tales.