Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lizzie Johnson...Texas Cattle Queen

Lizzie Johnson Williams was a pioneer women of the old west..a "pioneer" in every sense of the word. She was smart; hardworking, a businesswoman and she loved the finer things!! And she was the first and only woman in Texas history to accompany her own herd of Texas longhorns up the Chisolm Trail.

Elizabeth E. Johnson was born in Missouri in 1843. Lizzie moved to Hays County, Texas where her father started the Johnson Institute in 1852. At sixteen she started to teacher at her fathers school. She moved to teach at other schools in Texas all the while saving her money. She was smart with her money and invested it in stocks. She purchased $2,500 worth of stock in the Evans, Snider, Bewell Cattle Co. of Chicago. She earned 100 percent dividends for three years straight and then sold her stock for $20,000.!!

On June 1, 1871, Lizzie invested her money in cattle and registered her own brand (CY) in the Travis County brand book along with her mark. She was an official cattle woman.

In the summer of 1879, at the age of thirty-six, she married Hezkiah G Williams. Hezkiah was a preacher and widower who had several children. After her marriage, Lizzie continued to teach and invest in cattle. Lizzie was a smart businesswoman, even after her marriage she continued to maintain control over her wealth and cattle business. A progressive thinker, she had her husband sign a paper agreeing that all of her property remained hers.

Hezkiah did not have the same "head" for business that his wife possessed. In 1881, on his own, he entered into the cattle business. Along with poor business skills, Hezkiah also liked to drink. Lizzie had to constantly help her husband out of financial trouble.

Lizzie and Hezkiah traveled up the Chisholm Trail to Kansas at least twice. They rode behind the herd in a buggy drawn by a team of horses. For several years she and her husband, after coming up the Chisholm Trail, spent the fall and winter months in St. Louis, where Lizzie made extra money by keeping books for other cattlemen. While in St. Louis, she also liked to "treat" herself to some finer things, like current dress fashions, fine clothes and jewels.

 Chisholm Trail

During the Civil War, Lizzie was able to grow her cattle herd by overseeing a process called "brushpopping". Since so many men were away at war and there were few fences to keep the cattle contained, the numbers of "unbranded" cattle in the brush of South Texas began to grow. At that time "unbranded" cattle were fair game- you found them - you kept them. Lizzie had her cowboys comb the thickets for cattle -"brushpopping" round them up and transport them to her growing ranch.

Hezkiah passed away in 1914 in El Paso. It is rumored that Lizzie purchased a $600 top-of-the-line coffin for her husband. When she signed the bill of payment, she wrote across it "I loved this old buzzard this much."

Lizzie eventually became somewhat of a recluse. She lived meagerly, wearing frugal dresses and just living on a diet of soup and crackers. On October 9, 1924 Lizzie Johnson Williams passed away at the age of 81. Her estate totaled $250,000. Family members found thousands of dollars in diamonds locked away in her basement and she had large holdings in Austin real estate.

Lizzie was a true "pioneer" of her time and a great inspiration to women of the old west..and today!

Our family has been dedicated for 30 years in serving the Western Horseman the safest most durable Quality American made leather horse tack....... Buckaroo John Brand 
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

National Day of the Cowboy...Cowboy Code

This Saturday, July 28th is National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirls.  In the spirit of this National Day, I thought it would be appropriate to post the cowboy's "golden rule".  The Cowboy Code of the West was an unwritten code that all cowboys followed and knew. 

They lived their lives by this code and expected all other cowboys to do the same or deal with the consequences. 

Below is the expanded version of the Cowboy Code of the West. I have also included a few interesting writings from the 1800's depicting these exact qualities of the Cowboy.

To the Cowboys of today and yesterday thank you for keeping the spirit of the code alive by living it everyday.

Cowboy Code of the West
(expanded addition)

First chronicled by the famous western writer, Zane Grey, in his 1934 novel The Code of the West, no "written" code ever actually existed. However, the hardy pioneers who lived in the west were bound by these unwritten rules that centered on hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.

If it's not yours, don't take it.

If it's not true, don't say it.

If it's not right, don't do it.

Cowboy's word is his sacred bond

Bargains sealed with handshake are more binding than legal documents

be loyal

Demand square dealings

Be proud of your occupation

Lay down your life, if necessary, for the privilege of defending your outfit

Grant quick assistance to friends and strangers in need

Never tolerate cowards

Be cheerful

Endure hardships without complaining

Don't make excuses

Try to be better than the other fella

Never quit

Share anything you own with a fellow worker

Be generous with your life and money

Treat women like ladies

Never shoot an un-armed or un-armed man

Stealing and rustling are evil wrong doing

William G "Billy" Johnson, who worked the range during the 1880's, recalled that "cowpunchers (cowboys) were square shooters upright, and honest men. I never heard of a cowboy insulting a woman. If they were not up to par they were soon run out of the country."

From the Texas Livestock Journal 10/21/1882- wrote of the cowboy's courage, chivalry and loyalty.

"We deem it hardly necessary to say in the next place that the cowboy is a fearless animal. A man waiting in courage would be as much out of place in a cow camp as a fish would be on dry land. Indeed the life he is daily compelled to lead calls for the existence of the highest degree of cool calculating courage. As a natural consequence of this courage, he is not quarrelsome or a bully. Another and most notable of his characteristics is his entire devotion to the interests of his employer. We are certain no more faithful employee ever breathed than he, and when we assert that he is par excellence, a model in this respect, we know that we will be sustained by every man who has had experience in this matter."

(both excerpts from the book "Cowboys of the America's" by Richard W Slarta)

A great example of the Cowboy Code......Two cowpunchers out looking for work rode up to a Texas ranch in time for dinner, expecting the customary offer of a free meal. The boss fed them, but afterward demanded 50 cents in payment. Outraged at this violation of Western hospitality, the men roped a three-year-old steer belonging to their host and used a saddle ring to brand on its flanks the message: "Meals—50 cts." The steer was left to roam the range and proclaim the owner's ignominy.

As another necessary consequence to possessing true manly courage, the cowboy is as chivalrous as the famed knights of old. Rough he may be, and it may be that he is not a master in ball room etiquette, but no set of men have loftier reverence for women and no set of men would risk more in the defense of their person or their honor.

At Buckaroo Leather American Made is not just a sales slogan, standing tall behind our Buckaroo logo is honesty, hard work, dedication, sacrifice and integrity. In our journey of the last 30 years we have met many amazing artists, business horseman and women, craftsmen and customers who still live as we do by the American Cowboy Code of the West.

Our family has been dedicated for 30 years
 in serving the Western Horseman the safest most durable
Quality American made leather horse tack....... Buckaroo John Brand Buckaroo Leather, The Brand to Demand 
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Alice Ivers Tubbs....Not Your Typical Women of the West

 "Praise the Lord and place your bets. 
I'll take your money with no regrets.” 

No this quote is not from the famous poker player Johnny Chan but from Alice Ivers Tubbs. Alice Ivers Tubbs was more notably known as “Poker Alice”.

Alice Tubbs was born in Devonshire, England in 1851. When Alice was young her father, a schoolmaster, moved the family to Virginia. While living in Virginia Alice had a formal education at a boarding school. Then, when she was a teenager her family moved to Leadville, Colorado.

This is where her life would change and the name “Poker Alice” began. While she lived in Leadville Alice met Frank Duffield. Like most men in Leadville Frank worked in mining, he was an engineer. When Alice was 20, she was married to Frank.

Frank enjoyed the popular past time of most old west mining towns, gambling. So Alice, not wanting to stay at home went with her husband to the gambling halls. At first, Alice just watched and studied her husband. Soon, Alice was sitting at the poker table with her husband.

“Poker Alice” would soon have to use her new skills at the poker table to support herself. Her husband Frank was killed in a mining explosion. So she took to the poker tables to earn a living. She was skilled as both a player and a dealer. Her beauty, sophistication, and style made her a welcomed and popular player at all the gambling halls. The miners loved her charm and wit, and she loved their money!!

Simple Alice Tubbs from Virginia was transformed into “Poker Alice”. Poker Alice went from mining town to mining town puffing on a large black cigar and winning thousands. At one point she claimed to have one $250,000.

Poker Alice did not shy away from trouble either. She always carried a .38 revolver. On one occasion when a drunken miner threatened Tubbs with a knife, Alice pulled out her .38 and put a bullet into the miner's arm.

Her poker playing skills were becoming widely known throughout the west. So she took the road. She eventually went to New Mexico. While there she won $6,000 at the Gold Dust Gambling House. After staying in New York for a while Poker Alice finally ended up in Deadwood, South Dakota.

The Bodega Saloon Interior in Deadwood


Poker Alice would eventually marry again in Deadwood. She married Warren G Tubbs a painter. They met in a gambling hall, of course. After being married, Poker Alice moved to a ranch in Sturgis and raised her children.

She became a wife, mother and a rancher. This was a far cry from the gambling halls and the poker tables. She focused on her husband and her family for a while, until her husband was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Alice stayed by her husband’s side to try and nurse him back to health but to no avail. He died of pneumonia in the winter of 1910.

Poker Alice would soon emerge. To earn money for her family, Alice went back to her poker tables. Her life after this point is much of what you would expect, she was in and out of gambling halls and at one point she even owned a saloon with poker tables and lots of beautiful women. She eventually would wind up in jail (a few different times) for breaking up a fight with her .38 revolver.

At the age of 79, Alice underwent a gall bladder operation in Rapid City, but died of complications on February 27, 1930.

Our family has been dedicated for 30 years in serving the Western Horseman the safest most durable Quality American made leather horse tack....... Buckaroo John Brand
Buckaroo Leather, The Brand to Demand 
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Charley Parkhurst a StageCoach Driver....With a Secret


 Writer and illustrator J. Ross Browne
holds tight as Charley Parkhurst drives the stage

Charley Parkhurst lived an interesting life. He was a stagecoach driver, worked in a livery and was born Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst…yep Charley was a female!

Charlotte was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire about 1812. She was abandoned by her parents and was placed in an orphanage in Massachusetts. When Charlotte was a teenager she ran away from the orphanage and began working in a livery stable owned by Ebenezer Balch in Worcester.

Many people believe that Charlotte began her new identity as a male after her escape from the orphanage. It is not know exactly when the transformation occurred or what her movements were for about 20 years.

“Charley” debut as a stagecoach whip with help from Ebenezer Balch. She worked in Providence, Rhode Island for a while and then landed in Georgia. When She came back to Providence in 1849 she learned of the gold rush on the American River in northern California.

A stagecoach driver and friend of Charlotte’s, James Birch wanted to start up a stagecoach line from the goldfields to Sacramento. He promised her a job and they started on their way to California. The journey took six months. In 1851 she made her way to the goldfields and was employed by birch to drive coaches in the Mother Lode country.

In 1854 Birch organized the California Stage Company. Charlotte “Charley” was a chief driver for Birch. She was familiar with the entire Sierra Nevada foothill country. From Sacramento and Stockton to as far south as Monterrey. She ran the coach line from San Francisco to Oakland.

 One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst
As you can imagine many “legends” and stories came about from her journeys as a stagecoach whip in California.

One story involved a highwayman known as Sugarfoot. Sugarfoot had very large feet and used burlap sacks as shoes. Sugarfoot stopped Charlotte’s coach, stuck a shotgun in her face, and ordered her to throw down the strongbox. Charlotte did, but warned Sugarfoot, “Next time, I’ll be ready for you.”

Charlotte was, she started to wear six-shooters. A year later Sugarfoot and his gang stopped the coach again. But this time she began blazing away at them as they drew up on her coach. She flew down the trail and later when the posse returned to the site they found Sugarfoot dead and two of his gang wounded.

Charlotte was proud to say she never had a passenger suffer an injury while on her coach. She took her job very seriously and was at all times professional. She loved her horses, calling them beauties, and giving them lots of love and care. Charlotte was a good in a fight and put anyone in their place that mistreated horses or other animals in her presence.

In the 1860’s Charlotte retired from driving stagecoaches. She suffered an eye injury while shoeing a horse and had to wear an eye patch. She was then called “One-Eyed Charley”

                                           1889 Great Hot Springs in the Dakota Territory

In her retirement, she led a quiet life of raising cattle and growing vegetables. She died on her ranch from cancer. It was at this time when the physician who pronounced her at the ranch did the autopsy and found out Charlotte’s secret.

Well, the story of Charlotte’s secret life as a man spread like wildfire throughout the west. Her decades long masquerade as a man shocked and baffled many.

Even though she was only five feet seven inches tall, clean-shaven and spoke little, no one questioned her gender. She spoke with a “whiskey tenor” and often wore pleated shirts over over sized trousers and was never seen without her leather gauntlet-like gloves in public.  While on the road she slept in the stable with her horses and never bathed in public bathhouses. She also swore like a long-shore man, smoked cigars, and chewed tobacco.

She gave up a lot to live as a man. Her life was a lonely one she had no close friends or relationships for obvious reasons. So why live as a man? The reason is not know, but there is speculation that she became Charley to earn a decent wage and work at an occupation that offered excitement and challenge.

Between Christmas 1879 and New Year’s Day 1880 Charlotte was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery near Watsonville, California.  Rather an appropriate site for Charlotte, “Charley”…being such an “odd fellow”…

information from the book “Legends of the Wild West” by James A Crutchfield, Bill O’Neal and Dale L Walker


Our family has been dedicated for 30 years
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Quality American made leather horse tack....... Buckaroo John Brand Buckaroo Leather, The Brand to Demand 
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