Saturday, May 17, 2008

Robert M. Wright


The Days of
The Wild Indian, the Buffalo, the Cowboy, Dance Halls, Gambling Halls, and Bad Men

Plainsman, Explorer, Scout, Pioneer, Trader and Settler

(1913, 2nd. Edition)

I got yer history right here: Robert M. Wright. He was all the things the book description said and more. I've noticed is a pretty interesting site - there is quite a bit of Western heritage contained within. Here is a speech he gave against prohibition in Kansas in 1881 as a duly elected representative:

Eventually, it was my fortune to become representative of this section in the state legislature, in which I was serving when the prohibition bill was introduced, in 1881I must say that I think that prohibition has proved a good thing for the state, but, at that time, with such constituents behind me, I could not consistently support the temperance bill. I soon saw, however, that it was going through and that it was useless to fight it, so I contented myself with having the consoling "last word," on the subject, my short speech being the last made before the bill was put to vote. My remarks were not intended as argument, but merely as a mildly satirical fling at the opposing faction, and put a flavor of the burlesque upon the situation. But the threat to secede, while not meant seriously, was not without point, as the territory in sympathy with that I represented, forming one section for judicial purposes, comprising thirty-eight of our present counties. The "Topeka Daily Commonwealth," of February 16th, 1881, says, "Honorable R. M. Wright delivered yesterday," and reports it thus: "Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee:

"I feel that I would be doing my constituents a grave injustice were I to remain silent at this most portentous juncture in the history of our legislation. I cannot refrain, therefore, from raising my feeble voice in protest against this monstrous measure: I do not oppose this bill because of my own love for the distilled nectar of the cornfield, nor yet for the purple ambrosia of the vineyard. I admit that I like a glass of either now and then, but I am not a slave to the demon of the cup, and I can look upon the wine when it is red without necessarily being bitten by the adder which is alleged to be lurking at the bottom of the said utensil. In fact, Mr. Chairman, so great is my virtue in this direction, that I have gone three, aye four days, without my whisky, and I am proud to relate without any special disturbing effects upon my physiological structure, but it is a dangerous experiment, and should not be tried too often. Sir, I have been a resident of this great state for seventeen years and I have learned to know it, and to know it is to love it. I know no other home. I love its broad prairies, its rich soil, its pure air, its beautiful streams, and last, but not least, its liberal people. But alas, sir, if this bill becomes a law, I am afraid I shall cease to be one of the citizens of this proud commonwealth, as the county which I have the honor to represent on this floor threatens to secede and take with it all the unorganized counties attached to it for judicial purposes. Now, sir, under the peculiar circumstances of their situation, have they not a just and equitable cause for their professed action? Sir, this committee well knows, or if there are any of its members who do not I deplore their ignorance, that the section of the country in which I live is essentially the habitation of that most poisonous of all reptiles of the genus Crotalus, or in common parlance, as he is familiarly known to the cowboys-the rattlesnake. This insect, gentlemen of the committee, is not the phantasmagorial creature, if I may use the term, which perhaps many of you have seen when you have "histed" to much rock and rye on board, but a genuine tangible nomad of the prairie, whose ponderous jaws, when once fastened on the calf of your leg, you will realize is no creature of the disordered brain. This octopod, this old man of the prairie, if you will permit me to indulge in a metaphor, has all his life obeyed the spiritual injunction (I am sorry I have not my little pocket Bible here to prove this, as many of the members of this committee have done in discussing this question) to increase and multiply, and accordingly he multiplyeth extraordinarily, and he doeth this without irrigation either, and in fact every farmer has an abundant crop without the trouble of cultivation. Now, sir, the only known preventive, the only known antidote to the venom of this venomous beast, is pure unadulterated corn juice, vulgarly called whisky. Aye, sir, men who have imbibed freely of the corn juice have been bitten, and the snake has always been known to die instead of the man, so you see it is not only a sure cure for the bite but is a speedy means of getting rid of the snake also. , "Ponder, oh, gentlemen of the committee, and hesitate before you take away from us that which saves life.

Are you aware of what you are about to do? Do you propose in this arbitrary manner not only to deprive us of a source of solace but even to take our very lives? My people, sir, will never submit, never (No Pinafore here.) (This was in the days of Pinafore.) "Now, sir, the only way out of this labyrinth of proposed injustice is to exclude Dodge City as well as all that region west of the one-hundreth meridian from the provisions of this bill. If you do this it will not only be an act of justice guaranteed by the constitution upon stern necessity, but will receive the righteous judgment of all the citizens of Dodge; harmony will again prevail upon the border, the scouts will be called in, and future generations of cowboys will arise and call you blessed." In the spring of 1885, preparations were made for the enforcement of the Prohibitory Liquor Law in Dodge City, and the sale of eighty barrels of four-year-old whisky, besides other liquors and bar fixtures was announced by Henry Sturm, the well-known purveyor of the city. The prohibition law put a different character on liquor sales, many of the saloons being transformed into "drug stores."

Some of the pranks the rough and tumble denizens of old Dodge City pulled:

Once upon a time, a long while ago, when Dodge was young and very wicked, there came a man to town, an itinerant preacher. In the present age you would call him an evangelist. Well, anyway, he possessed a wonderful magnetic power, he was marvelously gifted that way; he would cast his spell over the people, and draw crowds that no one ever dreamed of doing before, in fact he captured some of the toughest of the toughs of wicked Dodge, and from the very first he set his heart on the capture of one Dave Mathews--alias, Mysterious Dave who was city marshal at the time, said to be a very wicked man, a killer of killers. And it was and is an undoubted fact that Dave had more dead men to his credit, at that time, than any other man in the west. Seven by actual count in one night, in one house, and all at one sitting. Indeed he was more remarkable in his way than the preacher was in his.

Well, as I said, he set his heart on Dave, and he went after him regularly every morning, much to the disgust of Dave. Indeed he was so persistent, that Dave began to hate him. In the meantime, the people began to feel the power of the preacher,. for he had about him an unexplainable something that they could not resist, and the one little lone church was so crowded they had to get another building, and this soon would not hold half the audience. Finally they got a large hall known as the "Lady Gay Dance Hall" and fitted it up with boards laid across empty boxes for seats. There was a small stage at the rear of the building, and on this was placed a goods box for a pulpit for the preacher. Now whether or not Dave had become infected by the general complaint that seized the people, or whether the earnest persistence of the preacher had captured him I know not.

Anyhow, certain it was, he promised the preacher to attend the meeting that night, and certain it was, Dave would not break his word. He was never known to do that. If he promised a man he would kill him, Dave was sure to do it.

It was soon noised around by the old "he pillars" of the church, and the "she pillars" too that Dave was captured at last, and what a crowd turned out that night to see the wonderful work of God brought about through the agency of the preacher-the capture of Mysterious Dave. Soon the hall was filled to its utmost capacity, and Dave, true to his promise, was seen to enter. He was at once conducted to the front, and given the seat of honor reserved for him in front of the preacher, and Oh! how that preacher preached straight at him. He told how wonderful was the ways of Providence in softening the heart of wicked Dave Mathews, and what rejoicing there would be in heaven over the conversion of such a man.

Then he appealed to the faithful ones, the old "he pillars" of the church, and said to them, now he was ready to die.

He had accomplished the one grand object of his life.

He had converted the wickedest man in the country, and was willing now and at once to die, for he knew he would go right straight to heaven. Then he called upon the faithful ones to arise and give in their experience, which they did, each one singly, and said, they too, like the preacher, were willing to die right now and here, for they knew that they, too, would go right straight to heaven for helping to carry out this great work. In fact, most of them said, like the preacher, that they wanted to die right now so they could all go to heaven rejoicing together. Dave sat their silent with bowed head. He told me afterwards, he never in all his scrapes was in such a hot box in his life. He said he would much rather to have been in a hot all around fight with a dozen fellows popping at him all at once, than to have been there. He said he would have been more at ease, and felt more at home, and I expect he told the truth.

Finally he raised to his feet and acknowledged he had been hard hit and the bullet had struck a vital spot, and at last religion had been poured into him; that he felt it tingling from his toes through his whole body, even to his finger tips, and he knew he had religion now, sure, and if he died now would surely go to heaven, and pulling both of his six shooters in front of him, he said further, for fear that some of the brothers here tonight might backslide and thereby lose their chance of heaven he thought they had better all die tonight together as they had so expressed themselves, and the best plan he said would be for him to kill them all, and then kill himself. Suddenly jerking out a pistol in each hand, he said to the preacher, "I will send you first," firing over the preacher's head. Wheeling quickly he fired several shots into the air, in the direction of the faithful ones.

The much-frightened preacher fell flat behind the dry-goods box, as also did the faithful ones who ducked down as low as they could. Then Dave proceeded to shoot out the lights, remarking as he walked towards the door, "You are all a set of liars and frauds, you don't want to go to heaven with me at all." This broke up the meeting, and destroyed the usefulness of that preacher in this vicinity. His power was gone, and he departed for new fields, and I am sorry to relate, the people went back to their backsliding and wickedness.

Wright apparently didn't care much for Wyatt Earp, because he deliberately misspelled his name throughout his journal. He had no love for Indians. He does say they were correct in their indignance of having the buffalo shot out and wasted, but even though he sided with them on that issue, he felt they were ruthless and underhanded. He had nothing good to say about Satanta - the Kiowa chief. Pitched battles on the prairie are covered. He mentions the large amounts of game, the origins of the name of the Sawlog creek, the trade in buffalo hides and meat, and eventually the bones, plus the railroads and cattle. There is a small town named for him just east of Dodge City on US50.

If history of the West holds any fascination for you, I highly recommend you read Wright's account. He is a good writer with a proper historian's views of cause and effect of events and motivations. I'm wishing there was more.

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