Friday, January 27, 2023

19th Century UPRR Special Agents by Zina Abbott


As railroads were built across the eastern United States until there were thousands of miles of track, crime followed. Criminals became adept at stealing luggage, freight, and livestock. There was no railroad police at the time. Often local law enforcement was inadequate, or missing altogether. Sometimes, vigilante groups stepped in, but they proved unable to stop railroad crime.

UPRR Special Agents-Note special car for horses

Chief Engineer Benjamin Latrobe of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad established the first known railroad police for in 1849. However, most railroads began to hire agents from the agency created by Allen Pinkerton, who specialized in investigation by placing his agents undercover as both passengers and railroad employees. It was his work with the railroads that drew the attention of the government and Union Army during the Civil War era. However, Pinkerton’s agency continued their work with railroad investigations after the end of the war.

As displaced and disgruntled former soldiers from both sides of the Civil War turned to crime, the outlaw era in the 1860s began to ramp up. The first known train robbery with three masked bandits boarding a train occurred in October 1866. Soon, many railroads realized the need for their own police and investigative forces.

Union Station, Omaha, Nebraska

The Union Pacific Railroad began building their half of the Transcontinental Railroad shortly after the American Civil War. They were building tracks into largely unsettled states and territories where, in many places, no law enforcement jurisdiction had responsibility. They decided from the start to follow the pattern being set by some of the larger railroads in the east. They hired and trained their own railroad police and special agents for investigating railroad crime. In some areas, they were the only law enforcement around to defend their trains, employees, and passengers from outlaws, Indians, and others.

UPRR "Bulls"

Today, and starting more around the time of the 1930s Great Depression, railroad police who monitor and protect the trains, equipment, buildings, and tracks around the stations are known as “railroad bulls.” However, early in the days of special agents more involved in investigating railroad crime and tracking down criminals, that nickname was applied to them. As opposed to the railroad detectives in the East, the railroad special agents in the West were more inclined to work with sheriffs and U.S. marshals. Unlike uniformed railroad police in the East, who wore uniforms, special agents in the West often worked undercover. They dressed in plainclothes, usually suits.


They carried a shield to identify their position.


 Special agents for the Union Pacific encountered such bandits as “Gentlemen” Bill Carlisle, the Jones Brothers, Charlie Manning, and George “Big Nose” Parrott. 


“Big Nose George receives a cameo role in my most recently published book, Lauren, since he was part of the gang that attempted to derail the Union Pacific train near the Medicine Bow River bridge crossing. The Union Pacific Special Agent who investigated this attempted robbery was Henry C. “Tip” Vincents, who also played a cameo role in my book. He, along with Carbon County Deputy Sheriff, Robert Widdowfield, lost his life while investigating this crime.


Blown up express car

The Wild Bunch, the gang headed by Butch Cassidy, is credited with having robbed four trains between 1896 and 1901. On June 2, 1899, the gang flagged down a Union Pacific Limited near Wilcox, Wyoming—not far from where “Big Nose” George and his gang attempted their train robbery in 1878. Using dynamite to blast the doors open to the express car, they escaped with $30,000. 


Posse of UPRR Special Agents who pursued Wild Bunch

Unfortunately, most of the money disintegrated in the blast and floated away in the wind. Their next robbery in Tipton, Wyoming, was also a Union Pacific train.

Another Union Pacific Special Agent was Chief Agent William T. Canada. He was appointed chief of the Secret Services on June 1, 1891 by Union Pacific President, E.H. Harriman. He was assigned to work under the direction of General Manager, Edward Dickinson. By that time, holdups often involved murders of employees, passengers, and law enforcement officers. He had responsibility for overseeing all the police operations for all roads owned by Union Pacific which, by that time, included many more lines than the original stretch that formed part of the first Transcontinental Railroad. 


Ed Dickinson
This was the same Ed Dickinson who, as a superintendent and dispatcher stationed in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1878, also played a small role in my book, Lauren. 

According to the historical accounts, Ed Dickinson, along with Sheriff Nottage of Albany County traveled by train to where the railroad tracks by the Medicine Bow River had been tampered with. Once the sheriff determined the crime took place in Carbon County, Dickinson notified Sheriff Lawry, who sent out his deputy and Special Agent, "Tip" Vincents, to investigate.



Bill Canada
The two men—Canada and Dickinson—organized the Union Pacific Bandit Hunters. Chief Canada recruited only the best horsemen and shooters. Stationed out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, they were armed with the newest weapons and fastest horses. They were often found on a train made up of a sleeping car, a dining car, and a specially constructed baggage car to house their horses. Each team also had a telegrapher assigned to them, and an engine ready to take them at top speed to the site of any train robbery, including those hundreds of miles from Cheyenne. They successfully tracked down their quarries, made arrests, and were involved in several shootouts. Canada retired in 1914 due to his age. He died a year later at the age of 66 or 67.


I thoroughly enjoyed writing Lauren, Book 2 in the Rescue Me (Mail-order Brides) series, largely due to my decision to include real historical people as some of the characters. Their positions in real life I used as part of the plot. My main characters, Lauren Brower and Jeb Carter/Johnson are strictly fictional. However, as part of my character being a special agent for the Union Pacific Railroad, I heavily used the information I found on both the real people who lived and worked in that position, and the incidents that took place in Wyoming Territory during the last half of 1878.

To find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE.




Tuesday, January 24, 2023

What's the big die up?

 The decades leading up to 1886 were boom times for cowboys. Ranches from Montana to Nebraska were basking in tall grass, free range, and no fences. An estimated 5.7 million head of cattle roamed the areas. That, my friends is a lot of beef. Keep in mind a healthy cow  needs at the minimum of 25 to 30 pounds of grass per day to keep 1000 pounds on the move.

Seasons leading up to the 1880's had been mild. Plenty of mild winters, gentle rains kept the plains green and lush. However, as we know, wait five minutes and the weather will change.Mother Nature must have gone on vacation - the mild summers turned harsh. The rain forgot to fall. Heat and drought dried up the waterholes and burnt the grasses. Ranchers had not yet begun to employ the strategy of  supplemental feeding, limiting herds to what the land can sustain. By the fall of 1869, herds were hurting. Millions of head of cattle were under weight and in no shape for the change that was about to come.

It started in November. The snow came in force dropping a foot and half of the white stuff and it didn't stop, the snow continued through December ringing in the New Year with gale force winds and temps falling to fifty degrees below zero. If you think that was bad, Old Man Winter had a few other tricks up his sleeve. It warmed up enough to give into freezing rain followed by a hard freeze that put the tender grass beneath a huge layer of ice. Cattle couldn't break through to graze. Many died of exposure to the wind, the cold, and other predators.

Ranch owners, many of whom lived in Europe knew nothing of what was going on. Few if any stored hay for the winter. Few if any had the resources to hold the amount of hay needed to sustain herds this vast. Beneath the mounting snow, carcasses of thousands of animals lay hidden until the spring thaw.

As the snow and ice receded, the dead covered the plains, filled and blockaded streams, dammed rivers. It is estimated that more than ninety percent of the herds were now carcasses. The smell permeated the land for thousands of miles. The majority of stock growers went broke. The mere fact that the cattle had disappeared changed the way of the cowboy forever. Most lost their jobs and had to ride the chuck line -working for food and moving on. Ranches that once opened their bunk houses to those needing shelter were closed. With no livelihood, the cowboy turned to the only way he could make money, using a long rope, a running iron, and rustling cattle to stay alive.

The old ranch system, the trail drives, the industry itself - never recovered. The Big-Die -Up or the Great Cattle Extinction nearly killed off the American West.


Nan O'Berry  

Sunday, January 22, 2023

New Year New Goals

Welcome back to Ruthie L Maniers Cowboy Kisses blog! I hope you all had a perfect holiday season and are enjoying the start to 2023! Let’s pray it is better than the last three years. Year after year on New Years Day I make resolutions. I tend to break them soon after. I think most of us do without even realizing. let's face it, life gets busy as we go about are daily routines and the resolutions get lost in the hustle and bustle. This year I decided not to make any resolution’s. I will write out my goals instead. I think filling out the 2023 calendar will be benificial, and setting reminders on my phone will be helpful as well. Truth be told I suck at setting goals and keeping to a routine. I want to get better. If you have any tips that will help I would appreciate hearing from you. Please and thank you. My number one goal is to write more book’s in the three western romance genre series I have already published. Chasing Time, The Clayton Boy’s, and A Miracle for Santa. my WIP is the fourth book in the Clayton Boys. The story is starring Peyton Cooper, little John Coopers long lost brother.
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Goal number two is finances. I want to make more money. Who doesn’t? Right? I’ll be sixty-two in March. Yikes! Early retirement from my day job is what I want. I’m thinking about hiring a consultant to help with this goal. Third goal is more family time. My family means the world to me and I would like to spend more time with them.
Lastly, I want to spread more kindness throughout the world in my stories and real life. I think if everyone took more time to spread compassion, we would all live happier lives. Don't you? I pray you all have a great month! Valentines Day is coming so don’t forget to show the ones you love how special they are. You can find my book’s on Amazon Kindle. follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagra. Thank you for joining me today on Cowboy Kisses!

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Horses of the Old West ~Comanche



One of the most famous horses of the Old West was a gelding named Comanche.

Comanche, a mix of unknown origins, gained fame for being the sole survivor of the Little Bighorn massacre fought in 1876. (Though, there were probably unharmed mounts rounded up and taken by the native Americans after their victory.) The horse belonged to Captain Miles Keogh. Captain Keogh had ridden the gelding into battle with the Comanches before, where the horse was wounded by an arrow in the hindquarter but gallantly continued on, thus gaining the name Comanche. He received other wounds in other battles before he was ridden into his last battle at the Little Big Horn. There he was severely wounded, sustaining over half a dozen bullet wounds. He was found by remaining troops of the 7th cavalry the next day. From there he was nursed back to health and retired with orders not to be ridden or put to work. On regimented occasions, he was paraded with the regiment. In June of 1879 he was made ‘second commanding officer’ at Fort Riley where he was kept like a pet and developed a fondness for beer. He lived fifteen years after the battle then died of colic in 1891. When he died, he was stuffed and sent to the University of Kansas where he can still be viewed today.

Comanche was described as a bay dun or bay, was fifteen hands high and both gentle and tough.


Comanche in 1887 photographed by John C. H. Grabill

Much of my information was garnered from Wikipedia, including the above picture of Comanche.