June 2016 Readers’ Letters | HistoryNet MENU

June 2016 Readers’ Letters

By HistoryNet Staff
3/24/2016 • Wild West Magazine

Not Ford or James
I see on P. 11 of your Roundup department in the February 2016 issue of Wild West an appearance of the Bob Ford/Jesse James photo hoax [above]. Sandy Mills, its owner, submitted this image to me for authentication purposes in 2013, as I am the Jesse James family genealogist and historian. I replied, advising her not to waste any money trying to authenticate an image so clearly not authentic. I also posted on the family blog that the image is bogus. Regarding the claimed genealogy stated by fiction book author Freda Cruse Hardison, I have seen no evidence of it or any documentation supporting it. Since 1997 the official and documented Jesse James family genealogy has been published on the website Stray Leaves.

I am writing a five-volume history of the family, of which the fourth volume addresses Frank James. I have researched the family of Annie Ralston (Frank’s wife) extensively for 20 years, and I have never seen any documentary reference or evidence regarding Jane W. Hill, whom Hardison claims is related to image owner Mills. No one in the James family had ever seen the image or heard of its existence in more than 130 years.

Everything stated by Mills, Hardison and others in their cabal of hoaxers is imaginary, speculative and unsupported by any facts or documentary evidence. Their effort to make it otherwise amounts to chicanery that not only denigrates history and misinforms readers of Wild West but also amounts to identity theft of the Jesse James family.

Eric F. James
Danville, Ky.

Not Wyatt Earp
I read with interest Westerners on P. 16 of your February 2016 issue, showing an alleged photograph of Wyatt Earp taken at the Brown photographic studio in Ellsworth, Kan. The text with the photo brought up the old chestnut about Earp arresting Ben Thompson for helping brother William escape after killing Ellsworth County Sheriff Chauncey Whitney on Aug. 15, 1873. “But for a lack of supporting evidence historians have long discounted Earp’s claim to have made the arrest,” the text states. You then quote Cathleen Briley claiming the photo “is the missing link to the ‘Wyatt Earp in Ellsworth’ story…a photo of a decorated Wyatt Earp taken right in Ellsworth when and where it all happened.” Briley argues that the photograph supports the claim Earp arrested Thompson.

For all I know the photograph could have been taken the day Whitney was killed. It is not, however, evidence that supports the claim Earp arrested Thompson. With all due respect to Briley, the photograph proves nothing other than at some time in his life Earp (if it is indeed him) had his image taken at Ellsworth. Historians know Earp did not arrest Thompson, because the Ellsworth Reporter, in its account of the murder of Whitney, stated on Aug. 21, 1873, that the man who disarmed Thompson was Ellsworth County Deputy Sheriff Edward O. Hougue. Was Wyatt Earp in Ellsworth while this was going on? Probably, as it is known his brother James was there.

A final thought: Why is Wyatt Earp blamed for the historical inaccuracies in Stuart N. Lake’s 1931 book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal? Earp provided much valuable information to Lake for the book. But Earp died in 1929, and Lake did not publish the book until two years later—plenty of time for Lake to alter the book to make Earp look more heroic, despite whatever truthful things Wyatt may have told him. After all, Earp and Hougue were both dead; who was going to contradict Lake’s account? That it was Lake who was responsible for the inaccuracies is shown by the fact he included the Ellsworth Reporter account of the killing of Whitney in the book but deliberately left out the line about Hougue receiving the arms of Thompson.

James D. Drees
Hays, Kan.

The first thing I noticed when I saw the image Cathleen Briley says is Wyatt Earp was the hair. From the earliest known photos of Earp until his death he always parted his hair on the side, never in the middle.

Darby Tipple
Carrollton, Texas

I bid $4.95 for the Earp/Ellsworth pic.

Scott Dyke, Earp researcher
Green River Valley, Ariz.

Yount and Glass
Readers of the February 2016 Pioneers and Settlers article about George Yount (“The Taos Trapper Who Made His Mark,” by Harry Murray) might be interested to know Yount knew Hugh Glass (subject of the recent film The Revenant) and later had his memories of the West set down in George C. Yount and His Chronicles of the West, edited by Charles Lewis Camp.

Roni Silverberg
San Francisco

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