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Wild West - August 2009 - Letters from Readers

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: June 03, 2009 
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'The historical record documents rather conclusively that cannibalism did occur at the Donner Lake campsite, as well as at Alder Creek'

Charlie Russell's Mountains
Those are not the Bitterroot Mountains in Charles M. Russell's 1912 painting Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross' Hole (above), featured in the April 2009 "Art of the West." Russell had a small cabin at Ross' Hole, Sula, Montana. Parts of the cabin are still there. The painting was made, or sketched, from the artist's point of view, about 100 yards downhill from the cabin, looking southeast. Lewis and Clark came into Ross' Hole from the south, just after the miserable crossing of what is now called Lost Trail Pass. No tall mountains can be seen from the painting site; the Bitterroots are to the west and out of sight due to foreground hills.

All foreground hills in the middle and right side of the picture and the sunlit slopes of the picture are drawn accurately, as anyone who visits the site can see. I have visited the site many times, because I lived just 10 miles away in the summertime. I was confused by the mountains in the background of the picture, because these mountains cannot be seen from the ground at Ross' Hole. Sula Peak lies just north of Russell's cabin and this view. I drove up to the Forest Service fire lookout on the peak, and behold, there were the snow-covered Lemhi Mountains on the Montana-Idaho border to the south and southeast. The mountains to the far left of the picture are the Anaconda-Pintlers. I walked down the hill toward Russell's cabin until the Lemhis disappeared behind the foreground hills and mountains. So Russell enhanced his painting by adding the Lemhi Mountains, painting them accurately, but from some elevation on Sula Peak, above his cabin.

Bayard H. Brattstrom
Horned Lizard Ranch
Wikieup, Ariz.

Buffalo Bill Plays Cleveland
I really enjoyed Paul Andrew Hutton's article on Buffalo Bill Cody in the February 2009 Wild West. I understand his last Wild West show was in 1913. My dad came to America from Hungary in 1912 at age 20. He told me that he had the opportunity to see one of Buffalo Bill's shows shortly after arriving in America. My father worked in Wisconsin and Ohio. Were there any shows in, say, Milwaukee or Cleveland in 1912 or 1913?

Tom R. Kovach
Nevis, Minn.

Paul Fees, a Buffalo Bill expert in Cody, Wyo., responds: "Buffalo Bill's Wild West played Cleveland on July 4, 1912, and Milwaukee on August 24 and 25, 1912. It also, of course, had one-night stands in other cities in the region."

Chief Stumbling Bear
I am a huge fan of Wild West, especially historian Gregory Michno. I am active in both SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) and WWHA (Wild West History Association), so I look forward to getting your magazine. In his April feature "The Search for the Captives of Elm Creek," Michno calls Stumbling Bear a Comanche chief. When I visited Chiefs Knoll at Fort Sill National Cemetery in Oklahoma, I photographed the headstone of Chief Stumbling Bear, and the headstone indicated he was Kiowa.

Gerald "Doc Shores" Schaefer
Aberdeen, Wash.

The editor responds: I stumbled by calling him a Comanche chief. "'Doc Shores' is right," Michno said. "Most references list Stumbling Bear as a Kiowa."

Donner Party
In her "Top Ten" list on P. 8 of the December 2008 Wild West, Sally Denton mentions that recent archaeological evidence "calls into question all previous historical accounts of the [Donner Party] tragedy." I assume because the researchers at the Alder Creek site, Kelly Dixon and Julie Schablitsky, did not find any boiled or knife-scarred human bone fragments (indicative of cannibalism) in their 2003 and 2004 research, Denton is suggesting cannibalism did not occur at that site. The fact that the analysis of a very small sampling of bone fragments from the Alder Creek location (only 30 out of about 16,000 pieces were tested) did not turn up any human bones is important but does not prove definitively that the snowbound pioneers there did not resort to human flesh for food.

The historical record documents rather conclusively that cannibalism did occur at the Donner Lake campsite, as well as at Alder Creek. The scientists involved in this ongoing study made no claims, yet the media headlines did, setting the stage for more confusion and misinformation. For more details, see my award-winning book, The Donner Party: Weathering the Storm, or my Web site, www.thestormking.com/Donner_Party.

Mark McLaughlin
Carnelian Bay, Calif.

Two Bidwells
"Bidwell: Forgotten Founder of Tombstone?" by Robert F. Palmquist, in the October 2008 Wild West, got me wondering: Was Thomas J. Bidwell any relation to the John Bidwell famous in Chico, Calif.?

Robert Billingsley
San Pedro, Calif.

Author Robert Palmquist responds: California pioneer John Bidwell (1819–1900) was one of the founders of Chico, Calif., and the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park is one of Chico's primary attractions. John arrived in California in 1841 and served as a Republican congressman from 1865 to 1867. He was friends with John Muir. Both Lynn Bailey and Don Caput (Cochise County Stalwarts, Vol. 1) and John Goff (Arizona Territorial Officials, Vol. VI) state that Thomas Bidwell was a "distant relative" of John Bidwell, with Goff adding that Thomas had "quarreled" with John Bidwell. So far, I haven't found additional details about either the relationship or the quarrel.

Send letters to Wild West, 19300 Promenade Dr., Leesburg, VA 20176, or e-mail us at WildWest@weiderhistorygroup.com.

 


2 Responses to “Wild West - August 2009 - Letters from Readers”


  1. 1
    Chuck says:

    In response to Bayard H. Brattstrom's comment on the Charlie Russel painting. My dad, Ed Dishno was born and raised in the Big Hole valley. He was born in 1884 and ranched there for many years. From his ranch you could see the Bitteroot Mountains.
    Chuck Dishno
    Dillon, Montana

  2. 2
    David Lauterborn says:

    Chuck,

    Thanks for sharing that memory! Charlie was an irreplaceable fixture on the waning Western frontier.

    Dave Lauterborn
    Managing Editor
    Wild West



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