Great article [“Dead Men for Breakfast,” by Ron Soodalter, August 2020] on wicked Wild West towns. One town that should be on any such list is Caldwell, Kan. In the five years of Caldwell’s cow town era (1879–84) 14 different men wore the town marshal badge. Before the end of that time half of these men would be dead. On Dec. 17, 1881, the Wichita Daily Times stated, “As we go to press, Hell is in session at Caldwell.” That pretty much sums it up.
Kansas City, Mo.
I’m a native Kansan and lived for years in Chapman, where our major rival in high school was Abilene, 12 miles west. I’m taking up your offer to “pick my poison,” and the town I was a little surprised to find left out was Caldwell. Its reputation for wickedness is fairly well documented. It was the first town in which to get a drink after going through Indian Territory and the last place to get a drink before going through Indian Territory. Midnight and Noonday, by former lawman G.D. Freeman, tells about the wild days there and gives a good picture of how hard a job it was to be a lawman in those days.
Back to Abilene. Here is some trivia I picked up in the audio commentary for Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West: The plans for the town being built when Claudia Cardinale gets off the train are a copy of the plans for the commercial district of Abilene. In seeing the skeletons of buildings, I recognized Abilene. It does not have one Main Street; the district is made of blocks.
Look at Junction, Texas. It was so bad/corrupt that the visiting judge would not ride into town without law enforcement support. The Kendall County Historical Commission had an event in Center Point, and one speaker was a retired Texas Ranger. He confirmed Texas had a few towns run by corrupt law enforcement, and Junction was way up on that list. Our event was on the Texas Rangers, and Center Point has the honor of having the most Rangers buried in its cemetery.
Jon Guttman makes two errors in his review of the book Arizona’s Deadliest Gunfight, by Heidi J. Osselaer, in the August 2019 issue . He states that Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon was never filmed as an American Western. That is not true. In 1964 Martin Ritt directed The Outrage, starring Paul Newman, Claire Bloom, Laurence Harvey, Edward G. Robinson and a pre-–Star Trek William Shatner. Guttman also states the gunfight took place on the eve of America’s entry into World War I. The gunfight in question took place on Feb. 10, 1918. We declared war on April 6, 1917, and were deeply involved in combat by the time of the gunfight in Arizona.
Phillipp Phelan Muth
Trying to find info on Fred J. Dodge, author of Under Cover for Wells Fargo. Great book, but we, the Kendall County Historical Commission, cannot document enough to get a historical marker for Dodge and his story. He retired to Boerne, Texas, and had a ranch in Kendall County. He is buried in the Boerne Cemetery, but we need more verified history. He is mentioned in J.R. Sanders’ “Train Robbery at Mound Valley,” in the April 2020 Wild West.
Historian Casey Tefertiller responds: Fred Dodge is one of the most debated people of the Old West. When did he become a Wells Fargo agent? I have debated this at length with my friend John Boessenecker, who believes Dodge greatly inflated his memoirs. I tend to think Dodge was more accurate, within the range of normal memory inflation and loss. The big question is whether Dodge was affiliated with Wells Fargo during his time in Tombstone. He was, of course, hired as a WF investigator shortly after. To me it seems he would not have gotten the WF job if he had not been affiliated with WF in Tombstone. In addition, he wrote letters to Wyatt Earp and John Clum, telling them he had been undercover for WF in Tombstone. It would be one thing to enhance a memoir and another to lie to your old friends—who seemed to already know of his role. There are no known real records to confirm Dodge’s role for WF. They could well have been lost in the 1906 fire in San Francisco. However, there are a couple of brief newspaper mentions tying Dodge to WF. Dodge later swore on a statement he had been affiliated with WF for years, dating back to Tombstone.
In Michael F. Blake’s “Roosevelt’s Posse” article, in the October 2019 issue, he states Bat Masterson was appointed deputy U.S. marshal for the Southern District of New York with a salary “not to exceed $2,000 per annum.” A couple of paragraphs below it states, “Regarding his duties as a deputy marshal, it seems all Masterson did was show up and collect his $2,000 monthly paycheck.” Can you clarify what Masterson’s annual salary was?
Editor responds: Good catch—our oversight. His annual (not monthly) salary was $2,000.
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