Wild West - April 2014 - Letters From Readers

Wild West – April 2014 – Letters From Readers

1/31/2014 • WW Issues

Kingston Facts
The “Ghost Towns” piece by Melody Groves on Kingston, N.M., in the October 2013 issue, perpetuates myth. Kingston and Percha City were not the same but distinct communities separated by several miles. There is no documentation that Kingston swelled to 2,000 people at the end of 1882. The 1885 territorial census counted 329 souls in Kingston and Percha City combined. U.S. Census data and corroborating documents show that Kingston topped out at about 1,500 people in 1890; the town had 568 lots. It reached 7,000 people only in writings published decades after the town was all but abandoned. Mark Twain never set foot in New Mexico, though a character in his book Roughing It, William [“Sheba”] Hurst, died in Kingston. A prankster signed President Grover Cleveland’s name to the Victorio Hotel guest registry on an evening when the president was partying with his wife in Maryland. Victorio and Billy the Kid never visited Kingston either; they were both dead years before the mining camp was founded. Kingston had more than three newspapers; 11 operated over the span of a decade, never in competition, and most only lasted a few months. During the purported peak of 7,000 souls in 1885 the town lacked a newspaper. And Percha Bank holding $7 million in silver—that figure is probably a mutation of the $6.9 million total value of metal mined from Kingston and Percha City from 1882 to 1902, as reported in a 1903 U.S. Geological Survey report. But this is factual: The Percha Bank Museum is one of the coolest around, and you should visit. It’s privately owned, so leave a donation. I am the co-author of Around Hillsboro, a history of Hillsboro, Kingston and Lake Valley. See the Hillsboro Historical Society blog.

Craig Springer
Hillsboro, N.M.

Melody Groves responds: It’s true that Victorio and Billy the Kid were dead before Kingston was proclaimed a town in 1882. However, the Black Range was Victorio’s hunting grounds, and there’s a great possibility he encountered miners. And the Kid most likely rode through the area. It is indeed possible someone else signed President Cleveland’s name to the registry. Over the past 140 years documents have been lost, burned, stolen, misplaced, changed and overall not handled as carefully as historians would prefer. In citing exact numbers of residents and plats of land in Kingston and elsewhere, it’s a close to impossible task. Who’s to say for absolute certain? I appreciate the attention Craig Springer gave my article. What’s most interesting about history is that it keeps changing—the more we search, the more we learn.

‘Incidentally, both Frank and Ann James were cremated, thereby assisting in the elimination of possible grave/body tampering’

Frank James’ Grave
I attended the Western Writers of America Convention in Las Vegas, Nev., in 2013 and while there received the August 2013 issue of Wild West with Frank James on the cover. I was previously a subscriber when I owned a home in Tucson and often visited Tombstone. Having that issue as a motivator, I revisited Frank James’ grave site in Independence, Mo., where I reside. Although the article did not mention it, I’m sure you were aware of the location. Ann Ralston, Frank’s wife, was a member of the Hill family, and the marker for Ann and Frank are in the small “Hill Cemetery” within Hill Park. Incidentally, both Frank and Ann were cremated, thereby assisting in the elimination of possible grave/body tampering.

Don Russell
Independence, Mo.

Indian Women
Carole Nielson did a creditable job reporting about sociopath Ben Wright in “Wright Was Might Among Oregon Indians,” in the December 2013 issue. I was frankly shocked she referred twice to native women as “squaws.” This derogatory term went out with the buggy whip and is, as you know, no different than using the N word when referring to African Americans. Frankly, I’m surprised you let it pass your red pencil.

As to her report about the heinous wagon train attack by the Modocs, as I recall they had good reason to carry out this attack (though they certainly can be condemned for killing women and children). That said, one must consider what had been going on in the killing fields of California ever since the Anglos arrived. Raids on Indian villages to kidnap Indian children for slaves went on for decades, as did the frequent rape and murder of native women. Both sides—native and Anglo—followed up any attack with racial overkill, murdering each other without regard to sex or age. In the end Anglos almost succeeded in extinguishing the native population of California, then placed the remnants on reservations, starving many of them to death.

Pax Riddle
Phoenixville, Pa.

Editor responds: Paxton Riddle, author of the 1999 novel Lost River about the Modoc War, is right about the offensive term. Oklahoma-born author Carole Nielsen, who is part Cherokee (a great-great-great grandmother was forced to walk west from Tennessee to Indian Territory in the “Trail of Tears”), says she meant no disrespect and used the term to “show the thinking of the time.” Wild West’s policy is to use “American Indian woman” or some variation thereof and only keep “squaw” in quoted material from an earlier time. We slipped up. A Roundup news item in the April issue addresses another offensive term, “redskins,” as in the Washington Redskins. Team cheerleaders were once called the “Redskinettes.” No longer.

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