“Ten Nights in a Bar Room” by the Boston Amateur Dramatic Troupe: Theatre in 1880s Southeast Colorado

The Boston Amateur Dramatic troupe reproduced “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” at the Murray hall last Friday night.  The weather was intensely disagreeable, and the crowd correspondingly small.  There were not more than 150 people present.  The troupe made a marked improvement over their first effort. The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 13 Jan 1888

The play “Ten Nights in a Bar Room,” is based on an 1854 novel, “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” written by American author Timothy Shay Arthur

The play “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” was used to promote prohibition to large audiences. In the 1850s, sales of this book were second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Ten Nights in a Bar-room was a financial success for Arthur so the novel transferred to play format. The play based on the novel continued to be popular even after prohibition in the United States, although it was often presented as a parody.

Ten Nights in a Bar Room was also a part of the history of Old Boston, Colorado.  This footnote in the history of old Boston has gone mostly unnoticed and might seem a little odd given the sometimes excessive consumption of alcohol in some of these Wild West Towns such as Old Boston.  Sitting in southeast Colorado fifteen miles from Kansas and fifteen miles from the neutral strip (now the Oklahoma Panhandle) Boston was a far bigger draw for riff raff and outlaws than for culture and civility.

The establishment of the Boston Amateur Dramatic Troupe is another attempt by the Boston town founders to build a civil and cultured existence in an environment that seemed to produce anything but civility. A play with a storyline of temperance, is not one you might expect from the rough and tumble characters assembled in the town of Old Boston. Their attempts at taming the “noted burying ground” as it was described in the following news clipping seems like a futile exercise as we look back with 20/20 hindsight. 

Finney County Democrat (Garden City, Kansas) 15 Dec 1888

The novel version of Ten Nights in a Bar Room is presented by an unnamed narrator who makes an annual visit to the fictional town of Cedarville. On his first visit, he stops at the new tavern, the Sickle and Sheaf. The proprietor, Simon Slade, is a former miller who gave up the trade for the more lucrative tavern. The business is a family affair, with Slade’s wife Ann, son Frank, and daughter Flora assisting him. The narrator also observes the town drunk, Joe Morgan. The father of a loving wife and family, he meets his moral downfall when introduced to alcohol. Morgan becomes an alcoholic and spends most of his time at a bar. One day, his daughter begs him to return to his family. He ignores her desires until she is hit in the head by a flying glass as she goes to retrieve her father. Slade had thrown the tumbler at Morgan so, to a degree, her death is on his hands. On her deathbed, the daughter begs Morgan to abandon alcohol, to which he agrees. The novel progresses through the ruinous fall of more characters all at the hands of hard drink and other vices (gambling becomes another major reform notion in the text). Shay spends some time discussing corruption in politics with the corrupt “rum party” candidate from Cedarville, Judge Lyman. The narrator notes how even the drinkers in the story call for “the Maine Law“ which will prohibit alcohol from being so temptingly available. The novel closes with the death of Simon Slade, already mutilated from an earlier riotous sequence of murders and mob mentality, at the hands of his son. The two had gotten into a drunken argument and Frank strikes his father in the head with a bottle. In the final scene the narrator sees the post with the once pristine and now gross and rotten Sickle and Sheaf totem chopped down after the town’s moral fiber showed itself in a series of resolutions that led to the destruction of all the alcohol on the premises.

Illustration from an 1882 edition of  “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” 

Several news clippings discuss the theatrical production of Ten Nights in a bar room put on by the Boston, Colorado amateur dramatic troupe.   Examples are shown below, 

The Boston Amateur Dramatic Troupe played “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” at Vilas last Tuesday night.  The proceeds were about $18.  They will give the same play at Richfield next Thursday night.  The troupe is making itself quite famous.  –The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 18 Jan 1888 

In the news clipping below, Boston Banner Newspaper Editor, George Daniels, plays the part of Simon Switzel, however as there was no character with the name Switzel, they are likely referencing the character, Simon Slade.

The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) 28 Jan 1888
The Democratic Principle (Syracuse, Kansas) · Wed, Dec 14, 1887

The most interesting reference to the play is in the January 4, 1888 edition of the Trinidad Citizen newspaper.  Ten Nights in a Bar Room was the play the Boston Dramatic Troupe was putting on after the shooting of Henry Savoie, in the streets of Old Boston, by Prairie Cattle Company Regulator/ Deputy Sheriff Big Bill Thompson.  The Citizen tells us,  

Excitement now about subsided since the burial of Savoie. William Thompson and Ben Darnell left here for Vilas this morning.  They have softened public feeling to a considerable extent by their amicable conduct while here.  Their statement and explanation were very different from Savoies’ They came in on Saturday evening and rough time was expected on account of several rumours which had gained credence since they left several days before for Trinidad.  One of them was to the effect that the editor of the Boston Banner would be brought to terms for publishing Savoie’s ante mortem statement with comments.  The play  “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” was being acted when they arrived and about thirty well armed deputy marshals were placed in the hall to quell any riot which might arise.  Word was repeatedly sent to the editor that he would be shot on the stage (he was playing the part of Swiehel.) Nothing happened, however, and at last the people are getting down to business again. The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 4 Jan 1888.   NOTE:  Swiehel was likely to reference the Ten Nights in a Bar Room character Simon Slade. 

Other towns in the boomtown era such as Wilde, Springfield, and Holmes City played on the wild nature of towns such as Boston, Minneapolis, Vilas, and Carrizo when recruiting homesteaders and investors. They included statements in their town advertisements such as the following:

“WILDE A PROHIBITION TOWN. While Colorado is not a prohibition State, there are a number of noted towns like Manitou Springs, Greeley, etc., which have adopted the method of inserting a clause in all deeds forever prohibiting the sale of intoxicants, and wherever this method has been adopted and adhered to on the part of the town projectors, it has proved eminently successful. Manitou Springs is noted as one of the most cultured, refined and moral cities in the United States, whether east or west; and it owes it to the one thing of prohibition, which has excluded the whiskey element, and attracted a class of people in favor of temperance, schools and churches. The three town companies of Wilde, Springfield and Holmes in joint meeting adopted the prohibition plan for all three towns, for which are facetiously called dry towns, cognomen* the projectors are only too willing to adopt.

Boston did not appear to have such an inclination to limit alcohol consumption…or did they?  The production of Ten Nights in a Bar Room, a prohibition play,  is another event which seems contrary to the often wild events occurring in that town.  The town’s  documented efforts at civility and culture with a community theatrical troupe, a community baseball team  and a community band led by Freeman Jess Newton and Jennings were admirable. However, it seems the town founders efforts at bringing civilized behavior to that place fell short.  Maybe a couple different twists of fate and Boston, Colorado could  have become the mecca of the plains the founders dreamed about.

As a Side Note…Forney Jennings aka Al Jennings later went on to star and  consult in many early silent westerns.  Check out the following blog post: Al Jennings 1908 silent western: “The Bank Robbery'”

To see a map of the 1880s boom towns mentioned in this post click here: Boom Town Maps

This post was originally published in the Plainsman Herald (Springfield, CO) Spring 2020

Horse Thieves Paradise: John Jennings leads Colorado Vigilantes into No Man’s Land

Here are a few clippings about the citizens “of half a dozen Colorado villages, Boston, Springfield, Vilas, Minneapolis, and Carriso and also Richfield in Kansas, are uniting to make an expedition against its horse thieves into No Man’s Land.

It appears this trip was led by none other than John Jennings who at the time was living in “Old Boston, Colorado.” You must remember for geographical context Boston was 15 miles from No Man’s Land and 15 miles from Kansas in extreme SE Colorado.

This is pretty rough, but this research from my Boston, Colorado book project is pretty interesting. The first reports were in early September and by late September this had made the New York papers.


El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) · 05 Sep 1888, Wed · Page 1
Santa Fe Daily Herald (Santa Fe NM) · 6 Sep 1888, Sat ·  Page 1
Aspen Daily Times (Aspen CO) 6 Sep 1888 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. Colorado State Library.

Mulvane Record (Mulvane, Kansas) · 08 Sep 1888,
NO MAN’S LAND. From the accounts which occasionally come from that quarter it would appear that the tract known as the Public Land Strip, but more expressively styled No Man’s Land, is becoming a sort of thieves’ paradise. This is not the fault of the honest and industrious pioneers who have gone thither in anticipation of the action of Congress opening the lands to settlement and placing them under the protection of the law. But in the nature of the case a region thus left outside of the pale of the statutes is fastened upon also by evil-doers a a sort of refuge. Murders and lynchings have been reported from that quarter of late.  And now it is announced that the people of half a dozen Colorado villages, Boston, Springfield, Vilas, Minneapolis, and Carriso and also Richfield in Kansas, are uniting to make an expedition against its horse thieves. The “Seven against Thebes” may be rivaled by these later seven against Squaw Canon. This latter place, a special retreat of the outlaws, is spoken of as “a natural fortress,” so that the 200 troopers who are to go there in search of stolen horses and to hunt out the thieves may find no easy task.  There is urgent need of putting an end to this anomalous condition of the Public Land Strip.  Last December a Mr. O. G. Chase presented himself at Washington and asked recognition in the House as a delegate for this tract, which he called the Territory of Cimarron. That of course was out of the question; but the fact that he was chosen by settlers as their representative showed the necessity of doing something for them.  It was a. tract containing more than 3,600.000 Acres, extending 167 miles east And west And 34 north and south, with good water and soil, having, it was said, several thousand people living on it yet without courts, without law, without real ownership of land, since the Lands had never been thrown open for sale. Kansas and Colorado are north of it and Texas on the south, while New-Mexico furnishes the western boundary and the Cherokee Strip the eastern. The Cherokee have claimed this as an extension of their land strip, but there is very little expectation that this claim will be substantiated.  The cattle companies were not long in discovering that thee Public Strip land could be put to use.  Some of them recognized thee claims of thee Cherokees by taking a lease from them.  A few years ago settlers began to go upon the tract running their risk of being eventually allowed to buy the lands they occupied.  They, built not only houses, but some churches, with intent to form permanent communities, and waited for Congress to furnish them with courts, laws, land titles, and a Territorial organisation.  Whatever regulations the people had for living together in peace and order were necessarily those only of common agreement, often pursuant to votes in their organized meetings.  But of 1st the Ability to misuse this state of things has evidently attracted favor Among horse thieves, who have sometimes both robbed the people there and carried their booty to Kansas or Colorado, And stolen horses in these States end carried them across the border to their haunts in No Man’s Land.   A possible Arrangement would be to unite No Man’s Land with the western portion of the Indian Territory and constitute a new Territory out of it.  It would be necessary in that case to obtain the consent of the tribes now in that western portion and, provide them with equally good lands in the eastern portion.  The Government how-ever, has unoccupied lands which it could use for the purpose, and this plan might also allow the carrying out of the sevaralty law among those Indians. At all events, something should be done to put an end to the present status of No Man’s Land. –The New York Times (New York, New York) · Thu, Sep 20, 1888. 

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Theatre in 1880s Southeast Colorado: Ten Nights in a Bar Room

A part of the history of Old Boston, Colorado  which might go unnoticed is the attempt by the town founders to build a civil and cultured existence in an environment that seemed to produce anything but civility. Their attempts at taming the “noted burying ground” as it was described in the following news clipping seems like a futile exercise as we look back with 20/20 hindsight. 

Finney County Democrat (Garden City, Kansas) 15 Dec 1888.

Still, some of their efforts with a community theatrical troupe and a community band led by Freeman Jess Newton and the Jennings were admirable. The storyline of the play discussed in this narrative is of temperance, which you might not expect from the characters assembled in the town of Old Boston.  

Other towns in the boomtown era such as Wilde, Springfield, and Holmes City played on the wild nature of towns such as Boston, Minneapolis, Vilas, and Carrizo when recruiting homesteaders and investors. They included statements in their town advertisements such as the following:

“WILDE A PROHIBITION TOWN. While Colorado is not a prohibition State, there are a number of noted towns like Manitou Springs, Greeley, etc., which have adopted the method of inserting a clause in all deeds forever prohibiting the sale of intoxicants, and wherever this method has been adopted and adhered to on the part of the town projectors, it has proved eminently successful. Manitou Springs is noted as one of the most cultured, refined and moral cities in the United States, whether east or west; and it owes it to the one thing of prohibition, which has excluded the whiskey element, and attracted a class of people in favor of temperance, schools and churches. The three town companies of Wilde, Springfield and Holmes in joint meeting adopted the prohibition plan for all three towns, for which are facetiously called dry towns, cognomen* the projectors are only too willing to adopt.”

Other towns such as Boston didn’t seem to have such concerns about alcohol use, but they at the same time entertained with a play whose primary theme was prohibition.

Several news clippings discuss a theatrical production produced by the Boston Colorado amateur dramatic troupe. The play “Ten Nights in a Bar Room,” is based on an 1854 novel, “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” written by American author Timothy Shay Arthur. In the 1850s, sales of the book were second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Ten Nights in a Bar-room was a financial success for Arthur and the novel transferred to play format, so it was used to promote prohibition to large audiences. The play based on the novel continued to be popular even after prohibition in the United States, although it was often presented as a parody.

Illustration from an 1882 edition of  “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” 

We see the play mentioned several times in Boston related articles, such as this excerpt from The Democratic Principle (Syracuse, Kansas) · Wed, Dec 14, 1887, 

The novel is presented by an unnamed narrator who makes an annual visit to the fictional town of Cedarville. On his first visit, he stops at the new tavern, the Sickle and Sheaf. The proprietor, Simon Slade, is a former miller who gave up the trade for the more lucrative tavern. The business is a family affair, with Slade’s wife Ann, son Frank, and daughter Flora assisting him. The narrator also observes the town drunk, Joe Morgan. The father of a loving wife and family, he meets his moral downfall when introduced to alcohol. Morgan becomes an alcoholic and spends most of his time at a bar. One day, his daughter begs him to return to his family. He ignores her desires until she is hit in the head by a flying glass as she goes to retrieve her father. Slade had thrown the tumbler at Morgan so, to a degree, her death is on his hands. On her deathbed, the daughter begs Morgan to abandon alcohol, to which he agrees. The novel progresses through the ruinous fall of more characters all at the hands of hard drink and other vices (gambling becomes another major reform notion in the text). Shay spends some time discussing corruption in politics with the corrupt “rum party” candidate from Cedarville, Judge Lyman. The narrator notes how even the drinkers in the story call for “the Maine Law“ which will prohibit alcohol from being so temptingly available. The novel closes with the death of Simon Slade, already mutilated from an earlier riotous sequence of murders and mob mentality, at the hands of his son. The two had gotten into a drunken argument and Frank strikes his father in the head with a bottle. In the final scene the narrator sees the post with the once pristine and now gross and rotten Sickle and Sheaf totem chopped down after the town’s moral fiber showed itself in a series of resolutions that led to the destruction of all the alcohol on the premises.

Ten Nights in a Bar Room was the play the Boston Dramatic Troupe was putting on after the shooting of Henry Savoie, in the streets of Old Boston, by Big Bill Thompson.  The January 4, 1888 edition of the Trinidad newspaper, The Citizen tells us,  

“Excitement now about subsided since the burial of Savoie. William Thompson and Ben Darnell left here for Vilas this morning.  They have softened public feeling to a considerable extent by their amicable conducted while here.  Their statement and explanation were very different from Savoies’ They came in on Saturday evening and rough time was expected on account of several rumours which had gained credence since they left several days before for Trinidad.  One of them was to the effect that the editor of the Boston Banner would be brought to terms for publishing Savoie’s ante mortem statement with comments.  The play  “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” was being acted when they arrived and about thirty well armed deputy marshalls were placed in the hall to quell any riot which might arise.  Word was repeatedly sent to the editor that he would be shot on the stage (he was playing the part of Swiehel.) Nothing happened, however, and at last the people are getting down to business again.  – The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 4 Jan 1888.   NOTE:  Swiehel was likely to reference the character Simon Slade. 

In the above news clipping, Boston Banner Editor, George Daniels, plays the part of Simon Switzel, however as there was no character with the name Switzel, they are likely referencing the character, Simon Slade. The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 28 Jan 1888.

Old Boston was as Wild as They Come, but some of the related stories almost humanize the characters who attempted to create this town on the Southeast Colorado plains. Stay Tuned for more….

An Al Jennings 1908 Silent Western, “The Bank Robbery”

I have mentioned several times the influence Old Boston, Colorado likely had on the early development of the western movie genre because of the time Al Jennings and the Jennings clan spent there. He doesn’t mention Boston much after their time there, but like everyone else who past through the town, the Jennings left there penniless. The Jennings time in Southeast Colorado is outlined in my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come”

Here is a sample of Jennings in a 1908 work which included several notable personalities.

“This is one of the few instances where actors playing the lawmen and the robbers actually were the lawmen and the robbers: William Tilghman was a famous and respected U.S. marshal on the Oklahoma frontier; Al J. Jennings was a convicted train robber who took up acting after having been released from prison; Frank Canton was a widely feared gunfighter; Heck Thomas was a legendary sheriff; Quanah Parker was the son of an Indian father and a white mother who led several Indian revolts.”

-Klaus Kreimeier

The Noted Burying Ground: Boston, Colorado

The “Noted Burying Ground” or Boston, Colorado Cemetery shown in the Dec 2018 photo below is all that is left of what was Boston, Colorado of the Southeast Colorado plains.  There are two issues that must be clarified as we give you a bit of this story.

  1. The Southeast  plains reference is important as there was an 1880s mining town in Colorado also called Boston and if you search for “Boston, Colorado” that is what you are likely to find.
  2. The sign in the image below shows “1885” but the town was not platted and staked out until November of 1886.  
Boston Cemetery Dec, 2018

Old west stories often focus on brothels, lynchings, and gunslingers. The 1880s boom town Boston, Colorado, had all of those in excess from 1886-1889.  The town founders were counting on becoming the county seat of new Southeast Colorado County and hoped to catch the railroad. A country seat fight ensue and neither of those happened.  After a tumultuous 2 1/2 years and a classic old west gun battle in April 1889 the town was destroyed and subsequently abandoned. Though short-lived, Boston was home to a wide range of personalities in addition to the cowboys and outlaws.  The leadership of the town included the Jennings Gang before they went to Oklahoma and began robbing trains.


1889 Map incorrectly showing Boston as the County Seat of Baca County Colorado. Springfield won that County seat fight in 1889.

It was on the eve of November 15, 1886, several men stopped on the Southeast Colorado plains to stay overnight at the home of the Semion Konkel.  In this company, there was a Mr. Albert Hughes, Judge Jennings and his two sons Al and Ed. The next day the men traveled two miles south and eight west to a townsite which they surveyed and staked out, thus establishing the town of Boston Colorado.  Frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel joined the Hughes and Jennings to start and promote Boston. The town founders never intended for Boston to be a trail town or cow town. The town founders foresaw a grand and glorious hub which would catch the railroad and support commerce and agriculture in southeast Colorado.  Boston was home to mysterious murders and frequent shootings as well as homesteaders seeking free government land. Konkel’s motto “Land for the Landless and Homes for Homelss” was placed at the top of each issue of his newspaper as shown below,

Although their intentions might have been more civil,  the town descended into a place known for violence. The following story, told in more detail in my book Old Boston: As Wild As They Come, is a sample of what occurred in that place.  Another incident in September 1887 shows the dangers that lurked in this place.

“A saloon keeper of Boston, Colorado, was shot and instantly killed by an unknown man, on the morning of the 23rd.”.

This Garden City, Kansas newspaper report below indicates it had became known as the “Noted Burying Ground” Not a reputation a town wanting to entice settlers would want.  

In addition to those shot or lynched at Boston there is a record of wife of Ed Jennings, dying of typhoid fever.  It is not known for sure if she was buried in the Boston Cemetery. Ed was later shot and killed in Woodward OK, by Temple Houston, the youngest son of General Sam Houston.

Of those who were known to be part of the Boston story only two are part of the official record of those buried in the Boston Cemetery.  Barney Wright was shot in Vilas and died a few weeks later. Dr. Thomas Milligan stayed beyond the end of the town and ranched southeast of where the town was located.  For many years he was the only Physician in the county.

The demise of the town is shown as complete in the following report from April of 1889.  The Bill Thompson mentioned below was a regulator for the Prairie Cattle Company and is the subject of my current research and an upcoming book.

My cousin who still farms in the area tells the story about moving equipment from a field southeast of the townsite location.  To get to or from the noted field the most direct path was through said townsite location. When you were moving equipment home after working in the field if you got home and had a flat tire with a square nail in it you knew you had been through the Boston townsite.   Other than those nails the only remnant of the town is a building (below) which was likely a saloon. It was move to Vilas, Colorado after the depopulation, served as a store for a prominent local merchant, C. F. Wheeler, and now serves as that town’s museum.

The town site location at the intersection of County Roads T and 39 is shown in the image below with my cousin and I standing at what was the center of the town. On a rise to the northwest along County Road V sits the Boston Cemetery as a reminder of its violent past.

One of the cool things about writing a book is the cool notes you get from readers…

Learn more about Old Boston, Colorado in my books shown below, available at Amazon.com:

An 1887 Letter from Judge Jennings

Many of you are familiar with Judge JDF Jennings who was Vice President of the Boston or Atlantis (Colorado) Town Company from my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come.”    The Judge aka Judge Jennings aka John D.F. Jennings was a former plantation owner, an attorney, and a physician.  He served the Confederacy during the civil war as a surgeon. He is also often noted as the great “Orator” He was the father of Al, Ed, John and Frank Jennings. The following letter from the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen will provide a few more details about the Judge and daily life in Old Boston.

Header from letter written by Judge Jennings in the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen
Judge JDF Jennings

In the great rush of events time passes more rapidly than any of us imagine. It is nearly a month since I had the pleasure of listening to your goodly counsels, and yet it seems as only yesterday.

While i am writing the old winter King is on quite a tear. For the past few days the driving blizzard has howeled around our cottage homes, and our valleys and plains are enshrouded in a vast winding sheet of snow. Cold and blustering as it is, there is something in the falling snow and the hazy atmosphere around us that that reminds one of the winter among the grand old mountains, where you and I were born, and where we used to chase the fox and the swift footed deer.  Those were happy days brother.— free from care, free from  fear and with many bright visions floating before our youthful minds.  Have you any ideas that you and I will ever be as happy again?

Well Boston—the peerless—the beautiful—the law abiding, peaceful and quiet town that it is, is still growing, spreading and booming.  On the 24th ult. We celebrated our first anniversary, and a grad success it was. Just as daylight was peeping, something like the thunders of an earthquake shook the earth beneath us and caused us to spring from our beds in alarm.  We soon ascertained that the boys were on the rampage with dynamite bombs, which they exploded throughout the day and far into the night. I could not help thinking that those explosives were but the harbingers of Boston’s future; and that they would go thundering down the corridors of time until she shall become the great rival of our much loved sister — Trinidad.

From all points of the compass we are receiving cheering news of an enormous influx of home-seekers in early spring.  To day 128 lots changed hands, and some most excellent men from Kentucky have settled in Boston. They are all “A No. 1 Democrats.”

Judge Jennings Far Right

The surveying corps of the B.T. & G. W. railroad was driven by the cold snap, but will resume their survey as soon as the weather settles. They have completed their survey within 25 miles of Trinidad, and report that they have found the finest grade in Colorado; and 17 miles the shortest route ever yet made from the Kansas line westward.

W.O.P. McWorter, from Albany, Clinton county, Ky., purchased 14 lots in Boston to-day, and two shares in the Town Company.  His acquaintance say that he is worth a half million dollars. We are pleased to have such a man among us.

Our people are all standing the winter well, and are very hopeful of the future.

Our farmers are getting good ready for large crops the coming season.  If you will pay us a visit next fall you will find us all as happy as clams, and as game as fighting cocks.

I thank you kindly for the home thrust you gave those canting hypocrites who forced Dr. Kelley to recant his defense of Emma Abbot.  Kelley was right in the first instance, but showed himself a coward in the end.

All our people esteem the CITIZEN very highly, and if you will appoint Capt J. B. Parrot your agent in Boston, I have no doubt he will send you many subscribers.

A.Hughes and Mr. Houser started to Mexico to-day, with the foul intent of killing deer and buffalo meat, but we now have an abundance of venison.

There is no new town in eastern Colorado that esteems the people of Trinidad more highly than do the people of Boston.

With many good wishes for your future, I remain your friend.

“THE JUDGE.”

References

Photo’s Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Trinidad Daily Citizen, (Trinidad, Colorado) December 9, 1887

Sam Konkel’s take on the Al Jenning’s “Fishy” Autobiography.

In Old Boston: As Wild As They Come we tell the story of many of the characters of the that short-lived (1886-1889) and wild Colorado Boomtown, Boston, Colorado.  The key resource for this story are the 1918-1919 writings of Sam Konkel, who ran one of two newspapers in that town.  Konkel told us much about the Jennings family before they gained a bit of fame and notoriety in Oklahoma.  Konkel would tell you the Jennings were talented, but of low moral character.

In 1913 a seven-part series was written and published in the Saturday Evening Post by a journalist, Will Irwin along with  Al Jennings, of that Boston family. Telling the tales of Jennings and the Jennings clan. I have noted their time in Boston is but a couple short paragraphs in both the “Post” series and the book.  That story then became a book by the same name “Beating Back” in 1914. Below is the first page of the series which became the book as well as the cover of the book. Also please note the illustrator of the book, who was non-other than the famed western artist, Charles Marion Russell.  

Per a 2014 Saturday Evening Post story which recalls the 1913 Jennings series,

“The storyline in the Jennings’ story had all the qualities of popular melodrama. A proud young man turns outlaw after his brother is killed and the law does nothing to bring the killer to justice. He becomes a fearless train robber but remains chivalrous and fair-minded. Eventually, he is betrayed, shot, captured, and tried. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he refuses to be intimidated by other prisoners or prison officials. His fearlessness and quick wit earned him the reputation of a man who can be trusted. Then a high-ranking politician befriends him and helps him obtain a pardon. Returning to the West he starts life over, and runs for office—the bad boy who makes very good.”

In 1913 Sam Konkel purchased the Springfield Newspaper and became the biggest promoter of the most southeast county in Colorado until he sold the publication in 1930, just prior to the beginning of the 1930’s Dust Bowl.  

Konkel gave us other bits and pieces of the Boston story throughout his tenure as the publisher of the Springfield paper.  Many others have mocked Al Jennings as the most incompetent train robber ever. I think Konkel would disagree with the incompetent part as he always complimented their talent and their courage.  However he also always stated that the troubles they encountered were of their own making as a result of low moral character and a continual state of looking out for no one than themselves.

In the Sept 19, 1913 issue of the  Springfield Democrat-Herald Konkel notes the Jennings being featured in the “Saturday Evening Post,” but seems very skeptical of the Jenning autobiography with statements such as the following,

There are over two pages of the prologue, and in an early issue it is promised the real story as told by Al (Forney of Boston) will begin. Not much comment at this time is required.  In the prologue Al claims to have run away from home when eleven years old, and to have drifted into Colorado and New Mexico and become a full-fledged cowboy.  The Jennings were identified with old Boston and went out penniless as did many others.  During the time they were there no one, as far as the writer knows, ever heard of Al’s cowboy experience, or his having run away from home.  They all told of their show experience, in which they were sometimes a foot and sometimes horseback; and also of Al’s cadet experience, which probably had a duration of one or two years. The most of Al’s story, as presented in this prologue, is fishy.  However, the Jenningses were talented, and while their morals were of a low order, there wasn’t any questioning their courage.The old judge was not only a lawyer and a doctor, but he was an orator whom it is doubtful if the state of Colorado at the time had a better.  If his life had been along moral lines he would have been a potent political factor in any place he would have cast his lot.

In January 1914 Konkel says,

As to Forney’s autobiographical sketch in the the Saturday Evening Post, there was a basis for all he says, but you would have to scrape the face-powder off to find it.”

The Saturday Evening Post series did bring together a couple of Bostonians to swap stories of the old days.  One of the first stories in the Democrat-Herald (Sept 19, 1913) was after the publication of the Saturday Evening Post Series,

Register Whitaker and wife came down from Lamar Saturday and visited among the Springfielders over Sunday.  Gene is an old timer of the old-timers, having been an inhabitant of the town of old Boston during the hog-killing days of its wild and woolly existence along with the editor of this paper, having practically fought, bled and died in the interest of that famous town.  Of course, Mr. Whitaker called to talk over those red letter days, brought up incidentally by a reference to the Jennings family biography recently published in the Saturday Evening Post. Naturally, for two Bostonians to get together is like the meeting of two old war vets — they can talk about it hours at a time, either sitting down or standing up and enjoy it just the same as if they were acting and living it all over again.

“Beating Back” by Will Irwin and Al Jennings is in the public domain and part of the Google Book Digitization project if you want to read the Autobiography of Al Jennings click here to access the free copy. 

It is also available from the Saturday Evening Post by clicking here.  

You can learn more about Al the rest of the Jennings clan in  Old Boston: Wild As They Come which is available on Amazon.  If you want to support this project so that we can keep more historical books coming, check out our website www.lonesomeprairie.com for information on ordering signed copies of the book and historical shirts such as the one below from Boom Town Gear.

 

Sam Konkel’s Map of Southeast Colorado Stagecoach Routes 1887-1889

A couple years ago I found a copy of Sam Konkel’s Southeast Colorado Stagecoach map in terrible condition.  The quality was so poor it was basically useless and it led me to the development of the 1886-1889 Boom Town map located here in a previous blog post. However,  in my last visit to Baca County, I stumbled upon the best copy of the map I have seen.   I will post here a few pieces of the stage line puzzle I have pulled together and the map (below).

March 5 1887 Bent County Register

There were at least two stage lines between Lamar and Springfield in the 1887-1889 time frame, the W. H. Harris Stage and the Cal Ferguson Stage.  Cal Ferguson was part of the Windsor Town Company that started Springfield and represented Springfield in the Colorado legislature during the fight for the county seat of Baca County.

There was also a stage coming from Syracuse, KS headed southwest into Baca County ( click here to read the story of how they built a plank road to get the stage out of the sand in the Arkansas River basin to the flat solid prairie).  There was also a Stage Line from Richfield, KS. to Boston, CO.  We have the following artifacts:

“Stage Line. W. H. Harris stage leaves Lamar Tuesdays and Fridays, at eight o’clock in the morning, for Farmington, Springfield and Boston.  He will run a daily line in a short time.  32tf.”
Bent County Register (Lamar Colorado) Jan 29 1887 Library of Congress

“Daily stages are how running from Lamar and Granada (to Boston)”
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 26 Feb 1887, Sat · Page 3

“C.S. Reed has purchased the Boston and Richfield stage line and is now running hacks regulary, tri-weekly.”
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 05 Mar 1887, Sat · Page 3

“Arrangements have been completed for a stage line from West Plains, Meade county via., Richfield to Boston Colorado.”
Ashland Clipper (Ashland, Kansas) · 12 Apr 1888, Thu · Page 1

“News reached here this evening by the driver of the Ferguson Stage Line that Boston, a new town of 500 inhabitants, 100 miles south of here and 85 miles of the railroad and telegraph line, had been taken possession of by a gang of outlaws.” (YES, IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE YOU HAVE TO BUY MY BOOK)
Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · 18 Apr 1889, Thu · Page 2

“Ed. Allen came in from the East Monday and loading his sample cases on eastbound stage flew out on Wednesday. On this trip, he will go to the end of the road and then follow the furrom for 50 or 100 miles until he arrives at the new town of Corriso in Colorado.  Ed has an interest in the new town and will help boom it.”
Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · Thu, Mar 17, 1887 · Page 3

So with all of that as the lead…here is Sam Konkel’s Stagecoach map of early Southeast Colorado (1887-1889) from the January 8, 1915, Springfield Democrat-Herald.  Enjoy!

I have added lines to emphasize the stage routes.

The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 05 Nov 1887, Sat · Page 1

If you want to support this project so that we can keep more books coming, check out our website www.lonesomeprairie.com for information on ordering signed copies of my books. The books are also available at Amazon.com. Thanks for Reading.

Reading Old Time Newspapers: A Primer

It feels great to find interesting tidbits in old newspapers—for me it has been part of researching my book, for others, it may be finding an obituary, marriage announcement, or other types of notice. But sometimes historical newspapers used abbreviations and terms that are no longer common, leaving some of us scratching our heads.  

Let’s say you are looking through an old 1887 issue of the Ashland Kansas newspaper and It says that Boston, Colorado celebrated her first anniversary on the 24th inst.  

 

Inst. = Instant = Current Month.  Inst. is an abbreviation for instance, which refers to the “present or current month, The phrase, “Boston celebrated her first anniversary on the 24th inst.” alone doesn’t give us enough information to know which month it refers to. We need to know when this report was published.  Since it appeared in the November 26,1887 issue and since “inst.” refers to the present or current month.

Ult. = Ultimo = Previous Month Ult. is short for ultimo, meaning “of or occurring in the month preceding the present.” Like inst., we can’t know which month it’s referring to unless we know what the “present” month is.

Communicated is another term you might see as shown in this October 1887 edition of the Trinidad Citizen. 

You may see either the word communicated or its abbreviation, com. It can occur at the beginning of an article as shown above, but often will be abbreviated and placed at the end of an article as,

“Com.”

The term indicates that the item was written by someone other than a staff writer, and “communicated” to the newspaper for publication. A notice at the beginning of the newspaper article will often look like the sample above. 

Whenever you see the term communicated or its abbreviation com., look for more articles in other newspapers. The first article you find may or may not be complete—often it has been edited from the original, and various sources indicate if you find that original article it may contain more history than the edited version of the article you found.

Terms such as those above are spread throughout historical newspapers.  Here are more of the most common abbreviations and terms:

    1. Proximo (Prox.) – Essentially meaning “next,” this is used in newspapers to indicate the upcoming month. So “12th prox.” in a December newspaper would mean January 12th.  In my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come” you will see this term more than once.  Here is a sample,
      “It has been a year the first prox. since these old time write-ups started, and it will probably be another year before they are brought to a final wind-up and maybe then some.”
    1. Relict – This term is used to describe a surviving spouse, often a widow. It comes from the Latin term “relictus,” meaning “relinquished” or “left behind.”   A sample is below:


      Smith County Pioneer(Smith Centre, Kansas) · 01 Jan 1891, Thu · Page 3
    1. Née – This term is French and means “born.” It is used to indicate a woman’s maiden name.
    1. Ultimo (Ult.) – This refers to the previous month. A December newspaper that says “12th ult.” is referring to November 12th.
    1. Twp. – Township
    1. Messrs. – used as a title to refer formally to more than one man simultaneously
  1. Name abbreviations – Name abbreviations are common in old newspapers. Some abbreviations are merely the first few letters of the name followed by a period, while others are contractions (the first part of the name plus the final letter). Some abbreviations are derived from the name’s Latin equivalent, which makes them a bit trickier to decipher.  Below are some common name abbreviations:

Wm. – William

Chas. – Charles

Geo. – George

Jno. – John

Jas. – James

Thos. – Thomas

Ches. — Chester

Free. — Freeman

Newt. — Newton

Slang and alternate spellings

There are also many alternate spellings and slang terms in old terms in old newspapers that may or may not have meaning.  Many times in my book you see the term “Billyard” instead of “Billiard” In the write-ups about Boston, Colorado, frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel uses the alternate, “billyard” spelling.  Maybe the answer is as simple as he ran out of letters on his printing press. Because advertisements in his papers for saloon and billiard parlor is spelled “Billiard.”  Slang terms of the day such as “mummixed”  are common. 

Old Fashioned Typos

There are many typos in old and new newspapers.  The grammar Nazi’s amongst us get exceeding amounts of joy from pointing out these, so I guess we’ll just roll with it and let them have their fun.  In some cases, while reviewing old newspapers, I haven’t been sure whether it is a typo or different use of a word from the old days. On page 19 of my book, the phrase “smell a mice”(shown below) doesn’t smell right to me, but as shown in the original below that is what was stated.  Is it a typo or a phrase from the era? I am not sure.

From the book   

From the original article

Hopefully, this conversation about some of the terms and abbreviations is useful to you! 

If your interested in old west history, check out my book, “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come” on Amazon 

The Digital Campfire of Social Media and How it Sparked a Book Project

Greetings from an unseasonably mild but windy Casper Wyoming.  I have a little bit of reflection and a couple of messages related to a local history blog, social media,  and the sparks that lit a book project about one of the wildest little towns of the old west.   Four years ago,  I launched Bacacountyhistory.com.  At that time I stated,

Maybe this project stops with a few blog posts and a couple of tall tales, or maybe we can transform the content into an update of the big brown Baca County History book from the early 1980’s.  

Here we are four years later with a great collection of blog posts from multiple folks.  In conjunction with this blog is a realization on my part of how powerful social media can be for recording and sharing local history.  The primary social media tool I am speaking of for this post is Facebook.  Over the past few years, an ever-increasing number of members in two different Facebook groups have provided a continual stream of memories about the place where I grew up, Baca County, Colorado as well as surrounding areas in Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle and the Lamar, Colorado regions. Those Facebook groups have been a primary catalyst for more than one of those blog posts

I usually end up coming back to some technology angle since my day job as the Computer Director at Casper College, usually pushes me that direction.   I must say that beyond the sharing of  history of the county where I grew up, the technological application and interaction of the Baca County Facebook community and its members fascinates me to the “nth degree”  

On the negative side
Social media and digital social networking isn’t for everyone. However, it is such a massive part of all our lives; whether we embrace or reject the media, it is not to be ignored. I don’t want to get too much into the negative aspects of social media other than acknowledging they are there and that I sometimes can’t believe what I see,  Usually, on the negative side I am thinking….”What is wrong with these people?”    

On the positive side
I have grown to think of our Facebook groups as a digital campfire. That descriptor was given to me by Technology/ Geek Rock Star and friend Wes Fryer.  For a moment assume a digital campfire is a gathering place where a whole lot of folks who are in a whole lot of different places in life have found common ground.  The fire is a place to gather together and swap a few tales and warm up before having to get up go out and face that cold, cold world.  If this is true, then the folks where I grew up have found a digital campfire with Facebook.  To them, all I can say is….”you all have done good!” 

On the positive side I find it fascinating that it’s entirely possible to have hundreds of friends on Facebook. They may not be friends I know on a personal level and spend time with in the real world on a daily or weekly basis. But they’re friends nonetheless. Some are childhood friends, some childhood heroes, and some college acquaintances I have reconnected with.  Some I spent a whole lot of time with, and there are several people I consider friends who I have never met face to face— some I probably will never meet  — but that doesn’t lessen the connection we have made these recent years thanks to social networks.  

I waffle back and forth on whether face to face contact to the phone might be better for conversation but the true advantage of how we are connecting on these Facebook groups is that we can use these tools on our terms.  As individuals or time is stretched to greater lengths by work and family commitments. However, social media offers a chance to communicate speedily and efficiently.

With a phone call, for example, you can’t just say what you want to say and then hang up. That would breach phone etiquette and be seen as downright rude. Instead, with a phone call you have to swap pleasantries before saying what you want to say, and then swap more pleasantries before the conversation comes to a close. Sometimes we may describe it as cold, but it certainly provides some efficiencies that allow for interaction with more people than maybe we were able to in the past.

Facebook has allowed us to share interests with others who have those same interests, such as a shared county history.  Facebook, does for example when preparing to connect us asks you to list interests. This makes it much easier to find common ground with other users.

This release of info does require the sharing of information, and in the process giving up a degree of privacy, which is cause for some people to reject social media outright. Keeping key personal information private is necessary, but sharing likes, dislikes, interests, thoughts, and views contribute, it could be argued, to an open society.

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons.  When used in moderation, with checks and balances on how younger people, in particular, are using them, social networking sites are just a tool.  What is our hearts often is what comes out, so we all need to be wary of how these tools are used.  

So what is the book that has been sparked?  For me personally, the journey is not yet a Baca County History book update (although I still think it is a good idea) as was originally thought four years ago.   But instead it has become a more focused book  I am calling, “Boston: Wild As They Come” with a two-part goal, which is first, to tell the story of the now extinct town of Boston Colorado and second to celebrate frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel who has given us a great historical treasure 100 years past its the original publication.  He wrote a series of newspaper articles which provides us what he remembered of those old days.  One social media conversation led to another and another and then a trip to the Baca County Museum and then……Yes, this project really is a new real-life tale about the old west in 1886 Southeast Colorado.  And to answer your question…no it is not historical fiction.  It is those actual events and people of that old time town.

I am not sure I would have gotten involved in this book project without social media, but at this point, we are on track for a late spring 2018 launch.  I have several angry stabby editors blazing away at the narrative and hopefully, I’ll be ready soon to tell everyone when pre-launch sales will open. It has also sparked a couple of side projects that could easily develop into another book or two.    To provide a bit more of an idea about what I am doing with this book project,  I have provided the book cover, a brief description of the story and my Table of Contents as is stands today, (February 2018).

Boston 1886
On the eve of November 15, 1886,  four members of the Atlantis Town Company stopped on the Southeast Colorado plains preparing to stake out and establish Boston, Colorado.  Though short-lived, (1886-1892) Boston was home to personalities ranging from common homesteaders, flat earth advocates, cowboys, and outlaws including the Jennings Gang before they became famous in Oklahoma.  Frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel joined the joined the town company to promote Boston and described it as “The Utopian City of the Plains.” Old Boston was built to catch the railroad and support commerce and agriculture in southeast Colorado but it quickly became one of the wildest little towns on the American old west frontier.

Book Cover

Click the book cover to purchase on Amazon.com/ Thanks.

Draft Copy of Old Boston Table of Contents February 2018

Note: This post is cross-posted at my tech blog kentbrooks.com