Indianapolis, Colorado – Est. 1887.

In the 1880s Americans were moving in droves to the Western frontier. Waves of migrants were inspired by the promises of cheap land and riches, Following the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the journey west became considerably easier. Many entrepreneurs and private town  companies began heavily advertising real estate, investment and tourism opportunities in the West.  Indianapolis, Colorado was one of those places.

Sam Konkel, editor of the Boston World 1887-1889 and the Springfield Herald 1913-1930 mentions Indianapolis, Colorado several times in his 1918 -1919 Springfield Herald articles.  It appears from his writings there was a fairly close connection to the Boston Town Company, of which Konkel was a part. What do we know about Indianapolis?  Most of the town residents were from Meade, Kansas.  Three town blocks were reserved for churches and two for public schools.

It had a newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal which Konkel mentions. 

It had one citizen, Catherine Colver Williams who was a proponent of Women’s Suffrage.   

Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia) 10 Jan 1889

It had some troubles, as was common in those old towns. 

June 18, 1887 Minneapolis, Minnesota Star Tribune

Most references to Indianapolis, such as the one below are from Meade, Kansas.

Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 25 Jun 1887 
Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 25 Jun 1887 
Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 3 Jan 1890. 

What I really didn’t notice until now that Indianapolis was another town the Boston Town Company was hoping to become a county seat along with Boston, Carrizo, Albany and Brookfeld. The town is usually mentioned in listing of new towns starting up in 1887 similar to the one Konkel shares with us in the paragraphs below which are extracted from. 

“Persons, Stories and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.” Springfield Herald, July 5, 1918.

The Town Building Fever -It is a cold day when some new town doesn’t start up in south-eastern Colorado.  In the short space of four months, there have been seventeen towns laid out south of the railroad and east of Trinidad.  They are in the order of their ages –Boston, Albany, Vilas, Carrizo, Springfield, Minneapolis, Humbar, York, Farmington, Wilde, Holmes, Indianapolis, Athens, Bloomington, Brookfield, Plymouth, and Randal — Western World, April 21, 1887.  Konkel also provided the following: Mr. Konkel editor and proprietor of the Western World published at Boston Colorado, visited Indianapolis last week.  We were very much pleased to meet Mr. Konkel who is a gentleman of culture, education and experience, and a valuable man  for Boston. While here he was a guest at the Aultman hotel of which he spoke of in the highest terms, he further said Indianapolis was the best town for its age he had saw in the west –Clipping from the Indianapolis Journal in Western World, October 1887.

The item is a little shy on grammar, but, laying modesty aside, the facts as we remember them now were about as stated.

Indianapolis was located about thirty miles west of Carrizo, something like ten to fifteen miles west and south of the present Kim, having the Black Mesa frowning at it from the east and Mesa De Mayo looking down at it from the rear.

Do you know, we’ve been out in that country several times in the last few years and looked for that old town site and couldn’t find it, nor could we find anybody out there that ever heard of it. 

We would say there were about two or three dozen houses at Indianapolis when we were there.  The hotel was two story. For the reason that Boston fathered the town we have a special interest in it.  

The object of Boston was to make counties about the size of those in Kansas — about thirty miles square, hence Boston, Carrizo and Indianapolis were to be county seats of three counties carved out of Las Animas, and Albany and Brookfield of two counties carved out of Las Animas, Prowers and Bent counties. 

All of these towns were promoted by the Boston Town Co.

As there was no settlement of any kind left in that country, we are presuming the houses were pulled down to the Cimarron, though some of them may have followed the example of Elijah and have gone straight up along with their newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal.

The ad below is from the Meade Globe (Meade, Kansas) 9 Apr 1887.  NOTE they reference the San Luis Valley as the location.  We have transcribed the text in the box following the ad. 

—Ho for Indianapolis. Is everybody going? It looks that was as quite a number of our citizens have been to see and say that the that the San Louis valley, in which Indianapolis is located, is the finest they ever saw, and hun-dreds more are going even from this our lovely locality, to get homes and and make money.   Indianapolis was located about the 13th of March, 1887, by a company of gentlemen from Meade and Seward counties in what is known as the San Luis Valley, 31 miles east from Trinidad, Colorado, where coal is worth from 80 cents to one dollar a ton, flour $2 per hundred, lumber $5 to $16 a thousand and every thing in proportion, and where you are in plain view of the snow caped Rocky Mountains, plenty of timber, water and building stone. The valleys are surrounded by skirts of timber and abound in running streams, where the finest soil for farming purposes was ever under the sun. The Company is composed of gentlemen of the first class under whose management Indianapolis can’t help but prosper and grow fat. The capital stock of the company is limited to fourteen thousand dollars, by its incorporation, divided into 280 shares of $50 each. The stock being worth its face value, and no doubt every share could be so disposed in Meade Center, but that the company refuses to dispose of it as they are quite jealous of their new enterprise. Never before in the history of the west has emigration reached the proportions it is at present assuming. 

The (mostly unreadable) town ad (below)  for  Indianapolis was in the Boston World (Boston, Colorado) Thurs March 8, 1888. 


Boston World (Boston, Colorado) Thurs March 8, 1888. 
See more Boom Town maps here:

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.

 

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

Bringing Faith to a Mammoth Sized County: The Story of Lay’s Chapel

Baca County Colorado is an expanse of prairie in Southeast Colorado that has at various times in its history has been known as the heart of the 1930’s Dust Bowl and a little later the Broomcorn Capital of the World.  However, like most places, there are stories of people who brought something to a place and left a legacy.  The legacy in this story is that of homesteader David Lay who came to Baca County and filed a homestead claim south and west of Vilas.  Baca County was one of the last places in America where the government was giving away free land if the homesteader could complete a few tasks and survive long enough to make that land their own.

We have many stories about how the area developed and how it was a destination for all kinds of shady characters and criminals who showed up through the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Those characters truly made towns such as Carrizo/ Carriso Colorado and Boston Colorado some of the wildest little cow towns in the waning days of America’s wild west.  However, many other stories describe efforts to bring civilization, order, and faith to the prairie.    

The photo below of the Friends Church South of Vilas provides evidence that churches began to pop up in Baca County around 1915.

However, January 8, 1915, Salida Record just a few month prior describes a Mammoth County with no church buildings.  The headline read as follows:

The article continues as follows,

Baca County, Colorado, is almost twice the size of the state of Rhode Island.  Its area is 58 by 48 miles or 2,531 square miles, but it has not one church building within its borders.  This county is in the extreme southeast corner of the state.  It contains a population of over 8,000 souls, which number is rapidly increasing by reason of births and by reason of incoming settlers attracted by the scientific progress in dry farming, the discovery and use of artesian wells, and the recent building of a colossal dam for the irrigation of a large section near Two Buttes.

It’s not that some didn’t try.  The April 4, 1889, Edition of the  Aspen Chronicle tells us,

The religious editor who runs the Boston (Colorado) Banner, says ‘For five consecutive times we have been disappointed by the preacher who was announced for services.  Some better arrangements are sorely needed.’

Note:  We have mentioned Sam Konkel, the editor of Boston’s Western World many times, but the Boston Banner editor George Daniels is the person mentioned above and probably played a larger role in the final siege of Old Boston than has been discussed…but that story is for another time and another place.

Southwest of Vilas Colorado a couple years prior to the “Mammoth County”  article another pioneer showed up in Baca County.  George Lay filed a homestead claim Southwest of Vilas Colorado in the 1913 timeframe.   The July 1927 Democrat Herald article below is about the passing of Grandpa Lay who built Lay’s Chapel.

 

Below is the general location of Lay’s Chapel between Vilas and Springfield.

Linda Gibson tells us,

My Great Grandfather was David Lay a/k/a Grandpa Lay mentioned in the newspaper clipping above. The photo below is a drawing of Lay’s Chapel. My father showed me where it was located before he died in 1996. My Father Horace Parker and Evalee Meltabarger Myers Forpahl were cousins. Their mothers were sisters. I don’t remember now what year it was, but Evalee was the only living person I knew of at the time who would know what Lay’s Chapel looked like and she was in the nursing home. I asked Andrea Baxter to go with me to chat with Evalee and have her describe Lay’s Chapel to us so Andrea could sketch it for me. After Andrea made some changes Evalee wanted, she declared the sketch perfect. Said it looked exactly like Lay’s Chapel.

Image courtesy of Linda Gibson.

Linda also gives us a little more detail about the actual location.  She says, go east on Highway 160 from Hwy 287 and 160 Junction to Co. Rd. 29.8. Go south on CR 29.8. until you go over hill.  Dad (Linda’s Dad) said his grandparents, David and Lizzy Lay’s homestead was on the east side of the road and Lay’s Chapel was on the west side. It is all farm ground now.

It has been a pleasure to learn a little more about more our Baca Pioneers and their heritage.  Thank you Grandpa Lay for being a “fine model for any young man to follow after” and the legacy you left for your family and Baca County.

Final Note:  Although I have enjoyed putting together all of them, some of these Baca County Stories are a closer connection than others.  This one includes my ol’ Springfield buddy Joel Thompson’s Grandma Evalee.  Many a fine morsel was placed before us when we stepped into Grandma Evalee’s door.  I appreciate those meals and memories even more now.

 

 

Tioga County

The Springfield Herald had a regular series in 1918 called “Persons, Stories, and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.”  The episode author is listed as “The Writer”.  The February 1, 1918 edition of the series was titled “Tioga County”.   The story as told by the Herald is as follows:

“Probably there are not many and possibly not any of the old-timers in Baca County who remember Tioga County

It is just barely possible that most of those directly concerned about it and connected with it would remember Tioga County only after having their attentions called to the events of those old days that left Boston out in the cold, and finally resulted in the disintegration and scatterment to the four winds of the earth.

It was down at Trinidad that most of the conspiracies of those old days were hatched and it was there that Tioga County had its birth.   The Democrats were then the majority party in old Las Animas County, and had been for many years, and three or four Democrats of Trinidad and all those old days practically constituted the Democratic Party of the county.

Judge Jennings – lawyer, doctor, politician and orator – the weasel of the East End, Albert Hughes president of the Town company and a good second to Jennings in wire manipulations and cunningness, arranged the county seat matters with the “powers” of Trinidad under which arrangements, A. Hughes was supposed to be sent to the legislature from the east end and of course the election of Hughes meant Boston for the county seat.

Doctor Brown always called “Doc” was the paternal progenitor of the name.   “Tioga” is intended as the name to be applied to the intended cut off from the east end of Los Alamos. “Tioga”  was the name of the county in New York he came from and Doc’s influence with the republican was needed to call the new county Tioga.

INCIDENTS OF THE COUNTY SEAT FIGHTS

The incidents wrapped up in the history of Tioga County of course belonged to the scheme of making Boston the county seat of whatever was cut off the east end.

When the plan was consummated to send Hughes to the legislature, the Western World mildly opposed his nomination, particularly because of his occasional relapses from the strict state of sobriety and, partly out of the fear of last minute treachery.

It was argued go by practically everyone that Hughes interest in Boston were so great that no opposing interest could afford to buy him and that consequently he would be the safest man in that respect and could be sent to Denver.

As to Hughes, whether he came back a broken hearted man or not we do not know,  but we do know that he came back broke as well as coming out back to a broken and friendless town.

He remained in town but a short time, a week or so matter, and like all others afterward, left never to return. He came to Boston repeated to be worth $75,000 and he got away with anything from $1000 to $6000.

Hughes we understand went to Washington into the store business, but whether he’s still there and whether he’s made good we do not know.

But Boston, the probable one-time County of Tioga County, the largest town in all of the east end – all there is now there to tell the tragic story are piles of stone and holes in the ground.

That is how close to the banks of the North Fork of the Great American desert, lying midway between the range lines third 43 and 44, and a mile post south of the center of the town lines of 32 and 33 – all somewhere in the north temperate zone of the 112 North American continent.

Should you ever chance to visit the shrine of the defunct city, stop long enough to shed a tear on the tomb of its departed glory and offer up a prayer for the souls of those are buried beneath its ruins.

It’s all over now and has been for the past 30 years during which the ground has been made hallowed as a range for livestock, coyotes, and badgers, while its one time rollicking,  hopeful care-free people have been scattered as were the children of lost tribes of Israel.

Goodbye poor ol’ Boston for the present — will call again another day.”

My Link To The Old West…

My Link to the Old West originally appeared on Boody’s Blog: Missives from Mythtickle and is re posted with permission from Justin Thompson

Last summer, 2008, I found something out from my Dad that was absolutely astounding. Now this ain’t a myth, this is true. I’m shootin’ ya’ straight here.

My family and I, wife and two little kids, then 6 and 2, drove out to see my Dad in the farm country of Southeast Colorado. He grew up out there in the ’20s and ’30s and finally retired there. I did a bit of growing up in the Denver suburb called ‘Littleton’ back in the day, but anyway…

Lots of driving, over 3,700 miles in 12 days, and we made the most of it and saw lots of neat stuff. Including the Denver Zoo and the Albuquerque Museum of Natural History. We also saw the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the crisp sprawling beauty of southern Wyoming. We visited with my dad for a few days out there in the plains where he grew up and I found out some weird stuff that I never knew. My Dad never talked much about himself when I was a kid.

So dad was 89 years old last summer, he and my Mom adopted me when he was 43. His Dad (my Granddad) died in 1935 at 80 years old- when my Dad was only 16! You might want to read that again because frankly, if I were reading this on someone’s blog I’d have too. But here’s the startling thing: Gid Thompson (that was my Granddad’s name) and his brother Bill, fled the Carolinas when they were kids, probably to avoid possible conscription in the confederate army of the civil war in the mid 1860s. Over the following decade, in their early teens, they both slowly made their way out West apparently by nefarious means. They reportedly killed a guy in Kansas near Dodge City, this is documented, and robbed him of about 4 thousand dollars. They fled Dodge as many outlaws did at that time by crossing the border into Colorado’s Baca County. They bought up a good amount of land and set up a homestead there. About 10 miles south of the old place they settled on, was a town called Boston. That town was frequented by outlaws and spillover scum from Kansas and was eventually burned down by that same ilk sometime in the late 1880s. At some point, Gid and Bill were arrested for the gunning down of a Sheriff in the main street of Boston, I think his name was Smith or Miller or something, and Bill went to jail for it. They were both caught and went to trial a few years before about the aforementioned murder of that guy in Kansas. Gid spent time in Leavenworth for that but was strangely out in two years. Bill wound up spending a couple of years in jail for the murder of that lawman in Boston, Colorado. It seems that in both cases, one brother took the full rap for the other and was strangely out in two years. For MURDER!

It’s so quiet out there now, but it was a very different place in the late 19th century. A lawyer who was looking up stuff for my Dad recently uncovered these facts in a book about Baca county, and I read the excerpts while I was out there.

One of the many things I found amazing when hearing about the past of Baca county, is that many things we see in TV shows and movies about the old west actually happened in that town of Boston and in that county and the stories were handed down to following generations in the old oral traditions. But because none of the major players involved had a “catchy name”, the people and even the town itself faded as ashes into the dust of memory. If one of the shooters in that town had a name like ‘Bat’ or ‘McGrew’ or ‘Ringo’ or something, they’d still be singing about it. But‘Thompson’ just doesn’t have a ‘catch’ to it that would make its owner immediately famous. (Boy, I’m sure finding THAT out) But the deeds were still done, even though they are not sung.

Now, all that remains is the old Boston graveyard on a hill nearby. My dad and I went there a few years ago and from that graveyard hill you can still look across the farm road and see the tiered flat ground that were the city foundations once. It’s been plowed over dozens of times since then and you can barely make it out. I never knew until this trip what a wild and bloody town that was, and the part my Dad’s father played in it.

Cool trip, I must say.  But think of this, my ‘Grandfather’ was alive when Lincoln was alive. Not Great Grandfather, not Great, Great, Great Grandfather, my Grandad. Makes me feel old to think about it but I’m really not. I’m only in my late 40s.

So fast-forward to this last January, the eve of the President’s inaguration: Dad called me to talk. The last couple of times I had spoken with him on the phone that week, he had seemed grouchy and tired. Exactly how he seemed when I was a kid, but not how he’s sounded in many years. He called to tell me that he’s putting his ducks in a row- or as he called it, ‘closing the gates’. He turned 90 this past April. He said that he wanted to finalize any loose ends so that his affairs won’t be in such a mess when he ‘goes’. The weight of the conversation kept me from asking, “Gee, aren’t ya’ gonna’ watch the inauguration?” He wouldn’t have liked that I don’t think, being as… let’s say ‘non-progressive’ about politics and such.

But despite this fact, and with the burden of a life-discussion on our backs, I let it alone and hung up and began to reflect on the extraordinary bookend that my Dad closes in the twilight of his life and in the hand to hand of his father and himself. Chiefly, that his father walked the Earth with President Lincoln, he breathed the same air as slaves, and heard the first cannons of American civil rights shaking the clouds.

And that man’s son, will likely die under a black President.
About the Author of this Post:
Justin Thompson is the creator of the Mythtickle online comic strip. It’s a comic strip set in the mythical plane of influence. Characters from myth and legend from around the world live here and seem to get along just fine.

Justin can be found:
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