Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Killer Links, Kit Carson and Black Jack Ketchum

First, today's killer links:

The deadline for the Pen Women Flash Fiction Contest is May 1. Theme is Are you Devious at Heart? Tell us a story in 100 words or less.

LibroVille is a new site doing website hosting for authors. Right now, it's free, and I believe the first twenty get to keep it free for life in exchange for helping iron out any wrinkles. It sounds like you'll be a bit of a beta tester, but that's not a bad deal for web hosting and such.

The Lexicon Writers Conference in North Texas will be in July. Writers who get there early get to participate in learning to shoot different weapons, horseback riding, golf and a pub crawl. At the end of the conference, there will be a trip to a casino in Oklahoma. Now, that's how Texans do a writer's conference!

For locals, the Pikes Peak Library District has a sort of mini-conference and signing for readers and writings, coming up this weekend, called Mountain of Authors. I'll be there, so come say hello if you end up coming!

Alright, for today's Wild West lesson, I couldn't make up my mind, so I'm going to try to do a short bio of both Kit Carson and Black Jack Ketchum. We'll see if I can accomplish that.

it Carson

Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was born December 24, 1809 in Madison County, Kentucky. He was number eleven out of fifteen kids (some reports say nine out of fourteen), and his father died when he was nine years old. He had to work to earn money for the family, so he never really received a formal education. In 1826, at around age sixteen or seventeen he joined a wagon train on the Santa Fe Trail, starting the journey that would lead him to the life of a famous trapper, Indian Agent, soldier, mountain man and explorer.

In 1828, he was hired to go on a fur trapping expedition into California. He ended up doing this in the Sierras and the Rockies, along with other mountain ranges in between, until 1840, when he became hunter, then chief hunter, for Bent's Fort here in Colorado. During those trapping years, he became very involved with the Natives, marrying an Arapaho woman (Waa-Nibe, which meant Singing Grass), followed by a Cheyenne woman (Making-Our-Road), after his first wife's death shortly after birthing their second child.

In 1842, John C. Fremont hired Carson to be his guide on map-making expeditions to the west. He worked with Fremont for years, gaining fame in his reports, and being noted as an American hero. Together, they ended up embroiled in the Bear-Flag Rebellion in California, and Carson went on to help U.S. soldiers during the Mexican-American War. When the war had finished, he became a rancher in New Mexico, though he did run dispatches to President James Polk, at times. During this time, he married his third wife, Maria Josefa Jaramillothen, who was fourteen years old at the time. They had eight children together.

From 1854 to 1861, he served as Indian Agent to the Ute and Apache Indians. He then officially became involved in the Civil War, with his responsibilities mostly centering around organizing infantry volunteers and dealing with the Navajo tribe's unwillingness to leave their land (huh, shocker). He was ordered to destroy their crops and take their livestock in order to "starve" them out, which ended successfully (for the U.S. government, anyway), and most surrendered to him. Though he, personally, treated them well, orders came through to move them, so he led them on the "Long Walk," which took them 300 miles from Arizona to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. There weren't enough resources in place to support them, causing disease and starvation, so the military ultimately let them leave Fort Sumner and go back to the New Mexico/Arizona border after they signed a treaty to stay there.

Before moving to Colorado in 1866, Kit Carson was awarded the title of Brigadier General. It was highly unusual for someone to reach this sort of ranking when they were illiterate, though he could sign his name. In Colorado, he expanded his ranch business (sheep) and was appointed commandant at Fort Garland, here in Colorado. He used his friendship with the Utes and good standing with the U.S. government to try to help relations between the two, even accompanying a delegation of Utes to D.C. to help their cause.

He died May 23, 1868, of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and was buried beside Josefa in New Mexico, who had died a month before due to complications while birthing their last child.

Black Jack Ketchum

Thomas Edward "Black Jack" Ketchum was born October 31, 1863, in San Saba County, Texas. He's more interesting for his death than for his life, really. He and one of his brothers worked as cowboys in New Mexico, as well as Texas until they got bored and took to robbing trains. They and a few friends became the Ketchum Gang, hitting trains going through territory familiar to them due to their cowboy days.

The gang members loved to attend socials in Cimarron, New Mexico and Elizabethtown, and the townsfolk thought they were just well-off, well-behaved boys. They had no idea the boys charming their girls were, in fact, members of the infamous Ketchum Gang.

Briefly, the brothers went back to ranching, but it was entirely too dull, so they robbed the rancher and went on their way, showing up in a little town called Liberty, New Mexico, where they robbed a general store overnight and took off, the owner and his posse hot on their heels. Several folks were killed on both sides in a shoutout in an arroyo, and the Ketchum boys, sans their gang, headed off to Arizona, where they joined the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, headed by Butch Cassidy. They continued robbing trains until July 11, 1899, when the rest of the gang went to rob a train without Black Jack. His little brother died of gangrene in prison, thanks to a gunshot wound, but Black Jack had no idea, or so he maintained.

On August 16, 1899, Black Jack attempted to rob a train, still unaware of his brother's demise. He ordered the train stopped so he could uncouple the cars, but he'd stopped it on a tight bend that made it impossible to uncouple them. Instead, the conductor snuck up on him with a shotgun. They fired at each other, with Black Jack taking a gunshot to the arm that almost severed it at the elbow. He fell out of the train and the conductor took off, warning stations ahead of the robber stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Dizzy and ill for his injury, Black Jack tried to flag down several trains, finally getting one to stop. He surrendered to them and asked them to take him in. They took him to Trinidad, Colorado, where his arm was amputated, and he was taken into custody, ordered to hang.

On April 26, 1901, after many delays in his hanging (obviously...the robbery was in 1899!), Black Jack was finally led out to the scaffold. By this time, he just wanted to get it over with, and requested they hurry up. The San Francisco Chronicle reports his last words as being, "Good-bye. Please dig my grave very deep. All right; hurry up." Unfortunately for Black Jack, the rope was too long or they had misjudged his weight (there'd never been a hanging in that county, nor was there ever another one). Black Jack fell so hard that he was decapitated, which has only happened two other times, once in 1601 and once in 1930. The ruling to have him hanged was later considered unconstitutional, and he was the only outlaw ever hanged for robbing a train in the state of New Mexico. Tickets were sold to his hanging, and little souvenirs were made and sold, including little dolls with nooses around their necks. Sick.

Would you pay to go to a hanging? Do you think that being kind to the Indians you've uprooted makes a difference when forcibly removing them? Any links to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Letter K courtesy of OCAL of
**Kit Carson, seated, By Mathew Brady or Levin C. Handy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
***Navajo prisoners of Kit Carson year 1864 forcet on Long Walk, (Arizona Historical Society), Wikimedia Commons
****Tom Ketchum aka "Black Jack" (1863-1901, Source:, Wikimedia Commons
*****"Black Jack Ketchum getting fitted with a new necktie." He is being hanged at Clayton, N. Mex. Terr., 1901, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. (09/18/1947 - 02/28/1964),
National Archives and Records Administration, College ParkLink back to Institution infobox template, Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), Wikimedia Commons


Gossip_Grl said...

Very interesting story on this man and his life. I personally wouldn't pay to see a hanging. It seems wierd that people long ago found entertainment in it doesn't it?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Illiteracy didn't hinder him from having a lot of kids though!

Write Life said...

And here I thought K might just be difficult!
Kit Carson! Never would have thought of that one!
Great job! : )

Cecilia Robert said...

Oh gosh, they made little dolls with nooses around their necks? Ick!
No I wouldn't pay to go to a hanging.

Unknown said...

Half of Colorado must be related to Kit Carson! Can you imagine a Brigadier General being married to a 14 year-old today? Oh the uproar.
No I wouldn't go to a hanging. And the poor guy was decapitated, yuk.

Heather Spiva said...

Wow. Ton of info in your great blog. Thanks! Greetings from a fellow A to Z'er.

Sue McPeak said...

Well, I must say Kit Carson left a KitNCaboodle Bunch of descendents. He certainly led an interesting and full life. Now, Black Jack...just goes to show how mis-directed energy and boredom can lead to losing one's head at the end of a mis-measured rope. Haven't heard of any Tickets To Hangings unless it's the lottery...I get hung out to dry every time I buy one!

Libby said...

FIFTEEN kids! WOW. Just wow. Even if his dad had lived, I'd be amazed if he didn't have to forgo an education to work.

loverofwords said...

And I am looking at Daniel's Park Road, from my window, the road which I understand Kit Carson took to Santa Fe, where he died. There is an old log cabin, a stage coach stop, called "Pretty Woman Ranch," now a historic designation, where he might have stopped before moving on. This is above, Castle Rock, Colorado.

Andrew Leon said...

I didn't know much about either of those guys, so that was cool to read.

Jessica L. Celaya said...

Thanks for sharing about the writer's conferences. I wish I could go to all of them. The tales about the west are fascinating. I would not pay to go to a hanging.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing those biographies. Those were fascinating people. I would not pay to see a hanging in real life but they are an interesting part of the past so I like learning about them.

xoxo Lloralye @ Adorning Schemes A to Z

Shannon Lawrence said...

Gossip_Grl, it's what makes me think that Hunger Games and Running Man aren't so unrealistic. People loved a good decapitation or hanging.

Alex, well, you know, you don't have to be able to read to...

Escape Artist, haha, thanks!

Cecilia, I know, not something I would be interested in watching. Didn't they have a televised execution a few years ago? Or they tried?

Susan, it reminds me of the musical artists/actors who have been in that boat of underage girls. We never hear about that situation with women back then. Did the problem exist? Maybe it didn't because the man needed to be able to support the woman?

Heather, thank you!

Sue, he sure did leave behind a ton of descendants! Haha at the lottery!

Libby, that's a good point. That's still a ton of kids to support.

Loverofwords, oh, how cool! I need to look that station up so we can visit it.

Andrew, I'm glad!

Jessica, wouldn't it be nice if we could go to all the conferences?

Lloralye, it is an interesting time in history, isn't it?