Author Archives: JR Sanders

Hell on Wheels…

If you’d like to know what cowboys – some cowboys, anyway – did for fun when they weren’t drinking, gambling, and consorting with nymphs du pave, catch myRoller Skating - Omaha Daily Bee – March 10, 1884 article “Hell on Wheels: When Roller Skating Took Western Towns by Storm” in the current (October) issue of Wild West Magazine. Meanwhile, here’s an article from the March 10, 1884 Omaha Daily Bee that shows how the mid-1880s roller skating craze was taking hold in the wild and woolly West.

Believe it, or Nott?

Our modern Internet memes and urban legends are nothing new. This apocryphal “report” – which many sources credit to Harper’s Weekly – cropped up in innumerable newspapers and magazines from 1867 (the earliest instance I can find) through the end of the 19th Shot or Nottcentury and well into the 20th (I’ve actually found it in the “Sundries” section of a Kennebec, Maine newspaper from 1972). It seems to have started – not surprisingly – in the Western U.S., spread nationwide and, finally, worldwide. This particular clipping comes from a London magazine dated 1885.

Doubtful history, but fun reading. Try it aloud, if you dare.

George Smith Hangs

On this date in 1892, George Smith was hanged at the Grayson County jail in Sherman, Texas. In January of 1891 Smith shot and killed Bells City Marshal James F. Isbell, during a failed robbery in a Bells saloon where the marshal moonlighted as a bartender. Eighteen months later – after a failed insanity plea, a mistrial, an appeal, and petitions for clemency to the Texas governor – Smith paid the ultimate price for his crimes.
GDN 7-9-1892
Newspapers in Dallas and Galveston carried maudlin articles detailing Smith’s final day, dripping with pathos for the convicted man, and baldly downplaying Marshal Isbell’s murder. Smith’s last words, as Grayson County Sheriff R.L. McAfee snugged the noose around his neck, were, “That is pretty tight.”

Marshal Isbell’s tragic death, and George Smith’s long and winding road to justice, are detailed in Chapter 5 of Some Gave All.


Western Writers of America Convention

This seemed an appropriate topic for my first post on my brand-new blog. Still recovering from a terrific – if tiring – five days at the WWA Convention in Sacramento. It was great to catch up with so many old friends, to make a passel of new ones, to attend informative panels and presentations, and to cap off each day in the Roundup Room.WWA Banner

I just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to the WWA leadership and the hardy band of volunteers who worked so hard to make all this happen. And thanks also for all you do throughout the year (so much of which happens behind the scenes that it doesn’t always get the recognition it should) to make WWA one of the best organizations around. An outfit like WWA is only ever as good as its leadership, and we have the best of the best. My hat’s off to you, one and all. Thanks.