Bill Longley’s Fatal Shadow

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William Preston Longley, born on October 6, 1851, had been a wanted killer in his native Texas since the age of seventeen.[i] A year later he and his older brother-in-law John W. Wilson had the full attention of the military reconstruction government. After yet another fruitless search for the fugitives, First Lieutenant John Whitney of the mounted Eleventh U. S. Infantry, Post of Brenham, stated plainly in a report to his superiors: “The men John Wilson and Bill Longley should be treated simply as outlaws and shot on sight. They openly boast, particularly Wilson, of shooting some (18) Eighteen Freedmen and that they intend to kill more.”[ii] Military headquarters heeded Lt. Whitney’s admonition, and on March 1, 1870 the statewide Fifth Military District offered a reward of $1000, dead or alive, for “John Wilson and Bill Longley, murderers and horse thieves, or $500 for either one.”[iii]

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The West’s Bloodiest Duel — NEVER HAPPENED!

Look in any standard reference book of western frontier violence and you will see it. Browse through western periodicals over the decades and you will find the story told. It has been called “The West’s Bloodiest Duel” — the brutal death match between Arthur McCluskey and Hugh Anderson at Medicine Lodge on July 4, 1873, in which both men killed each other. The motive for the legendary duel was McCluskey seeking revenge on Anderson for Anderson having killed McCluskey’s brother Mike in the famous bloodbath at Newton, Kansas on August 20, 1871. It is a story made for the West. It made good reading in 1873 and it makes good reading today. Continue reading

John Wesley Hardin’s True Birthdate

John Wesley Hardin is undoubtedly the most well-known outlaw gunfighter to have hailed from Texas, which had no shortage of that lawless breed.   Most of what we know about Hardin’s life stems from his autobiography, which was brought to an unfinished close by the pistol of John Selman at El Paso on August 19, 1895. The book, entitled The Life of John Wesley Hardin, from the Original Manuscript, as written by himself, was published posthumously the following year. Research into his memoir has established that Hardin’s recitation of various incidents in his life, either from faulty memory or self-serving revisionism, is not historically accurate. This includes many of his timelines. Unfortunately, most biographies and reference works have accepted Hardin’s dates uncritically, thereby perpetuating and legitimizing his flawed version of history. Continue reading

Medora Moment in History – Three Presidents

About noon on September 2, 1883 the Northern Pacific train carrying Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States, rolled to a stop at the Little Missouri / Medora depot. The presidential party was on its way back to Washington, D. C. following several weeks’ excursion to Yellowstone National Park. During the brief stop, the party disembarked and President Arthur had a conversation with Baron Louis Von Hoffman and his son-in-law, the Marquis de Mores.

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Of Gunfights and Graves

William Riley Luffsey was born in Cowan Township, Wayne County, Missouri in 1859. He is remembered today for having died in a gunbattle along the Little Missouri River on June 26, 1883, about a mile west of the twin towns of Little Missouri and Medora, Dakota Territory. The party that killed him was led by the Marquis de Mores (1858-1896), who had founded Medora two months earlier. Continue reading

Bronc Riding Outlaw

North Dakota can claim a number of legendary rodeo cowboys. Perhaps the earliest was a man not often associated with North Dakota, but he used a Medora address for several years early in his career and he is enshrined in the National Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Rufus Marion Rollens was born on October 7, 1891 at Tahlequah in the Cherokee Nation (present-day Oklahoma). Rufe — part Cherokee and a distant cousin of the famous cowboy-humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) — was raised near Claremore and was born to the saddle. Continue reading

The Art of Horse Theft

North Dakota’s own Louis L’Amour (1908-1988), the premier novelist of the American West, once answered a critic who said his latest novel contained “a highly improbable cast.” “I can think of no Western cast I would consider improbable,” stressed L’Amour. To illustrate his point, L’Amour mentioned “the Frenchman who founded the town of Medora … the Marquis de Mores … an improbable character indeed.” To cinch his case, L’Amour added: “Living in the same area at the same time was another extremely improbable character named Teddy Roosevelt.” Continue reading

Enter Clay Allison

Validating significant events in the lives of famous westerners is always rewarding, especially when the event has been lost in the shadows of history.

One such forgotten incident involves an early, single-handed fight between self-proclaimed shootist Robert Clay Allison and a renegade party of Osage Indians in the Creek Nation (present-day Oklahoma) on November 14, 1869, in which Clay killed three adversaries. The eyewitness cowboy chronicler of this incredible episode, admitting that he was apt to be doubted, was carefully specific as to date, place, motive and result, and named five other witnesses to attest his veracity. The name Clay Allison meant nothing to the witnesses or to contemporary readers, for 28 year old Clay was still several years away from gaining any type of reputation. Continue reading

The Harmless Horse Thief

By Douglas W. Ellison

Southwestern North Dakota has seen its share of characters, but perhaps none had a more entertaining impact than a young Minnesota charmer named Cleveland G. Murphy. His stay in the area was brief, most of it on the public dole as a resident of the Stark County jail at Dickinson. For their money, the people were treated to an extended comedic drama of western burlesque. Continue reading