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Unbridled Cowboy is a riveting firsthand account of a defiant hell-raiser in the wild and tumultuous American Southwest in the late 1800s. At the age of fourteen, Joe Fussell hopped trains to escape from school and the authority he scorned. Joe became a roving cowpuncher across the Texas territory, tilling the land, wrangling cattle, and working in livery stables, moving on whenever his feet began to itch. In a time and place with no law, the young cowboy exacted revenge on those who trespassed him or those who abused authority. Joe recounts tales of cowboy adventures, narrow escapes, and undercover work as a Texas Ranger and life on the railroads. A spark of his wild cowboy spirit remained even after he went to work on the railroads and rose to the position of yardmaster.

Joe's unadorned prose is as exposed and simple as the wide open Texas plains. His unpretentious, unique voice embodies the spirit of the old West.

While making preparations to break camp one afternoon a couple of young Mexicans we knew (they were fellow employees) showed up at our camp, ate dinner with us and extended a pressing invitation to a baile, a dance, to be held in the nearby pueblo that night. I did not want to go because I knew Mexicans had no love for gringos in general and for Texans in particular. And I figured they thought we might create trouble by blaming them for slaughtering cattle that belonged to our outfit. I was afraid they were setting a trap wed be walking into and end up murdered.

I told Art I did not want to go and tried to persuade him against the idea. I told him how I felt about the whole thing, the dangers of exciting the jealousies of both sexes, and the ease with which they could kill us both, bury our bodies and make sure no report of their crimes would reach the ears of our boss. But he insisted on going and having a whirl with the senoritas. We postponed moving camp, and over my protest, went to the baile. I went because I didn't want him to go alone.

After we ate at the camp fire, we saddled fresh horses and rode forth in our work clothes - chaps, boots, spurs and six-shooters inside our shirts Art, the trouble hunting "Don Quixote" and me, his "Sancho Panza", the simple and faithful.

We arrived at the baile and acting on my suggestion left our horses in a secluded spot apart from all the other horses and entered the hall which, as I remember, was a room about twenty feet square. The young men who had extended the invitation made themselves most agreeable, introducing us as their guests and seemed overly anxious to have us enjoy ourselves to the utmost. Art entered into the spirit of the festivities whole-heartedly and immediately started a flirtation with a very attractive senorita. Suspicious of a trap, I warned him, a time or two, against any indiscrete act.

He ignored my warnings and monopolized the time of the coquettish senorita. I soon noticed trouble brewing and, at the first opportunity again warned him and suggested we depart for camp. Again he spurned my warning saying he would show the "chili pickers" a few tricks in lovemaking and make them like it.
Knowing the storm was about to break I put my back near the only entrance to the hall and waited. It wasn't long. After a dance Art escorted his lady to a seat. As he turned away, a young man approached him and began a conversation, while another stepped in behind Art and reached in his sash for a stiletto.

I pulled out my six-shooter and called to Art to look out behind him. He jumped aside, pulling his six-shooter and faced his antagonist whose arm was raised ready to strike Art in the back. Art shot the Mexican twice.

"[O]ne of the most compelling memoirs I have ever read." I had come to like the old rascal by the end of the book.[A]powerful ending. Mike Cox, author of The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900

"Arguably, this is one of the finest personal reminiscences of life in the American West". riveting Alfred Runte, author of Allies of the Earth: Railroads and the Soul of Preservation
Author's Biography

E. R. Fussell was born in Peru to American citizens and moved back to the United States at the age of five. He received his law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and began practicing law in California. Since 1972, he has practiced law in his hometown of LeRoy, New York.

Joseph B. Fussell was born in Tyler, Texas, in 1879, the son of a cowboy and buffalo hunter. Fussell trekked most of the Southwest and worked as a cowboy, livery stable operator, and at other jobs. When he was a ranch hand in northern Mexico, he barely escaped the fate of his American friend who died at the bottom of a well. Fussell worked as an undercover Texas ranger before beginning his railroad career. With little formal training, Fussell wrote his riveting memoir about real life in the West at the turn of the century. He died in 1957.

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On Tuesday, December 9, 2008, 11:23 PM, JAMES KATTNER wrote:


Rick Albin is my friend, and he suggested that I should contact you on this. I have a Walker & Co. San Carlos, Texas token which through a great letterhead/letter copy (which I think you provided?), it was proven that this particular San Carlos was in Presidio County. Previously this token was thought to be from another San Carlos in Hidalgo county (extreme south Texas). My problem with the Hidalgo San Carlos had been that it was not that old, and also an internet 1895 Atlas Map opens to reveal a San Carlos in Presidio county.

A new book on mining tokens is being written, and I am trying to learn the name of this San Carlos mine. Also was it a copper or silver mine such as at nearby Shafter?

Your information will be greatly appreciated.

James Kattner

The token you have is indeed authentic and was issued by Walker and Company aka Humpries and Company whose main store was located in Marfa, Texas. Humpries and Company had a branch store located at the San Carlos Coal Company mining camp located in northwest Presidio County Texas during the 1890's. The camp was only in operation for a few years, and appairently never had an official U.S. Post Office although the San Carlos Humpries and Company store distributed mail for the employees of the San Carlos Construction Company who built the Rio Grande Northern Railway from Chispa to the camp the and employees of the coal mine. These types of tokens and script were fairly common at mines during those years. Some workers were paid with these tokens and could redeem them for needed items from the camp stores. See below my article on the San Carlos Coal Company and the Rio Grande Northern Railroad.

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San Antonio, Texas, 12/4/08 Donnie Meals of Edit Point Studios has won a prestigious Award of Excellence from The Accolade Competition. The award was given for Meals exciting documentary El Corrido: The Two Sides of the Story which explores the transformation of this historic art form and the effects it has had on urban culture. Live, raw, unrehearsed interviews and spontaneous footage make up the documentary in its entirety. "El Corrido" is a very real experience felt throughout rural Mexico, including areas where powerful Mexican drug cartels reign.Unprompted interviews yielding candid responses lend a dynamic sense of reality to the film.

The Accolade recognizes film, television and videography professionals
who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry.

Information about The Accolade can be found at
In winning an Accolade, Meals joins the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally respected award. Thomas Baker, Ph.D., who chairs The Accolade, had this to say about the latest winners, The Accolade is not an easy award to win. Entries are received from around the world. The Accolade helps set the standard for craft and creativity. The judges were pleased with the exceptional high quality of entries. The goal of The Accolade is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve.

This is a truly wonderful must see film. See below post for more info. Congratulations Donnie!

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On Friday, November 21, 2008, 09:41 AM, Monty Waters wrote:

Gary Owen asked for more information on Nathan Fuller. I can supply some.

He notes some confusion about Fuller's re-enlistment in May 1918. This occurred at the height of the Porvenir investigation and decision to dismiss those involved. "General Order No. 5", dated June 4, 1916 had several purposes: first to discharge the five rangers, still on the payroll that participated in the Porvenir operation; second, to transfer the remaining Co. B rangers to Captain Gray's Company D; third, to reassign Fox to Austin; and finally, to terminate Co. B as a unit. Fuller was one of the rangers reassigned to Co. D. This letter was sent at the time Fuller's application was pending to re-enlist in Co. B, which is why his warrant still reads "Co. B", though by the time his warrant was endorsed by the Adjutant General, Co. B ceased to exist. Fox's reassignment to Austin never occurred because he resigned with a very public letter to the Governor. The well-known photograph of the mounted ranger company is often labeled Company A, but on the date the photograph was taken, Gray was captain of Company D.

Fox was a controversial captain, but he did hold Fuller in high regard. In an October 15, 1917 letter listing men under his command, Fox praised Fuller, Beard, Trollinger, Woelber, and Holden as the only rangers of his group that had over one year service with him and whom he considered "alright in every respect . . . sober and honest". He listed a total of 13 other rangers in this letter, quite and expansion from the Sept. 1917 payroll seen by Owens. All the other rangers were new enlistments (Boone Oliphant resigned in Sept. 1917; he re-enlisted in December), though some of them had law enforcement experience.

Fuller resigned Feb. 11, 1920 sending a letter to the Adjutant General highly critical of Captain Gray. He complained that Gray put him (Fuller) under the supervision of a less experienced ranger, P.F. Dyches. Not only was Dyches inexperienced, but he an another ranger had recently suffered the embarrassment of losing a handcuffed prisoner to armed Mexicans near Lajitas. Fuller wrote: "I told Gray I wouldn't work under Dyches. I will not work under no man who let a few mexicans come to this side and shoot him loose from a prisoner, in broad open daylight, and the prisoner hand cuffed."

But Gray had other complaints about Gray: He'd "done more lectionring [sic] the last two months than the man he wants to be elected. It is well known he has brought all the pressure possible to force the rangers to vote for Jeff Vaugn [sic] for sheriff. In fact he publicly stated that all rangers who did not so vote would soon be hunting a job." Finally Gray was hypocritical on the subject of alcohol: He was "always harping on the booze question, when he buys as much or more than any man he has under him, this is not hear say [sic] I know what I am telling."

The last two items in the indictment require some explanation. Presidio county had for ten years been a county that was partly wet (legal alcohol sales) and partly dry (alcohol prohibited). For instance, in 1918 the legislature made it illegal to sell liquor within ten miles of a military base, thereby making Marfa "dry." Needless to say some people found ways to slake the thirst of the men stationed near Marfa, despite the law. On October 18, 1919 the entire state became "dry" a year prior to the rest of the United States. Thus bootlegging, which had always existed, became even more lucrative. Gray believed the Presidio County Sheriff, Ira Cline, was protecting the activities of his bootlegging brother, Buford.

He was also using ranger [Jefferson Eagle] Vaughan to investigate the involvement of the Clines and other ex-rangers in a sensational robbery of a Mexican payroll officer near Marfa on July 30, 1919. Though several law enforcement officers were implicated in this crime in internal federal and state documents, no indictments or convictions were ever brought against the perpetrators. It is possible that Gray had very good reason to wish Cline out of office. Or it is possible that, for political reasons, he wished to have him connected with any criminal activity occuring in the county.

In any event, Fuller resented the pressure to support Vaughan and Gray's hypocrisy on the issue of alcohol. Vaughan did win election over Cline in 1920 by a very close (33 vote) margin. Cline blamed the votes of the recently enfranchised women voters for his defeat. This may've been a factor, for Vaughan was a tall "matinee idol" type of ranger and one of the models Zane Grey used for his novel "The Lone Ranger". He served as sheriff until 1927, and eventually became a ranger captain in the 1930s.

Nathan Fuller never served as a regular ranger again but he did obtain a "special ranger" warrant, which was basically a permit for him to carry a gun, when he went to work in 1922 as a railroad detective for the I&GN railroad. He held this warrant from August 22, 1922 to January 5, 1923. This warrant was endorsed by Captain Jerry Gray who either did not know of Gray's 1920 letter to the Adjutant General; forgave him for it; or had no choice but to endorse a warrant that in many cases was awarded through the governor's office.

I came across most of this information in my research on my grandfather AG Beard, who served with Fuller in Co. B. Sources:

"Texas Adjutant General Service Records 1936-1935" (online)

Harris and Saddler, "The Texas Rangers: The Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920" (Univ New Mexico, 2004"

Alvarado, "Ira Cline-Disciple of Law" (1972, on the Marfa Public Library web site)

Thompson, "History of Marfa and Presidio County" Vol II, (1985)

Texas Legislature, "Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House in the Investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force" (typescript, 1919, microfilm copy at the University of Texas, Center for American Studies)

Stopka, Christina; Partial List of Texas Ranger Company and Unit Commanders; (2005, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum)

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Donnie Meals new documentary film "EL CORRIDO, THE TWO SIDES OF THE SONG" is simply outstanding and a definite must see for anyone interested in Mexican history or Mexico today. I have long been fascinated with corridos, those powerful Mexican ballads that so simply but effectively communicate the stories of Mexico's rural downtrodden and their iconic heros. Corridos originated with the Mexican War of Independence as romantic ballads but flourished during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 as a means of communicating news of events and people in rural Mexico before the arrival of 20th century mass media. Perhaps the best-known corrido is La cucaracha, the Mexican equivalent of Yankee Doodle. One version pokes fun at President Victoriano Huerta, the cockroach who can't function because he has no marijuana to smoke.

The film covers a lot of ground beginning with a fine look at Mexican history and culture. Meals then moves on into the Pancho Villa Corridos before focusing on today's narco corridos leaving his audience with a much greater understanding of Mexico. Parts of the film were made in Ojinaga and Candelaria and Meals cinematography is superb.

El Corrido premiers in San Antonio, Texas at San Antonio College at 2 p.m. on Friday, November 14th. Below is a schedule of upcoming showings at film festivals. A DVD version is to be released soon.


Tuscon (October 17 2008 to October 19 2008)
New York (October 31 2008 to November 01 2008)
La Joya (December 19 2008 )
San Francisco (February 05 2009 to February 17 2009)
Ann Arbor (March 24 2009 to March 29 2009)
Nashville (April 16 2009 to April 23 2009)
Mexico City (April 18 2009 to April 19 2009)

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It was very interesting for me to read Gary Owen's memories of Nate Fuller. One of the ranger's listed in his list of Ranger Company B, September 1917 is my grandfather A.G. Beard. Like Fuller, he enlisted in the rangers in May 1916 in the expansion of the force which followed the Glen Springs raid. As a result his re-enlistment date was May 1918. It is apparent that a large portion of the members of Company B were involved in the Porvenir raid, but not all of them. So far as can be determined A.G. Beard was not. Like Fuller the Adjutant General's endorsement of his re-enlistment was held up until September 10,1918, as can be seen by anyone who wants to look at his warrant online.

Robert Utley (Lone Star Lawmen)does a good job of explaining how the disciplining of company B was entangled in Texas politics. By May it was impossible to conceal what happened in Porvenir, but Governor Hobby was in a primary election battle with his impeached predecessor, James Ferguson. The governor did not want to alienate the ranchers of west Texas (who strongly supported the rangers) nor the Mexican Americans who resented the racism evident in the ranger's actions. He waffled by firing the ranger participants (backdating the firings to February though in fact it was done in June), accepting Captain Fox's resignation and disbanding company B. Those members of the company (like Beard and Fuller) who were not at Porvenir were in limbo until after the primary in July. If Owen's and Fuller's memories are good, it appears the rangers were questioned intensely about their knowledge of events that night. Eventually their re-enlistment was endorsed by the adjutant general and they resumed their ranger careers. Incidently Walter Prescott Webb, in his book on the rangers states twice that all members of the Porvenir company were dismissed, but the service of Fuller and Beard refute this.

By exonerating my grandfather from involvement with Porvenir, I don't mean to whitewash his career. After leaving the rangers in March 1919 he became the first town marshal of Marfa Texas. While there he was implicated with other former rangers in an armed robbery of a Mexican payroll officer (see Sadler and Harris page 478-480, who get some of the facts about him wrong including his first name), and also was part of a group of American scouts and law enforcement officers who murdered four criminal suspects near Carrizo Springs Mexico during the U.S. Army's incursion into Mexico in August 1919. In that same month he was indicted by the Presidio County grand jury for "robbery with firearms and assault to murder"(this incictment was unrelated to the payroll robbery). He was never tried or convicted of any of these crimes, and I'm not sure of the facts behind the indictment. Family folklore implies that he used too much force in shutting down a popular local bordello.

Anyone with more information please let me know.

Glenn, I really enjoyed reading your book and continue to enjoy this blog.

Monty Waters

Austin Texas

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In May 1892, the San Carlos Coal Company leased and purchased some 54,000 acres of land in northwest Presidio County, Texas with the intention of mining coal. Because of the remote location of the mine it became necessary to build a 26.25-mile railroad from the Chispa siding on the Southern Pacific Railroad to San Carlos. The Rio Grande Northern Railway Company incorporated in February 1893 with the line being completed three years later. A major part of the construction took place with the blasting though Brack's Canyon one of six railroad tunnels in Texas. During this time, the San Carlos Mining Company commenced mining operations but the coal produced proved to be of varying quality and insufficient quantity. The Rio Grande Northern Railroad was utilized only once to transport a few carloads of coal from the mine in 1896. Mining operations then ceased and the following year, Presidio County Sheriff Den Knight sold the abandoned railroad for unpaid taxes.

For over a hundred years now, the story of the San Carlos Mine and Rio Grande Northern Rail Way has been shrouded in mystery. While the venture was short-lived and ended in failure, it is an important part of Big Bend history that reflects the great optimism felt by the thousands of settlers who came to the region following the coming of the railroads. The 1880's proved to be a pivotal time of economic expansion in the Big Bend. In the early 1880's, John Spencer discovered rich silver ores in the Chinati Mountains near Milton Faver's ranch headquarters setting in motion a boom in mining boom lasted into the early twentieth century. Even more importantly during the early 1880's the Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks eastward across the sparsely populated desert landscape of the region and the trains started running bringing passengers and freight to and from the outside world. Cattlemen could now ship their livestock to a hugely expanded market. The good grass and cheap land attracted countless ranchers and settlers in search of better times to the Big Bend. By 1885, more than 60,000 cattle grazed in Presidio County. Towns that would become the future trade centers of the region sprang up and prospered. Times were good and optimism ran high.

Little today remains of the Rio Grande Northern and the coal mine with the exception of the Bracks Canyon tunnel, the railroad bed, a trestle and two mineshafts. Following the sale of the railroad, the tracks and ties were torn out. The once bustling mining camp of San Carlos that served as a base of operations to some 300 miners and construction workers sits empty in the desert. Only piles of rubble mark the location of a few jacales where some of the miners lived. Little has been known about the railroad and mine because the surviving records and correspondence of the RGNR and the mine are few.

I first visited the tunnel and San Carlos in the late 1970's and have always been fascinated with the story. For nearly thirty years, I was only able to locate scattered documents that left so many gaps in the story. However, two years ago, I found the papers of Humpries and Company preserved in some thirty dusty boxes in the archives of the El Paso Public Library. Beginning about 1885, Humpries and Company became the largest mercantile in the Big Bend with stores located at Marfa, Shafter, Chispa and San Carlos. The records contain the correspondence of John Humpries who was present when the railroad and mine were being built. It is through his correspondence and the Humpries store records that I have been able to finally tell the whole story.

Born in England, John Humpries was a fascinating Big Bend character that came to Marfa in the town's first years. The former sheriff of Duval County, John Humpries was not a man to be underestimated. In 1883, he wrote I would advise all my friends doing business on the frontier to provide themselves with a No. 10 double barrel shot gun, and keep it loaded with buck shot, where they can get hold of it quickly as I have found it is a good thing to have. I am afraid from the looks of things, we have no chance of protection either from the American or Mexican authorities, and a man must be prepared to defend his property himself or leave the country.

I will present my paper titled "The San Carlos Mine And The Rio Grande Northern Railway" at the Center For Big Bend Studies Annual Conference at Sul Ross University in Alpine on Saturday November 8th. Below is a tentative schedule for the conference.


2008 Center for Big Bend Studies Conference
November 7 and 8
Sul Ross University Center 2nd Floor, Espino Conference Center
Tentative Presenter Schedule

Session 1: TAP Rock Art
2-3:30 Friday
Jamie Hampson
Reeda Peel
Roger Boren

Session 2: Warriors of Color
3:45-5:15 Friday
Chair: Mark Saka
Mary Williams
Harold Sayre
Thomas Phillips

Session 3: Current Cultural Issues in the Big Bend
3:45-5:15 Friday
Michael Yoder
Emily Levitt
Geoff Kelley

Session 4: Beyond the Alamo
9:00-10:30 Saturday
Chair: Lynn Whitfield
Robert Reitz
Troy Ainsworth
Holle Humphries

Session 5: Community Rock Art Session
9:00-10:30 Saturday
Tim Roberts
William Yeates
Andrew Tegarden

Session 6: Biographies
10:45-12:15 Saturday
Judith Parsons
Oliver Osborn
Shirley Caldwell

Session 7: Current TAP Investigations
10:45-12:15 Saturday
Chair: John Seebach
Samuel Cason
Richard Walter
David Keller

Session 8: Mining in the Big Bend
1:30-3:00 Saturday
Jaclyn Jeffrey
Claude Hudspeth
Glenn Justice

Session 9: At-large History
1:30-3:00 Saturday
Paul Wright
Nancy Hickerson

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The Candelaria bridge story is not dead yet. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the bridge but can't give you a link since it is a subscription service. Also, this morning the German Financial Times published an article on the bridge titled "Frontier Culture Roughly Sundered". Check it out at: ... 28931.html


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Hi Glenn,

Yes, I read the news article I have again and it stated that Herbert Cody Blake actually enlisted one of the uncles of the Gardner boys into the search. Blake even followed the treasure map. It would be nice to find those gold bars though!

If I get enough information I just might make a movie called "The Gardner Boys", kind of like "The Newton Boys".

Leon Metz suggested that I search the El Paso newspapers. The Gardner boys were probably outlaws who formed a gang during the late 1870s and then split into the Guadalupe Mountains. The newspaper suggested that their were copies of these newspapers which mentioned the notorious Gardners, but I would love to know where these newspapers are now.

I have heard of a gunfighter named Zeb Gardner, but again a mystery. I've also found fast guns such as Tom Gardner, a notable rancher during the Johnson County War in Wyoming, and a supposed noted fast gun named Billy Gardner, a prominent New Mexican who was killed in a "Duel to the Death" in 1902 as newspapers reported.

Their was also a notable Texas gunman named "Lige" Gardner, who worked as a timekeeper for the Southern Pacific railroad in 1901 and suffered from Bright's disease. He would often boast, "If I've got to cash - in I might as well take along some of my enemies". He was known to have killed two white men and several blacks. However, he was in Eastern Texas near Beaumont.

I am also researching my ancestor who I have wondered might have been the leader of the gang, but most gunmen were loners instead of desperadoes, plus he was never in that area.

However he lived in south Texas around Brownsville near the King Ranch, and hardly any information there either.

My ancestor, Lewis Gardner, was a sixty something year old gunfighter in south Texas. He was born about 1810 at SC, lived in GA where he married and fathered about thirteen children, farmed, owned slaves, removed to MS where he owned a farm, his wife divorced him during the Civil War, he gave her the farm and then he went to Texas. He lived in Houston County for a time where he remarried to a widow, and he made his living as a horse trader. Gardner was a notorious gunfighter and I need to find newspapers from the 1870s in south Texas. His death is a mystery. He was supposedly ambushed and killed in a gunfight with horse thieves at a place pronounced "Natchez" in Texas while transporting horses to Louisiana, but it is also stated that he spent his last years in Johnson County, Texas. He was supposed to have been described from a postcard photograph as a tall, big boned man, with a long flowing white beard, and striking sky eyes.

I did find a professional gambler named Gardner during the early 1870s in Refugio, Texas.

A lot of horse traders migrated to south Texas and Mexico to buy cheap horses, and transported the horses to Mississippi and Louisiana.

Thank you for the information and it will probably be awhile before I find anything, and I need money to travel, and since microfilm is difficult, then I will probably have to hire a researcher!

If you know anybody who has searched through newspapers from the late 1870s, for example Billy the Kid, and has read about these outlaws, just let me know.

The Gardner boys were perhaps the most ruthless desperadoes in the West if the gang actually stole over a million dollars.

Corey Gardner

Is there anyone out there that knows anything about the Gardners? If so, please join us in the discussion and see if we can help Corey find some of this. Post a comment or email me.


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Hi Glenn,

I hope and believe that the Gardner boys are real, and just the fact that Blake mentioned, or the newspaper mentioned those old newspapers, it convinces me.
I am not hunting treasure, don't have the time, patience, and money to do so. Herbert Cody Blake didn't sound like he would believe anything written by this guy named Dobie.

Herbert Cody Blake debunked just about everyone, such as Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill, and he would have ripped Dobie a new one.

Could you somehow get somebody who has come across old newspapers from the 1870s and 1880s in the west Texas area that mentions the Gardner boys?

It annoys me that people have researched every outlaw gang or outlaw character without the name Gardner. It's like the name is cursed or something. Their was a famous outlaw named Roy Gardner with a way more amazing and real tale than any other outlaw. Another was a noted Missouri horse thief named George Gardner, alias "Skoddallo" mentioned in newspapers in 1889, but can't find anything on him. Their was a very infamous outlaw named Big Phil Gardner who was the leader of a gang in the Colorado Territory, but he was gunned down in 1870 at Montana.

Their was a Gardner family in west Texas that could have been the Gardner boys. Their names were Alex, John, Peter, Tom, Charlie, and Willis Gardner. They were cattle raisers, a rough crew. These men were cowboys and Indian fighters, but only one seemed to have a bad man reputation.

These Gardner brothers were only together from 1877 to 1880 in west Texas.

Alex Gardner was a cowboy, Confederate soldier, Indian fighter, and rancher in west Texas and later moved to Arizona to raise horses.

John Gardner was a notable trail boss mentioned in "John Gardner's Trail Herd", a Texas folk song which described him as the "biggest cow - thief" and "you meet him on the square". He was a Texas Ranger, cowboy, Indian fighter, and an alleged member of the Sam Bass Gang, but by 1877 he was a family man. He was definitely a friend of Sam Bass, because Bass talked about his friend John Gardner on his deathbed. However, no evidence states he was a wanted man. Gardner wrote a short bio on himself in which he stated that he was involved in many fights with Mexicans and Indians, but would not give details as it would sound "fishy" these days. He lived his life as a rancher in Frio County and his son, Joe Gardner, was a very noted roping champion.

"Peter" Gardner was a distinguished Indian fighter, trail driver, and rancher in Frio County, Texas.
Tom Gardner was a cattle raiser and lived in Tom Green County, but married and moved back to Frio County, Texas.
Charlie Gardner was a cattle raiser and moved to New Mexico where he married in 1889, which I found interesting.
Willis Gardner died at age eighteen in 1882, strangely.

Their was also a famous army scout and Indian fighter named Raymond "Arizona Bill" Gardner, known for his tall tales. He was indeed an army scout and served with Custer, Miles, and Crook, and he claimed he had been raised by Indians, knew every Old West character, did every frontier trade, was a Wild West performer, lawman, Arizona Ranger, and many other claims. He looked kind of goofy when he was in his nineties, smiling and riding a burro, but I had seen a few pictures of him when he was about seventy and he looked like he could handle himself in a fight.

He was a very shady character aside from his military service. I read that he "reportedly" buried a treasure near Camp Grant, Arizona in 1877 from a robbery, and was sounds truthful is that it wasn't his claim. He might have had his own gang. His book, which is terrible, stated that he had a brother named Charlie Gardner who was a ranchman.

I don't know if they were known as the Gardner gang, or the Gardner boys, but some of those possible first names might help.



I don't doubt the Gardner boys were real people and if you dig deep enough, you will find some information about them. But that means you must look at more than just newspapers to find what you are looking for. Problem #1, there weren't any newspapers in west Texas in 1877 to 1880. There were newspapers in Austin and Houston beginning in the 1850's. There weren't many Anglos or towns in west Texas before 1880. Newspapers did not exist before the coming of the railroads in the early 1880's. The Marfa New Era did not go into business until 1888 and sadly most of the New Era newspapers were destroyed sometime in the 1920's. or 30's. The Alpine Alvalanche started about the same time. The Archives of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University have the Avalanche on microfilm but there is no index. The Avalanche in those days was a poor newspaper, little news, just lots of gossip about who was coming and going. Fort Davis had a newspaper, I think called the Rocket but I have never seen any copies of it. The El Paso Herald, later called the El Paso Times published from the 1880's. The El Paso Public Library has all of the Herald and Times on microfilm and has an excellent card index. I think that might be a good place for you to look. UTPB Library in Odessa has El Paso Times on microfilm but no index.

Another source you will need to examine is True West Magazine. The Haley Library in Midland has a good collection of True West Magazine and an index. The Haley Library has probably the best collection of ranching, outlaw stuff and might well be able to help. I found a few articles about the Gardners treasure by searching for Blake at But only reprints of the article you have only found. Also, the Barker Texas History Center at U.T. Austin has the largest collection of microfilm newspapers in existence. They also have a great collection of vertical files on many Texas subject. Maybe something is there.

I think the first think you should do is prepare a list of names of who you are looking for and where you think they lived. Search U.S. Census records to try to establish if these people are shown in the Census. Probably an outlaw would not have wanted to give any personal information to a census taker. Another place to look is Civil War records such as the Records of the War of Rebellion. The National Archives has an on search site. I think Records of the War of Rebellion are also now on line. You might find some things if any of these people fought in the Civil War but must know their full name and where they lived. Same for U.S. Census on line at See my links. Also look at the county histories for the counties you know the Garners lived. Example, try finding Tom Gardner in Tom Green County books and records. No reference to Gardners in Presidio, Brewster or Presidio County histories. Go to the local libraries and check their vertical files and county histories. San Angelo State University in San Angelo has a wonderful West Texas collection and has San Angelo Standard Times. Read every book you can find on the Sam Bass Gang and check the references.

Good luck on your project. It won't be easy but will be fun. However, you may find information on the Gardner Boys to be as elusive as their treasure. Don't be annoyed that other historians have not written about the Gardners. Maybe they couldn't find anything either. The historian is bound by the document, no document, no way to write a history.


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