Robbers, Liver-Eaters, Bigfoot and More from Gene W. Baade
By Michael Stillman
Gene W. Baade's latest catalogue (number 306) of Books on the West follows his tradition of offering unusual western items, and at prices any budget can afford. Most are collectible, some are for reading, but his "reading" copies are generally of books you might actually like to read. The West is full of adventures, and Baade gives you a chance to learn about a few you might have missed. Here are some samples from his catalogue.
William Miner was a notorious robber during the era of Jesse James and beyond, and though now mostly forgotten, once achieved the same type of "popularity" for his crimes. Miner, however, was a kinder soul than James, noted for being polite to his victims, and never killing anyone, rarely ever using his gun. Most of his robberies turned out to be disappointingly small, he spent much of his life in jail, and he never learned any lessons from his experiences. He simply did not find the workaday life appealing, and chose crime whenever he ran short on money. Miner's early days were spent robbing stagecoaches, an easier target than trains. His first conviction netted him 4 years in San Quentin in 1866, his second, eight more years in 1872. Upon release, he moved on to Colorado for a few successful hold ups, but made the mistake of returning to California, where he was again captured for robbing a stage, and this time was sent away for 19 years. By the time he was released in 1902, there were no more stagecoaches, so he had to tackle the more difficult art of robbing trains. Miner moved north to Canada, and with a new alias and new accomplices, pulled off the first train robberies in Canada. This time he managed to avoid the law for four years, but was again convicted in 1906, and at the age of 63, sentenced to life. No matter. The following year he dug a hole under the fence and said goodbye to Canada. The next few years he bounced around Oregon and Pennsylvania, robbing a train in Oregon, actually working a job in Pennsylvania, and even visited Europe. By 1911, he was back to his old tricks. Now almost 70 years of age, he held up a train in Georgia. Once more he was captured and sentenced to 20 years. Twice he would escape the Georgia prison, but each time was recaptured, finally dying in jail in 1914. His amazing story is retold in item 3, Bill Miner Train Robber by Frank W. Anderson. Priced at just $7.50.
Here is a biography of another tough man: Indian Killer. The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson, by Raymond Thorp and Robert Bunker. Of course, anyone who can stand to eat liver must be tough. However, mountain-man John Johnson was tougher than the average liver gourmand. The Crow had killed his Indian wife in 1847, and he went on a two-decade long spree of revenge. He killed countless Crow Indians at the time, and was said to carve out his victims' livers and eat them raw. Johnson would later say this happened only once, the liver stuck to his knife by accident, and he only joked about eating it. Whatever the truth was, the incident earned him his distinctive moniker. Johnson would eventually make peace with the Crow, serve in the military, and become an occasional lawman. Later in life, broke and in poor health, Johnson was forced to move from his Montana home to the National Soldiers' Home in California. He died there and was buried in Los Angeles in 1900. However, 74 years later his remains were removed to and reburied in Wyoming. One of his pallbearers was Robert Redford, who portrayed "Jeremiah Johnson" in the movie of the same name, a character based roughly on Liver-Eating Johnson. Item 160. $125.