Old West Books has prepared a new catalogue of Rare, Out of Print Books on the American West, number 61 so far. If you are a long-time Western collector you are likely familiar with Old West Books already. If fairly new to the field, you should know them. Their selections are not limited to the better-known western titles but lots of the obscure material, often personal stories printed in small runs or for family and friends only. Those can give you another view of the Old West than those designed to build on or exaggerate its legends. You really need Old West's catalogues if you want to develop a collection of Western Americana. Here are a few examples of what you will find.
This is a book about one of the West's more notable if lesser known characters, and perhaps the most famous event in Old West history. The title is California Joe: Noted Scout and Indian Fighter With An Authentic Account of Custer’s Last Fight, published in 1935. The authors are “California Joe” himself, Joe E. Milner (actually Moses Embree Milner, but he must have preferred being called Joe instead of Moe) and Earl R. Forrest. Milner was born in Kentucky, but at the age of 14 he headed west to become a mountain man. However, he soon volunteered to serve during the Mexican War, after that he reportedly was captured by Utes but escaped, and at the age of 21 married a “woman” aged 13. Their honeymoon was a trip west to California where he prospected for gold, made a little money, and started a cattle ranch in Oregon. Along the way, he fathered four children. But, Joe got restless, prospecting in Montana and Idaho, and became a scout for the army. He became a scout for Generals Crook and Hancock, and for a short time, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Custer hit it off with the sociable and talkative scout, but Custer had to demote him for hitting the bottle. Drinking was not one of Custer's vices nor tolerated. Along the way, he became acquainted with several of the more familiar characters of the Old West, Wild Bill Hickok in particular, but also Jim Bridger, Buffalo Bill, and Jim Baker. He was said to have killed a few men but Thomas Newcomb was not one of them. The two had some sort of a beef, perhaps over some murder accusations, and Newcomb shot him in the back. Joe only outlived his friend Custer by a few months and consequently he was not the one who wrote the account of Custer's last battle. This copy contains an inscription from co-author Forrest to writer William Macleod Rainey. Item 37. Priced at $350.
Next we have Apache Agent. The Story of John P. Clum, by his son, Woodworth Clum, and published in 1936, four years after the senior Clum died. Born in 1851, Clum grew up in upstate New York, but answered a call for volunteers to the Army Signal Corps in 1871. That took him to Santa Fe. In 1874, he was appointed Indian Agent for the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in southeaster Arizona Territory. There was a lot of corruption among Indian Agents and the military at the time, as they each grabbed parts of funds meant for the tribes. Clum was an honest agent, meaning the army officers didn't much like him, the federal government didn't really care that much about it, while the reservation had to take on various tribes that did not get along. Still, he tried to develop some sort of self-government for the Indians but found it all frustrating. He left and opened a newspaper in Tombstone, the Tombstone Epitaph, still in publication today and Arizona's oldest continually published newspaper. He was next elected the first mayor of the rapidly growing silver mining town. It was there that he met his most famous friends, Wyatt and the Earp brothers. They became friends and allies. Of course, the Earps' history in Tombstone is legendary, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and all. Life always was dangerous for the Earps and their friends there, with a possible attempt on Clum's life at one point. By 1882, both the Earps and Clum got out of there, each going their own way. Clum went east, was later named Postal Inspector for Alaska, and met Wyatt Earp there again when their paths crossed in Nome in 1900. There is a picture of them together at that time. They obviously remained friends for life as Clum was a pallbearer at Earp's funeral in Los Angeles in 1929. Item 7. $150.
Speaking of the legendary Mr. Earp, here is a lengthy biography of the famed lawman, a controversial figure that history is still trying to unwind. The title is Wyatt Earp the Biography. The author is Timothy Fattig and it was published in 2002. The book contains 944 pages and is over two inches thick. There is a lot to say about Earp. Mr. Fattig, a current Tombstone resident, was himself recently involved in a strange incident you can find in an internet search. Item 18. $395.
This is not your typical Gold Rush story. It comes from the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Most of those who went were tough men, willing to live a hardscrabble life in the cold in hopes of becoming one of the few who became rich. This book is the journal of one of two wealthy, society women from New York who went off with their Great Dane on an adventure, and with some hopes of maybe finding some business deals, but mainly as observers. They traveled by steamship up the Yukon River, lived in the biggest tent in Dawson, and had an exciting time. This book recounts their adventures in getting there, describes many of the people they met and their stories, and provides us with a different perspective than most Gold Rush narratives. The title is Two Women in the Klondike - The Story of a Journey to the Gold Fields of Alaska by Mary E. Hitchcock, published in 1899. Old West informs us that the dust jacket has had extensive repairs (nicely done) but notes, “finding a copy in the jacket in any condition would be extremely difficult if not impossible.” Item 28. $2,750.
Here is a story of two other, very different people and an Indian Captivity to boot. The title is The Boy Captives, Being the True Story of the Experiences and Hardships of Clinton L. Smith and Jeff D. Smith Among the Comanche and Apache Indians During the Early Days - The Only Two Brothers Ever Known to Endure the Same Hardships of Captivity and Get Back Alive. It was published in 1927, an “as told to” type of book written by Marvin J. Hunter, who interviewed the “boys” when they were in their 60s. The boys, age 8 and 10, were tending sheep on the family ranch between San Antonio and Boerne in 1869 when they were captured by Indians. When he learned of what happened from their sisters, the boys' father, a Texas Ranger, and his cousin, set off in pursuit. They rode all the way to Fort Concho in West Texas but could not find the boys. The Indians had ridden all night. They immediately began to be initiated in Indian ways, coming to look, think, and behave the same as their new family. In time, Jeff was sold to the Apache and he became the personal property of Geronimo, even branded like a cow as such. Perhaps there is something ironic in his becoming personal property considering he was named after Jefferson Davis. The Indians would go to Fort Sill to trade and one day the soldiers were able to purchase Clint and send him home, although he tried to escape, wishing to return to the Indians. Jeff was later freed from his captors in Mexico and returned. The transition back was not easy, author Hunter explaining, “these boys did not change all of a sudden from the savage and murderous life of the Indians to the peaceful and constructive life of the white people.” Clint admitted they didn't fit in with “polite society” when they returned, but their family was very supportive and eventually they returned to the white man's ways. The book seems to be for the most part a “true story” though there are perhaps some exaggerations and the number of murders the Indians were said to have committed against whites makes you think that would have brought a greater reaction. They were said to buy guns from the fort which they then used to kill whites, which makes you wonder. Item 30. $375.