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and the
Re: Omaha and crooks
Mon May 6, 2019 08:35

Ben, for a basic understanding of whys and wherefores I would recommend firstly to brush up on "Hell On Wheels" phenomenon for the building of the transcontinental railroad in the late 60s. It started west from Omaha.
Supposedly Wyatt and Virgil participated somewhat in the grading work going across Wyoming. It was one tent city after another in which the crooked gamblers and prostitutes habituated and helped the numerous rail workers blow off steam at night; which meant fleecing them.
Some of these places were rough almost beyond belief. But they would last no more than about three months and dry up overnight. The tents and clapboard went on down the rail. Probably the worst place besides Cheyenne was called Benton, Wyoming, where it was estimated 100 homicides occurred with the vast majority going unsolved.
Hell On Wheels was all over at Promontory Point in May 1869, after which the vice purveyors and mercenaries dispersed in all directions, most returning to major cities like Denver, Salt Lake, etc. As soon as Omaha and Council Bluffs were transforming into major railroad hubs by 1872, the targeted rails workers were in numbers great enough so that the bunko men had to come in. Some came down from Chicago. The main scam being three-card-monte, they were all referred to as "monte men." Same game as "thimble rig" using three peas hidden under three shells, or thimbles, but rather using cards face down. It was all about slight of hand skills - the practitioner called a "thrower," who needed a "steerer" and a "capper" to complete the team. Although when working train passengers en route somewhere, a two-man team would suffice. If they got busted by a train conductor or brakeman, the monte men would just get off at the next stop and make a return trip fleecing passengers going the other way.

Best I can tell is that Verge got to Council Bluffs in early 1872, matching the completion of the U.P. bridge built over the Missouri River to Omaha.

Despite the fact that monte men always bribed the local chief of police and individual policemen, attempting anywhere they went without exception, sentiment of the complaining pubic eventually brought down the heat from authorities, resulting in the monte men simply jumping across the river less than four miles' distance to the sister city; then later vice versa. Court judges were sometimes kicking people across the river, from both sides. There was a joke about it in the press - about people "flying" back and forth. This happened to the gal who shot Virgil on the Omaha side, since no charge was filed against her. Yet Virgil had to return "home" to Council Bluffs, since he had hooked up with Alvira there already for a year.

By 1875 after the gambler's war caused a split in the gang of monte men, premier bunko man George Devol and partner accidentally fleeced the wrong guy out of $12,000 - a train passenger. Victim happened to be a top official with the Union Pacific. Long to short, that pretty much ruined things for the gang to operate in either city. Although Ben. Marks and his wife managed to reside in Omaha indefinitely, Marks becoming a community leader and philanthropist before he died there.

Using Doc Baggs and Johnny Bull as examples since I compiled bios on both, now enemies in 1875 after long being partners, Bull went to Denver while Baggs and wife went to Sidney, Nebraska (After saying goodbye to Verge Earp and wife who drifted into Kansas to catch up with Earp family), Sidney being one of the first Hell on Wheels towns which didn't dry up. The financial draw at Sidney was the train station and more rail passenger targets, but also the soldiers at the nearby fort. Here Baggs joined with another crew, who together invented the "gold brick" scam (actually made of lead with thin layer of gold), which was designed to net $10,000 to $15,000 per brick, with the claim that they were worth $30,000 as compared to an authentic gold brick.
(Side story is how Baggs nailed the greedy lawyer Tom Fitch in 1891 for a cool $10,000 'gold brick.'

By 1877 Baggs and Bull had both converged on the boom at Deadwood, but I don't think they had buried the hatchet.
The point I want to make is how these bunko men basically followed what was booming currently. By late 1878 Deadwood had cooled off and the big boom at Leadville drew away many from the Black Hills. Doc went to Leadville but his wife Carrie stayed in Deadwood because her dance house was so successful. Eventually she joined him at Leadville where Doc rewarded her with a huge wedding ceremony thrown by all his other bunko pals up there.

So, to your point about them seeming always being in transit, it was more about sticking with the boom wherever, as long as it was paying the acceptable dividends. They were in Omaha/C.B. for a good three years.

Doc and Carrie can be found on the 1880 Census at Denver, same as John Bull with his wife and two boys.

  • Omaha and crooksBen Harleman, Sat May 4 22:10
    This message is intended primarily for Kenny, but of course any information anyone has to share is desired. Very often, in a lot of your postings, you mention the crooks and scammers and prostitutes... more
    • Re: Omaha and crooks — K.t.K., Mon May 6 08:35
      • Re: Omaha and crooksBen Harleman, Mon May 6 18:45
        Wow, thanks for that excellent explanation. Admittedly, and ashamedely, I don't know a lot about about the Hell on Wheels movement across the west. I know the basics, but have been wanting to further ... more
        • This one should sufficeK.t.K., Mon May 6 19:23
          Although Wikipedia can't hurt on this topic.... more
          • Re: This one should sufficeK.t.K., Mon May 6 19:32
            And when you get to the part about Benton, Wyoming, you'll know that two of the many shooting deaths occurring there in August 1868 were perpetrated by Charley Storms and "Ten-Die" Brown, under their ... more
            • I am curious Kenny....Peter Brand, Mon May 6 23:53
              If they were using aliases, how do you know they were Storms and Brown? Cheers PB
              • Because I lerned the aliases.K.t.K., Tue May 7 06:37
                Just like I learned the aliases of Louisa Huston, Houston, Earp, Johnson, Peters. Brown went by Ten-Die, Ten-Dice, Trick Brown, George Brown and his real name of James M. Brown. Off Wheeler used more ... more
      • Re: Omaha and crooksBob Cash, Mon May 6 13:42
        In my increasingly thick mist of memory, I seem to remember finding an article about a San Diego or Los Angeles real estate businessman recalling his association with Wyatt Earp while both were in... more
        • I saved what you posted.K.t.K., Mon May 6 16:12
          Try to remember Cash, that you've always been like E. F. Hutton to me. From one of my six different files on "Black Hills" or "Deadwood," does this sound like you? "This article was from the January... more
          • Baker addendumK.t.K., Mon May 6 16:48
            Now I found the remainder of your post, which was to me, dated [Bob Cash - 11/10/2009] I can post it if you want to see how you used to talk when you were young.
            • Please do, young man. (nm)Bob Cash, Mon May 6 20:13
              • conclusionK.t.K., Mon May 6 20:42
                "The father is not named in the article. If he in fact, knew Wild Bill in Deadwood he might be one of the Bakers that you have listed as being there early on. One thing I didn't mention in my post... more
                • Re: conclusionBob Cash, Mon May 6 20:45
                  I wrote a lot gooder back then.
                  • Actually it was good.K.t.K., Mon May 6 21:06
                    Then again, you've always been able to out reason everybody. The hard part is when you won't agree with me.
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