What kind of reception did traveling entertainment groups receive in the West? 

Gloria Mata

Phoenix, Arizona

They were very popular in the entertainment-starved West, and the good ones made a lot of money. They ranged from Shakespearean troupes to minstrel shows to circus and equestrian acts. 

Pretty women were the most popular because of a dearth of females on the frontier, and many became very rich. 

Caroline Chapman was one of the first real actresses to head West. Following her first performance in San Francisco, the audience carpeted the stage with poke sacks filled with gold.

Maria Eliza Rosanna Gilbert from Limerick, Ireland, took the stage as the exotic Lola Montez and became quite rich doing her “Spider Dance.” And there were many more.


Irish actress Lola Montez was a sensation on stage on both American coasts between 1851-53. After an infamous trip to Australia, she returned to the U.S., but she never achieved the fame she enjoyed in her earlier years.
True West Archives


What is known about Billy the Kid’s early years?

Richard Klingenberger

Buda, Texas

For the most part, they are a mystery. The Kid’s birth name was William Henry McCarty Jr. His birthplace is not certain, maybe New York City. His family apparently lived in Indianapolis for a time, but little is known about that period. Billy had a brother—or maybe a half-brother—named Joseph, who was a gambler. 

The Kid began calling himself William H. Bonney, but where he got the alias is unknown. Hopefully, more research will find more info on Billy.


How did the transcontinental railroad affect the bison?

Robert Grace

Brooklyn, New York

The bison were the commissary for the Plains Indians. Since there were so few resources on the Plains, the Indians developed skills to use as much of the great beasts as possible. The land grants that the railroad companies were given took away land from the Plains Indians. The grants also greatly disrupted buffalo hunting, as fences around new White settlers’ lands and the railroad blocked the buffalo migrations. Now, the White hide hunters could travel by rail to hunt, many just for sport. Others sought the fur for coats and other clothing. And the hides were used to make machine belts for the burgeoning Industrial Revolution. By 1900, naturalists estimated that fewer than 1,000 bison remained in the West. 


In a graphic cover story of June 3, 1871, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper reported on how the new railroads dealt with the bison of the West. Courtesy Library of Congress


When did bowling appear in Arizona? 

Tom Barker

Kansas City, Missouri

The earliest bowling alley I found in Arizona was Vogan’s in Tombstone in 1879. The town also boasted four churches, an icehouse, a school, two banks, three newspapers and an ice cream parlor. That’s alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls and numerous dance halls and brothels.


In late 19th-century America, bowling became a sensation from cities to frontier towns. In 1882, George Majéau operated a bowling alley at his Sazerac Saloon
in Tombstone.
Courtesy Library of Congress


What do you know about Clay Beauford, the noted Arizona pioneer? 

James Collins

Tucson, Arizona

Clay Beauford was not his real name. He was born Wilford C. Bridwell but changed his name to Clay Beauford when he ran away from home at the age of 14 to enlist in the Confederate Army. He then had a distinguished career during the Apache Wars in the early 1870s.

Afterward, in 1874, John Clum hired him as chief of Indian police at San Carlos, where he played a role in the dramatic capture of Geronimo and Victorio at Ojo Caliente. For that, Beauford received a Medal of Honor.

He followed that up by becoming a successful rancher and miner. In 1879, he formally changed his name back to Bridwell, then served in the 1885 session of the Arizona Territorial Legislature.

Beauford/Bridwell died in Los Angeles in 1905.

Related Articles

  • the_golden_west

    In 1961 Bison Books blazed a paperback trail to some of the best stories about…

  • ask the marshall true west magazine

    Did Wells Fargo have its own detective force?

  • ask the marshall true west magazine

    On Gunsmoke did the actors drink real beer?