Spring is in the Air

tombstone true west

What do Tombstone, the Pony Express, an “anti-dude” club and Jesse James have in common? All made history during the month of April.

For Tombstone, it started on the very first day of the month, for on April 1, 1877, Ed Schieffelin struck one of the richest silver veins in the Old West—naming his claim Tombstone because skeptics told him he was stupid for prospecting in that area and all he’d ever find was his tombstone.

On the very same day in Dodge City, Wyatt Earp resigned as a police officer to go prospect for gold in the Black Hills.

The first pony express took off on April 3, 1860—just 60 days after the decision was made to establish mail service between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. The original trip took 12 days, but they got that down to nine. The young riders, making $125 a month, rode 30 to 70 miles a day. While the Pony Express became an Old West icon, it only lasted for 19 months.

April was the month we said goodbye to Jesse James, who was shot and killed on April 3, 1882 by Robert Ford. That was just 20 days short of his eighth wedding anniversary to Zee Mimms—they were married April 23, 1874 after a 9-year engagement.

Gold was discovered in the Yukon on April 4, 1896.

Ever heard of an “anti-dude” club? Probably not, but on April 6, 1886, men in Newton, Kansas formed just such a club and set fines for various infractions: $5 for carrying a cane, $10 for wearing kid gloves, $20 for parting your hair down the middle. Whatever their beef with refined men has been lost to history, as no other mention of such a club exists online.

Don’t know if it’s happened since, but on April 7, 1857 snow fell in every state of the union in a late-season freeze.

April said hello to Robert LeRoy Parker, who would be known as Butch Cassidy. He was born on April 13, 1866 in Beaver, Utah.

The westernmost battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Peralta, was fought April 15, 1862. A California column from Yuma defeated a Confederate detachment of Texans, who left Tucson after learning of the defeat. The battle happened 5 days after Robert E. Lee had already surrendered, and it fell on the very day that President Abraham Lincoln died after being shot the day before by John Wilkes Booth.

If you want to pinpoint the moment when Annie Oakley was billed as a markswoman, then remember April 16, 1884. It happened in Columbus, Ohio, as she was touring with the Sells Brothers Circus.

Oklahoma always celebrates April because on April 22, 1889, the first Oklahoma Land Rush took place, as a shot at high noon let 10,000 land-grabbers gallop to get their 160-acre claim for a $15 filing fee. Those who sneaked in earlier were called “Sooners.”

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