Scalphunters Bounty hunters were a varied assortment of mankind...

scalphunters
Jim Kirker.

In Old West movies they show a bounty hunter or family transporting a dead body to some distant location for burial. Anybody who’s been around one knows and the odor gets unbearable quickly. Bodies were soaked in arsenic or alcohol. There are stories of family members who were preserved in a barrel of whiskey until they could be “properly” buried. 

Formaldehyde, discovered in 1859 by a Russian chemist, Aleksandr Butlerov. This made the preservation of bodies for anyone possible. With the advent of formaldehyde, a gas that is dissolved in water, also has an alcohol base. It stabilizes the bacteria that invade flesh, muscle, and tissue, and body organs causing the decay of the human body. 

Those bounty hunters in the movies might do it but in real life few could stomach the smell of a body that had been dead for long. In reality those bodies were buried as quickly as possible. 

Bounty hunters were a varied assortment of mankind. On the frontier, bounties were offered for both Indians and outlaws. From the mid-1830’s to the early 1850’s Mexico paid a bounty on Apache scalps. A number of American frontiersmen, the most famous was Jim Kirker, became “scalphunters.”  During the Apache Wars in Arizona the Army sometimes offered bounties for the heads of specific leaders. Most of the time these bounties were collected by other Apache. In one instance a reward was offered for a Tonto Apache leader named Delshay. One a group brought in a scalp and an ear were brought in and another brought in a head. Each group claimed their head was that of Delshay. General George Crook couldn’t decide which was Delshay so he paid both parties.

The notorious Jack Slade’s common law wife was a pretty lady named Maria Virginia. They lived in a stage station in a grassy glade known as a dale and for that reason many believe her last name was Dale. Jack named the station after Virginia and the grassy glade. The late author Leon Metz says she was “a pretty young lass” and Jack despite all his shortcomings seems to have loved her. After his lynching by vigilantes she decided to take his body back to his hometown in Illinois so she put it in a coffin mostly consisting of tin, filled it with alcohol and set out for Carlyle. Four months later she reached Salt Lake City where his body had become so odorous she had him interred in a Mormon cemetery and there he lies.

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