How Did Frontier Explorers and Residents Deal with Ticks and Chiggers?

marshall trimble ask the marshall true west magazine

How did frontier explorers and residents deal with ticks and chiggers?

Don Davis
Show Low, Arizona

Folks in the Ozarks say lye soap and cedar oil are the best old-time methods, so I’m sure that was the remedy during the days of the James-Youngers. Some say locals acclimated to them—but I doubt that.

The old tried-and-true method doesn’t prevent the critters, but it will get them off. We used to light a match, blow it out and poke the hot stick into the tick to make ’em let go—and then we’d stomp the heck out of them. If you try to pry them off, the head might come off inside you. Not good.

Something else that worked is to heat the tip of an ice pick and give that pesky tick a poke in the rear end. That usually worked better than a dead match.

Maybe some of our readers have some remedies for ticks and chiggers.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.