When “Wild Bill” Says Don’t Wear That Watch…

Today in History, July 21, 1865:

In the first recorded instance of a “quick draw” gunfight, “Wild Bill” Hickok shoots and kills his friend Davis Tutt.

The two had been arguing over a watch that Tutt took as security for a loan. Hickok told him not to wear it…and he did.

So in the town square in Springfield, Missouri, the two stood sideways to each other and drew. Tutt missed, Hickok did not, shooting Tutt through the heart from 75 yards.

The Santa Fe Trail

Today in History, November 16: 1822 – William Becknell arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with a train of mules loaded down with supplies. Recently, he had been jailed for the more than $20,000 in debts (today’s dollars) that he owed. In desperation he put together a trip with supplies across the dangerous midwest to Santa Fe, Mexico, in an attempt to make the money to pay his creditors. On his first trip he made an incredible profit from the Mexicans living in Santa Fe, since Mexico had recently won it’s Independence from Spain and could trade with Americans again. On his second trip, he turned a $3,000 investment into a $91,000 return for the people of Franklin, Missouri. Before his death in 1865, he would run for the state legislature, own land once owned by the survivors of Daniel Boone, be a Captain in the Texas War for Independence, and be a Texas Ranger. Oh…and before all this happened, he served under Daniel Boone’s son in the War of 1812. He would be honored for blazing the trail to Santa Fe. His father and two of his uncles served in the Revolutionary War…the uncles were killed in battle. What a life!

Hero John C. Freemont…Gets Himself Fired

Today in History, November 2: 1861 – President Lincoln relieves Gen. John C. Fremont of the command of the Western Department of the Union Army. 

 In his younger years Fremont had married Jessie Hart Benton, daughter of a successful US Senator. In the 1840’s he became an American hero exploring and mapping portions of the western US.  

His popularity led him to become the first presidential candidate of the fledgling Republican Party, although he lost. While he and the second Republican candidate for president, Lincoln, may have shared political views, they didn’t share timing. 

 Fremont didn’t prove to be successful as a military commander in Missouri. As commander in the Western Department, he ordered all slaves in Missouri emancipated. Lincoln, who eventually would sign the Emancipation Proclamation, was not ready to do so in 1861 for fear that he would alienate the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware and Maryland, potentially losing their soldiers and resources to the Confederacy. Fremont refused an order to rescind his orders, and Lincoln fired him, a risky political move in itself due to Freemont’s popularity and connections. 

Fremont was given a Mountain command in the east, but quit that when he became subordinate to Gen. Pope, who he felt he outranked. That ended his Civil War career, but he would eventually become Governor of Arizona territory. He passed away in New York in 1890.

A Simple yet Significant Milestone 

Today in History, July 7: 1928 – “The best thing since sliced bread.” In 1912 Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa invented a machine to automatically slice bread, but it was destroyed in a fire. It would take him until 1928 to perfect his machine, first used by the Chillicothe Bread Company of Chillicothe, Missouri on this date. With bread pre-sliced to smaller dimensions, sales went wild, except for a brief 2 month interlude when pre-sliced bread was banned during WWII to lower prices. The ban was lifted after complaints from mothers.