Michael D. Heaston Rare Books & Manuscripts has published their Catalogue Fifty-Five - Americana. The subtitle is A Fine Selection of Books, Pamphlets, Manuscripts, Broadsides & Maps Pertaining to the United States. While everything Americana is fair game, we can say the greatest concentration is on the 19th century and the American West. There is not a lot of the typical lore – gunslingers, lawmen, the most famous and infamous names of the era, though there are some Buffalo Bill pictures. There are a number of Indian items, but not in relation to Custer and the famed battles. It more likely has to do with land rights, and the relentless pushing of America's natives onto smaller and smaller reservations. There is also much material on railroads, land for sale, community histories, personal letters from the time. This is America and the West as it was rather than imagined. Here are a few selections.
We will begin with a lawman, but this was no heroic, Wyatt Earp type. Rufus “Rufe” Highnote served in various law enforcement positions in Texas and Oklahoma, but he seems to have been little more than a gangster behind a badge. Violence, whether needed or not, was his calling card, as he was involved in numerous shootouts, duels, maybe a lynching. He was a constable, policeman and sheriff, and earned a reputation as being trigger-happy, with both criminals and co-workers. The first item is an example of this – The State of Texas vs. Rufe Highnote. It's a grand jury indictment from 1877. He was charged with assaulting one Louis Polk. The charge was he pointed a loaded pistol at Polk and “did aim, point and present at to and upon same Louis Polk contrary to the forms of the Statute in such cases made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the State.” The prosecutor had a way with words. There would be many more cases like this, and Rufe would move on from one position to the next until he wore out his welcome. Finally, he ended up in Oklahoma where he opened a detective agency and was appointed a deputy sheriff in Wirt. When Sheriff Buck Garrett received too many complaints about Highnote's behavior, he realized the error of appointing him. He sent Deputy Bud Ballew to collect Highnote's guns on April 8, 1918. Highnote responded by drawing his pistol, but Ballew was faster. Rufe's career came to a sudden end. A newspaper article said he had “more knicks in his gun than any other individual in the southwest...a man possessing more actual nerve than probably all others of his kind combined.” He claimed to having killed 27 men, likely an exaggeration, but six or seven seem to be verified. Item 209. Priced at $750.
J. Evetts Haley was a noted historian and writer on Texas. If you collect Texas, you undoubtedly know him. You may not know he was also a would-be politician with some very far right ideas that have not aged well, not that they were much better when they were young. He was a Democrat when everyone in Texas was, but a vocal opponent of Roosevelt and the New Deal. In 1956, he decided to run in the Democratic primary for Governor. Item 216 is a promotional broadside for his campaign which contains his picture and a brief message that says it all – J. Evetts Haley for Governor for Segregation & States Rights. Haley proved to be too far right even for Texas. He would later write a book attacking fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson, who did much to integrate the South. Item 216. $100.
Leonard Wood participated in an army raid into Mexico to quell hostile Apache. It was not pleasant. He provides an account in Report of Assistant Surgeon Leonard Wood, U.S. Army. Fort Bowie, A.T., September 8, 1886. He reports that Sonora is rough with serious obstacles for the troops. All supplies had to come by pack-train as no other transportation was practical. He continues, “Some idea of the heat may be gained by these facts: Men could not bear their hands on the iron work of their guns, or on rocks... Pack-trains had to be stopped after five or six miles on account of animals being overheated and played out... The uniform was totally unfit for Sonora, or along the southern border, and troops on expedition where hard work is to be done... Water is scanty and often of poor quality. Grass almost wanting during the dry season. The heat is intense, often reaching 120-degrees Fahrenheit... The ration, as commonly issued, is enough to keep a man alive, but he cannot do a great deal of hard work on it in this climate or sustain long continued fatigue, simply because he gets no meat, and as rule poor bread...” While mostly dry, Wood pointed out in the rainy season they “were frequently drenched.” Not much of a promotion for joining the army, or vacationing in Mexico. Item 4. $3,750.
The next item is from Parsons, Labette County, Kansas. Years from 1869 to 1895. Story of “The Benders.” It was written by Belle Curry and compiled by the local library, published circa 1937, and stated as in only 50 copies. Parsons is a small city of around 10,000 in southeastern Kansas, as best I can tell, a typical small town environment of good neighbors. It has produced numerous people who made significant contributions to society, but no celebrities. That is, except the notorious “Bloody Benders,” who inhabited the place in its earliest days before there was much to it. The Benders were an immigrant couple, likely from Germany, and their son and daughter. They operated an inn along the road. They were reportedly a taciturn bunch except for daughter Kate, who was outgoing and vivacious. She could make any weary male traveler want to stay for the night. Often, they stayed much longer, as in forever. The visitor would sit down at the table for dinner, whereupon the father or son would emerge from behind a curtain, bludgeon them to death, and slit their throats to be sure they were dead. Eventually, people from nearby towns began searching the area, wondering why loved ones never returned. They found around a dozen bodies buried in back. However, by that time, the Benders realized they were catching on and disappeared. They were never found, nor does anyone know why they were doing this. Apparently, only mother and daughter were actually related. Two women were brought back to Kansas years later and tried as being the Bender women but that did not hold up in court. Item 9. $2,250.
This item relates to another small community on the Midwestern plains. Plattsmouth, Cass County, Nebraska, is an even smaller city, about 6,500. It is located in eastern Nebraska, and we can trace its history back to 1855. That is when the Plattsmouth Town Company issued this one share in the town to A. D. Jones. It entitled him to a 1/200th share in the town site. It is number 154. It provides that each shareholder would “be entitled to an equal division of said land,” while being governed by the rules of the association. Item 126. $875.
Here is another stock certificate for a newly forming town, in this case, Menard, Texas. It is headed Certificate of Stock in the Town of Menard. One Hundred Dollars... Situated on the West Bank of the Neches River in the County of Liberty. The shareholder was S. H. Everett. Everett has also signed it as the land agent. Today, Menard is an even smaller city of around 1,500 residents. However, this may not be quite as it seems. This Menard is described as being in Liberty County, Texas, but today's Menard is in Menard County, about 350 miles away. It does not appear that this Menard survived. It is likely both were named for the Menard Brothers who founded Galveston. Item 211. $385.
Michael D. Heaston Rare Books & Manuscripts can be reached at 512-417-8045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.