Western History & Genealogy Blog

Hang 'em High

They Died with Their Boots On
Hanging of Gus Metzer
Outlaw: Benjamin J. Hodges
"Long" Steve Young Hanged

Justice Served Frontier Style

Today’s revisionist historians would have you believe that the West was not as wild and wooly as originally thought and was a relatively tame place. Compared to Hollywood’s version of high noon shootouts, horse chases, and action packed train robberies one might think they have a point. But in reality, the truth lies somewhere in between. It is true that most people living in the West went about their lives as mundanely as people of today. Daily chores, farming on the homestead, and trying to bring the crop in before harsh weather struck consumed ordinary citizens lives. But there are many heavily documented cases throughout the history of the Old West where disputes were settled with the hot lead of a six-shooter and where justice was doled out at the unforgiving end of a hangman’s noose. In truth, Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride really did happen. Former United States President, and all around tough guy, Teddy Roosevelt actually tracked down and captured a group of horse thieves who stole a rowboat from his ranch. And vigilante mobs often took to stretching necks of known bad men when the wheels of justice turned too slowly for their liking. Take the time to search through the Western History Department’s digital colections and see for yourself the images of Frontier Justice that gripped the West and sent many a suspected villain, road agent, and outlaw to his final reward.

That is essentially true.

That is essentially true. When I was doing my Masters under Bob Athearn, I did a study of Dodge City between 1875 and 1886. I think there were a total of 11 shootings, on 3 of which were with handguns. If you were waiting for a shoot-out on the streets of Dodge, it would have been a long wait!
We have more shootings in Denver today, than we ever had in the Old West.
However, today, you can wander through the back country without fear of losing your scalp to hostile Indians, unlike days of yore.

I like the use of real

I like the use of real images, and I think it's more educational because it's not watered down. It teaches that the west was really a scary and tough place at times, and helps deliver the message of seriousness behind the crimes.

Thanks for this entry. I

Thanks for this entry. I think it's more educational to tell the truth without whitewash. Keeping up with contemporary news is no less offensive to the squeamish.

Great stuff keep it coming.

Great stuff keep it coming.

Disappointed to see photos of

Disappointed to see photos of murder victims on the library homepage. If this is supposed to be educational, then maybe rethink your decision to use sensational language like "hang 'em high" and "stretched the necks of"

This type of image will disturb some people. Hope you will consider taking the images down.

History is history. Thank

History is history. Thank goodness things have changed and we are no longer burying the truths of the past. Denying society of truth is not the goal of History.
Those people in the photos are someones ancestors, it is appropriate for them to be able to access the photos if they choose. I have an Uncle who was hung in the early 1900's and I have been unable to find any photographs. His story matters to me. I only wish I had documentation of his hanging, it is still a big deal to my family. As morbid as it may seem, this was a way of life and common punishment.

Factual photos of what really

Factual photos of what really happened should not be censored. We can not bury the past ore we are destined to repeat it.