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Cowboys, Lawmen and the American Frontier - Summary

Cowboys were working in Texas long before the days of America’s Civil War. After Spaniards brought Longhorns to the “New World,” Mexican cow hands called vaqueros worked with the animals.

The Bullock Museum tells us: “Vaqueros owned their horses, saddles, and ropes and what they did with them would shape the history of Texas ranching.”

Many decades passed.

By the time of America’s Civil War, Texas—which had seceded from the Union—was part of the Confederate States of America. Cattle owners, who’d left their herds behind as they fought for their country, returned (after the war) to find their herds had significantly multiplied.

With little market for their cattle in the South, herd-owning Texans had to figure-out how to move their stock from the south to the north (where there was a significant market). Cowboys, working in cattle drives, would do that job.

Who were those nineteenth-century cowboys? White men plus men of color, including African-Americans and Native-Americans. They would spend between two and three months moving cattle north, along established trails (like the Chisholm), to railheads in cow towns (like Abilene)  where the cattle would be loaded into rail cars for transport north and east.

To reach the Kansas cow towns, like Abilene, cowboys had to pass through Indian Territory.

For about three decades, the U.S. federal government gave jurisdiction over the Indian Territory to the federal court for the Western District of Arkansas. Judge Isaac Parker was the federal judge who tried many of the defendants accused of committing crimes in the Indian Territory during those years.

Judge Parker, however, had a problem. He couldn’t do the work alone.

Indian Territory covered more than 74,000 square miles. To manage matters needing legal attention, in the territory, Parker appointed a U.S. Marshal who then appointed 200 federal deputy marshals. One of the most-famous of those marshals was Bass Reeves, an African-American.

Step back in time, to the heyday of the American cattle-driving cowboy, and learn how this activity helped to restore post-war economic viability in the South. Meet the African-American Bass Reeves and learn about his 32-year career as a respected lawman.

Virtually visit the court room of “The Hanging Judge”—Isaac C. Parker—and learn how many guilty defendants he condemned to death by hanging on the gallows near his court room. Discover why the American cowboy of yesteryear remains an icon to this day (and why the age of the cowboy is still romanticized in pop-culture books and movies).

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5139stories and lessons created

Original Release: Feb 18, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Mar 21, 2017


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Cowboys, Lawmen and the American Frontier" AwesomeStories.com. Feb 18, 2015. Dec 16, 2017.
       <http://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Cowboys-Lawmen-and-the-American-Frontier/Summary>.
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