Tough Towns: True Tales from the Gritty Streets of the Old West

Overview

The only people tougher than the bank and train robbers of the Old West were the citizens who banded together to create law and order on the streets of their towns. Shoemakers and storekeepers, bank men and local lawmen, barbers and liverymen—they all fought to defend their homes and to defend their lives against the outlaws who threatened them.
Tough towns faced down famous gangs like the Daltons and the James-Youngers, drove off Mexican bandits, killed Pretty Boy Floyd’s chief...

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Overview

The only people tougher than the bank and train robbers of the Old West were the citizens who banded together to create law and order on the streets of their towns. Shoemakers and storekeepers, bank men and local lawmen, barbers and liverymen—they all fought to defend their homes and to defend their lives against the outlaws who threatened them.
Tough towns faced down famous gangs like the Daltons and the James-Youngers, drove off Mexican bandits, killed Pretty Boy Floyd’s chief lieutenant, and helped put an end to the nineteenth-century rash of bank robbing in the West. Ordinary-people-turned-heroes joined their neighbors and fought—and sometimes died—because they wouldn't run away or turn a blind eye to crime. Their stories, told by historian and writer Robert Barr Smith, are a fascinating part of the legend of the Old West.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Smith, the assistant cashier, had been in the middle of waiting on Joe Rooney when he felt a “heavy hand on his shoulder,” and looked around to see one of the bandits stick the muzzle of his revolver through the bars on the teller’s cage. Shirley—or Law, depending on which account you read—demanded money, and told Smith to be quick about it. Looking down the ugly end of the pistol, Smith perceived that he had very little option but to deliver. So far, things had gone according to plan for Shirley and his cohorts, but big trouble was coming for the bandits, and coming quickly.

KLIATT - Raymond Puffer
There is no doubt that the level of violence in the towns and nascent cities of the Old Southwest was high, although certainly not as high as in today's cities. Most folks were law-abiding, then as now, and whenever a colorful crime did take place, the story became enshrined in the town's history for decades to come. The difference is that the criminals tended to come from outside the community, and locals seldom feared to help bring them to justice. Exactly how tough were some of these towns? Well, mobs breaking into the local jail to expedite the execution of miscreants were common enough, and jailkeeps seldom put up much of a fight to protect them. Many ordinary citizens enthusiastically joined an ad hoc posse, quickly abandoning store counter or anvil to help run down the wrongdoers. Multiple posses were frequent in these towns: following a hot trail in successive waves, or fanning out in groups to block likely escape routes. Captive robbers were not always returned safely to the sheriff, instead meeting their final justice under a convenient tree. This was especially likely if someone popular had been killed in the gunplay, but the haste with which two killers were hanged simultaneously from the same short length of rope was later judged to be a little extreme. Afterwards, volunteers often indulged in gristly souvenir taking. Even the task of propping up the deceased for his final camera pose drew many volunteers, one of them going so far as to lend his hat to a well-worn corpus. Smith's examples make for lively reading, but offer thoughtful insights as well. One is struck by how many criminals were brought to justice (of one kind or another) because someone knew them, orrecognized them from a simple written description. Western communities were small, and posted notices probably brought in more miscreants than all of the posses that ever pounded down a trail.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762740048
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 541,281
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Barr Smith is a law professor at the University of Oklahoma and a retired colonel, U.S. Army. He is the author of four books and nearly 100 articles of western and military history. A senior parachutist, he served in Vietnam, Germany, and all across the United States. He is a frequent lecturer on the West.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 14, 2012

    A good book on the American West

    If you like when an average citizen fights back against crime, you'll love this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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