Thayer Waldo

Thayer Waldo


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Thayer Waldo married the artist, Grace Clements, a student of Boardman Robinson, in 1938. The following year Waldo became a journalist. For the next twenty years he worked as a foreign correspondent in Mexico and Cuba. He left Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power and moved to the Dominican Republic. In 1962 he joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Waldo was the first journalist to arrive at Dallas Police Station after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was there when they brought in the rifle found in Texas School Book Depository. Later he watched them bring in Lee Harvey Oswald.

Waldo told the Warren Commission that he had an important informant in the Dallas Police. His name was Lieutenant George Butler. According to Michael Benson, Butler was an associate of Haroldson L. Hunt. Butler was also the man in charge of Oswald's transfer when he was killed by Jack Ruby.

Waldo told Mark Lane that he had discovered that Jack Ruby, J. D. Tippet and Bernard Weismann had a meeting at the Carousel Club eight days before the assassination. Waldo added that he was too scared to publish the story and other information that he had about the assassination. Lane introduced Waldo to Dorothy Kilgallen. Her article on the Tippit, Ruby and Weissman meeting appeared on the front page of the Journal American.

Waldo is the author of The Lunatick (1974) and A Stillness at Sordera (1976).

Thayer Waldo died on 1st January 1989.

Thayer Waldo: In the jail - no, I went directly, as is stated in this transcript, the report, I went directly from the Trade Mart to Dallas Police Headquarters an the afternoon of November 22 within a matter of 30 minutes after we had learned that the President was shot. In fact, I was on the Stemmons Freeway passing the resort motel called "La Cabaria" at the moment that the car radio reported the President is dead.

When I arrived at Dallas Police Headquarters, I was the first reporter of any medium, so far as I know, certainly there was no other in evidence to reach the third floor. No one attempted to stop me or ask for any identification at that time.

Leon D. Hubert: Did you have any identification on your person?

Thayer Waldo: Yes, sir; I had a badge I have it with me in this book, if it's of any interest to see it, merely identifying "Dallas, November 22, President Kennedy's Visit," which I was wearing on my lapel.

Leon D. Hubert: It was a press identification card in connection with the visit?

Thayer Waldo: That's right, and the offices of the hierarchy of the Dallas Police Department are located on the third floor, were almost deserted, since Chief Curry, Deputy Chief Stevenson and others of the staff had either been assigned to the Presidential motorcade or to the Trade Mart, or in the case of Chief Curry, were invited guests or to have been invited guests at that luncheon. The man who was in the building in the offices, the highest ranking officer to whom I was directed by one of the secretaries, was Capt. Glenn King, who has subsequently been identified to me as in charge of public relations of the Dallas Police Department. I walked into Captain King's office is this of interest?

Leon D. Hubert: Yes.

Thayer Waldo: I walked into Captain King's office and identified myself by name and newspaper and immediately noticed a fleeting expression on his face, which sometimes we who work in Fort Worth and have dealings with Dallas officials, have come to recognize, most particularly when something has taken place in Dallas which may give unfavorable publicity to that city, and before I could finish my question, Captain King interrupted and very courteously said, "Mr. Waldo, we know absolutely nothing here. We have heard rumors that there were some shots. We do not know where the shots came from or who they were aimed at, if anybody, or if anybody was hit. We don't know anything."

I could not help but assume that this was what in the vernacular might be called a brushoff, since in several open unoccupied offices and within hearing distance as I was speaking to him, there were police radio receivers turned on. Therefore, I had to assume that he sitting there must have been informed of the events...

I don't believe anything of significance happened between that and the time that I noticed a little flurry of activity. I should say, incidentally, that in the interim, which would be approximately 35 to 40 minutes during which time I was talking to my desk, I might add that the girls in the office were extremely cooperative. One of the girls even said, "Well, you'll want to be in here," the pressroom being at the far end of the third floor corridor from there, "Just use my desk. I'll move away. Use my telephone."

I had talked to my desk at the Star-Telegram, and then I noticed a little flurry of activity, and as I say, during this time several of the high ranking officers, none of whom I knew by name at that time, had come in, and I asked a girl who had been standing with them in Captain King's office, as I recall, just a few minutes, and then came out, "What's going on?" and her answer was, "They found a rifle." I asked, "Where?" and she said, "On the roof of the School Book Depository Building." Of course, I stress this is secondhand information. She is giving it from what she heard from a high ranking official who undoubtedly was told by somebody else. In any case, that information was telephoned to my newspaper and I believe was used in at least one edition. Later it was officially stated, of course, that the rifle had been found on the sixth floor.

I think it is probably worth mentioning that I was present at the time that Officer McDonald and the other detectives brought the man who was subsequently identified to me as Lee Harvey Oswald in. In fact, by then there were two Dallas radio reporters and I cannot tell you who they were or what they represented. We were moving too fast at that time. Those were the only others. The three of us interviewed Officer McDonald in the hall immediately after he had delivered Oswald into the hands of the people in homicide. In fact, blood was still trickling down McDonald's chin from the cut lip where he said he had been struck by Oswald, and at that time he gave us a version of the capture of Oswald, which was substantially in all details but one as it has subsequently been repeated on numerous occasions, including the sworn testimony at Jack Ruby's murder trial.

The one difference was that at the trial and in other accounts that I have heard, it has been stated that when the house lights in the Texas Theatre were turned up and the officers approached Oswald, that he jumped to his feet, crying, "This is it!" and reached for the gun in his belt. Officer McDonald, at the time of that interview in the hall, moments after he had delivered Oswald into custody, was that what Oswald said when he jumped up was, "It's all over!" That's the only difference.

Oswald's 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano was not the only weapon seen in Dealey Plaza that day. At1 p.m. Dallas police officers were filmed by Ernest Charles Mentesana removing a rifle from the roof of the Depository. Unlike the Oswald rifle, the rifle Mentesana filmed had no sling, no scope, and protruded at least 7-8 inches past the stock, where Oswald's extended only 4-5 inches. [17] In the film two police officers are standing on a fire escape at the seventh floor of the Depository gesturing to the roof. In the next sequence the rifle is being examined.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Thayer Waldo watched a group of high-ranking Dallas police officers huddle together for a conference just a few minutes after 1 p.m. on the day of the shooting. When he spoke to a secretary who was privy to the officers' conversations, she told Waldo that police officers had found a rifle on the "roof of the School Book Depository."

W. Anthony Marsh believes the rifle shown in the film is very likely a Dallas Police Department Remington 870 shotgun. Marsh notes that the Dallas Police Department used Remington 870 shotguns. One of the officers escorting three men in the railyards after the shooting was carrying a Remington 870 shotgun.

Of the handful of reporters who had the commitment, the clout, the predisposition, and the intrepidity to go after what the government wanted withheld, some were frightened. Thayer Waldo of the Fort Worth Sun-Telegram originally furnished to Mark Lane information that Officer Tippit, Jack Ruby, and Bernard Weissman had met in Ruby's Carousel Club eight days before the assassination. Waldo would not use the story himself. Waldo also discovered that the Dallas chief of police had been surprised by the course finally chosen for the President's motorcade and was unable to fathom why the procession was instructed to take this more vulnerable route. Nor did he use this story, though once again he made the information available to Mark Lane. Thayer Waldo was not minimizing the significance of his information. On the contrary, he told Lane that if he published what he knew, "there would be real danger to him."


Peter Waldo

Some men's personal lives are eclipsed by the movements they start. Peter Waldo was such a man. He appears on the scene of history in 1170 in Lyons as a successful businessman who, touched to his core by a traveling minstrel's religious ballad, gave away his money to live in poverty as a preacher of the Gospel. Having persuaded a sympathetic priest to translate large sections of the New Testament from Latin into the regional language, Provençal, Peter wandered through Lyons, bringing the message of Christ to anyone who would listen to him. He soon had the Gospels memorized. A number of young men, impressed by his intelligence and sincerity, followed him in giving away their possessions and found a new joy and freedom in living according to the spirit of the Gospels.

Some priests of Lyons, disturbed by Peter's popularity, tried to curb his activities. Peter appealed directly to Pope Alexander III in Rome. The Pope responded in 1179 by praising the group's poverty but said that because they had no theological training they could preach only if the archbishop of Lyons gave them permission. The Waldenses, as they had come to be known, felt that their message was too important to be checked by traditional Church discipline, and they rejected the Pope's directive. They were excommunicated at a Church council in Verona by the next pope, Lucius III, in 1184.

The Waldenses continued to live by their understanding of the New Testament rather than by the procedures of the Church. They refused to accept the existence of purgatory because it is not in the Bible. They rejected the practice of venerating the saints for the same reason. Not just priests, they said, but any person can consecrate the sacramental bread and wine. They rejected the authority structure of the Church as unbiblical. Their refusal to take oaths and also to participate in war made them unpopular with the secular as well as the Church authorities. Peter Waldo himself was not heard from after his excommunication in 1184. His followers were harassed by the Inquisition. They escaped when possible to the nearly inaccessible mountain regions of northern Italy, where Waldo's ideas managed to survive over the centuries despite periodic attempts by Church authorities to eliminate them.


The Drunken Truth About the JFK Assassination

At 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963, bullets fired into the open roof of the presidential limousine tore through John F. Kennedy's body.

The first shot went through the president's neck but did not kill him. A second, fatal shot ripped through his brain and his skull almost four seconds later.

During the critical time between the two shots, seconds in which the president's life might have been saved, the Secret Service agents within a few feet of the man they were duty bound to protect failed to take the evasive actions they had been trained to do.

Roy Kellerman, the leader of the security detail, riding in the passenger seat of the limousine, wasn't sure what was happening. He turned to see the president grasping his neck.

William Greer, at the wheel of the presidential limo, did not at first speed up or swerve away from the noise. Neither Paul Landis, on the running boards of the vehicle trailing Kennedy's, nor Jack Ready in front of him jumped forward to protect the president.

Lyndon Johnson, riding two cars back, was startled by the sound of the first shot. "Others in the motorcade thought it was a backfire from one of the police motorcycles, or a firecracker someone in the crowd had set off," writes Robert Caro in his biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power.

Even the official commissions disagree about what happened that day. Were there three shots or four? Did all the bullets come from the window of the Texas School Book Depository&mdashwhere assassin Lee Harvey Oswald stood with his 6.5-millimeter Carcano Italian infantry carbine?

Did the first bullet pass through President Kennedy and continue on to wound Texas governor John Connally, who was sitting in the forward jump seat of the limousine with his wife, Nellie? Whose decision was it to forego using the main limo's plastic bubble, built to shield those in the passenger seats?

Why were there no Secret Service agents on the running boards of the president's car?

Those fatal seconds, although they were caught on film by several amateur cameramen, still elude our understanding. But one thing about those moments&mdashone thing on which all the commissions agree&mdashhas gone relatively under-reported during the five decades since.

Nine of the twenty-eight Secret Service men who were in Dallas with the president the day he died had been out in local clubs until the early hours of the morning&mdashin one case until five a.m. Three of the Secret Service agents riding a few feet from the president in the follow-up car had been, by their own accounts, up very late and drinking, an activity prohibited in the Secret Service rulebook.

A week after the events in Dallas, President Lyndon Johnson ordered the first official investigation of the assassination. Its chairman: Earl Warren, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who had had a distinguished career as the governor of California.

The Warren Court, during his fourteen years as chief justice, had heard many pivotal cases, including Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, with its landmark civil rights decision. With an already established reputation and an eye on the political thicket that would surround an investigation into Kennedy's assassination, Warren hesitated to accept Johnson's mandate. Johnson prevailed.

Three days after reluctantly taking the job, Warren learned that Secret Service agents had been out on the town socializing and drinking until early morning the day of the assassination.

The revelation came not from depositions but from a radio report followed up by a December 2 newspaper column in The Washington Post by Drew Pearson, the establishment journalist (and close friend of Chief Justice Warren) well known for speaking truth to power.

Pearson wrote that the Secret Service agents had visited the Fort Worth Press Club after midnight and that six of them had proceeded to an offbeat place called the Cellar Coffee House. Some of the agents were out until nearly three a.m. and "one of them was reported to have been inebriated," Pearson wrote.

Pearson explained that his information had come to him through Thayer Waldo, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter who didn't think his editors would dare publish a story casting aspersions against Secret Servicemen or the Fort Worth club owners, employees and patrons.

"Obviously men who have been drinking until nearly three a.m. are in no condition to be trigger-alert or in the best physical shape to protect anyone," Pearson wrote about the Secret Service agents in the Kennedy motorcade.

The Warren Commission duly questioned the Secret Service agents in question about their activities the night before the assassination and found they had been drinking. But in the 1960s the pastime of drinking with peers or colleagues was considered normal, acceptable behavior in many circles. Because of the lack of social stigma associated with drinking, it was hard for the panel's members to know how to react.

Philadelphia assistant district attorney Arlen Specter, who had reluctantly taken the Warren Commission job, and who debriefed the agents for the Warren Commission, didn't consider their behavior a severe problem. Indeed, the agents themselves were already devastated by their failure to protect the president, who most of them had revered.

Although the agents had broken the rules, many involved with the commission were eager to protect them from going down in history as the men who had made the mistakes that may have doomed the president.

Chief Justice Warren, however, was outraged. His ire finally found a voice in June 1964, when the commission questioned James Rowley, the director of the Secret Service. Under oath, Rowley admitted that Drew Pearson's column had been more or less accurate. Some had been drinking scotch others, "two or three" beers.

After forcing Rowley to read the agency's regulations that "the use of intoxicating liquor of any kind. is prohibited," General Counsel J. Lee Rankin hammered him. Even though drinking was a firing offense, according to the manual, Rowley had fired no one. "How can you tell," Rankin asked, that the men's actions "the night before. had nothing to do with the assassination?"

Rowley bobbed and weaved. He had thought about punishment, he admitted. On the other hand, he had not wanted to blame the agents for the assassination&mdashhe did not want to "stigmatize" them or their families.

These answers seemed to infuriate Warren. "Don't you think that if a man went to bed reasonably early, and hadn't been drinking the night before, he would be more alert than if he stayed up until three, four, or five o'clock in the morning, going to beatnik joints and doing some drinking along the way?"

Warren noted that some citizens along the route of the motorcade, waiting for the president to pass by, had actually seen a gun barrel pointed out of the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. None of the Secret Service agents had noticed it.

"Some people saw a rifle up in that building," Warren went on. "Wouldn't a Secret Service man in this motorcade, who is supposed to observe such things, be more likely to observe something of that kind if he was free from any of the results of liquor or lack of sleep than he would otherwise? Don't you think that they would have been more alert, sharper?"

Long work shifts and a tolerance for partying and drinking had become entrenched in the Secret Service during JFK's years in office, and this extended to the men in charge of the president's security.

Although there have been a handful of Secret Service drinking scandals since then, the early 1960s seem to have been a particularly difficult time for Secret Service agents.

"Agents acknowledged that the Secret Service's socializing intensified each year of the Kennedy administration, to a point where, by late 1963, a few members of the presidential detail were regularly remaining in bars until the early morning hours," investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh would note in his book The Dark Side of Camelot.

Hersh reported that things were so loose that at least three of the Kennedy women&mdashsisters and cousins from the president's large family&mdashhad propositioned various agents. All of this rule-breaking behavior among members of the extended Kennedy family should have made the Secret Service more alert and more responsible. Instead, it seemed to have the opposite effect.

Whether or not they were hungover on November 22, several agents were certainly sleep deprived, a not-uncommon state among Secret Servicemen at the time.

Agent Gerald Blaine, also in the Dallas motorcade, remembered struggling to stay awake on numerous occasions and spoke of being afraid to sit down or lean against a wall lest he nod off: "Working double shifts had become so common since Kennedy became president that it was now almost routine. The three eight-hour shift rotation operated normally when the president was in the White House, but when he was traveling. there simply weren't enough bodies."

Not only did many agents lack sleep, they rarely had time to eat. In his flight bag, along with extra ammunition and shoe polish, Blaine typically kept a few bags of Planters peanuts&mdashsometimes the only thing he ate all day.

The Secret Service, one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies, was founded in the nineteenth century to investigate financial crimes and curb counterfeiting after the Civil War. The department's formation was one of the last things President Abraham Lincoln approved in a conversation with Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch the day of his assassination.

(Lincoln's bodyguard, John Parker, was taking a break at a bar across the street when John Wilkes Booth approached the presidential box and fired a single, mortal shot.)

Then, in 1881, President James Garfield, waiting at the Washington, D.C., railroad station for a train meant to take him on a visit to New England&mdashand unaccompanied by any kind of bodyguard&mdashwas assassinated by a man who thought God was telling him to kill the president.

It wasn't until the administration of Grover Cleveland, when a stranger walked into the White House and hit the president across the face, that the Secret Service became part of a unit intended to guard the nation's chief executive.

The first twenty-five U.S. presidents had bodyguards but no official security detail, and the idea of protecting a leader from his own people was, at first, an unpopular one. Yet the need for close security became a governmental necessity in 1901, when an anarchist in Buffalo, New York, approached President James McKinley, who was loosely flanked by three Secret Service agents, and fatally shot him from only a few feet away.

By the 1960s the Secret Service had evolved into an elite corps of physically impressive men, adept in the use of firearms and ready to meet all emergencies, even at the cost of their own lives. Despite the agency's stature, two problems have always undermined it. One has been the desire of presidents to be physically accessible to the American public, but the other is more serious, especially when things go wrong.

From the beginning, the macho pride of the armed men of the service has made it a culture that has masked its weaknesses. Pride is not flexible and it does not ask for help. And since tough guys don't complain, problems have often been downplayed.

Sleep and careful eating were for sissies. Training was for beginners. In certain cases in the 1960s, physical fitness requirements were just a matter of filling out forms. Being a man who could hold his liquor was part of the MO. Indeed, First Lady Betty Ford liked to joke that when she got sober, some members of her Secret Service contingent who had to accompany her to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings ended up getting sober as well.

Even in recent years, this machismo mindset has bedeviled the agency. Though the agency has gone through repeated reforms, the past decade has seen nearly nine hundred incidents in which officials were charged with misconduct. In the past three years alone, three reprimands for misbehavior turned into public scandals.

In 2012, agents doing advance work for an official visit to Colombia by President Obama cavorted with strippers in their hotel thirteen were investigated, and four were demoted or fired.

In 2013, a Secret Service supervisor in the president's detail picked up a woman at the bar of the Hay-Adams hotel in Washington, D.C., then went upstairs with her to a hotel room, leaving behind a bullet from his Sig Sauer semiautomatic pistol when he left.

And in March 2014, in Holland, after a Secret Service squad went out well into the night and one Counter Assault Team member was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway, three agents were shipped back stateside and put on leave.

President John F. Kennedy, beginning his campaign for a second term, traveled more than any previous president. Traveling had always been a nightmare for the Secret Service, especially when it involved the First Lady and other eminent guests and their families.

"Motorcades were the Secret Service's nemeses," agent Gerald Blaine would write. "There were an endless number of variables. and you could never predict how a crowd would react." In Dallas, against department regulations, the president and the vice president&mdashLyndon Johnson&mdashwould ride in the same motorcade, making the situation even more unstable in the eyes of the men there to keep them from harm.

Kennedy wanted to be physically close to his constituents. And for all his personal courtesy to his guardians, including his motorcycle escorts, he made it clear that he was impatient with those who wanted to hem him in with security, especially the chosen few whose assignment brought them near enough to touch him.

At the start of his administration, four agents would typically ride along on the side of the president's vehicle, balanced on running boards affixed to the car. Their positions, however, often blocked well-wishers from approaching the president for a handshake or from having a direct line of sight to him.

At one point a few days before his death, Kennedy commanded his Secret Servicemen&mdashwhom he affectionately called a bunch of "Ivy League charlatans"&mdashto stay off the exterior footrests because he felt they boxed him in.

It was the prospect of a good meal that led the Secret Service agents out of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth the night of November 21. The president and the First Lady had retired to their suite, and the men had had no dinner some of them hadn't eaten since breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Word got out that there was a buffet with food a few blocks from the hotel. In fact, local journalists had kept the Fort Worth Press Club open so that visiting White House reporters could go and grab a bite.

It was after one in the morning when nine of the twenty-eight agents in the presidential detail walked over in search of food. There was none. Though the kitchen at the club was closing, the agents stayed around for scotch and sodas, and a few cans of beer. Three of the agents then headed back to their rooms six continued with the festivities.

CBS newsman Bob Schieffer&mdashthen a young night police reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram&mdashremembers the evening well.

"I went to the club when I got off at two a.m.," he recalls. Nearby was a legendary hangout called the Cellar Coffee House. "The Cellar was an all-night San Francisco-style coffee house down the street and some of the visiting reporters had heard about it and wanted to see it. So we all went over there and some of the agents came along. The place didn't have a liquor license, but they did serve liquor to friends&mdashusually grain alcohol." (Fort Worth was a dry city in 1963, so the Cellar officially offered only fruit juice.)

Six Secret Service members stayed at the Cellar until close to three in the morning one didn't leave until five a.m. "Every one of the agents involved had been assigned protective duties that began no later than 8:00 a.m. on November 22, 1963," observed Philip Melanson, an expert on incidents of politically motivated violence who would oversee the archive of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination.

On November 22, a morning mist had burned off, and bright sunshine greeted the presidential party, who had flown from Fort Worth to Dallas. Instead of getting in the limousine, President Kennedy and the First Lady walked along the chain-link fence separating the airfield from the public, shaking hands and chatting with the spectators.

Secret Service agents Clint Hill and Paul Landis scanned the crowd for trouble. Neither had had more than a few hours of sleep both had been drinking into the early hours of the morning.

That morning, nine agents were specifically responsible for guarding the president. In the lead car&mdashat the front of the motorcade, directly in front of Kennedy's limousine&mdashsat agent Winston Lawson, along with Dallas police chief Jesse Curry. Behind them in the presidential limousine&mdashthe second car of the motorcade&mdashthe driver and passenger seat were occupied by Secret Service members William Greer and Roy Kellerman.

The limousine, a 1961 midnight-blue four-door Lincoln (code-named the SS-100-X), had been modified by the Ford Motor Company for presidential use. Four retractable side steps and two steps with handles on the rear of the car had been added to allow security personnel to jump on or off, or be escorted along. The side steps had been retracted.

Modifications had widened the car's wheelbase and increased its weight from 5,200 pounds to almost 7,800 pounds. Even for an experienced driver like Greer, who had been a chauffeur in Boston, it was a difficult vehicle to maneuver, especially on a route like the one in Dallas, which included some sharp right-angle turns.

Riding along that day were the Kennedys (code-named Lancer and Lace) and the Connallys. The third car, also configured with protruding footrests, was a 1956 black Cadillac convertible (code-named Halfback), driven by Secret Service agent Sam Kinney. It was Kinney's job to stay a few feet behind the presidential limousine at all times: close enough so that the two cars couldn't be separated by someone lunging between them, but not so close as to cause a collision.

Paul Landis, Jack Ready, and Clint Hill rode the running boards along the sides of this follow-up car. Inside sat agents George Hickey, Emory Roberts, Glenn Bennett and senior aide Ken O'Donnell.

Agent Hill&mdashpoised just a few feet behind the Kennedys, who sat in the backseat of the car in front of him&mdashwas nervous. The motorcade kept speeding up and slowing down, speeding up and slowing down. That morning, he frequently jumped off the running board to jog alongside the vehicle. Kinney, right behind him in Halfback's driver's seat, watched him struggle to keep pace with the cars.

Clint Hill had been assigned to the First Lady's detail his job was to focus on her, not on the president. According to Hill, in Mrs. Kennedy and Me, one of two books he has written about the Kennedys, he and Mrs. Kennedy had developed a solid friendship.

They had first become good friends, he noted, after a propitious encounter. One day when he was in the passenger seat next to the driver while she was being chauffeured to Middleburg, Virginia, where she had rented a small estate for riding horses, Hill lit up a cigarette. She leaned forward and asked Hill to ask the driver to pull over.

Hill was baffled when she invited him to ride with her in the back seat. Perhaps she didn't like his smoking? Instead, with an impish look on her face, she asked Hill if she could have one of his cigarettes. Hill reached for his pack of L&M's and lit one for the First Lady. "She was like a giddy teenager who was getting away with something, and I was her cohort in crime," Hill writes.

Hill's laser focus on the First Lady may have also stemmed from a deeper affection for her, evident in the tenderness with which he would later write about her. After the first and second shots rang out, it was Hill who acted, climbing onto the rear of the Kennedys' limousine and pushing the First Lady&mdashwho had crawled onto the back of the car&mdashback into her seat. It was already too late to save the president.

Across from Hill on the other side of the follow-up car, agent Jack Ready was also on the footboards, feet from the president. Behind him, in similar proximity, was Paul Landis, also from Mrs. Kennedy's detail.

Both men seemed paralyzed for a few moments. All three&mdashalong with Glenn Bennett, who was inside their chase car&mdashhad gone to the press club and then the Cellar the night before. Hill, Ready, and Bennett had stayed until after two a.m. Landis, until five.

The fourth car in the motorcade, containing Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, was guarded by other agents, including Rufus Youngblood. Youngblood had not joined the others the previous evening. And at the sound of the first shot, the agent, in line with his Secret Service training, pushed Johnson to the floor of the car and covered him with his own body, a move that none of the other agents would make in those precious few seconds to protect the president, the governor, or their wives.

The situation in Dallas, surely, had been exacerbated by President Kennedy's fearlessness&mdasheven recklessness&mdasha charge later levied by some in his protective detail. It was the president who wanted to ride in an open car without the protective bubble. It was the president who insisted on going to Dallas, a staunchly conservative stronghold, even though a fellow Democrat, Adlai Stevenson, had recently been attacked there.

"Dallas is a very dangerous place," Kennedy had been told by his friend Arkansas Democrat senator J. William Fulbright, according to journalist Ronald Kessler in his book In the President's Secret Service. "I wouldn't go there. Don't you go." (Ironically, that first shot was fired at Kennedy at the very moment Nellie Connally had turned to the president to comment about the friendly Dallas crowds.)

Agent William Greer, who had served in the Navy during World War II, was clearly undone by the events of the day, although he had not been out with the other agents the night before. "Greer was tormented by his actions in the motorcade, including his failure to hit the accelerator immediately after hearing the first shot," journalist Philip Shenon writes. Witnesses remember seeing the car's brake lights illuminate at around the time the bullets were fired.

Later, Greer said he had been waiting for instructions from Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in the passenger seat of the limousine. (Kennedy's two main escorts, Greer and Kellerman, were fifty-four and forty-eight at the time, respectively. In a department which prized speed and reflex&mdashand in which forty was considered the age limit&mdashthe plum spots were often awarded to senior staffers.)

It would later become clear, however, that Greer, from the first, worried about his culpability. At Dallas's Parkland Hospital, where the president's body was rushed, Greer tearfully apologized to Jacqueline Kennedy, according to William Manchester, who interviewed the agent for his book The Death of a President.

Greer, who died in 1985, admitted he had told the First Lady: "Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, oh my God, oh my God. I didn't mean to do it. I didn't hear, I should have swerved the car, I couldn't help it. Oh, Mrs. Kennedy. if only I'd seen in time. Oh!"

His sense of guilt was echoed by Clint Hill, who in a TV interview with newsman Mike Wallace would break down in tears. "It was my fault," he admitted. "If I had just reacted a little bit quicker. I'll live with that to my grave."

The famous and horrific film sequence of the assassination&mdashtwenty-six seconds of eight-millimeter footage taken by a bystander named Abraham Zapruder&mdashshows that the rest of the Secret Service agents, those in the presidential limousine and those riding behind in Halfback, seemed to be taken by surprise.

"The men in Halfback were bewildered," according to Manchester. "They glanced around uncertainly. Lawson, Kellerman, Greer, Ready and Hill all thought that a firecracker had been exploded. Even more tragic was the perplexity of Roy Kellerman, the ranking agent in Dallas, and Bill Greer, who was under Kellerman's supervision. Kellerman and Greer were in a position to take swift evasive action, and for five terrible seconds they were immobilized."

Kellerman, who was riding in the passenger seat of the presidential limousine, also behaved oddly after the first shot rang out. Instead of moving back to protect his passengers, he stayed in the front, relaying radio messages to Greer, who was sitting a foot away, on his left.

The commission's Arlen Specter was not impressed. Kellerman, Specter said, "was the wrong man for the job&mdashhe was 48 years old, big and his reflexes were not quick."

The response of the Secret Service to Drew Pearson's allegations was fast and thorough. In an appendix to the Warren Commission report, Inspector Gerard McCann in Washington, D.C., and Secret Service agent Forest V. Sorrels, the special agent in charge of the Dallas office, canvassed everyone they could find who was at the Hotel Texas, the Fort Worth Press Club, or the Cellar Coffee House that night, including its manager, Jimmy Hill, and owner Pat Kirkwood, and a reporter who had also been at the party with the Secret Service agents.

Their conclusions? Letter after letter states that no one at Fort Worth that night was intoxicated. Letter after letter repeats that of the nine Secret Service agents at the press club and the Cellar, only three were due to report for the eight a.m. shift.

A dozen times in the report, respondents state that the Cellar was a dry club that served no alcohol. However, Philip Melanson writes, "At many clubs and restaurants in the Dallas&ndashFort Worth area, it was customary, given local liquor laws, for patrons to bring their own liquor, with the management providing setups."

Every agent on duty in Fort Worth and in Dallas was asked to write an account of his whereabouts and activities in the early morning hours of November 22. The agents say they went to the press club because they were hungry none confesses to more than a drink or two. At the Cellar, the agents say, they drank fruit juice&mdashmostly grapefruit juice. Two of them mention drinking a juice concoction called a "Salty Dick."

It took Pat Kirkwood, the Cellar Coffee House owner, more than twenty years to tell more details of what happened the night of November 21.

In the letters he wrote in 1963, he claimed that none of the Secret Service agents in his establishment had been drinking. But in 1984 he wasn't so sure. Kirkwood was fatally ill at the time, and the truth may have come to seem more important than it had before.

In an article recalling the glory days of the club, he explained that although he did not "officially" serve liquor, he actually dispensed large quantities of booze, especially to people like lawyers and politicians and policemen who might later be helpful.

Cellar manager Jimmy Hill would later own up as to the truth of what happened as well. After the assassination, he recalled in Jim Marrs's book Crossfire: "After the agents were there, we got a call from the White House asking us not to say anything about them drinking because their image had suffered enough as it was. We didn't say anything, but. they were drinking pure Everclear." (Everclear is 190 proof, a popular spike for a drink like the Salty Dick.)

How could the president's protectors have been so careless? What possessed the men guarding John F. Kennedy's life to think it was not unreasonable to drink and stay out most of the night before taking up their positions in a noontime motorcade?

Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward, as Kierkegaard wrote. Of course none of the Secret Service agents knew on the warm night of November 21 in Fort Worth, Texas, that their movements were going to be scrutinized for decades.

None of them could have imagined that every move they made on that innocent Thursday night would be something they were called to account for minute by minute and second by second for the rest of their lives.

From the book Drinking in America: Our Secret History. Copyright (c) 2015 by Susan Cheever. Reprinted by permission of Twelve/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Thayer Waldo - History

NEGenWeb Project
Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska
THAYER COUNTY
Produced by Jeanne Walsh.

The Territorial Legislature of 1856 created Thayer County, designating it as Jefferson, at the same time Jefferson County was designated as Jones County. In 1867, Jones and Jefferson were united under the name of the latter. The Legislature of 1879-71 provided for the division of the county. Jones County succeeded in retaining the name of Jefferson so as to hold the old county records. What was at first Jefferson became Thayer.

Thayer County lies just north of that noted Fortieth north parallel and west of the Sixth Principal Meridian, which, by its citizens, is considered a most favorable location and being very near if not quite the geographical center of the United States. It is about one hundred miles west of the Missouri River, and is bounded on the north by Fillmore, and east by Jefferson County, by the State of Kansas, on the south, and on the west by Nuckolls County. It is twenty-four miles square, and contains 368,640 acres. The general aspect of the south half of the county is that of a level plain, yet the drainage is most perfect and complete. There are but few draws, owing to the fact that it is not too rolling. The northwest portion is similar to the south half, but the northeast is very rolling, and, in a few places, somewhat broken.

The county is thoroughly watered, every township having streams of living water. The Little Blue, one of the most valuable streams in the West, crosses the center of the county from west to east, a distance of forty miles, following its meanderings. It never falls below a certain point, even in the dryest season, and will furnish power throughout the year equal to 1,600 horse, having a current quite as swift as the famous Merrimac.

The Big Sandy, with its north and south branches and numerous tributaries, runs parallel with the Little Blue about eight miles north, watering that portion of the county, and affording several mill privileges. Spring, Dry and Rose Creeks, with their net-work of tributaries, water the south half of the county. The Little Sandy crosses the northeast corner.

Along the banks of the Little Blue and Rose Creeks are extensive quarries of a good quality of magnesian limestone which supply the principal building material in the county, yet there is excellent brick clay in all parts.

The soil and its underlayer or foundation could not be better or more perfectly arranged by a scientific farmer. With the soil and lay of the land one must be pleased or show a poor or uncultivated taste and judgment, a faultfinding and ungrateful spirit. To the hand of industry, when the other necessary elements perform their needful part, it brings a most bountiful and gratifying reward. Under the heading of "Geology of the State" can be found a full description of the soil. But the summary is in these words It is all that man can desire.

There is not an abundance but a scarcity of timber, yet narrow belts are to be found along the streams, and especially along the Little Blue and Rose Creek.

The climate is dry and somewhat rarified, owing to its altitude. The season of rains could not come at a better time, commencing generally about March or April, and extending to July or August. Like all of the West, when it is dry it is quite liable to remain dry too long, and when it is wet it is quite likely to continue to rain at least a little longer than farmers desire for the most abundant yield of crops.

Thayer County, with a few others, has a history somewhat different from most of the counties of this State, that may be designated as the Great Trail period. Nearly two and a half decades before it became a county it was the great highway along which those ambitious throngs of emigrants moved to the land beyond the Great Rockies. In 1847, the first trail was located near the line between Towns 3 and 4, north of Range 1, west of the Sixth Principal Meridian, and continued west about seven miles thence in a southwesterly direction, crossing Big Sandy just east of Belvidere, and thence to the Little Blue near Friedensau. Over this trail passed most of those misguided citizens of Salt Lake, faithful to a fated religion, some of whose principles were beyond the power of the citizens of the Eastern States to countenance. Their fortitude in crossing so early these Indian-inhabited plains must go to their credit, but it is a matter of congratulation among the citizens of Thayer County that they only crossed their territory and did not tarry to plant their principles upon this soil.

Lieut. John Charles Fremont previous to this, in 1846, in exploring this country, designated these fertile lands, now the support of a large, prosperous and happy population, as the Great American Desert. The people of this section now believe he was blind or deplore his judgment.

This soon became a broad and busy highway, The land before known only to the wild beast and the red man was now a swelling river of ambitious white men. It became a mighty river of enlightened humanity flowing into this vast wilderness to fertilize it with civilization, fill it with happy homes, and make it bud and blossom for the good of mankind, even for the good of its aborigines, if they would have it so.

In 1849, after the discovery of that glittering ore that allures a common humanity, the tide of emigration swelled as does the Father of Waters when the snows of the north become animated by the showers and warmth of spring, and move into his channel.

This trail from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains and beyond were white with the sails of the "ship of the desert," and all moving toward the setting sun.

Thayer County was a witness to this and the terrible conflicts that arose between these invaders and the jealous Indian. That these are of the past is a matter of consolation, and for the pleasures of civilization and the peace they enjoy, the citizens hold in grateful remembrance those that at the hazard of their lives bought these pleasures.

The travel on the California Trail changed gradually from the divide between the Big Sandy and Little Blue, crossing the "eighteen mile ridge," and descending into the valley of the Little Blue, which it followed for sixty miles, and then bore away to that harbor of refuge to the early California traveler, old Fort Kearney, where the Government had stationed troops for the protection of emigrants from the assaults of Indians, and "where, after weeks of travel beyond the confines of civilization, the dust-begrimmed and toil-worn wayfarer could again see the stars and stripes floating, above the adobe walls of the old fort."

The Salt Lake Express, established in 1858, carried the first mail across these desolate prairies. The stations were fifty miles apart, and that part of the route running through Thayer County was between Big Sandy on the east to Pawnee Ranch on the west. A "mud wagon" as the stage was then called, six mules, a driver and "whipper-up," constituted an outfit. The "whipper-up" rode on a horse to goad on the mules to make fast time, and if he succeeded in that capacity, he was promoted to the position of a driver, where aspirations and envy ended, for there, was supremacy.

In 1859, the Pike's Peak rush had reached its highest point when this route was an unbroken and uninterrupted caravan of gold seeker and emigrants, "from early morn to dewy eve," the latter seeking a place to establish a home, and the former thirsty with the ambition for gold.

The Salt Lake Express became too slow both for mail purposes and for carrying travelers to the goal of their ambition, Pike's Peak, and so it gave way to the Ben Halladay Overland Stage Line. This was an enterprise that required the outlay of a large amount of money, for, besides the stages, horses, drivers, station-keepers and stations to be built, food and supplies for man and beast had to be carried many hundred miles into this treacherous and boundless wilderness. But it was carried to a successful issue.

Horace Greeley passed over this route in 1859. In 1859, the Pony Express was also established along this line from St. Joe, Mo., to Sacramento. The divisions were 100 miles in length, with stations twenty-five miles apart. The horses were Indian ponies, small but hardy. The riders were light weight men, averaging about one hundred and twenty pounds, and were men of courage and endurance. A division was a rider's "ride." The trip from St. Joe to Sacramento, a distance of about two thousand miles, was made in eight days. These data are interesting in the history of Thayer County from the fact that while they are of National importance, the route traversed Thayer County, then known as part of "the road."

The Overland Stage Line and the Pony Express necessitated stations twenty-five miles apart. Big Sandy Crossing, just east of the county line, and Kiowa Ranch, were the ones established here, but between these the Hackney Ranch, on the Little Blue, was afterward built. These places occupy prominent places in the early history of this county.

At Hackney Ranch, in 1863, a Mr. Meyers, then owner of the ranch, was killed by a wagon-master.

Thompson's Ranch was afterward built midway between Big Sandy and Kiowa Ranches, and became one of the twelve-mile stations on the Stage and Express Line. Other ranches were soon established along this line in the county, among which were Widow's Place Ranch, on the Blue near the western terminus of the "eighteen mile ridge," and Daniel Deedland's Ranche, about two miles west of Hackney at the Fox Crossing, on the Little Blue. It was at this ranch that a revolting murder was committed in 1864. It seems that a man left St. Joe, Mo., with a valuable stock of goods, accompanied by his wife and a young man. This ranch was then deserted. The young man killed the husband, and the wife and he continued on the journey. Some United States troops passing along the road discovered at this place signs that a murder had been committed and the body dragged through the grass to the river. Following the path thus made, they found the mutilated body of the man in the water. The soldiers overtook the party about fifty miles west, and, after a military trial, the young man expiated his crime with his life. It is believed, however, that the wife was the instigator of the fearful tragedy, which, if true, is indeed more terrible to contemplate.

Big Tolles' Ranch was situated near what is now Willy's Mill, at the foot of "big hill." Big Tolles was an exceedingly large man, and was prominently known along the road. About 1860, a man by the name of Fox laid out a north and south trail from the Kansas "Fort Riley" road to the Government road, intersecting at Fox Crossing on the Little Blue. This was afterward used by Texas herders and became known as the Texas trail.

The first permanent settlers in Thayer County, it is fair to suppose, were George Weisel, John, Charles and William Nightengale, who located in the vicinity of Alexandria, in 1858, all of whom, except William, are still residents of the county. Part of the lumber for their first house the Nightengales hauled from St. Joe, Mo. This house was located on the divide between the Big Sandy and Little Blue, about two and a half miles south of Alexandria.

Joseph Walker and James Reed came from Fort Kearney in 1859, and located on the little Blue, one mile west of the east line of the county.

In 1859, Isaac Alexander, father of the present Secretary of State, settled on Big Sandy with his family. He brought with him from Kansas a portable grist-mill, which was at first was run by hand. In the winter of 1860-61, the snow blocked the road so as to suspend travel, and the few settlers then living there soon found their stock of provisions almost gone. Reed and Walker, had raised a crop of buckwheat, which they brought to the mill, some others brought corn and by hard work ground out their immediate salvation with that memorable mill.

H. M. Ross made a settlement about this time, near the county line, and J. Blair at Big Sandy Crossing.

It is claimed, also, that a man by the name of Christian Luth, a German, was the first settler. He located near the Government road. He was engaged in farming, and was burlesqued by the pilgrims over the road for attempting to farm on the "Great American Desert." They told him he would not only lose his time in a fruitless endeavor to make this sterile soil yield him a crop, but that he would lose his life by the Indians. The last prediction was correct, as he fell a victim to the treacherous red man. But the former was not correct, for he was made happy while he did live by abundant harvests.

During the civil war, there were settlements made only at the ranches before mentioned or mentioned in Indian troubles. But the settlers were either killed in the great raids of 1864 and 1867, or compelled through fear to seek places more secure. But in 1867, 1868, 1869 and 1870, a large number of settlers came in, as the Government was now better able to look after the safety of the frontier.

About 1866, Joseph Lamb, afterward known as the Just Judge, settled on Rose Creek. He became Probate Judge before the division of the county. In 1867, Charles Chairhart, G. D. Waldo and two Bacon families, and R. C. Overturf located near the Little Blue, in the east portion of the county. In 1868, Samuel Lean built the first mill in the county, in Gilead Precinct--at first a saw-mill, to which was added a buhr soon after. Dr. T. F. Thomas located about the same time near the present site of Alexandria.

In 1869, E. M. Correll, C. B. Coon, A. C. Ring, A. E. Gates, Ed S. Past, C. J. Rhodes, C. A. Elliott, F. J. Hendershot, Dr. C. W. Walker, Fayette Kingsley, Amos Duffield, W. H. Bradt, Jr., and Sr., E. J. Huse, W. B. Campbell, J. H. Williams, E. House, Otis Johnson, Mrs. C. A. Elliott, Mrs. A. E. Gates, Mrs. Hannah Kingsley and Miss E. S. Potter, came about the same time, and, having mutual designs upon the county, formed what was known as the Colony of '69. Some of these came earlier to the State, quite a number making their first halt at Beatrice. Most of this group have remained to see these then desolate plains peopled with prosperous families, and the unbroken sea of prairie grass give way to waving fields of grain and meadow grass, and the uplands, then treeless, decked with growing orchards, and forest trees. A number of them have filled places of trust in the county and State. The danger from the invasion of Indians had not yet passed away. The settlers never thought of leaving their domiciles--which were generally dug-outs--without their companions, viz., rifle and as many good revolvers as it was their fortune to possess. They went prepared, and resolved to take no chances with the Indians' "friendly game."

In June, 1869, Company A, First Nebraska Cavalry, numbering about sixty-five, was organized for the protection of the frontier Captain, John Brown First Lieutenant, S. J. Alexander Second Lieutenant, Dr. Butler. The company built a stockade (called Fort Butler, in honor of the then Governor of the State) on the bank of Spring Creek, about one mile south of the present town site of Hebron, and took up their headquarters therein. This greatly aided the early settlements, as new-comers were very likely to remain close as possible to this source of protection. During 1869, 1870 and 1871, a large number of soldiers and others took claims, principally in the central and southern portions of the county.

In 1870, a company of regulars was stationed at Kiowa, about twelve miles northwest of Hebron. This relieved Company A, most of whom were settlers, and nine of whom are still residents of the county.

Even at that late day, the Indians were still plying their deadly vocation. Five skirmishers of the regulars were attacked a few miles from camp by about fifty red-skins, and only saved themselves by making breastworks of their horses. The Indians, though superior in numbers, would not venture an encounter.

Elk, antelope and buffalo have been seen within the county as late as 1875, in which year the last buffalo in the county was killed.

The events in the early history of this county that will longest be remembered and recalled with sympathy for those who suffered, and with deepest emotions of gratitude for those brave men and women who braved the dangers of frontier life, and prepared these vast prairies for peaceful, prosperous and happy homes.

The attention of the whole nation was occupied by the great war of the rebellion in 1864, so that the Indian raid of that year, the most carefully planned and skillfully executed known in the history of the Western frontier, received but little attention and seemed in comparison of so little importance as scarcely to deserve a place in National history. "Yet the military strategy and precision, and the secrecy and success and the cool butchery and cruelty of the attack, make it as Napoleonic in its design and execution, and should place it on the pages of history alongside of other great and bloody butchery by savages. At this time, many ranches dotted the great military road at intervals of a few miles. These ranches had become in many cases valuable farms, with substantial improvements, graced by woman's presence and ornamented by woman's tasteful care. A number of such ranches were in Thayer County upon and contiguous to the Government road. The Indians had been peaceful and quiet for a long time, and the settlers along the road were prosperous and happy. Without a single note of warning the crisis came. From Denver City to Big Sandy, a distance of over six hundred miles, near the middle of the day, at precisely the same time, along the whole distance a simultaneous attack was made upon the ranches. No time was given for couriers, no time for concentration, no time for the erection or strengthening of places of defense, but, as the eagle swoops down upon his prey, the savage warriors attacked the defenseless white men. No principle of kingly courtesy actuated the breasts of the painted assailants. It mattered little to them that they were in vastly superior number and their opponents in part women and children. All alike were made to feel their cruelty or their lust. No mercy was shown. No captives were taken but women, and death was preferred to the captivity that awaited them. Could the Eastern philanthropists who speak so flatteringly of "the noble red man of the West" have witnessed the cruel butchery of unoffending children, the disgrace of women, who were first horribly mutilated and then slain, the cowardly assassination of husbands and fathers, they might, perhaps (if fools can learn), be impressed with their true character. On the morning of the 7th of August, Indians must have been secreted in the ravines (of which there were many) adjacent to the military road, and, at a given hour, rushed forth and commenced their work of destruction. At morn, the Government road was a traveled thoroughfare, dotted with prosperous and happy homes at night, a wilderness, strewn with mangled bodies and wrecks, and illuminated with the glare of burning houses." -- E. M. Correll, in Hebron Journal .

Two families by the name of Roper and Ubanks were murdered, except two daughters who were taken prisoners. Miss Roper was held in that fearful captivity for six months, when Col. Wyncoop, of the United States Army, secured her release for $1,000. The fate of Miss Ubanks we have been unable to learn.

The raids of 1865 and 1866, although of considerable consequence to the settlers, were attended with but little loss of life in any part of the frontier, and no lives, we believe, were taken in Thayer County but there was considerable loss of property, many of the settlers losing all of their stock.

That the Indians were more merciful during the two preceding years, proves the cowardness of their natures, for they were well aware that preparations were made by the settlers and the Government to better protect the frontier and avenge any loss of life due to their savage lust.

But in 1867, when by their friendliness for two years they had very materially reduced the fear and precaution on the part of the settlers, they again raided down upon the settlements, driving off stock, and carrying away scalps.

"In June, they attacked the old Hackney Ranch, then occupied by Thompson & Halliday, and drove off seven head of horses. Unintentionally, one horse was left in the barn, with which the ranchmen made their escape to the settlement on Big Sandy. About the same time they attacked Kiowa Ranch and took from Mr. James Douglass, the proprietor, sixteen horses. But this is not all they passed on down the valley of the Little Blue and accomplished the murder of Haney. Mr. Haney with his three daughters had taken all his worldly possessions, consisting of a pair of horses and a few household goods, and had come to the valley of the Little Blue in search of a frontier home. He located on the farm now occupied by J. R.Elliott, about a mile (now) from Hebron. A party of redskins came to this place and entered into a "talk" with Haney. In a short time they started for the house, Mr. Haney following them and entreating them not to take his horses, as they were all he had. They answered his entreaties with a fatal shot from a revolver, which felled him to the ground in plain view of his agonized and terror-stricken daughters, who rushed out to their bleeding father to render him what assistance they could in his dying condition. But vain their efforts filial love could not stay the crimson tide of ebbing life. With heart-rending grief overmastering their terrors, they sobbingly clung to the lifeless form of their father and only protector until they were beaten away with bows by the Indians whose adamantine hearts were cold to sentiments of pity at even such a touching scene. When even these measures failed to keep them from the beloved remains, the red devils attempted to take them prisoners. Then for a first time a full realization of the horrors of their situation took possession of their minds. Grief fled, and fear came. Visions of the sensual brutality that awaited them as prisoners came with the force of a sickening presentiment.

"By desperate efforts they managed to escape, leaving behind the remains of a beloved parent, whom the redskins could no longer injure--they had performed their uttermost--but whom his loving daughters would have loved to consign with their tears and benedictions to a final resting-place in mother earth."

What must have been the harrowing situation of those three orphan girls, alone on a vast frontier, with neither relations nor protectors--grief, fear, hunger and fatigue in full possession of their fragile forms!

They finally reached a place of safety, and as soon as possible returned to their Eastern home.

The day following the occurrence of the above incidents, June 10, the same Indians, it is believed, made an attack upon Capt. S. J. Alexander, the present Secretary of State, about two miles east of Thompson's Ranch, on the eighteen-mile ridge.

Thompson was obliged to make a sudden flight the night before, leaving behind some very valuable goods. He and his family reached Alexander's late in the morning. Supposing that the Indians had left the country by that time with their horses and cattle and what plunder they could carry, the captain concluded to take his team and get what goods were left. He loaded the wagon and started on his return. The Captain at that time was young and romantic. His gentle bosom was so filled with a passionate love for music, that on finding Mrs. Thompson's guitar, he forgot all about the savage redmen of the West, and commenced picking soul entrancing melody from the vibrating catcords. But, pausing between two melodies for the strains of one to cease before commencing the other, his eye caught the sight of eight Indians riding abreast instead of single file, which means they use to decoy the settler. But the Captain had too long watched the maneuvers to be entrapped by their "friendly game," and especially now when he was only one to eight, far from assistance and poorly armed. He did not at once show the white feather, but used strategy, the principal feature in their warfare. The Indians were riding slowly, but in such a direction that they would meet in a few miles. But no sooner was he hid by an intervening hill, than he cut the harness from his horses, and, springing upon the better one, started across a four mile flat, the nearest way home, and from his pursuers. When they again came in sight, they gave chase. They captured the loose horse but the Captain turned up a draw, in order to throw them off the trail. This would have proven fatal had part of them gone up to the ridge but they not doing this enabled him to cross another ridge without being seen, and thus evade them. The Captain never parted with old Ben, the horse that saved his life, but gave him the best of care. He died in 1881, at the ripe old age of thirty.

In August of the same year, they attacked Capt. Hannah and three men, who were taking a herd of sheep to Colorado. The attack was made at the foot of the big hill west of Hackney Ranch. One man, a German, was killed, and afterward buried at that place. They killed the sheep as a pastime. The other two escaped to the settlement on Big Sandy, fighting the Indians all the way over the eighteen mile ridge.

After the attack upon Capt. Hannah, the Indians charged down on Poland Pete, and took two of his children prisoners, one a boy about eight and the other a girl fourteen years of age. Their father, a Polander, lived on the place now occupied by Joseph Ward. Oh! when the helpless and innocent fall into the hands of such monsters, their fate are too terrible for pen to relate. Of what fearful metal are their natures made, how basely turned, and what a multitude of sins their unfeeling bosoms hold! And yet we must admit that among the white men there are natures kindred to these, whose crimes are more revolting when we consider their advantages of civilization--education and nurture in pious home. Insensible as the rock, religion's teaching and the dew distilled by virtuous and happy homes fell and left no imprint. From what an altitude, by comparison, have they fallen, or to what loathsome depths.

They started up the valley of the Little Blue with their youthful prisoners. When they arrived at the bluff on the north side of the river, just east of the farm now occupied by Carl Picard, the little boy, overcome by fatigue and fear, cried bitterly, whereupon, to be relieved of him, they, without mercy or feeling, pierced his breast with an arrow in the presence of his sister, whom they would not permit to remain with the corpse for a moment to kiss and weep over, but bore her away to a demon's captivity. The girl was fortunate in afterward getting exchanged for some Indian prisoners at North Platte. After killing the helpless, innocent little boy, these "gentle redmen of the West" proceeded to the ranch of Bennett & Abernathy, and continued their fatal labors of death and destruction. Bennett & Abernathy lived on the place now owned by the county and occupied as the county poor farm. There was then a cave in a limestone bluff on the place which these men had rendered habitable by enlarging and building a sort of an addition in front, of logs and brush. There was a spring in one corner of the cave. In front of the cave was a bottom covered with trees and underbrush, through which the Indians crept to make their attack. They then laid siege to the two men, who probably fought as long as their ammunition held out, or until they were smothered to death by the flames and smoke of the front part of their residence, which the Indians had ignited. Their bodies were afterward found by Capt. L. P. Luce and a party of his soldiers, in so charred and mutilated condition as to be scarcely recognizable. The bodies could not be removed to be interred elsewhere, and the cave was sealed up thus their last house became their tomb. Whether these two brave frontiersmen first fell by the deadly bullet of the Indians or were burned alive by the savages, is a secret that only the copper-colored pets of Eastern philanthropists can unlock.

Abernathy was known to have a large amount of gold coin in his possession, and grave charges have at different times been made against some of the early settlers in regard to the disposition of the property as the cave was afterward thoroughly ransacked, and it is believed that the Indians knew nothing of the gold, which was most likely carefully secreted in some portion of the habitation. Be this as it may, no legal steps were ever taken. In fact, in those early days, the settlement of estates was a difficult matter. This sad occurrence will always vest the poor farm with a tragic interest.

Still unwilling to desist from their hellish pastime of murder and destruction, this band of savages, after killing the gallant Abernathy and the brave Bennett, charged with the speed of wind up the Little Blue, where they continued their work of death by killing Polish Albert and Polish Joe, refugees from that unfortunate country, Poland. Their mangled remains were found in the road below Oak Grove Ranch, in Nuckolls County. The Indians took away their teams and other effects.

Thus ended one of the most murderous raids of modern times, considering the small number of Indians engaged, the extent of territory raided, and the rapidity of their movements.

The few settlers left after performing the last mournful ceremonies of interment to the mangled corpses of their neighbors, tremblingly trusted that the savages had now glutted themselves with murder, torture and rapine and would not return again. Vain hope and misplaced trust. In two weeks they again came. Death and destruction again followed in their wake as fallen trees mark the path of the tornado through the forest. Their stealthy approach allowed no defense their overpowering numbers forbade successful resistance. Compassion and mercy were qualities unknown, or if known, never shown by those savages. The knightly principles of chivalry found no lodging place in their bosoms. It has been no unusual occurrence in Indian warfare for a large number of them to attack one unarmed man, and, riding around him at a safe distance, continue to fire at him until he fell from loss of blood, too cowardly to meet him in a fair combat. And yet Eastern philanthropists talk of the "wrongs done to the noble red man of the West," but their lips are silent about the cold-blooded cruelties and assassinations of these fiends in human form.

A fortnight after killing Polish Albert and Polish Joe, the cowardly and cruel Indians again appeared in the settlement on the Little Blue, in the eastern part of what is now Thayer County. There was a Polander who bore among his neighbors the name of Polish Jack, living below (now) Mr. J. S. Wand's place, who was the first victim of their malignity. After killing him, they went down the river about four miles, to the place owned by Joseph Walker, where there was a man by the name of Hunt reaping. Hunt had said that "one white man ought to whip a dozen Indians" but when they appeared, he illustrated the saying that "braggarts are cowards," and never stayed to put his theory into execution. They were satisfied with his horses. They then went to William Nightengale's place and killed a man by the name of Ignatz Tenish.

The early history of the Great West can be largely contained in the words, "Indian massacres." Scarcely had the hardy pioneer recovered from the disastrous effects of one murderous visitation, until another followed. It was rarely, however, that a settlement was exterminated.

Indomitable Saxon energy and bravery eventually triumphed. So it was in the early history of Thayer County. The brave survivors after performing the last sad rites to their murdered neighbors, would cling to their homes, hopefully waiting for the time to come when the onward tide of emigration should have borne the dangerous frontier father to the west. and left in its wake happy and peaceful homes.

It has come! Thanks and all honor to those who by their hardships and by their lives have brought the day. Most of these facts and a greater portion of the language were taken from the Hebron Journal , written by Mr. E. M. Correll, the editor, in an early day.


VISITORS TO a performance by the Kneisel String Quartet in New York City one autumn afternoon in 1894 may well have been distracted from the sonorities of Beethoven by a strangely dressed man in the audience. In contrast to the stylish appearance of the rest of the music lovers, he wore a rumpled corduroy hunting suit, a battered felt hat, rubber boots, and a frayed handkerchief wound round his head and tied under his chin, as if to relieve a toothache. He carried a brown paper sack, which, when placed under the seat, leaked trails of blood on the auditorium floor. Those present may have assumed that here was some Yankee rustic, game bag in tow, who had wandered into the concert hall on impulse, and they would have been absolutely correct. They would not have guessed, however, that the man was Abbott H. Thayer, one of the best known and most highly paid society painters on the Eastern seaboard.

Thayer was then spending most of his time in the country, either at his house in Scarborough, New York, a pastoral village on the Hudson River, or at his summer cottage in the small resort community of Dublin, New Hampshire. But he was no stranger to the city. Much of his life had been spent in New York, where he moved to pursue a career as a painter in 1867, after a childhood in rural New England (where he had become an adept hunter and trapper) and graduation from the Chauncy Hall School in Boston. At first he lived with his parents and three sisters on Smith Street in Brooklyn. He rented a studio close by and soon gained a modest reputation painting portraits of household pets and pictures relating to hunting—dogs, game, fish.

Thayer continued to develop his skills at the Brooklyn Art School, but in the early 1870s he enrolled at the National Academy of Design in Manhattan. There he was considered a good but not extraordinary student who had little patience drawing from antique casts but did well in the life class. He was an avid talker and theorizer, confident of his opinions if not always of his artistic talent. He frequently brought in sketches of things he had done elsewhere and put them on the wall of the studio, hoping to win praise from his classmates, whose support he seemed to require and whose criticism made him anxious.

On June 9, 1875, Thayer married Kate Bloede, the daughter of a German newspaperman who emigrated to Brooklyn after two years’ imprisonment for his part as one of the Revolutionists of 1848. A week later the couple sailed for Europe. In the spring of 1876 Thayer entered the life class of Jean Léon Gérôme, then the most famous artist in Europe. While in Paris the Thayers led a genial domestic life, made more so by the addition of a daughter, Mary, born in March of 1876, and a son, Harry, born two years later. As one of the few married American students, Thayer frequently played host to his single colleagues, who would drop by for a touch of the home life they had left behind. In fact, it seems that the Thayer apartment was regarded by himself and others as an island of propriety amid the licentiousness and sexual freedom of the Latin Quarter. Although many Americans in Paris learned to adopt a more Continental point of view Abbott and a few kindred spirits held out.

When Thayer returned from Europe in May of 1879, he began immediately to receive commissions for portraits. His years abroad however, had left him in debt. Forever absorbed in aesthetics, he was highly disorganized when it came to practical affairs, and family and friends were often called upon to bail him out. These early years were made more difficult by the death of Harry in 1880, and of a second son only three months old the following year.

Throughout the next decade Thayer and his family moved around the Northeast almost seasonally. Two more children were born to them during this period a son, Gerald, in 1883, and a second daughter, Gladys, three years later. Thayer remained extremely busy, and he exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design and the more progressive Society of American Artists. It was at this time that he became known particularly for his portraits of women, which were thought not only to achieve an admirable likeness but also to be instilled with a satisfying spiritual dimension. Most of them exhibit a restrained kind of beauty—elegant but not ostentatious, with meek and introspective expressions. Such renderings did not always match the personalities of the sitters. When commissioned to paint the retired president of Wellesley College, Thayer was disgruntled by her forthright intelligence and self-confidence and referred to her derisively as a “donna intellettuale.” He willfully ignored these qualities when doing her portrait, painting instead a gentle young maiden more suited to his own taste.

Thayer’s notion of the proper spiritual demeanor of women may be deduced from an angry letter he wrote to the editor of Bruno’s Weekly , a mildly decadent periodical of the day. The offending work was a cover drawing by Aubrey Beardsley: “Happening to overcome my fury and nausea at the filthy Beardsley (the big-sterned, grown-up female cherub) outside of the last issue you sent me, I note with surprise the sane London letter about the closing of the British Museum. Who could expect to find anything sweet or wholesome inside of a wrapper systematically daubed with stinking s___? … The test is simple. When any set of men paint such spectacles as these Beardsley atrocities, one of two things is the case. Either these loathsome figures honestly present their author’s ideal of the woman he would like to marry and worship all his life, or they are their author’s confession of being morally down and out.

“For men, the dawn, the day, girls, mothers and children, and brave kind men, all these things in their most familiar form are more ravishing every day come over again, through all time by virtue of the ever-deepening layers of heavenly connotations which they accumulate.”

Thayer’s concern for his children grew intense when in 1888 his wife was diagnosed as suffering from melancholia and was admitted to a mental asylum. She remained hospitalized for three years with no improvement in her condition and died after a pulmonary complication in 1891. During his wife’s slow deterioration, Thayer managed to stay extremely productive, but he was close to despair. The situation was at last relieved when, in September of that year, he married a former student named Emma Beach.

During the 1890s Thayer’s personal life became more stable. For the most part he spent his winters in Scarborough and his summers in Dublin, where a wealthy student of his, Mary Amory Greene, had built a cottage for him on her property. At this time Thayer’s painting took a change in direction. No longer interested in pursuing commissions for portraits, he became increasingly absorbed in the creation of large allegorical canvases—sometimes idealized renderings of women portrayed as angels, sometimes his own children dressed in classical garb.

Such works were not easy to sell. Fortunately Thayer found a wealthy patron in Charles Lang Freer, a Detroit industrialist who not only bought a number of canvases but also came through with large advances when no paintings were available. Another patron, the New York collector John Gellatly, purchased thirty-five works by Thayer. Like Freer, Gellatly was to donate his collection to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington at his death the works remain there to this day.

It is difficult to imagine how the artist could have survived without the aid of these two men, for his method of working was not at all efficient, nor were the hours he kept regular or strenuous. Despite a muscular physique and no record of any serious illness, Thayer constantly complained of fatigue, poor eyesight, and nervous exhaustion he found himself able to work in his studio only four hours a day. Once settled in, Thayer’s progress was still not swift. While he was an exceedingly skilled draftsman and often managed to get a painting into shape within a few days, he would then make small adjustments, which could continue for months. Even after a painting was sold and removed from the studio, Thayer might ask to have it returned in hopes of improving it.

In 1901 the Thayers moved permanently to Dublin. With its thin planking and lack of central heating, the home Mary Amory Greene had built for them was intended for summer use only. But the Thayers saw no need to improve it even though temperatures could fall to forty degrees below zero. In fact they made a habit of sleeping out of doors, summer and winter, in individual lean-tos built nearby. Every night each member of the family would appear enveloped in strange but substantial nightwear and then disappear into the woods, leaving the servants and any guests to compete for positions near a fireplace inside.

As the Thayers went outside, nature came in. Owls and rabbits wandered freely through the house and porcupines would eat off plates at the dining table (with the utmost delicacy it is reported). Thayer would often go about with kittens tucked away in his clothing. Guinea pigs were in evidence for many years and also two prairie dogs named Napoleon and Josephine, a gift from Freer. More exotic animals, including a macaw and several spider monkeys, were picked up in travels to the West Indies and kept in cages from which they frequently escaped. A tame crow named Satan would appear every spring to eat from the same dishes as the cats. And one summer a copperhead snake kept residence in a glass cage.

The permanent move to Dublin seems to have engendered in Thayer a renewed interest in painting landscapes. His house provided a stunning view of Mount Monadnock, and this peak, the subject of a poem by Thayer’s favorite author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, became something of a fetish for the artist, who viewed it as a symbol of his desire to transcend the material world.

At the turn of the century Thayer’s commitment to painting was diverted by a growing interest in natural history. In the careful observation of the animal life around him, he began to formulate a theory of natural camouflage. He first published an article about it in 1896 and later elaborated upon his findings in a lengthy study, published in 1909, entitled Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom . In it he attempted to show how many species, despite oddly or gaudily marked coats, were under certain optical conditions completely invisible to both predators and prey. Much to his surprise and disappointment, his research was never fully accepted. Foremost among his critics was the former President Theodore Roosevelt, who, in his book African Game Trails , appended a chapter devoted solely to attacking Thayer’s theories. Thayer did not give up, however, and during World War I he tried to interest the Allied Forces in adopting his principles to the design of soldiers’ uniforms and to the painting of warships. He was unsuccessful, and not until the Second World War were his findings put to use.

Thayer continued to paint in his advanced years, but he was increasingly subject to fits of nervous exhaustion. At one point he sought entry to a sanitorium in Wellesley, Massachusetts, hoping to ward off thoughts of suicide and in New York in 1918 he again placed himself under a doctor’s care. One day, three years later, Thayer, who was resting in bed, asked an assistant to bring him one of his unfinished canvases and his palette and brushes. As he began to work, his hand suddenly stiffened, evidence of a slight stroke. He suffered two more within the next three weeks, then died on May 29, 1921.

A year after his death Thayer was honored with an extensive retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, but throughout the 1920s his idealizing tendencies were dismissed as archaic, his use of wings and other allegorical devices considered hopelessly literal and literary. But today, when the modern age has lost its youth, and its brutalities are at least as vivid as its charms, the peculiar blend of opulence and moral nuance implicit in Thayer’s paintings is once again finding its admirers.


Secrets of the Range Creek Ranch

​Until he got famous, Waldo Wilcox spent most of his life moving cattle through a remote valley in Utah, 150 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. He had a 4,200-acre spread deep in the Book Cliffs region—a wilderness with rock walls that rise to 10,000 feet. The ranch snaked for 12 miles along Range Creek, through scrubby foothills, lush meadows and alpine forests. Waldo's parents, Pearl and Ray "Budge" Wilcox, bought the property in 1951, and three generations of Wilcoxes would endure Range Creek Canyon's frigid winters, scorching summers, periodic droughts, and bears. All of that time, they tried hard to ignore the prehistoric Indian ruins that lay everywhere across their land.

It couldn't have been easy. Pit houses dug halfway in the ground, their roofs caved in, dotted the valley floor and surrounding hills. Arrowheads, beads, ceramic shards and stone-tool remnants were strewn all over. Human bones poked out of rock overhangs, and hundreds of bizarre human figures with tapered limbs and odd projections emanating from their heads were chiseled on the cliff walls. The family kept mum about this mysterious world. Waldo in particular became a zealous guardian, chasing off curious locals who got wind of all the artifacts.

Then, in 2001, Wilcox, entering his 70s, quietly sold the property for $2.5 million to the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, and then federal and state agencies helped arrange for the land to be deeded to the State of Utah. Archaeologists called in to visit the site were flabbergasted. The ruins were not only extensive but well preserved: the pit houses were intact, no graffiti or bullet holes marred the petroglyphs, and granaries were stuffed with corncobs a thousand years old.

Scientists wasted no time in setting up a research camp. "There are few places left in the continental U.S. where the sites haven’t been picked over and vandalized to a great extent," says Kevin Jones, the state archaeologist for Utah. The researchers soon realized they’d lucked into a constellation of 1,000-year-old hamlets that belonged to the enigmatic Fremont people, highly mobile hunters and farmers who lived mostly in Utah from around A.D. 200 to 1300 before disappearing—like the cliff-dwelling Anasazi, their contemporaries farther south.

So far, archaeologists have documented nearly 300 Fremont sites at Range Creek (none of which has been excavated). And they managed to keep a lid on their work until a June 2004 Associated Press story described the archaeological riches and the eccentric landowner who'd guarded the secret for decades. Wilcox became an overnight sensation, portrayed in newspaper stories from Salt Lake City to Sydney, Australia, as a heroic cowboy who'd stood vigil over an amazing time capsule. "It's like being the first white man in there, the way I kept it," Wilcox boasted to one reporter. Archaeologists' comments fueled the place's mystique. Jones was quoted as calling Range Creek a "national treasure" and its discovery akin to "finding a Van Gogh in your grandmother’s attic." Another hailed it as "one of the most important archaeological collections in North America."

Part of the excitement rests on hopes that Range Creek may help explain what happened to the Fremont. Along the canyon floor, traces of large villages indicate a flourishing settlement, while pit houses and granaries built high in the cliffs suggest a defensive retreat. "We’ve seen places where people were living in knife-edge ridges, 900 to 1,000 feet above the valley floor, which means to get a jug of water you’d have to send someone on a big long hike and back up," says Jones. "These people were afraid of something. They were obviously trying to protect their food, and it wasn’t from mice."

Research at Range Creek may help explain why farming rather suddenly halted across much of the Southwest seven centuries ago, prompting tribes to abandon their ancestral pueblos. Over the years, experts have suggested that warfare, drought, disease and religious upheaval may have caused the exodus. "The most interesting thing about the Fremont is they adopted farming, did it at varying levels of intensity for 1,100 years, and then quit," says Duncan Metcalfe, curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History, in Salt Lake City, who is conducting research at Range Creek. "If we can figure out why, I think we can understand why other populations, at the time, abandoned agriculture too."

The Wilcox ranch lies only 30 miles southeast of Price, Utah, but the journey takes two and a half hours on a rutted logging road that curves up 4,000 feet along sheer cliffs before descending into Range Creek. Waldo Wilcox meets me outside the north gate. He now lives in Green River, 50 miles north, with his wife, Julie. But he still has the run of his former property. Clad in bluejeans and a straw cowboy hat, Wilcox shoulders a set of ropes, which he uses to pull himself over large boulders. A stylized or "walking" X, his cattle brand, is emblazoned on his pale-blue shirt, on the side of his pickup truck and on various cliffs. He seems a cross between John Wayne and Archie Bunker, a sometimes ornery anachronism whose speech is peppered with political incorrectnesses. He professes little interest in the former inhabitants. "All I know is I grew up with a bunch of dead Indians, and that's all I want to know," he tells me. "It was their life."

We meet up with Jones, the lead archaeologist, and when I first see this storied site, I'm underwhelmed. The collapsed pit houses—basically, circles of boulders—pale in comparison to the majestic ruins of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon or the grandeur of Colorado's Mesa Verde, with their multistory stone houses nestled into overhanging cliffs. Here most of the granaries—which number in the hundreds and range from cabinet-size to several yards across—are so high in the cliffs they are visible only with binoculars. "Because the archaeology itself isn't spectacular or striking to the average visitor, this won't be a great tourist attraction," Jones says with obvious gratitude.

But the place grows on you. Jones and I follow Wilcox up the steep slopes through patchy groves of pinyon, juniper and sage. Wilcox sets a brisk pace. Several hundred feet above the valley floor, we stop at a natural bench where some 50 slabstone boulders form a ring—the foundations of a pit house. Perhaps a thousand years ago, the pit was dug about two feet into the ground. The builders would have leveled the floor and sunk four juniper or cedar posts into a squarish frame near the center of the pit. They would have fastened another four logs horizontally to the tops of the posts, and then leaned numerous logs against those crosspieces. Branches and brush may have been added to the walls and roof, which would have been covered by a thick layer of earth. The typical house was roughly conical or like a pyramid with a flat top and stood about 12 feet across and 6 feet high. A hole in the roof allowed for access in and out via a ladder and let smoke escape. Near some of the houses, the ground is still black in places from the ash of cooking fires. A lot of pit houses burned before the occupants could clear out their possessions—a boon for archaeologists.

Lying nearby is a large metate, an indented stone that the Fremont used to grind corn and seeds. Jones points to a slight crack in a cliff wall about 20 feet above our heads. "There’s a little granary there," he says, peering through his binoculars. “They’re all over the place up here. You have to risk your life to get into them." Through my binoculars I can see a square structure wedged into a crack, sealed with mud. It looks virtually impossible to reach, and so far only accomplished climbers working with Range Creek researchers have been able to get into it. Renee Barlow, an archaeologist at the Utah Museum of Natural History and an experienced rock climber who has inspected granaries, has calculated that some held hundreds of bushels of maize. Filling them, she says, "would mean hundreds of trips climbing with big loaded baskets on your back."

Archaeologists speculate that the Fremont were "scatter hoarding," or hiding their food in multiple places. "You risk losing some of it, but at least if another person gets into it, they've only got one bit," Jones says. As we climb higher, Jones, who is 54 and husky, points out several more adobe granaries, molded into tiny crevices with reddish clay, virtually camouflaged high up on the sandstone cliff. There is evidence the Fremont used crude ladders or made toeholds in the rocks to reach them. Wilcox says he has never tried to reach the cliff granaries.

Wilcox turns his attention to a long, narrow crack in the big wall in front of us. “See that hole with them rocks back in there? I bet you a hundred dollars to ten dollars that you dig down under them rocks you’d find a dead Indian." Jones stiffens. I ask Wilcox how he would know. "Because them rocks are there, on top of the grave. And you'd find him all hunched up like a baby is after it’s born."

"Well, we're not going to test your hypothesis by digging into it," Jones says. Nothing makes an archaeologist more jittery than finding human remains on government land. It often triggers a federal review that requires researchers to notify tribes that may claim that the remains are those of an ancestor. Tribal concerns about possible desecration can bring research to a halt. As Wilcox talks on, Jones looks as if he wishes he were on another cliff. But the old rancher is just getting started. "You’re not going to find anything of value in a grave. I've seen several of them dug up, and I think these Indians were so damn poor that when they died they went to the happy hunting ground and there was no need to take what little they had."

The human remains issue has flared up before. When the Range Creek story first appeared in the news media, local tribes such as the Northern Ute, who claim affiliation to the Fremont, were angry that archaeologists had kept them in the dark about the site. Since then, researchers and tribal leaders have pretty much settled their differences. Still, Metcalfe reluctantly told me that archaeologists have found five sets of human remains, either on ranch property or nearby. He says the tribes have been notified and the researchers haven't touched the remains, much as they would like to analyze them. And though Wilcox once showed me a set of eroded bones and a skull partially buried about a quarter of a mile from his old homestead, he says he himself never dug up any graves: "My dad told me when I was a kid, 'we own the land, but we don’t own them dead Indians.'"

Archaeologists don’t like the term "Fremont." But they’ve been stuck with it since the 1920s, when Noel Morss, an anthropology student at Harvard, documented "distinctive unpainted black or grey pottery," a "unique type of moccasin," "elaborate clay figurines" and "abundant pictographs of distinctive types" along the banks of the Fremont River in south-central Utah.

Some scholars maintain the Fremont were country cousins of the Anasazi, or "ancestral puebloans"—a term contemporary Native Americans prefer. ("Anasazi" is said to be a Navajo word for "ancient enemy.") Others contend they developed from a distinct desert culture established before the Anasazi. Until recently, researchers had believed that the Fremont simply packed up when the climate turned dry. "The easy answer for a long time has been the 1300 A.D. drought," says Michael Berry, a Bureau of Reclamation archaeologist based in Salt Lake City. But the Fremont had endured similar droughts in the past. In another view, the drought, population pressures and an invasion combined to make life untenable for the Fremont. Utes, a tribe of hunter-gatherers, may have migrated into the area from California around the same time the Fremont were starting to retreat to the cliffs, and the competition for food perhaps turned ugly.

Archaeologists have also theorized that warfare among the Fremont broke out during this period."You know, if your family is starving to death, if you get corn farming pushed to the limits and you're only getting a quarter of what you need to make it through a Utah winter, then going in and raiding your neighbors is going to seem more and more like a better alternative," Metcalfe says. That Fremont life was treacherous seems obvious even from their rock art. Perhaps the most haunting petroglyph I see at Range Creek is an upside-down figure with a bucket-shaped head and either a tail or penis. It was colored red and etched on the rock at the base of a cliff. It may depict a Fremont who fell to his death.

About the only thing researchers know for sure is that by around A.D. 1350, all the physical trappings that shouted Fremont—the distinctive sandals, baskets and pottery—disappear from the archaeological record. It's possible the Fremont people just moved on. Scientists have recently uncovered potential evidence of Fremont hearths and dwellings, dating from around 1500, along a tributary of the Green River in northwestern Colorado, 75 miles north of Range Creek. Barlow and others wonder if the culture shifted from farming back to full-time hunter-gathering. "When you become a hunter-gatherer again, you don't stay in one place long," says Metcalfe. "You'll change your look to an archaeologist. The material culture will be very different, but it might be exactly the same people."

Like the story of the Fremont, the story of Range Creek is complicated. For starters, the canyon is not entirely pristine. Fur trappers arrived in the late 1800s, and cattle ranching began then too. One rancher, Clarence Pilling, found 11 clay figurines made by the Fremont. He later donated some of them to the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum in nearby Price, where they are now on display as the "Pilling figurines."

The Wilcoxes themselves have also done some collecting over the years. "Oh, if I seen an arrowhead, I picked it up. I won't lie to you or anyone else," Waldo Wilcox says. "I don’t have very many. But I do have half a dozen or so." Wilcox’s niece, Jeanie Jensen, says that members of the family often picked up artifacts. In 1999, Ellen Sue Turner, an archaeologist from Texas, visited the ranch, and Wilcox's wife, Julie, showed her a number of artifacts, including Fremont sandals, a wide-mouth jar, arrow points and a grinding stone. (Turner writes about her visit at www.staa.org/fremont/index.html.) Steve Gerber, the official historian for the Range Creek archaeological research project, whose father owned a ranch adjacent to the property, says the Wilcoxes "certainly did make an effort to preserve the place," adding: "That’s not to say they didn't take anything or that people before them didn't take anything. The value to scientists is that they didn’t go digging potholes."

"I have been on many sites that I am confident have not been walked in on in 1,000 years," says Renee Barlow. "A lot of the sites we have recorded, the artifacts are still right where they were dropped." There are so many artifacts that less than 10 percent of the ranch has been surveyed since work began in 2002. Jerry Spangler, a Utah archaeologist working at Range Creek, says: "Waldo has forgotten more sites than any of us will step on in a lifetime."

Meanwhile, the Wilcox legend continues to grow, and he continues to win awards and accolades for his Range Creek stewardship. It's less widely known that, although Wilcox sold the property, he retains the rights to exploit any subsurface mineral or energy deposits, including oil and natural gas. He says he hasn't ruled out leasing access to the deposits to natural gas developers. That prospect horrifies some of the archaeologists.

Wilcox and I were driving back through the old ranch when we passed two hikers. They were about a mile from the gate, where their car was parked, so Wilcox pulled over to give them a ride. When the middle-aged tourists saw Wilcox, they were as giddy as a couple of teenagers meeting their favorite rock star. "You're a hero," one gushed. Wilcox shrugged and allowed himself a little smile.


The Newsletter Begins

In August of 1992, the first Thayer Family Association newsletter was mailed out to the fledgling membership. The organizing committee announced its move toward &ldquoactive recruitment&rdquo to fill administrative roles - in light of the fact that only one brave soul had volunteered for a job.

Holly saw the reluctance of the organizing committee to establish proper authoritative and board positions as a threat to the young group. In October, Holly suggested that Phil Thayer become Secretary, as he had offered to be, and that &ldquokey people&rdquo Jim and Will Thayer be called upon for other offices. Raymond (Rick) Thayer, of Braintree, had volunteered to help and Holly thought his talents should be utilized, also. Though he was ready to contribute, Rick Thayer was not interested in becoming an officer. In December, Phil Thayer sent a letter to the new membership, proposing officers and Board nominees. These were Will Thayer, President Jim Thayer, Vice President and Phil Thayer, Secretary/Treasurer. Proposed Board Members were Thayer Eldridge, Catherine Naughton, Paul Hutchins, Garland Jeffrey Thayer, Robert Knighton, and Howard Thayer. When the proposed ballots were returned and recorded, all nominees were approved.


Second Semester Senior Electives

This course is required for students interested in gaining recognition as a Thayer Academy Global Scholar. Building upon the work undertaken in the fall component of the course, and with the support of the course teacher or another faculty mentor, students develop an independent project to be completed in the second semester and presented to the community in the spring. Application required. Qualifies for Global Scholars.


Cheshire Resident Archives Family Contributions to World War I

Jean McKee holding photo of her two uncles, Capt. Thornton Chatfield Thayer (left) and 1st Lt. Gordon Chatfield Thayer (right), who served in World War I. (Melanie Espinal)

The Colt .45-caliber revolver Capt. Thornton Chatfield Thayer us during his service in World War I is among the reminders of his family’s service to wars on display at the Cheshire home of his niece, Jean McKee.

Thornton Chatfield Thayer’s Colt .45, which he carried with him to Argonne, was only fired once during the nearly two-month long Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Thornton Chatfield Thayer received medals for his service in the battle, which according to the U.S. National Archives, took the lives of more than 26,000 U.S. soldiers.

McKee has turned her home into a quasi-museum that demonstrates her family’s contributions to American history.

A Colt .45-caliber revolver that belonged to Thornton Chatfield Thayer used in World War I. (Melanie Espinal)

She also displays Thornton Chatfield Thayer’s two doughboy uniforms and several photographs, which catalog her family’s strong connection to World War I. Her father and two uncles all served during the war.

“The tradition of holding onto things of historical interest has gone on in my family for generations,” McKee said.

McKee’s father, 2nd Lt. Waldo McCutcheon McKee, served in the 77th Division along with McKee’s uncle — her mother’s brother — Capt. Thornton Chatfield Thayer.

Gordon Chatfield Thayer, McKee’s other uncle, also served during World War I, with the Motor Transport Corps.

McKee preserves the family home that sits on South Brooksvale Road in Cheshire, which has been in their possession for almost three centuries. The house has seen every war since the American Revolution.

“My uncle Gordon was the first one to go into World War I,” she said.

1st Lt. Gordon Chatfield Thayer served in the 407th Motor Supply Train of the Motor Transport Corps transporting artillery, troops and supplies to the battlefield.

The 407th went to France, and assisted the French reserves before the United States became officially involved, Jean McKee said.

Thornton Chatfield Thayer was attending Yale when the United States entered the war. Eventually, he went on to train at the Yale Officers Training Camp until he was drafted on May 15, 1918.

Upon leaving, he became a forward observer in the 305th Field Artillery Regiment of the 77th Division. As an observer, Thornton Chatfield Thayer’s job was to assess the front lines, and direct artillery fire onto the opposition.

“[He saw] where the enemy was, [and positioned] the troops,” Jean McKee said. “And there were times when he climbed up trees and did all sorts of things to figure out where people were, and what the troops needed to do, where to put the guns so they could fire at the enemy.”

Though they experienced the “ravages of war,” Jean McKee recalled learning more about war tactics instead of the battles of the Argonne Forest and Chateau-Thierry, where Thornton Chatfield Thayer fought.

Certificate certifying Thornton C. Thayer’s service in Argonne. (Melanie Espinal)

Thornton Chatfield Thayer reflected on the state of France in his letters to his parents, John Van Buren Thayer and Elizabeth Brooks Chatfield Thayer.

“The demolition of towns is quite beyond description and the complete rebuilding must be uncertain,” he wrote. “One staggers at its consideration.”

Thornton Chatfield Thayer also recalled a conversation with a mother who had not received word of her two sons in the French Army for two years.

“The times have been very trying for the French,” Thornton Chatfield Thayer wrote. “The sights which we have seen have been most pathetic.”

Jean McKee said she was never told about these experiences. She said her uncles and father tried to protect her from the horrors of war.

During his time in the regiment, Thornton Chatfield Thayer met Jean McKee’s father, Waldo from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who also served in Argonne, as the liaison officer.

Waldo studied engineering in the University of Michigan, said Jean McKee, and left in January 1918 to enlist as a private in the Third Officers Training Camp in Michigan.

“As happenstance would have it, the unit — the 305th Field Artillery unit — was mostly metropolitan-New York area soldiers or draftees,” Jean McKee said. “And [Waldo] goes overseas and they assign him to that unit, and there’s my uncle. And because he grew up with cousins of ours in Grand Rapids, they became friends.”

If it had not been for World War I, Jean McKee said, her parents never would have met.

Waldo returned to Michigan after the war, but not before he attended a Victory Parade in New York City in May 1918, which took place on Fifth Avenue.

Jean McKee’s great-aunt held a reception after the parade, and an invitation was extended to Waldo because he had no family in New York. That’s where he met Elizabeth Brooks Thayer, Jean McKee’s mom, and Thornton Chatfield Thayer’s sister.

“He saw a beautiful girl in front of the fireplace,” she said, “and that was it.”


The influence of Emerson, by William R. Thayer. Boston: Cupples, Upham, and Co.: Old Corner Bookstore, 1886.

Hesper: an American drama, by William Roscoe Thayer. Cambridge: C.W. Sever, 1888.

A short history of Venice, by William Roscoe Thayer. New York, London: Macmillan, 1905.

The life and times of Cavour, by William Roscoe Thayer. 2 vols. Boston: New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1911.

The life and letters of John Hay, by William Roscoe Thayer. 2 vols. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915 Reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1972.

Letters of John Holmes to James Russell Lowell and others, ed. by William Roscoe Thayer with an introduction by Alice M. Longfellow Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917.

Theodore Roosevelt an intimate biography, by William Roscoe Thayer. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1919

Volleys from a non-combatant, by William Roscoe Thayer. Garden City: Doubleday, Page, 1919.

George Washington, by William Roscoe Thayer. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1922.

The art of biography, by William Roscoe Thayer. Norwood, Pa.: Norwood Editions, 1978, c1920.


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