Friday, November 22, 2013

Where Were You When JFK was Assisinated? (Assuming you are over 55!)--The Killing of My Great Grandfather's Brother in a Wyoming Gunfight)

--Where Were You When JFK was Assassinated (assuming you are over 55)
--The Killing of My Great Grandfather's Brother in a Wyoming Gunfight!

Where Were You When JFK was Assassinated?

Over these past 50 years all of us (who are over the age of about 55) have had the experience of discussing JFK's assassination and, invariably, each person recounts where they were that day when they heard the news.  That is because it was such a traumatic and significant event that it is forever etched in our memories.
I was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in a aviation training squadron at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego. Most of the squadron officers and enlisted men worked in the hangar; but my office was in a small building near the hangar.  I believe the wife of one of my fellow officers called to inform him of what happened.  There were no TVs in any of the offices, nor was anyone listening to a radio.  Several of us went outside where our cars were parked and one of the officers turned on his car radio so we could listen.  We all gathered around for several minutes  trying to comprehend the severity of what had just happened.  

Many of us had been in the same squadron just about a year earlier, in October 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred and had similar feelings; not knowing at the time who had done the shooting.  The squadron had been put on high alert during the missile crisis and, being the squadron's Top Secret Control Officer, I had to break out our war plans and deliver then to our Commanding Officer and his senior staff.  We were prepared to do the same following the assassination; but our alert status never escalated to that level. 

After listening to the radio for much longer than we probably should have, we got back to work; but in the backs of our minds were thoughts about what had happened and was going on in Dallas.  

Once I got home my wife and I were glued to the television until late that night.  It was a sad day and not one any of us who experienced it will forget. 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------    The Killing of My Great Grandfather's Brother in a Wyoming Gunfight!

My paternal great grandfather, Thomas Frank Dean, was the sheriff of Las Animas, Colorado.  He had several brothers including the youngest, Jess.  Jess went to Gillette, Wyoming and got a job working on a ranch.  Gillette is a very small town just to the west of Sundance, Wyoming; famous as the home of the legendary Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  

In December 1899, he was paid for his seasons work by the rancher he worked for and headed into Gillette.  He ended up in a card game, a dispute followed somewhat later, and he was shot and killed.

After word reached my great grandfather he sent letters to the Sheriff in the area, an attorney in Sundance, Wyoming and to the rancher for whom his brother worked.  I have copies of the replies from all of those people explaining what they knew about the shooting.  It reads like a movie script for those western movies many of us (who are older) watched as kids.

I commented in yesterday's blog about how difficult it will be for a computer program to transcribe handwritten documents.  Following are two of the three pages of the latter.  The handwriting is relatively good; but was still a bit of a task to transcribe.

Letter Page 2

Letter Page 4
 Note on the final page above that the signature is very hard to read.  It looks a little like it could be George Amos; but I just can't be certain.  If any of you have ideas, please let me know.   I guess I could go to the 1900 Census for Gillette, Wyoming and see if I can match up any of the names with the signature.  That might be a bit of a chore; but perhaps not if there were only a couple hundred people who lived there.

The envelope below is interesting, in that it was just sent to my great grandfather with the name of the town, county, state and the word "Sheriff".  However, in small towns in those days, this was quite common.  I have other letters to ancestors in Las Animas with just their name and Las Animas, Colorado as an address. 
Following is the transcription of the letter.  Note that I still have a couple question marks where I wasn't sure of the words and I still am not able to make out the name of the rancher who sent the letter as his signature was very hard to read.

Transcription Page 1
Transcription Page 2

Ironically, just two years earlier (1897) Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and his gang held up a bank in Sundance, Wyoming.  Thus, the shooting of Jess Dean and the legendary criminal activities of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were only a couple years apart.

A couple years back the idea crossed my mind of submitting these letters to a movie script writer; but I figured they probably had already done every version of western gunfight killing possible.  However, as I am writing this, its comes to mind that I have a nephew now working in the movie industry.  Hmmm, maybe I will bounce it off of him?