A Kansas history lover praises author Deb Goodrich for her profile "From Tepee to Capitol Dome" of U.S. senator and VP Charles Curtis.

June 2019 Readers’ Letters

By HistoryNet Staff
3/21/2019 • Wild West

KANSAS HISTORY
My hat is off to Deb Goodrich and her June 2018 article “From Tepee to Capitol Dome” on Kansan Charles Curtis. It sparked me to pull out two old Kansas history schoolbooks that belonged to my grandmother Patterson (and were used in a one-room schoolhouse). She gave them to me as a teenager due to my love of history. Both books are titled Four Centuries in Kansas: Unit Studies, by Bliss Isely and Walter Marvin Richards—the first one was published by the State of Kansas, W.C. Austin, state printer, in Topeka in 1937; the second one is a second edition, printed in 1944, with my mother’s signature inside, copyright 1936, by the McCormick-Mathers Co., of Wichita.

It is noted the contents are “based on original letters, journals and documents of those who actually took part in the making of Kansas history, or it is obtained at first hand by personal interview with Indians, scouts, Santa Fe traders, free-state partisans, border ruffians, Quantrill’s raiders, buffalo hunters and hundreds of others who were eyewitnesses of the events herein described.” The removal of Indians from Kansas caused the breakup of many families. Among those who had to decide whether he was to be an Indian or a white boy was 13-year-old Curtis. The boy’s mother had died when he was 3, after which he had lived part of the time with his white grandparents in Topeka and part of the time with his French and Indian grandparents on the Kaw reservation near Council Grove. He loved both grandparents. Before his death Curtis wrote specially for this book an account of how his half-blood grandmother, Julie Pappan, helped him decide. “As much as she wanted me, because of my dead mother and her love for me,” wrote Curtis in a letter to author Isely, “for my own good she wanted me to return to Topeka, where I could attend school and make somebody of myself.”

Michael D. Köhn
Baldwin City, Kan.

TEX VS. TEXAS
Your “Apache Attack at Dragoon Springs” map on P. 72 of the April 2019 issue is inaccurate. The Cochise Stronghold is on the east and west sides of the Dragoon Mountains and totally west of Sulphur Springs Valley. Texas Canyon is directly northwest and north of Dragoon Springs, and many movies (such as 3:10 to Yuma) have been made there. Please let your readers know. History needs to be correct. 

Connie Solano
Pearce, Ariz.

Editor responds: We regret misplacing Cochise Stronghold on the map, but Tex Canyon—separate and distinct from the Texas Canyon you mention in Cochise County—is on the southern end of the Chiricahua Mountains, as shown.

CUSTER MOVIE
I still believe a more accurate and constructive movie on the Little Bighorn needs to be made. There are many flaws, some embarrassing, in every one that has been made to date—from poor script and poor acting to no sense of history. I believe if such a movie can be made, it could go a long way to healing wounds and prejudices that still exist today. Just imagine a big cast of American Indians who would love to be a part of such an event. This epic would need to bring out the many interesting characters, other than Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who participated, providing, of course, they are portrayed fairly. I love your magazine and your many talented contributors. 

Bruce Pryor
Gosford, New South Wales
Australia

SOAPY NOT SO DIRTY
Thank you for your Collections article in the December 2018 Wild West about Soapy Smith. He is my favorite bad guy. There are, however, a few facts that would have made the story much more interesting. When Soapy picked up his Winchester rifle and headed for Skagway’s Juneau Co. wharf that fateful day, it’s not likely he was setting out to kill someone. What he wanted was to disperse the growing crowd there that was hostile to his activities. There’s no reliable record he had ever murdered anyone. Today those who write about Soapy depict him as a ruthless and dangerous villain. While some of the stories are true, a large percentage of them are the product of too much literary imagination. His history reveals a more complex personality. Jeff Smith, as he liked to be called, was not a hardcore ruthless ogre. He was a very imaginative and successful confidence man. Not the best of men, but not the worst. 

Bob Fry
Ridgeland, Miss.

Editor responds: The December 2018 Collections department, by Linda Wommack, focused on Jeff Smith’s Parlor Museum in Skagway, Alaska. In prior issues Wild West has published features with plenty more information about the infamous con man, including “Soapy Smith’s Showdown with the Vigilantes,” by descendant Jeff Smith, in April 2013, and “Flash-in-the-Pan Creede,” by Joe Johnston, in April 2018 (both available online at WildWestMag.com).

 

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