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Law enforcement in the Old West: unlike Hollywood's frequent portrayal of Old Western townsfolk as cowards, these hardy individuals took care of themselves and did not rely solely on government for protection.

To this day High Noon High Noon

western film in which time is of the essence. [Am. Cinema: Griffith, 396–397]

See : Wild West
 remains one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Gary Cooper, the lone town marshal, stands his ground against the return of the Miller gang. The stunningly beautiful Grace Kelly Noun 1. Grace Kelly - United States film actress who retired when she married into the royal family of Monaco (1928-1982)
Grace Patricia Kelly, Princess Grace of Monaco, Kelly
 wrestles with her pacifistic pac·i·fism  
1. The belief that disputes between nations should and can be settled peacefully.

a. Opposition to war or violence as a means of resolving disputes.

 conscience but then stands by her man. Katy Jurado explains to Lloyd Bridges what it means to be a man. The Miller boys are lean, mean, and brave. The Coop is leaner, vulnerable, and courageous. The clock is always ticking as the movie unfolds in real time. Tex Ritter Tex Ritter (January 12, 1905 – January 2, 1974) was an American country singer and actor. Life and career
He was born Maurice Woodward Ritter in Murvaul, Texas, the son of James Everett Ritter and Martha Elizabeth Matthews.
 sings High Noon. It doesn't get any better.

However, there is a major flaw in the movie--but it's not, as many have asserted, that the movie has leftist left·ism also Left·ism  
1. The ideology of the political left.

2. Belief in or support of the tenets of the political left.

 elements. Since Carl Foreman, the writer of the screenplay, was a leftist and went into exile in London during the McCarthy era, there are those who have described the movie as a metaphor for Hollywood blacklisting. Although Foreman certainly gets in his digs--early on the local judge takes down the scales of justice Scales of Justice can refer to:
  • Justice
  • Scales held by Lady Justice symbolizing the measure of a case's support and opposition.
  • Scales of Justice (TV miniseries), a 1983 Australian television drama.
 and the American flag and flees town--the movie was not inspired by a leftist agenda but by John W. Cunningham's Western tale, "The Tin Star," which appeared in Collier's magazine in 1947. If anything High Noon is an ode to rugged individualism Noun 1. rugged individualism - individualism in social and economic affairs; belief not only in personal liberty and self-reliance but also in free competition . As Marshal Will Kane, Gary Cooper is the ultimate rugged individualist, relying upon his own resources, grit, and determination--and his own six-shooter. The townsfolk are sheep-like and craven, and willing to throw Kane to the wolves to save themselves.

For years John Wayne has been quoted as saying that the movie was "un-American." Many on both the political left and right have attributed Wayne's remarks to the movie's putatively leftist metaphors. Wayne, however, was troubled primarily by the portrayal of the townsfolk as feckless feck·less  
1. Lacking purpose or vitality; feeble or ineffective.

2. Careless and irresponsible.

[Scots feck, effect (alteration of effect) + -less.
 cowards, immobilized by fear. This is the movie's major flaw. America's frontier population was disproportionately strong, courageous, adventurous, and enterprising. Those without such characteristics generally did not migrate to the frontier.

This is a problem with other Westerns as well. Farmers and shopkeepers are often portrayed as quaking in their boots in the face of wild cowboys or brawlers or outlaws. Think of Shane. In reality most farmers on the frontier On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938.  were tough as nails and so too were many shopkeepers. Moreover, most of them were well armed and had grown up using firearms to put food on the table, to keep Indians at bay, and to "drive the nail" or "snuff the candle" at shooting matches. Additionally, in the 1860s, '70s, and '80s, the era most often depicted on the silver screen, many of those in the West were veterans of the Mexican or Civil Wars, and some had fought in both. If ever there were a people not to fool with, even if they lived in a town, it was those who inhabited the Old West. The James and Dalton gangs learned this--the hard way.

Townsfolk Rout the Northfield Raiders

In September 1876 the James gang--eight strong--rode into Northfield, Minnesota Northfield is a city mostly in Rice County, Minnesota, in the United States. The population was 17,147 at the 2000 census. A small part of the city extends into Dakota County. History
Northfield was founded by John W. North in 1855.
, intending to rob the First National Bank. This was the idea of gang member William Stiles Stiles can refer to: People
  • Bert Stiles, short story writer
  • Charles Wardell Stiles, American zoologist
  • Edgar Stiles, character on the popular drama 24
  • Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College
  • Innis Stiles, singer, musician
, alias Chadwell, a tall, lanky native of Minnesota. He thought the banks in Minnesota would be easy pickings, and he knew the country well. Northfield was actually a second choice after the gang shied away from their first target, Mankato, where the locals' suspicions were evidently aroused.

At Northfield, Jesse left his brother, Frank, along with Jim Younger James Hardin Younger (January 15, 1848-October 19, 1902) was a western outlaw and member of the James-Younger gang.

Born in Missouri on January 15, 1848. He was the ninth of fourteen children born to Henry Washington Younger and Bersheba Leighton Fristoe.
 and Bill Stiles, at an intersection a block from the bank. Jesse, Cole and Bob Younger

For other people named Robert Younger, see Robert Younger (disambiguation).
Robert Ewing Younger (October 29, 1853 - September 16, 1889) was an American criminal and outlaw, the younger brother of Cole, Jim and John Younger , he was a member of
, Charley Pitts, and Clell Miller Clell Miller (January 9, 1850 - September 7, 1876) (also known as Cleland D. Miller or Clenand Miller or McClelland Miller) was an outlaw with the James-Younger Gang who was killed during the gang's robbery at Northfield, Minnesota. , confidence running high, rode up to the First National and tethered Attached to a data or power source by wire or fiber. Contrast with untethered.  their horses. While Cole Younger Thomas Coleman Younger (January 15 1844 – March 21 1916) was a famous Confederate guerrilla and an outlaw after the American Civil War.

With his brothers Jim, John and Bob Younger, he joined with Jesse and Frank James to lead the James-Younger gang of Missouri bandits.
 and Miller stood guard outside, Jesse and the others strode into the bank. They first encountered problems when Joseph Lee Heywood Joseph Lee Heywood (August 12, 1837 - September 7, 1876) was the acting cashier at the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota when the James-Younger Gang attempted to rob the bank. , a bank cashier and Civil War veteran, refused to open the vault. Jesse James lost his temper and shot Heywood in the head.

The townsfolk, some already having taken notice of the large group of strangers, heard the report of Jesse's revolver. So too did Frank James Alexander Franklin James (January 10, 1843 – February 18, 1915) was an American outlaw and older brother of Jesse James. [1] Childhood
He was born in Kearney, Clay County, Missouri to Baptist minister Reverend Robert Sallee James (July 7, 1818 –
, Bill Stiles, and Jim Younger, who came racing to the bank from the end of the street. By now ordinary citizens--butchers, bakers, barbers, hardware merchants, and nary nar·y  
Not one: "Frequently, measures of major import . . . glide through these chambers with nary a whisper of debate" George B. Merry.
 a lawman among them--were grabbing guns and giving the outlaws grief.

Wielding a rifle from the second floor of the Dampier hotel, college student and future physician Henry Wheeler fatally shot gang member Clell Miller. Hardware merchant Anselm Manning blasted Bill Stiles into eternity and then shot Bob Younger's horse out from under him. Younger rolled free of his wounded mount and took cover behind a staircase. The outlaws returned fire but bullets were coming at them from several directions. Some unarmed citizens threw rocks.

Charley Pitts, shot in the ankle and shoulder, somehow managed to pull himself into the saddle. Frank James, still atop his horse, took a round in the leg. A bullet struck Jim Younger in the jaw and another dug into Cole's shoulder. Although partially protected by the staircase, Bob Younger was hit in the thigh and wrist. A bullet had shredded some of Jesse's clothing, but he was otherwise untouched. Deciding that a galloping exit was the best choice for the gang, Jesse ordered a retreat.

Through a hail of gunfire they rode, Cole Younger performing a circus act to sweep his brother Bob into the saddle behind him. Left in their wake in the street lay the bodies of Stiles and Miller, and the body of Nicolas Gustafson, a Swedish immigrant who had been caught in the crossfire A multi-GPU interface from ATI for connecting two ATI display adapters together for faster graphics rendering on one monitor. CrossFire machines require PCI Express slots, a CrossFire-enabled motherboard and, depending on which models are used, either a pair of ATI Radeon adapters or one . Inside the bank was the body of Joseph Lee Heywood.

Several miles outside town, the James boys and the Younger brothers, with a badly wounded Charley Pitts in tow, split up in an effort to fool the townsfolk, who, they reckoned, would soon be in hot pursuit. Jesse and Frank miraculously escaped, but within two weeks, the Younger brothers and Charley Pitts were tracked to a marsh near Medalia, Minnesota.

Thinking that surrender would mean lynching on the spot, the outlaws expended the last of their ammunition. The posse of Northfield citizens, led by Civil War veteran William Murphy William Murphy may refer to:
  • William Murphy (scientist) William Parry Murphy, (1892–1987), American doctor and Nobel Prize winner
  • William Murphy (Irish politician) (1892–1967), Irish Fine Gael TD 1951–1969
, was only too willing to respond in kind. Charley Pitts died on the spot. All three Youngers were shot, adding new wounds to the ones they had sustained in Northfield. With ammunition and strength exhausted, they were taken into custody. They later pleaded guilty to various crimes, allowing them to cheat the gallows GALLOWS. An erection on which to bang criminals condemned to death. , and were sentenced to life in prison.

"Death Alley" for the Daltons

The Daltons had always admired the James boys and the Youngers, who were their cousins. One of their older brothers, Francis or Frank, was a U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty In the Line of Duty may refer to:
  • In the Line of Duty (film)
  • In the Line of Duty (Stargate SG-1)
. Bob, Grat, and Emmett had served as deputies. Other brothers lived quietly as farmers and ranchers. For a number of reasons, Bob, Grat, and Emmett (and later Bill) took to the outlaw trail in 1890. They learned that they had as much, if not more, to fear from ordinary citizens than from lawmen. Like the James-Younger bunch, the Daltons seemed to have had their way with lawmen. They met their demise at the hands of the townsfolk of Coffeyville, Kansas Coffeyville is a city situated along the Verdigris River in the southeastern part of Montgomery County, located in Southeast Kansas, in the central United States. The population was estimated to be 10,359 in the year 2005. .

Lying in the southeastern corner of the state, Coffeyville was not unlike Northfield and was even home to a First National Bank. Directly across the street from First National was a second bank, C.M. Condon. The Daltons, veteran train robbers, thought that they would hold up both of Coffeyville's banks simultaneously.

On a Wednesday morning in October 1892, Bob, Grat, and Emmett Dalton Emmett Dalton (May 3, 1871 – July 13, 1937) [1] was a train robber and member of the Dalton Gang in the American Old West. He was born to Lewis and Adeline Dalton and was the youngest of the Dalton brothers. , and fellow gang members Dick Broadwell, Bill Power (often mistakenly spelled Powers), and Bill Doolin William "Bill" Doolin (1858 – August 24, 1896) was an American bandit and founder of the Wild Bunch, an outlaw gang that specialized in robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas during the 1890s.  rode for Coffeyville. There would be three men for each bank but some miles outside town Doolin's horse pulled up lame. Proceeding without Doolin, the others arrived in Coffeyville about 9:30 and tied their horses in an alley, which intersected the street with the targeted banks. Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell, and Bill Power strode into Condon's and Bob and Emmett Dalton the First National.

Aleck McKenna, the proprietor of a nearby livery stable, recognized the Daltons and raised the alarm, "The bank's being robbed." Although Grat heard the shouting, he calmly took a sack with $4,000 in silver from one safe and, when informed that another safe was time locked and couldn't be opened for several minutes, coolly told the bank employees that he could wait.

Across the street in the First National, Bob and Emmett Dalton stuffed $21,000 in a sack and headed for the front door. When they pulled the door open, though, they were greeted with a hail of bullets from Coffeyville citizens. Retreating rapidly, they fled through the bank and out its rear entrance. Standing there was revolver-armed Lucius Baldwin, a dry goods dry goods
Textiles, clothing, and related articles of trade. Also called soft goods.

dry goods npl (COMM) → mercería sg

dry goods 
 clerk. He was killed on the spot by Bob Dalton, an expert marksman with a Winchester rifle. But other citizens began firing at Bob and Emmett as the outlaws raced for their horses in the alley.

At the same time, Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell, and Bill Power were shooting their way out of Condon's bank and down the street to the alley, which has been known ever since as "Death Alley." For a brief moment, Grat faced town marshal and Civil War veteran Charles T. Connelly, the only lawman involved in the action. Grat fired quickly and Connelly dropped to the ground dead. Almost at the same time, though, a bullet fired by Coffeyville liveryman liv·er·y·man  
A man who is employed in or keeps a livery stable.

Noun 1. liveryman - a worker in a livery stable
employee - a worker who is hired to perform a job
 John Kloehr tore through Grat's throat and the eldest of the three Daltons collapsed in the dirt dead, a few feet from Marshal Connelly.

Meanwhile, a half dozen or more citizens were shooting at the other outlaws. The air was simply full of lead. Power was hit. Then Broadwell. Then Bob and Emmett Dalton. Power, though wounded, mounted his horse only to be blown out of the saddle. He hit the ground dead. Broadwell, though badly wounded, not only managed to pull himself into the saddle but also to gallop out of town. Emmett got into the saddle also but then, instead of racing the back way out of the alley, turned his horse about and galloped through flying lead to Bob's side. Lying on the ground with his own blood turning the dirt red, Bob said, "Don't mind me, boy. I'm done for. Don't surrender! Die game!"

Despite Bob's words, Emmett reached down to pull his brother into the saddle. Just then two townsfolk blasted Emmett with shotguns. He pitched off the horse and collapsed in the dirt beside his brother. Someone yelled, "They're all down" and the firing ceased.

Grat and Bob Dalton, Bill Power, and Dick Broadwell, who died of his wounds after reaching Coffeyville's outskirts, were dead. Emmett Dalton was badly wounded. Marshal Connelly and three brave townsfolk--Lucius Baldwin, shoemaker George Cubine, and Civil War veteran Charles Brown--were dead. Three more were badly wounded. Emmett Dalton was later sentenced to life imprisonment Imprisonment
See also Isolation.

Alcatraz Island

former federal maximum security penitentiary, near San Francisco; “escapeproof.” [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 218]

Altmark, the

German prison ship in World War II. [Br. Hist.
 but was pardoned after 15 years. He married his girlfriend, moved to Hollywood, and became a screenwriter. He would live until 1937.

Vigilance vs. Vigilantism Taking the law into one's own hands and attempting to effect justice according to one's own understanding of right and wrong; action taken by a voluntary association of persons who organize themselves for the purpose of protecting a common interest, such as liberty, property, or  

Far from the fearful citizens of Hadleyville in High Noon, the townsfolk of Northfield and Coffeyville reacted like most pioneers in the Old West. They did not retreat behind the bold figure of a lawman but took the initiative themselves. They did so individually and collectively. When they banded together, it took the form of vigilance committees.

There were hundreds of vigilance committees from the colonial frontier in the mountains of North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop.
 to the gold camps of California to the range lands of the High Plains. Citizens reckoned that no form of government had a monopoly of force. They were citizens of a free republic and as such they had not only a right but a duty to defend themselves and preserve their way of life. Whether the threat be outlaws or Indians, they were armed and ready to fight.

No body of citizens has been more maligned ma·lign  
tr.v. ma·ligned, ma·lign·ing, ma·ligns
To make evil, harmful, and often untrue statements about; speak evil of.

1. Evil in disposition, nature, or intent.

 than the vigilance committee, commonly confused with the lynch mob. The two were very distinct and separate entities, and the lynch mob was actually rare in the Old West. Lynch mobs represented wild outbursts of passion--emotion trumping reason--that were expended in a matter of hours. Lynch mobs were unruly and unorganized.

Vigilance committees were quite the opposite. They displayed military-style organization, including a chain of command, and proceeded in a quiet, orderly, and deliberate fashion. Most committees were supported by a majority of the residents of the local community, including the leading citizens. They were well regulated; they dealt quickly and effectively with criminal problems; and they left the towns in more stable and orderly condition.

Moreover, vigilance committees were organized not because there were no established institutions of law enforcement and justice, but because those institutions could not always be relied upon to pursue, apprehend, and punish the guilty: long-range pursuits were time consuming, expensive, and often in vain; and trials often resulted in hung juries or acquittals because evidence had been mishandled or disappeared, witnesses had been intimidated or left for parts unknown, and defense attorneys outshone prosecutors. This was not greatly troubling to the citizenry when, for example, a homicide victim was a rough or an outlaw or someone who had been involved in something approximating a fair fight, but was unacceptable when the victim was an innocent party. The vigilantes vigilantes (vĭjĭlăn`tēz), members of a vigilance committee. Such committees were formed in U.S. frontier communities to enforce law and order before a regularly constituted government could be established or have real authority.  believed they were simply dispensing an extralegal ex·tra·le·gal  
Not permitted or governed by law.

 form of frontier justice.

Whatever else may be said, vigilance committees provided towns with a relatively just method of dealing with criminals in a time and place where little other organized justice existed.

Vigilance in Action

A case in point was the hanging of four members of the Daly gang in Aurora, Nevada, in 1864. John Daly and his boys had been brought into Aurora to act as enforcers for a mining company that was waging a court battle over conflicting claims. A rival mining company had its enforcers also.

One of the most deadly shootists of the mining frontier, Daly was well paid for his work, principally intimidation. During this time he was involved in two gunfights, and killed both of his opponents, but the victims were other badmen and the killings failed to arouse the citizenry. However, when the court case was settled and Daly's services were no longer needed, he made the mistake of settling an old score before leaving town.

The old score involved William Johnson, who operated a way station on the road from Aurora to Carson City. One of his employees had shot to death a horse thief who was a friend of Daly. Daly was determined that both Johnson and his employee would die.

In February 1864, Johnson arrived in Aurora to sell a load of potatoes he had grown at his way station. He made the mistake of staying in town into the night and drinking at one of Aurora's many saloons. Two of Daly's boys, James Masterson and Jack McDowell, discovered Johnson at the bar and coaxed him into the street under the guise of treating him to drinks at another saloon. Outside, Daly and gang member William Buckley were lying in wait. Buckley felled Johnson with a blow from a pistol and Daly then shot him through the head. To make certain Johnson was dead Buckley drew a bowie knife across his throat.

The next morning Johnson's body was discovered and Aurorans were outraged. Gunmen killing gunmen was one thing--and that was not uncommon in Aurora --but this time an innocent man had been murdered. By that afternoon, a vigilance committee had been formed. Elected "First Officer" of the vigilantes was John A. Palmer, who had served as city marshal of Aurora during 1863, and was the commander of the Hooker Light Infantry, one of Aurora's two Civil War militia companies. Organized into four companies, each with its own officer and NCOs, the vigilance committee was more than 400 strong. All vigilantes were armed with a revolver or a rifle, many with both.

At first the committee simply aided the work of the town's coroner and his inquest. Protected by the vigilantes, witnesses were willing to come forward and testify. A few had to be intercepted miles from town on stagecoaches bound for California. After several days of testimony, the coroner's jury rendered its verdict: John Daly, William Buckley, James Masterson, and Jack McDowell were responsible for Johnson's murder. The vigilantes immediately went to work. Within a couple of days, all the culprits but Buckley were lodged in the town jail. A few more days and Buckley too was behind bars. A little more than a week after Johnson's murder, the vigilantes marched the four men to a specially constructed gallows and, with a crowd of 5,000 watching, hanged Daly and his confederates.

Cut From the Same Cloth

All this is not to say that the Old West did not have brave, honest, dependable, and, when needed, deadly lawmen. Many examples come to mind. In California, there were Harry Love, Tom Cunningham, Doc Stanley, Ben Thorn, Harry Morse, and Jim Hume; Oklahoma had "The Three Guardsmen," Chris Madsen, Heck Thomas, and Bill Tilghman; Kansas featured Wild Bill Hickok Not to be confused with William "Wild Bill" Hickok, American football player.

James Butler Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876), better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was a legendary figure in the American Old West.
, Bat Masterson, and Tom Smith; Texas had them by the dozen beginning, perhaps, with the state's early Rangers such as Jack Hays, Sam Walker, Ben McCulloch, and Lee McNelly, and later ones such as Frank Hamer. Pacifying pac·i·fy  
tr.v. pac·i·fied, pac·i·fy·ing, pac·i·fies
1. To ease the anger or agitation of.

2. To end war, fighting, or violence in; establish peace in.
 mining camps in Colorado was Martin Duggan and in Denver it was Dave Cook; Arizona had Wyatt Earp, Commodore Perry Owens Commodore Perry Owens (July 29 1852-May 10 1919) was an American born lawman and gunfighter of the old west. Early life
In spite of the assertions of his numerous biographers, the famed Arizona lawman Commodore Perry Owens was not born on the anniversary of the great
, and Bucky O'Neill; Montana and Wyoming were home to John "Liver-Eating" Johnson, South Dakota to Seth Bullock, and New Mexico to Pat Garrett. Throughout the Old West such figures could be found everywhere.

This is to say, however, that the common citizen, whether acting independently or collectively, did not differ greatly from these famous lawmen and certainly was no one to trifle with to play the fool with; to treat without respect or seriousness; to mock; as, to trifle with one's feelings, or with sacred things.

See also: Trifle
. These famous lawmen came from the common citizenry and were directly elected by those citizens or appointed by elected councils or officials. They came from and represented the communities they served. They were figuratively, and occasionally literally, members of an extended family.

Communities were recreated quickly and relatively easily again and again across thousands of miles of frontier. Part of the explanation lies in the natural affinity the people had for one another: with only a sprinkling of diversity, they were united not only by religion, language, traditions, and history, but by character. The weak and feckless, the slothful sloth·ful  
Disinclined to work or exertion; lazy. See Synonyms at lazy.

slothful·ly adv.
 and dull witted wit·ted  
Having wit or intellectual comprehension. Often used in combination: keen-witted; dull-witted.

, the timid and unadventurous, did not often put themselves on the frontier. The frontier and its conquest was left to the most ambitious, intelligent, hard-working, enterprising, and courageous--and those characteristics coupled with the natural bonds of blood and culture are what made America's westward march across the continent not only irrepressible but also our Homeric era.

Roger D. McGrath, Ph.D., the author of Gunfighters, Highwaymen Highwaymen
See also Outlawry, Thievery.

Band of Merry Men

Robin Hood’s brigands. [Br. Lit.: Robin Hood]

Beane, Sawney

English highwayman whose gang slew and ate their victims. [Brit. Folklore: Misc.
, and Vigilantes, is a retired history professor.
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Title Annotation:High Noon criticised
Author:McGrath, Roger D.
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 3, 2006
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