New Release: Murder Stories!

IT’S HERE! Finally after more than a year of intense effort, my latest book is on the market. It’s a history-lovers delight, but also perfect for fans of true crime. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of bringing the dead back to life in these pages, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

Murder in the County: 50 True Stories of the Old West

Contrary to popular notion, Arkansas was part of the Old West along with Texas and the rest of those more familiar dusty southwestern places. Its western border joined up with the Indian Nations where many a weary marshal rode out with his bedroll and pistol carrying writs from the U. S. District Court at Fort Smith in a search for a steady stream of men rustling livestock, stealing horses, selling whiskey, or running from the law.

From its earliest days, Washington County, Arkansas, experienced some of the worst the Old West had to offer. At unexpected moments, county settlers faced their fellow man in acts of fatal violence. These murderous events not only ended hopeful lives but also forever changed those who survived them. Not to say that the murders in the county all stemmed from conflict along its western border—plenty of blood spilled within its communities and homesteads.

The fifty chapters of this collection each focus on one violent incident. Through family histories, legal records, and newspaper accounts, the long-dead actors tell their shocking stories of rage, grief, retaliation, and despair.

Available now at Amazon.com

Excerpt from Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past

'y' at fay jctMy  new book, Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past,
features five articles I researched and wrote between 2003 and 2010. These were initially published by the Washington County Historical Society’s quarterly journal, Flashback.

In this paperback collection, these articles about this “lovely” county in Northwest Arkansas have been expanded and updated, and now include photos, maps, and other features that greatly enhance the reading experience.

Here’s an excerpt, from “The History of Fayette Junction”:

…One of the most ambitious men to exploit the timber trade was Hugh F. McDanield, a railroad builder and tie contractor who had come to Fayetteville along with the Frisco. He bought thousands of acres of land within hauling distance of the railroad and sent out teams of men to cut the timber. By the mid-1880s, after a frenzy of cutting in south Washington County, he turned his gaze to the untapped fortune of timber on the steep hillsides of southeast Washington County and southern Madison County, territory most readily accessed along a wide valley long since leveled by the east fork of White River. Mr. McDanield gathered a group of backers and the state granted a charter September 4, 1886, giving authority to issue capital stock valued at $1.5 million, which was the estimated cost to build a rail line through St. Paul and on to Lewisburg, which was a riverboat town on the Arkansas River near Morrilton. McDanield began surveys while local businessman J. F. Mayes worked with property owners to secure rights of way. “On December 4, 1886, a switch was installed in the Frisco main line about a mile south of Fayetteville, and the spot was named Fayette Junction.” Within six months, 25 miles of track had been laid east by southeast through Baldwin, Harris, Elkins, Durham, Thompson, Crosses, Delaney, Patrick, Combs, and finally St. Paul.

Soon after, in 1887, the Frisco bought the so-called “Fayetteville and Little Rock” line from McDanield. It was estimated that in the first year McDanield and partners shipped out more than $2,000,000 worth of hand-hacked white oak railroad ties at an approximate value of twenty-five cents each. Mills ran day and night as people arrived “by train, wagon, on horseback, even afoot” to get a piece of the action along the new track, commonly referred to as the “St. Paul line.” Saloons, hotels, banks, stores, and services from smithing to tailoring sprang up in rail stop communities…