Living the Dream


“I knew Wyatt Earp...I was an assistant prop boy then...and he told me about the fight at the O.K. Corral.”

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Gold Dust and the Hangman's Noose

haney_nevadacityfamily_001_600x400pxUntil there is a time machine invented somewhere other than a Hollywood studio, history will be limited to memories of the dead and books of the living. There are, however, places where history lurks just beneath the surface of the modern world. Two such places are the Southwest Montana twin ghost towns of Virginia City and Nevada City.  These cities were the home of one of the richest placer gold strikes in North America as well as one of the most notorious vigilante groups on the frontier.

The area was first settled in 1863 after a group of down-on-their-luck miners camped by a nondescript creek and panned the first nuggets of a deposit that extracted $30 million in gold in the first three months. Today that would be worth about half a billion dollars. Anchored by Virginia City and Nevada City, the population of Alder Gulch soon swelled to 10,000. In 1865 Virginia City was named capital of the Montana Territory and for a decade or so the two cities were boomtowns of the highest order.

Painstakingly preserved and restored in the mid-20th century by an heir to the General Mills fortune, today's visitors to Virginia City and Nevada City can walk the same boardwalks trod by fortune seekers 150 years ago. Tourists can even enter the same stores and saloons frequented by rowdy miners. Out-of-towners can stand at the gravestones of infamous marauding robbers known as “road agents.” These outlaws were hung at the hands of a group of citizens who formed the Montana Vigilantes after being frustrated by the lack of local law enforcement.

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Lobsters on the Frontier

forntier-recipie--lobster-bisqueLobster salad, prepared by an inexperienced person who does not know what to exclude, is almost as dangerous as an unloaded gun in the hands of a full grown idiot!” reported The San Diego Weekly Union in 1889.

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Every Dog Has its Day

Coconut-Cake-recipeMark Twain’s critical view of the exotic coconut tree, which he described as a “feather-duster struck by lightning,” didn’t keep American pioneers from appreciating the fruit it bore.

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Olive a Good Joke

FF_colorful-history-of-olive-oilOlive trees made their way to California by way of the Spanish Missions run by Franciscan priests who imported the trees in the 1700s.

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The Bacon Cure

Pioneer-bacon-sandwich_jesse-jamesOn his way from Illinois to California in 1852, William Henry Hart wrote, “The bacon too that I had  always disliked even the sight of, became very good eating proving that nothing makes us relish our food as much as a good appetite.”

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Going Nuts Out West

frontier-fare_nut-cakePatients of Dr. J.H. Reeves, who settled in Glen Rose, Texas, in 1869, were often treated to tasty pecans that grew in the area.

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A Dangerous Eggnog

A Dangerous Frontier EggnogThe hens only lay egg-nog at Christmas-tide, but egg-nog will lay a man any time he tackles it,” reported the Idaho Avalanche on January 3, 1880. In 1881, The Herald in Omaha, Nebraska, also found eggnog a subject for humor: “Hens favor sobriety. They generally quit laying when the egg-nog season approaches.”

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Spicing Up the Frontier

FF_Ketchup-recipeElario Cardova, born in 1861 and raised in Texas, recalled the value of spices, “We obtained our berries and fruits from the wild vegetation in the woods…. Thus our fruit was obtained without the use of money.

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