How did Bret get to New Orleans and Wagon Wheel, Wyoming?
In September of 1876, Bret Maverick tossed a coin with Brother Bart in New Mexico Territory, to decide which of them would travel east and which would head west. Fate decided that Bret would travel east, so he headed back to his beloved river country. After the events of "The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick," he continued on his journey by train, arriving in St. Louis where he bought his passage for his fateful trip on the Delta Star, bound for New Orleans.
Despite Bret's and Brother Bart's ongoing challenges out West, the Maverick name was becoming well-known and well-respected on the Mississippi. Relaxing on a steamboat south from St. Louis, Bret was enjoying a leisurely and profitable cruise to New Orleans. He was looking forward to some quiet, cooler months in the Crescent City, plying his trade with the local gentry and replenishing his reserves. Until one night aboard the Delta Star, even before reaching New Orleans, he found himself in a poker game with Samantha Crawford.
Although she played badly, Samantha was able to clean Bret out of $12,000, his entire traveling capital. This forced him to abandon his plans of a hiatus and raise a stake to earn his money back from Miss Crawford aboard the Stonewall Jackson heading back up the river for St. Louis.
After another devastating night at the poker table with Samantha, this time due to an arcane rule of Hoyle, she wiped him out again. But Bret still had an idea of how to not only regain his losses, but profit through a partnership with Samantha, and right an old wrong he once witnessed in Wyoming Territory.
Once Bret convinced Sam to join him in his plans, he outlined the best route to Wagon Wheel, Wyoming Territory, where they were to shut down Joe Riggs' crooked gambling house permanently. In a hotel room in St. Louis, Bret told Samantha: "We can take tomorrow morning's train for Kansas City, change there for Cheyenne, take a stage on from there to Wagon Wheel."
Bret and Samantha's train from St. Louis to Kansas City would have been on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. If their train left on time around 7:00 a.m., they would arrived in Kansas City by 5:00 that afternoon.
By changing trains, Bret undoubtedly meant railroads. Leaving that very night after 10:00 p.m., the Union Pacific Railway would carry them from Kansas City westward to Denver, and from there northward to arrive in Cheyenne around 5:30 the following afternoon.
Since Wagon Wheel was not accessible by rail in 1876, we must assume it was somewhere north of Cheyenne. We know from Ma Braus that the residents of Wagon Wheel are mostly miners and ranchers, and the town had existed there for some time. This would likely place it somewhere east of Fort Laramie, along rugged stage routes leading northward into the Black Hills, and in lands not ceded to the Indians. Much slower than trains, and across hostile Indian country, a stage coach in 1876 might have required up to six days to make the journey.
Once their business was concluded in Wagon Wheel, Bret had just enough money to see him back to Kansas City. Although, he was forced to ride the stage out of town with Samantha, George Cross and Henry Tree, none of which could be trusted. To pass the dusty miles, the pasteboards were broken out. The last we saw of them on that trail to Cheyenne, Samantha was already high card up. We never find out if she tapped Bret's entire capital again, but we know something happened that sent Bret to Virginia City rather than back East as planned.
01. Maverick, The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
02. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails
03. Maverick, According to Hoyle (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
04. Missouri Pacific Railway for Kansas City and All Points West (1887); Rand McNally and Company
05. Kansas West: An Epic of Western Railroading (1963); George LaVerne Anderson; Golden West Books
06. The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes (1949); Agnes Wright Spring; Arthur H. Clark Company
07. Maverick, The Comstock Conspiracy (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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