How did Bret get to Deadwood?
In the spring of 1877, Bret Maverick had just begun his Long Hunt to free Jedd Ferris of the murder charges for which he was serving a life sentence in Yuma Territorial Prison. After speaking directly to the territorial governor in Tucson and others in Dry Springs, Arizona Territory, he believed he had done all he could on Ferris' behalf.
Always opportunistic, Bret decided he might pick up the trail of Poker Alice as long as he was in the Southwest. He followed leads that took him from Arizona into New Mexico Territory, but he kept riding into towns only to learn she had come and gone and the trail grew cold.
After a short visit with Brother Bart in Silver City, Bret seems to have decided to change his luck and head east for St. Louis. Once there, he met Madame Pompey while on her own expedition to find a stable of new girls to work for her in the booming saloons of Deadwood. Bret and Pompey became fast friends, and she easily convinced him to join her on her journey back to Deadwood, beginning with a cruise on the Dakota Queen up the Missouri River.
Somewhere along the river, Tony Cadiz boarded the Dakota Queen with his new investment, Battling Kreuger. Cadiz had already been operating the Golden Nugget in Deadwood for some time. Kreuger had been boxing for and winning big purses from New Orleans to St. Louis and Cadiz wanted to take advantage of his fighting abilities in Deadwood. Since Madame Pompey was not aware of his presence onboard the Dakota Queen on the long run from St. Louis until shortly before Bret was thrown in the river, it is likely that Cadiz and Kreuger boarded the riverboat together at Council Bluffs, only a few hours downriver of Bret's unexpected departure.
MISSOURI RIVER SAND BAR
When Bret stumbled upon Dandy Jim Buckley on an island in the middle of the Missouri River, Buckley produced a map leading to $40,000 in buried Wells Fargo gold dust. A key landmark on the map was the town of Vermillion, sixty miles upriver from where they stood. This would have placed them in the vicinity of Winnebago Bend which, in 1877, wrapped around a large island separated by the wide Missouri from shore on all sides. It is likely here that the captain of the Far West marooned Buckley and where Bret swam ashore from being hoisted over the side of the Dakota Queen.
Once on horseback, Bret and Buckley rode about fifty-five miles upriver to the vicinity of Vermillion where Buckley's treasure map began. From there, they were able to identify the map's Twin Peaks from across the Missouri. They would have taken the Vermillion ferry across the river, passed along the ridge between the peaks and dropped into the Mountain Meadow below. When they arrived, they discovered the town of Whiskey Flats had sprouted since the map had been drawn. Finding the Diamond Shape Falls in the meadow and pacing sixty paces due north, they found the town's jail had been built right on top of the buried Wells Fargo gold.
01. Maverick, The Long Hunt (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
02. "The New Maverick," (1978), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
03. Maverick, The Judas Mask (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
04. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails
05. Maverick, Stampede (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
06. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Oklahoma State University Library (retrieved June 14, 2015)
07. Great Sioux War Orders of Battle: How the United States Army Waged War on the Northern Plains, 1876–1877; Paul L. Hedren (March 15, 2011); Arthur H. Clark
08. Verendrye Museum: Norman Signs — Fort Pierre Deadwood Trail; Fort Pierre, South Dakota (retrieved June 14, 2015)
09. Maverick, Escape to Tampico (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Bret Maverick’s trail
aboard the Dakota Queen from
St. Louis to Winnebago Bend
April 19 – 23, 1877
Bret Maverick is thrown from
the Dakota Queen at Winnebago Bend
April 23, 1877
Bret Maverick and
Dandy Jim Buckley’s trail
from Winnebago Bend to Deadwood, Dakota Territory
April 24 – May 10, 1877
Bret Maverick’s trail
from Deadwood to Cheyenne
Having recovered the $40,000 of Wells Fargo gold, Bret led Buckley to Vermillion where, to Buckley's chagrin, Bret turned the gold dust over to Wells Fargo. The ten percent reward paid them each $2,000 and they set of for Deadwood to settle their score with Tony Cadiz.
The Act of February 28, 1877 had taken the Black Hills back from the Sioux, but the land between the Missouri River and the Hills still belonged to the Indians, who were hostile and resentful of the encroaching white intruders. Bret and Buckley would likely have taken the safest route on the east side of the river to Fort Pierre, and then along the well-traveled Deadwood Trail to Deadwood itself. Once having entered the Black Hills, they traveled through a valley and met Noah Perkins felling trees. This valley would most likely have been Boulder Canyon along Bear Butte Creek. Perkins joined them on the trail into Deadwood, where they took rooms at the Bonanza.
TO WHO KNOWS WHERE
By late spring of 1877, Bret would be back along the Mississippi into Memphis. Rather than retracing his back trail through hostile Sioux country, he probably would have taken the Deadwood stage to Cheyenne where he could take the train south to Denver and then east back to St. Louis before moving south again to Memphis.
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