How did Bret get to Hallelujah?




Lured by the promise of prospectors' rich pockets during the early days of the Black Hills Gold Rush, Bret and Bart Maverick had been spending a lot of time in and around Deadwood[1][2] in the summer of 1876. In September, it appears they spent Bart's birthday together on the trail somewhere in New Mexico Territory.[3] By late September, they were ready to split up again and let the toss of a coin determine which one was to travel east and which was to travel west. Given that Bret was soon to travel south for five days to Santa Fe,[4] it is likely that the separated in Cimarron where the crossroads could take them in either direction.[3]





From Cimarron, it appears that the coin toss sent Bart Maverick westward out of New Mexico and into Arizona Territory.[5] Brother Bret went east — probably deciding to head ultimately back to his beloved river country[6] — but only got as far as Elbow Bend before fate stepped in again. Bret believed that if his coin toss with Brother Bart had gone the other way, it would have been Bart in jail instead of him.[4]


This suggests that Elbow Bend — where Bret was captured by the Hallelujah posse — must have provided the first hotel on the trail eastward from Cimarron. So close to the Colorado border, the town must have fallen along the Santa Fe Trail before La Mesa. It is likely, then, that the small town of Elbow Bend would have been a comfortable day's ride from Cimarron, about thirty miles to the northeast.[3]





After robbing the Wells Fargo office in Hallelujah, Cliff Sharp raced out of town for Elbow Bend. He evaded the posse through some rugged terrain to arrive early enough to see Bret Maverick — an apparent stranger — ride into town, stable his horse at the livery and check into the Elbow Bend Hotel. After Sharp knew Bret was fast asleep, he sneaked into his room and planted some of the stolen Wells Fargo money in Bret's wallet, and switched guns and hats with him. When the posse that followed Sharp to Elbow Bend found the only stranger in town that night with hard evidence in his possession, Bret as taken into custody and brought to Hallelujah for trial. We also know that Molly Sharp would later take the southbound stage for Santa Fe, five days away.[4]


Hallelujah, therefore, must have been north of Elbow Bend, but still south of La Mesa. Otherwise, Sharp would have come through La Mesa instead of Hallelujah and never crossed paths with Bret. It is reasonable to assume, then, that Hallelujah lied roughly five miles north of Elbow Bend, probably in the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon, either along the Santa Fe Trail around the canyon's foothills or through them.[3]





Obviously not to be confused with Dry Springs, Arizona Territory,[7] the way station was not a town in itself, but merely a Santa Fe Trail stage stop.[3] Bret Maverick caught up to Molly Sharp's stage there and rode on with her towards Santa Fe.[4] Their first night southward along the Santa Fe Trail was undoubtedly spent in Cimarron, placing the way station between it and Hallelujah.[3]





The only town within a day's ride along the Santa Fe Trail south of Hallelujah, and still four days out from Santa Fe by stage, could only have been Cimarron.[8] It was here, then, that Bret Maverick and Molly Sharp enjoyed dinner together before retiring to their respective hotel rooms.[4]





01. Maverick, Two Beggars on Horseback (1959), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

02. Maverick, High Card Hangs (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

03. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails

04. Maverick, The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

05. Maverick, The Burning Sky (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

06. Maverick, According to Hoyle (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

07. Maverick, The Long Hunt (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

08. Roadside History of New Mexico (1989); Francis L. and Roberta B. Fugate

Bart Maverick’s trail
from Cimarron to Arizona Territory

September 19October 1876

Bret Maverick and Molly Sharp's trail
from Dry Springs Way Station to Santa Fe

September 22 – 26, 1876

Bret Maverick
& Molly Sharp's trail from
Santa Fe to Hallelujah

26 – 29, 1876

Bret & Bart Maverick's trail

from Colorado to Cimarron

Mid-September, 1876

Bret Maverick's trail
from Hallelujah
to St. Louis

September 29 –
October 2, 1876



The last large town one day's stage ride from Santa Fe must have been Las Vegas.[8] It could only have been there that Bret Maverick and Molly Sharp could have made their plans to face Cliff Sharp together in Santa Fe the next day.[4]





Bret Maverick and Molly Sharp arrived in Santa Fe on schedule and rented a carriage in which to drive out to the Sharp home, some miles outside of town. There, Bret faced Cliff Sharp and killed him in a gunfight in self-defense. Molly showed Bret where the Wells Fargo money was hidden, and from there rode as quickly as they could to return the stolen loot to Hallelujah on horseback.[4]





By riding on horseback, Bret Maverick and Molly Sharp were able to ride further and faster back along the Santa Fe Trail to Hallelujah than if they had taken a stagecoach. They would have traveled in a more direct route than along the winding Mountain Route of the established road, bypassing the regular stage stops.[3]





Once his business in Hallelujah was completed, Bret Maverick would have returned to his previous path eastward from Cimarron after parting with Brother Bart.[4] To arrive in St. Louis in time to meet Samantha Crawford aboard the Delta Star bound for New Orleans,[6] Bret would have traveled for three days northward along the Santa Fe Trail to La Junta, Colorado, where he would have boarded the Santa Fe Railway eastward to Kansas City, switching to the Missouri Pacific Railroad into St. Louis.[3] From there, it's a whole other story.[6]


Bret Maverick's trail

from Cimarron to Elbow Bend

September 19, 1876

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