From the Far East to the Wild West

There are those rare instances when research into the identities of soldiers in an old photograph turns up far more than one would have guessed possible. This carte de visite of Private Clyde G. Wilson and Corporal Elmer Brick of M Company, 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry is an example of just such an occasion. As it turns out one of these men – Private Wilson to be specific – was a key protagonist in one of the Old West’s last “range wars”, the so-called Dewey-Berry Feud which was fought out in Wilson’s home state of Kansas in 1903.

Clyde Wilson and Elmer Brick

Above: Private Clyde G. Wilson (standing, left) and Corporal Elmer Brick (seated, right) of M Company, 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry in Manila during the so-called Philippine Insurrection. Carte de Visite, Centro Atrisico/Fotografia Espanola – Photographer
Manila, Philippine Islands. c. 1899

Photo Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

Clyde G. Wilson was born on 5 December 1876 in Iowa the son of William Oliver Wilson and the former Clara Burk. The family had moved to Salina, Kansas sometime before Clyde Wilson, along with his younger brother Samuel enlisted in M Company of the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry. At the time of his enlistment, Clyde Wilson stood 6 feet tall and weighed 178 pounds. He was said to have blue eyes.

The 20th Kansas deployed to the Philippines but arrived too late to see action against the Spanish but they did go into the field during the Philippine Insurrection. During his service in the Philippines, Wilson rose to the rank of sergeant but younger brother Samuel was not so fortunate, being killed in action on 29 March 1899 at Guiguinto River.

Clyde Wilson returned home with his regiment in October 1899 and in March 1900 stood for election as town marshal in his hometown of Salina, He ultimately lost his bid but was appointed to the town’s police force soon afterward. As will be seen Wilson like so many western personalities did not seem to see any undue conflict of interest in working both sides of the legal fence when the opportunity presented itself. By 1903 the afore mentioned Wild West was dying in fits at starts although a few of the old “habits” lingered – Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” had only recently still been active in Utah and Colorado – when Clyde Wilson was hired by the Chicago-born Kansas rancher Chauncey Dewey who owned a spread called Oak Ranch, which according to a June 9, 1903 article in the Chicago Tribune encompassed some 93,000 acres. The same article says that Dewey (who was often referred to in the press as a “millionaire”) obtained much of the property by taking over the defaulted mortgages of smaller farms and ranches, a practice which no doubt led to more ever growing animosities between the involved parties.

One such standing feud existed between Chauncey Dewey and Daniel Berry, a farmer and patriarch of a large family. The bad blood had arisen from the fact that members of the Berry family had refused to vacate property now owned the Dewey Cattle Company. As are many such cases it was a small spark that set off the final firestorm.

Daniel Berry had several bad debts against him and an auction of his property was held to help pay off his creditors. A five barrel stock tank was one of the items up for bid and it was purchased for five dollars by Sheriff Robert McCulloch of Cheyenne County on behalf of Chauncey Dewey. Two of Berry’s sons let it be known that if Dewey wanted to take possession of his purchase he needed“…to be damned sure to send the right kind of man after that tank…”

The following day Chauncey Dewey took the dare and headed over to the Berry spread with ten of his men to back up his claim. Amongst those ten was Clyde Wilson. Being an experienced former soldier had made Wilson one of Dewey’s right-hand men. Dewey also made sure that all of his men were well armed with Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles.

Arriving at the Berry farm Clyde Wilson and another Dewey cowboy began to load the tank in a wagon they had brought for the purpose and Daniel Berry decided to go tell Chauncy Dewey and “thing or two” his eldest son Alpheaus joining him. At the same time two more of Berry’s sons, Burchard, Beech and a cousin Roy rode up and dismounted. As is so many such cases no one really knows what really happened next or who fired the first shot. In moments Daniel, Alpheaus and Burchard Berry where all dead, Beech and Roy Berry wounded – the later having a portion of his jaw shot away.

Dewey and two of his men – Clyde Wilson and another former soldier by the name of William McBride – where charged with murder but only surrendered after a company of Kansas National Guard was called up to keep them from being lynched by members of the Berry faction, a group now swelled in numbers by outraged local ranchers and farmers. Dewey’s brother C. P. Dewey and two wealthy Topeka bankers posted the $100,000 bond for the three men. This was an immense sum by the day’s standards totaling over $3,000,000 in today’s dollars.

The March 1904 the trial must have been seen at the time as an event of the then new century with the defense and prosecution employing some fourteen lawyers between them. More sensationalism occurred when one of the prosecuting attorneys L. D. Hotchkiss met an untimely end in a “…sudden and shocking death by drowning…” as recounted in the Fourteenth Biennial Report of the Attorney General of Kansas.

During the trial Clyde Wilson testified on his own behalf as reported in the March 2, 1904 edition of the Kansas City Star:

“I came to Oak Ranch, October 7, 1902, and worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper. I went with Chauncey Dewey and his men June 3, 1903, to the Alpheus Berry place. I had a Winchester rifle and a six-shooter. When we arrived there I was standing close to Dewey when the Berry boys rode up. They dismounted and tied their horses to a wagon. They pulled their revolvers around in front of them and when they advanced three or four steps one of them said: ‘You will take nothing from here to-day.’ As he said this they all put their hands on their pistols. Dewey said to them: ‘Stop, stop where you are.’ They fired at us. Roy Berry fired directly at Dewey and Burch Berry fired at McBride. When they put their hands on their pistols, I put a cartridge into my Winchester. When the Berrys fired I saw a horse drop. Our men then fired. Two of the Berry boys fell. I saw Dewey shoot. I did not bring my gun to my shoulder until after the Berry boys fell.”

Clyde Wilson TrialAbove: Proceedings of Clyde Wilson’s, Chauncey Dewey’sand William McBride’s murder trial as it appeared in the February 20, 1904, edition of the Salina Sun. Source: Newspapers.com/Salina Sun.

The trail ended as many probably thought it would with the well connected and equally well moneyed Dewey faction being freed after a verdict of not guilty was returned. Chauncey Dewey, Clyde Wilson, McBride, and the entire jury were burned in effigy by an irate mob outside the courthouse. The surviving Berry’s filed a wrongful death suit against Chauncey Dewey, Clyde Wilson and William McBride –  the other ex-soldier in Dewey’s service. That case dragged on for years before finally being resolved for some $15,000 in the late 1920s in favor of the Berrys.

In 1910 Clyde Wilson was ranch manager for one Albert Bretschye in Ashland Kansas. Working with him was another of his younger brothers, Trace Wilson. Clyde Wilson must have retained some of his ill-gotten local notoriety because in April of the same year he was reported in the Salina Evening Journal as being near death as the result of an automobile accident that occurred in Topeka. As if to prove that old associations died hard the same newspaper reported later in May that Wilson had recovered enough to finish his convalescence in Chicago but that he first planned to stop at the Dewey ranch and meet up with his former employer Chauncey Dewey, who was also planning to visit Chicago.

Wilson married sometime before 1915. He and his wife Hattie had one daughter named Ida Helen born in Colorado on 10 May 1915. A few years later with the U.S. entry into World War One, he re-enlisted in the army on 2 April 1918 joining the 9th Recruit Company at his old rank of Sergeant and seemingly spent the rest of that year training recruits at Fort Logan, Colorado. He received an honorable discharge on 27 December 1918. After the war, Wilson was in the oil and gas production business and by 1940 we were City Clerk in Fredonia, Kansas. He must have found that both professions were much better suited to a family man than his old gunslinging cowboy days were.

Clyde Wilson Medal Group

Above: A reconstruction of Clyde G. Wilson’s medal group as it would have appeared at the end of World War One.

The first medal from left is the Philippine Campaign Medal which Wilson was entitled to for service with the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry from 1898 to 1899.

Second (center) is the U.S. version of the World War One Victory Medal which Wilson earned while serving with the 9th Recruit Company, General Service Infantry at Fort Logan, Colorado in 1918. His medal was issued without clasps since the duration of his service during the war took place within the borders of the United States.

Third (far left) is the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Spanish-American War service Badge issued to members of the 20th upon their return to Kansas in 1899. Originally intended to be a State of Kansas honor to her veterans, the Legislature failed to pass the required bill whereupon the Kansas Department of the Grand Army of the Republic stepped up and
produced the badge themselves for presentation to this younger generation of veterans. Photo Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

In December 1927 Wilson applied for military pension benefits based upon his service with the 20th Kansas Volunteers. Wilson was still active in August 1945 when he served as a pallbearer for William Dillener one of his old comrades in arms in the 20th Kansas
Volunteers. Clyde G. Wilson died on 3 August 1958, probably with his boots off at the ripe old age of 80 and was buried with military honors at Gypsum Hill Cemetery in Salina, Kansas.

Clyde Wilson Obituary

Above: Clyde Wilson’s obituary which appeared in the August 4 1958 edition of the Salina Journal. No mention of his part in the Dewey-Berry Feud is mentioned. Even as late as 1958 old animosities may very well have still lingered. Source: Newspapers.com/Salina Journal.

Samuel Elmer Brick was born on 8 January 1878 at Browns Creek, Kansas the son of George W. Brick, a painter by trade and Mary Ann Clanin.

Brick enlisted in the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry at the same time as Clyde Wilson in Saline, Kansas. Based upon the photograph it seems that Brick was the first of the two to receive a promotion – in this case to corporal. Brick was slightly wounded at Caloocan on 10 February. This wounding is mentioned in the regimental history but apparently never officially recorded.

After returning home his life took quite a different turn than that of his gunslinging friend Clyde Wilson. He returned to the family home and like so many young men in those days took up his father’s trade as a painter.  Brick married his wife Lillian BellePadgett sometime around 1906 and by 1910 had three children and now owned his own paint store – the Salina Paint & Paper Company. In 1920 his business is listed simply as a paint and paper store.

He seems to have had a certain business acumen since in 1919 he registered a trademark with the U.S. Patent Office for Nurex Adhesive Paste which based upon the nature of his business must have been a type of wallpaper paste. He held a patent (1920) for a type of bookbinding gum to be used for the making of pads of paper. Reading through his patent (No. 1,341,782) it is obvious that Brick had more than a casual grasp of chemistry. Two additional patents were also held for waterproof and bookbinding gums. (Nos. 1,389,574 and 1,384,575).

Elmer Brick Patent Drawing

Above: Elmer Brick’s drawing for his 1920 patent for improved book/pad binding gum (No. 1341782A). Brick would be granted at least three such patents. Source: Google Patents.

Brick also stayed active with his old military associates. While attending the 10th Annual Encampment of the United Spanish War Veterans in 1913 he was appointed Aide-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief.

During World War One Brick registered for the draft on 12 September 1918. I have found no record of him serving during the war but with the war coming to an end in November this is not all that surprising.

Samuel Elmer Brick died on 8 December 1920 at the age of 42 due to complications arising from Lymphatic Leukemia in Dallas, Texas. He was buried in his home town of Salina, Kansas. One wonders if his death had resulted from exposure to the numerous chemicals related to his chosen profession.

Clyde Wilson and Elmer Brick Reverse

Above: The reverse side of the above carte de visite showing the period inscription identifying the subjects of the photograph Clyde Wilson and Elmer Brick. Photo Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com

The Gunhand – or Who Was George Frensley?

This carte de visite formatted tintype is the latest addition to my collection of Old West photographs. The six-shooter armed subject is identified on the mount’s reverse side as George Frensley. The style of the mount places the creation of the image most likely sometime in the late 1870s.

george frensley matted

Above: Carte de Visite format tintype depicting a revolver armed George Frensley. If properly identified the photograph was probably taken in north Texas sometime in the 1870s. Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com collection.

Frensley’s clothing also fits into that same time period. He wears his revolver on his left hip is cross draw fashion – a style affected by many gunfighters during the period. Although little of his sidearm is visible, the grips of the pistol seem to be those of a Colt. The fact that the revolver’s ejector rod housing has left its impression on the holster seems to confirm the revolver being of Colt manufacture. It could be a Colt Single Action Army which would date the image no earlier than 1873. His sidearm could also be a Colt cartridge conversion which also dated from the early 1870s.

Colts

Above: Frontier era Colt revolvers of the type George Frensley appears to be armed with. At the top is a nickel-plated Colt Richards-Mason type cartridge conversion revolver circa the early 1870s. At bottom is a Colt 1873 Single Action Army revolver. Photos – Rock Island Auctions.

After an exhaustive search of historical records, the evidence seems to indicate that George Frensley may, in fact, be George Washington Frensley who was born on April 3, 1855, at Water Valley, Kentucky to Charles Alfred Frensley and Letitia Susan Draper. The family relocated to Texas sometime after 1860 and by 1870 Charles Frensley had died. The family was living on a farm in Cooke County, Texas along the border of Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma).

george frensley unmatted

Above: George Frensley’s tintype removed from its paper frame allowing the image to be viewed in its entirety. Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com collection.

Frensley does not show up in the 1880 census and it is possible that he was employed as a roving cowhand. This photo seems indicative of that possibility. Little else regarding Frensley has come to light other than the fact that he died at Whitesborough (today’s Whitesboro) Texas on January 15, 1883. The town – also close by the border of Indian Territory – was so unruly in the 1870s that female residents were forbidden on the streets on weekend evenings due to the rampant random gunfire that plagued the frontier town.

Naturally, the question at hand is whether or not the George Frensley in the tintype is one and the same with George Washington Frensley. No definitive proof has been found indicating that they are the same man but at the same time no other suitable person by the same name has turned up in my repeated searches although the possibility of other likely candidates turning up cannot be discounted.