You are viewing the electronic version of Emerald
the monthly publication of the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin
The Life after Death of Elmer McCurdy
Shamrock Club of Rock County
Shamrock Club of South Central Wisconsin
Dane County Shamrock Club
Milwaukee President's Message
Milwaukee Annual Installation Dinner
and Print 2003 Shamrock Club Golf Outing Registration
(Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view and print golf registration form)
Milwaukee Hurling Club Continues the Irish Tradition
Shamrock Club Color Guard Pipes and Drums News and Notes
Celtic Rhythms from County Clare
Wisconsin and Notre Dame Football
St. Patrick's Help Fund
Welcome New Members
Milwaukee Calendar of Events
Wisconsin Calendar of Events
The Life after Death of Elmer McCurdy
by Brian Witt
For better or worse, Irish Americans comprised a larger number of criminals of the Old West than other ethnic groups. Many were famous. Billy the Kid was born Henry Carty or Henry McCarty in the Five Points area of Manhattan, where the lawlessness was equal to any western city. Almost all of the characters in his drama in New Mexico were Irish or Irish American. Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall gang had a number of Irish Americans, including Harvey Logan, (a.k.a. Kid Curry), Ben Kilpatrick, Tom O'Day and Bill Madden. However, Butch Cassidy was not; Robert Leroy Parker took the last name from an older non-Mormon friend, cattle rustler Mike Cassidy, who had helped him out in his native Utah. Bill Doolin terrorized his home state of Oklahoma for years.
One of the saddest characters in the Old West was Elmer McCurdy. He was born to a fifteen-year-old girl and an unknown father in Washington, Maine in 1880. A second cousin was suspected, but never acknowledged his paternity. Elmer was raised by his mother's brother and his wife. She raised him as her own son and his real mother was known as his "aunt." When Elmer turned fifteen, he was told the truth - that his aunt was his real mother and his mother was his aunt. He learned the art of plumbing from his grandfather. A series of deaths about the same time caused him to start drinking, and after the death of his mother and grandmother, he left Maine and headed to start life as a miner and a plumber in Missouri.
After an unsuccessful stint in the Army, spending three years at Leavenworth instead of seeing the Philippines as part of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, he was discharged and fell into a pattern of drinking. It was after one arrest that he had a fateful encounter with Walter Jarrett. Jarrett bragged how he robbed a number of banks in Oklahoma. Having no other immediate options, after their release they headed to the Sooner State. Elmer and Jarrett, as well as Lee Jarrett and Ab O'Connor robbed a payroll train. However, Elmer misjudged the amount of explosive needed to open the safe, and the $4000 in silver coin was melted. The haul for the day was $400.
After this fiasco, Jarrett and Elmer split up, and McCurdy got a job as a plumber for a construction company. However, here he met another man who would have an impact on his life. Amos Hayes confided he wanted to rob the bank of Chatuaqua, Oklahoma. With another man named Higgins, the three entered the bank late at night. Elmer set the charge of nitroglycerine on the bank's vault, and set it off. The damage done was amazing, with the front door tearing up the interior of the bank. However, the inside door was still sealed. The explosion woke up the town, and the hapless robbers got away with only $150.
Hayes and McCurdy were next to try a train robbery, targetting the Osage Indians payroll on the Katy line. On October 4, 1911, they boarded train #23, where they acquired a total of $65 dollars, a jacket, and two gallons of whiskey. The train they should have boarded was #29.
Although this haul was small, it set into motion a federal posse to track down the robbers. On October 6, the posse found him at a ranch, where he had spent the night drinking with the ranch hands, and had fallen asleep. The members of the posse tried to get McCurdy to surrender, but that only caused him to shoot back. After a protracted gun battle over the course of the night, McCurdy was found dead in the barn.
It was in death that Elmer McCurdy would find a bizarre life after death. The mortuary owner added extra arsenic; about 700 times the levels the Egyptians used, to his embalming fluids, which helped to mummify the body. When, after several months had passed and no one had come for Elmer, his rigid body was removed from the marble slab to stand perfectly upright in the corner. The undertaker dressed Elmer in the clothes he had worn in his last gunfight. There in the corner Elmer remained for five years, grinning and earning the undertaker a nickel a view, until two men arrived to remove his body. They claimed to be relatives, but were, in fact, carnival owners who intended to display Elmer in their shows.
The Patterson Brothers, owners of the carnival, would exhibit Elmer's corpse, in his casket, for the next decade. In 1922, he became part of a wax museum that featured Wild West outlaws. Elmer was a special exhibit, as he was a real body. The body was exhibited until Louis Sonney, the owner of the wax museum, sold him to another person in 1971. The new owners, the Hollywood Wax Museum, decided that the exhibit wasn't profitable, and sold the stock, including Elmer, to a group that had set up exhibits at a California amusement park.
Over the next several years, Elmer traveled far and wide as the main attraction in a variety of sideshows. He was sometimes billed as the "Thousand year old man." Eventually his body was coated with wax to help preserve it. On December 7, 1976, a Paramount Television studio leased Elmer's abode, The Nu-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, California. They wanted to use it in an episode of "The Six Million Dollar Man." It was then that Elmer McCurdy's whereabouts was discovered. He had been painted with fluorescent paint, and was hanging by a noose. When a prop man went to reposition Elmer, an arm came off exposing a real human armbone.
An autopsy was performed, and it was revealed that he had died of a bullet wound. The levels of arsenic in his body showed that his embalming took place in the first three decades of the century. After further investigative work, a picture was found of "Elmer McCurdy, Oklahoma Outlaw, Shot October 6, 1911."
McCurdy's body was interred in the Summit View Cemetery, in Guthrie, Oklahoma beside the outlaw, Bill Doolin, with whom he had briefly shared the limelight. His body was taken by a glass sided horse drawn hearse. A young girl carried flowers to the gravesite. After Elmer was buried, two and half yards of cement were poured on his coffin, to discourage grave robbers.
Although he was a failure as a robber, Elmer McCurdy managed to achieve fame, and fortune for others, after his death.
There will not be any meetings during June, July or August. We will have our annual Club Picnic in August. The date, time and location for our picnic will be in the July Emerald Reflections.
The club officers hope you will all have a wonderful summer and we hope to see all of you at the club picnic in August.
- Tom Kennedy
Sunday April 6, we gathered at the Embers in Lake Delton for our meeting with 35 members in attendance.
A short business meeting was conducted by President Jack Gavin. Business brought before the group was a follow up of our St. Pat's Party. After much discussion it was the wishes of the group to have our Irish entertainment at our Christmas Party rather than at St. Pat's Party in March each year. It was noted our expense was greater than our income.
New business: Dan McConaghy, chairman of the nominating committee, listed the following slate of officers for the year 2003-2004:
President - John Delmore
Our closing meeting for 2003 will be held on Sunday, June 8, at 5 p.m. in Reedsburg at Longley's. Dues are due at this time.
Our guest speaker was Kate Wiskus, Director of Pastoral Services and Planning for the Diocese of Madison. Kate gave a very informal talk "Growing up Irish." She describes herself as "Irish down to her socks." Kate attributes much of her philosophy on life and faith to her Irish roots. Her presentation was enjoyed by all, after which all enjoyed dinner and birthday cake (it just happened to be Kate's birthday).
- Mary E. Stieve, Reporter
• JUNE 10: Transitional Meeting for the new Board of Directors
• JULY 8: Shamrock Summer Picnic at the KCs clubhouse on Verona Rd.
At the transitional meeting the co-presidents plan to assist the new Board members with the plans for 2003-'04. This involves establishing a budget for the new year, the planning of events, securing of entertainment, and the briefing of the newsletter staff.
Summer picnic, formerly a potluck, is now a catered event with entertainment. An additional feature this year is a pre-picnic bike ride. One of our newest members, Megan Sisson, is organizing this event. More details in the next newsletter.
Also, in the next newsletter more information about the State Advisory Meeting held this past May in La Crosse and a report about the performance of "Dr. I. M. O'Cookie" at the May meeting.
In the July Emerald Reflections there will be photos and introductions of the new Dane County Shamrock Club Inc. Board.
As your co-presidents say:
Grant me a sense of humor, Lord,
- Co-presidents: Paul Buckalew
Milwaukee President's Message
Ladies and gentlemen, Shamrock Club members all,
What a brilliant springtime we have ahead of us!
May allowed us to make everything green-the lawn, the trees ...other groups that just didn't have nearly as much going on... between the concerts, the ceilis, the set dancing, the Irish Arts performances, the parades, the new season of hurling and the Currach Club no other group in the city has as large a menu of activities to choose from.
June offers some continuing events, more parades, more hurling, more currach races and even more ...more. The Annual Highland Games held on June 7, at the Bavarian Inn will feature athletic expositions, pipe and drum competitions, and a large number of Celtic cultural booths.
The Scottish/Irish Sing-Off is held at the Irish Fest Center June 2 (let's get some folks over there to compete.)
Congratulations to the newly elected officers: President Joe Hughes, Vice President Mike Payne, Secretary Tom McAleese, Treasurer Sharon Murphy, Membership Chair Tom Smith, Trustee Joe Donovan, Parliamentarian Tom Blaha, and Sgt. At Arms Kerry-Jo Pfeiffer. Thank you to all of this years candidates, our immediate past office holders and those who have taken positions of leadership.
May 1st also brought out a very large contingent of our membership for the annual elections, and, as in years past, several positions were unopposed.
Those individuals who would like to have a more active roll in the functions of our club are encouraged to call the current board members and volunteer for any one of the upcoming events, learn about the club's direction and begin now to help build our organization. Committee assignments are available, committee chairpersons are always in need of fresh inspiration and new ideas. Now is the time to step forward; consider it the primaries?
This year, with our new non-profit status, will be pivotal to the future of our club. We should look forward to a variety of new ventures;
1. Perhaps a dynamic membership drive to increase the awareness of our club throughout the city and the state?
2. A more active role within the community to bring our Irish Celtic heritage forward, not just in the month of March, but throughout the year;
3. A renewed effort to assist in the renovation of our home, the ICHC.
4. We might even try ???
- Joe Hughes
Milwaukee Hurling Club
|..SHAMROCK CLUB OF WISCONSIN HOME..|
| ..JOIN THE SHAMROCK CLUB.. | ..MARCH ST. PATRICK'S DAY EVENTS.. | ..MILWAUKEE CHAPTER.. | ..STATE CHAPTERS.. |
| ..STATE CALENDAR OF EVENTS.. | ..MILWAUKEE CALENDAR OF EVENTS.. | ..COLOR GUARD.. | ..BRADLEY CENTER AND FOLK FAIR..|
| ..EMERALD REFLECTIONS ONLINE NEWSLETTER: CURRENT and BACK ISSUES..|
| ..LINKS OF IRISH INTEREST.. | ..NON-IRISH LINKS.. |