April 28 —
This is a busy day in frontier history, as it is marked by eight different events of varied significance between the years 1869 and 1897.
Today in 1869, the beginning of the final track in the first great transcontinental railroad is laid in a most dramatic fashion by the Central Pacific Railroad. Beginning 14 miles outside of Promontory Point, Utah at 7:00am, a crew of Chinese workers backed by eight husky rail carriers attempts to lay ten miles of track in one day, an fantastic feat. Before the sun sets on this day, they have laid 10 miles and fifty-six feet of track, a total of 3,520 rails. Each rail handler has carried 25,800 ties, weighing a quarter of a million pounds.
On their ride to Lincoln, the gang kills Frank McNab and shoots Ab Sanders, while capturing Frank Coe. This is happening during what will become known as the Lincoln County War. One of the West’s most enduring legends will grow out of this war, on the shirttails of a 19 year old youngster named Henry Antrim.
Three years later, on this very day in 1881, this same Henry Antrim is being held in jail for the murder of several men. The sheriff of the county is out of town. Shopping for wood for a gallows, when Henry, or Billy The Kid, as he is now known, breaks jail with the help of an unknown accomplice who has hidden a gun in the outhouse. Billy talked Deputy J. W. Bell into taking him to the privy so he could do his business, and when he came out, he had the gun. On the steps back upstairs to where he was being kept, Billy broke free and killed Deputy Bell with one shot.
Running up the rest of the stairs, he picked up Deputy Bob Olinger’s shotgun, the very same shotgun loaded with the dimes Deputy Olinger had threatened to fill Billy with. He then opened up a window and after taunting Olinger with it, he shot Olinger with his own loads, killing him too. He then makes his getaway in a very leisurely fashion after stealing a horse, which he returns later. The sheriff is very determined to catch him and redeem his credibility after this.
When Sheriff Patrick Floyd Garrett does catch up with his former friend, he inadvertently helps create the legend when he shoots him in the dark while Billy is unarmed.
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Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com