• Red Nichols, Holstorian

My blog resumes (my editor insisted!)

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

The most useful (to Democrat anarchists) posts having been deleted, my blog resumes with the trivia about gunleather that never ceases to entertain :-).

There are several themes that recur in my fascination with holstory: Jelly Bryce and his second wife Minnie; Ian Fleming and his James Bond character; Tom Threepersons and his three wives (we've just discovered Lorene Threepersons had three husbands!); Chic Gaylord and his book; Paris Theodore and his abbreviated holstory.

This post is about the tiny threads that tell tales on Tom Threepersons himself. He was not born with this name, nor was he the Tom Threepersons he claimed to be who was the winner of the Calgary Stamped 'bronc busting' contest in 1912. Yet the quest continues to learn, somehow, someday, what his real name was and his real tribe, too. The Albertan below:

On the one hand it should be easy. Nearly all documentation that has survived shows that Tom claimed to be Cherokee, and to be from Vinita, Indian Territory that is now the Eastern half of Oklahoma (the Western half was Oklahoma Territory until statehood in 1907). His first wife Susie was from Choctaw Nation but was not Indian though in her obituary Tom claimed she was. Around the time of this article Tom was noted as being Choctaw like George Paisano; except Paisano turns out to be a Pueblo Indian:

And his second wife Lorene was probatively Cherokee; we have records that extend back to her grandparents at the beginning of the 19th century and into the present day (her children lived in my 'hometown' of Fallbrook while I lived there as late as the '90s).

It's all dime novelist Eugene Cunningham's fault, really, that there's any doubt. For Tom first appears in the record in 1916 as a rodeo rider named Tom Three Persons, tribe unnamed. Then Tom joined the Army that year as Tom T. Persons. We could be more certain of if the Army documents hadn't all been prepared when he received his honorable discharge in Jun 1920; by which time he was already an El Paso police officer:

And Cunningham had just returned from his foray into Central America for his post WWI book about that trip. Turning up at the El Paso Times, he began his career there in 1920 by writing about Tom and in the first of these articles, which has no byline but is written in his unique, flowery style, Tom is Choctaw. You're beginning to see the problem, eh? This may have been, in part, due to a connection with another Indian who claimed a friendship with Tom, George Paisano; and to have attended Carlisle Indian School with him.

Trickling all throughout Tom's story is the legend that he attended Carlisle Indian School. The School itself has looked for him under that name without success; but George Paisano is there and he is there with his brother Frank. This is relevant because Frank was 'somebody': chief of the Pueblo tribe in New Mexico for all of his adult lifetime. That's consistent because only the children of chiefs were sent to Indian schools and Tom claimed to be just such a son. The U.S. government's effort then was for the tribes to assimilate into modern society through the influence of the chiefs and their families and this was accomplished by sending them to Indian schools.

I was uncertain that the George Paisano, claimed by a Cunningham article to be Choctaw, appearing in the Carlisle rolls as a Pueblo Indian could be the same man. It was worth noticing though, that his Indian name was Shoiqua, a homonym for Choctaw; and perhaps this had confused Cunningham? But George turns up several more times in the record, usually newspapers, as a marathon athlete and this is consistent with that initial 1921 article about him and Tom. But what about the tribe? And then it is all spelled out in an article about his nephew, Frank Paisano Jr: they indeed are Pueblo Indian tribe from New Mexico. This youngest Paisano was a B-17 bombardier in WWII who lived until 1968 despite his aircraft, Sons O' Satan, being lost with all its crew in 1944; the unfortunate bombardier on that raid was not Paisano.

Connecting all these dots leaves us uncertain about Tom being Cherokee. A fellow researcher claims to have located the Threepersons family in Vinita but that is a family that has taken the name from Lorene's married name -- neither he nor she was born with that surname. Because Tom's name and rodeo reputation came from a scheme among Tom, Cunningham, and Lorene that was perpetuated by a fourth, dime novelist Oren Arnold. In a case of identity fraud, the Texas lawman had taken the Canadian Indian's name and backstory for himself.

Tom's first wife was Susie Stewart, a white from Colorado who was brought from an Indian school in Choctaw territory to be Tom's bride in 1917. She bore him a child who died within a month during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, then died herself in Mexico in '23. Tom took a second bride, Lorene Tritthart whose first married name was Nichols, a white rancher who was from Kansas, within months; then by '23 when she married Tom her surname was Kirby. And Lorene's marriage to Tom was supported financially by her interviews with Cunningham and Arnold in which Tom's backstory was remade into that of Tom Three Persons, Blood Indian of Alberta who had won the Calgary Stampede. The real Tom threatened to sue when he learned of the fraud in 1928!

Why did they do this? It made them money. The writers paid the Threepersons, the newspapers paid the writers, the makers like Hicks-Hayward clothing and Myres Saddle Co. gunleather paid the Threepersons royalties, and these same makers paid the writers to write their publicity. It all went well until WWII began in Europe in '39 when the stories about Tom stopped entirely and the stories about, and even by, Lorene Threepersons began. Cunningham had moved away, to San Francisco.

It will take a breakthrough to learn the Texan's birth identity and family, and his tribe. His name certainly wasn't Tom Threepersons, which is an Indian school name (remember George Paisano's birth name was Schoiqua). Tom's tribe could have been Cherokee. But his tale beginning as Choctaw because of George Paisano, and Paisano's tribe not being Choctaw in I.T. but Pueblo from New Mexico instead? That leaves Tom's tribe completely open because even his tombstone has his birthdate wrong by a decade. Despite Lorene being a compulsive liar (she even placed a newspaper story that misrepresented her wedding date as Friday 13th to suit a storyline) the tombstone was not placed by her, but rather by his third wife Rose Brownfield who was from No Man's Land (so-called because one could not make a land claim there at that time) that was the panhandle of OK.

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