• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Blood quantum

Updated: Apr 27

On the one hand we could expect that the term 'half breed' has little to do with holstory. On the other hand(s), there are several reasons the phrase is relevant; not least that it is not the racist term it appears to be (though surely it was misused).

This is a cut from Heiser's No. 20 catalog that was issued first in 1923, then again with a 1928 price list. How do we know it was issued twice, and in those years? The sequence for No. 20 tells us it was due in 1923 and the company was called the Heiser Selling & Mfg Co. then; and the 1928 dated price list found in other copies has returned to the name Heiser Saddlery Co., which it did in 1927.

There indeed was a shoulder holster that is considered of a type that is the Half Breed, and so-called by no less than H.H. Heiser & Sons as early as the beginning of the 20th century. Exactly why it had that moniker is unclear even after decades of research and perhaps it was meant in the sense of 'hybrid' because it is a leather shoulder holster with a spring in it:

My editor and I, Craig Smith, have been exchanging thoughts on the shoulder holster that is generously referred to as the Hardy-Cooper; which is the Heiser from above with a slit (honest, that's the only change from standard) run through the backside for a belt. A.H. Hardy holsters were copies of Heiser's and both makers were in Denver in the 1920s and his version did have a slight difference at the mouth of the holster.

Equally prominent in that day was the Safety Holster that today is generally called a Skeleton Holster; which it was not. Both were popular through WWII but neither has survived into today as anything but cowboy replicas:

Look carefully and you'll see that there is a flap behind the pistol, at the grip end. Made of the harness leather, it was folded down over the pistol to protect it from salt-laden sweat under the armpit.

It is my post about Rodd Redwing that brings this up in a way that's worth considering beyond the name of a shoulder holster. Because it was not the Anglo American who defined who was, and who was not, a half breed; but the tribes themselves. In relocating the tribes into Oklahoma Territory, land was allocated to those who were genuine members of a tribe; and it was the tribes who decided who was entitled to what (I know, terrible syntax); and they did this by what's called 'blood quantum' that is literally 'the amount of Indian blood'.

A page from Lorena Tritthart Nichols' application for land and money, in 1906 after marrying Frank Nichols in 1904, traces her heritage for the purpose. He was considered a 'non-citizen' of Cherokee Nation and entitled to nothing. Who was Lorena Tritthart? Lorene Threepersons, Tom's second wife 1923-1968 (her death).

The significance of this tribal method is most noticeable in the decision by the Osage, where for any man or woman to have 'head rights' they needed to be either full blood (both parents Osage) or one half blood (only one parent Osage). Or, as the term evolved, 'half breed' Osage. This meant that for a mother of full blood, were her husband an Anglo then her children would be half blood and still entitled to a share of the Osage's wealth. Not at least a half-breed? Then nothing.

In the case of the Osage, they were the richest people in the world per capita in 1900, because they had negotiated the retention of all the mineral rights in the Osage Nation -- and literally had struck oil by the end of the 19th century. The most prominent Osage of holstory was the little-known Col. James Spurrier (Retd) who briefly owned S.D. Myres saddlery in the early 1970s; having acquired the company as a polo champion and intended to expand into dressage equipment for same:

At the other extreme was Cherokee Nation, whose most prominent member in holstory was (is) Lorene Threepersons; born Lorena Tritthart to a Cherokee mother and a wealthy German rancher/farmer with lands of their own in Indian Territory. To be eligible for full rights under the Cherokee Nation's blood quantum, Lorene needed only to be 1/16 blood; and in her case that dilution was on her mother's side because her father was entirely European. Indeed her heritage is thoroughly documented in our files today because Lorene tracked it very carefully herself: it was her path to land and money. This, and her inheritance from her father, left her a substantial dowry that made her an attractive marital prospect at just 16 -- because it was at marriage that she inherited under the terms of her father's will.

A page from George Tritthart's will. Notice that he has allocated funds for prosecuting a man named Flanders for his murder; because it is a deathbed will. Flanders had kicked him nearly to death and Tritthart indeed died that month; a judge ruled, though, that his cause of death was prostate cancer and not the beating. The beating was worse, though, than being shot in the mouth and through the back of the neck by his brother-in -aw for beating his own wife, Lorena's mother. That one drew a fine of U$500, which in today's gold is U$50,000.

One doesn't necessarily go looking for this kind of information. One finds one bit of info about someone like Lorene because she was married to Tom Threepersons of TX as her third husband (her first was Frank Nichols, an Anglo farmer of KS and maybe a rodeo cowboy who knew the real Tom Three Persons of Canada; her second being a man with the surname Kirby about whom we know nothing at this stage), and that leads to another bit about someone else, and so on.

Notice that Lorena's grandmother is noted as half-breed for the purposes of the Indian census that year. Her grandfather, George Washington Scraper, is shown above her. The Scraper name comes as the translation for their Indian surname (he was b. Georgia) meaning 'scrapers of hides'. The rules of blood quantum were set by Cherokee Nation; then and now.

Lorene was born Lorena Tritthart and kept that first name's spelling after marrying Frank and becoming a Nichols; thereafter her first name's spelling varied several times until she settled on the spelling 'Lorene' by the time she married Tom in 1923. She kept this spelling for the rest of her life's appearances in newspaper articles and more.

It was in Coffeyville, due north across the border from Vinita OK where Tritthart's ranch was located, that Tritthart was kicked to death. Her mother having died several years prior, Lorena was then an orphan yet had half-brothers and -sisters to whom she was the most junior. They were charged with her care under the terms of the father's will and it was she who inherited his house and lands at her marriage, or age 18 whichever was to be first.

Tom, though, could only claim to be Cherokee; and he did so, early and often despite briefly being Choctaw in one very early newspaper appearance (that has Eugene Cunningham's fingerprints all over it). There simply is no written record of his existence at all until he appears as a Cherokee for a 1916 rodeo in Douglas AZ; which is both where his holster was made by Egland & Frankenpohl around 1920 and where he joined the Army that same year (1916); "the better to chase Pancho Villa" alongside then-Lt. Patton that year.

Nominally this document is for Tom's enlistment; but notice the later dates all over it -- it was prepared long after his enlistment in 1916. He claimed to have scouted the Cardenas Ranch raid for Patton and been captured there, too. And you know what -- it's plausible! All the dates align and an unpublished manuscript attributed to Tom fits Lt. Patton's own claim that he himself did not kill Lt. Cardenas. Patton said that instead it was his men, butTom says that is was Villa himself who had Cardenas hung, then riddled his body w/ bullets.

We do find out little tidbits about Tom, here and there, every year; my current expectation is that he was of the Pueblo tribe of New Mexico because a prominent member of that tribe spoke of going to Indian school with Tom. And there are enough records to prove that this man, George Paisano who later became chief of the Pueblo, indeed attended Carlisle that the connection could lead to a discovery, someday.

But Paisano's being probatively Pueblo is no kind of proof that Tom was Pueblo; all tribes were welcome at Indian schools and Carlisle was near none of the tribes. On the other hand . . . Paisano returned to NM where he remained all his life -- and Tom did, too. He left El Paso for Gila NM, and remained there until he retired to AZ in 1964 where he died in 1969.

Tom's ranch is still identified in BLM records (above). His is alternately called 'Silver City' and 'Gila' but it is in neither city; just in the general vicinity of both.

We holstorians only pursue the matter of Tom Threepersons' 'blood quantum' at all, because all of his identity was false anyway. Had he not claimed to be the 6 foot Indian who won the Calgary Stampede in 1912 we would simply think of the names as an interesting coincidence and believed everything he claimed. But once that fraud is established, one can't expect that he really was Cherokee or indeed any Indian at all simply because Lorene Threepersons claimed he was.

Her own veracity being questionable when it came to Tom's life story (she claimed to have married him on Friday the 13th but we have that date and it was not a Friday; instead she had fabricated the story to get yet another appearance for her and Tom in the El Paso Times).

By 1940 Tom did not ever appear alone in the press; Lorene was either his co-star, or wrote the stories under her own byline, or the stories were entirely about her. It was part of how the couple made a living: the entirely false legend of Tom Threepersons, the Cherokee Indian of Texas who somehow was the same man as the Blood Indian of Alberta Canada who really did win the Calgary Stampede in 1912 but died 20 years before 'our' Tom.

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