Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Tom Vernon | Part 2 of 3
Vernon Paints Vivid Picture of Thrills as Soldier in China During Boxer Uprising.

Webmaster's note.

We have thus far not been able to corroborate Tom's stories.

Deeds of Man Jailed as California Train Robber Rival Those of Jesse James.

[1929] Editor's Note: This is the second of three articles by Tom Vernon, one of the few surviving old-time Western "bad men." In his first article Vernon related how he saw his mother and father hanged by a mob when he was 5 years old and how he was shot by them and later rescued by Sioux Indians. He is charged now with holding up, single-handed, a Northern [sic] Pacific passenger train near Los Angeles, and also accused of holding up another train near Cheyenne, Wyo.

By Tom (Buffalo) Vernon
As Told to Jim Hopkins, NEA Service Writer.

The Indians on the Sioux reservation put me in charge [sic] of a white man named Pete, the only white man on the reservation. He was a real friend; he nursed me back to health, kept me with him all the time, and taught me how to ride.

He saved my life once when a tough-looking man named Black Bart kidnapped me. I don't know what Black Bart wanted with me; but I've sinced [sic] learned things that make me believe the Wyoming cattle men had sent him up to put me out of the way, for fear I might remember too much about the hanging of my folks when I grew up.

Anyhow, Pete followed up into the mountains, killed Black Bart and took me back to the reservation.

I had two other friends on the reservation — an Indian girl named Eagle, and my wild pinto, Gray Eagle. Eagle was the prettiest girl I ever knew. I got into lots of fights with the Indian boys because of her.

Those Indian boys were all right, at that. They were never mean when they'd licked me, and they always took it like good sports when I licked one of them.

Pete got Grey Eagle for me and helped me break him, and I lived on the reservation until I was 12. Then Pete introduced me to Jim Mitchell, chief cowboy in Buffalo Bill's show. Jim took me to New York. He introduced me to Buffalo Bill, and they togged me all out in small-sized cowboy's outfit. I was a good rider and I got on fine, though the crowds used to scare me.

A week or so later Annie Oakley, who was with the show then, suggested that I dress up like a girl and ride a bucking horse. I did, and was billed all over the country as "the dare-devil daughter of Cattle Kate."

I stayed with the show four years. There was one act that always thrilled me. It showed the famous Mountain Meadow massacre, with the Indians attacking the wagon train, and the U.S. cavalry coming on the scene just in time to rescue the pioneers. That gave me the idea that I wanted to be a soldier; so when I was 16 I enlisted in the U.S. cavalry, at Scranton, Pa. I looked older than I was.

I was in A troop of the Sixth Cavalry. We went to San Antonio, Texas, and in the spring of 1900 we were sent to China because of the Boxer uprising.

We went to Tientsin. It was awfully cold, and we didn't have any barracks — had to dig trenches in the ground to live in. We were a cavalry outfit, but all our horses had been left in America.

Our job was to preserve order in Tientsin and search for the hundreds of missionaries reported missing. We used to patrol the city in groups of five, searching cellars and underground passages. We saved half-starved missionaries that had been kept in dark dungeons. And we found others with their heads chopped off.

In one fight with Chinese who used knives I was slightly wounded in the foot by a stray bullet.

A little later my outfit was sent to Pekin, and stationed just outside the city. Of all the gruesome sights I ever saw, I think the worst was watching the headless bodies of murdered foreigners as they floated out of the sloughs, or sewers, when they opened the gates every morning. These sloughs ran under the whole city, and when the Chinese killed anybody they'd simply drop his body in one of them and forget about him.

Finally I got sent back to the United States. I was paid off at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., in 1904. And a little later, while I was working in the stockyards at East St. Louis, I met a mysterious man that later, I believe, caused me to go to prison for the first time.

This man came up to me and asked me if I'd ever lived in Wyoming. I told him I had. He walked away without saying another word.

A few weeks later I was working in Scranton, Pa., and I saw this man again. And an hour later I was in jail.

I was walking down the street with a girl when two young fellows attacked us. The police found a watch in my overcoat pocket, and one of the men said I'd stolen it from him.

I'd never seen him or the watch before, but I got a year and nine months in prison, and I served 16 months of it.

I've always figured that the mysterious man I'd seen in East St. Louis and in Scranton had something to do with it. Just what, I don't know.

Anyhow, I served my term — and when I got out I found that having a prison record can make things pretty tough for a man, not matter how hard he tries to keep straight.

Tomorrow: Rodeos, cowboys and prisons.




Passengers / Earliest Known 11-10-1929


Daybreak 11-11-1929


Newsreel Footage


Loren Ayers x5



Boynton Story


Pollack Story


LAT 11-11-1929


Vernon Captured


Mugshots 12/1929


Extradition 12-12-1929


AP 12-19-1929



REAL: Tom Vernon Prison Records


REAL: Horse Theft 1920


BOGUS: Tom Vernon Letters 1929-1963


BOGUS: Tom Vernon's Fake Photo ID 1962


BOGUS: Vernon's Own Story in 3 Parts


BOGUS: Cattle Kate Story 12-7-1929


BOGUS: Vernon Retells Story in 1953


BOGUS: Sweetwater Incident 1967


BOGUS Sideshow: Lester F. Mead
'Confessor' 11-1929


REAL: Buffalo Vernon 1884-1939



1957-1958 x3


Pardon 1964


Death Cert. 1967


After the Wreck
No. 5042 x3

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