Jack Longstreet; Last of the Desert Frontiersmen .
  

 

Longstreet Ranch, abandoned about 1932

Jack lived from approximately 1834 to 1929. During the period 1880 to 1929 he lived in Arizona and Nevada.

Absolutely nothing for sure is known about his life before 1880. He claimed to be a relative of General James Longstreet of the Confederate army. He claimed to have ridden with Moseby's raiders, a Confederate guerrilla force during the Civil War. He claimed to have been a Pony Express rider. There are no existent documents that back up these claims.


Remnant of Longstreets corral

The only evidence of his past is his missing ear, yes that is right; one ear was cut off at a young age. Apparently a punishment for boys caught cattle rustling in Texas in the old days was to have one ear cut off, which while a bit gross, beat the alternative… Hanging. At any rate Jack Longstreet became known in the west as a man not to be trifled with. He was quick with his temper and quicker with his gun.

Jack liked the wild and barren wastes of southern Nevada. In 1900 southern Nevada had a population of no more than 6,500 people in a land area of 46,000 miles, a land larger than the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Massachusetts combined. Jack Longstreet liked this emptiness. Some say it was because he was afraid of someone from his checkered past hunting him down. Any prospector who entered this area was "thought exceedingly bold," Jack was one of the boldest of the bold.


Longstreet's ranch

For many years Jack centered his life around Ash Springs, North of Las Vegas and east of Death Valley. It was said that every man in Ash Springs was "on the dodge for something." He tried his hand at mining and at ranching; saloon keeping and even had a drugstore, combined with a saloon of course. He seemed always to wind up having to shoot someone. Jack also had an affinity for the Indians. He helped Indians numerous times against white men who attempted to cheat them, whether Indian agents or mine owners. He learned the language of the Southern Paiutes, and spoke like a "son of the people. He also had several Indian women who lived with home throughout his life. He was what was called a "squaw man." Perhaps he needed an Indian woman, as white women would have found his lifestyle exceedingly difficult.

While ranching in Moapa Valley he became aware that the local Indian agent was stealing supplies from his charges, Jack wrote letters and agitated until the Bureau of Indian Affairs replaced the man. The agent attempted to refute the charges and level new charges against Longstreet. He finished by stating, "A failure to convict would make matters worse. Longstreet is a bad man and capable of any crime that is known.

He interestingly enough served as a precinct official in voting in Lincoln County Nevada. This is spite of his "bad ways."

Longstreet moved on to a mining camp at Sylvania in California (this is humorous, Sylvania means wooded, yet this camp was in the barren eastern reaches of Inyo County, near Death Valley). While here he ran a saloon, he had a problem though, the Indian miners who would have enjoyed his saloon were paid in mining company script, only good in the mining company store. Longstreet took offence at the mistreatment of the Indians and the fact that they could not spend their pay in his saloon. He rounded up most of the Indians, got them fired up whereupon they marched to the mine owners home, tired him up and forced him to write good checks for the back pay due to all the Indians. The mine owner tried to get the Inyo County Sheriff to arrest Longstreet. Longstreet headed back over the state line to Nevada where he was safe from the Inyo Sheriff, not that the Sheriff was in a hurry to attempt an arrest of Longstreet. He stated that many men had tried to hunt Longstreet down but that few succeeded. It was at this time that Jack settled down on his Ash Meadows ranch which he held until moving to the Monitor mountains north and east of Tonopah. He started a horse ranch here specializing in quality horses for the Army. He also caught and gentled Mustangs which he took into Tonopah each year on the Fourth of July and gave to the local children.

Longstreet was not the sort of man to be admired by the Reno Ladies Book and Tea society, although he was invariably polite and tipped his hat to the local ladies of Tonopah and Belmont.


Road into his ranch

He died of a festering accidentally self inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 94, outliving most of his friends and enemies alike. His 'woman' Fannie outlived him by four years, his daughter Emily moved to Los Angeles and became a hairdresser.

Longstreet was a man who towered above his age and his contemporaries. A real life John Wayne and a complex study.

Bibliography

Jack Longstreet, Sally Zanjani

History of Nevada, Myron Angel 1881

Mines of Death Valley Belden L. Burr 1976

Dust from an Alkali Flat Basil Crane 1984

 

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