BOOK REVIEW: Ghost Towns of the American West by Bill O’Neal

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I have tried unsuccessfully to go back to my “regular” reading list more along the line of thrillers, suspense, horror and whatnot. But NO….my trip to Tombstone lit a fire under me I can’t seem to put out in regard to learning more about the American West and what it was like to live there back in the late 1800s.

I gobbled this book up. Let’s look at the book as a whole: It’s broken down into sections; The Middle, The Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, and the Northwest. That covers a pretty big area, y’all.

This book was done really well, in my opinion. Once you hunker down into the first section (Middle West), you’ll see some engrossing and generally good quality photos of the particular town mentioned, usually the busiest time on Main Street. What it was like to live in that town back in the day is spelled out: work, what people did for fun, how they kept the town law-abiding (if they were able to!), along with more photos and information about the most well-known people to settle there. There are even a few photos thrown in that show what the town looks like now, hence the “ghost” town book name.

Some pretty big names get thrown about: Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane (and there’s a head-to-foot picture in there of her if you’ve always wondered what the West’s most colorful female looked like); Outlaw Bill Doolin, and of course you can’t even think about the Old West without the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday.

There’s a little bit of everything in this book, I reckon. Traveling by stagecoach, living in towns with no real law to speak of, cattle rustlers, horse thievin’; not to mention the fact that there was more than one cemetery burstin’ at the seams with the name Boothill. Guess they weren’t willing to waste a lot of time of creatin’ new, flowery names for their graveyards.

My favorite part? Deadwood, South Dakota. The home of a massive gold mine, this place got burned to the ground then flooded a few years later, but they just rebuilt the town time after time, and it continued to grow until after the turn of the century. Wild Bill and Calamity Jane both met their maker there, and can be visited in the Mount Moriah Cemetery right there in Deadwood.

Because of this great book I’ll be addin’ Deadwood to my bucket list of must-see places to visit. See ya there, y’all!

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