Who Was Jack Longstreet?
Articles written by Emmett Harder and Marian Johns
Longstreet - by Emmett Harder
(article appeared in Newsletter, September 2013)
Andrew Jackson Longstreet was born in 1838 and died July 26, 1928.
There are many accounts about Andrew Jackson Longstreet who came to Nevada by way of Kentucky and Texas. His doins in and around the Amargosa Valley made him notorious. He was reported to be a tough hombre and is described as very hot-blooded and was widely recognized as a gunslinger, having killed men in various towns.
In the stories he is recognized as a man to be respected or at least to be feared. He was a large man and well-armed. It is reported that he had lost an ear as a youngster over cattle rustling he was involved in in Texas. And we suppose that is why he wore his hair long and disheveled.
I will hereby relate about him and the Shoot-out he was involved in with the Mormons at their Chispa gold mine located in 1809 west of what would later be the town of Johnnie, Nevada. In this account a gunfight erupted at the mine in late summer of 1895 and was reported in different publications in several different ways.
It seems that at the time the rich Chispa gold mine was temporarily inoperative and, for some time during a change in ownership, was staffed with a caretaker crew. A former employee and a group of his followers, among them several men with bad reputations including Longstreet, with drawn guns, had run the mine crew off. They claimed the previous year’s assessment work had not been done and therefore they were taking possession of the claim and they wanted $12,000 in cash to satisfy them. Sheriff McGregor called their claim outrageous and departed for the then County Seat, Belmont, Nevada two hundred miles to the north, to settle the matter.
The reported claim jumpers felt secure, there was a steep slope to the north and the one road into the mine was in a narrow canyon. They then told the Mormons that if they crossed a line on the road they would be shot. The local Mormon men who had interests in the mine would not wait, and led by Bob Montgomery (who would later develop Skidoo, California) who was a part owner received a shipment of new rifles from the Nevada Southern Railroad and they organized, came over the hill above the mine and surprised the reported claim jumpers as they were having their breakfast. Some reported a terrible gunfight. Of the attacked men one, Phil Foote, a wanted desperado, was shot in the chest. Longstreet, seeing the bad fix they were in and hoping to save Foote, surrendered and their group left the property. However Foote died that afternoon.
There were arrests made and Longstreet was one of the men taken or he may have given himself up. He was one of the men convicted and in the end posted $800 bail. He went back to Ash Meadows with his associates. No one was tried for the shooting of Foote. They said it could not be decided who had shot him.
Andrew Jackson "Jack" Longstreet by Marian Johns
(article appeared in Newsletter, September 2013)
The Longstreet Inn & Casino is named after the colorful desert frontiersman, Jack Longstreet, who had a cabin (which has been restored) at nearby Ash Springs. Sam Hipkins has summarized Jack’s interesting life in his blog “Miscellaneous Ramblings of a Happy Wanderer.” In his summary, Sam refers to Sally Zanjani’s book, Jack Longstreet: Last of the Desert Frontiersmen.
There he was, a broad shouldered, bearded, determined looking elderly man dressed in sloppy clothes and a pointed hat with one hand hooked in a pocket and the other holding what appears to be a walking stick. Longstreet stood six feet tall, but his powerful build made him seem even taller. His long hair covered the fact that he was minus an ear. He claimed that vigilantes, after capturing a gang of cattle rustlers he was with hanged them, but because of his youth, they spare him and only cut off his ear as punishment. The picture shows a deep tan which apparently was as dark as the Indians he lived amongst; however, there is no evidence of what Zanjani describes as his sparkling blue eyes. Study the picture for a few moments. Can there be any doubt that here was a force to be reckoned with?
Longstreet made his way into Nevada in the late 1800s and was the kind of mysterious character that we find throughout Western lore. So what is known about Longstreet? First of all, he was a rugged individualist who apparently had a strong moral code. He was known to have a quick temper and was involved in several gunfights; as evidenced by the gun he packed a long-barreled Colt.44 favored by the old time gunfighters. It had several notches scratched into it. But Jack was also a man of contradictions. In stark contrast to his persona, he spoke with a soft southern drawl and had a “gentlemanly, almost courtly style, and a warm brand of southern hospitality that offered every amenity to a guest and a cocked gun to the unidentified stranger.” He roamed the deserts of Nevada and Arizona engaged in a wide range of enterprises: at one time or another he was a prospector, a rancher, a saloonkeeper, a trailblazer, a stagecoach shotgun rider, a defender of Indian rights, and a thorn in the side of ranching and mining interests. For the most part he was a loner, but he found friendship amongst the Southern Paiutes, learned to speak their language and had Paiute wives. Eventually the Paiutes came to regard him as a leader.
I learned that Longstreet once lived in what is now the Ash Meadow Wildlife Refuge located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the Amargosa Valley. I wanted to learn more about Longstreet, so I visited Ash Meadow in 2008 where his stone cabin has been restored. The location must have been to Longstreet’s liking; it was remote, sat on the edge of a crystal blue spring and was a good place where he could raise horses. He squatted on the land and named it Ash Meadow Ranch. He built the cabin up against a mound, into which he dug a cave that provided natural refrigeration. There were two other structures on the property; a wooden framed house and a shed, but they’re long gone. After a few years, he sold the place and moved to nearby Windy Canyon, where he established a ranch and a mine.
Jack Longstreet’s last days are shrouded in mystery. In 1928 he accidently shot himself in the armpit and shoulder. He went to a hospital in Tonopah, was treated, but left before he should have. Back at his Windy Canyon ranch, the wound festered and then Longstreet suffered a stroke. After several days, when he didn’t show up for his daily visit, a friend rode over to Longstreet’s place and found him unable to move, lying alone. After suffering the stroke and without water for three days in the deadly heat, it was remarkable that Longstreet, a 94 year old, was still alive. It remains a mystery where Fanny, his Paiute wife, was during this time. Sanjani asks “had she turned aside from him, believing, in the Southern Paiute way, that a man grown old and helpless is better off to die?” Once again Longstreet was in the hospital, but this time he would not up and leave. A car was dispatched to find and bring Fanny to the hospital, but Longstreet died before she got there. Four years later Fanny died and she was laid to rest beside him in Belmont, Nevada.
Jack Longstreet lived the life of a self-reliant man, a man on the move, a man to be feared and a man of contradictions. His early life is a mystery and his later life is the stuff of which myths are made. On that score, Sally concludes, “In the life of Longstreet, however, the myth was also the truth”, and because of that, he is remembered as one of Nevada’s frontier characters