Towns sprung up quickly in the 19th-century American West, sometimes
starting out as mining camps, wagon train river crossings, or army fort support
areas. Many times these little towns were comprised mostly of men. Those men
needed recreation. Usually that recreation consisted mainly of drinking and
gambling. It’s no surprise that saloons or gambling halls were the first
buildings to go up in these fast growing towns.
These places seemed to appear almost overnight. They might be tents with
dirt floors with flimsy tables and mismatched chairs and a make-shift bar. None
of these establishments were high class by any means. They didn’t need to be.
The activities they offered were enough to draw the clientele needed to keep
Finally, as a rough neck town grew and began to prosper, the rickety
shanties were replaced with wooden or brick buildings. Some of the saloons in what
would have been considered a city were rather ornate with elaborately carved
bars and high class chandeliers.
There was a time when gambling was considered an occupation. While there are
professional gamblers today, a gambler back then lived a much different life.
And it must be said that any man who decided to leave what he knew in the east
and move to an uncivilized place had to be a gambler at heart. It made sense
that there were more than a handful of gamblers moving around from place to
place and card game to card game.
In the years prior to the War Between the States, gambling along the
Mississippi River flourished. Riverboats running up and down the river from St.
Louis to New Orleans offered gamblers the perfect place to practice their
The California Gold Rush attracted some of the riverboat gamblers to San Francisco
where money was flowing like water. Gambling halls opened all over offering
more than card game. These halls were open all day and night and enormous amounts
of money changed hands each and every day.
With the success of the halls in San Francisco, more similar establishments
started in Nevada City, Sacramento, and other boom towns in the west. Shootings,
stabbings, and killings in general weren’t uncommon in the areas near the
gambling meccas. Violence finally reached a level that became unacceptable to
the people living in the areas.
called for law enforcement to stop the criminal activities that surrounded the
In the 1860s, the Comstock Lode in Nevada brought men there to prospect and
seek their fortunes there. Just like had happened in San Francisco, gambling
houses opened up all over. Accounts report that gambling was rampant in
Virginia City and surrounding areas. In fact, a report from an agent of the
U.S. Geological Survey found that the town of 18,000 people had a gambling
house for every 150 citizens.
Gamblers might have been unruly and predisposed to cheating, but that didn’t
keep them from holding important positions. One famous gambler in Nevada was
William DeWitt Clinton Gibson. William was elected to the Nevada Senate once he
slowed his gambling career down. And some of the men who ran the gambling halls
also ran banks or held other important financial positions in town.
One of the most important events of the late 1860s was the completion of the
transcontinental railroad. The small towns that sprung up along the tracks were
the perfect spots for the lower class swindlers to gather. As the railroad
moved west, the less reputable gamblers loaded up the tricks of their trade and
moved with it ready to take the money of the new and naïve men they would soon
Most of the low rent crowd who preyed on the unsuspecting railroad
construction workers were forgettable small-timers, but a few went on to
prominence among the gambling men of the West. Most claimed to follow the
respected profession of gambling, but really just fleeced their victims with well-honed
tricks and crooked gambling games. When the steel rails at last spanned the
country, many of these sure-thing gamblers continued to work their swindles on
railroad passengers, using the rail center of Omaha as headquarters.
The 1870s brought the great cattle drives from Texas up through Kansas and
even further north. Some of the most revered names in Western history are part
of this period. Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp were lawmen and
well respected for their fearlessness. All were well known gamblers. History
shows that they spent more time at the tables than they did keeping law and
It’s no surprise that many of the most prolific gunfighters of the Western
frontier were also well known gamblers. And along those lines, men who had
developed reputations as good gunfighters were in high demand as dealers at the
tables. Where large amounts of cash was changing hands, a man with gun skills
and nerves of steel were needed. It wasn’t uncommon for a gambler’s reputation
to spread and locals were quick to join games to try to match wits with the likes
of the celebrity gamblers.
The truth is, that gambling was romanticized in spite of the danger and
lawlessness it brought with it.
In A Life Transformed
, our former gambling hero tells how he learned
he was a good gambler during his time in the mining camps. Find out a little
more about this new Hero Hearts release here:
Ellie Brown is on her own and she's got a successful ranch to prove she'd
made her own way without the help of her father or a husband. She's proud of
what she's done in spite of the fact that it's been a difficult and lonely road
paved with hard work and some disappointment thrown in for good measure.
Ross Miller is an opportunistic gambler who's just won a mighty big pot. Though
he has a tough exterior, he's got a soft heart. The pot includes something that
will be hard to take away from it's owner, but a deal's a deal. He's going to
be sure to get his pay out, but he's trying to find a way to get it without too
much damage to the person it will affect - Ellie Brown.
He comes up with an idea that Ellie accepts, though she doesn't really have an
option other than to not have a place to live. She goes along with the marriage
of convenience, but finds a big hurdle to get over. Ross is handsome and deep
down he's kind. As she gets to know him, she realizes he's not the soulless man
she thought he was at first.
Can these two put their rocky past behind them and find true love and happiness
Find this new release on Amazon. If you prefer to read with your Kindle Unlimited subscription, this title is available there!
Boone writes sweet western historical romance with a happy ending
guaranteed in every single story. Inspiration comes in many forms and
Annie finds more than one way to make her stories entertain and inspire.
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