Life in the Old West was rife with mortal dangers—from range war shoot-outs to farming accidents or wasting diseases. Given the state of nineteenth-century forensic science, it is impossible to know how many pioneers thought to have died of natural causes were actually victims of poisoning—both intentional and accidental. Settling a grudge, eliminating a romantic rival, or getting rid of someone to expedite one’s inheritance could be as easy as “sweetening” someone’s coffee with a lethal dose of arsenic. Of course, for the hapless victim, death by poisoning was not an easy way to go and often took longer and proved more painful than being shot.
Poison in the Old West profiles nineteenth- and early twentieth-century murder-by-poison cases in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming. Sidebars will highlight additional content about poisons, including legends about Native Americans poisoning wells, food poisoning among pioneers, and the effects of mining operations contaminating local environments.
Mike Cox is the author of more than thirty-five nonfiction books and hundreds of newspaper articles, columns, magazine stories, and essays for a wide variety of regional and national publications. When not writing, he spends as much time as he can traveling, fishing, hunting, and looking for new stories to tell. He lives in the Hill Country village of Wimberley, Texas.