A Dynasty of Western Outlaws

A Dynasty of Western Outlaws

A Dynasty of Western Outlaws

A Dynasty of Western Outlaws


The organized gangs of robbers and killers who roamed the Midwest and Southwest from the 1860s to the 1930s went to the same school and were succored by each other's notoriety. So Paul I. Wellman makes a case for "the contagious nature of crime." William Quantrill and his guerrillas established a criminal tradition that was to link the James, Dalton, Doolin, Jennings, and Cook gangs; Belle and Henry Starr; Pretty Boy Floyd; and others in "a long and crooked train of unbroken personal connections."


ByRichard Maxwell Brown


Paul Iselin Wellman was born in Oklahoma Territory, grew up close to the frontier in Utah and western Kansas, and spent twenty-five years as a journalist in America's heartland of Kansas and Missouri. Out of this background came his eighteen histories and novels about the American frontier and West--an intellectual and artistic effort inspired, he said, by "an almost spiritual reverence" for the history of America, "its varied peoples, and its uniquely magnificent characteristics."

Wellman was born on October 14, 1898, in the boom town of Enid in country where the desperadoes that he would write about in A Dynasty of Westem Outlaws (1961) were then riding high. Paul's father, Dr. Frederick C. Wellman, came from a long line of pioneers who had followed the westward movement across Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri until, soon after their marriage, the physician and his wife, Lydia, moved into Oklahoma's newly opened Cherokee Strip. Within a year after Paul's birth, the Wellmans were on the move again--not farther west but from America to Angola in southwest Africa. This surprising journey was motivated partly by Mrs. Wellman's deep religious faith, which led her to do missionary work among the Bantu natives while her husband became an expert in tropical medicine. Meanwhile, Paul learned to speak the native tongue, Umbundu, before he learned to speak English. These first ten years of his life spent in Africa remained vivid in Paul's memories, but he made little use of them as an author--perhaps, he wrote, because "emotional trouble" growing out of the incompatibility of his parents, who were divorced when he was fourteen, caused him to block Africa out of his writings.

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