My great-grandfather, George Charlow Cosgrove, was by all accounts a colorful character. He was in law enforcement in Deadwood, South Dakota, during the same time period as the HBO TV series “Deadwood“, which may give you some idea of his life’s milieu.  I never met him — he died sixteen years before I was born — but I knew his daughter, my grandmother, Florence Imogene Cosgrove Webster, very well. Here’s a bit of what she had to write about him (after the jump):

I remember my father as one of the early pioneers who fought the Indians and engaged in all the other danger-fraught adventures that helped civilize the west. . . . Though he never did anything spectacular to get his name in history books — except for a casual mention here and there — he was friends with all the Greats of that time: Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane — he knew them all, and was there when Hickok was shot in the back by Jack McCall, and helped to lay out and bury him.

But in my eyes, no one was greater than he, and I remember so well the times when I was a small child, and with me in the seat of honor on his lap, and with his own and other children gathered around, he would regale us all with such wild and wooly stories of the adventures he had had that looking back now I wonder how he ever lived to tell about them.

He quit school at an early age, but learned the basics of education — the Three R’s — so was considered by his peers to be quite educated, as so many of the outdoor men of that era could neither read nor write. During the early years of his manhood, he lived an outdoor life with so many evenings spent sitting by the campfire, drinking coffee from a tin can, eathing beans with a knife, and swapping stories with other cattlemen while herding their cattle to market. It was the kind of life he loved, but he finally had to give it up and move into town so his children could get an education.

He settled his family in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, where he was a law officer for many years and where I was born. I was the youngest of his eight children and I am afraid he spoiled me very much; I was his “Little Lady” and could do no wrong. Sometimes today [late 1970s] while watching the Western movies on television, I try to find a hero who could compare with my father, but there is none — not even John Wayne or Gary Cooper! To me he was and will be the greatest hero of them all!

Grandma Webster was right that Great-Grandpa Cosgrove’s name only shows up occasionally in history books; unfortunately, the items that show up aren’t always that favorable to him. There are some rumors that George was involved with Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Cannary-Burke) as more than friends; for example, consider this mention from an article about Wild Bill Hickok, talking about reports that Hickok and Jane had wed:

One of Hickok’s friends, White Eyed Jack Anderson, said that he had seen Calamity back in 1879. At that time she was claiming to have been the wife of some man named Cosgrove, but never Hickok.

I will note that this was nine years before he married my great-grandmother, Annette Spencer, so he may actually have married Calamity Jane and subsequently married Annetta (with or without benefit of divorce).

More seriously, Great-Grandpa George apparently was involved with a deliberate provocation and ambush of Lakota Indians near Wounded Knee in December 1890, just 13 days before the more famous Wounded Knee massacre:

There was a bunch of men there.  We went over [Cheyenne River] and stirred them up [Lakota] up and a lot of our fellows laid in at the head of a gulch.  We went over to the Stronghold and got ‘em after us and they chase us down Corral Draw.  Riley Miller was at the head of it and layin’ up there behind the trees and rocks.  This Riley Miller was a dead shot, and he just killed them Indians as fast as he could shoot.  Francis Roush, Roy Coates, George Cosgrove, Paul McClellan was up with us.  We killed about seventy-five of them.  Riley Miller and Frank Lockhart went back there and got some pack horses and brought out seven loads of guns, shirts, war bonnets, ghost shirts, and things.  Riley took ‘em to Chicago and started a museum.  He made a barrel of money out of it.

This recollection from Pete Lemley is 70 years after the fact (at age 92), but I have no particular reason to question his recollection of George Cosgrove being there.

I did the endowment work for George Charlow Cosgrove today, having done his baptism and initiatory work last April; my wife Sandra did the endowment work for Annetta Spencer at the same time, and we’ll likely do the sealing work (George and Annetta to one another, and my Grandma Webster to them) on our next visit to the temple.

I don’t know his standing before the Lord, and I’m glad that it’s not up to me to judge him. But I wish him mercy and grace, as I do all people, since I have such need for it myself. I wish him well and hope that the work I’m doing for him blesses him.  ..bruce..