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Cowdrick, Jesse C.

JESSE C. COWDRICK (1859-1899)

† Your wit ambles well: it goes easily. —
Much Ado About Nothing, Act V, sc. i.

† Jesse C. Cowdrick,(1) one of the more prolific of Beadle's writers, was the oldest of the three children of David Cowdrick and his wife, Abigail Flinn. He was born in the town of Tom's River, New Jersey, June 7, 1859. He received a common school education, but after the death of his mother in 1872, he began to earn his own living as a newsboy on a railroad. He attracted the attention of a Mr. Applegate, the station agent at Tom's River, who taught him telegraphy. When sixteen years of age, by passing for eighteen, the minimum age permitted by the railroad, he obtained his first position as station agent and telegrapher in Tuckerton, New Jersey, and later worked in various stations on the Pennsylvania Railroad between Jersey City and Newark. During the Centennial he was in the employ of this railroad in Philadelphia and later transferred to the Lackawanna in Jersey City. On the first of September, 1878, in the latter city, he was married to Miss Jennie Tier. In 1889, on account of poor health, he obtained a leave of absence, and while on a trip to northern New Jersey, visited Ogdensburg. Since he liked the higher elevation of that place, he resigned from the railroad to make his home, with his wife and three children, in that village. Having published occasional articles in various newspapers and finding that it paid, he thereafter made writing his business.

† Cowdrick wrote under his own name as well as under the nom de plume "The City-Items Scribe,"(2) and contributed poems (originally as Jess' C. Cowdrick), short sketches of railroad life, and humorous sketches to the Banner Weekly, as well as novelettes to the Dime and Half-Dime Libraries. For Street and Smith's Diamond Dick series he wrote some stories which were published under the firm's stock-name, "William B. Lawson," and until he ceased writing on account of ill health, he held a contract with them for a story a week for their story paper. Under the pseudonym "Arizona Cy"(3) he wrote several exceedingly clever humorous stories for the Banner Weekly in 1896, which were later reprinted in the Half-Dime Library. In the same year he won seventh place in a Chicago Record story contest in which there were 816 entries. He was also the author of at least 25, and probably many more, of the Deadwood Dick, Jr., stories, after Edward L. Wheeler's death. Most of them, between 1892 and 1895, can be identified,(4) for Cowdrick, in a notebook still preserved, listed the titles under which he wrote them, and gave the dates when they were sent to Beadle.

† Cowdrick's most important contributions to the Beadle publications were his "Broadway Billy" stories, of which some thirty-one numbers were issued, but, strangely enough, never reprinted by Beadle, although Street and Smith reissued them later in the Bowery Boy Library. Cowdrick received from Beadle sixty dollars each for the Broadway Billy stories and seventy-five dollars each for the Deadwood Dick stories.

† Besides dime novels, poems, and short sketches, Cowdrick also wrote a number of popular Sunday School books and contributed articles to the Christian Advocate, Sunday School Advocate, and Christian Herald. The stories of the Mulligan twins appeared irregularly in the issues of the Banner Weekly from No. 330 to 547. "Stories Told in the Roundhouse" appeared as a series under his own name in the same weekly, Nos. 90 to 101, and were three times reprinted. "Tales of Railroad Life," under his own name, appeared in Nos. 123 to 131.

† Jesse Cowdrick died in Ogdensburg, New Jersey, June 30, 1899. He was survived by his wife and five children, two others having died in infancy. He was a member of the Sparta Township Board of Education and of the Ogdensburg Methodist Episcopal Church. The newspapers said of him, "Though he wrote of the Wild West, he was delicate and refined, and would have been taken for a clerk or book-keeper." Said John Stanton in the Sussex Independent, "He was a genial, social, public spirited man, beloved by all who knew him."

† In a letter from O. J. Victor to Cowdrick, dated September 9, 1894, and now in my possession Victor said, "The last Deadwood Dick really was admirable in invention, and certainly original. No man need doubt his powers who can produce such work."

† For a more complete discussion of Cowdrick's Deadwood Dick, Jr., stories, see Albert Johannsen: "The Deadwood Dick, Jr., Stories Not Written by Wheeler," in the Dime Novel Round-Up, XXV, whole number 298, July 15, 1957.

References: Jersey City, N. J., Directories, 1886 to 1890; Newspaper Maker, July 13, 1899; Newark Evening News, July 6, 1899, Banner Weekly, No. 248, August 6, 1887; Ibid., No. 702, April 25, 1896; State of New Jersey, Index of Wills, Sussex County, III, p. 1302; Saturday Evening Post, CCIII 1931 (potrait, no text). † Additional data were supplied by George R. Cowdrick, Jesse Cowdrick's son, in letters to me of August 31 and October 2, 1950. He also permitted me to use his father's own genealogical notebook and his account book of stories sent to Beadle and Adams.

Beadle's Weekly. No. 128
Banner Weekly. Nos. 437, 564, 639, 723, 747
Dime Library. Nos. 390, 422, 436, 452, 473, 499, 519, 557, 565, 580, 591, 598, 612, 626, 752, 958, 978, 983, 1016
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 360, 369, 420, 424, 439, 467, 490, 506, 514, 524, 536, 548, 557, 571, 579, 592, 605, 615, 628, 640, 647, 659, 669, 675, 687, 696, 703, 711, 720, 735, 738, 753, 762, 769, 775, 783, 786, 790, 796, 800, 805, 810, 815, 821, 826, 833, 839, 844, 849, 856, 862, 868, 874, 880, 887, 894, 900, 906, 912, 918, 924, 930, 935, 941, 944, 947, 953, 960, 967, 973, 978, 989, 997, 1004, 1009, 1090
Pocket Library. Nos. 321, 345
Popular Library. No. 43

The following three stories appeared under the pen name "Arizona Cy."

Banner Weekly. Nos. 681, 702, 733
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 1033, 1043, 1067

† Under the by-line "Edward L. Wheeler," Cowdrick wrote the following Half-Dime Libraries, and probably others as yet unidentified.

Half-Dime Library. Nos. 792, 797, 802, 807, 812, 816, 822, 828, 834, 840, 845, 852, 858, 863, 870, 876, 882, 891, 898, 904, 910, 916, 928, 934, 940.


"You-Bet Bob's Jangle; or, Snap-Shot Sam's Surprise." Banner Weekly No. 733, chap. I.

But at the end of another hour the parson hadn't yet dayboo'd, and finally Snap-Shot(3) put on his hat to go out and take a squint around to see if he could sight him. He hadn't been gone more'n a minute when there came a weak knock at the door, and when the widdy opened the door there stood a pale little man in a starched collar and white tie, and by the brands he exhibited we knowed at sight that he was the man.

"Is—is this the place where the wedding is to be?" the little man inquired.

His face was almost as pale as his shirt, and tenderfoot was writ all over him in letters a foot high, so to say.

He looked skart, and it was mebby five seconds before he had found his tongue to say anything. I felt sorry fer him, fer I was a tenderfoot myself, a good many years ago, and knowed jist how he felt.

"It is," said the widdy, prompt as a pistol.

"Well, I am the minister from Slabville," as he stepped timidly in and made us all a nice bow. "I am late, owing to the fact that I lost my road, but I will try to make amends for that by hurrying—"

He was fairly tremblin' in his nervousness, and while he was flounderin' around tryin' to say somethin' one of the boys slipped out to fetch Snap-Shot. He was as brand new as you ever see, and I suppose the big boots and red shirts and hip-upholstered guns of that crowd discombobbled him.

His comin' had sorter made the rest of us feel oneasy, too, and even the widdy was somewhat flurried as she made a show of introducin' him. I take it that she wanted to be perlite to company, so she faced the pale little man to my pard and made mention of his name first, no doubt intendin' to give me second honor, as I sot next, and so on around while they waited fer Sam.

"This is Mr. Bob Horner, You-bet Bob, from Cross Crick," she said; and she was goin' to say more, but the parson interrupted.

"I am pleased to know you, Mr. Horner," he said. "I humbly beg your pardon for this delay, but being a stranger in the country it was a misfortune to which I was liable—"

"Don't mention et, pardner," said Bob, holding out his horny hand. "Put et thar."

The parson looked plum foolish.

"Put—put what there?" he sorter faltered.

"Why, yer paddle," iterated Bob, offerin' his hand. "Shake!"

Then the parson caught on and laid his dainty white hand in Bob's big brown one, and by jing I thought Bob would crush it!

Ther person lifted himself on one foot and grinned with pain, and I gave Bob my elbow plenty hard in the ribs to make him let go; and that thar little incident served to make the parson all the more 'citable.

He fumbled fer a little book that he carried in his hip pocket, which sign ther company mistook, and in one second a dozen brawny hands wur laid holt on him plenty hard. He looked as helpless as a baby and ready to faint with fright, and I believe he was ready to cry, too.

"Don't yer pull!" said one big man. "He didn't go ter pinch ye; he will beg yer parding."

"I—I am not pulling," said the gospel sharp.

"And yer mustn't."

"I—I guess you don't understand."

"What is yer hand thar at yer hip fer?"

"I—I—I am getting my ritual out of my pocket," gasped the sky pilot.

"Yer—yer what?"

"My ritual—a book."

"Oh!" said ther crowd, all together, and a big sigh of relief went up.

"We didn't rightly understand ye," explained the big man; and he added: "On yer life, mister, carry et in yer open hand hereafter."

They all sat down again, sorter ashamed of their mistake, and the parson pulled out his little book; and by that time he was tremblin' so that he could hardly open it.

He was turribly rattled, and was plenty perspirin'.

"I beg your pardon, sir, I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon," he said to Bob. "Will you take this lady by the hand?"

By his nervousness he had made all the rest of us uneasy, and hardly a man of us was on a level base, I opine. The widdy, too, was away off and sorter flustered.

"I'm the most willin' feller to oblige that you ever see," assured my pard, as he got up and offered his big paw to ther bride elect.

He was somewhat under the influence of—of that long ride and the hearty supper right on top of it, and didn't fully 'predate the importance of the 'casion.

As fer the widdy, she looked alarmed, sorter, and her eyes turned to the door. Everybody was laborin' more or less under the excitement of that book incident, more or less full of pity fer the parson, too, and all wondered what sort of preliminary business was goin' to be done.

The poor parson was eager and anxious to make amends fer his tardy appearance, and more so to shake the dust of Wagonpole Camp off'n his sandals—so to say, as I kin see it now. He asked some hurried questions only half-understood, to which Bob nodded to some and the widdy to some, while the rest of us looked on and wondered; till at last he sorter got his grip onto the subject and said louder:

"Then I now do pronounce you man and wife, and—"

It struck me like lightnin', then, and ther widdy at the same instant; and she jerked her hand away in a hurry jist as I jumped up and hollered:

"Hold on! Fur heaven sakes, hold on! You have got the wrong man thar, parson!"

That parson went paler'n death instanter.

Bob sorter roused up, at that, and a cold sweat stood out on his forehead.

Ther widdy looked as if she wanted to faint, but had fergot how, and 'peared to want a hole to crawl into.

"The—the wrong man?" gasped the poor parson, his jaw swingin' limber and his eyes fairly bulgin' out of their sockets. "Why, I thought this was the person—"

"What right had you to think anything about et?" I thundered—or as near to et as I could come.

"I—I was introduced—"

"What has that got to do with it?" I hollered, anxious fer Bob's sake and wantin' to git him out of his diffikilty before Snap-Shot Sam made his appear.


"This ain't no time to stutter about et," I 'minded him. "You might as well speak fer a coffin."

"I—I thought it was the person, the lady introduced him the first of all, and as I had kept the company waiting so long, I—I—I—"

"You thought you would marry the first man you lit onto, hey?"

"But, I am blameless—"

"Well, go back and ondo et, quicker'n scat," I ordered him.

"Unfortunately, it—it has gone too far; I have pronounced the couple man and wife."

The widdy screamed, at that, and flopped down onto a chair with a force that almost crushed it to the floor, and Bob gasped like a dyin' fish.


Everybody looked at everybody, and ther situation was painful in the extreme.

"Great goshaway!" I bellered. "What is goin' to be done?"

"I—I—I am helpless," gasped the parson. "I can't do anything; it is too late."

"But et ain't been done a minnit!" I argued. "Do somethin'—anything! You have got my pard into a fix, and by goshaway, you have got to git him out of it!"

"But, I—I—I—"

"You will, or by the jumpin' Jupiter Pluvious if I don't—"

I pulled a long gun on him, and down onto his knees he dropped in a way that made some of the company laugh.

"Don't kill him!" interposed Bob. "He is ther one that done ther mischief, and he is my only hope to git out of it, I reckon." And I never see Bob look so sollum.

"Parson," says I, much impressive, "mistakes don't go. You had better declare it off, if you value your life."

"Impossible, impossible," he gasped.

"It will be all up with ye, the minnit Snap-shot Sam appears to claim his bride. Thar will be one quick snap, and your speerit will waft its way to the realms of delight--"

But even that prospect hadn't no charms fer the parson, jist then. He put up his hands in the most helpless way you ever see, and implored us to save him, as if he was the one that needed savin' jist then. It was my pard that was in the soup. And jist at that minnit ther door opened and into the room stepped Snap-shot Sam!

And Arizona Cy Johnson, after all was said and done, wrote it up for the Arizona Howler.

† Correction made as per Volume 3.


1 † Cowdrick had no middle name. The letter "C" was derived from his earlier signature "Jess' C. Cowdrick."
2 † The two names are paired in the by-line of "Mulligan on the Pacific Slope," Banner Weekly, No. 477, January 2, 1892. Both names are also given in No. 500.
3 † In Banner Weekly, No. 702, April 25, 1896, is the statement that "The humorous serial started in this number is from his (Cowdrick's) pen." This story was "You Bet Bob from Cross Crick" by "Arizona Cy."
4 † From Mr. Cowdrick's own notebook, which lies before me as I write, I find that between September, 1892, and December 6, 1892, he wrote ten he wrote ten Half-Dime and one Dime Library, the dates when they were sent to Beadle indicating that the first was "Broadway Billy's Brigade" Half-Dime Library, no. 709) and the second "Deadwood Dick, Jr.'s Double Device" (Half-Dime Library, no. 792), September 27, 1892. The latter was No. 61 of the Deadwood Dick sequence. No. 65 of the sequence was sent in December 5, and appeared February 14, 1893, as No. Half-Dime Library, no. 816. Beginning with a Broadway Billy story (Half-Dime Library, no. 815), the original titles as proposed by Cowdrick are given in his list, but some of them were changed when the stories were published. Half-Dime Library, no. 815 is definitely identifiable, for the date of issue, March 7, 1893, was also given by Cowdrick. Thereafter, through the whole of his list, the stories under his own name and those under Wheeler's, alternate and check against the Half-Dime list, bringing it to Half-Dime Library, no. 858, No. 73 of the Deadwood Dick sequence. The remaining numbers up to Half-Dime Library, no. 940, July 30, 1895, the eighty-fifth of the series, and the last one given in Cowdrick's notebook, check by their titles. Thus 25 of the Deadwood Dick, Jr., stories were definitely written by Cowdrick, but since his list is incomplete at both ends, he undoubtedly wrote more. Since his own name and Wheeler's alternate as authors of various stories in the Half-Dime list until the Deadwood Dick, Jr., stories ended (except for two cases where two Wheelers come together, one, however, a reprint of an earlier story) one may be fairly certain that Cowdrick continued writing them until the series ended. When they began is harder to determine. Apparently someone else first tried his hand.

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