He went to Rancho Del Paso the next morning and had a good talk with his friend, John
Mackey, who was sympathetic with his plans. "For sartin'," he assured his
understanding employer, "I want you to know that if God is willing, I'll be back in
time to accompany your horses East in time for the races and sales."
Mr. Mackey nodded agreement. "I have business in Sacramento today," he
offered, "I already have the team harnessed and ready to go if you are."
"Much obliged," William said. "I'll get my valise."
"Cowboy Minister Mullen," as William thought of himself now, trained horses
as he rode the Gulf Trail from Ft. Worth north through the ranch country.
He wasn't on the road long, however, before he realized that God was trying to convince
him that he was being "called" to head for the mining country of Colorado.
He said to himself: "Well, after all, I was a miner before I was a preacher."
He referred to that time when, as a mere lad, he, his father, and eight brothers trudged
down inside the coal mines of Newcastle, England every morning at dawn.
How he had loved that job! He had known the miners' jargon then as he now knew the
cowboys' lingo. It made him feel he was a man then - going every day deep into the mines.
His father often reminded him he was a full-grown man, too. Indeed he was, doing such
responsible work as a "trapper-boy" did, for didn't he open and close the trap
door every time the little engine that pulled its coal-loaded train passed by his station,
so no gas could escape and kill those who worked down in the shafts where the coal was
He knew Ouray was a good mining center and so he headed his sure-footed mustang toward
the trail that led there.
His self-appointment with the Ouray townspeople provided him with a pattern for his
later revival campaigns that were to follow, until he could get to his postponed
When he arrived at the business district of the town where he planned to conduct his
street meetings, he would ride around the business section to look over and appraise the
livery stables where he planned to most easily earn his expenses. Then he would introduce
himself to the stable owner.
Most owners took him at his own evaluation, as he had learned from experience, was
pretty much the way the world did, then as now.
If he gave his credentials as having trained horses for Claus Spreckles in Hawaii and
San Francisco , as well as for Ben Ali Haggin and Lloyd Tevis, it was always accepted with
one long, approving glance.
When he became well-acquainted with the livery stableman, he would enjoy taking out his
little notebook and carefully-folded clippings of the NEW YORK SUN's account of how he had
saved the lives of those seated in the dress circle at the recent horse-taming exhibition
in Madison Square Garden. This convinced his new-found friends he had already paid his
From the mining district of Ouray, he moved on to Nevada. Sacramento still remained his
destination. In Nevada, he headed for Carlin, where he remained for one month. The town,
being a railroad center, was teeming with the tension of the Great Strike of 1894. It had
started locally in Chicago as "The Pullman Strike" when the workers of the model
Illinois town of Pullman received a severe slash in their wages.
Following on the heels of the panic of the year before, the blow was too severe to
accept. A new labor union called the American Railway Union formed a sympathetic alliance
with these embattled laborers, even though the odds were against them. Thus, a local labor
situation assumed national importance. When the labor convention had proposed, on June 12,
that a boycott be declared on all pullman cars, a committee of laborers called on industry
to hear the reply: "We have nothing to arbitrate."
It was the spark that touched off the flame that swept across the nation.
In the past years, railroads throughout the country had reduced wages. Hours were long
and there were many grievances. On June 26, the boycott became operative, and the local
Pullman strike became a mighty struggle between the American Railway Union and the General
By July 1, the fight became one between the United States Government and the American
Railway Union. The United States marshal felt forced to telegraph Attorney General Olney:
"The situation here is desperate. I have sworn in over 400 deputies, and many more
will be needed to protect the mail trains."
Very little mail and no freight was moving. The United States Government had placed a
blanket injunction under the Interstate Commerce Act, as provided by the Sherman
Anti-trust Law. With haste, the writ was whipped into shape and ordered served on the
officials and members of the union forbidding any interference with "mail trains,
express trains, or other trains whether freight or passenger, engaged in interstate
No one was able to foresee how far-reaching the strike would be. At Trinidad, a large
crowd surrounded and completely disarmed 52 deputy marshals as they approached the town
the very day William rode into Carlin, and having just left Colorado, he followed the
activities in the morning paper with considerable interest.
Since he had been a laborer himself practically his entire life, his sympathies were
with labor. He remembered the model town of Pullman, too, during the Columbian Exposition
when all the world came to see this great new experiment in industrial relations. He
remembered seeing beautiful homes erected for the workers (homes they couldn't own), the
parks, the great sanitation system. He remembered how provisions had been made for their
entertainment in magnificent theaters, how schools had been provided; also an arcade and
hotels, and how one beautiful church had been planned to complete the setting - a
magnificent green stone church. Just one church, seating 800 people - in a town of eight
On July 2, telegraph wires were cut a Pueblo. Trains were unable to move.
Coal miners, on strike in New Mexico, joined the railroad strikers, enforcing the
boycott. The sheriff of the county was sympathetic to labor as the West in general was.
William remembered the feeling in California against the railroads' greed in gobbling
up so much of the land which it felt should have gone to the people.
On July 3, rioters three miles above Raton turned 16 cars loose. Troops were rushed to
the West and kept on duty at Trinidad, Raton, Las Vegas, and Newcastle. Sacramento,
however, where the public had great sympathy for the strikers, was the worst storm center.
This was the western terminal of the Central Pacific.
At Ogden, western terminal for the Union Pacific, strikers were in absolute control and
flaunted court orders supported by public sentiment.
President Cleveland held that troops were needed to protect interstate commerce,
protect the mails, and to keep the Union Pacific and Central Pacific roads open for
military and other government purposes. Two generals were given instructions as to how to
cope with the situation.
Four companies of troops moving westward from Ogden were assigned to keep the Central
Pacific road open. A like force moving eastward from Sacramento was to cooperate with them
in the following manner.
The troops left Ogden on July 11 for Truckee, California. On the same day 542 soldiers
reached Sacramento by boat from Mare Island. On the next day, 370 more sailors and marines
landed at Oakland. As the large force concentrated on Sacramento with sabers drawn and
bayonets fixed, the cavalry and infantry were able to drive the mobs away from the
railroad yards without bloodshed.
But, on the next day, an engineer and three soldiers were killed outside Sacramento and
several soldiers wounded, one mortally. The next clash that followed resulted in one
striker being killed and another wounded.
"All right, God," he said. He knew he would never know any freedom if he did
not act at a time when men's actions were being motivated by violence.
He told himself the strikers had been driven to such actions. "It's small blame on
them," he rationalized. He knew, however, he had to take a stand this time against
He walked over to the livery stable and asked for his bill.
"But you must be crazy," the stableman replied. "It's two o'clock. Where
you going this time of night? The strikers are guarding the town. No person is permitted
to leave or enter."
It gave him an idea how he should act: "I must pretend to be crazy!" he
"Well, I have preached enough to save every man and woman and child in
Carlin," he ranted. "I have been here two weeks now, and if they don't want to
be saved they can all go to Hell."
"Strong words from a preacher," the stableman looked at him suspiciously, but
led the horse out of his stall.
William saddled him, cinching him fairly loosely. He then paid his bill and left,
selecting a dark lane that led to the outskirts of town. He followed the road along the
river, for the railroad tracks also followed this route.
William slid out of the saddle slowly. It was the saddle he had carried around the Horn
and from Maui to San Francisco, from Texas to Colorado and Nevada. "A man would as
soon sell all his possessions as his saddle, " he warned himself.
Man and horse followed the sinuous Humboldt River, said to be the meanest river of its
length in the world. When they came to a spot made dark with willow thicket, Mullen
reasoned it had to be the place where he would have to leave his horse behind.
He threw the reins over the animal's neck, for his saddle horses were trained to stand
without having to be tied. He untied the latigo straps, reasoning the strikers at Carlin
would figure some injury had befallen the crazy preacher and he had not been able to give
alarm. No one would believe he would have left his horse; it was as much a part of his
program as the very Bible he always carried.
stay!" he whispered in his horse's ear. "Stay until I get out
William walked alone until he reached the outskirts of town where sentries were
forbidding anyone to leave or enter.
"Halt or we fire," came the order.
"Who goes there?"
"Mullen, the cowboy preacher."
"Where are you going?"
"I', going to preach the gospel. Since you are the first one I have come upon, I'm
going to begin on you. God has sent me out into the highways and the byways to preach the
gospel and to save men from Hell's damnation. Yes, God told me to do that and I'm going to
start with you
"No one is to leave town," the guard spoke with harsh authority.
"Just try to stop God," William replied, squaring his shoulders, ready for a
fight. "I've preached in this town for two weeks now. Enough to save every man, woman
and child, and now they can all go straight to Hell if they want to, while I go to preach
"Over our dead bodies," the guard insisted.
"And dead bodies you'll be!" William retorted.
"Oh, let the damn fool go," one of them advised. "He's preaching every
time you turn around. For God's sake, let him go."
William continued murmuring, carrying out his crazy act, as he continued walking lest
someone change his mind and call him back.
He walked and walked. When he got to the trestle that crossed the winding river, he
examined the pilings and saw in truth they had been burned in such a way the weight of any
oncoming train would hurtle whatever passengers it carried into the river below.
Now, out of renewed effort, he quickened his pace. "Give me strength, God, "
he prayed, knowing God would answer his prayer. He walked swiftly as he had scudded the
Irish miles when a lad bound for the fair.
By daylight, he was well outside Carlin. Then his eyes penetrated the grey dawn and the
huge black snout of the powerful engine approaching. He watched the locomotive swing
slowly around the veiled bend. He heard its explosive thunders rising into the quiet of
the dawn. The squat funnel of the sturdy train proceeded down the rails that flashed
brightly in the dawn morning
Then, the foreboding engine reached him and ground quickly to a halt. It was obvious
the big man in dark clothes did not intend to move from the tracks lest it pass him in its
The fireman shouted angrily, "What the hell you doing on our tracks?"
"I have a message."
The hawk eyes stared furiously at him, then called an army officer to come and receive
William's warning that the bridge pilings had been burned and that to try to go over the
trestle would mean certain death for the trainload of soldiers.
"How can I be sure it's not one of their tricks," the skeptical officer said.
"God sent me to warn you to approach with caution. You'll see when you get there
I'm telling the truth."
"You don't look like a minister," he said. "Do you have your
"No, but why else would I walk these miles?"
"Maybe you got a ride back."
"You may not believe God's voice but I do, and I say God wants you to spare the
lives of the men in your charge."
"God's voice," he muttered. "He's cracked."
"Cracked or not," another said, "we'll approach with care. Instruct the
engineer to stop before crossing all bridges."
No provision was made for William's transportation to Elko, twenty-five miles away, and
the nearest town east. He had no choice but to walk the desolate miles.
Before William reached Elko, he looked up and saw a mountain lion ambling casually down
the rails as though he too had no place to go.
Accustomed to wild animals, William knew there would be no danger as long as he
remained relaxed and unafraid. So down the track he continued; up the track walked the
cougar. They met face to face as they looked at each other, the one as calmly as the
other, and then continued on their ways, one to the east, the other to the west.
William was not surprised; it was what he had expected. He quoted form his favorite
For He shall give His angels charge over thee,
To keep thee in all ways.
The traveling cowboy preacher continued past treeless hills, over monotonous miles, in
and out of the sullen river, squinting in the bright sunlight, but always asking God to
give him strength to meet the miles and miles before him he knew not where.
He had been headed westward, westward for the Haggin-Tevis ranches at Sacramento and
Bakersfield. He wondered why the soldiers had not offered to transport him back. They knew
by now their lives had been spared, spared by the traveling preacher. God must want him to
go to Chicago. That was it, so he would keep the course. He would continue east. He
followed along the route of the barren, banked river and walked until he reached a
railroad station. The large black letters painted in the white board read
He walked up to the clerk behind the glass window and said "I want a ticket."
"There won't be trains for some time," the agent said gloomily.
"I want a ticket to Chicago," William said in a commanding voice. He
hesitated a moment before repeating "To Chicago."
"You'll have a long wait, brother, no passenger trains have gone for some
time," the station agent informed him.
"I'll wait," the big man wearing a black Stetson hat said, "I'll wait
until the next one comes along." Then he thought it would be better to busy himself
preaching lest any suspicion be attached to his being in Elko "Where's the nearest
The agent thumbed eastward without looking up. On the following day a passenger train
came through. The violence must be ended. He boarded the train headed for Chicago.
"God's will be done," he said softly. It was a prayer.
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