File this one under "urban legends." For years, people have sent me stories they found on the Internet, claiming that the ancestor of some politician was a horse thief and a train robber. In years past, the claim was for ancestors of Al Gore or Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or Stephane Dion (the former leader of Canada's Liberal Party) or Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska (who was convicted a while ago on seven felony counts of violation of ethics laws) or others. I must have received dozens of the these messages since I started publishing this newsletter 14 years ago, and I received one more today. The latest story making the rounds claims that Congressman Harry Reid's great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Sometimes a picture accompanies the email message.
There is only one problem: the stories are fictitious. In fact, I'd bet money that Congressman Harry Reid never had a great-great uncle named Remus. Admittedly, I haven't researched that myself, but I'd consider it strange if Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton all had uncles named Remus and if all of these uncles with the same first name had been hanged.
Snopes.com is a web site that tracks all the popular "urban legnds." If anyone sends you a message with some wild claim, it is always a good idea to check http://www.snopes.com. In the case of the horse thief urban legend, the truth may be found at http://www.snopes.com/politics/humor/horsethief.asp.
By the way, the picture shown above is the same one that often accompanies the bogus email messages. In fact, it is a picture of a true train robber: Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum, a former member of the Hole in the Wall Gang led by Butch Cassidy. The picture shows Ketchum on the gallows a few minutes before his death on April 26, 1901, in Clayton, New Mexico. An earlier picture of "Black Jack" Ketchum is shown here to the right:
No matter what the content, there is never a good reason for forwarding a chain letter. Do yourself a favor and also do a favor for everyone else: always delete chain letters.
Here is the latest version of the hoax:
No matter what side of the AISLE you're on, THIS is FUNNY and VERY telling! It just all depends on how you look at some things...
Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California, was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Congressman Harry Reid's great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.
The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory:
On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: 'Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.'
So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle. Harry Reid:
Believe it or not, Harry Reid's staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:
"Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."
NOW THAT's how it's done, Folks!
That's real POLITICAL SPIN
[End of hoax message]