FORT KNOX TURNS 100
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
FORT KNOX TURNS 100
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
FORT KNOX TURNS 100
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
FORT KNOX TURNS 100
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – This Native American is sporting a police badge as part of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Matthew Rector, historical preservation specialist at the Cultural Resources Office, says the actor could be Chief Black Hawk before he left the show and m... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Life was a lot different back then.

Matthew Rector, historic preservation specialist at Fort Knox, says life at Camp Knox 100 years ago was a cross between television shows Deadwood and Boardwalk Empire -- filled with mysterious deaths, dangerous outlaws, bootleggers and shootouts.

Many interesting stories have surfaced over the years as Rector and his counterpart, Fort Knox archaeologist Dr. Criss Helmkamp, have uncovered some of the forgotten secrets about the installation's beginnings.

"For instance, when the Soldiers were stationed at West Point, the citizens of West Point didn't want dances held," said Rector. "The town was under martial law because there were so many Soldiers there. There was a big stink about that."

Rector said intense negotiations ensued to resolve the conflict as the Army encouraged the citizens to let Soldiers dance.

Deaths were fairly common.

In August of 1918, an assistant editor of the Camp Builder newspaper at West Point and Stithton, Irene Linebacher, drowned in the Ohio River after she attempted to save a young 13-year-old girl from drowning, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The two had joined the newspaper's editor, F.H. Talbot, on the trip and the three had rowed a boat to a nearby sandbar. While wading in the water, the teen was swept up in the currents. Rector said Talbot and Linebacher attempted to save the girl, but ended up drowning herself during the attempted rescue.

That same year, the Spanish Flu pandemic that experts believe originated at what is now Fort Riley, Kansas, spread to Camp Knox, sweeping through the area. Rector said at least 50 cases were reported there in October.

Many altercations involved alcohol.

Two years after the founding of Camp Knox, the United States enacted prohibition. Rector said a number of cases surfaced shortly after involving Soldiers getting arrested for drinking or bootlegging alcohol on the installation.

"Imagine being a Soldier who likes to imbibe, and where do you get stationed? Kentucky! Oh boy," said Rector. "And then, 'Oh no. Prohibition!'"

Because of so many Soldiers showing up at Camp Knox at that time and so many issues surfacing, the Army brought in a large contingent of military police officers. Rector said about 500 men received orders to keep the peace.

"You need military police, obviously," said Rector. "You're creating a city, a cantonment."

Local law enforcement often assisted military policemen in apprehending criminals. One such police officer was a Native American who had been famous for other reasons.

Chief Black Hawk, according to Rector, had once toured with the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show and the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. Looking for work in 1918, Black Hawk settled in the Camp Knox area.

"He was an entertainer, and apparently a great shot with his pistols," said Rector. "Somehow, he becomes a deputy, and among his jobs was to help find and capture bootleggers."

Rector said Black Hawk also liked to apprehend criminals in full Plains Indian regalia.

Soon after taking the job as a deputy, Black Hawk, and an African American partner from Louisville called Pistol Pete, got into trouble confronting some bootleggers. Black Hawk discovered the bootleggers at Camp Knox and chased them to Louisville, where he attempted to receive permission to arrest them. Louisville Police denied his request, so he and Pistol Pete took matters into their own hands.

"It ended in a shootout in Louisville," said Rector. Black Hawk shot and killed one man; Pistol Pete was also shot in the melee. The Louisville police arrested them both and sent them to jail.

Also during this time period, a notorious bank robber, Tom Slaughter, made a presence in the area.

As infamous for escaping as for robbing banks, Slaughter was running from the law in Covington, Kentucky, when he and his accomplice, whom some have speculated was actually his girlfriend dressed as a man, stole a taxi, with the driver in it, and headed in the direction of Camp Knox. When they reached West Point, they stopped.

"They got hungry," said Rector. "While in a diner, Slaughter's partner spilled some cartridges out of his pocket and the proprietor noticed it. He waited until they left and called up the guard at Muldraugh Hill and said, 'Coming your way.'"

The Army guard managed to capture and arrest Slaughter and his accomplice. However, during a conversation with the guard, they somehow escaped, again. Eager to capture Slaughter for good, Camp Knox officials sent out mounted troops, but Slaughter managed to evade capture.

Rector said there are so many stories like these that make the start of Camp Knox fascinating for him to study.

"You don't see a lot of this type of stuff reported anywhere," said Rector. "But it was an interesting time in American history."