top of page

Short Story Series: The Outlaw Prophet

The Daily Alta California

San Francisco, November 15th, 1860
Who is Samuel Blackwood - Part 1

Between 1850 and 1859, an enigmatic drifter named Samuel “Hellfire” Blackwood roamed the high desert plains and mountains of the untamed American West. Despite his solitary ways, he amassed an impressive mythology that both preceded and followed his random appearances in various towns and cities. Everyone seemed to know what he looked like, but no one could agree on who he was or where he came from.

He was according to all recollections, tall, dark, and dangerous. His age appeared to be somewhere in the late thirties, to mid-forties. He always wore a rust-colored duster and a faded leather broad-brimmed hat. His skin was of an olive complexion with a head full of long black hair, blue eyes, and a tall physique. Given his complexion and long hair, most folks figured he was of mixed blood, perhaps half Indian and half English or French. Most reckoned his Indian side came from the Crow, Cheyenne, or Blackfoot tribes, but I cannot as of yet confirm this to be true.

Interestingly, the dangerousness attributed to him was not in the body count he amassed along the way (as far as I've found, he hasn't killed anyone) but in his demeanor. Meaning, that he looked every bit the part of a gunslinger who would just as soon shoot you then have to deal with you. More than one eyewitness who has claimed to have seen him up close and personal all say he has 'dead blue' eyes.

He was a lone stranger with an even stranger past with an uncanny knack for appearing at just the right time and place to effect change. How he did it or knew where to show up when he did, was part of the growing mythos surrounding the man. Those who met him swore on all that was holy that the rumors did him no justice; they claim he appeared as a man cursed by immortality but touched with a divine sense of destiny.

Rumors were aplenty about this nomadic prophet. Some said he used to be a notorious cold-blooded killer for hire during the lawless gold rush days in California. Others added that he had experienced a radical spiritual transformation akin to Saul's conversion to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. But this current rendition of the "prophet" was the most recent rendition to his story. Some claim he has been wandering these hills for centuries.

Along the way, I've even heard tales from the natives of the Ute, Sioux, and Crow tribes, who all knew of Samuel "Hellfire" Blackwood. They called him the "White Wanderer" and the "Old Man in the Woods." Tribal elders would recount tales passed down from their great-grandparents of a dangerous, tall white man stalking the woods of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Some warriors, eager to test their mettle against him, set out to find him to kill him but were never seen again.

Given the longevity of his lore, which if what the natives said were true, would mean he had been haunting these lands before the country had become a nation. Some are now saying he is the fabled Count of Saint Germain, who, according to legend, was Cartaphilus the Wandering Jew. As the legend has it, Cartaphilus was Pontius Pilate’s doorkeeper and struck Jesus on his way to Calvary, telling him to move faster. Jesus replied, “I go, and you will wait till I return,” thus cursing Cartaphilus to walk the earth until the end of the age. The legend continues that Cartaphilus eventually converted to Christianity, was baptized, changed his name to Joseph, and lived piously amongst the emerging Christian communities.

Of course, if you’re immortal, you tend to outlive those communities and eventually the empire. By the fourth century Anno Domini, Joseph moved north into Europe, living among the various Germanic, Gallic, and other barbarian tribes. History loses track of him from there until the 12th century when he supposedly reappears in Armenia, claiming to be Cartaphilus. Fluent in dozens of languages, he spoke of history not as one who learned it from books, but as one who lived to see it.

The legend continues that he later appeared to have come over with Sir Walter Raleigh to help establish the first English colony of Jamestown at Roanoke in 1585. He remained behind when Raleigh left for England in 1587 to get supplies. He also seems to have disappeared with the rest of the colony by the time Raleigh returned in 1590 only to find the settlement deserted, devoid of any colonists, or hints as to their whereabouts.

By the mid-1600s, Cartaphilus began appearing in various European courts and aristocratic circles as the Count of Saint Germain. He wowed audiences with his charm, historical insight, and fluency. He was also known to be a master alchemist who could change base metals into gold and fix precious stones, removing any imperfections. Contrastingly, he now appeared in the 1850s as this mysterious gunslinging prophet who wandered the American West doing all manner of supernatural feats.

Eyewitnesses claim Sam had ‘special powers’—that he could either heal the dead or dying or show them the fiery depths of hell by a mere touch. This is in part how he came to be known as the Outlaw Prophet. Either you were gonna get healed and get saved, or get the hell scared out of you and get saved. According to the rumors, and if you’d asked me, there was a lot more Elijah the Prophet than Paul the Apostle in his style of evangelism.

As a seasoned writer and reporter with The Californian in San Francisco, I've heard all manner of tall tales. To be sure, I thought this was no different. The first time I heard of him was through someone who claimed to have been healed by him. At first, I was certain this was just some snake-oil salesman who was taking credit for someone already on the mend, but then I heard another story, and another, all from folks heading west to California who had run into him along the way.

What really struck me was the different circumstances by which all of these eyewitnesses were healed. From cave-ins at coal mines to gunshot wounds and snake bites, this “White Wanderer” seemed to be able to heal all manner of infirmities. This is where I also heard tell of his “hellfire” touch, which is how he got that nickname. It seemed other groups tried to thwart him only to come on the receiving end of that touch. By late 1858, I got interested. I had heard enough and my curiosity got the better of me. I put the request in with the newspaper to pursue this as a special interest story, put my affairs in order with the newspaper (and my landlady), and got on the road to track this fella down.

Whoever he truly was and whatever he was truly up to, his mission now clearly entailed moving eastward. Over the next two months, I chased him through mining towns, cow towns, ghost towns, and over much perilous terrain. I'd endured all manner of weather, and been chased by banditos and Indians, bears, mountain lions, and the rest of nature it seemed. If his path was anything like mine, Samuel's path was one of a crucible mixed between redemption and ruin. Every town had a story about him and the further I dug, the more I began to question myself as if I were chasing a man or myth. To be certain, the thing I was most terrified about, was not the aforementioned perils, but that I would finally catch up to this mysterious stranger only to be disappointed that the reality didn't live up to the sensationalism.

However, in the spring of 1859, on the border between the American West and the Great Plains, I finally caught up with the enigmatic stranger. He had made a makeshift camp on the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains. His pale gray horse, Jake, as he has been called by the many, grazed in the sparing vegetation untethered and unconcerned at my approach. As I rode up I found him sitting at a roaring campfire with his back to me. He appeared to be staring out over the vast plains of the prairie that stretched on before us like an ocean of grass, transfixed on the endlessness of it that bordered somewhere between the mortal bounds of earth and the eternal realm of the wide open skies.

My mission then was, to confirm or put to bed the rumor of who he is, and find out if this Outlaw Prophet was the real deal or just another ‘false prophet’ peddling smelly elixirs and false hopes. What I knew then was he could have cared less what I could prove. He didn't appear to be bothered with fame or fortune and never sought publicity about his endeavors.

What I couldn't have known then, was that by this time next year, our nation would be on the cusp of war with itself. Nor did I understand the mission he was on, which was to deliver an urgent message to a young lawyer and aspiring politician in Illinois. The mission was a message, and that message was—hold the country together at all costs.

Here is our story. be continued

Horace Finch

The Daily Alta California

November 15th, 1860

Post Scriptum: I'll be publishing each of these segments of the short stories every Friday. Once completed, I'll post them all to my Book tab on the website.

  • The Outlaw Prophet

  • The Mandela Defect

  • Ghost Town

...and more to come!

1,906 views26 comments

Recent Posts

See All

26 Yorum

5 üzerinden 0 yıldız
Henüz hiç puanlama yok

Puanlama ekleyin
Sergiy Sergiy
Sergiy Sergiy
7 hours ago

The story's intricate plot and complex characters kept me hooked. It made me reflect on the importance of standing up for oneself in difficult situations. For students facing false accusations of misconduct, having a strong defense is crucial. Title IX sexual misconduct defense lawyers can provide the necessary support and expertise to navigate these challenging scenarios. Just as the Outlaw Prophet fought for justice, students must also ensure their rights are protected and their voices heard. Always seek professional guidance to safeguard your future.


5 üzerinden 5 yıldız

Such a fun read! Love it Pete!

Pete Garcia
Pete Garcia
2 days ago
Şu kişiye cevap veriliyor:

Thank you Jen!


05 Tem
5 üzerinden 5 yıldız

This is fascinating and fun reading. Throughly enjoying this time of reading on to Part 2


Hi Pete! I enjoyed reading this story this morning and sure do look forward to each Friday when you release the next part of the story. Thanks Pete!

bottom of page