Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: April 19, 1937
Name: James Isaac "Jim" Hunter
Post Office: Ryan, Oklahoma
Residence Address: Ryan, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: November 8, 1870
Place of Birth: Collin County, Texas (McKinney Township)
Father: Francis M. Hunter
Place of Birth: Lincoln County, Tenn.
Information on father: born, 1840 Tenn. died 1871, Tex. -raised cattle
Mother: Gustine Hunter (maiden name unknown)
Place of Birth: Missouri
Information on Mother: born 1844, Missouri, died 1871 Texas
Field Worker: Warren D. Morse
My Mother died and my Father married again. When I was twenty-two years old I left home and came to Durant, I.T., where I got a job making cross ties at $8.00 a month and board.
I got acquainted with a United States Deputy, J.B. Davis, and asked him for a job and I was made an assistant under him with headquarters at Durant, the southern district of Choctaw Nation.
We were sent to Woodville, north of Denison, Texas, to get some men. We used bloodhounds for trailing them. We kept the bloodhounds muzzled when we wanted them to trail somebody, taking the muzzel off to let them sniff the tracks of the person wanted. When we lead them out, it didn't make any difference how long after they got this scent, they knew it. One time it was six months before we traced and finally got our man. They never forget either. Once I took the dogs out and picked up a man, he was sent up. A long time after that, this same man was sitting on some boxes out in front of a store. I didn't notice him when I led these dogs by, but the dogs did and tried their best to break loose and get him. If they had, they would have torn him to pieces. They could walk on dead leaves without making a sound and slip up on a man just like a bird dog spotting birds. Sometimes they howled but you had to train them to keep quiet.
One time we took a caboose and engine up north, stopping in a certain locality trailing a man. We must have stopped more than a dozen times. The dogs didn't pick up the trail until we got near Salina, Kansas - got our man at last.
Then, that part of the territory was the dumping ground for the outlaws and thieves from Texas, Arkansas, and surrounding states. Many had records from Pennsylvania even.
I was in the gang when we ran into the Carpenter bunch. I was shot several times with a sawed-off shotgun by their sister, before I got her in the wrist of her gun hand, after I was down. I had also shot her brother. This woman waited on me just the same as she did her brother.
We were sent out after a gang and Wash Bood was brought in. Old Wash would have got me later if it hadn't been for a popcorn boy warning us. I had gone into the office which was upstairs, when the boy came in and told us a man was hiding in a pile of lumber out by the building. We went to the window and sure enough, there was old Wash. He thought he would get me when I came down out of the office.
I don't know whether it was ignorance, courage or what, but a fellow got where he was just like a man who walks a steel beam high up. I was not afraid. A man had to be on his guard and if he was not. someone would slip up on him.
Once I was stationed by the road to watch for a man. I took my stand under a drooping China-berry tree so the limbs and leaves shilded me. I had been watching the road all night. About sun-up the next morning a lady from a farmhouse nearby asked me to come up and eat breakfast. I told her I couldn't leave my post. She brought me some bisquits and butter. I had just finished eating when I looked up and saw a man sitting on his horse with his gun pointed at my nose. Now, my gun was laying on a post. I couldn't reach it with my right hand without moving and I knew if I moved, he would surely get me. I had to chance getting my gun though, so I grabbed it, fired and dropped him.
A man should be calm and steady. One time we were sent to the mountains for a man who was supposed to be staying in a cabin up on the hillside. There were five or six of us after this man. We had to follow a winding trail up to the cabin. There was a kind of basement that we had to go through, it had an underground passage to it. There was a trap door from the basement to the room in which the man was.
Always before entering a close place, to make sure everyone was there, we signaled by touch. The lead man would touch the man behind him and so on until the end was reached. After we had all got up to this room, the man at the end was shaking, and if the man we were after had been awake he could have heard this man's heart beat; it was so loud. Of course, we took this man, but after that T.B. Sexton, the Chief, would always ask if anyone wanted to back out before we started a raid.
We had the right to go anywhere after a man. At one time I was sent to New Mexico trailing a letter to locate a man. That way a man would try to throw us off his trail. The man writing would write his letter, place it in an envelope and address it to some person, place it in another envelope, address it to someone else, and so on. Sometimes the letter would be in five or six different envelopes.
I went to New Mexico. We had the postmaster helping us. I was in the office watching this letter and soon a man came in. He called for the letter, tore off the first envelope and dropped it back into the office. I looked to see where it was going next. It was going to a place in Arkansas. I got on the train and followed it back to Arkansas.
If there wasn't a train leaving at the time we wanted one, we had the right to call a caboose and engine to take us and our dogs.
One time a girl tipped me off and she didn't know it. She lived next door to our building. As I came out one morning she was standing at the fence, reading a letter. I knew her well. As I passed I made out like I was going to grab her letter. She told me I could go ahead and read it. It was from her sweetheart. I told her I would rather she read it to me and she did. She asked if I wanted to see his picture. When I saw it I told her I had one just like it. In the letter he had asked her to come to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to a Carnival and to wire him when she was comming. I wanted this man so I told the girl that I would take her over on my pass.
We deputies all carried passes. I explained everything to Sexton. There were three of us going then. Sexton and I took everything off us that looked like United States Marshals. The girl wired the man to meet a certain train. When we got off the train, we had our man spotted before we reached him. Sexton and I had laid our plans. I was to take the girls arm and go up to the man, let her introduce me, then he would come up and arrest him. I kept my head down so my hat shielded my face. When the girl introduced me, I took the man's hand in a hard grip and about that time Sexton took him.
That fellow was a good one. He was from some place in Pennsylvania. He had a bunch of keys and $15,000 in cash. He didn't mind telling us all. He had escaped from two or three penitentiers and was wanted for a number of robberies. He showed us how he blowed a safe and how to make a dark lantern byusing an old bucket. He cut a hole near the center in the side of the bucket so the light would shine straight ahead, placed a candle in the bottom and tied a string to the bail. He put this string around his neck. When he entered a place and heard someone comming, he would place his hand over this opening and cut out the light.
We had an old lock that we sometimes used on chains outside of doors. We had him in his cell and he made the statement that he could blow that old lock all to smash, and not hurt anyone. We told him he would blow everything up. We wanted to see what he would do, so we got him a shell.
He emptied the powder out, rolled a cigarette paper around the shell and placed it in the hole in the lock, then dropped a nail in this, leaving the head sticking above a little. He placed the lock an arms length from the bars, took the hammer and gave a light tap and the lock burst like an egg shell.
One Sunday all was quiet. Some of the boys wanted off and I told the Chief I would watch, all at once this man asked me if I had any friends. I told him that I did. He told me that he would show me that I didn't have a friend at all on the force. I told him he was crazy. He said, "Now, Jim, if you were on the inside here and I was out there in your place, would your friends come up and shoot it out with me to release you?" I studied a little bit and said I guessed I didn't have. He sat there a little bit and said, "I have." "If my friends knew I was in here, they would make you jump the fence or else leave you in a pile there in the front."
I spent sixteen years in the service, I was shot eight times and worked under J.B. Davis, T.B. Sexton, Hackett, and Prichard.
[Submitter note: I remember him [Jim Hunter] telling about some of the things that happened while he was a Marshal. He died November 19, 1954 (age 84) in Ryan, Oklahoma. His death was the result of a house fire. I found this interview on film of the Pioneer Papers at Bryan County Heritage Assoc. Calera, Oklahoma]
Transcribed for OKGenWeb by Mrs. M. L. White, granddaughter of Jim Hunter, October 2001.