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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma 
Date: February 17, 1937
Name: George Tucker
Post Office: Healdton, Oklahoma
Residence Address:
Date of Birth: August 29, 1854
Place of Birth: Franklin County, Arkansas
Father:
Place of Birth: Tennessee
Information on father:
Mother:
Place of Birth: Texas
Information on mother:
Field Worker: Jennie Selfridge
Interview #4126

I was born in Franklin County, Arkansas, in 1855 (as you can see, his dates do not agree). This county lies just east of Crawford County, whose county seat is Van Buren and Sebastian County in which Fort Smith is located. The Arkansas River divides Franklin County almost in the middle. We lived near Ozark, the County Seat, on the north side of the river. The county was settled largely from Tennessee from which state my father came originally. My mother was a native of Texas.

Whatever education I have, has been largely the product of my own curiosity, acquired for the most part after reaching manhood. However, in personal experience with harsher aspects of life, I was well equipped. I never attended but one school. It was in a log cabin near my home in Franklin County and was called Beach Grove School. There were, as I remember, about twenty-five or thirty pupils in attendance. B. J. WELDON was the teacher and I have never forgotten him.

When the war broke out I was too young to realize itís importance or to know what were the real causes of it. Several families in the community decided to move down into Texas. My family was, of course, confederate in sympathy. There were some fourteen or fifteen wagons in the caravan that started for Texas. Each was a tarpaulin wagon. We made the trip in the spring of 1864 and settled in Red River County. My mother died in the last year of the War and I, being only ten years old, went to live with my sister and her husband, W. A. KNOX, who was a farmer. In 1877 I joined my cousin and went up into the Indian Territory, stopping not far from Fort Smith, where we made a pretty good crop of cotton. I stayed there but one year and then went back to Texas to my brother. We took a farm in Montague County, which is the next county west of Cook County of which Gainesville is the County seat. We made a tolerably good crop there that year. It was while farming here that I entered into the profession of peace officer. The change was least expected by me. I was about twenty-three years old at the time, so it must have been about 1878 or 1879.

First Years As Peace Officer 1878-1889
I have no idea why I was offered the position of Peace Officer at Spanish Fort. There had been some trouble over there and the old officer had been removed. Some of the fellows from town came out to the farm where I was working and put the proposition to me. They offered me $5.00 a day to keep the peace. Of course, I knew what the peace was and I was not inclined to be afraid of anybody. I could shoot. As a matter of fact, I can scarcely remember when I couldnít shoot. I grew up with a gun in my hands. It was a tough time and Montague County was a tough country at this time. It was made especially so by the Territory across the river. Gun law prevailed there and when the thieves and gunners came across into Spanish Fort, they were not in the habit of acting like church members. The proposition which they offered me was too good to be turned down. I knew that there existed the hazard of personal injury, maybe even of death. But those were conditions that people accepted in a frontier community. And besides, the salary was more than acceptable. One did not make $5.00 a day in the farming business in those days. So, I accepted their proposition and moved in to take care of the town. About a year later, they held an election to choose a police officer. I was a candidate and was elected. Bill BAGWELL ran against me but he never had a chance. I did not expect that everything would be peaceable simply because I was the police officer. There will always be enough fools in the world to make the peace officer a necessary instrument in every community. I had my share of petty arrests and some fights that ended in serious or mortal injury to the peace breakers. In my story I shall mention only the more important of these cases. The others would be uninteresting and would not differ materially from the ordinary day-by-day activities of any policeman.

Jim Melton
One of the first of the men whom I had to fight was Jim MELTON. He was a young fellow about twenty-five years of age, who lived across in the Territory. He was a tough and, especially when he got drunk, he thought he was tougher than any peace officer who ever wore a gun. He came across Red River one day. I had an order to attach him as a witness in a trial at Gainesville, so I took him into custody. While he was over at the trial, the doctor of Spanish Fort attached his horse, which he had put in the livery stable there. I donít remember how much the bill was that Melton owed the doctor. Anyway, when he came back from Gainesville, he was plenty mad when he learned what had been done. He proceeded to get drunk. It was in January, and the wind was pretty chilly. He had enough money to pay off the doctor, which he did and then he got his horse out of the stable.

He rode up in front of the saloon. I was inside watching some fellows play a game of billiards. Melton called for me to come out. I didnít hear him, but somebody told me that there was a fellow outside who wanted to see me.

I started out, and just when I got into the door, Melton, who was sitting on his horse, raised his gun to shoot me. I thought that I was gone. But just as he was ready to shoot, the horse gave a quick step and Melton missed me. I was pulling on my gun but he put spurs to his horse and ran like the devil toward the river. I and one of my posse men jumped on our horses and took out after him. We had Winchesters and we kept shooting at him. Finally, after I donít remember how many shots, he tumbled from his horse. I guess we had chased him about a mile. When we came up to him he was dying. One of us had hit him right through the neck with a rifle ball. In a sense, it was a shame to see such a nice looking fellow killed because he insisted upon being tough. He was a big fellow with as nice a physique as Iíve nearly ever seen. I surely hated to see him killed, but there wasnít anything else to do about it. He had tried to kill me. It doesnít help matters for a police officer to get soft with tough fellows.

Old Man Dayton
Not long afterward we ran into another case of trouble that wasnít quite so pitiful as the Melton one. There was an old tough who used to come to Spanish Fort from across in the Territory. He went by the name of Old Man DAYTON. As a matter of fact, I never heard him called anything but "Old Man". He would come over and buy a few things and get drunk It would be difficult to say how old he was; he might have been forty or he might have been fifty-five. And he had the typical appearance of a mean fellow. He came to town one day and got a bit drunker than usual. Then, he thought it would be a good thing to tackle the bartender in the saloon, which he did. The bartender was no weakling, so he picked "Old Man" up and threw him out of the saloon. The old fellow was skinned up a bit in the squabble, but his temper was hurt worse than his body. He rode back to the Territory and got his Winchester and his six-gun and then returned to town. Bent on revenge he began to make trouble. My brother, cousin and I started to arrest him. He fought back. He pulled his six-gun and shot my brother, hitting him in the arm. We thereupon killed him. There was nothing else we could do. He had gone plumb loco.

Skirmish With Watson Gang
One of the most famous of the tough gangs that formed in the southern part of the Territory was known as the WATSON Gang, called so after itís leader and shrewdest member. There was a policy of intimidation and sometimes robbery. To a man, they were tough and proud of it. Of course, all went armed and were careless with their guns, too careless for the peaceable law abiding citizens of the more-or-less civilized communities. When the Watson gang came to town, they announced their intentions openly and the people took to their houses or other places of shelter.

The Watson Gang came to Spanish Fort one night. They came to take it, and they did take it. I had one policeman named Charley COOK, who was regularly employed to help me. And he was a tough fellow himself. A good peace officer for such a town as Spanish Fort. Bullets had to fly thicker than hailstones before Cook took to cover. And you could always depend upon him when things got a little tight. At four oíclock in the morning, I heard the shooting. I got up and dressed and went out on the street. I met Cook coming up to my house. 

"The toughs are taking the town", Charley told me.
"What toughs?" I asked him.
"The Watson Gang." He replied.

After a short consultation we decided to go for them. We had our six-guns with us but we decided to take shotguns. These were much more effective for close range and especially when it is too dark to see well. The shots scatter and deal plenty of misery, especially in a group or crowd. Too, one good shot will put a fellow down, if it hits him right. So, we took a pair of shotguns from the house and started for assistance. We got a fellow named INMAN and one named PHILLIPS, both dependable possemen, and started for the center of town. The toughs were scattered about town, shooting and having a good time---or they thought they were. So, we decided to wait until they came together. They began to come in, by twos and threes, meeting in the saloon. They were raising hell inside. Just for fun, one had led his horse into the saloon. Deciding that they must all be in, we were ready to call the turn.

"Donít shoot unless they start it, " I told the boys.

My men took their positions, ready to splatter the toughs with buckshot while I called out to our unwelcome visitors to surrender. The answer which they gave was; "Go to Hell."

It was emphatic.

When they began to act as though they wished to start us all on our way, by gunfire, we answered in kind. We pulled into them and their horses. All was confusion for a moment. We were not quite close enough to them for our splatter guns to do a great deal of damage, but we hit three men and five horses. One horse was killed. After the members of the gang collected themselves they all rode across Red River. We made no attempt to follow them, for they outnumbered us so much that we would have had no business with them and especially at a distance which would have made only Winchesters effective. They evidently remembered the reception that we had given them, for they gave us a wide berth thereafter. However, we were destined to have other relations with the Watson Gang. Some time after the raid on Spanish Fort by the gang, we clashed again with some of its members. Our part in the affair came as a result of an attempt to recover some goods that had been smuggled across Red River in violation of the laws of the territory. One of the merchants of Spanish Fort had furnished the goods. We first learned of the affair when a member of the Indian police came over and told us about it.

The Indian police officer asked the merchant to go over to the Flat and bring his goods back. In conformity to the instructions, the merchant took a wagon and driver for the goods, but the Watson Gang stood him off and under threat of death, forced him to return empty-handed. I never learned that true facts of the case. It might well be that the merchant really didnít want to get possession of the goods. However, Bob MURRAY, the Indian police officer, was intent upon his mission and he never rested until he had permission to take the goods by force.

Accordingly, Murray telegraphed Robert L. OWEN, who was the United States Indian Agent for the Five Civilized Tribes, asking for warrants for the arrest of members of the Watson Gang. Owen telegraphed back immediately that the warrants were on their way by mail. We made up a party to go over Red River including wagon drivers, deputies, and possemen. I was a deputy. Unfortunately, we did not await the arrival of the warrants. Most of us wanted a good crack at the Watson Gang anyway, and we were eager for the chance. Besides Murray, the party included L. L. MCCLAIN, sheriff of Montague County; Bill BLACK, a deputy; myself; and possemen Bob NIX, Bill Nix, Bill BAGWELL, Bill TUCKER, (my brother), Jack Tucker, (my cousin), and Jim AVIS; and six wagon drivers, Dan HURST, John ORR, John ABNEY, Bill MOUNT, Wade NORTON, and Sandy HORTON. There were, thus, sixteen of us and most of us had had experience as police officers or possemen.

We left Spanish Fort at daylight and were soon across the river and upon Courtney Flat. As we approached the small clump of houses which surrounded the stores, Murray went on ahead with a shot-gun before him across the saddle. The rest of us were hidden in the six covered wagons. Murray had told us not to show ourselves unless it was necessary. As Murray approached the store, he was recognized by the gang members and they poured out of the houses to stand him off. These fellows didnít care much whether a man was an officer or not.

When they appeared with their guns, we knew what was up. So we poured out of the wagons like rats. We wanted to kill them anyhow. There wasnít much harm done in killing a man in those days and especially not if he was a member of the Watson Gang. We carried our shot-guns and our six-guns. Without waiting for anything or anybody, we let them have it. A fellow by the name of TROWBRIDGE went down. We supposed that we had killed him and it would have been lucky for us if our suppositions had been true. It would have saved us a great deal of future trouble. The rest of them took to their heels and got out of gun fire. Loading the goods on the wagon, we returned to Spanish Fort, quite content that we had done a pretty good dayís work. But we were to hear more of the episode very soon.

The Texas Trail

Trowbridge recovered from his wounds, went to Shannon, Texas, and swore out warrants against every motherís son of us. The United States Marshal came and arrested us. We gave bond till trial. Judge Rickets, a very old man, was the judge of that court. He set a date and we went to trial. Judge Bryant, one of the best friends I ever had, prosecuted us and he didnít make it any easier simply because he knew some of us. We were charged with the theft of over $7,000.00 worth of goods. The evidence showed that we had warrants for the arrest of the Watson Gang members, but the warrants bore no dates. These were the warrants that Robert Owen had sent to Murray. It appeared as though we were really in for it, and we would have been had it not been for a lawyerís appetite for whisky and the resourcefulness of Jameson.

The court recessed for awhile along toward the close of the trial. Judge Bryant and Judge Hare, friends of long standing, and old topers as well, went out to have a drink together. While they were gone Jameson stole the evidence. When they came back, and court was resumed, the loss was noticed. Judge Rickets stormed and raved and ordered everyone searched, but no trace of the evidence was discovered. Thereupon, Judge Rickets turned us all loose. It was a pretty close shave and Iím grateful to Jameson to this day. I never knew what became of the evidence. But to have convicted us would have been to help those thieving rascals from over in the Territory.

Fort Smith Trial
Tho[ugh] exonerated at Shannon, Texas, we were not finished with Trowbridge and the Watson Gang, by any means. The next scene in the story took place in Fort Smith, Arkansas; the site of the United States court that had jurisdiction in Indian Territory. The Federal grand jury indicted us for assault to murder in two cases and also charged us with the theft of $7,000.00 worth of goods.

Charley GARRISON, the United States Marshal, came to Spanish Fort and made the arrest. Then preparations were made for the trip to Fort Smith. We were carried in wagons. When night came, we made camp, cooked our supper and sat around talking until time to spread our blankets.

Garrison had two possemen with him, but they were not necessary as we had no intention of doing anything except standing trial at Fort Smith. There were no hand-cuffs and each of us carried his guns strapped to him. It took us just about a month to reach Fort Smith.

Upon reaching Fort Smith, we gave bond. Those who went on our bond were Colonel CRAVENS, Governor BURNEY, and Sam SIXKILLER, the rich Indian. All were recognized as reputable men in Indian Territory. After making bond, we returned to Spanish Fort until the trial should necessitate our presence in Federal Court.

The trial was set for six months from the time we had arrived at Fort Smith. We were back in time for trial, and established a camp on the outskirts of the town. We slept and cooked our meals there.

Before the trial started, Garrison asked us not to wear our guns in the courtroom. We were very glad to comply with his request, as he was a nice fellow and had been awfully good to us ever since he arrested us. We knew that he was our friend and that he was, in arresting us, merely performing his official duty. So, every morning when we were ready to leave for the court, we stripped off our guns, threw them in a pile and left a member of our party to guard them while we were gone. When we came back after adjournment of the court we buckled them on again. Many of our fellows were scared of Judge Parker, who presided over the court. He was unmerciful with criminals and sentenced them to the scaffold without batting an eye. But I never feared the outcome of the trial, for I knew that we were not guilty of anything that merited extreme action. I remember Judge Parker very well. I donít recall how many times I saw him but I faced him twice in his court, this time as a defendant and on another occasion as a witness.

Parker was a large man. He stood six foot tall and must have weighed about two hundred pounds. His eyes were his most impressive feature. They were large, expressive and could become friendly or cold as steel in an instant. In sentencing criminals they flashed like glints of fire. His voice was heavy and with a powerful dignity about it. In his deep basso, he would roll his words like distant thunder. He could be heard at any pint of the courtroom and there was never any question concerning whether he really meant what he said.

Judge Parker lived about a half mile from the courthouse. He walked over every morning, speaking to everyone that he met. In fact, he was not an unfriendly man at all and especially if one were not a criminal. I remember on this occasion, when we were all waiting for one case to be called that they were trying a fellow for murder. He was related to J.J. McAlester, for whom the city of McAlester was named. The defendant was part Indian. The evidence against him was rather far-fetched. Judge Parker saw it and acted accordingly. Instead of writing out his instructions and reading them to the jury, he gave them extemporaneously. One could see that Parker did not believe the man guilty.

The jury retired to consider the evidence. In a very short time, it returned and announced a verdict of not guilty. There was a roar of applause in the court room. Men threw their hats in the air and yelled like madmen. Among the spectators was Ben Burney, governor of the Chickasaw Nation. This conduct greatly angered Judge Parker. Justice to him was not chivalry; it resulted from a verdict upon the basis of testimony. There was, therefore, no need for demonstration when a verdict was reached, and to impress the demonstrators with the character of the court, he ordered every one of them arrested on the spot. Thereupon, he proceeded to fine them $50.00 each for contempt of court. And how he reprimanded them for their acts. Iíve never heard more forceful language from any man.

Colonel Cravens defended us. Colonel W. H. Clayton, a relative of General Powell Clayton, a former governor of Arkansas, prosecuted us and he was an able lawyer; we had a jury trial. Jack Tucker, my cousin, was sitting next to Cravens when they were selecting the jury. There were four negroes up for consideration as prospective jurors. Cravens asked Jack what he thought of the negroes as jurymen. Jack replied that he wasnít sure, but that, since we were from Texas he thought that the negroes might be inclined to make it a little hard for us. Cravens replied that he had slept with two of the negroes already and that he would sleep with the other two the next night. After hearing that, we were not afraid, even if most of us had been raised in the South. The trial lasted eight days. Several men from Courtney Flats came to testify against us. Bill Wadkins, the man from whom we seized the goods, was bitter against us. And his testimony was given in such a way as to make it appear pretty bad for us. But he went too far in his statements and in the end weakened the prosecutionís case.

In final arguments, Colonel Clayton showed the reason for his reputation as a great pleader. He didnít try to convict everyone on the raid, but he demanded the conviction of McClain and me. He charged us with introducing ten gallons of whiskey during the raid. As a matter of fact, we had no whiskey at all on that trip. But that didnít keep him from burning us up in his argument.

Introducing liquor was a penitentiary offense. During the trial, our attorney besought Parker to dismiss the whiskey-introduction charges. "How much do the indictments charge the defendants with having introduced?" asked Judge Parker.

"Only ten gallons, " replied our attorney.
"Why, thatís no more than the army of them could easily consume, " was the courtís rejoinder.

The jury took half a day to reach the verdict. In the end, every one of us was acquitted. As a matter of fact, there was never any real reason for our having been tried. We were carrying out the law against tough law violators, and if we had waived the warrants at Spanish Fort before setting out to seize Wadkinís goods we would probably not have become embroiled in all the legal controversy. However, as it turned out, I suppose that law enforcement was furthered since the courts had upheld us in both of the trials.

The principal object of interest that Fort Smith had to show visitors while we were there was Cherokee Bill. A half-breed, this outlaw left a trail of crime behind him wherever he went. By some hook or crook, the United States Officers picked him up and he was sentenced to hang for one of his many murders. He could not by any means, compensate for all of them, for he had far too few lives to give.

We went out to see him. He was in the jail which stood close to the courtroom. How many desperate men have been kept there during their trials and awaiting execution:

Cherokee Bill was a restless prisoner. He was mean, cruel, desperate, despite the fact that he had not in legend, acquired so great a reputation as many of his kind who could not match him in crime. He was always making peculiar noises, and spent his hours in the jail mocking turkey gobblers. He kept his hat on all of the time. It was a large white one with a wide, red ribbon for a band.

Gid Beavers
About this time, Gid BEAVERS came to Spanish Fort and stole a horse and saddle belonging to U.S. Joines. I followed him to the SUGGS Ranch on Beaver, where I found the horse and saddle. From there I went to his motherís little place on the Mud Creek, north of the Courtney Flat. He was there, so I arrested him. He gave me no trouble, submitting like a child. I took him immediately to Fort Smith, where I turned him over to the national officials. He was convicted of the theft and sent to Leavenworth penitentiary. After serving his sentence he returned to the Mud Creek Country but did not live long after that. I felt very sorry for him and his mother. He was a half-fool, and so I thought, his crime ought to have been excused somewhat because of that fact.

Woodworth Lynching
One of the most important and spectacular cases in my career as a peace officer occurred in the early Ď80ís. Arrington GRAY was a poor farmer, living on Mud Creek. Along in May, when he needed them most in his farm work, his two horses were stolen. There was considerable agitation about it across the river. Gray was well liked and the settlers felt sorry for him. Besides, the people were beginning to take a strong position against the thieves who had long plied their trade over in the Territory.

After a while, it was tipped off to me that the horses were hidden about eight miles from Spanish Fort on the Texas side of Red River. I went out to investigate and found them tied in the blackjack timber. There was no one to guard them, so I decided to put a watcher there. Accordingly, I posted a liveryman at a vantage point. He saw a man come to water and feed the team twice. So, early on the morning of the third day, I went out. When the fellow came to perform his morning chore, I arrested him. His name was MORGAN and if I ever saw a real thief, he was one. You could tell it the minute you looked at him. His was the best example of the thiefís countenance that I have ever seen. I took him and the horses into Spanish Fort, took him to jail and the horses to the livery stable. Morgan wouldnít talk. I had reason to believe that others were implicated with him.

He had been living with a couple of suspicious characters up on Mud Creek named WILLIAMS and MOON. So I went up there and arrested both of them on suspicion. They were of the same stripe as Morgan. I had no doubt that they were as guilty as he was, but there was little evidence that might be used to convict in court unless one of them could be made to talk.

After I arrested them, I started with them and Morgan to Ardmore (Oklahoma) to turn them over to the Federal officers. I had five possemen with me; Jack Tucker, Bill Tucker, John MILLER, Charley HAGUE and Cal Turner. We were taking the thieves hand-cuffed. On the third day, as I recall, of the trip we arrived at the Woodworth Store, a small country store about twenty-five or thirty miles west of Ardmore. We were met by six mounted men. I knew at once that they were bent upon some mission other than a mere vacation. They told me that they were going to take the prisoners and I saw that they meant business. Besides, they were the best men in that whole country, who were trying to stamp out the thieves and to make life and property safe from depredation so I did not try to bluff them off. I might have done it, I think, but it would have been a real fight. There was six of them and six of us. Moreover, I would not have killed one of those decent fellows for all of the thieves in the Territory. We had "laid out" for two or three nights and were not in the best of humor anyway. So, I put up no fight to protect my prisoners, though, I suppose, by all of the laws I should have killed every man who stood in the way of my delivering the rascals to the Federal Authorities in Ardmore. However, those times were far different from the present, and especially in the attitude toward thievery.

The lynchers had the knots already tied in two ropes. But they were short one rope for the party. One of them asked me for my rope and I loaned it to them. They then took the thieves over to a tree, put them up on horses, tied ropes around their necks and to limbs of the tree and then drove the horses out from under them. I watched them as they were hanged. I remember that Williamís rope was too long. He could reach the ground with his feet by standing on tip-toe, which he proceeded to do when the rope cut off his wind. One of the lynchers "cooned" up the tree, yanked Williams up off the ground, and tied the rope. That settled him, and the party was over. I lost three prisoners and a good rope and got back to Spanish Fort three or four days earlier than I would have otherwise been able to do. I did get the hand cuffs off them before they were hanged. Otherwise, I would have lost three pairs of good handcuffs. They left the bodies hanging until the next day before they cut them down. There are many fellows now living in Southern Oklahoma who saw the bodies before they were cut down. The news spread quite rapidly about the country and people came on horseback and in wagons to see the result of public indignation. Everybody seemed glad that the thieves had been dealt with in that manner. There were no cries of distorted justice. Several men were indicted for the lynching, but none were convicted. In fact, no one was ever brought to trial for it.

The whole episode was forgotten in-so-far as the law officers were concerned. With the people, it had many versions. I have heard all manner of tales about it, none of which were accurate. I have even been accused of lynching the prisoners, which accusation is a distinct and plain mis-statement of fact.

In 1889, I was still living in Spanish Fort, acting as police officer there and as a deputy sheriff of Montague County, under which commissions I had performed the work described in the preceding pages. I was still a young man, being only thirty-five years of age at the time. I did not particularly love the job of police officer, but there is never the less a certain exhilaration that one gets out of the job of hunting men. It is different from any other kind of hunting.

The United States District Court had been moved to Paris, Texas, which lies in Lamar County. It was known as the eastern district of Texas. The northern district court sat at Dallas. The jurisdiction of the eastern district court was extended to the Indian Territory Country, which made that court one of the most important in all the West. The Indian Country was full of criminals and others who would become criminals upon the least provocation.

I noticed in the papers that the United States Marshal at Paris wanted some deputies. After some hesitation, I decided to apply for one of those places. I was not dissatisfied with the way that I had been treated by the people of Spanish Fort. But I thought of the deputyship as being a better job than that of keeping the peace in a small town. One could be sent out on cases, and it would mean that the petty work of a policeman would not have to be done. Besides, there was a chance to make a great deal more money in the deputyship, as the deputy received a fee for an arrest and good liberal mileage allowance for taking prisoners in to Paris or Fort Smith, or wherever they were supposed to be taken.

It was with some surprise that I was officially notified of my appointment. I had acquired some reputation as a police officer, and the marshal wanted men whom he could rely upon to bring in those for whom warrants had been issued. So, it wasnít a matter of politics. Of course, politics determined who should be marshal, but it was not the reason for appointments of deputy marshals. In my services as deputy, I served under two Democratic and two Republican marshals. REAGAN was marshal when I was appointed. I worked out of Spanish Fort for quite a while, but I finally moved to Paris. It was better that way, for then I could keep in touch with the office as I brought in a prisoner or started out after one. Of course, we didnít always get our men, even if, as I understand it correctly, that is the way a good peace officer is supposed to do. We received lots of punk tips, and many a criminal gave us the slip when we almost had him in our hands. Itís the way with police work.

I suppose that I ought to mention the methods used in transporting the batches of convicted prisoners to the penitentiaries in the north. I never went on but two of these trips, and I went then only because I wanted to see the county. I had never been north before. One time I was a member of the group that took sixty prisoners to Detroit, Michigan. The other time we took eighty five convicts to Brooklyn, New York. We came back through Chicago from Detroit on the first trip On the New York trip we returned by way of Washington, D.C. I enjoyed both of the trips, but I would not have liked a steady diet of that sort of thing. I much preferred to work in the field. There was more spice to it.

On the Detroit trip, if I remember correctly, there were twenty-seven deputies and the marshal who constituted the escort. The prisoners were carried handcuffed and shackled in special coaches. We kept a pretty close watch over the. The biggest job was when we took them off the train to feed the. We had arrangements all made ahead of time as to where we would feed them. We would march them into the dining room, seat them and then go along and unlock them so that they could eat.

The only time that I ever ate between two negroes was at St. Louis when we were making the Detroit trip. I was going along unlocking the prisoners. There was a vacant seat where I finished unlocking my section. I flopped down into it before I noticed who my companions were. When I looked around, I was surprised to find that they were two big negro bucks. However, I was too hungry to stand on ceremony or social prejudice, so I rushed at the food the same as if I were seated among the boys. My recollection of these trips is that the deputies had a hard time getting enough to eat. They were so busy feeding and looking after the prisoners there wasnít any time to eat their own meals.

On those trips, we had some pretty tough customers in the convoy. They were more desperate on the way to the penitentiary than they had been before. Some picked their shackles. They would use almost any kind of small wire or metal to do it. Most were not successful. I remember one old doctor who used the spring out of his watch to pick his shackles. He got the spring fast in the lock and broke it off, so that our keys would not work. We had to cut the shackles off him, but we gave him a new pair right away. We delivered every man whom we started with on each of the trips.

There are always those who do not understand the necessary facts in law enforcement. And especially were there certain important things to know about criminal law enforcement in Indian Territory before statehood came. It was a tough place. The crooks from other states came in large numbers, and they didnít get any softer by coming out here.

Federal Judge BOWMAN had some personal ideas about the proper way for deputies to go about their work. They were not to provoke trouble. He hailed from Louisiana where policemen wore billies rather than six-guns and he sought to arm the Texas deputies in like fashion. We had just as well take willow switches out to bring in the gunmen of the Territory. The judge and some of us deputies were on the train going from Paris to Sherman. Some of the deputies approached him to pass the time of day with him.

"How dare you approach me with those guns on?" he asked heatedly.
"Oh! It's the custom out here, Judge, for deputies to go armed," one of the deputies answered.
"I'll change that," he ordered, "I shall relieve you of your duties right now."

And he did this to every one whom he saw armed. They had gotten themselves into a fix.

The judge was really in earnest about the whole affair. The deputies had to square themselves with him. So, they fixed it up with a gambler from Ardmore, who happened to be on the train, to work a little shenanigan on the judge. Jim HUGHES was the gamblerís name. Hughes was to come through the train and slap the judge. Hughes did his part of the job well. The judge was sitting there in all his dignity when Hughes walked up to him and jammed the judgeís Cady hat down over his face. He hit him quite a rap. The hat crumpled up as though it had been a wet rag. The judge was really scared. He sent for me to come and protect him. I was in the coach just ahead of him.

I came back when one of the fellows came and told me what the judge wanted. I sat down beside him, with my six-gun in plain view.

"What kind of people do you have out in this section?" he asked by way of opening the conversation.
"Oh, they're damned tough, " I replied.
"Are they in the habit of going around hitting people?" asked the judge.
"Yes, and they may do even worse than that, " I said. "One has to be prepared to meet almost any emergency in this country. That is the reason people carry guns out here. If you donít some bully may decide that he wants to whip you."
"Iím beginning to see, now, " Judge Bowman replied, just as earnestly as he had scolded the deputies a short while before.
"I was wrong when I told the deputies that they would have to discard their guns."

He called all of the deputies whom he had relieved of duty and re-instated them immediately. I rode on to Sherman, Texas with him. I donít suppose that he ever learned that Hughes attack on him had been a made up job. Itís just as well if he never did. He didnít understand the West anyway. I should like to have seen deputy marshals performing their duties with policemenís billy clubs. Or better, I should have liked to see the look on a tough gunmenís face when a deputy brandishing a billey club tried to arrest him.

Submitted to OKGenWeb by Lola Crane <lcrane@futureone.com> December 2000.