Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
Indian Pioneer History
Project for Oklahoma
Date: February 17, 1937
Name: George Tucker
Post Office: Healdton, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: August 29, 1854
Place of Birth: Franklin County, Arkansas
Place of Birth: Tennessee
Information on father:
Place of Birth: Texas
Information on mother:
Field Worker: Jennie Selfridge
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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