Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Oklahoma Indian Territory Lawmen 1890 -1891


The below Oklahoma lawmen all died in the line of duty in 1890 & 1891. I'm presenting this list to show my readers how truly dangerous it was to be a lawman in the Indian Territory in the 1890s. This list only covers Oklahoma lawmen at the closing of the Old West.

While I hope you find what took place in each situation as interesting as I do, please keep in mind that this was when law enforcement was in its infancy in America. What these men did, both right and wrong, while carrying out their duties as lawmen has served as lessons for others. There is something else, the penalties handed down to some of their killers are the reason why Citizens Committees formed to hang convicted cop killers.

- 1890 -

Robert "Bob" Cox
Deputy U.S. Marshal

About 3 A.M. on the morning of Sunday, April 13, 1890, Deputy Cox and Deputy U. S. Marshal Charley Canon arrested and handcuffed Ed Louthers for selling whiskey during a barn dance in Claremore. A father and son named Alex and Jesse Cochran witnessed the arrest and decided to free Louthers from the deputies. 

As Deputy Cox reached into a closet to retrieve his rifle, Alex Cochran shot him in the neck and shoulders. Deputy Canon returned fire and the men fired a dozen shots, one striking Cox in the thigh. 

The Cochrans and Louthers, still wearing the handcuffs, escaped during the gunfire. Although Cox’s wounds were first thought “not serious”, he died the next day April 14th.
John Poorbear
City Marshal, City of Fort Gibson

Tom and Jim French, Dave Andrews, and John Buchanan, all Cherokee Indians, were on a drinking spree on Sunday, September 14, 1890, in Ft. Gibson. City Marshal Poorbear and a deputy tried to arrest them and, as Poorbear was struggling with Andrews, the marshal was shot in the neck. 

Andrews fired one shot at the marshal and then threw his gun away. Paralyzed Poorbear died on Tuesday, September 23, 1890. Dave Andrews was convicted and sentenced to hang on December 10th, but was pardoned by Cherokee Chief Mayes.
Thomas Johnson Nevitt
City Marshal, El Reno Police Department

At about 6 P.M. on the evening of Thursday, September 18, 1890, Marshal Nevitt, 27, attempted to quite a drunk cowboy named John Sparks who had been firing his gun in the street. Marshal Nevitt approached Sparks with his gun drawn but Sparks fired first hitting Nevitt in the abdomen. 

As the wounded marshal fell to the ground Sparks ran but was soon shot in the left arm and captured by citizens who pursued him. Sparks’ left arm was amputated that evening and Marshal Nevitt died eight hours later about 2 A.M. Friday, September19th. 

Nevitt was the first City Marshal of El Reno and was survived by his wife Floretta, four-year-old son Walter “Rawleigh” and two-year-old daughter Nora “Edna”. Marshal Nevitt was buried in the Poheta Cemetery near the town of Kipp in Kansas.
William Leantine Pitts
Deputy U.S. Marshal

William Pitts was relocated from Paris, Texas, to McAlester in the Choctaw Nation of the Indian Territory. On Sunday, November 30, 1890, he traveled to Lake West where he started a surveillance point after being informed that three Indians were smuggling liquor into Indian Territory from Texas. 

Pitts spotted a wagon traveling north occupied by three Indians. He stepped out of the brush and stopped the wagon. The Indians identified themselves as Isam Frazier, Lige Woods, and Jim Allen. 

Pitts told the three men that he suspected they were transporting illegal liquor and he was going to search their wagon. An argument ensued and escalated into a struggle. As Pitts fought to control the three men, his gun was ripped out of its holster and he was shot in the stomach. Pitts staggered back, dropped to the dirt, and died within minutes. 

The three men quickly left the area. Neighbors found Pitts body and reported the killing to the marshal’s office in Paris, Texas. The three Indian men were captured and jailed in Paris, Texas. All three men pled not guilty. 

Due to several delays, the trial was not conducted until May 1891 and a verdict returned on May 21st. Isam Frazier was found guilty of manslaughter. Jim Allen and Elijah Wood were acquitted of the shooting. Frazier was sentenced to a lengthy-term in prison.
Marion Prickett
Possesman, Deputy U.S. Marshal, U.S. Marshal Service

Deputy U.S. Marshal Anderson Keen and his posse, Marion Pricket, had a warrant to arrest a man named Brown. They learned that Brown had fled into Indian Territory around Tahlequah, the Capitol of the Cherokee Nation. 

On Monday, December 15, 1890, Keen and Prickett knocked on the door of a house and were met by a man fitting the description of Brown. The two men in the house identified themselves as A.B. Smith and Tom Smith. Both men cooperated with the deputies but maintained that they did not know Brown. Keen and Prickett took both men into custody. 

They took the two men to a neighbor’s house, where the neighbor identified the older man as A.B. Smith, stating he was a mason and a good man. Smith then told the deputies he was also a U.S. marshal and suggested they return to his house where he would produce his oath of office. Upon arrival back at the house, Smith produced a deputy’s commission issued by Marshal Jacob Yoes. 

The commission read that it was only for the purpose of arresting Ned Christie, whom Smith told Yoes he knew. Although Keen still believed the suspect was Brown, there was now doubt in his mind and he asked Prickett to join him outside for a conversation. Both lawmen exited the house leaving the Smith’s inside. 

After a short conversation, Keen and Prickett went back into the house and were met by A.B. Smith, who was holding a double-barrel shotgun. Smith fired, missing Keen but striking Prickett in the head killing him instantly. 

Keen grabbed Smith fighting for control of the shotgun. During the scuffle, Smith drew a knife and stabbed Keen repeatedly in the body and the head, breaking the knife. Keen was knocked onto a bed, breaking it. 

Smith yelled to the other man, “Shoot him Tommy” to which Keen replied, “Don’t shoot, I’m already killed” and then Keen passed out. When Keen regained consciousness, the Smiths were gone. Keen checked Prickett and found him dead, and then went for help. 

Keen and several deputies returned to the Smith house to search for anything that would identify these two men. Numerous items were discovered but the most compelling was a cabinet card (photo) found in the house with the inscription “Wesley and Guy Woodson to Tommy D. Shepler” written on the back. 

On April 4, 1892, alias warrants were issued for the arrests of James Smith.
Pete Anderson
Posseman, Deputy Sheriff, Oklahoma County

On December 26, 1890, Pete Anderson, 40, and Frank Cook were deputized by Oklahoma County Deputy Sheriffs Frank Gault and Charles Gilbert to assist them in serving an arrest warrant on John Bly just across the county line in Pottawatomie County. 

As the posse dismounted their horses and was attempting to sneak up in the area of the Bly ranch they were fired upon by Bly with a rifle and the first shot struck Anderson in the forehead, killing him instantly. Bly was wounded by the other posse members and taken into custody. 

Pete Anderson was survived by his wife Julia and seven children.

- 1891 -

Steve Pen-Su-Wau (Pensoneau)
Posseman, U.S. Marshal Service

Pen-Su-Wau was a sergeant of the Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, Iowa and Sac and Fox Indian Police. The Oklahoma City Gazette of February 12, 1891, reported that Pen-Su-Wau had acted as a posse for Frank Cochran and Sheriff DeFord during the arrest of several parties in his neighborhood. 

 Deputy U.S. Marshal Preston Armstrong had an arrest warrant to serve and expected the man named on the warrant to ride along a certain road. Armstrong secreted himself by the roadside and waited for his suspect. Pen-Su-Wau was riding the same road on his way home and as he approached Armstrong stepped out and commanded the Indian policeman to halt. Pen-Su-Wau refused and Armstrong shot him out of the saddle, falling into the dirt, dead. 

Armstrong stated he had fired with his six-shooter, although some witnesses claimed he fired with a shotgun. According to a report printed in the Oklahoma State Capitol of Guthrie on February 21st, Armstrong came in from Shawnee Town the night of the 6th to face trial the following day. 

A coroner's jury was impaneled on the morning of the 7th, returning a verdict of justifiable homicide. John Decker testified that Armstrong had stopped him when Pen-Su-Wau rode up on a horse. 

Armstrong told him to halt, Pen-Su-Wau refused, firing a shot at Armstrong and it was then that Armstrong shot him, firing eight or nine shots, hitting Pen-Su-Wau five times. 

Another report at the Oklahoma State Capitol on November 22, 1894, Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Cochran brought Captain S.J. Scott, Ex-Sheriff James H. Gill, Deputy U.S. Marshal Preston Armstrong, and Daniel Brestman into Guthrie and jailed them on charges of killing Pen-Su-Wau. 

A separate report states that Pen-Su-Wau was killed by three deputy marshals who mistook him for Bob Counallis or George Howell, both noted outlaws who the marshals were looking for. 

On February 12, 1895, the Guthrie Oklahoma State Capitol reported that Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal John M. Hale and posses left on a train bound for Brooklyn Penitentiary with George Howell who was sentenced to ten years in prison for the killing of Pen-Su-Wau, who was “acting as posseman under Deputy United States Marshal Armstrong.” 

Steve Pen-Su-Wau (Pensoneau) was survived by his wife and several small children.
William Tener Starmer
Posseman, U.S.Marshal Service

On the morning of Saturday, May 2, 1891, William Starmer, 33, was leading a posse chasing after two men who had stolen some horses. Little did Starmer know that the horse thieves he was pursuing were Bob and Emmett Dalton. 

The posse chased the two men into a canyon near Twin Mounds in eastern Payne County. As the posse dismounted the Daltons ambushed them. Starmer was killed. His body showed three bullet holes in his chest, all close enough that a man’s hand would cover them. 

When one of the other marshals saw the bullet wounds in Starmer’s chest, even before the suspects could be identified, he is said to have remarked that only Bob Dalton could shoot like that. The Daltons escaped until they were killed during a bank robbery attempt in Coffeyville, Kansas, in October of 1892.
Armstead Homer
Deputy Sheriff, Kiamichi County, Choctaw Nation, I.T.

In 1891 Kiamichi County covered most of current Choctaw County. On Saturday, May 16, 1891, Deputy Homer went to the farm of James Lowman, near Antlers to search for illegal whiskey. 

While Deputy Homer was talking to Lowman about the whiskey and advising him, he intended to destroy it, Lowman drew his gun and shot the deputy several times killing him. The burial site of Armstead Homer is unknown.
James J. Campbell
Deputy U. S. Marshal U. S. Marshal Service

On Monday, May 25, 1891, Deputy Campbell was in Antlers, I.T. to serve an arrest warrant issued by Commissioner Gibbons. Campbell located the wanted man on a street in Antlers and attempted to arrest him but the man broke away from the deputy, jumped on his horse, and left town with Campbell in pursuit. 

During the pursuit, Campbell was thrown from his horse and “terribly mangled” when his horse fell on him. Campbell was brought back to the railway station and placed on the station platform. Attending doctors intended to transfer Campbell onto the next train and take him to a hospital in Paris, Texas, but Campbell died before the train arrived.

Other deputies were sent to Antlers to track the wanted man. No record can be found whether they ever located him. The burial site of James J. Campbell is unknown.
Running Eagle
Officer, Pawnee Tribal Police, O.T.

On Monday, June 29, 1891, two men were riding through the Pawnee Reservation in Oklahoma Territory when they saw a man sleeping in a location that appeared as though he was hiding. They rode into Pawnee and reported it to the authorities and Tribal Officer Running Eagle was sent to investigate. Running Eagle found the man about 14 miles south of Pawnee. 

As he approached the man, the officer held out his hand to shake hands. The man grabbed the officer’s outstretched hand with his left hand, then drew a gun with his right hand and shot the officer fatally. The suspect escaped and was never identified. The burial site of Running Eagle is unknown.
Bernard "Barney" Connelley
Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Wednesday, August 19, 1891, Deputy Connelley attempted to arrest Shepard ”Shep” Busby on warrants for adultery at his home on Lee’s Creek about 15 miles from Fort Smith in the Cherokee Nation. 

Witnesses heard shots and approached the scene in time to see Busby fleeing into the woods and found Connelley shot dead. Busby surrendered about a week later. He was tried, convicted, and hanged on April 27, 1892, at Fort Smith.
Charles Edwin "Ed" Short
Deputy U.S. Marshal

Charley Bryant was regarded to be a restless and reckless individual who suffered with occasional dysfunctions. Bryant’s nickname was “Black-Faced Charley” because of powder burns from a gun fired too closely to his head resulting in permanently darkened spots on his face. 

Bryant always stated that when he died he wanted to go “in one hell-firin’ minute of action.” Bryant had become acquainted with Emmett Dalton, Bill Doolin, “Bitter Creek” Newcomb and others while working on cattle ranches. He was involved in robbing the Texas Express with these men, headed by Bob Dalton, on May 9, 1891. 

A couple months later another train robbery was in the works when Bryant became quite ill having to take a room at a local hotel. Ed Short, a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Hennessey’s City Marshal, was out of town when Bryant became ill. When Short returned to Hennessey he was told of the doctor’s new patient staying at the local hotel. 

Short took an opportunity to observe the patient with his knowledge and felt confident that he was one of the “wanted men.” With the cooperation of the hotel owner, Short set forth to capture Bryant. By the time Bryant realized someone else was in his room, Short had him covered and the suspect couldn’t grab either of his guns. Bryant was denied his real “blazing moment of glory.” 

Deputy Short took Bryant on the Rock Island train the next evening heading for the federal jail at Wichita, Kansas. Short placed Bryant in the baggage car figuring this would be the safest place fearing the Daltons would try to rescue their cohort. Deputy Short surmised that if they Daltons did plan a rescue attempt they would most likely attack at Waukomis, the first station north of Hennessey. 

When the train started to slow for that scheduled stop, Short handed his gun to a mail clerk and asked him to watch Bryant while he stepped out on the platform for “a lookout.” The mail clerk was not overly excited about his new assignment and when Short left, he laid the pistol aside. Bryant immediately noticed and decided to make a break for freedom. 

Bryant, with great gusto, sprang to his feet and grabbed the unattended revolver. “Black-Faced Charley” Bryant rushed to the exit, opened the door, and saw his target standing on the platform. Deputy Short realizing the door was opening, turned, and saw Bryant raising the pistol. Bryant fired then Short returned fire. Both men were shot. Each man continued shooting until Bryant fell and began sliding off the railroad car. 

Even though Short was mortally wounded, he grabbed his prisoner and pulled him back on the platform. When the train arrived at Waukomis, O. T. the evening of Sunday, August 23,1891, the prisoner was dead and Deputy Short was dying.
Joseph S. Wilson
Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Tuesday, September 22, 1891, Deputy Marshal Wilson asked a man by the name of John Carey, to guide him to the home of Big Alec who lived about ten miles from Tahlequah on 14 Mile Creek. Deputy Wilson had a warrant for the arrest of Sam Downing. 

Wilson told Carey he would not have to participate in the arrest of Downing, who was using the name of Sam Hickory, only help him find the house. Once the arrest was made, Wilson told Carey he would fire one shot letting him know the arrest was successful. Carey led Wilson to the property owned by Big Alec then retreated to wait for the arrest to be made. 

Wilson found Hickory hitching up a team of horses. He told Hickory of the warrant. Hickory stated he would go with the lawman but first needed to unhitch his team, saddle a horse and then advise Big Alec at a nearby fishing stream. After unhitching the team, Wilson and Henry walked to the house and as Hickory entered Wilson fired off one shot to announce the successful arrest to Carey. 

Hickory grabbed a gun and shot Wilson in the side. The bullet passed through his chest puncturing a lung. Both men exchanged gunfire before Wilson staggered to his horse. He was too weak and unable to mount the horse and fell to the ground. Carey hearing more gunshots than planned left the area. 

Wilson lived through the night and was found the next day still alive by Hickory and Tom Shade. They struck him in the head several times with a piece of wood and an axe. After dragging his body by the neck to a ravine they buried him but not before they stripped him of his hat, coat, pistol and gun belt. They also took his saddle and bridle. 

Carey reported the gunshots and a massive search was started for Wilson. Several days later, Shade and Big Alec turned themselves in but Hickory was nowhere to be found. Wilson’s body was found on Saturday, brought to Tahlequah, examined and then buried. 

Hickory was finally arrested in the Osage Nation and returned to Ft. Smith to await trial. Hickory was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. In 1894, after two appeals, a third trial was about to begin when Hickory pled guilty to manslaughter and sentenced to five years and one day in the Columbus, Ohio prison. Tom Shade was acquitted.
Robert E. "Lee" Taylor
Deputy U.S. Marshal

Deputy Taylor, 23, was assigned to work the Osage Nation, now Osage County, Oklahoma. On Thursday, October 1, 1891, Taylor had ridden to the store of William Rogers at Skiatook, a small town located one mile inside the Cherokee Nation of the Indian Territory, and about thirty miles northwest of Tulsa. 

Taylor was at the store in order to interview Ben Haney about the location of a whiskey peddler for whom he had a warrant. Haney’s sister, Nan, worked for Rogers as a housekeeper in the house that adjoined the store. Haney arrived at the store about noon and invited Taylor to have lunch with him at Rogers’ home where Haney’s sister would cook for them. 

William Rogers entered the house while the others were still eating and, evidently displeased at his surprise guests, walked out muttering about “feeding strays.” Rogers had just returned from Coffeeville, KS, where he had been drunk for two days and had not recovered. 

After lunch, Taylor, Haney, and Nan Haney left the house and walked into the front yard where they met Rogers coming out of the store carrying a shotgun. Rogers ordered Deputy Taylor off his property and then raised the shotgun firing both barrels into Taylor’s chest. Taylor dropped to the ground dead. Rogers then hitched a team of horses to a wagon and left the area headed north.

Rogers, a half-blood Cherokee, was well known in the Indian Territory, having operated the general store and post office for fifteen years. He had also previously served as a senator in the Cherokee government. Rogers was tried twice for the murder of Deputy Taylor. The first trial ended in a hung jury. Rogers was acquitted in the second trial. 

Robert Taylor was buried in the Osage Agency Cemetery in Pawhuska in what is now Osage County, Oklahoma. The cemetery no longer exists.
George E. Thornton
Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Wednesday, October 28, 1891, Deputy Thornton, known as one of the most fearless officers who ever served the government, traveled into the Sac and Fox Nation in search of Captain Willy, a wanted Creek/Negro. Willy was wanted for horse theft, selling illegal whiskey, and the murder of a deputy marshal. 

After stopping at his uncle’s house for a short visit, Thornton rode to the Sac and Fox Agency where he met his posse, Fred Williams. The two officers then traveled to the home of Captain Willy. An Indian woman answered the door and allowed the officers to search for Willy after telling them he was not there. 

They then rode to a nearby cabin believing Willy might be there. As they approached the cabin they were met with a hail of gunfire. Thornton and Williams dismounted their horses about sixty yards from the cabin. 

After firing five or six shots from his rifle, Thornton slumped forward. He was able to regain his posture and fire twice more. Thornton then fell to the ground. Williams continued firing toward the cabin until the firing ceased from behind the corncribs. 

He then went to check on Thornton, finding him dead, shot in the side. The bullet had traveled entirely through the body. Williams stayed at the scene throughout the night. 

The next morning he searched the cabin, now abandoned, and found blankets to wrap Thornton’s body in. Being sure the killers had left the area, Williams borrowed a wagon and took Thornton’s body to the Sac and Fox Agency and then on to Guthrie. 

His body was transported to Oklahoma City arriving on Saturday. He was buried in Peoria, IL, where he was born in 1861. Deputy U.S. Marshal Rufus Cannon and three possemen captured Captain Willy in October 1892. He was convicted of manslaughter in the killing of Deputy Thornton and was waiting to be sentenced when he became ill. 

Willie died suddenly from internal bleeding. Some of the reports claim he died from complications of a wound he received in the earlier gun battle with Thornton.
Thomas Leroy Whitehead
Deputy U.S. Marshal
Josiah Poorboy
Posseman, Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Tuesday, December 8, 1891, Marshal Whitehead, 19, and his posseman, Josiah Poorboy, were staying at Cherokee Nation Judge L. W. Shirley’s home in order to keep watch on the house of Annie Hitchcock. Annie was the daughter of Judge Shirley. 

A charge of adultery was filed against Jim Craig in federal court in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The indictment alleged Craig had been sexually involved with Annie Hitchcock. Craig has been arrested by Deputy U.S. Marshal Charles Lamb but had escaped from custody. Lamb planned a way to capture Craig by sending in an undercover operative to locate him. Thomas Whitehead agreed to infiltrate the area, locate Craig, and make the arrest. 

He was appointed a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Whitehead appointed Josiah Poorboy, a young Cherokee, his posseman. Annie Hitchcock asked Waco Hampton, an escapee who had been convicted of manslaughter, John Brown, a white man living with Hampton’s step-father, and John Roach, another young man who was friends with Hampton and Brown, to kill Poorboy and Whitehead. 

The three men went to the home of Judge Shirley and Hampton called for Whitehead to come outside. 
The two lawmen came out carrying rifles. Hampton leveled a rifle at Poorboy and fired, while Brown fired at Whitehead who went down and died within minutes. Poorboy kept firing until he was shot and fell to the ground dead. Roach had been wounded and lay moaning on the ground. 

Hampton and Brown fled and were not found until January 30, 1892, by Deputy U.S. Marshal C.A. Bruner. Hampton fired on Bruner when ordered to surrender. Bruner had a double-barrel shotgun and opened fire on Hampton killing him and his horse. John Roach recovered from his wounds and testified against Brown. 

Brown was tried and sentenced to hang by Judge Isaac C. Parker. After several appeals, on December 24, 1896, John Brown pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in the Columbus, Ohio prison. Yes, one year for killing a lawman.

All of the information above was compiled from the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial website. The Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial, Inc. organization has been incorporated in the state of Oklahoma as a non-profit organization since April 15, 2002. 

The U. S. Internal Revenue Service recognizes Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial, Inc. as a non-profit, charitable corporation under 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Knowing this, I hope my readers will not hesitate to make donations to this outstanding cause.

All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Tax-deductible donations may be made payable to "O.L.E.M." and sent to: 

Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial
PO Box 10776
Oklahoma City, OK 73140-1776

Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. That last article about Thomas Leroy Whitehead and Josiah Poorboy made me mad. The killer only got one year for killing a peace officer in Oklahoma. I'll be damned if I don't see a pattern. Geez.


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