Notorious Outlaw Zip Wyatt
Nathaniel Ellsworth Wyatt, born in Indiana in 1864, became one of the most daring and feared outlaws to ever grace Oklahoma Territory. He also went by the aliases Dick Yeager and Wild Charlie.
The handwriting on the wall should have clearly been seen early on with his father having the nickname of "Old Six-Shooter Bill,” and his older brother, Nim, likewise being known as "Six-Shooter Jack.” Zip was the second born of 8 children to John T. and Rachel Quick Wyatt. John Wyatt was a drunk who spent as much time in jail for disorderly conduct as he did at home. Nim was a professional gambler who got himself killed in a Texas saloon in 1891.
During his early years, Zip’s poor, nomadic family finally settled down a short distance outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1889. It’s not known exactly how Zip acquired his nick name, only that someone living around Fort Smith, Arkansas once called him that. Perhaps, it was in relationship to his quick draw. In any case, the name stuck.
About the time of his older brother’s death, Zip married Annie Bailey near Mulhall,Oklahoma . The marriage was ill timed as on June 3, 1891, Zip shot up the town, wounding two innocent bystanders. With the law now looking for him, he headed for Kansas.
Zip stopped in Greensburg, Kiowa County. Apparently, he fancied some riding gear he saw and on a whim stole it. However, the citizens of Greensburg didn’t take kindly to thieving drifters and the town’s deputy sheriff, Andrew Balfour, was quickly on his trail. Balfour caught up with the outlaw at Pryor’s Grove, about ten miles north of Greensburg. When the deputy tried to arrest Zip he was fatally shot in the abdomen with the bullet hitting his spine. However, before he died Balfour got off two shots, one which wounded Zip’s left hand. A $1,000 reward was posted for his capture.
Zip fled back to Indiana where he hid out with relatives. Several months later, authorities tracked him down and after extradition proceedings Zip was returned to Guthrie where he was still facing charges for his wild fling in Mulhall. He escaped from jail but was quickly recaptured. In December of 1892 he made another attempt and was successful.
Shortly afterwards he met Ike Black and the two teamed up to form their own gang. Wyatt and Black became a plague to the area committing numerous robberies which included a Store and post office in Arapaho,Oklahoma in November, 1893. It wasn’t long before the two, holed up in the Gypsum Hills, were being blamed for every crime in the territory. It was even rumored they were riding with the Doolin-Dalton Gang. The reward for Wyatt’s capture rocketed to $5,000.
In June 1895, the gang robbed another store and post office…this time in Fairview, Oklahoma. They took everything of value, including several horses. A posse made up of several U.S. deputy marshals and county sheriffs gave chase. Within a day they caught up with their quarry, which had hidden out in a cave near the county line. The inevitable gunfight broke out. Wyatt and Black both sustained wounds but managed to escape. The number of lawmen searching for them climbed to nearly 200.
Zip and Ike must have had a thing for post offices and stores because the next month they hit the post office and store in Oxley, Oklahoma. It might have been better if they had waited a while for things to cool off. The robbery only netted them about $30 and a few supplies, but this time they were recognized. The following day another posse was in pursuit.
The posse tracked them down near Salt Creek, about six miles northwest of Oxley. This time Black sustained a flesh wound to the head. The gunfire had spooked their horses and the pair was now obliged to escape on foot.
About a day later they found themselves near a farm about five miles west of Okeene, Oklahoma where they stole some horses. Another posse was formed by the Constable of Forrest Township, Robert Callison which tracked them to a canyon. Another gunfight erupted during which one of the posse members rook a slug to his right leg. Zip and Ike once again slipped out of their pursuers grasp. As the posse took after them they were joined by another one out of Alva, Oklahoma.
The pair found refuge in an old shack about four miles east of what is now Canton on August 1st. When guns began blazing again, Black was killed instantly by a bullet in the head. With his partner dead, Zip decided to make a run for it. Although he escaped, a shot hit him in the left side of his chest. The wounded desperado knew he needed medical attention and headed for a nearby doctor’s house. He forced the doctor at gun point to care for his injury and give him a horse.
Zip rode about seven miles before the pain in his wounded chest forced him to abandon his mount. A young boy passing by in a cart near Homestead was made to take him across the Cimarron River, at which point he ordered the boy off and continued on.
Several days later Zip was spotted crossing the Rock Island railroad about five miles south of Enid and his location was quickly relayed to Garfield County Sheriff Elzie Thralls. Thralls quickly organized a posse and went after the fugitive. It’s not known why Zip abandoned the stolen horse and cart a few miles east of the Skeleton Creek Valley Railroad but he was once again on foot. It was nearing evening when Wyatt came across John Daily’s small cabin. Daily was ordered to get a couple of horses ready and accompany him…perhaps as a hostage. Whatever the reason, Wyatt must have changed his mind as he let Daily go not long afterwards. Daily wasted no time in reporting Zip’s whereabouts.
As the sun rose on the morning of August 4th, a posse from Sheridan, Oklahoma set out after Wyatt and was soon joined by another from Enid. They ran him down about five miles southeast of Marshal. When the deputies ordered Wyatt to surrender he went for his gun. Two deputies with guns already drawn instantly fired, striking him once in the pelvis and once in his stomach. Zip, seriously wounded had no choice but to surrender. Back in Sheridan, Wyatt’s wounds were treated and as soon as the last bandage was in place he was taken to Enid and tossed in jail.
Authorities argued over which jurisdiction would have the pleasure of trying him in court. However, it was a moot point as Zip was a dying man.
On September 9, 1895, Wyatt was buried unceremoniously in an unmarked grave at a pauper’s field south of the city.
Years later, many graves in the cemetery were moved but since Wyatt’s was unmarked it was never located, so it remains in what is today an Enid residential district.
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