ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Old West Marshals in Indian Territory

Updated on June 30, 2015

In Fort Smith, Arkansas there were over 200 U.S. Marshals during the late 1800s. They were tasked with the impossible job of policing an area of 70,000 square miles. This vast territory comprised the Indian Territory in which every brand of thief, murderer, scalawag and cattle rustler could be found. Of these 200, 86 were killed in the line on duty. Many were simply ambushed on the trail. Low pay, the inherent danger and long periods being separated from families made the job hard to fill.

It’s evidently clear, wearing a badge in those days was mostly a thankless, dangerous job and one often hindered by the press. The Arkansas Democrat Newspaper once printed a story accusing peace officers of being “…too quick on the trigger.” The story went on to add “There are entirely too many persons murdered in making arrests."

Some U.S. Marshals who died in the line of duty were family men, such as Dan Maples. In 1887 he was sent to investigate rumors of whiskey peddling in Indian Territory. On the way he met up with notorious outlaw Ned Christie and some friends. He was shot and killed.

Calvin Whitson

Judge Parker didn’t want a bunch of renegade killers wearing badges. That’s why he insisted prisoners be brought in alive if possible. In fact, if a Deputy killed a prisoner he was made to pay for the funeral, casket and headstone.

Many John Wayne fans may not be aware the character of Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit,” was based on a real person. His name was Calvin Whitson, the only one-eyed deputy marshal in Judge Parker's court. The evidence is mostly circumstantial but strongly indicates Whitson was the "real" Rooster Cogburn.

But, being Hollywood, there was obviously some dramatic action added for effect. Not all lawmen were as courageous as that portrayed by Cogburn. For example, in West Fork a rather more timid U.S. Marshal took 36 deputies to assist in serving a legal process. All in the posse and their families became targets of violence. Their stock was killed, homes were fired upon and some family members were assassinated.

"The Three Guardians"

Other lawmen in the territory besides Federal marshals also had their lives on the line. In 1879 Fayetteville City Marshal Patton and Deputy Sheriff J. Mount were both gunned down. A year later a witness came forward and testified another deputy marshal had placed a bounty on Marshal Patton’s head. Apparently he didn’t want Patton killed too badly. The reward offered was only “two fine mules.”

No doubt, the territory provided a relatively safe haven for desperados on the run. Many sought safety by living amongst the intial Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole. They were called the Five Civilized Tribes because they eventually adopted many European customs, including African slavery. But, they ran into problems with the law there also. There, they had to contend with Indian police who became probably as important as the Federal marshals if not more so. But, it hadn’t always been so.

In the early 1800s, the Cherokee Nation had "regulators" to deal with rustlers and other law breakers, but didn't have any jurisdiction over white or black men who were not citizens of their nations.

However, they could detain them to be later turned over to Federal marshals. But, to balance the situation, Federal marshals frequently deputized these agents to pursue Indian criminals.

There were three deputies who earned the title of the "Three Guardians." They were Chris Madsen, Bill Tilghman and Heck Thomas. These lawmen arrested some of the most ruthless and dangerous criminals in the Territory.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • WesternHistory profile image

      WesternHistory 

      6 years ago from California

      Very good article. I agree, the Indian Territory was a place where many outlaws would try to hang out. I believe that Jesse James hid out in the area several times. Another thing were the liquor peddlers who I believe were pretty successful selling to the Indians. You also made a good point of how western history including that of U.S. Marshals can be embellished by Hollywood.

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thank you Thelma,I'm glad you like my hubs.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      6 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Love all of your old west hubs. Voted it up and interesting.

      Thelma

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Ahh, shucks mam. I'm much obliged.

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 

      6 years ago

      That had to be one of the really thankless jobs back in the day. Not that there were many jobs then, but it took special men to do it. Great hub!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)