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The Forgotten Outlaw Rufus Buck
L-R: Maoma July, Sam Sampson, Rufus Buck Lucky Davis, Lewis Davis
“The Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker
The American Old West era is generally agreed to have been between 1845 until 1912. During those years of a struggling new nation arose a number of vicious outlaw gangs. One such villainous band was the Rufus Buck Gang, who terrorized the Indian Territory of Arkansas and Oklahoma from 1895 to 1896. The gang, led by Buck consisted of 4 other members: Lewis Davis, Sam Sampson, Maoma July, and Lucky Davis.
It should be noted here, there is some question about Buck’s ancestry as well as the other gang members. Some sources say Buck was African American, others claim he was a Creek Indian or a mixture of the two.Luke Davis was supposedly Creek and African American while the other three were Creek Indian. The confusion is understandable. For a long time African Americans had been intermarrying with the Creek, more so than with other tribes. Therefore, many Creeks would not have been full blooded. It should be a moot point as to what their race was, but these days one has to try to be politically correct.
So, to continue, although their reign of terror lasted less than a year it was said the Buck gang robbed, raped and murdered more people than Billy the Kid and the James Gang put together.
One day in the summer of 1895, all five raped a middle aged widow while her husband stood helplessly by. On another occasion, they came to the cabin of Henry Hassan near Sapulpa, OK. Hassan and his wife knew nothing about the Buck Gang and the bloody trail they had left behind. They told Hassan they were hungry and offered to pay if his wife would cook them a meal. She agreed. Finishing the meal, they held Hassan prisoner while each took a turn ravishing his wife.
Gallows at Ft. Smith, AR
Later, the same day, they came across a traveler mounted upon a handsome steed. The gang stole his horse at gunpoint. Still in the Sapulpa area, they encountered another man by the name of Callahan. They robbed him, opened fire and sent the terrified victim scurrying for his life.
When Callahan reached the safety of a nearby town he informed authorities about the incident. A posse of Indian police immediately went in pursuit of the Buck Gang but they found no trace of them. Several other possess made up of Indians as well whites also searched for the outlaws, but also failed to find any sign of their quarry. The Buck Gang next appeared in Okmulgee where they robbed a store and proceeded to rob 2 more in the area.
Apparently, the gang had a penchant for prime horse flesh. Whenever they saw a horse that caught their eye they would offer to trade for it. Of course, they had no intention of trading or buying. They usually killed the owner and stole his horse regardless of the answer.
Sometime later as they approached the outskirts of Eufala they met a Negro boy on his way to town. They killed him for no other reason than to watch him die.
By this time the countryside was thoroughly terrorized. But, as suddenly as their crimes had begun, they ceased and nothing was heard of them for several months. The law concluded they had perhaps holed up for the winter, but they continued their manhunt regardless.
In the spring, a U.S. Marshal and a number of deputies from Fort Smith took to the search in earnest. Within several weeks they found the gang holed up about 3 miles south of Muskogee in a spread of live oaks. Buck and his cohorts were taken by surprise as a hail of bullets descended around them. The battle raged for several hours, but eventually the outlaws ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender.
The hapless prisoners were manacled and put in leg irons before being loaded onto a wagon and taken to Muskogee. The law intended to hold the prisoners overnight and transport them to Fort Smith by train the next day. However, news of their capture had already reached the town and they were met by an enraged and armed mob of several hundred. Some of the vigilantes made a mad rush for the wagon intending to hang them on the spot.
The crazed mob was made up mostly of Creek Indians…there would be no mercy for the Rufus Buck Gang if they succeeded in dragging them from the wagon.However, the deputies were successful in holding them at bay. After several speeches by a prominent Creek leader and the marshal, the angered citizens slowly dispersed and the prisoners were hurried into the jail.
The next day was a Sunday and the 5 prisoners were marched to the train station and sent to meet their doom at the hands of “The Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker in Fort Smith. The execution of the Rufus Buck Gang on July 1, 1896 was the next to last execution at the Fort Smith gallows.