Oklahoma's Frontier Indian Police
By Art T. Burton
Copyright 1996. Originally published in the Oklahoma State Trooper Magazine.
The story of the frontier Indian police in the history of Oklahoma is very important. It is one of the unsung stories in the annuals of law enforcement in the Wild West. Oklahoma, prior to statehood, was known as Indian Territory, and after 1889, Oklahoma Territory was added, taking on the nickname, the "Twin Territories." Today, the most commonly thought of lawmen who worked the territories were deputy U.S. marshals. However, the Indian police were there and were probably as important if not more so.
As early as 1808, the Cherokee Nation passed an act appointing "regulators" to suppress horse stealing and robbery, to protect widows and orphans, and to kill any accused person resisting their authority. This action was taken when the Cherokees were located in the South U.S., before the "Trail of Tears." Indian Territory, later Oklahoma, initially was made up of the Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole. After the move to the west, during the 1830's and 1840's, the Indian nations set up their law enforcement system and judicial courts similar to what they had in the East. The Indians were called the Five Civilized Tribes because they had adopted many of the customs and traditions of the Europeans, including African chattel slavery for agricultural development. The only nation that had a different scenario initially was the Seminole Nation which had embraced African fugitives slaves as their allies against the U.S. government.
The Cherokee Advocate, published at Tahlequah, reported on November 13, 1844, that the Cherokee National Council had passed a bill authorizing a Lighthorse Company. It was to be composed of a captain, lieutenant and twenty-four horsemen. Their assigned duty was to pursue and arrest all fugitives from justice. The other Five Tribes imitated the Cherokee Lighthorse for their nations. These lawmen performed as tribal police; criminals apprehended by them were turned over to the Indian courts for trial and punishment.
The Cherokee got the name "lighthorse" from Revolutionary War hero, General Henry Lee who was called "Lighthorse Harry" due to the rapidity of his cavalry movements during the conflict. Henry was Robert E. Lee's father.
An example of early Cherokee justice was the punishment for rape. For the first offense, the rapist was punished with fifty lashes upon the bare back and his left ear cropped off close to the head: for the second offense, one hundred lashes and the other ear cut off, for the third offense, death. Due to some circumstances the early lighthorse had to serve as policemen, judges, and jurors. Their job was eased in 1874 by the construction of a national prison at Tahlequah presided over by a high sheriff. The Cherokee Nation had a gallows for execution at Tahlequah. None of the other Indian nations had a national prison and used firing squads for execution.
Actually, the general rule of thumb in the Indian nations was for a criminal to be tied to a whipping post and lashed with a hickory switch by a lighthorseman in increments of 25, 50 and 75 if they were repeatedly arrested. After the third lashing a person could be condemned to death by a lighthorseman firing squad. The sentence was carried out by an Indian judge and jury. Traditionally, a condemned man would be released to his family and return in a year's time for his execution. Most all Indians honored this tradition except a few who escaped their punishment as the era of the Indian nations moved closer to an end in 1907. With this in mind, the Five Tribes, except for the Cherokee, didn't see a need for a national prison. The Chickasaw did maintain a jail at Tishomingo. A portion of the Seminole Nation whipping post is in the Oklahoma State Historical Museum in Oklahoma City.
After the Civil War, other Indians were ushered into Indian Territory. Those who created a credible police presence were the Osage at Pawhuska, the Kiowa and Comanche at the Anadarko Agency and the Cheyenne and Arapaho at the Darlington Agency. The latter two were located in the far western portions of the Indian Territory; the Osage in the north, next to Kansas. The Five Civilized Tribes lost these lands for participating in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. Although all the Indians were not sympathetic to the South, some did fight for the Union.
The Seminole Nation, being the smallest of the Five Tribes, had a different legal system in that the Chief was the judge and the council served as the court. Generally, the Seminole Lighthorse which were headquartered at Wewoka, were appointed and comprised of a captain, lieutenant and eight privates. Although the smallest in number, the Seminole Lighthorse was the most feared of all the Five Tribes because they were the most aggressive. The Seminole law stated explicitly that in order to protect officer: If, not withstanding the orderly deportment of the officer, the person to be arrested shall have the right to kill." This edict was followed by prompt action of the Seminole Lighthorse in pursuing felons.
The Creek (Muscogee) Nation Council on October 12, 1867, approved a provision in their legislature that stipulated there would be six districts, and each districts would have one company of lighthorsemen to be compensated by law. Each company consisted of one officer and four privates who were elected for two years by the vote of their respective districts. One judge was selected by the National Council for two years in each district and the lighthorsemen were subservient to his orders.
As early as the 1820's in Mississippi, the Choctaws had a lighthorse police, which served as judge, jury, and sheriff. The men who controlled the lawmen were Greenwood LeFlore, Charles LeFlore's uncle, and David Folsom. The lighthorsemen in Mississippi at that time rode over the country settling difficulties that arose among parties and individuals, and arresting, trying and inflicting punishment on all violators of the law. Peter Pitchlynn was made the head of the Choctaw Lighthorse in 1825, and the next year a treaty with the United States provided a permanent annuity for the police.
After the move to the West, the Choctaw Principal Chief had nine lighthorsemen under his command whom he appointed, and who served as his special agents in carrying messages, making arrests, keeping liquor at a distance during the council sessions, and assisting the U.S. Indian agent in the enforcement of laws. The Choctaws also had county sheriffs and each District Chief appointed one lighthorseman. A law was passed in 1888 requiring two lighthorsemen be appointed to serve as bodyguards for the National Treasurer.
In the winter of 1873, Principal Chief William Bryant ordered the Choctaw Lighthorse to suppress an organized gang that was stealing horses and cattle. Almost forty members of the gang were arrested, of whom fifteen were immediately tried and shot.
The Chickasaw Lighthorsemen worked out of Tishomingo and the Choctaw Lighthorsemen were headquartered at Tuskahoma and Atoka. The Indian nations didn't have any jurisdictional rights over white men or black men who were not citizens of their nations. What the Indian Lighthorse did, on many occasions, was to stop non-citizens from breaking the law, detain them and turn them over to deputy U.S. marshals. The legendary Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves picked up many of his prisoners from the Seminole, Chickasaw, and Creek Lighthorse police on his trips through the nations. On some occasions the Indian lighthorse would kill a non-citizen and would have to stand trial in federal court at Fort Smith, Arkansas. The respective Indian nation would then pay for a defense lawyer for the policeman on trial.
In 1874, the federal government ordered the consolidation of Indian Agents for the Five Civilized Tribes. Prior to that, the Cherokee Agent was at Tahlequah, the Choctaw and Chickasaw at Boggy Depot, the Creek agent at Okmulgee, and the Seminole at Wewoka. The agent for the Five Civilized Tribes moved into a new building at Muskogee on January 1, 1876. The new office was called the Union Agency. In February of 1880, Col. John Q. Tufts, United States agent for the Union Agency of Muskogee, Indian Territory, organized a unit of Indian police to operate throughout the Five Civilized Nations. The policemen were recruited from the lighthorsemen from the various nations. The official title for this group was United States Indian Police or U.S.I.P. It is interesting to note that also in the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw nations they had county or district sheriffs who were appointed by the Indian political leadership. Many of the larger Indian towns also had constabl es.
The United States Indian Police headquartered at Muskogee could travel through all the Five Tribes in pursuit of Indian citizen criminals. The Indian Police and Lighthorse police were deputized on many occasions by deputy U.S. marshals to serve as federal possemen in pursuit of non-Indian citizens.
The United States Indian Police were completely under orders of the Indian agent. They occasionally assisted in the enforcement of tribal laws. They also arrested criminals, whom they turned over to deputy U.S. marshals, and removed illegal squatters and intruders who had been reported to the agent by the Principal Chief. They arrested fugitives from justice and turned them over to the officers of neighboring states when the governors made request upon agents, as they sometimes did, instead of upon the Principal Chief. However their number one duty was upholding Federal laws in response to introducing liquor into the Indian Territory. U.S.I.P. were paid a salary ranging from five to fifteen dollars a month from the U.S. government and received additional monies from the tribes for removing intruders and for special services.
There was great activity by the Indian police in the 1890's to suppress the manufacture and sale of "Choctaw beer," which was also known as "Choc." This was a popular alcohol drink made of barley, hops, tobacco and fishberries sold principally in the Choctaw mining towns.
Outside of the Five civilized Tribes in the Indian Territory there were also Indian policemen of note. The Osage Agency located at Pawhuska had a very good police department. The same could be said for the Darlington Agency Indian police, for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation, and the Anadarko Agency Indian police for the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation. The Anadarko Agency police patrolled an area that included present day Oklahoma City.
In the Five Civilized Tribes, some of the lighthorse police were black men and white men. The blacks were citizens due to the Treaty of 1866, where the Indians were told to give their former African slaves citizenship and rights. The former slaves became known in the nations as Indian Freedmen and their descendants were likewise noted. The white men became citizens generally by marrying Indian women within the Five Tribes.
One of the first outstanding Indian police officers was the legendary Cherokee, Sam Sixkiller. Sixkiller at the age of nineteen joined a Union Indian artillery company under the command of his father, 1st Lt. Redbird Sixkiller, during the Civil War. In 1875, Sixkiller was appointed high sheriff of the Cherokee Nation and warden of the National Penitentiary. On February 12, 1880 Sixkiller became the first captain of the United States Indian Police headquartered at Muskogee, Indian Territory. As captain, Sixkiller had forty men under his command. Besides this position, Sixkiller also held a commission as a deputy U.S. marshal and a special agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Sixkiller's duties included policing the streets of Muskogee, one of the most dangerous towns in the "Wild West." There were more lawmen killed in a fifty mile radius of Muskogee than anywhere west of the Mississippi River during the frontier era.
Sixkiller's main problems were the whiskey bootleggers, cattle thieves, murders, rapists, timber thieves, land squatters, train robbers, card sharks, and prostitutes servicing the railroad towns. During his six years as captain, Sixkiller was wounded once. It is reported that he killed a bootlegger from Missouri named Solomon Copple. Copple was attempting to peddle whiskey in and around Muskogee. Sixkiller cornered him outside of town. Copple tried to resist arrest and Sixkiller using his pistol, killed him.
The most famous Indian Territory outlaw that Sixkiller subdued was the notorious Creek Freedman, Dick Glass. Glass had a gang that operated throughout the Indian Territory. They stole horses in the Indian nations and exchanged them for illegal whiskey in Texas, bringing the contraband back across the Red River to be sold at a substantial profit. In June of 1885, Sixkiller put a posse together that included the equally renown Indian lawman Charles LeFlore. They set an ambush for Glass and his gang near Colbert in the Chickasaw Nation. The gang had a full supply of whiskey and were northbound. They rode tight into the trap set by the lawmen. Glass pulled his pistol, but caught a full charge from Sixkiller's shotgun that put him out of action, permanently. The rest of the gang were either killed or arrested shortly thereafter.
On Christmas Eve, 1886, Sixkiller was off duty and unarmed. Feeling a little under the weather, he made a trip to downtown Muskogee to pick up some medicine. He was met by two dastardly malcontents bent on mayhem: Dick Vann and Alf Cunningham. Sixkiller was stepping up on the platform on the north side of the Patterson Mercantile Store. Vann and Cunningham, with a shotgun and pistol, fired on him without notice; supposedly they held a grudge for a previous run-in they had with the lawman. Sixkiller fell to the ground mortally wounded, and Vann and Cunningham made good their escape on fast ponies.
After the death of Captain Sixkiller, the United States legislature passed a bill, signed by the president, which made assault on an Indian federal policeman a federal crime. The document signed March 2, 1887, stated: "...any Indians committing against the person of any Indian policeman appointed under the laws of the United States, or any Indian United states deputy Marshal, any of the following crimes, namely, murder, manslaughter or assault with intent to kill, within the Indian Territory, shall be subjected to the laws of the United States relating to such crimes and shall be tried by the District Court of the United States." It was a landmark case which increased the stature of Indian police officers in Indian Territory and elsewhere in the United States.
Part 2 - Charles LeFlore
Charles LeFlore was an outstanding but little known lawman in the history of Indian Territory. His family was one of the most prominent in the Choctaw Nation. LeFlore owned a ranch at Limestone Gap, hear the Texas Road. He became a member of the Choctaw Lighthorse police in 1882. In 1883, LeFlore received a commission as a deputy U.S. marshal. In 1885 he accompanied Indian Police Captain Sam Sixkiller when the outlaw Dick Glass was apprehended. During that episode, one of the outlaws tried to escape and LeFlore caught him after a wild six mile horseback chase.
In September of 1886, LeFlore and Sam Sixkiller had a run-in with a mixed-blood Cherokee named Black Hoyt and a white man named Jess Nicholson, in the streets of Muskogee. The two men were drunk on moonshine when Sixkiller and LeFlore attempted to arrest them. Nicholson shot at Sixkiller and creased his arm, LeFlore then shot and wounded Nicholson. Even though wounded, Nicholson managed to escape. Black Hoyt was arrested and later Nicholson died from his wound.
In 1887, LeFlore became captain of the United States Indian Police for the Indian Territory. This was after the successor of Sam Sixkiller, William Fields was murdered in April, 1887, near Eufaula in the Creek Nation, trying to apprehend a felon. As captain of the United States Indian Police, Charles LeFlore held the position for eight years. Besides his position as captain and deputy U.S. marshal, LeFlore was a special agent for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.
One of Captain LeFlore's first major arrests was the black outlaw, Gus Bogles. The outlaw had murdered a white coal miner named J. D. Morgan at Blue Tank in the Choctaw Nation. Captain LeFlore arrested Bogles in Dennison, Texas on June 30, 1887. Later Bogles was executed for the crime at the federal jail in Fort Smith on July 6, 1888.
In April 1887, Captain LeFlore captured another murderer name Steve Bussel. The crime was committed in the Chickasaw Nation. After conviction at Fort Smith, Bussel was given life imprisonment at Little Rock, Arkansas.
There are many stories of LeFlore's battles with outlaws. One has to do with a gang led by a man named Christie who robbed trains. In the spring of 1884, LeFlore learned of a location on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, (Reynolds near Limestone Gap) where the train would stop for water and be robbed by the Christie gang. He instructed the Choctaw Lighthorsemen to arrive at the water tower first and hide under the structure. LeFlore had twenty-five policemen with him and the outlaw gang was about the same in number. A short time before the arrival of the passenger train, the outlaws made their appearance. The captain had instructed his men not to fire until they were very near the water tank. He gave the signal for his men to fire and a hellacious gun battle ensued. When the train approached, the engineer saw the gun battle and stopped a safe distance away. The gun battle resulted in two of the posse being wounded, but five of the outlaws were killed with as many wounded. The rest of the outlaws hightailed it as soon as they realized they were losing the struggle. Captain LeFlore then loaded his prisoners and dead into the baggage car of the "Katy" passenger train. This battle broke up major train robbing operations in the Choctaw Nation. LeFlore later told on many occasions a story related to this battle that was both tragic and humorous. A young lighthorseman was hit in the eye by a large wood splinter sent flying from uprights supporting the water tower when struck by a rifle shot. The splinter actually knocked his eye out. He observed Captain LeFlore looking at him and remarked. "Captain, we have them whipped, they are out of ammunition and now shooting at us with bows and arrows."
On another occasion it was reported that LeFlore and his posse had killed three wanted outlaws. This action had taken place a great distance from Fort Smith during the summer months. Concerned the bodies would bloat and start to decompose in the heat before they could get them back, LeFlore decided to salt the bodies like cured beef or pork. He was able to deliver the deceased outlaws well preserved to Fort Smith for official identification.
It was not uncommon for Captain LeFlore to stop at his home in Limestone Gap with a load of prisoners bound for Fort Smith. While he and the posse would eat, rest and refresh, he would chain the prisoners to a large tree in his front yard.
In September of 1891, Captain LeFlore was on the trail of the Dalton gang after they robbed the M.K. & T. passenger train near Wagoner. The captain reported to the Vinita Indian Chieftain: "...twenty miles from the scene of the robbery, about two o'clock the same night, four men were seen riding northwest and leading two horses. The next night a woman who is acquainted with the Dalton boys saw two of them and two others west of Red Fork, riding in the direction of the mouth of the stream of that name. They had two lead horses and the outfit corresponded with that seen the night of the robbery. The use of bloodhounds [brought from Atoka] the morning after holdup was rendered impossible because so many persons had been trailing around, but an organized pursuit is being conducted."
The above holdup took place at Leliaetta, Creek Nation. LeFlore would have a closer encounter with the Daltons at Adair in the Cherokee Nation. On the night of July 14, 1892, the Daltons took over the train depot at Adair and waited for the northbound No. 2 due at 9:45 p.m. On the train were eight lawmen, including J.J. Kinney, special railroad detective, Sid Johnson, deputy U.S. marshal, and Charles LeFlore, Alf McCay and Bud Kell of the United States Indian Police. In the gunfight that ensued after the train stopped at Adair, Kinney, Johnson and LeFlore all received slight wounds. The Daltons, untouched, got away with a small amount of loot. No doubt they would have had a better haul if the lawmen hadn’t interfered with their criminal endeavors. During his long tenure, Captain LeFlore was wounded on several occasions.
The first execution in the Indian Territory under the laws of the United States, occurred at Muskogee, on July 1, 1898. Of the two men who were executed, one was captured by LeFlore. Henry Whitefield, a black man, had murdered a man in Wagoner, Creek Nation, on December 2, 1897. Whitefield left after the murder, but was apprehended and arrested by LeFlore near Atoka in the Choctaw Nation.
Charles LeFlore worked out of the Ft. Smith court until courts were transferred to the Indian Territory in the 1890's. At that time he worked out of the Paris, Texas federal court until he retired around 1905. Captain Charles LeFlore died at his home at Limestone Gap on September 10, 1920 at the age of seventy-nine. His record as a lawman ranks with the best of those who served on the western frontier.
Part 3 - Jackson William Ellis
Possibly the most outstanding Indian policeman was Jackson William Ellis, born in Sweet Town, Cherokee Nation in 1849. He was known as Jack Ellis and was 5/8ths Cherokee. At the age of twenty-one, he stood six feet and four inches. As a teenager, it is said he rode as a posseman for deputy U.S. marshals out of Fort Smith. In 1870, Ellis was appointed deputy sheriff of Tahlequah district and also sheriff of commissioners court. In 1872, Ellis was made deputy warden of the Cherokee National Prison in Tahlequah. In 1876, he left the field of law enforcement to go into the mercantile business. But in 1887, he was given a commission as a deputy U.S. marshal and the same year joined the United States Indian Police under the direction of Captain William Fields.
On March 6, 1887, Bud Trainor, a reckless mix-blood Cherokee and his friends had been drinking heavily in Tahlequah. They rode their ponies up and down Muskogee Avenue, the main street, shooting their guns and causing the store owners to close up. Jack Ellis had been in the vicinity squirrel hunting and came into town during the turmoil.
Ellis gave Trainor an order to cease and desist. Trainor responded by telling Ellis to get his gun and deposited his horse at Wilson's livery stable. Ellis and Trainor met in the middle of Muskogee Avenue "Hollywood style." Trainor drew first and both parties got off three shots. One of Ellis' pistol shots struck Trainor in the center of the mouth and the bullet lodged in the rear of his throat. Bystanders had to turn Trainor over on his stomach so he wouldn't drown in his own blood. He was heard to exclaim "Oh, yes. God damn, he shot at my teeth that time." Ellis would have killed him if his pistol hadn't been loaded with squirrel shot known as bulldog cartridges. This occurred just six weeks after Ellis resumed his career as a lawman. Trainor lived to later be killed by shotgun toting black cowboys near Nowata on January 9, 1896.
Jackson Ellis moved to Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, later in 1887 and was stationed there as the deputy U.S. marshal for the town and near vicinity. Here he shot and killed Dick Vann while trying to arrest the fugitive. Vann was one of the murderers of Captain Sam Sixkiller, and a noted desperado. From Fort Gibson, Ellis was appointed officer of the peace in conjunction with the United States Indian Police at Atoka, Choctaw Nation.
During the time he was at Atoka, Ellis shot and arrested Daniel Fields, an escaped convict. Soon afterwards he shot and killed Harry Finn, a desperado who had killed his father in Missouri and was involved in peddling illegal whiskey in the Choctaw Nation. This was followed by the shooting and capture of Charlie Carter, an outlaw and murderer whom Ellis had hunted. Next, Jackson Ellis shot and captured two men named Watson and Whitrock, both bootleggers and notorious outlaws.
In 1890, Ellis went into partnership with D.J. Folsom to practice law in Atoka. This did not last long because he was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal for the second division United States court at South McAlester in the Choctaw Nation. Ellis was given a commission as a special officer for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in the late 1880's when that road was building through the Indian Territory.
In the 1890's, after the tenure of Captain LeFlore, Jackson Ellis was made captain of the United States Indian Police with headquarters at Muskogee, but maintained his home at South McAlester. Ellis was in this position up through the turn of the century and was possibly the last captain.
Captain Jackson Ellis was known to be quiet and dignified in his daily discourse, but he was also known for his practical jokes. The following story gives an example of his lighter side. Captain Ellis had been given the duty of escorting the trains that carried the Indians payments. These trains originated at Paris, Texas and Captain Ellis met them at Wister Junction.
While waiting at the Wister depot for the northbound Frisco payment train, a southbound excursion train pulled into the depot. The train was full of tourist from back East. Captain Ellis struck a conversation with a young couple from Vermont. They were very eager to learn about the Indians of the "Wild West." Ellis informed them that he was a Cherokee Indian, the bride screamed, the young groom grabbed his own lock of hair and stepped back a few paces. Jackson Ellis exclaimed, "Oh Shucks, needn't be scared of me; I ain't savage any more; about the worse thing I do now is to eat a little dog occasionally; ever eat any dog? They keep it at the lunch stand over there. Wait, I'll get you a piece." As Captain Ellis walked away the young bride fainted and collapsed to the ground.
There is no doubt that Cherokee Captain Jackson Ellis was one of the most important lawmen of the Indian Territory. The law abiding citizens felt themselves indebted to this fearless officer for clearing the "nations" of so many "terrors to society." Hopefully, more information will come to light on this Indian lawman. His last years were spent in Marble City, Sequoyah County, where he was given a pistol by Cherokee lawman John C. West that belonged to the female Indian Territory outlaw, Belle Starr.
Part 4 - Other Outstanding Indian Lawmen
John C. West was the last captain of the United States Indian Police, and a member of the Cherokee Lighthorsemen. West stood six feet five and weighed 200 pounds. He was undoubtedly Sam and Belle Starr's biggest nemesis, arresting them on several occasions. West's brother Frank, also an Indian policeman, was killed in a shootout with Sam Starr, with Starr also dying from wounds.
One of the most famous of the Choctaw Lighthorsemen was Peter Conser, born in 1852 near Eagletown in present day McCurtain County. His original name was Coinson, his father was a French trader and his mother a Choctaw Indian. Evidently Conser was easier to say than Coinson. In 1877, at the age of twenty-five, Conser became a deputy sheriff in Sugar Loaf County. He was later appointed a captain of the Choctaw Lighthorse for the Moshulatubbe District. Conser served as a representative and senator to the Choctaw Council. He also owned a large farm, a blacksmith shop, grist mill, saw mill and a general store with a post office. Conser died in 1934 and his home was donated to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Edward A. Bohannon was another notable Choctaw policeman. He was born in Blue County, March of 1863. In 1889, Bohannon became a member of the United States Indian Police stationed at Muskogee. He also received an appointment as special peace officer for the town of Caddo, for which he received an income from the citizens. Bohannon was able to keep Caddo free from lawlessness and rowdyism for a long time.
Creek Lighthorsemen of note included Samuel Jonathan Haynes who was born January 8, 1857, near Okmulgee. At first he became a special deputy in the Lighthorse and was soon elected to full membership in the police troop. Haynes rose to the rank of captain. He took part in the Green Peach War of the Creek Nation; in brief, a political civil war among the Creek Indians. Haynes was involved in engagements on Pole Cat and Pecan Creeks. Later he was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal. Along with Captain Edmund Harry of the Lighthorse and Deputy U.S. Marshal N.B. Irwin, Haynes was involved in a shootout and capture of the notorious Yuchi Indian outlaw, Rufus Buck, and his gang in 1895. Haynes later served as a delegate for the Creek Nation in discussions with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. In this role he made sixteen trips to the nation's capitol. He passed away at Newtown, near Okmulgee on April 4, 1948 .
Another very important Creek Lighthorseman was the Yuchi lawman, Tiger Jack, who was noted for his tracking abilities. He worked with Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas in the pursuit of the Dalton gang and with Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Huffvine in the hunt for the Bill Cook gang in the summer of 1894. Two other Yuchi Indians who were members of the Creek Lighthorse were Jesse Allen and Johnson Pickett. They were also deputy U.S. marshals. In august of 1894, they led a posse that caught the Bill Cook/Cherokee Bill gang near Sapulpa resting after the gang robbed the Chandler bank. In the ensuing gunfight they captured Curtis Dayson and killed Henry Munson and Alonzo Gordon. The rest of the gang got away. This was the most famous gang in the history of Indian Territory.
In 1898, Tiger Jack and Jesse Allen were members of a posse that also included Deputy U.S. Marshal Bud Ledbetter. Jack lived south of Kellyville and Allen had a ranch southeast of Bristow. The posse was in pursuit of the notorious Hughes gang, led by three brothers named Hughes. After tracking the gang, the posse caught up with them early in the morning and a gunfight ensued. One of the Hughes brothers were killed in the fight. One of the brothers was captured by Jesse Allen. Ledbetter caught one of the brothers later in the day. This gunfight took place near the Tuskegee stomp ground in the Creek Nation. The last brother escaped but was later captured when he tried to check on his brother who had been arrested. Other famous Creek Lighthorsemen were Richard Berryhill of the Eufaula District and Daniel "Goob" Childers of the Weeletka District. Childers, a mixed bl ood Cherokee adopted by the Creek tribe, was involved in many gunfights and died a violent death.
Among the Seminole Lighthorse, Captain Chilli Fish and Jacob Harrison were noted for their leadership abilities. Fish later became the Principal Chief of the Seminole Nation in the 1920's.
Part 5 - Black and White Lighthorsemen in Indian Territory
There were quite a few black lighthorsemen in the Creek and Seminole Nations who became renown. In the Seminole Nation, Freedman Dennis Cyrus was the most noted black Indian police officer. Cyrus served with the Seminole Lighthorse for twenty-five years. Five of those years he held a deputy U.S. marshal commission under Marshal John Carroll at Fort Smith. Cyrus died on December 24, 1912. Other black Seminole Lighthorsemen included Cumsey Bruner, Ceaser Payne, Thomas Bruner, John Dennis and Tom Payne. Ceaser Payne was noted for killing a gang leader in the Seminole Nation named Bob Dossay.
In the Creek Nation, Thomas "Tacky" Grayson, a black Freedman was captain of the Lighthorse police for the Coweta District. He was involved in the capture of the Rufus Buck gang and was involved in more than a few shootings during his tenure as a lawman. One other black Creek Lighthorseman of note was Robert Marshall whose reputation was known throughout the Indian Territory. He was murdered in Muskogee on September 10, 1894 by a black criminal named Charles Smith, whom Marshall had caught in the act of trying to steal some horses. Other black Creek Lighthorsemen of the Muskogee District included Tom Kennard, John Miles, John Flowers and John "Cat" Roberts.
Another important Indian lawman, Deputy Marshal William "Bill" Smith, was the last Principal Chief of the Delaware. He was involved in the subduing of Cherokee Indian outlaw Ned Christy and the capture of Cherokee Bill. Smith was one of the best deputies to work for the Fort Smith and Muskogee courts.
Outside the Five Civilized Tribes, white men were hired and given leadership positions within the Indian Agency Police Departments. For many years, Frank Farrell was police chief of the Anadarko Agency. The old time territorial lawman Wiley Haines served as police chief for the Osage Indians in 1905. Earlier, the infamous Dalton brothers had served as Osage Indian police officers, before becoming outlaws.
Of the white men who became Indian Lighthorse policemen, one of the most famous was Samuel Robert Wilson. In 1877, at the age of sixteen, Wilson moved from Arkansas to Sugar Loaf County, Choctaw Nation. He learned to fluently speak the language and at the age of twenty-two married a Choctaw woman, which made him an intermarried citizen of the tribe. Wilson joined the National Choctaw Lighthorse Police under the leadership of Peter Conser. Later he served as a deputy sheriff under every sheriff in LeFlore County until his age prevented active service.
Due to coming statehood, most of the Indian police powers were given to the federal government by 1898; except for the Seminoles, who only disbanded their Lighthorse shortly after the turn of the century.
Many of the Indian tribes in present day Oklahoma have regained full police powers. The Muskogee (Creek) Nation have resurrected the Lighthorse police. The Cherokee Nation has the Cherokee Marshals Service which is the largest with 14 officers. Others with police departments include the Comanche, Ponca, Kaw, Iowa, Miami, Osage, Cheyenne/Arapaho, Kickapoo, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouri, Shawnee, Potawatomi, Sac & Fox, and Choctaw.
Hopefully, Americans will remember the service and dedication of the Indian police during Oklahoma frontier days. Their contribution to peace and justice should not be forgotten.
For more information about Art T. Burton, please visit his site http://artburton.com/