The Old West in the Oklahoma and Indian Territory

The Old West in the Oklahoma and Indian Territory

Lawmen and Outlaws

History and Re-enactment


Wyoming Territorial Prison & Old West Park

Just before the railhead was established at Abilene, Kansas a few herds of Texas longhorns were trailed North to Wyoming and Montana.

The "Old West", historically as we all "know"or believe we know it to be; is for all intents and purposes. A period, involving about five states or Territories; Arizona Territory, Indian Territory, New Mexico Territory, Kansas, and Texas. Though, that is not to say it did not involve other areas as well. Most historians agree that the "Old West" covered a period of about twenty years (somewhere between 1840-1900), give or take about twenty years; here or there. That period surrounding the great cattle drives from Texas to the railheads at Abilene and Dodge City, Kansas.

This involved the era called the reconstruction period, following the Civil War. One must, remember though that; lawmen, outlaws, rounders and badmen existed before and after that period known as the Old West. Actually most of the badmen and lawmen existed after the Old West had closed. It was during this period that they appear larger than life and are by-and far the most controversal. The late 1800's and early 1900's saw more killings in the Indian Territory than during any other like period of time in history.

The center of focus for the Old West; was the great cattle drives, the drovers, bushwackers, outlaws, lawmen and the towns, such as; Dodge City and Abilene, Kansas and Tombstone, Arizona and the areas of Texas where the longhorns came from the Trinity River and the breaks along the Brazo's River. The cattle trails such as; the Chisholm Trail and the Goodnight Trail The difference between lawmen and outlaws was often a very thin line. Most lawmen tip-toed on the other side before picking up the badge. Such as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok (all three were peace officers at one time or other as well as trodding on the shady side of the law).

There are several misconceptions that need to be clarified.

*

One such misconception was:
there were no Indians involved in the Civil War, or if they were, they were relagated to secondary rolls.
Answer: incorrect on both counts; there were many different Indian units on both sides, and many American Indians who served as individuals in many other units on both sides. There were five regiments of Territorial Indians at the Battle of Pea Ridge for example. There were several Class "B" battles that occured in the Indian Territory which involved a large number of American Indians.

*

Another misconception fostered by Hollywood - Face to face gunfights:
there were very few gunfights as portrayed by Hollywood. What few there were, most of those were from hiding. Face to face gunfights were never a successful way of settling an argument. For example most real gunfights that I have been involved in or have witnessed were never successful.

*

Another misconception was that there were no women US Marshals.
Between 1880 and 1900 there were at least three Female Deputy US Marshals who were assigned to field duty just as were their male counterparts. These were tough gun tottin deputies who could and did their jobs as well as their male contemporaries. Oklahoma historical records bear this out.

*

Much of what we think we know about the Old West is ether:
that it never happened, it's in-accurate, or it's out of chronological order.

The Old Indian Territory

Back as early as 1820 the Federal government was being pressured by the states of Georgia and Alabama to remove the Indians from their states to "any" location other than their states. This was prompted by the discovery of gold in Georgia. The government started conducting "survey parties" to the area that would be called the "Indian Territory", but was then called the Lousiana Purchase to view possible treaty lands.
Between 1838-1839 the Federal Government removed the Five Civilized Tribes; Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole to the Indian Territory. A fever ridden area of river drained country that no one else wanted. The perfect place for a large concentration camp. The Territory was bisected by a broad band across the southern part of the Cherokee District known as the Cross Timbers. A dense forst of tangle root, Osage Orange, Hackberry, and other hard woods and thorny brambles. So dense, that one had to hack their way through it or go around.
The only way around this "Cross Timbers," was the Texas Road along the eastern side of the Territory or out in the Texas Panhandle.

Jesse Chisholm, blazed the trial through the Cross Timbers in the 1860's, but it was John and Daniel Chisholm who made the "Chisholm Trial" famous.

In these pages, I will present a research cosmology of this period. Based on documented information; eye witness testimony; public, and private records.

Cronological Timeline

1820's

West of the Great Divide the fur trade was still underway, involving many of the well known mountainmen and adventurers.

East of the Divide, things were picking up. The Ridge a prominent leader of Chickamauga Band of Cherokees. Had signed a treaty (in defiance of the major part of the Cherokee Nation) giving up all of the lands held by the Cherokee in the southeastern United States. In exchange for signing the treaty; he recieved a land allocation and relocated his followers to North western Arkansas in early 1820's; an area called the Cherokee Session(my family lands - Chickamauga Band). My ggg-grandfather and my gg-uncle built Elkhorn Tavern, located on Telegraph Rd. inside of what is now the Pea Ridge National Battlefield Park.

President Andrew Jackson (served as president from 1829-1837)was recieving pressure from the southern states to relocate all the Indians of the Southeast. Many of these (Indians) of mixed blood or half-breeds were to turn to the outlaw trail.

________________________________________________________________

1830's

December 1835, Sam Colt filed his first handgun patent, the Paterson Colt. The patent was granted in February 1836, but the patent number wasn't registered until August 1839.

About 1845 with the outbreak of the Mexican War, Sam Colt met with Capt. Samuel H. Walker of the Dragoons, then with the backing of Eli Whitney the son of the man who invented the cotton gin.

_________________________________________________________________

1850's

Well known outlaws were not only from the central states, but as far away as California. Such as Black Bart.


Alias Charles E. Bolton or Boles. Well known along the Gold Trial of the eastern San Juaquin Valley, California as the gentleman outlaw; always dapper and dashing. His favorite prey was the Wells Fargo stages that traveled in and around Coulterville, California. According to Wells Fargo records; he robbed 29 Wells Fargo stagecoaches of $18,000 in gold and never fired a shot. Some historians would have us believe he spent his ill gotten gains on News accounts of 1883 have Bolton tracked down by a Wells Fargo detective.

Wells Fargo stage as it appeared during Black Barts escapaeds

Old San Francisco as it appeared in the 1880's

Fine example of frontier clothing and weapons as worn and used by working ranch hands; "Corsegold Cattle Ranch" (courtesy of University of California at Fresno - Corsegold Collection)-(photo collection dated 1876)

1860's

Gun battle at the OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona - 1860's
Wyatt Earp, purported to be the City Marshal of Tombstone, Arizona (was never a U.S. Marshal), was also at various times a gambler, hunter, and shotgun rider. Died in 1929 of old age (age 81).

Bat Masterson, born in 1853, second of five sons of a Kansas homesteader. He and two of his brothers later took up the badge, but before the star. There came a number of other jobs. He was, along with 35 other hunters at Adobe Walls, Texas where they stood off five hundred Southern Plains Indians for five days. Later he hired on as an Army Scout for Colonel Nelson Miles. His first gunfight occured in Sweetwater, Texas in 1876. Bat took a round in the pelvis. After recovering he moved on to Dodge City, Kansas, where his two brothers were already situated. Bat eventually ran for Sheriff of Ford County of which Dodge City is the county seat. He was also purported to be a gunslinger, gambler, scout. He carried a matched pair of ivory-handled pistols (some say pearl-handled)

Deputy U.S. Marshal Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas of Oklahoma, well known as one of the tough early lawmen.

Bill Doolin

THE OLD WEST - Custom Leather Goods: Holsters, Belts, etc.

CALIFORNIA RANGERS