The Old West and Indian Territory

Lawmen and Outlaws


Wyoming Territorial Prison & Old West Park

The "Old West", historically as we all "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 Kansas railheads of 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.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas of Oklahoma

The center of focus for the Old West; was the great cattle drives, the drovers, and the towns, such as; Dodge City, Kansas; Abilene, Texas; and Tombstone, Arizona. 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.


How about the most glaring misconception:
That there were no female marshals during the days of the old west. In fact there were two female field Deputy US Marshals comissioned out of Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory. There was one field Deputy US Marshal comissioned out of Parris Texas and worked the Indian Territory. There were many female Office Deputy US Marshals.


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


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.



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. The out shoot of this meeting was the development of the Walker Colt. Which Capt. Samuel H. Walker did not live to see go into production. Though a very heavy side arm it was to heavy to carry on the belt. It was carried as a saddle gun.



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)


Gun battle at the OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona - 1881
Wyatt Earp; Wyatt Earp, James "Jim" Earp, and Virgil Earp arrived in Tombstone, Arizona in about 1879. Wyatt had been a policeman in Dodge City as well as several other places. He had to leave some of these positions in discrace. Their younger brother Morgan Earp arrived in 1880. According to newspaper articales of the period, Wyatt carried a Deputy City Marshal badge of Tombstone, Arizona, on the day of the gunfight at the OK Corral, Virgil Earp, Wyatt's brother was in fact the Tombstone, Arizona City Marshal (Wyatt was a Deputy U.S. Marshal a very short period of time - after the "Gunfight at the OK Carral"), 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)

1870's Many hand guns manufactured prior to 1873 were called "belt pistols or pocket pistols." The reason was that the term holster did not exist. The leather belt containers for pistols prior to 1873 were called pistol pockets, etc. The modern holster, is an off shoot of the military pistol pockets of the Civil War. Many ex-soldiers, cowboys and others who had a need for a hand gun modified the Civil War pistol pockets in a way that they resembled the modern belt holster.

Bill Doolin

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



NOTES:Gunsling or totting women of the oldwest were few and far between. For more information about the noted women of the Oldwest including their mode of dress of the period.

The continuing story of the old west - frontier and wild and wooly times will be covered in a series of pages. Come back ever so often for more wild times and information.