Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Hangin' Judge

Isaac C. Parker

 After the Civil War the area which is now the panhandle of Oklahoma became known as "No Man's Land." By an accident of treaties No Man's Land was not in the jurisdiction of any state or territory, so it became a refuge for outlaws, gamblers, cattle rustlers, and other frontier riffraff. There was a sign on the border of No Man's Land which said: "Fort Smith, Five Hundred Miles." 

In 1882 an outlaw gang galloped into the relative safety of No Man's Land barely escaping a group of federal marshals that were hot on their trail. As they passed the Fort Smith sign, they shot it full of holes to show their contempt for law and order. Later though, one of the outlaws returned to the sign and carved at the bottom the words, "To Hell," indicating his fear of the punishment that Fort Smith represented.

This fear instilled by Fort Smith originated with Isaac C. Parker, appointed as federal judge over the Federal District Court of Western Arkansas in 1875. (See blog of July 17, 2011, Sam Paul, Part Two.) Before Judge Parker's tenure, the court had been ineffective in enforcing the law over its vast jurisdiction, and Indian Territory had become a refuge for criminals. Parker appointed federal marshals to bring in offenders. In the past it had been hard to convince witnesses to travel the long distance to Fort Smith to testify, but Judge Parker's subpoenas were backed by the same marshals who instilled fear in the outlaws, so witnesses began to cooperate.  

Judge Parker's marshals were a formidable group. These men, among them Heck Thomas,  James Mershon, Heck Bruner, and Jacob Yoes became as famous as the outlaws they brought in. Their determination and courage inspired much of the folk lore that has been handed down to us about the old west.   

Even though underpaid and often outnumbered by the outlaws they pursued, the marshals were as determined as Judge Parker to bring law and order to the frontier. One of the most difficult outlaws to bring in was Ned Christie. Wanted for horse stealing, robbery, whiskey peddling, and murder, Marshals Heck Bruner and Barney Connelley trailed him for months without success. Finally when Deputy Marshal L.P. Isabel cornered him, Christie although injured, shot Isabel, who was then disabled for life. Finally a group of 16 marshals assaulted Christie and his gang, holed up in a fort in a narrow canyon. Christie, who was a crack shot, held off the marshals for weeks against even a cannon which was brought up from Coffeeville, Kansas. Finally, at the risk of his life, Deputy Marshal Copeland placed a dynamite charge under the fort, blowing it apart and dislodging Christie, who was then shot as he attempted to escape.  

On another case Martin Joseph, a horse thief from Texas, murdered Bud Stephens, and then raped and murdered his sixteen year old bride. Then he threw their bodies into a deep crevasse which led down into a cave. Months later, Marshal James Mershon apprehended Joseph and obtained a confession, but the district attorney wanted proof of the murder, so Marshal Yoes sent out his men to retrieve the bones. Deputy Marshal John Spencer volunteered to be lowered into the cave, but when he reached the bones he found himself surrounded by a den of rattlesnakes. "For God's sake, pull me up quick!" he screamed. After regaining his composure, Spencer asked to be lowered back down again, this time carrying a lantern, a revolver and a sack.  

On reaching the bottom, Spencer was confronted by a huge rattlesnake. With nerves of steel, he stood his ground, and shot the snake even as it coiled itself around his arm and neck. He then filled the sack with the bones of the victims and called out to be pulled back up. When the other marshals saw the snake wrapped around Spencer's neck, they almost let him fall back into the pit, but fortunately they kept their heads and the evidence was returned to Fort Smith. Martin Joseph was convicted and hanged.  

Due to Judge Parker's efforts, the old jail, the basement of the courthouse, was soon filled to overflowing. Minimal attention was paid to the prisoners' comfort, and conditions inside were deplorable. One man passing by it, being buffeted by the fowl odors and the demoniacal cries issuing from within, was quoted as saying, "If this is not Hell, I don't know where Hell is." A juror once insisted on inspecting the jail. Inside, he picked up a piece of bread and meat, both infested with vermin. He took them into the courtroom and placed them on Judge Parker's desk, threatening to send them to Washington.

Soon after that, a larger jail was built, but soon it too was housing six men per cell, double its planned capacity. It was not uncommon for prisoners to die awaiting trial. 

The trip to Fort Smith was also an ordeal for those accused of crimes in Indian Territory.

Typically, a group of deputies were sent out with several arrest warrants. Prisoners were rounded up and shackled to a chain which was in turn bolted to a log. They were then forced to march to Fort Smith, a journey of almost 200 miles, dragging the log. A chuck wagon was provided to feed the prisoners, but only those unable to walk were allowed to ride in the wagon.  

Judge Parker was more interested in meting out justice than in impartiality. During trials he usually made up his own mind as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant, and then made his opinion clear in his instructions to the jury. In one instance the main case against the defendant was that he hid the evidence of the crime. Judge Parker said in his instructions to the jury:  

            The questions for you to pass upon is whether or not … there were acts upon the part of this defendant … that looked toward concealing this act of the killing of Wilson; what these acts were; if they were cruel, if they were unnatural, if they were barbarous … that men who are conscious of innocence do not usually characterize their conduct after a killing by that sort of acts … the concealment of this body, the concealment of this horse, the killing of the horse, and the concealing of everything that pertained to that man … that they might be discovered afterwards as evidences of the killing.

            And bear in mind that the other witness in this case cannot appear before you. He cannot speak to you, except as he speaks by his body as it was found, having been denied even the right of decent burial … these circumstances … stand as bloody, naked facts before you, speaking for Joseph Wilson and justice.    

During Judge Parker's 21 year term, from 1875 until his death in 1896, 344 persons were tried for murder, and 88 were hanged.  

Judge Parker's fame spread throughout the country. News of the outlaws tried in his court was carried in all the newspapers, and their hangings were attended by hundreds. Even his hangman, George Maledon, became a celebrity. In 1894 Maledon retired and toured the country displaying gallows relics, including nooses, and photos of the famous outlaws he had hanged. In 1898, a popular book about Judge Parker's court, Hell on the Border, declared Maledon "The Prince of Hangmen." 

While strict, Judge Parker was actually sympathetic to the Indian governments. He upheld the Indians= land rights against Texas cattlemen, and he upheld the rights of the Cherokees to eject >Boomers= settling illegally in their territory. Many Indian leaders supported Parker because he treated whites and Indians equally. 

Judge Parker said once about the Indians: 

Perhaps things would have been different had the government given them the protection it promised in 1828. >Not only will we give you farms and homes in fee simple,= it said, >but we will protect you in your rights. We will give you every protection against lawlessness; we will see that every refugee, every bandit, every murderer that comes into your country is put out.= Not one of these pledges has ever been kept, except for the work that has been done by the United States courts having jurisdiction over this country.  

The Creek Chief, Pleasant Porter, laid a wreath of wild flowers on Judge Parker's grave.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sam Paul, Part Two

As I described in my post of July 10, 2011, my great grandfather, Sam Paul, divorced his wife Lucy, and then killed her brother, Gibson McKinsey in 1872, when McKinsey threatened Sam for mistreating his sister. Sam was not charged with murder by the Chickasaw court, so he was now free, but he was now faced with the responsibility of caring his young son Joe. Sam's mother Ela Teecha had just passed away, and his sister Sippia was away in school at Fort Sill, so Joe was probably taken in by his aunt and uncle, Mary and Tecumseh McClure. In  spite of the fact that Mary and Lucy were sisters, Sam seems to have maintained cordial relations with the McClures, at least for the time being.

As Sam's father Smith Paul got older, Sam took on more responsibility for the family farm - it was more of a ranch now. Sam married again in 1874,  this time to a white woman, Sarah Lambert, and so he was able to move his little son Joe back home with him. About 10 months later, Sam and Sarah had their first child together, another son whom they named Smith Whealton or "Buck" Paul, after Sam's father Smith Paul.

Over the next two years Sam's sister Sippia married William Hull, a blacksmith she had met at Fort Sill; Sam and Sarah had another child, William Hyram Paul, my grandfather; Sam's brother in law Tom Waite died; Sam's half sister Kathrine moved east to Ohio to see that her younger children got a good education, and Sam's father, Smith Paul, at the age of 65, got married again to a young school teacher named Sara Lillie.

Another event occurred in 1875 that would have serious consequences for Sam Paul. Isaac C. Parker was appointed judge over the Federal District Court of Western Arkansas in Fort Smith, Arkansas. This court had been given jurisdiction over cases involving federal law in Indian Territory in 1871, but it had been somewhat ineffective. Parker was determined to bring law and order to the frontier, and his efforts would later earn him the nickname of "the hanging judge." He and Sam Paul would meet several times. 

In 1875 Indians were subjected to racial profiling in regards to the sale and consumption of liquor. The problem of alcoholism among Indians had been well known for generations, and the sale of alcohol to Indians was prohibited by both tribal and federal law. There were some though, including Sam Paul, who believed that Indians should have the same rights to alcohol as white men, so Sam had no qualms about going into the business of bootlegging. Sam's partner in this enterprise was a widow named Nancy Bryley, the proprietor of a saloon near Pauls Valley. Knowing Sam's subsequent history, it's possible that he and Nancy had more than just a business relationship.

At any rate the two were arrested, charged with selling liquor to Indians, and fined by Judge Parker. The saloon business was good though and Sam may have continued to operate a saloon after his conviction, at least that was the rumor, according to a cowboy named Robert Flanagan, who worked for Sam Paul in about 1880: 

I have helped bury lots of men in the old Pauls Valley Cemetery, who died "with their boots on," and no one knew them or knew where they came from. About a mile northwest of where Pauls Valley is now, there was a log house that was a saloon and gambling place. I believe Smith (Sam) Paul owned this place. Anyway that was the general impression. About a mile or two west of this saloon was a creek next to the River known as "Dead Man's Hollow." This was where most of those men whom I helped bury were killed. It was dangerous to go into the saloon and gambling den, get drunk and flash your money around. If you did, it was just the same as suicide. Mexicans, Indians, and cowboys made the saloon their regular "hang-out."           

I never drank much nor gambled either but I have been there several times and witnessed shooting and killing scrapes. Once a cowboy from the Williams ranch twenty miles west of Pauls Valley got into an argument with three Mexicans over a card game. He was about my age, wore a large white hat, high-heeled boots, and two pistols. It seemed that these three men were trying to cheat him out of his winnings in the game. He jumped up, kicked the table over and began shooting with both guns. When the smoke cleared away, there were three dead Mexicans on the floor. I don't know what they did with the dead men but I couldn't help admiring the way that young chap handled his guns.  

Ironically, in the same year that Sam Paul was arrested for bootlegging, he also became involved in law enforcement. This is the way it happened. B. F. Overton, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, received a request to apprehend a certain John Ferral, who was wanted for murder in Texas, and Galloway Frazier, head of the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police, notified Harrison McLane, sheriff of Pickens County, to be on the lookout for the fugitive. Incidentally, this was the same Harrison McLane who had helped Sam kill Gibson McKinsey.

McLane got a tip that Ferral had been seen at widow Bryley's saloon, and when he went there to arrest him, he found his old friend Sam Paul. Since McLane didn't have a horse to carry the prisoner back to Tishomingo, he deputized Sam and left his prisoner at Sam's house for safe keeping along with another deputy, Jacob Kelder.  

Things went well until after supper when Sam took the prisoner upstairs and prepared to shackle him to the bed. Ferral broke free, jumped out of the window, and started running across the lawn. Sam and Kelder ran Ferral down and killed him, even though he begged for mercy.   

Since the prisoner was white, the case was referred to Judge Parker's court in Fort Smith. Sam Paul was convicted after it was proven that the fatal shots had come from his gun, and he would have gone to prison, but the Chickasaw Court also heard the case and decided in Sam's favor. They ruled that Sam had killed Ferral in his capacity as a deputy sheriff, and they requested and obtained a federal pardon for Sam Paul.  

So after his third scrape with the law, Sam Paul again walked free, and instead of being declared public enemy number one, he was elected constable. He also joined the Chickasaw Light Horse Police.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sam Paul, Part One

Sam Paul, my great grandfather, was an enigma. He lived a long time ago and the people who knew him are long gone, so it's impossible to know what it would have been like to know him. He was intelligent but seemed to have a total disregard for the law. He was cruel and ruthless, but apparently he was also well liked and even respected. He was an alcoholic who made a shambles of his personal life, but at the same time he was a far sighted statesman, who saw, perhaps better than anyone else of his time the future of Indian Territory.

There are a lot of stories about Sam Paul, and there's probably as much fiction as fact in them, but I'll try to tell his story as best I can.

To start from the beginning Sam Paul was born in Indian Territory on the frontier, to a full blood Chickasaw woman, Ela Teecha, or Ellen, as she was known in the family, and a white man, Smith Paul, who had been lived among the Chickasaws for many years. Although Indian himself, Sam grew up under the threat of attack by hostile plains Indian tribes, and under the protection of the US military. Since his father supplied food to the friendly plains Indians, Sam Paul became familiar with their customs, and he was reportedly able to speak the languages of at least 8 different tribes.

Sam was about 16 at the outbreak of the Civil War, and he stayed in Indian Territory during the War with his father and mother, while his half brother and sister, Tecumseh McClure and Kathrine Waite, children of his mother by her first husband Jason McClure, went to neutral ground in Kansas, where they lived with the Sauk and Fox Indians. (They were 31 and 30 years of age, respectively.)

During the War, Sam began living with Lucy McKinsey, his sister in law - her sister Mary was married to Sam's half brother Tecumseh. Actually neither Sam nor Tecumseh was legally married until 1869 when their brother, Jesse Paul, filed a lawsuit in Chickasaw court to force them to tie the knot.

This rather remarkable action requires some explanation. According to Chickasaw custom, marriages were rather informal. Since their society was matriarchal and since the mother's clan took responsibility for caring for children, fathers often left their wives, and they sometimes had several wives. Usually, though, a Chickasaw father visited and provided for his children even if he became separated from their mother. 

At the time of Sam Paul's marriage, these customs were changing. First of all, the Chickasaws were trying to conform somewhat to white customs, especially those who had intermarried with whites. Secondly the Chickasaw Nation was beginning to experience an influx of white settlers who wanted to farm the rich Chickasaw land. One way to do this was by claiming to be married to a Chickasaw citizen. To control this problem the Chickasaw government started charging non-citizens fees to live on Indian land, fees to marry an Indian citizen, and also requiring that all marriages be legally filed with the court.  

Sam and Tecumseh both complied with the law and married their Indian spouses, but after that, their marriages followed totally different paths. Tecumseh and Mary McClure, on the one hand, had a long and happy marriage, whereas Sam Paul and Mary's sister Lucy had trouble almost from the start. Their first child Hogan died in his first year of life, which wasn't unusual in those days, but afterwards Sam volunteered as a scout for the army. I don't know what prompted this action. He certainly didn't need the money. His father was well off and, as a Chickasaw citizen he was free to use as much land himself as he chose. I suspect that he was restless, being confined to the farm, and possibly also unhappy in his marriage.

The scouting expedition didn't turn out so well. Sam came down with small pox and would have died if his father hadn't ridden out to where he was and nursed him back to health. Anyway Smith Paul brought his son back home, and with him, according to Aunt Sippia, (See Aunt Sippia, Part II) he brought an epidemic of small pox as well, in which many died, especially among the friendly Indians that Sam had grown up with.

After this tragedy Lucy became pregnant again, and the next year she bore another son, Joe. About this time Sam's mother Ellen died. I don't know if there was a connection, but it was shortly after Ellen's death that Sam's marriage broke up again.

According to family wisdom, Ellen was the only person who was ever able to influence Sam, so maybe it was only to please his mother that Sam stayed with Lucy as long as he did.  

My uncle Haskell, who got most of his information from Sam's son Buck, described Sam in this way:

Sam Paul, her first born child by Smith Paul, was entirely amenable by his mother --- not always by his father. When a boy he was very impetuous and as a man, more than ordinarily zealous. But Sam's ardour was always completely subdued before his mother.

It sounds like even Uncle Haskell, who was rarely at a loss for words, had trouble finding the right words to describe his grandfather.

After Sam and Lucy's divorce, you wouldn't expect that things could have gotten worse, but they did. Lucy's brother Gibson McKinsey started spreading the word that Sam had abused his sister, and threatening to call him to account. When McKinsey's drunken tirades disturbed a neighbor, Harrison Lane, whose wife was ill, Sam went with Lane to a saloon frequented by McKinsey and confronted him. When McKinsey repeated his threats, Sam and his friend shot him, not just once but eight times. It was an execution!

Since all the parties involved were Chickasaw Citizens, the matter was handled by the Chickasaw court. Sam Paul and his neighbor were not charged. The court apparently considered Gibson McKinsey's drunken threats sufficient provocation for the murder - I don't know what else to call it.

I'm not sure what happened to Lucy after her brother's death. Uncle Haskell only said that she died and was buried in the Old Cemetery, next to her son Hogan. Sam Paul, his "ardour" undiminished, was soon remarried, and beginning a new pursuit, bootlegging.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Smith Paul's Valley

For a long while after 1859, when Smith Paul and Ela Teecha, my great great grandparents, moved their family west to the Washita Valley, they were alone on the frontier. When the Civil War began, both of Ellen's older children, Tecumseh McClure and Catherine Waite took their families to Kansas, so until the end of the war it was just Ellen and Smith and their three younger children, Sam, Jessie, and Sippia.  

Smith and Ellen prospered though. Smith planted corn, and a large fruit orchard, and he also raised cattle. He shared his crop with the plains Indians living nearby, and as time went on more Indian bands moved into the area. As a result, the Confederate Government, who took over Fort Arbuckle during the Civil War, made Smith Paul agent over the local tribes, and so he was not recruited to fight.  

Just as moving away from Fort Arbuckle had saved the Pauls from suffering much of the hardship brought by the Civil War, living in the midst of friendly Indians probably protected them from attacks by hostile tribes. The Comanche in their raid of 1866 passed right by the Paul farm without taking any livestock or causing any damage. (see Post of May 29, 2011, The Comanche and the Chickasaw, Again) Aunt Sippia even mentions the Comanche as one of the tribes living near the family farm. (see Post of June 12, 2011, Aunt Sippia, Part One 

After the Civil War the McClures and the Waites returned, and gradually other Chickasaw and Choctaw families settled in the area. When Fort Sill was established in 1869 to protect the trails west and to subdue the remaining nomadic tribes, the Paul home became a regular stopping place for travelers to replenish their supplies and to repair their wagons. This is how Bill Hull, the blacksmith whom Aunt Sippia married became wealthy. Soon there was a Butterfield Stage stop and a post office nearby, and people began referring to the little community as Smith Paul's Valley. 

The governments of the Five Civilized Tribes were patterned after the government of the United States, but there were significant differences, reflecting the differences in the Indian culture. 

Firstly individual land ownership was an alien concept to the Indians. According to Indian tradition the earth was the source of life and of the spirit of the tribe. It belonged to the tribe as a whole. That was one of the reasons why the Removal broke the spirit of the Chickasaws. It separated them from their life source. Chickasaw law gave every tribal member the use of as much land as he needed, but when he died his land was returned to the tribe. 

Enterprising tribal members, especially mixed bloods or intermarried whites, used this tradition to their benefit by laying claim to land, and then leasing it to white settlers for a share of their crop. When word spread about the fertile Washita Valley, white settlers began to come, more than willing to pay the $5 permit fee to enter the Chickasaw Nation, and to share 10% of their crop with the Chickasaw and Choctaw citizens who controlled the land, so Smith Paul's Valley flourished and made the Pauls, the McClures, and the Waites rich. According to one source, 60 families came to Indian Territory at the invitation of Tom Waite alone. Soon white renters outnumbered Chickasaw citizens.  

Originally, Indian communities were small and clan based. To them a town was a few families living near each other, sharing goods and services. There was no need for municipal governments, so the Indian constitutions made no provisions for them. Smith Paul's Valley was not much different from a traditional Chickasaw town, with only a small number of families, a few stores and a few skilled workers such as blacksmiths and bridle makers, but people living in larger communities agitated for change. They wanted local services; they wanted to own their homes and businesses, and they wanted a say in the government.    

Another growing problem in Chickasaw society was crime. There was little need for law enforcement in the traditional Chickasaw community. The few offenders were dealt with by shaming or shunning, so laws were few and punishments were simple. There was whipping for minor offenses such as stealing, and execution for murder. Indian communities had no jails because an Indian never attempted to avoid his punishment. If he did, a member of his family would be chosen to take his place. Gradually Indian Territory was becoming a refuge for criminals. The white man had no respect for Indian laws, and the Indian police had no jurisdiction over them.  

The Chickasaw leaders of the time were divided over how to deal with the new problems they faced. Most favored limiting the influx of whites and preserving traditional values, but a vocal minority, supported by the now numerous white population, favored incorporating white settlers into tribal governments. Smith and Ellen's family was divided within itself over the question. Ellen's older son Tecumseh McClure became a leader of the traditional or "National" party, and her younger son Sam Paul became a leader of the Progressives.    

Feelings were strong but polite at first, but these issues were about to come to a head with the coming of the railroad and the changes it would bring to the little town of Smith Paul's Valley.