Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sam Paul, Part Four

The only other surviving record of Sam Paul's career as a Chickasaw policeman concerns his investigation of a group of outlaws known as the Sturdivant - Cox gang during the year 1882. These outlaws had made threats against Ben Burney, a former Chickasaw Governor, and Sam Paul was instructed to form a posse to track down the gang. The posse first went to the home of two brothers, John and William Harkins, who were known to be friends of Sturdivant.  

Early on the morning of April 22, 1882, Sam's posse surrounded the Hawkins' house. At sunrise they called out to John Harkins who took his rifle and went outside. After seeing that he and his brother were outnumbered, John invited the posse in. Sam asked the brothers  to accompany them over to Birnie's place, a nearby farm, to see if they could identify a prisoner held there. The brothers were then disarmed, and forced to go with the posse, which soon split up into two groups, each taking one of the brothers. 

The group which took John Harkins was led by Sam Paul, while William went with the other group, led by Galloway Frazier, Sam's old friend, and the sheriff of Pickens County. The plan was to scare the boys into revealing the outlaws' hiding place. Frazier's group threw a rope over the limb of a tree, and threatened to hang William if he didn't cooperate. Sam and the other posse members took John and rode down next to a small creek. There they got him down off his horse and forced him to remove his belt and his knife. Then, according to Sam, John grabbed a gun from Jim Ross, one of the posse members, and attempted to shoot him. Sam was faster though, and he shot and killed John Harkins. 

After the shooting, John's brother William was taken to Tishomingo, the Chickasaw Capital, where he was turned over to the federal marshal, James Mershon, on a charge of whiskey peddling. William told Mershon about his brother being shot, and Mershon, remembering Sam's killing of Ferral and Smith, decided that Indian policemen were taking too many liberties in dealing with white suspects. Judge Parker evidently agreed, and so, in July of 1882, warrants were issued for the arrest of Sam Paul and for the other posse members involved in the shootings of Smith and Harkins.  

Mershon arrested Sam Paul in Miller and Greens while he was buying a pair of gloves. Then he was put in chains, along with his half brother Tecumseh McClure, his nephew Fred Waite, and a half dozen other men, and marched the 200 miles to Ft. Smith, where they were thrown into Parker's rat infested jail. Within a couple of weeks the trial began for the murder of the horse thief, Smith. Tecumseh and the tracker, Frank Welch, were released before the trial began, because witnesses testified that they were two miles away at the time of the shooting. In the trial of Sam and Fred, the jury found them innocent of Smith's murder, since they were acting as police officers, and they were fired on first. 

Fred Waite was then released, but Sam Paul and Jim Ross were held without bond until the second trial was scheduled, in January, 1883. During the next six months Sam became weak and malnourished in the filthy Ft. Smith jail. My great grandmother Sarah, took the children, Bill and Buck, to see their father. My grandfather Bill, who was six at the time, remembered his mother holding him up to the bars.   

The second trial ended in a hung jury, so a third trial was scheduled, this time for April, so Sam Paul was forced to remain in the Ft. Smith jail for another four months. I don't know how he survived. When the trial resumed, the other defendant, Jim Ross, managed to turn the jury in his favor, and against Sam. Sam was found guilty of manslaughter, and was sentenced to ten years in the federal prison at Detroit, therefore escaping the gallows, which claimed many of his cell mates. 

Still, facing another ten years in prison must have seemed like the end of the world to Sam, especially after languishing in the Judge Parker's jail for almost a year, but he had a surprise coming. The Chickasaw Nation fought for his freedom. On September 13, 1883, the Chickasaw legislature passed a resolution to apply for a presidential pardon for Sam Paul, and on March 7, 1884, almost a year after his conviction, the pardon was granted.

I'll quote a portion of it:

          And whereas, the Chickasaw Council, and a large number of the officers and citizens of Indian Territory have petitioned for the defendant's pardon, representing that he committed the offence while endeavoring, as an officer of the United States and of the Territory, to enforce the law, and was excusable; 

          And whereas, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs are of opinion that the conviction in this case tends to impair the efficiency of the Indian Police, and that a pardon would be in the interest of law and order, and earnestly recommend it; and the defendant being also recommended to clemency by Senators Garland, Vest, Cockrell, Walker, Jackson, Harris and Maxey, and by the jury:  

          Now, therefore, be it known, that I Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States of America, in consideration of the promises and divers other good and sufficient reasons me thereunto moving, do hereby grant to the said Sam Paul, a full and unconditional pardon.

Sam Paul's pardon was an important milestone in the Chickasaws' fight for sovereignty. Sam had lost two years of his life and had suffered unimaginable hardships, but he hadn't lost his spirit. When he returned home a free man, he came determined to lead his tribe through the difficult times ahead.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sam Paul, Part Three

Well, I guess I'd better get back to my story. If you want to refresh your memory, you can refer back to my posts of July 10 and 17, Sam Paul, Parts One and Two.  

Back in 1877, when Sam Paul was tried in Judge Parker's court for selling liquor and for killing the prisoner John Ferral, he was the head of the Paul family. His mother Ela Teecha had died, and his father Smith Paul had married a younger woman and was building a house in town. Sam ran the ranch. He had married my great grandmother, Sarah Lambert, in 1874, and they had two children together: Smith Whealton Paul, then three years old, and William Hyram Paul, my grandfather, a year old baby. Sam's oldest son Joe, now eight, also lived with them.  

Sam may have been ruthless, but he was also fearless, a quality which was valued in a time when the threat of marauding plains Indians had been replaced by that of horse thieves and bank robbers. Sam was an officer in the Chickasaw Light Horse Police, and constable of Pickens County. He had become a prominent member of the community.  

The kind of man the Chickasaws wanted to defend their citizens against outlaws is illustrated by the charge given to their officers: "with or without warrant, arrest all outlaws, thieves, and murderers in your section, and if they resist, you will shoot them on the spot. And you will aide and assist all U.S. Marshals in the enforcement of the laws and make yourself a terror to evildoers. If afraid, turn in your resignation and I'll appoint better men in your place." In other words, the Chickasaw Light Horse Policeman was expected to serve as judge, jury, and if he deemed necessary, executioner in order to provide law and order.   

The Indian police were effective too. When my grandmother came to Indian Territory with her mother and father in 1888 she said, "We had some trouble crossing Arkansas, but after we crossed into Indian Territory we never were bothered by anyone. My father would buy feed from the Indians, and they were the most accommodating people I ever met." The Five Civilized Tribes welcomed white settlers, and they kept the peace.

Technically the Indian police could not arrest a white man, and their courts had no jurisdiction over them. The white settlers were no problem. Many of them had been living peacefully with the Indians for generations, but gradually, white outlaws sought refuge in Indian Territory, and soon they became the scourge of the territory, robbing and stealing, and killing anyone who got in their way. The 200 or so federal marshals assigned to Indian Territory were incapable of dealing with the situation. The challenge of arresting suspects, getting witnesses to travel 200 miles of more to Fort Smith for the trials, the sheer volume of cases, was overwhelming, so for the most part the Indian Police were on their own.  

During the four years Sam Paul served as an Indian Policeman, we don't know about the dozens of cases he must have dealt with, the dangers he faced, the decisions he had to make. The only two stories about his service that have been handed down to us are the two cases that led to him being tried for murder.  

The first of these episodes occurred in 1881. A cowboy named Frank Welch came into town to report a stolen horse, and was referred to Sam Paul. Welch reported that his boss, a rancher in the southern part of the territory named John Covey, had sent him to track down two men who had stolen one of their horses. The trail had led Welch to two men who joined up with a wagon train near Pauls Valley. The remarkable story of this tracker's skill is recorded in the record of Sam Paul's trial. (see The Trackers, Part 2, posted Jan 21, 2011.) Welch was able to identify the two individuals involved: one was a man named Smith, and the other was Sam Ross, son of the leader of the wagon train, "Old Man" John Ross.  

Sam Paul quickly organized a posse, and with Welch's help identified the man Smith as he came into Miller and Green's, a general merchandise store. Sam decided to wait until morning to make the arrests because the wagon train was getting ready to make camp down by Rush Creek. When the posse reassembled the next morning, he split them up in order to cover all the exits from the valley.  

As Sam and his nephew Fred Waite rode down toward the camp, they met two men on horseback, one of which they recognized as Smith. He was riding the stolen horse. When Sam called out for the men to halt, they pulled out their rifles and started firing. Sam and Fred returned the fire, killing Smith. The other man got away.  

Sam Paul sent word to the rest of the posse to apprehend the other horse thief, Sam Ross, as well as the man riding with Smith. Then as he was riding down toward the wagon train he met Welch and his half brother, Tecumseh McClure. They had just finished having breakfast. It seems that Welch, on hearing the shots fired during Sam and Fred's gun battle, rode into the camp and confronted Old Man Ross. He warned Ross that if he didn't pay for or return the stolen horse, his son was going to hang. Ross paid for the horse. Welch told Sam that he was dropping the charges, and that was the end of that, at least for the time being.    

To be continued.