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PISTOL PETE – Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton was another of those real-life figures that some people mistakenly think are fictional characters. The elementary alliteration and the association of the name Pistol Pete with the mascot of the Oklahoma State University sports teams are part of the reason. That mascot was named after and was designed to look like the real-life Pistol Pete.
Eaton was a man who LIVED what would eventually become a cliche of Wild West fiction: the quest for revenge over the murder of a loved one, no matter how many years it takes.
In 1868 young Frank was eight years old and living with his parents in Twin Mounds, Kansas. Frank’s father had served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was being harassed by several former Confederate Army men who had ridden with Quantrill’s Raiders for a time. One day six of those men shot our hero’s father to death right in front of him, setting the course for the rest of the young man’s life.
The future legend obsessively spent every spare moment after that refining his skill with pistols to the point where he was equally adept with both his right hand and his left. By age fifteen Eaton was already being called “Pistol Pete” and supposedly could “shoot the head off a snake with either hand.” 1875 found him competing in public contests of marksmanship at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma (still being called Indian Territory), where he would consistently beat some of the U.S. Cavalry’s most skilled gunmen.
From there Pistol Pete Eaton gravitated to a career in law enforcement and cut quite a figure sporting his two-gun holster. Over the next several years Eaton would exchange gunfire with various dangerous criminals and on the side would pursue every lead he could regarding the men who killed his father. By age seventeen Pistol Pete was one of the youngest Deputy Marshals in the Federal ranks.
Just like Sam Sixkiller (c0vered previously here at Balladeer’s Blog) Eaton served under Judge Isaac Parker, the West’s notorious “Hanging Judge.” Pistol Pete’s jurisdiction ranged from southern Kansas to northern Texas and eastward into Arkansas, with his home base being Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Our gunslinger had a romance for a time with a woman named Jennie (last name disputed), who at some point presented him with the gift of a metal crucifix to wear around his neck. While in the Badlands battling one of the men who killed his father that cross saved Pete’s life by deflecting a potentially fatal bullet in one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” moments. Eaton proceeded to pump his adversary full of bullets, ticking off another body in the quest to avenge his father’s murder.
Unfortunately Pistol Pete never got to share the good news with Jennie about how her gift had saved his life because she died of pneumonia before he could get back home to her.
By the time our hero was in his late twenties he had managed to track down and blow away five of the six men who had slain his father. Sometime along the way he had learned that one of the six had been killed already during a gunfight over a poker game. He may or may not have pissed on the man’s grave, depending on which source you go by.
In 1889 with the burden of revenge lifted from his shoulders Pistol Pete took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush. After securing a piece of land for himself he became the Sheriff of Perkins, OK and resumed his dangerous law enforcement career. The gunslinger married Orpha Miller in 1893 and had two surviving children with her before she died of lung disease in the year 1900.
The forty-two year old Pistol Pete got married again in late 1902 to a woman named Anna Sillix, with whom he would have eight more children. Believe it or not Frank Boardman “Pistol Pete” Eaton died in bed in NINETEEN FIFTY-EIGHT! A man who had roamed the Old West on horseback, fighting outlaws and searching for his father’s killers lived to see the Cold War era and Elvis Presley. +++
FOR TWO GUNSLINGERS IN THE MOLD OF PISTOL PETE CLICK HERE
AND FOR SIX MORE NEGLECTED WESTERN FIGURES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2012/06/18/six-neglected-wild-west-figures/
© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.