FEMALE MARSHALS OF THE OLD WEST

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th!

As always, Frontierado is a holiday dedicated to the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here is a look at a handful of ladies who served as gunslinging Marshals.

Ada CarnuttADA CURNUTT

Around 1889 or 1890 Ada Curnutt moved to Oklahoma (formerly Indian Territory) with her sister and her brother-in-law. By some accounts Ada chose to head west to get out from under the influence of her Methodist Minister father and equally devout mother.

When she was 20 years old, Curnutt started working as a Clerk of the Court in Norman, OK. Finding a desk job too dull for her, Ada soon became a Deputy Marshal for United States Marshal William Grimes. Her duties included serving writs and warrants, escorting dangerous prisoners from one jurisdiction to another and, of course, making arrests.   

In 1893 alone, Marshal Curnutt arrested at least 19 criminals wanted for various offenses. In December of that same year the gunslinging heroine traveled to Oklahoma City and dramatically got the drop on a pair of outlaws in the Black & Roger Saloon in front of a large, admiring crowd.    

In 1897 Ada Curnutt headed back east, married and passed away in 1907.

F.M. MillerMRS F.M. MILLER

This mysterious Marshal was notoriously close-mouthed about her life before she was appointed a Deputy U.S. Marshal in Paris, TX in 1891. She worked for the federal court out of South McAlester, OK.

Miller was easily the most colorful of the female Marshals of the Old West. She supposedly packed plenty of guns on her person and often wore a sombrero.

Some contemporary newspaper accounts described her like this:

“The woman carries a pistol buckled around her and has a Winchester strapped to her saddle. She is an expert shot and a superb horsewoman, and brave to the verge of recklessness. It is said that she aspires to win a name equal to that of Belle Starr, differing from her by exerting herself to run down criminals and in the enforcement of the law.” – Fort Smith Elevator: November 6th, 1891 

“Miss Miller is a young woman of prepossessing appearance, wears a cowboy hat and is always adorned with a pistol belt full of cartridges and a dangerous looking Colt pistol which she knows how to use. She has been in Muskogee for a few days, having come here with Deputy Marshal Cantrel, a guard with some prisoners brought from Talahina.” – Muskogee Phoenix: November 19th, 1891

Other news accounts credit Mrs Miller with a high arrest count and steely reserve during exchanges of gunfire. Just like Mysterious Dave Mather, much about F.M. Miller remains unknown, including her ultimate fate.

… And who MISTER Miller may have been.

FOSSETT AND BURCHE

Marshals Mamie Fossett and S.M. Burche deserve to be as famous as the Earps or Wild Bill Hickok or other gunslinging enforcers of the law in the American West. Once again let’s look to contemporary newspaper accounts for some information:

Female Officers of the Law – Two Oklahoma Girls Are United States Deputy Marshals

It is not infrequent these days for an officer of the law to name a woman as a deputy. But she is nearly always what is known as an office deputy. She performs mere clerical duties and never takes to the field. But Oklahoma has set the pace. United States Marshal C. H. Thompson, of Guthrie, has appointed two women as deputies for field work.

That a woman should choose the vocation of professional thief taker in the most civilized portion of the land would be strange enough. It is infinitely more so when she chooses field duty on the worst territory in the Union.

Criminals in Oklahoma and in Indian Territory, the district where these two girls – for they are maidens – must operate, are of the most desperate and dangerous class. More lives are lost among Federal officers in a year than in all the rest of the nation together. So it would seem that these girls possess metal of exceptional kind to willingly undertake such duties.

The young women are Miss S. M. Burche and Miss Mamie Fossett. They are of that adventurous class of females who invaded the newly opened territory in search of homesteads. They are young, fairly good-looking, well-educated, fearless and independent.”

“Miss Mamie Fossett and Miss S. M. Burche Are Deputy United States Marshals in Oklahoma—They Perform Field Work as Bravely as Men

Miss S. M. Burche and Miss Mamie Fossett are the first women to do active field work as United States deputy marshals. They are young, good looking, educated and full of the Wild West spirit, that is, they are fearless, adventurous, energetic and self-reliant.

They were appointed by United States Marshal C. H. Thompson, with the understanding that they should not be merely “office” deputies, but should serve writs and make arrests If need be. Their conduct has fully warranted the trust imposed upon them.

Their first work was done in connection with an Indian Territory murder case. They were ordered to go to the country of the Sacs and Foxes and to bring in some unruly witnesses—an extremely difficult and dangerous task. They had the writs, with the names and addresses of the men wanted.

They are brave as any man, and expert with rifle or pistol. They travel together, and can put up a good fight If it comes to that. Few men would undertake to disturb them. None would make much of a success. They are splendid riders, inured to fatigue and exposure, and prefer active outdoor life to that usually supposed to attract the feminine intellect.

In order to accomplish their mission they were forced to travel through one of the worst districts on earth. Many a deputy has gone down before the fire of some desperado in those wilds. Many a hot, running fight of miles has left a trail of blood on the sandy hills and broken vales.

They suffered all the privations incident to their vocation, but the bill of expenses was the last thing they thought of. They shot game and did their own cooking while away. They kept down expenses by this and other means, and had a good time of it while on their trip. Their entire trip was five days’ camping. They did not go to houses, if they had the opportunity to do so, for the habitations scattered in that region are not very desirable at best.

They got the witnesses and have just returned from the trip, and see no reason why they should be credited with having done anything unusual. They say they are ready to go after any man wanted for any kind of crime. Everybody who knows them corroborates this declaration.”

These two ladies are among the most unsung heroes and heroines of the west.

FOR TWO GUNSLINGERS IN THIS SAME MOLD 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, 2017. 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.

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