Frontierado is coming up on Friday, August 7th. Balladeer’s Blog is, as always, the international hub of this holiday which is now celebrated on 6 continents. Anyway, as the glorious day approaches here’s another neglected old west figure.
1. SAM SIXKILLER – Not only does this gunslinger have a name that screams out for cinematic treatment (or at least a cable television series) but he also saw more action than many western figures who are better known. Born in 1842 Sam Sixkiller was a Cherokee lawman in Oklahoma back when it was still being called Indian Territory and had not yet been opened up for white settlement. The unique setting of life in Indian Territory and the way it served as a microcosm of issues that the nation at large was dealing with after the Civil War adds layers of depth to Marshal Sixkiller’s tale that I find incredibly intriguing.
After starting out in the Confederate Army, in 1863 Sam enlisted in the Union Army as the Civil War raged and saw action in Arkansas and Indian Territory. Because many Native Americans owned slaves (black and mixed-race) as their tribes had for centuries the Indian Territory was as split in terms of support for the Union and Confederacy as were badly-divided states like Missouri. Between conventional battles and Bushwacker raids the Territory was reduced to a wasteland in many areas by the end of the war. In May 1865 Sam was discharged and returned to his wife Fannie to attend to their farm.
Following the Civil War the slaves in Indian Territory were declared Freedmen like the slaves in the late Confederacy, and as citizens of Indian Territory those Freedmen were in theory entitled to some of the money that was still being paid to the tribes in the Territory and to land. In reality the Five Civilized Tribes who called Indian Territory home were resentful of their former slaves’ new status and often used violence to drive out the freed slaves, even burning down their homes in many cases.
Outlaw bands would ride in to loot and pillage in the Territory then flee outside its borders to escape prosecution. In addition bootlegging and rustling were rampant and construction of railroads through Indian Territory brought new crimes. Throw in the usual inter-tribe conflicts that still surfaced and the Territory was a very dangerous place at the time.
In 1874 Sam Sixkiller’s father, Redbird Sixkiller, a former Chief Justice of the Cherokee, talked him into leaving his farm and taking a job as Sheriff in the town of Tahlequah. Over the next few years Sam did an outstanding job cleaning up and maintaining order in his jurisdiction, but in late 1878 ran afoul of a wealthy and influential Native American family, the Thompsons, and shot down their son Jeter when he was involved in unlawful behavior with firearms.
Through their influence the Thompsons brought on an investigation into their son’s shooting, an investigation that eventually resulted in Sheriff Sixkiller being suspended without pay pending a hearing before the National Council of the Cherokee. In that hearing, which was held in November of 1879, no wrongdoing was found and Sam was reinstated, but the Council refused to pay him the income he missed while under suspension, prompting Sixkiller to quit.
By February, 1880 Sam was employed in Muskogee as both a Sheriff and, because of the railroads already running through the Indian Territory and the ones under construction, he was also sworn in as a U.S. Marshal by none other than Judge Isaac Parker, the West’s legendary “Hanging Judge.” Parker would praise Sixkiller’s performance extravagantly in the years to come. Sam supplemented his income by working as a security agent for the Missouri- Pacific Railroad, so his threefold law enforcement roles complemented each other nicely. Sam’s career in Muskogee ran until December of 1886.
From his time as Sheriff in Tahlequah to his final days as a Marshal in Muskogee Sam Sixkiller exchanged gunfire with an impressive rogue’s gallery of outlaws and renegades. Among his memorable adversaries were:
* Half-Blood Dick, a mixed race outlaw who had his hand in many criminal pies and who would be Sam’s most bitter foe throughout his career.
* Willis Pettit, an emancipated black slave who waged his own personal campaign of theft and killing against the Five Tribes who had held him and others as slaves.
* The prostitutes of Muskogee’s Hotel de Adams, who would spit, scratch and otherwise resist arrest when Sam and his deputies took them in.
* Various white intruders who encroached on Tribal land and needed escorted – or sometimes driven – out of Indian Territory.
* Cunningham and Annie, two female bootleggers who were notorious for the elaborate hiding places for whiskey in their wagons and grocery store. Cunningham tried to gun down Sixkiller when the pair were arrested.
* Deadly gunfighters like “Baron” Gus, William Fox, Wild Charley Buffington and Tandy Walker,
* “Highwayman” Bill Rider, a prolific stagecoach robber.
* Horse thieves like Charles Ashcroft, the Hawkins Brothers and others.
* Various bootleggers like “Simple” Frank, “King” Solomon Coppell, Isaac Deer, Jon Copper, the Lee Brothers and Charlie Pierce, a future member of the Dalton Gang.
* Thieves like Nancy Britton, Henry Lewis and James Murphy.
* Barney Sweeny ( a former Jesse James Gang member) and his gang of trainrobbers. Sweeny’s colleagues were killed (one by Sweeny himself) but Sixkiller brought Sweeny himself in alive and eluded a Vigilante mob that wanted to lynch his prisoner.
* “Wise” Solomon Coon, a railroad cargo thief and bootlegger.
* Chick Kinney, William Allen and James Allen, disgruntled employees of the Missouri Pacific Railroad who maliciously derailed an entire train near Colbert in Indian Territory.
* “Badman” Dick Glass, an outlaw of all illegal trades. Glass, another former slave of the Five Tribes, was known for his silver-plated pistols with marble handles and for the breastplate he wore as a bullet-proof vest.
* “Mule Thief” Bollen
* Milo Hoyt, leader of a huge criminal faction called “The Outlaw Militia”, an outfit that included his son Black Hoyt.
On Christmas Eve, 1886, an unarmed Sam Sixkiller attended evening services in Muskogee with his family and on the way home afterward was waylaid and shot to death by his longtime foe Half-Blood Dick (Richard Vann) and Alf Cunningham. The killers fled but were soon brought to justice by other lawmen. Sam’s wife Fannie died of tuberculosis less than two years later.
FOR FOUR MORE NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2013/07/14/four-cool-but-forgotten-gunslingers-for-frontierado/
FOR SIX MORE NEGLECTED WESTERN FIGURES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2012/06/18/six-neglected-wild-west-figures/
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