By Art T. Burton

This essay concerns the little known Indian Police of frontier Oklahoma when it was known as the Indian Territory. An organization of policemen known as “Lighthorse” was formed by Major Ridge and James Vann in the Cherokee Nation in 1799. At that time the Cherokee Nation was located in the present states of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The Cherokee got the name “lighthorse” from Revolutionary War hero, General Henry Lee, who was called “Lighthorse Harry,” due to the rapidity of his cavalry movements during the conflict. General Robert E. Lee, of Civil War fame, was Harry’s offspring. In 1808, The Cherokee Nation in the Southeast passed an act appointing “regulators” to suppress horse stealing and robbery, to protect widows and orphans, and kill any accused person resisting their authority. After the removal to the West, during 1830’s and 1840’s, the Cherokee Nation set up their law enforcement system and judicial courts similar to what they had in the East.

The Cherokee Advocate newspaper, published at Tahlequah, reported on November 13, 1844, that the Cherokee National Council had passed a bill authorizing a Lighthorse Company. It was to be composed of a captain, lieutenant and twenty-four horsemen. Their assigned duty was to pursue and arrest all fugitives from justice. The other Five Civilized Tribes of the Indian Territory imitated the Cherokee Lighthorse for their law enforcement. These lawmen performed as tribal police. Criminals apprehended by them were turned over to the Indian courts for trial and punishment. As early as the 1820s in Mississippi, the Choctaw Indians had a lighthorse police, which served as judge, jury, and sheriff. The lighthorsemen in Mississippi at that time rode over the countryside settling conflicts that arose among parties and individuals, and arresting, trying and inflicting punishment on all violators of the law. Peter Pitchlynn was made head of the Choctaw Lighthorse in 1825, and the next year a treaty with the United States provided a permanent annuity for the police.

After the move to the West, the Choctaw Principal Chief had nine lighthorsemen under his command whom he appointed, and who served as his special agents in carrying messages, making arrests, keeping liquor at a distance during the council sessions, and assisting the U.S. Indian agent in the enforcement of laws. The Choctaws also had county sheriffs and each District Chief appointed one lighthorseman. A law was passed in 1888 requiring two lighthorsemen to be appointed to serve as bodyguards for the National Treasurer.

An example of early Cherokee justice was the punishment of rape. For the first offense, the rapist was punished with fifty lashes upon the bare back and his left ear cut off close to the head; for the second offense, one hundred lashes and the other ear cropped off, for the third offense, death. Due to some circumstances the early Cherokee Lighthorse had to serve as policemen, judges, and jurors. Their job was eased in 1874 by the construction of a national prison at Tahlequah presided over by a High Sheriff. The Cherokee Nation also had a gallows for execution at Tahlequah. The Chickasaw Nation, which was very similar to the Choctaw Nation in regards to law and the lighthorse police, also had a national prison and police headquarters at their capitol city of Tishomingo. The Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations were the only Indian governments with a national prison. In the Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole Nations the accused individual if found guilty was allowed to go home and return on the day of his punishment. It was a proud boast of the Choctaws that a prisoner never tried to evade punishment. On the day appointed, he would appear for a whipping administered by the lighthorse police. People of the neighborhood would assemble around the church where they engaged in smoking and visiting while the offender chatted and smoked with the various groups. As soon as the lighthorse appeared, the crowd adjourned to the church and spent time singing hymns until the whipping or shooting was over. The prisoner, if whipped, was reinstated to his previous position in the tribe and the matter was closed, never to be mentioned again.

The Choctaw Lighthorse Police served as sheriff, judge and jury. When a murder was committed the Choctaw Lighthorse took the affair into consideration, after listening to all the testimony, pronounced the verdict. When the accused person was declared guilty, without delay, the time and place of his punishment or execution was designated.

The Choctaw Lighhorsemen were headquartered at Tuskahoma and Atoka. In the winter of 1873, Prinicipal Chief William Bryant ordered the Choctaw Lighthorse to suppress an organized gang that was stealing horses and cattle. Almost forty members of the gang were apprehended and arrested, of whom fifteen were immediately tried and executed. Executions in the Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations were carried out by firing squads. The Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations utilized the gallows.

The Creek (Muscogee) Nation Council on October 12, 1867, approved a provision in their legislature that stipulated there would be six districts, and each district would have one company of lighthorsemen to be compensated by law. Each company consisted of one officer and four privates who were elected for two years by the vote of their respective districts. One judge was selected by the national council for two years in each district and the lighthorsemen were subservient to his orders.

In her book on the history of the Creek (Muscogee) Nation, Angie Debo described an execution:

“…A typical execution took place in Coweta District in 1879 when one Satanoke was shot for the murder of Foxtail. About two hundred and fifty persons had assembled. A religious service was conducted by Rev. James McHenry. Then Coweta Micco, the judge of the district, who was also a Methodist preacher, made a speech pointing out the seriousness of murder and advising all to take warning. The prisoner next addressed the crowd, and all came up and bade him good-by. His wife and baby were then brought up; he took the child in his arms, prayed for its welfare, kissed it, and returned it to its mother. He asked next to see the coffin and “said it was a good coffin.” The speech-making and the informal reception following lasted about two hours, and the condemned man apparently took a solemn pleasure in the whole affair. He was then told to prepare himself for execution. He seated himself, removed his boots, and arranged his clothes. He asked the lighthorse captain what guns would be used, and a change was made from shotguns to rifles to suit his convenience. He was then blindfolded, and a piece of red ribbon was pinned over his heart. The command “Fire” was given, the guns exploded simultaneously, and he fell lifeless…”

The Seminole Nation, being the smallest in geographic size and population of the Five Civilized Tribes, had a different legal system. The Chief was the judge and the council served as the court. Generally, the Seminole Lighthorse, which were headquartered at Wewoka, were appointed by the national council; comprised of a captain, lieutenant and eight privates. The Seminole Lighthorse were the smallest in number but most feared because they were the most aggressive. The Seminole law stated explicitly that in order to protect an officer:

“…if, not withstanding the orderly deportment of the officer, the person to be arrested shall make resistance by force of arms, then the arresting officer shall have the right to kill him…Such a killing (shall) be deemed to be the legitimate result of the operation of law.”

There were at least thirty-three executions within the Five Civilized Tribes before Oklahoma statehood. This number does not include the fifteen mentioned earlier executed in the Choctaw Nation. The first execution was Archilla Smith, for murder in the Cherokee Nation on January 1, 1841. The last was William Goings, for murder in McCurtain County, Choctaw Nation on July 13, 1899. Goings execution was interesting because he had run off after being sentenced, a deviation from the norm. He was located after the Choctaw courts were abolished by the U.S. Congress, but since he was sentenced before the tribes lost their sovereignty the U.S. allowed the Choctaw Nation to carry out the original death penalty.

In 1874, the federal government ordered the consolidation of Indian agents for the Five Civilized Tribes.

Prior to that time, the Cherokee Agent was at Tahlequah, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Agent at Boggy Depot, the Creek Agent at Okmulgee and the Seminole Agent at Wewoka. The agent for the Five Civilized Tribes moved into a new building at Muskogee on January 1, 1876. The new office was called the Union Agency. In February of 1880, Colonel John Q. Tufts, United States Indian agent for the Union Agency organized a unit of Indian police to operate throughout the Five Civilized Nations. The policemen were recruited from the lighthorse of the various Indian nations. The official title for this group was the United States Indian Police or U.S.I.P. In addition to the U.S.I.P., lighthorse, and district sheriffs, many of the larger Indian towns had constables.

The United States Indian Police were completely under the orders of the Union Agency Indian agent. They occasionally assisted in the enforcement of tribal laws. They also arrested criminals, whom they turned over to deputy U.S. marshals, and removed illegal squatters and intruders who had been reported to the agent by the Principal Chief. They arrested fugitives from justice and turned them over to the officers of neighboring states when the governors made requests upon the agents (as they sometimes did), instead of upon the Principal Chief. However, their number one duty was upholding federal laws in response to introducing liquor into the Indian Territory. The United States Indian Police were paid a salary ranging from five to fifteen dollars a month from the U.S. government and received additional monies from the tribes for removing intruders and for special services.

The United States Indian Police headquartered at Muskogee could travel throughout all the Five Civilized Tribes’ land in pursuit of Indian citizen criminals. The Indian Police and lighthorse were deputized on many occasions by deputy U.S. marshals to serve as federal possemen in pursuit of Indian or non-Indian offenders. The commanding officer of the U.S.I.P., the captain, also held a deputy U.S. marshal commission. Many of the captains held the commissions of deputy U.S. marshal before joining the federal Indian police.

There was considerable activity by the U.S.I.P. in the 1890s to suppress the manufacture and sale of “Choctaw beer,” which was also known as “Choc.” This was a popular alcoholic drink made of barley, hops, tobacco and fishberries sold principally in the Choctaw mining towns.

The United States Indian Police lasted until Oklahoma statehood in November 1907. The headquarters were maintained at Muskogee with officers stationed in various towns throughout the nations of the Five Civilized Tribes. The first captain of the U.S.I.P. was veteran Cherokee officer Sam Sixkiller, appointed on February 12, 1880. Sixkiller was murdered in Muskogee on Christmas Eve of 1886. He was followed by William Fields who was murdered in April, 1887, near Eufaula, Creek Nation, trying to apprehend a felon. The next captain was the celebrated Choctaw policemen Charles Leflore. He held the position into the 1890s, when he was replaced by Cherokee, Jackson William Ellis. Ellis remained captain up through the turn of the century and the leadership position was last held by another Cherokee lawman, John C. West.

The Muskogee Weekly Phoenix carried the following commentary concerning the U.S.I.P. on November 27, 1902 under the heading “The Indian Police”:

“The Indian police force under command of Hon. J. Blair Shoenfelt, Indian Agent for the five civilized tribes, is the most unique military organization in the United States. With jurisdiction over the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee nations, this organization exercises the authority of police, U.S. marshals and U.S. troops. They are paid and uniformed by the U.S. government and perform a work not delegated to any other branch of the service. The personnel of the force is as follows:

Creek Nation - Capt. John C. West, Muskogee; Private Wm. M. Sunday, Tulsa; I.K. Boone, Eufaula; Lewis Hariaye, Weleetka; Samuel Haynes, Okmulgee; Thos. Williams, Frank West, Muskogee; Pleasant Berryhill, Beggs; Theo. E. Stidham, Muskogee.

Cherokee Nation - Arthur J. Chamberlain, Vinita; John L. Brown, Webbers Falls; Samuel Edwards, Monata.

Chickasaw Nation -
Private Jas. E. McCauley, Ardmore; Samuel Victor, Dittle; Thos. W. Short, Kemp; Wm. D. McCarty, Sulphur.

Choctaw Nation -
Lieutenant Alfred McCay, McAlester; Jas. Ward, Coalgate; Private C.W. Plummer, Lehigh; Peter Maytubby Jr., Caddo; John Simpson, Carbon; B.J. Spring, Kinta; E.S. Bowman, Oak Loge.

Seminole Nation -
Private Wm. H. Culley, Sasakwa.

Exciting novels could be written about all the men who held the position of captain of the United States Indian Police of the Indian Territory."

The Five Civilized Tribes lost the western portion of the Indian Territory after the Civil War due to some members fighting for the Confederacy. The western half of the Indian Territory was set aside as reservation land for the Plains Indians who had resisted white encroachment during the 19th century. The police departments for the Plains Indian tribes were established in 1878, under the supervision of the various reservation Indian agents. Many of the men who were recruited for this task were former scouts for the military, or would have a dual role as a scout. The Indian police detachments stationed in the western Indian Territory were used for a variety of tasks. Not all of their duties involved enforcement of federal law. Sometimes they were used for housekeeping duties or maintenance work at the agency headquarters.

The Indian Police Force of the Kiowa, Comanche, & Wichita Agency was established on October 1, 1878. James E. Farmer was appointed as Chief of Police and Sanka-Doty, the Captain. The majority of Indians for the agency were Kiowa, but there were also members from the Comanche, Apache, Wichita, and Caddo tribes represented as well. By 1887, the Indian Police detachment at the Wichita Agency would consist of two officers paid at the rate of $20 per month and twenty privates compensated at $16 a month.

Indian Agent John D. Miles of the Darlington Agency made the comments to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1878 concerning his police force:

“Under instructions from the department the majority of the returned Florida prisoners have been organized into a police force and they have shown an entire willingness to carry into effect all orders given to them. This force has obviated the necessity of calling upon the military in many instances. To give each tribe a proper representation in this force, five Arapahoes were added in addition to the prisoners from Florida. The force now numbers, as follows: one Captain, one Lieutenant, three Sergeants, and twelve Privates.” (Annual Report, 1878)

While visiting the Darlington Agency for the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians in the late 1880s, western artist and author Frederick Remington made the following comments concerning Indian Scout and Police detachments of the Indian Territory:

“A great many Western garrisons have their corps of Indian scouts. In every case they prove efficient. They are naturally the finest irregular cavalry on the face of this globe, and with an organization similar to the Russian Cossacks they would do the United States good and become themselves gradually civilized. An irregular cavalry is every year a more and more important branch of the service. Any good cavalry officer, I believe, could take a command of Indians and ride around the world without having a piece of bacon, or cartridge, or a horse issued by his Government. So far as effective police work in the west is concerned, the corps of Indian scouts do nearly all of that service now. They all like to be enlisted in the service, universally obey orders, and are never disloyal.”

Many of the Indian Police from the original rosters at both Darlington and Wichita Agencies remained in active service for several years. Black Coyote, among the first to enlist at Darlington, began his career as a private, but rose to the rank of lieutenant in 1885. The Cheyenne Reporter on March 20, 1885, wrote the following concerning Black Coyote:

“He was a man that led by example and was one of the first of the Indian Police to take up residence in a “white man” dwelling. Shortly after reaching the rank of lieutenant, Black Coyote set about constructing a “substantial little house near the Mennonite mission” and several other members of the police followed his lead and constructed houses near the agency.”

The Indian Police of the western Indian agencies were not always of Indian blood. An example would be Andrew “Andelle” Martinez who served during the early stages of the force. Martinez was originally from Las Vegas, New Mexico. As a boy he was kidnapped, along with his nephew Pedro, by the Mescalero Apaches. Pedro was killed by Apaches. During the winter of 1866-67, Martinez was sold to the Kiowa for the price of a mule and a new red blanket. He spent the next twenty years of his life living with the Kiowa. Martinez later worked at the Wichita Agency as a blacksmith and an Indian Police officer, leaving the Indian Territory only when he returned to live in Las Vegas in the early 1880s. However, he maintained his membership in the Kiowa tribe.

Police courts were established at the Indian agencies during the 1880s for minor infractions on the reservation land. The policemen of the Wichita Agency located at Anadarko would travel as far north and east as Oklahoma City in regards to their patrol. By 1885, there were two Arapaho Indian Policemen under command of the Reverend Haury stationed at Cantonment, a military post located midway between Fort Reno and Camp Supply. These two men were part of the twenty-two man force for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation. The make of the force at that time was ten Arapaho and twelve Cheyenne.

In the Five Civilized Tribes a number of Indian policemen made a contribution to frontier law enforcement. The Yuchi tribe was made members of the Creek Nation. One of the most notable Yuchi lawman was Tiger Jack, who lived south of Kellyville, was noted for his tracking abilities. He worked with Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas in the pursuit of the Dalton gang. Jack is mentioned in the book, The Dalton Brothers, published in 1892 and reprinted in 1954. The book tells of an encounter between the Daltons and a posse led by Deputy U.S. Marshal Ransom Payne in May of 1889. The posse also included Heck Thomas, Fred Dodge of Wells Fargo, Burril Cox and Tiger Jack. The anonymous author describes Jack as “a faithful and intelligent full-blood Indian.” According to the book, Tiger Jack’s keen sense of smell detected the outlaws lying in an ambush for them and saved the posse from certain death.

Tiger Jack was later in the summer of 1894 a member of posse, led by Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Huffvine, after the Bill Cook gang. The Cook gang along with the infamous outlaw Cherokee Bill had recently robbed the Lincoln County Bank in Chandler, Oklahoma Territory. Huffvine’s posse was in hot pursuit of the gang. Two other Yuchi Indians were members of this posse, Jesse Allen and Johnson Pickett, both Creek Lighthorsemen. The posse caught up with the gang near Sapulpa, Indian Territory. They captured Curtis Dayson and killed Henry Munson and Alonzo Gordon. The remaining members of the Cook gang eluded capture.

Indian policeman Jesse Allen was also a commissioned deputy U.S. marshal. The July 15, 1897, edition of the Muskogee Phoenix, notates Allen bringing in a horse-thief named Jack Bowlegs to the Muskogee federal court for a hearing.

In the summer of 1898, Tiger Jack and Jesse Allen, who owned a ranch southeast of Bristow, were members of a posse that included Deputy U.S. Marshal Bud Ledbetter. The posse was in pursuit of the notorious Hughes gang, led by three brothers named Hughes. The gang was cornered early one morning near the Tuskegee stomp ground in the northern portion of the Creek Nation, a gunfight ensued. One of the Hughes brothers was killed, one was captured by Jesse Allen. Later in the day, Ledbetter arrested the last brother.

Other noted Creek Lighthorsemen were Richard Berryhill of the Eufaula District, Captain Edmund Harry, Captain Samuel Jonathan Haynes and Daniel “Goob” Childers of the Weeletka District. Childers, a mixed-blood Cherokee adapted by the Creek tribe, was involved in many gunfights and died a violent death.

One of the most famous of the Choctaw Lighthorse, was Peter Conser, born in 1852 near Eagletown in present day McCurtain County. In 1877, at the age of twenty-five, Conser became a deputy sheriff in Suger Loaf County. He was later appointed a captain of the Choctaw Lighthorse for the Moshulatubbe District. Edward A. Bohannon was another notable Choctaw policeman. He was born in March of 1863 in Blue County, Choctaw Nation. Bohannon became a member of the U.S.I.P. in 1889. He received an appointment as special peace officer for the town of Caddo, for which he received an income from the citizens. Bohannon was able to keep Caddo free from lawlessness for a long time.

In the Seminole Nation, names of the lighthorse police remembered for duty and valor include Captain Lonnie, Captain Jacob Harrison, Captain Thomas Cloud and the last captain, Chili Fish, who later became Chief of the Seminole Nation after statehood.

One of the most legendary Indian lawmen of the Indian Territory was the Cherokee Zeke Proctor. He was elected Sheriff of the Goingsnake District, Cherokee Nation, in 1867. Proctor proceeded to get in trouble with the law after trying to kill his former brother-in-law, James Kesterson, a white man. After accidentally killing Kesterson’s wife Lucy Beck, a federal posse from Fort Smith attempted to arrest him at the same time Cherokee authorities were conducting a trial of their own. It was a matter of jurisdiction between federal law and tribal law. The two opposing sides could not come to an amenable agreement. They decided to settle the argument then and there with firearms. At the local school house which was being used as an Indian courthouse, eleven men died as the Indian police and federal police had an intense gun battle. Most of the casualties were members of the federal posse. This was the most deadly gunfight in the Indian Territory and the worst single incident for a federal posse in the history of the Old West. Proctor who hid out after the shooting was later able to work out an agreement with the U.S. government, which some people called a treaty. The “treaty” absolved Proctor from being indicted and arrested by the federal government. The Cherokee government also dropped charges against Proctor. Proctor was later elected to the Cherokee National Council as a senator in 1877. Federal records at the Fort Smith National Historic site show Proctor received a deputy U.S. marshal’s commission on November 20, 1891 and February 12, 1895. Proctor was also appointed Sheriff of the Going Snake District on May 4, 1894. His granddaughter had an oral interview recorded by the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1983. She stated in the interview that Proctor had killed twenty-five men as a lawman in the Cherokee Nation. This purported number of shootings concerning Proctor cannot at this time be denied or confirmed.

The Five Civilized Tribes during the antebellum years in the South had embraced African slavery for economic development. Indian slaveowners brought their slaves with them to the Indian Territory from the Southeast. After the Civil War these black members of the tribes, known as Indian freedmen, were given citizenship and full rights in their respective tribes, except Chickasaw. Some Indian freedmen became valuable members of the Indian police. This was especially true in the Seminole and Creek Nations.

Names of Seminole Freedmen who were members of the Lighthorse police include Cumsey Bruner, John Dennis, Tom Payne, Thomas Bruner and Sam Cudgo. The most famous Seminole Freedman policeman was Dennis Cyrus, who served for twenty-five years. Five of those years, Cyrus held a commission for five years as a deputy U.S. marshal under U.S. Marshal John Carroll at Fort Smith.

In the Creek Nation, Thomas “Tacky” Grayson, a freedman was captain of the Lighthorse police for the Coweta District. Grayson was instrumental in the capture of the Rufus Buck gang and was involved in more than a few shootings during his tenure as a lawman. Wallace McNac, an African-Creek, was not a freedman, he was listed on the full-blood tribal roll. Most of the time Creek enrollees for the Dawes Commission would follow the mother’s lineage. The Dawes Commission was empowered to give land allotments to individual Indians and freedmen for the eventually demise of the Indian governments. McNac also served as a deputy U.S. marshal for the Fort Smith court. As a member of a posse under the leadership of Deputy U.S. Marshal D.V. Rusk, McNac shot and killed the notorious Creek outlaw Wesley Barnett in January of 1889. McNac was also a captain of the Creek Lighthorse for the Muskogee District.

Other black members of the Creek Lighthorse in the Muskogee District, in which the town of Muskogee was located, included Robert Marshall, Tom Kennard, John Miles, John Flowers and John “Cat” Roberts. The majority of Creek Lighthorse police for the Muskogee District were Indian freedmen. The judges for the Muskogee District were also Indian freedmen, the most famous being H.C. Reed who held sessions at the Lee Courthouse located southwest of Muskogee.

The most noted Choctaw Freedman who served with the Choctaw Lighthorse Police was Mose Burris. Burris, of African-Choctaw heritage, lived in the Ada community and was involved in many manhunts during his early years in the Choctaw Nation. On numerous occasions he would serve as a posseman and interpreter for various deputy U.S. marshals searching for felons.

In the Five Civilized Tribes, white men became citizens principally by marriage. Samuel Robert Wilson became a member of the Choctaw Lighthorse police. In 1877, at the age of sixteen, Wilson moved from Arkansas to Sugar Loaf County in the Choctaw Nation. He learned to speak the language and at the age of twenty-two married a Choctaw woman. Wilson joined the National Choctaw Lighthorse Police under the leadership of Peter Conser. Later, he served as a deputy sheriff under every sheriff in LeFlore County until his age prevented active service.

Deputy U.S. Marshals such as the intrepid Bass Reeves and Heck Thomas who worked for the Fort Smith court would work very closely with the Indian police. Reeves would often on his trips into the ‘nations’ pick up prisoners that were caught by the Creek, Seminole and Chickasaw authorities or Indian agency police and take them to Fort Smith for trial. If a Five Tribes policeman killed a non-citizen in the course of his police work the tribal authorities would pay for an attorney to represent the policeman in federal court.

Outside the Five Tribes land boundaries, white men were hired and given leadership positions within the Indian Agency Police departments. As stated earlier James E. Farmer was the first police chief at the Anadarko Agency. For many years, Frank Farwell was police chief of the Anadarko Wichita Agency. In my book, Black, Red and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territory, 1870-1907, there is a short story concerning Farwell’s police work:

“…On this particular occasion a black man, Monroe Barrett, rode from an Anadarko store with a new saddle and boots without the formality of paying for them. He was trailed by Police Chief Frank Ferrell (sic) and Pewo, one of his privates. Overtaking Barrett when he stopped for water, Pewo grappled with him; the black man grabbed Pewo’s revolver and got one shot off at Farrell (sic) while using Pewo as a shield. But Ferrell (sic) was a good man with a gun, and he managed to kill the thief. The stolen goods were then returned, but the summer heat made disposal of the corpse a real emergency. The agent met it by a telegram to Barrett’s relatives at Chickasha:

Monroe Barrett was just killed by my Chief of Police while resisting arrest; you are instructed to immediately notify me what disposition to make of the body, and it should be taken care of at the earliest possible moment, owing to the weather conditions.”

Morris Robacker was one of the first chief of police for the Osage Indian Reservation, he held the title of captain. He also was a deputy U.S. marshal. Deputy U.S. Marshals Warren Bennett and Wiley Haines served as police chief and assistant chief, respectively, for the Osage Indian Reservation. Haines began his police service in 1898 under Indian Agent Colonel J.W. Pollock, headquartered at Pawhuska, and became Chief of the Osage Police in 1905 when Bennett died. Earlier, the infamous Dalton brothers served as Osage Indian police officers before becoming outlaws.

Indian Police officers killed in the line of duty during the frontier era include the following:

Lewis Anderson, Sheriff, Gaines County, Choctaw Nation, November 17, 1905. Anderson was shot and killed while trying to arrest two intoxicated brothers, Bob and Henry Thompson.

Joe Barnett, Creek Lighthorse Police, July 30, 1882. Barnett was killed while attempting to arrest a group of Creek Indians during a political dispute.

John Boston, United States Indian Police, July 20, 1881. Boston was killed twenty miles north of Denison, Texas, in the Chickasaw Nation. He had arrested two horse thieves and recovered fourteen horses after tracking them from McAlester, Choctaw Nation. Boston was ambushed by the remaining five gang members.

John M. Brown, Lieutenant, Cherokee Lighthorse Police, December 28, 1845. Brown was killed by an accomplice, Charles Smith, of an outlaw, Bean Starr, he had killed a year earlier. Bean Starr was the brother of Tom Starr. Brown may have been the first peace officer killed in the Indian Territory.

Chin-Chi-Kee, Captain, Chickasaw Lighthorse Police, January, 1852. Chin-Chi-Kee was killed while attempting to arrest whiskey smugglers south of Tishomingo, the capitol of the Chickasaw Nation.

Thomas Cloud, Captain, Seminole Lighthorse Police, March 29, 1885. Cloud was killed while attempting to serve arrest warrants on two horse thieves near Sacred Heart Mission in the Seminole Nation.

Ben Collins, Chickasaw Lighthorse Police, August 1, 1906. Collins a former deputy U.S. marshal was killed from ambush by the notorious killer Jim Miller near Emet, Chickasaw Nation.

Sam Cudjo, Seminole Lighthorse Police, March 29, 1882. Cudjo, a Seminole Freedman was a member of the same posse led by Captain Cloud. Cudjo and Cloud were both shot by a black outlaw named Rector Roberts. Roberts was subsequently killed by the posse.

Billy Cully, Seminole Lighthorse Police, February 5, 1906. Cully was killed while trying to serve an arrest warrant on Alex Harjo near Sasakwa, Seminole Nation.

Running Eagle, Pawnee Tribal Police, June 29, 1891. Eagle was shot and killed while investigating a suspicious person on the Pawnee Reservation in Oklahoma Territory.

Martin Eshtiahochee, Deputy Sheriff, Atoka County, Choctaw Nation, October 13,1892. Eshtiahochee was killed in a gunfight with Dave Perkins over personal differences at Hester’s store in Boggy Depot.

William Fields, Captain, United States Indian Police, April 10, 1887. Fields was killed while attempting to arrest a train robber named James Cunnius near Eufaula, Creek Nation.

James Guy, Sergeant, United States Indian Police, May 1, 1885. Guy was killed while attempting to serve arrest warrants on Tom and Jim Lee and Della Humby in the Chickasaw Nation near the present town of Gene Autrey.

Charley Hicks, Sheriff, Cherokee Nation, December 12, 1870. Hicks, Sheriff of the Cooweescoowee District, assassinated by John and Calvin Coker, father and son, when they invaded Hicks home and killed him with double-barrel shotguns.

Joe Hoklotubbee, Sheriff, Gaines County, Choctaw Nation, September 10, 1892. Hoklotubbee was assassinated at home by political rivals that belonged to the full-blood National Party. Hoklotubbee belonged to the mixed-blood Progressive Party. Silan Lewis was arrested as being the leader of the assailants and was the last man executed under Choctaw law in the Indian Territory.

Sequoyah Houston, Cherokee Indian Police, June 17, 1894. Houston was killed by Cherokee Bill during a gun battle with the Cook gang at the Fourteen Mile Creek stagecoach station in the Cherokee Nation.

John Lewis, Constable, Tishomingo County, Chickasaw Nation Police, September 28, 1893. Lewis disarmed Nathaniel Zumwalt the day before for carrying firearms within the city limits of Ardmore. Next morning Zumwalt armed with a Winchester rifle confronted and demanded his pistol be returned. Lewis refused and Zumwalt shot him to death.

Robert Marshall, Creek Lighthorse Police, September 10, 1894. Marshall was killed in Muskogee while attempting to arrest a horse thief named Charles Smith. Marshall possibly held an appointment with the U.S.I.P., if so, he was one of the few Indian freedmen to serve with this organization.

Jim Nakedhead, Cherokee Indian Police, February 27, 1895. Nakedhead was killed while serving as a posseman for Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Farmer. The posse was attempting to arrest the Hughes gang, noted train robbers, near Checotah in the Creek Nation.

Henry McGill, Deputy Sheriff, Tishomingo County, Chickasaw Nation, November 3, 1883. McGill was shot and killed when he and Tishomingo County Sheriff Jep Fry tried to arrest an intoxicated Edmiston Parker on the streets of Tishomingo. Parker committed suicide beside McGill’s body after realizing he had shot the deputy.

John Poorbear, City Marshal, Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, September 14, 1890. Poorbear was shot and killed while trying to arrest an intoxicated Dave Andrews. Andrews had been drinking with John Buchanan, Tom and Jim French.

Charlie Proctor, Deputy Sheriff, Cherokee Nation, August 10, 1896. Proctor was killed while trying to break up a fistfight between town marshal Eli Wofford and Sheriff Leonard Williams. Proctor was the nephew of legendary Cherokee lawman Zeke Proctor.

C. Pushmataha, aka John Fulsom, City Marshal, Nowata, Cherokee Nation, November 13, 1897. Pushmataha was killed by Deputy U.S. Marshal George Goodell, who also served as the town marshal of Nowata for the white citizens. Pushmataha was city marshal for the Indian citizens of Nowata. Due to the U.S. Congress ending Indian sovereignty in the Indian Territory, two separate governments existed in Nowata, one for the Indians, “Cherokee Corporation,” and one for the whites, “Arkansas Corporation.” It is said that racial prejudice was rampant and tensions ran high. Goodell was sentenced to twenty years, served three and a half years in prison. President Theodore Roosevelt pardoned Goodell in 1902.

Dave Ridge, Sheriff, Cherokee Nation, September 20, 1897. Ridge was killed while attempting to arrest a Sampson Rogers for murder near the Saline District Courthouse.

Sam Scott, Captain, Creek Lighthorse Police, July 30, 1882. Scott was killed in the same intertribal conflict that took the life of policeman Joe Barnett in the Creek Nation.

Sam Sixkiller, Captain, United States Indian Police, December 24, 1886. Sixkiller was the first captain of the U.S.I.P. He was assassinated in Muskogee, Creek Nation, by Dick Vann and Alf Cunningham. Two months after Sixkiller’s death the U.S. Congress made it a federal crime to assault or murder Indian Police officers. Vann, the most noted Cherokee Freedman outlaw of the 1880s, was later killed by Captain Jackson William Ellis in Fort Gibson.

Jess Sunday, Sheriff, Cherokee Nation, September 20, 1897. Sunday, Sheriff of the Saline District, was killed by unknown parties while attempting to arrest the men who murdered his brother, Dave Ridge. Ridge had just been elected Sheriff to replace Sunday.

Frank West, Cherokee Indian Police, December 17, 1886. West was killed in a gunfight with outlaw Sam Starr, husband of Belle Starr. Sam Starr received fatal wounds in same gunfight with West. Frank was the brother of Captain John C. West of the U.S.I.P.

Eli Wofford, City Marshal, Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, August 10, 1896. Wofford was killed after becoming intoxicated during the annual political convention in Tahlequah. He got in a fistfight with Sheriff Leonard Willams, former Sheriff Charlie Proctor tried to break up the fight and gunplay ensued with Wofford and Proctor both being mortally wounded.

© Copyright 2006. Art T. Burton


Black, Red and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territory, 1870-1907. Art T. Burton. Eakin Press, Austin, TX, 1991

The Road to Disappearance: A History of the Creek Indians. Angie Debo. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1941

Oklahoma Heroes: A Tribute to Fallen Law Enforcement Officers. Ron Owens. Turner Publishing Company, Paducah, KY, 2000

“Oklahoma’s Frontier Indian Police.” Art T. Burton. Oklahoma State Trooper Magazine, Part 1 & Part 2, Fall 1995 & Winter 1996 editions

Diron Ahlquist, unpublished research on lawmen and outlaw of the western Indian Territory