Legends of America

Follow the links to the various pages of Legends of America

The Old West Legends of America Outhouse Madness Ghostly Legends Outlaws Old West Saloons Rocky Mountain General Store Legends Photo Store The Book Store Make your travel reservations here! Route 66 Native Americans The Old States - Back East

Legends of America    |    Legends General Store    |    Legends Photo Shop

 

Legends Of America's Facebook PageLegends Of America's Twitter PageLegends on Pinterest

Legends Home

Site Map

What's New!!

 

Content Categories:

American History

Destinations-States

Ghost Stories

Ghost Towns

Historic People

Legends & Myths

Native Americans

Old West

Photo Galleries

Route 66

Travel Center

Treasure Tales

 

   Search Our Sites

Custom Search

Google

 

About Us

Advertising

Article/Photo Use

Copyright Information

Blog

Facebook Page

Guestbook

Links

Newsletter

Privacy Policy

Site Map

Writing Credits

 

We welcome corrections

and feedback!

Contact Us

 

Legends' General Store


Old West/Western

Route 66

Native American

Featured Items

Sale Items

Books/Magazines

CD's - DVD's

Nuwati Herbals

Personalized-Engraved
Postcards

Wall Art

Custom Products

and Much More!

 

  Legends Of America's Rocky Mountain General Store - Cart View

 

Legends' Photo Prints

Legends Photo Prints and Downloads
 

Ghost Town Prints

Native American Prints

Old West Prints

Route 66 Prints

States, Cities & Places

Nostalgic Prints

Photo Art Prints

Jim Hinckley's America

David Fisk (Lens of Fisk)

Specials-Gift Ideas

and Much More!!
 

Legends Of America's Photo Print Shop - Cart View

 

Family Friendly Site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old West Legends IconOLD WEST LEGENDS

Heck Thomas - Tough Law in Indian Territory

Bookmark and Share

 

Henry Andrew (Heck) Thomas was one of the Wild West's most effective lawmen, apprehending dozens of notorious outlaws including members of the Doolin, Dalton, and Sam Bass Gangs.

 

Thomas was born in Athens, Georgia on January 3, 1850 to Lovick and Martha Thomas. Reared and educated in Atlanta, he took on the nickname "Heck” at an early age. His parents wanted him to grow up to be a Methodist minister; however, the impetuous boy had other ideas.

 

When the Civil War broke out, his father and two of his paternal uncles quickly joined and all three gained distinction with the Confederate Army. His father became a colonel commanding the 35th Georgia Infantry, his Uncle Henry also became a colonel and commanded the 16th Georgia Infantry, and yet another uncle, Edward Lloyd Thomas, commanded the 49th Georgia Infantry.

 

 

Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas

Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas

 

Before the war was over, Edward Thomas advanced to the rank of Brigadier General in command of the Thomas brigade. It was for his Uncle Edward that Heck served as a courier at the front of the fighting in Virginia when he was just 12 years old.

 

When the war was over, Heck's father became the first city marshal of Atlanta and Heck joined the police force at the age of 17. In 1871, Heck married his cousin, Isabelle Gray, the daughter of an Atlanta preacher, and the pair soon began a family. During his tenure as an Atlanta police officer, he began his career, gaining fame as a fearless fighter after having been wounded in one of the city’s race riots.

 

Houston & Texas Central RailroadIn 1875, Heck moved his family to Galveston, Texas , where he soon went to work as a railroad guard for the Texas Express Company. Charged with guarding the Houston and Texas Central Railroad that ran between Denison and Galveston, the route was rampant with train robbery attempts. In 1878, the Sam Bass Gang attempted to rob the train near the Hutchins Station, some twelve miles southeast of Dallas. In the inevitable shoot-out that occurred during the robbery attempt, Thomas was injured but the gang got away with nothing, thanks to his foresight.
Heck had placed the cash in an unlit stove, while stashing "decoy” packages in the safe. By the time the outlaws discovered the ruse, the train was safely gone. Afterwards, he was promoted to a Fort Worth detective for the company and by 1879 he held the position of Chief Agent.

In 1885, Thomas left his position with the Texas Express to run for the vacant office of Chief of Police. However, when he lost by a narrow margin, he went to work for the Fort Worth Detective Association. Continuing his success, he soon pursued brothers Jim and Pink Lee -- two murderous members of the notorious Lee Gang. The gang of horse and cattle thieves had been plaguing Cooke County, Texas and the Chickasaw Nation to such a degree that both the settlers and the Indians were up in arms. In May, 1885, when U.S. Marshal James Guy formed a posse to go after the gang, they were ambushed and four of the posse were killed.

Soon after, rewards totaling some $7,000 were posted for the capture of Jim and Pink Lee and Heck Thomas began the pursuit. After four months of continuous searching, Thomas, leading a posse along with Jim Taylor, caught the Lee brothers off-guard in a hayfield near Dexter, Texas. Giving them a chance to surrender, as was his custom, the pair answered only with the sound of their Winchesters. In the ensuing melee, both bandits were killed, and the posse collected the reward. The newspaper proclaimed the next day:  "The Lee brothers, the most notorious desperadoes in Texas finally go down with their boots on.”

 

Shortly after this daring deed, Thomas was appointed a U.S. Deputy Marshal in 1886. Moving his family to Fort Smith, Arkansas, Heck worked under the infamous Isaac Parker, known as the "Hanging Judge.” For the next seven years, Thomas would earn a reputation for being one of the most efficient deputies working the lawless land of Indian Territory. On his first trip out of Fort Smith, he apprehended eight murderers, a bootlegger, a horse thief, and several other hard case criminals. This would become the "norm” for Heck, who often worked single-handedly and would, over his tenure, bring more outlaws to justice than any other marshal working in Indian Territory.

 

Though his career was soaring, his marriage was floundering. Just two years after accepting the position as a U.S. Deputy Marshal, Heck's wife, Isabelle Thomas had become weary of frontier life and her husband’s long absences. Before long she divorced him and returned to Georgia with their five children.

 

 

 

In 1888, while Thomas was recuperating from wounds received in the line of duty in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he met a schoolmarm and preacher's daughter named Mattie Mowbray. A year later, in October, 1889, the pair married in Arkansas City, Kansas and Heck soon began a second family.

By 1891, Thomas, along with two other Deputy U.S. Marshals -- Chris Madsen and Bill Tilghman, began to work together to bring in some of the most notorious outlaws of the time. Soon, the trio took on the nickname of the "Three Guardsmen” and would become known as being largely responsible in bringing law and order to Indian Territory.

 

In 1892, Thomas and Madsen were pursuing the Dalton Gang who had been terrorizing Indian Territory with numerous train robberies and the ultimate shoot-outs that occurred during these attempts.  On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang attempted to simultaneously rob two banks in Coffeyville, Kansas hoping to steal enough cash that they could "retire” from a life a thievery and escape to South America.

 

  Fort Smith Courthouse and Jail, circa 1875

Fort Smith Courthouse and Jail, circa 1875, courtesy Fort Smith National Historic Site

 

Chasing the Daltons was a little strange for Heck, as both Bob and Grat Dalton had once been Deputy U.S. Marshals like himself. He had also worked closely with their late brother, Frank Dalton, who was killed in the line of duty. However, these former ties to the Daltons did not stop him in his pursuit. In fact, Emmett Dalton would say that Heck Thomas was their "nemesis.”

After the Dalton Gang had robbed a train in Adair, Oklahoma in July, 1892, Thomas had doggedly tracked them into the Osage Nation and located their hideout. Continuing to track the outlaws, he came upon their campsite about 20 miles south of Coffeyville. As he continued the pursuit, the news came that four of the Dalton Gang members, including Bob and Grat, had been killed in Coffeyville. Brother, Emmett Dalton, was the only survivor, having been severely wounded. Hearing the news, Heck continued to Coffeyville and identified the bodies for the Wells Fargo Company.

In 1893, the "Three Guardsmen” were tasked with taming Perry, Oklahoma , which had been born overnight in the Oklahoma land run of September 16, 1893. In no time at all, the settlement, which quickly earned the title of "Hell’s Half Acre,” was filled with some 25,000 people and 110 saloons. With the tidal wave of humanity that had converged on Perry, lawlessness, disputes, and mayhem were the "norm” of the day in this burgeoning city. Also operating in the area was the infamous Doolin Gang, whom the trio were determined to apprehend.

For four years, the Doolin Gang robbed trains and banks in Kansas, Indian Territory , and Texas , with the "Three Guardsmen” constantly in pursuit. Finally, in August, 1896 Thomas led a posse that caught up with Bill Doolin. When the outlaw was confronted, he tried to shoot his way out, but was killed.

While working the Indian Territory, Thomas arrested more than 300 wanted men in a dangerous job that felled fifteen other Indian Territory officers. During his tenure as a U.S. Deputy Marshall, Heck was known to go after the most dangerous outlaws, because the rewards were higher. Though his success in tracking outlaws provided him with the financial rewards he sought, he also paid a price when he was wounded at least six times during gunfights.

In 1902, Thomas moved to Lawton, Oklahoma where he would serve as the Police Chief for the next seven years. After a heart attack in 1909, finally he retired from law enforcement at the age of 59. Three years later, on August 15, 1912, he died of Bright’s Disease. Henry Andrew "Heck” Thomas was buried at Highland Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma , where his grave remains today.

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated October, 2012.

 

Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas

Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!

 

Also See:

 

Fort Smith, Arkansas

Isaac Parker, the "Hanging Judge"

Old West Outlaws

Gunfighters & Lawmen of the American West

Bunco Men, Cardsharps, and Scoundrels

Explorers, Mountain Men, Trappers & Traders

Vigilantes

 

From Legends' General Store

Old West Wanted Posters and Wild West PrintsOld West Wanted Posters and Wild West Prints - From outlaw wanted posters, such as Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and the Wild Bunch, to Old West advertising, such as Pony Express, Stagecoach Rules, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and more. Prints measure 11"x17" are are produced on semi-glossy, 12 point paper. See the entire collection HERE!  Posters are just $7.99.

 

Old West Wanted Posters and Wild West Prints

 

                                                            Copyright © 2003-Present, www.Legends of America.com