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Old West Lawmen - A

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John R. Abernathy, aka: Wolf Catcher, Catch 'Em Alive Jack (1876–1941) - Born to Scottish ancestors in Texas, Abernathy was raised in the burgeoning railroad town of Sweetwater. During his lifetime he worked as a U.S. Secret Service agent, a wildcat oil driller, and was the last U.S. Deputy Marshal in Oklahoma Territory, serving from 1906 to 1910. But he was best known for capturing hundreds of wolves single handedly without ever having to kill one. By forcing his hand deep enough into a wolf's mouth, he could stun the creature long enough to capture it, a service for which he was paid fifty dollars by eager ranchers. Earning him his nicknames and a small amount of fame for this "skill," he even drew the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt.

 

John Hicks AdamsJohn Hicks "J.H." Adams (18??-1878) - Born in Edwardsville, Illinois in 1830, Adams helped his father in his castor oil factory as he was growing up. He attended college at Shurtleff College, in Upper Alton, Illinois before serving in the Mexican War in 1847-48. When the news of the discovery of gold in California reached Illinois, Adams headed west with his wife and two children, first settling in Placerville. A couple of years later, in 1853, he moved his family to Santa Clara County, where he worked a farm near Gilroy. A decade later, he was elected sheriff of Santa Clara County and moved once again to San Jose. He held this office for three successive terms and retired in March 1876. While in office he acquired a reputation as a brave and efficient officer and a shrewd detective and aided in the capture of Tiburcio Vasquez, the notorious bandit of California. At some point, he was made a U.S. Deputy Marshal for the western district. In this capacity he was traveling in Arizona with Deputy Marshal Jack Finley, chasing Mexican bandits. On September 2, 1878 both Adams and Finley were killed by the bandits near Davidson's Canyon, Arizona. The suspects were chased into Mexico and apprehended but never tried or convicted in connection with either murder.

 

Alfred Y. Allee (1855-1896) - Born in DeWitt County, Texas in 1855, Allree became a prominent lawman, serving as a Texas Ranger, and as a lawman in Karnes and Frio Counties. As a lawman, Allee quickly developed a reputation for violence and was often known to shoot prisoners even after they had surrendered. When he was a Deputy Sheriff in Karnes County, Texas, in 1882, he shot and killed a robbery suspect under questionable circumstances. Some said that he was really settling an old score with the man and Allee was charged with murder. However, he was not convicted.

 

Later when he was working as a Deputy Sheriff in Frio County, Texas, the lawman became involved in a dispute with another deputy over who could draw their guns faster. The dispute ended with Allee shooting the other deputy eight times and leaving him dead in the dust. Again, Allee was charged with murder, but when witnesses testified that the other deputy had drawn his gun first, Allee was found justified for self-defense.

 

The quick-tempered lawman was also known to be a vicious racist and at one point when a black porter bumped into him while Allee was boarding a train, the lawman shot him dead. Once again he was arrested and tried, but again was acquitted, for a third time, largely due to the race of the victim.

 

In September, 1888, Allee was tasked with tracking down Brack Cornett, a member of the Bill Whitley Gang who had been robbing banks and trains in southwest Texas. Though the other members had been apprehended or killed, Cornett had fled to Arizona Territory. Allee soon tracked him there and after a heated gun battle on horseback, killed Cornett. Years later, Allee was stabbed to death in a barroom brawl in Laredo, Texas, in 1896.

 

John Oliver Allen (1850-1928) - A cowboy and Texas Ranger, Allen was born in Kaufman County, Texas on June 22, 1850. Raised on the frontier, he became a cowboy as a young man and enlisted in Rufus Perry's Company D of the Texas Rangers in early 1874. Though he served less than a year in the Rangers, he was wounded four times in Indian skirmishes and would later say that in one battle, every ranger other than himself had been killed. After leaving the Texas Rangers, he later settled at Cookville, Texas and became a chaplain for the Texas Ex-Rangers' Association. He died at Edinburg, Texas on June 7, 1928.

 

David L. Anderson, aka: William "Billy” Wilson, Buffalo Bill (1862-1918) Most commonly known as Billy Wilson, Anderson moved with his family from Ohio to South Texas when he was a teenager. When he grew up he worked as a cowboy before moving to White Oaks, New Mexico and buying a livery stable in 1880. Within less than a year he sold his operation, but was paid in counterfeit bills. Duped, he began to pass the money anyway and he was arrested and indicted. Skipping bail, he soon fled and joined Billy the Kid’s Gang of rustlers. Along with several other gang members he was arrested by Pat Garrett and convicted in 1881 and sent to prison in Santa Fe. However, he soon escaped and reverting to his real name, David L. Anderson, he returned to Texas, where he began ranching, married, and started a family. In 1896, Pat Garrett helped him to obtain a presidential pardon. Afterwards, he worked as a U.S. customs inspector for a time, before becoming the Terrell County Sheriff in 1905. He was killed in the line of duty in 1918.  

 

 

 

Pete Anderson (1850?-1890) - A full-blooded Pottawatomie Indian, Anderson was deputized for a Oklahoma County, Oklahoma posse to assist officers in apprehending a cattle rustler. On December 25, 1890, Oklahoma County Deputy Sheriffs Frank Gault and Charles Gilbert held arrest warrants for a Pottawatomie County man named John Bly for cattle theft and selling whiskey. Once the two officers arrived in the neighboring county, they deputized Pete Anderson, who lived near Choctaw City, and another man named Frank Cook, also from the area, as possemen. As the deputies neared Bly's ranch, about seven miles east of Choctaw City,  they heard the sounds of gunfire, dismounted and began sneak through the tall grass to see what was going on. However, their actions were obviously not stealthy enough, because suddenly John Bly opened fire on the officers, his first shot hitting Pete Anderson in the head and killing him instantly. The other officers returned fire, wounding Bly, who surrendered, was arrested, and taken to jail in Oklahoma City. The following day, Sheriff C.H. Deferd and Deputy Gault returned to the area and arrested the murderer's brother, Givens Bly and brother-in-law, Dick Burchfield as accomplices.

 

William "Red" AngusWilliam "Red" Angus (1849-1922) - Born in Zanesville, Ohio, Angus served as a military teamster in Kansas and briefly joined the Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He was with General Custer, when he assaulted Black Kettle's village at the Battle of the Washita in Oklahoma in 1868. Afterwards he continued to drive wagons in Indian Territory. In 1880 he was driving a herd of cattle from Texas to a ranch near Sheridan, Wyoming and upon his arrival, decided to stay.

 

Some eight years later he was running a liquor store in Buffalo, Wyoming and one the Sheriff's election of Johnson County in 1888. Sitting in the midst of cattle country, Angus sided with the small ranchers in the Johnson County War. When the cattle barons put to group of some 50 men together to intimidate the small ranchers, Angus gathered up his own posse and laid siege to the ranch where they were holed up. For three days, in April, 1892, a hail of bullets flew between the two factions, until the Sixth Cavalry from Fort McKinney were brought in to end the affair. When Angus ran for sheriff again the next year, he lost but stayed in Buffalo where he worked at the Occidental Hotel, served as a Deputy County Clerk and Johnson County Treasurer before his death in 1922.

 

Orr William Annis (1859-19??) - Of Scottish descent, Annis was born in Knox County, Illinois on June 12, 1859 to Andrew and Leah Brown Annis. Reared on the family farm and educated in public school, Annis headed west in 1878, first to the Black Hills of South Dakota, then to Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming, where he worked as a cowboy on several ranches. After three years, he returned to Illinois where he worked in the meat market business in Lafayette and married Sarah J. Porter. The couple would have six children. In 1884, he moved to Sumner County Kansas, where he farmed and ranched until Oklahoma Territory opened in 1889. At that time, he joined with the many others in the Oklahoma Land Rush, and claimed a parcel near Perkins, Oklahoma, where he again made his living as a farmer and rancher. In 1897, he became the sheriff of Payne County, Oklahoma, a position he held until 1901. He later became involved in several businesses, including a bank.

 

Bill Arnold (18??-1898) - Deputized as a posseman by U.S. Deputy Marshal Hess Bussey, Bussey and Arnold arrested a man named Bill Johnson, when he and some friends were causing a disturbance in Claremore, Indian Territory on March 17, 1898. The two officers took Johnson to the office of of George Walkley's livery stable and unfortunately, didn't search him for weapons. While Arnold was attempting to handcuff the prisoner, Johnson drew a pistol and shot Arnold in the face then turned to shoot Bussey. The marshal; however, struggled with Johnson trying to get the gun and pulling his own weapon shot Johnson in the chest. When the prisoner continued to fight, Bussey shot him again in the forehead, killing him instantly. Deputy Arnold's body was returned to his former home in Columbus, Kansas.

 

Arizona Rangers (1901-1909) - Organized in 1901 to protect Arizona Territory from outlaws and rustlers. After accomplishing their goals, they were disbanded in 1909. See full article HERE.

 

John Barclay Armstrong (1850-1913) - Born in McMinnville, Tennessee in January, 1850, Armstrong spent some time in Missouri and Arkansas before he headed to Texas in 1871. Settling in Austin, he became a member of the Travis Rifles before joining Captain Leander McNelly's company of Texas Rangers on May 20, 1875. He soon became McNelly's second in command and when he was promoted to sergeant, he earned the nickname "McNelly's Bulldog." In 1876, Armstrong was promoted to Lieutenant. During his years with the Texas Rangers, he was involved in several notable cases, including the capture of John Wesley Hardin and the pursuit and killing of noted bank robber Sam Bass. In 1881, he resigned his position as a Texas Ranger and soon thereafter was appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal. In 1882 he established the 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch in Willacy County. The old ranger, known in retirement as "Major" Armstrong, died on May 1, 1913.

 

Ira Aten (1862–1953) - The son of a Methodist minister, Ira's family settled on a farm near Round Rock, Texas after the Civil War. When he was just a teenager, his father tended to the mortally wounded Sam Bass in 1878. Aten joined the Texas Rangers in 1883, and became captain of Company D. Known for his shooting skills, Ira was first assigned to border duty and after a gunfight with cattle rustlers, he was promoted to corporal. He was then sent to West Central Texas, where he was instrumental in breaking up and number of cattle rustling outfits. After arresting Jim Epps and Rube Boyce, he was promoted to the level of sergeant. In 1887, after a long manhunt, he tracked and shot down outlaw Judd Roberts, an associate of Butch Cassidy's Hole-in-the-Wall gang. In 1889 Aten was appointed sheriff of Fort Bend County, Texas during the violent feud known as the Jaybird-Woodpecker War. In 1893, he was elected sheriff of Castro County, Texas, where he once again cracked down on a number of Panhandle rustlers. After serving as sheriff for two years, he went to work as a superintendent of the six hundred thousand acre XIT ranch, a position he held until 1904. After leaving the XIT Ranch, he took his wife and five children to California, where he lived until his death in 1953 at the age of nearly ninety.

 

Lee M. Atkins (18??-1894) - A newly appointed U.S. Deputy Marshal, Atkins hadn't even seen service when he was killed. A Creek Indian, Atkins was attending a horse racing event in Checotah, Indian Territory on November 10, 1894. Accompanying him was another U.S. Deputy Marshal, Dick Downing, who was in town to serve an unrelated writ. Earlier in the day Atkins had been warned that a man named Amos McIntosh, another Creek Indian and former prosecuting attorney in Muskogee, was looking to kill him. After the warning, Downing accompanied Atkins for the rest of the day and when Atkins and McIntosh came face to face, both agreed to give up their weapons to prevent any trouble. However, McIntosh later got his gun back. That evening the two met again at the horse races and began to argue. When Atkins cursed McIntosh, telling the other man that he was unarmed and calling McIntosh a coward, McIntosh pulled his gun and shot Atkins twice, once in the left side and once in the hip. Though reports stated that both men had been drinking, Marshal Downing said Atkins was sober. Why Downing didn't immediately arrest McIntosh is unknown. The killer fled town on the next train to Eufaula, but was trailed and arrested on January 14, 1895 by U.S. Deputy Marshal, Grant Johnson. As to the outcome of his arrest, it is unknown.

 

Willard Ayers (18??-1880) - A native of Fort Smith, Arkansas, both Willard and his brother, Christopher Columbus Ayers, grew up to become U.S. Deputy Marshals in the early 1870s before Judge Isaac Parker took office. In 1873, Ayers was wounded by a prisoner when he, along with U.S. Deputy Marshals, Perry DuVal and James Wilkerson, were escorting prisoners to from Indian Territory to Fort Smith, Arkansas. DuVal was killed but Ayers recovered from his wound and returned to work. Several years later, on August 11, 1880, Ayers attempted to arrest Emanuel Patterson, an African American wanted for larceny. When Ayers went to Patterson's home near Cherokeetown in the Chickasaw Nation to arrest the man, Patterson asked if he could get some clothes and Ayers agreed. However, when Patterson returned, he had a gun and shot Ayers in the head. The fugitive then escaped. However, in 1886, Patterson was arrested and taken to Fort Smith on another violation. He would later admit to killing Ayers, but claimed he didn't known he was an officer, but thought he was an enemy trying to kill him. Patterson was convicted of murder in October, 1887 and sentenced to be hanged the following April. However, his sentence was later commuted to life in prison, where he died.     Continued Next Page

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