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Old West Lawmen - T

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The Three Guardsmen - This name was given in Old West literature to describe the three effective U.S. Deputy Marshals, Bill Tilghman (1854-1924), Chris Madsen (1851-1944), and Heck Thomas (1850-1912). In 1889, this trio began the "cleaning up" of Indian Territory , which at the time, was known as a wild and lawless place. Working under Judge Isaac Parker in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the three men arrested more than 300 outlaws in the next ten years and killed many others. Their main claim to fame was their relentless pursuit of the members of the Doolin-Dalton Gang, eliminating many of them systematically, and apprehending those that would surrender.


Ben ThompsonBenjamin "Ben" Thompson, aka: Shotgun Ben (1843-1884) - Born in Knottingly, Yorkshire, England on November, 2 1843, the Thompson family immigrated to the United States in 1851. Settling in Austin, Texas, Thompson became a printer working for various Austin newspapers. At the age of 15, he wounded his first man, in an argument about his shooting abilities. By 1859, Thompson had moved to New Orleans where he worked for a bookbinder and killed his first man when he saw him abusing a woman. When the Civil War began, he returned to Texas, enlisting with the 2nd Texas Cavalry. After fatally shooting a teamster in an argument in May, 1865, he fled to Mexico.

Returning to Texas, he wounded his brother-in-law who was abusing his pregnant sister and spent two years in the Texas State Penitentiary. Afterwards, he headed to Abilene, Kansas, hoping to change his fortunes. For the next several years he moved about Kansas and Colorado, primarily as a professional gambler and involved in several shootouts.

Later he returned to Austin once again where he became the city marshal in December, 1880. In 1882, while still serving as an Austin marshal, Thompson quarreled over a card game in San Antonio, where he killed the owner of  the Vaudeville Theatre, Jack Harris, allegedly his 21st victim. Though he was acquitted of murder, he was assassinated on March 11, 1884, in the Vaudeville Theatre, in revenge for the killing of Jack Harris. More ...   Zan L. Tidball - A U.S. Marshal assigned to Arizona Territory on July 18, 1882, Tidball replaced Crawley P. Dake, who had been heavily criticized after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corrall in Tombstone, Arizona in October, 1881. Though Tidball, who was from the east, came well recommended and had previously served as a Department of Justice Examiner, Arizona leaders were not impressed and were not happy to have an "outsider" placed within their midst. In fact, the Arizona Miner complained, "Whey he was appointed is more than we can say." Soon after his appointment, he made a powerful enemy in San Carlos Indian Agent, Joseph C. Tiffany, who would later accuse Tidball of various misdeeds including bribery. During his tenure, Tidball was tasked with picking up Geronimo on a murder warrant from the Army, to whom the Indian Leader had surrendered. However, Tidball was tricked by a young lieutenant and Geronimo got away.  


Bill TilgmanWilliam "Bill" Tilghman (1854-1924) - Bill Tilghman was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa on July 4, 1854. He moved with his family later to a homestead in Atchison, Kansas. At the age of 15,he left home and became a buffalo hunter, which quickly brought him into conflict with the Indians, resulting in a skirmish in September, 1872, in which he killed seven Cheyenne brave.  In 1874, he narrowly escaped being lynched after he was falsely accused of murdering a man in Granada, Colorado. Though a life long teetotaler, he opened a saloon in Dodge City, Kansas in 1875 and soon accepted an offer from Bat Masterson to become a deputy sheriff. In 1889, he established a homestead at Guthrie, Oklahoma and was soon appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal.


In this capacity, Tilghman, Heck Thomas and Chris Madsen became known as the Three Guardsmen, as they were instrumental in taming the lawless territory. After he retired as a U.S. Deputy Marshal in 1910, he was elected to the State Senate. However, just a year later he became the Chief of Police of Oklahoma City. At the age of 70, he was still acting as a lawman when he was appointed as the marshal of Cromwell, Oklahoma. After surviving decades of tough outlaws, he was shot and killed on November 1, 1924 while he attempted to arrest a corrupt Prohibition Officer by the name of Wiley Lynn. More ...




George Tyng - Tyng was hired by the U.S. Army in July, 1872 to provide beef to the remote military installations in Arizona Territory. He was later appointed to complete the unexpired term of the Yuma County Sheriff. However, he resigned the position a year later when he accepted a position in the private sector. On January 30, 1874, he was made a U.S. Marshal for Arizona Territory, replacing the disgraced Isaac Dickason. After a long line of incompetent marshals, Arizona leaders hoped that Tyng might change the position, prompting the Prescott Arizona Miner to say, "We learn from a friend in Washington that Arizona marshals have until now stood in bade repute. However, Tyng failed to live up to their confidence. Upon taking the position, he find the office disorganized and could not find existing records, who he, himself, had accused of "maladministration. However, Tyng did little better, acting unsure of himself and doing little to address current or past problems. Later in the year, he took a leave of absence for health reasons and resigned on December 15, 1874. He was succeeded by Francis H. Goodwin.



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