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Joseph "Joe” W. Ventioner (1852-1941) - Born near Fort Worth, Texas on April 21, 1852, Ventioner migrated to Indian Territory, where he resided in Lenora, on the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation. In the spring of 1895, he was commissioned as a U.S. Deputy Marshal by Marshal Evett Nix. Residing just three miles of the Doolin-Dalton Gang hide-out, he was one of the strongest forces in driving them from the area. Known by his friends and family, as "Uncle Joe,” Ventioner resided in Dewey County before the territory was opened for settlement. Described as always wearing his white-handled Colt pistols and a genial smile, Joe also served as an under sheriff, special deputy, and jailer in Dewey County.

He was best known for tracking down and killing ruthless Oklahoma outlaw, George "Red Buck” Weightman in 1896. When U.S. Deputy Marshal Joe Ventioner heard that Red Buck was in the area after having returned from Texas, he, along with Deputy Marshals William Holcomb and Bill Quillen began to trail the outlaw, who was riding with another fugitive named George Miller. Pursuing the pair to Custer County, they found that the men were hiding out at a farm owned by Dolph Pickelseimer, who had a history of befriending outlaws. On the morning of March 4, 1896, when the marshals tried to arrest the men, gunfire erupted and  Joe Ventioner killed Red Buck Weightman. Retaliating, George Miller shot Ventioner in the abdomen. Holcomb then fired at Miller, striking his cartridge belt and causing several rounds to detonate, blowing off his right hand at the wrist and the three middle fingers of his left hand. George Miller was arrested and sent to prison in Texas. In the meantime, U.S. Deputy Marshal, Joe Ventioner recovered from his wounds and continued his life as a lawman. He died in at the home of his daughter on August 11, 1941 and was laid to rest at the Raymond Cemetery, south of Lenora, Oklahoma.

Sheriff Frank WattronFrank J. Wattron - When Navajo County, Arizona was first formed in 1895, Commodore Perry Owens was appointed as its first sheriff, and beneath him worked Deputy Frank J. Wattron, a former school teacher and editor. However, during the first sheriff’s election the following year, Owens moved on and his deputy, Frank Wattron was elected to the post in 1896. In December, 1899, the Navajo County Courthouse was holding one of its most notable prisoners, a murderer named George Smiley.

 

The killer was sentenced to be the first person executed in Navajo County, on December 8, 1899. Wattron, goaded by his friends, issued a "novel” invitation, professionally printed on gilt-bordered paper, to what was quickly looking to be a "social affair.”  However, when a reporter got a hold of the invitation, he wired it to the Associated Press and there soon hundreds of protesting letters regarding the sheriff's poor sense of humor. Reprimanded for his flippancy, Smiley was granted a month’s reprieve. However, the killer finally went to the gallows on January 8, 1900.

 

Harry Cornwall WheelerHarry Cornwall Wheeler (1875-1925) - The son of an army officer, Wheeler was born in Florida and grew up on a series of army posts. After serving in the Spanish American War as a Rough Rider he was transferred to the Arizona Territory. He worked briefly as a miner in Tombstone before joining the Arizona Rangers in 1903. An expert marksman, he soon obtained the rank of captain and replaced Thomas Rynning who resigned in March, 1907. Wheeler, who had served the rangers at every rank, brought discipline and idealism to the group which he continued to command until the Arizona Rangers were disbanded in 1909. Later, he was elected sheriff of Cochise County, and during a 1917 labor dispute at the Bisbee copper mines he led the group responsible for the "Bisbee Deportation," where nearly twelve hundred strikers and sympathizers were forcibly removed from the area. During the First World War Wheeler reached the rank of captain in the U.S. Army. After the war he was defeated for the Cochise County sheriff's office in 1922, and he drifted from job to job until his death in 1925 from pneumonia. He is buried in Bisbee, Arizona.

 

William Fletcher Wheeler (1824-1894) - A U.S. Marshal in Montana Territory, Wheeler was the son of a Methodist minister, born at Warwick, New York on July 6,1824. Though the family moved around alot during his childhood, Wheeler received a good education and in 1843 became an apprentice for the Ohio Statesman as a printer and reporter under Samuel Medary. He remained in that position for three years, studying law in his spare time, and in 1848 was admitted to practice in front of the bar. 

Wheeler moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1856, and in 1857 he accepted an appointment as Territorial Librarian and private secretary to Samuel Medary, who by then was Territorial Governor of Minnesota. Wheeler was continued in this position under Governor Sibley, the first state governor. Sibley commissioned Wheeler as a Lieutenant Colonel of the First Minnesota Voluntary Infantry in 1858. In the Spring of 1860, Wheeler projected and located the first telegraph line in Minnesota and incorporated a rail line from Duluth to St. Paul.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Wheeler assisted in raising a company of volunteers which became part of the Fourth Minnesota Regiment, stationed at Fort Snelling. As the war progressed, he saw action at Cornith, Iuka, and Vicksburg. On the drive towards Chattanooga, Wheeler became severely ill and was discharged in the Spring of 1864.

After President Grant's inauguration, Wheeler was appointed as United States Marshal of Montana Territory on May 15, 1869, succeeding Neil Howie. In 1870, as Marshal, Wheeler wrote an extensive account of the Piegan War and coordinated the taking of the U.S. Census in Montana. Marshal Wheeler was also assigned as Superintendent of the United States Penitentiary at Deer lodge in 1871. This duty consumed a great deal of time, as the prison had to be constructed from the ground up. Wheeler retained the office Montana U.S. Marshal until 1878, when Alexander C. Botkin replaced him.

Through the efforts of Wheeler and other early Montana settlers, the Montana Historical Society was formed; and in 1884 he was appointed it's librarian when the society became a state institution, a position he held until his death. He devoted much of his time collecting the reminiscences of old pioneers and writing their biographies. Wheeler was also the Crier of the United States District Court at Helena. He died at his home in Helena on June 24, 1894 due to heart and lung trouble which developed from pneumonia.

Harvey WhitehillHarvey Whitehill (1837-1906) - A miner and lawman, Whitehill was born in Ohio on September 2, 1837 but by 1859, he was in Leadville, Colorado and was one of the first discoverers of gold in California Gulch. By 1860, he had taken some $15,000 in ore out of his claim and the following year, moved to New Mexico. He worked as a freighter and a miner and by 1870 had settled in Silver City. He built one of the first houses in town and mined for silver for a number of years. Somewhere along the line, he married a woman named Harriet Stevens, and the couple would eventually have ten children. In 1874 he was elected Grant County Sheriff. One of his first "claims to fame" was Billy the Kid's first arrest. When Billy, known as Henry McCarty at the time,  was just 15 years-old, Whitehill arrested him for stealing several pounds of butter, but after Billy apologized and promised never break the law again and Whitehill, who had really only arrested the boy in order to ''scare him straight,'' released him. But Whitehill's tactics didn't work, as he arrested the "Kid" again in September on a charge of stealing clothing from a local Chinese laundry. However, the young boy wasn't placed in a cell and escaped the next day. That same year, Whitehall hired a Dan Tucker, who would go on to make a "name" for himself as a lawman -- most notably -- "Dangerous Dan." Whitehall continued to hold the office until 1882, when he was elected to the territorial legislature. However, by 1884, he was once again working as a lawman and assisted in capturing the Kit Joy band of train robbers. In 1891, he was indicted for allowing a prisoner to escape, as well as embezzlement, ending his lawman career. He then turned to farming and cattle ranching. He died on September 8, 1906 in Deming, New Mexico and buried at Silver City.

Chauncey "Cap" Belden Whitney (1842-1873) - One of Ellsworth, Kansas' earliest settlers, Whitney arrived in 1867, the same year the town was established by the railroad. He left Ellsworth on several expeditions against the Indians and in 1868 fought at the celebrated Battle of Beecher Island. The following year he was elected first lieutenant of a militia company which manned a blockhouse near Ellsworth to guard against Indian depredations. In 1871, he became Ellsworth's constable and built the city's first jail. In 1872, he became the county sheriff and on August 18,1873, he was killed by Billy Thompson who claimed he fired his bun by accident.

 

Frank WolcottFrank Wolcott (1840-1910) - Born in Canandaigua, New York on December, 13, 1840, Wolcott served in the Civil War, leaving as a Major in 1866. He then moved to Kentucky, before making his way to Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1870. He worked for the U.S. Land Office until being appointed a U.S. Deputy Marshal for Wyoming. However, he didn't last long in this role, as three years later he was released because of what Governor John M. Thayer called "offensive" behavior. He then bought a ranch in 1876 and became involved with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and a number of large cattle barons. When the conflict between the small ranchers and the cattle barons erupted in the 1880's, Wolcott sided with the large ranchers. Known as the Johnson County War, Wolcott led a group of 50 henchmen into Johnson County in April, 1892 with the intention of killing some 70 suspected cattle rustlers who had been placed on a "death list." However, after killing Nick Ray and Nate Champion, Sheriff Red Angus, leading a posse of 200 men, trapped the gunmen and besieged Wolcott's forces at the TA Ranch until they were rescued by the 6th Cavalry three days later. Over the next couple of years Wolcott continued in his efforts to destroy the small ranch owners of the area. In 1894, he moved to Nebraska where he became general agent at the Omaha Stockyards. He died in Denver March 30, 1910.

 

William "Bill" R. Wren - The owner of a large cattle spread in Lampasas County, Texas, Bill befriended a man named Pinckney Calhoun (Pink) Higgins, who was in a bloody feud with neighboring ranchers - the Horrell brothers. Wren lent his assistance to Higgins, soon becoming his chief lieutenant. In June, 1877, a gunfight between the two factions broke out in the streets of Lampasas, leaving three men dead and Wren severely wounded. Afterwards, Wren signed a truce at the urging of Texas Ranger, Major John B. Jones, and later used his gun only on the side of the law as a county sheriff.

Jacob “Blake Jake” YoesJacob "Blake Jake” Yoes (1839-1906) - One of the best known of Judge Isaac Parker’s U.S. Marshals, Yoes was also a miner and an entrepreneur. Born in 1839 in West Fork, Arkansas to Reverend Conrad and Kissiah Bloyed Yoes. He left home at the age of 17, later married Mary Ann Reed, and worked in the lead mines in Granby, Missouri. In 1862, he enlisted in the First Arkansas Cavalry of the U.S. Army where he fought in the Battle at Prairie Grove. During his service, his primary task was fighting bushwhackers, of which, he is said to have killed about 50 men. Along the way, he took shots in both hips and the left leg. In 1864, he refused a 1st Lieutenant's commission and was discharged.

In 1870, he established a country store near Winslow, about 25 miles south of Fayetteville, Arkansas and about the same time, was elected as the Washington County Sheriff. Yoes entrepreneurial spirit continued as he built a number of stores all along the Frisco Railroad between Fayetteville and Fort Smith, established a flour mill, and owned interests in a canning factory and several hotels. Later, he would also serve in the Arkansas legislature.

In May of 1889 he was appointed U.S. Marshal of the West District of Arkansas with 200 deputies under his command. Later, he developed a number of real estate interests and the community of Yoestown, Arkansas was named for him. Jacob Yoes died February 6, 1906 and was buried in the National Cemetery at Fort Smith, Arkansas.

 

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February, 2010.

 

 

 

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