William Carr – Heroic Deputy or Outlaw?


United States Marshal Badge

United States Marshal Badge

William H. “Bill” Carr was a U.S. Deputy Marshal commissioned in the Western District Court at Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1887. He was later commissioned in the Southern District of Indian Territory at Paris, Texas and in the Kansas District Court at Wichita. In April 1889, he arrested Harris Austin, a Chickasaw Indian charged with murder. When Austin resisted arrest, gunplay erupted and the outlaw was wounded three times. He would be hanged at Fort Smith, Arkansas the following year.

Later that year, in August, Carr confronted a gang of whiskey runners crossing the Red River Bridge into Indian Territory. The outlaws quickly turned around escaping back into Texas. However, one of them who was left behind, a man named Lewis Jackson, was shot and killed by Carr.

In 1892, Carr, along three other previously commissioned deputy marshals were arrested and charged with arson and murder for a fire in Lexington, Indian Territory where a man had lost his life. However, Carr was evidently cleared of the charges, as he was back in action in April 1894, when he and Marshal Evitt Nix confronted the Doolin-Dalton Gang near the Sacred Heart Mission in the Pottawatomie Reservation. When a gun battle erupted, Bill Dalton and George “Bitter Creek” Newcomb were badly wounded, but able to escape. Carr was also shot three times and left for dead by the outlaws, but he survived. By this time, Carr had become so well known, he was called “King of the Chickasaws” by the New York Times, who ran a feature article on his deeds of daring in April 1895 (see article below.)

Though Carr had a solid reputation as a U.S. Deputy Marshal, he was also allegedly friends with outlaws, Will and Bob Christian. When the Christians, along with several other outlaws, broke out of jail in Oklahoma City in June 1895, killing Chief of Police, Milt Jones and wounding the jailer and two innocent bystanders, Carr would soon be implicated in assisting the outlaws with their escape. Though the vast majority of lawmen who were acquainted with Carr felt Oklahoma County Sheriff C. H. Deford made the charges against Carr in an attempt to clear his office of any negligence, Carr would later be arrested anyway.

In the meantime, he continued to serve as a U.S. Deputy Marshal as on October 17, 1895, he arrested four murderers, who were wanted for the murder of John Swilling near Tecumseh, Indian Territory.

Oklahoma Frontier

Oklahoma Frontier

As the investigation into the escape of the Christian brothers continued, some of Carr’s friends attempted to get him out of the country. However, Carr was eventually indicted by a Grand Jury for assisting the outlaws. The lawman then raised the $14,000 bond by selling his property and personal possessions. Then, for reasons unknown, he skipped his bond and was “officially” never heard from again. Some speculated that he went to Texas while others thought he remained in Indian Territory.

The newspapers of the day then tried to link Carr with a number of wanted fugitives. In 1896, the Beaver County, Oklahoma Territory newspaper reported that Carr was with Bill Doolin when Doolin attempted to make terms with lawmen and give himself up. Later that year, the Guthrie Daily Leader reported: “while playing with an old revolver, the 5-year-old son of Bill Carr, the noted outlaw, shot himself through the stomach, dying in a short time.”

In the meantime, another man named John Reeves, with the help of a woman was charged with secreting the guns to the Christian Gang which allowed them to escape and was sentenced to the Kansas penitentiary on December 21, 1896. However, William Carr was still a wanted man.

The last report of his existence was on June 1, 1900, when the Tecumseh Republican reported that a man who was called Dad Feagin had visited Bill Carr, who was using an alias of “Bill Evans,” about 65 miles east of Shawnee, Oklahoma. Feagin also said that Carr was in the presence of a former deputy marshal named George Elkins. He further added that Carr had been hiding out with the Christian brothers in southwest Texas prior to returning to Oklahoma.

After this unsubstantiated statement, nothing more was ever heard about William Carr.



New York Times

New York Times

New York Times, April 29, 1895 – King of the Chickasaws – “Fighting Bill Carr” and His Many Deeds of Daring

Wichita, Kansas, April 29, 1895 – The man who goes down into the Chickasaw Indian country and says he never heard of “Fighting Bill” Carr is considered the greenest king of tenderfoot.

“A man who don’t know Carr should not be permitted to live in the Territory,” Rowdy Kate Daniels used to say while holding court in the Red Light Saloon in Purcell, [Oklahoma,] in 1889.

“Never heard of Bill Carr?” says Jim Davis, who has been in the country “since their days of Sam Bass.” “Wal, stranger, you’d better git acquainted with him. Jist now he’s laying up at the Clifton House nursing a sore arm. One uv ther Rogers gang shot him last week.

“Who is Bill? He’s a double-distilled rattler, a bunch of catmounts, a whole herd of Texas longhorns, and a grizzly bear all tied together with chain lightning. By profession, he’s a Deputy Marshal in this yer district, and he’s a killer from way up near the headwaters of Bitter Creek.

“You can jest yell that he is a daisy,” continued the old man. “Bill civilized this heathen country. He’s the chap who made angels of the Franklins and Washingtons and Christianized the Indians, and he dun it with cold lead, the only simon-pure religion of any use on the border.

“Is he the man they call the King of the Chickasaw Nation?” asked an interested tenderfoot, while the gang strolled up and took a drink of chain lightning.

Carr, the officer in question, is a handsome Pennsylvanian with a record as Deputy Marshal that is little short of miraculous. The story, as stated by old man Davis, would appear , in the vernacular of the border, “durned fishy” were it not backed up by the testimony of United States Marshals Nix and Walker.

Billy Carr came here before the Oklahoma boom” resumed Davis reflectively, as he shot a mouthful of saliva at a crack in the floor. “Yep! I believe he’s called the King of the Chickasaw country. He first came into notice on the 4th of July in 1887. Down there in the bottom, a lot of sharks were fleecing suckers. A pretty girl was in one of the crowds trying to induce her foot brother to quit a brace game, but the grinning sharp only gave her the laugh and joked the fool boy into playing until all his money was gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *