OLD WEST LEGENDS
Zip Wyatt - Notorious Oklahoma
One of the most notorious outlaws in the
Oklahoma was Zip Wyatt, who also went by the names of Dick
Yeager and Wild Charlie.
Born as Nathaniel Ellsworth Wyatt in Indiana in 1864, to John T. and Rachel
Quick Wyatt, he was the second born of 8 children, which included seven boys
and one girl. The family moved around a lot before finally settling about 14
miles northeast of Guthrie,
Oklahoma in 1889.
The family was poor, his
parents almost illiterate, and Nathaniel Wyatt came by his bad habits
legitimately as his father, known as "Old Six-Shooter Bill,” was frequently
arrested in Guthrie for drunkenness and disorderly conduct, while his older
brother, Nim, known as "Six-Shooter Jack,” was a known professional gambler,
who would be later killed in a saloon in Texline,
Texas in 1891.
Territory, 1889, photo by D. S. Mitchell.
Somewhere along the line,
Nathaniel acquired the nickname of "Zip” from a man who lived near
Arkansas, and was best known throughout his life by that moniker, or by his
alias, Dick Yeager.
Zip’s mother, Rachel, died in
February, 1890 and the following year, Zip married a woman named Annie Bailey
Oklahoma. The pair had one daughter. However, life for his wife
and child would be far from "normal,” as on June 3, 1891, Zip shot up the town
of Mulhall, wounding two citizens, and fled north to the Cherokee Outlet, before
making his way to
With a warrant out for his
arrest, Zip made his way to Kiowa County,
Kansas where he stole some riding gear
in Greensburg. Deputy Sheriff Andrew Balfour soon tracked down the outlaw to
Kansas, about ten miles north of Greensburg, where he attempted
to arrest the fugitive, only to be shot in the abdomen, with the bullet striking
the officer in the spine and killing him. However, the deputy rallied before he
died, shooting Wyatt twice, but only wounding him slightly in the hand on his
left side. Deputy Sheriff Balfour left a wife and six children.
With yet another warrant on his
head and a $1,000 reward for his capture, Zip fled to his native Indiana, where
he hid out with relatives. Several months later; however, he was apprehended and
after a long extradition proceeding, Zip was returned to Guthrie,
face charges on his spree in Mulhall. The outlaw was able to escape from jail
once but was quickly recaptured. Undaunted, he tried again on December 31, 1892,
and this time, was successful.
He soon joined up with
Ike Black and the two formed
a gang, making numerous robberies in the area, including the robbery of the
Hightower Store and post office in Arapaho,
Oklahoma in November, 1893. As
and Wyatt hid out in the Gypsum Hills, they were often aided by their wives, who
brought them food and supplies. The gang was soon blamed for almost every crime
committed in the territory, and a reward was placed on Wyatt’s head of $5,000
for his capture.
On January 20th, 1895, Fred Hoffman, the treasurer
of D County (now Blaine County)
Oklahoma was killed and though it could never be
proven, the gun that killed the treasurer was reportedly traced to Zip Wyatt.
Around this same
time, Zip Wyatt and Ike Black were thought to have joined up with the
Doolin-Dalton Gang, participating in the Rock Island train robbery in Dover,
April 3, 1895.
On June 3, 1895, an outlaw
gang robbed the store and post office at Fairview,
everything of value and three horses. The outlaws were quickly pursued by
U.S. Deputy Marshals, Gus Hadwinger and J. K. Runnels, and Woods County
Sheriff Clay McGrath and Deputy Marion Hildreth. Catching up with the
robbers the following day, they surprised the gang who were hiding in a cave
near the county line. In the ultimate gunfight that broke out,
Ike Black was
hit in the foot and Zip took a shot in the left arm, but the outlaws were
able to escape. The pressure continued from the lawmen, which now numbered
almost 200 looking for the pair.
On July 26th, the outlaw pair
robbed the Oxley,
Oklahoma post office and store, but only gained about $35 and
some supplies. However, during this robbery, they were recognized and the next
day a posse went after them, tracking them to a site near Salt Creek, about six
miles northwest of Oxley. When gunfire erupted once again,
Black received a
flesh wound to the head, but both men were able to escape once again, however,
their horses had run off and they were now afoot.
The following day, they had
made their way to a farm about five miles west of Okeene,
Oklahoma, where they
stole some horses and a cart. Another posse was formed, led by Robert Callison,
the constable of Forrest Township, and the men once again went after
Tracking them to a canyon on July 28th, the guns blazed once again and posse member, Frank Pope was
shot in the right leg. However; the "lucky” outlaws were able to
escape. By this time, the original posse was joined by another from Alva,
Oklahoma, led by Deputy Sheriff Hildreth,
who pursued the fugitives southeast.
and Wyatt took refuge in a shack about four
miles east of Cantonment (present-day Canton) and when the posse caught up with
them on August 1st, Black was shot in the
head and killed. Zip was also shot in the left side of his chest, but escaped
the posse. He then headed to a doctor’s house a mile away and forced the doctor
go give him a horse and tend to his wound. Riding off on the horse for about
seven miles, the wounded Wyatt, soon let the
horse go as the pain of his chest wound was two intense. He then waylaid a small
wagon near Homestead, forcing the young driver to take him some 25 miles
northeast. After crossing the Cimarron River, he let the boy go and continued in
On the afternoon of August 3rd,
Zip was spied crossing the Rock Island railroad at Waukomis, just five miles
south of Enid. When Garfield County Sheriff Elzie thralls got word of Zip’s
location, he put together a posse and went after the desperate bandit. Zip
deserted the horse and cart about miles east of the railroad at Skeleton Creek
Valley and once again traveled afoot. That evening, Wyatt came across a small
cabin owned by John Daily, and ordered the owner to provide him a horse and come
with him. Later, Wyatt let Daily go and the freed man quickly raised the alarm
as to Zip’s last known location.
The dawn the following morning
on August 4th, a final posse from the Anti-Horse thief Association from
Oklahoma, went after the elusive outlaw. By 10:00 a.m., they were
joined by another posse from Enid. Tracking Wyatt to a site about five miles
southeast of Marshal, the men split up and surrounded the outlaw. When the
deputies ordered the outlaw bandit to throw up his hands, Wyatt went for his gun
and Deputies Ad Polk and Tom Smith both fired on him, striking him once in the
pelvis and once in his stomach. Finally, Zip Wyatt surrendered. The outlaw was
then taken to a church in Sheridan where he was treated by two doctors. That
same day, Zip was transferred to Enid and jailed. John Daily and the Sheridan
posse would split the reward for his capture.
various jurisdictions argued over where Wyatt
would be tried, local doctors intervened telling authorities that Zip was a
dying man. However, for the next three days, Wyatt would "hold
court” in his jail cell, as numerous people came to see the now infamous outlaw.
Enjoying the attention, Wyatt
boasted of having killed eleven men and getting away with numerous crimes.
When John T. Wyatt, Zip’s father,
arrived to visit him on August 7th, he told reporters that his son was 24 or 25
years old, had not participated in the Doolin Gang robbery in Dover,
and had never been a regular companion of either Bill Doolin or Bill Dalton. Zip
Wyatt continued to linger in the jail, pumped up on morphine for his pain, until
by the end of August, he had been reduced to little more than a skeleton. He
finally died on September 7, 1895.
The following day, his
sister, Mrs. Pricket appeared to claim his effects, but not to claim the body.
However, the sheriff refused to turn over his personal possessions. On September
9, 1895, Wyatt
was buried in a cheap pine coffin, without a marker in a pauper’s field
south of the city without a funeral nor any family members present.
later, many of the bodies in the old cemetery were moved but Wyatt's was
already lost and remained where it was, in what is today a residential
development in Enid.
of America, updated February, 2010.
U.S. Deputy Marshals
Outlaws of the American
A shot and wounded Zip Wyatt lingered in jail for a month
From Legends' General Store
Old West DVD's - A vast and mysterious place during the days of
Westward Expansion, the
Wild West if filled with tales of