William D. Fossett – 50 Years a Lawman


Caldwell, Kansas 1880s

Caldwell, Kansas 1880s

William “Bill” or “Will” D. Fossett was a frontiersman, pioneer, detective, and marshal in “Old West” Kansas and Oklahoma.

Thought to have been born in about 1851, he was a native of New York before moving to southern Kansas in 1873 as a cowboy and law enforcer, who chased down several bandits and outlaws on the Chisholm Trail.

Fossett began his career as a lawman when he worked as an assistant marshal in Caldwell, Kansas during its reckless cowtown period. In 1881, he moved on to Kingman, Kansas, where he served as City Marshal until 1887. He then worked on the construction crews building the railroads until 1889, when he joined with thousands of others taking part in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Lining up west of the Kingfisher Station, he claimed a piece of the land for himself and soon went to work for the railroad as a special agent.

Later, he was appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal. He was serving with U.S. Deputy Marshals Heck Thomas and Bill Tilghman, along with  Sheriff Rhinehart, when they Doolin Gang member, Little Dick West in April 1897 near Guthrie, Oklahoma. The four lawmen shared the $2000 “Dead or Alive” reward.

On November 6, 1897, Fossett was appointed as Chief Deputy of Oklahoma Territory. When outlaws Bob Hughes, Bill Bourland, and other gang members tried to rob a Rock Island train near Pond Creek, Oklahoma, they were surprised to find Deputy Marshal Fossett guarding the train. Fossett killed outlaw leader Bob Hughes in the fray and the rest of the gang fled without any loot. They were captured a few days later by Deputy Marshal Chris Madsen. Fossett later rode with Bill Banks and other posse members when they drove the notorious Zip Wyatt and Ike Black from their stronghold in the Gloss Mountains, which ultimately resulted in the death of the fugitives.

William Fossett Grave in Kingfisher, Oklahoma

William Fossett Grave in Kingfisher, Oklahoma

Fossett served as a lawman in various capacities for some 50 years. He continued to live in Kingfisher until his death in 1940.


By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated May 2020.

Also See:

Lawmen of the Old West

Old West Legends

U.S. Marshals – Two Centuries of Bravery

Who’s Who in American History

Source: W.D. “Bill” Fossett: Pioneer and Peace Officer, Jim Fulbright, Mid-South Publications, 2002.