mystery of the disappearance of Bill Booth, a notorious character who
loafed about the
agency many years ago, has been solved by ex-sheriff
Frank M. Canton, adjutant general of the National Guard of
While Sheriff of Johnson County,
Canton hanged Booth for murder in 1886. Since Canton's return to
he learned that Booth lived in the territory and was charged with the
murder of his wife and child. Booth left a trail of blood from
Tippecanoe, Ohio, to Johnson County, Wyoming,
traveling through Oklahoma,
and other states where crimes were charged against him.
nature of the charges preferred in Ohio were never known to us. After
living for a time among the Pawnee Indians,
Booth's wife and child were murdered and he was charged with the crime.
The search for him was made over the west.
was heard of in Colorado,
where a charge of killing a black man was made against him but, he evaded
interception by the authorities. His next field of operations was
where he murdered a German Trapper named Jake Cameron.
Booth engaged in trapping and made considerable money selling scalps
of wolves on which a bounty was placed by the territory. His
operations were in the same vicinity as that of Cameron. After a short
time, the two formed a partnership, the German teaching Booth many
secrets of catching wild animals. A report circulated that Cameron had
mysteriously disappeared and his herd of horses gone. The
disappearance followed closely the sale of some land that the German
had occupied and he was known to have had several hundred dollars in
his possession. This fact coupled with the general demeanor of Booth
made Sheriff Canton suspicious of the man and he fancied that Booth had
murdered the German. Canton sent a description of Booth to practically all officials of
the States of the Northwest and for several months a search was made
offering a reward of $500 for Booth's arrest and conviction. Meantime,
a Negro found the body of Cameron buried beneath a pile of brush and
dirt in a recess of a canyon a few miles from Cameron's cabin. His
skull had been crushed with an ax and three bullet holes were found in
was arrested in Miles City,
having in his possession stolen horses and was being held on charges
of horse stealing. The Sheriff did not know who he was. W C Smith,
Deputy Sheriff and stock inspector, happened to visit the jail,
recognized Booth as the man we wanted, so had a picture taken of the
suspect and forwarded it to Canton and staff. Not a man of our staff knew Booth well enough to
be sure so we quietly passed the picture to Old Burr, the Negro who
found the German. He recognized Booth at once.
sure of our man but how about extradition. Not a single centila of
proof. We could not prove Booth had anything to do with the killing of
Cameron but we wanted to give him a real sweating, hoping he might
tell something. Put the situation to the Miles City boys and Billy
Smith, the man who recognized Booth, offered to bring him to the
line near Parkman and give him a heave of strong arm on the
side to reach for him. That method of extradition is known in Sheriff
parlance as "Rio Grand" extradition. I doubt if the boys knew in miles
of where the state line was but it beat kidnapping and worked.
Canton and his Lieutenant, The Skripe, met the stage at Sheridan to
double the guard as threats of lynching had been heard. The deputies told
us Booth would talk. As soon as the overland stage pulled out from
Sheridan all the staff pretended to know a great deal about the killing
and to our utter astonishment, Booth opened up and told the whole story
before we reached Big Horn. In his recital of this haneous crime, my hair
simply pushed my Stetson off my head for I realized he was breaking his
neck. He could not justify packing the corpse on a horse and burying it as
he did. We were all mighty glad when we landed him in jail.
the only prisoner we ever had to contend with that caused Sheriff Canton extreme anxiety. Sheriff
Canton was one of the craftiest of officers. Booth was equally crafty.
We never knew what to expect next. He continually tried to escape. He
systematically worked us for stub pens and cut the rivets in his shackles,
waiting a chance to brain someone when detected. His work in attempting to
saw through the floor is still in evidence in the Buffalo jail today, or
was a few years ago.