Black U. S. Marshals...

Discussion in 'Jim Crow Discussion' started by 5fish, Nov 7, 2019.

  1. 5fish

    5fish Well-Known Member

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    I was looking into True Grit and found Cal Whitson(Rooster in the book). A muse(friend) pointed me toward Federal Judge Parker also hired Black U S Marshals for his district. How many we do not know but some lasted decades and at least one got a statue(Lifesize on a horse) in Ft. Smith. I never read True Grit but did watch both movies in their day. It seems the Black Marshals were left out of the True Grit story...

    Shortly after Judge Parker was sworn in as federal judge, blacks were recruited as Deputy U.S. Marshals working out of his court. Their duties took them mostly into Indian Territory, and some worked as far south as Texas, as far west as the Oklahoma Territory, and as far north as Kansas. These African American men were of varying backgrounds–some had been born slaves some were Black Indians, some were well educated, while others had little formal training.

    The exact numbers of all the of the black U.S. Deputy marshals is not known only because some had brief temporary assignments, while others had careers that spanned several decades. All of these black men had one element in common—they worked out of the Federal District Court of Ft. Smith. Most were recruited by the presiding federal judge of the court----Isaac C. Parker.

    We have some of their stories some were slaves who became Marshals...

    Rufus Cannon
    Rufus Cannon was commissioned on September 15, 1892 according to the Ft. Smith National Historic Site. He served directly out of Ft. Smith under Judge Parker. He was of African Cherokee origin and was familiar with many of the Cherokee native customs and the language. Cannon captured the father of the outlaw gang, The Christian brothers in Pottawotamie, Indian Territory in 1895, when William Christian was among his captives. Cannon was on the posse that tracked Bill Doolin. But one factor to note is that all posse men were rewarded for the capture of Doolin—all except Cannon. It is not known exactly why he was not paid, though Heck Thomas was believed to have shared part of his reward with Cannon.He was later known to have been in a gunfight with outlaw Henry Starr.

    Not much is known of his life after the capture of Doolin. He later left the Ft. Smith region, and moved to Kansas City where he resided till his death.

    Bill Colbert
    Though working for Judge Isaac C. Parker, Bill Colbert worked mostly in Atoka, in the Choctaw Nation. He was primarily known to be quick to use his gun, and the Muskogee Phoenix did report two separate incidents where Colbert killed suspects who resisted being arrested by Colbert. Of African Choctaw ancestry, Colbert worked mostly in the Choctaw nation where he had knowledge of the land, language and customs of the nation. His years of service were during the Parker years, though it is not certain when or where he later retired.

    Neely Factor
    Little is known about the specifics of the life of Neely Factor. He spent much time of his life in the Choctaw nation. During his career, many of his captures, were made with Zeke Miler, and with Robert Fortune. Though not working as a trio, often times when a posse was formed, the deputy marshals would work together in the capture of a suspect. Many times his captives were taken to Macalester where they were held until removal to Ft. Smith. The actual length of his career is not known.

    Robert Fortune
    Receiving his commission in the late part of the 19th century, Fortune worked in the Central district of Indian Territory most of the time. He was often seen in the company of Zeke Miller and Neely Factor two other U.S. Deputy marshals working for the Ft. Smith court. He was known for his ability to spy on outlaw gangs sometimes for hours at a time without detection or arousing suspicion, before making his capture. Most of the outlaws he arrested were taken to the Macalester holding jails before removed to Ft. Smith for trials.

    John Garrett
    This was one of the few black marshals who would later lose his life in this effort to bring order to Indian Territory. His career dates are not known, though it was believed to be short. It was further shortened when Garrett encountered the notorious Rufus Buck gang. He was working near Okmulgee, in the Creek Nation, and had been directed towards the town grocery store, to stop a robbery in progress. When he approached the outlaws, he was shot in the chest. He died shortly thereafter. The Rufus Buck gang would later be executed by Judge Parker for the murder of Garrett, in Ft. Smith.

    Grant Johnson
    The son of a Black Chickasaw, and Black Creek, mother, Johnson was known to be a quiet reserved man who served as a Federal Marshall out of Ft. Smith for at least 14 years. He began working for Judge Parker about 1887, and received his last commission from Parker in 1896, the year of Parker's death. Being a Black Indian, he knew the customs and language of the Muskogee Creek nation, and was effective in Indian Territory. He often would go on assignments with Bass Reeves. His record included the capture of Abner Brasfield, a white outlaw who was notorious in Indian Territory. The book, " Black Red, & Deadly" by Art T. Burton describes the capture of Brasfield by Johnson and Reeves in full detail.

    Many of the captures made by Johnson occurred in and around Eufala, in the Choctaw Nation. Parker considered Johnson one of his most effective deputies. Besides Brasfield, Johnson is known for having captured Jake Stanley, the noted counterfeiter Amos Hill, Choctaw outlaw Chahenegee, the murderers John Pierce, Bill Davis, Cherokee outlaw, Columbus Rose. Other characters such as train robber Wade Chamberlee and bootlegger Elijah Congar were among his captives. A full account of some of Johnson's successes can be found in Burton's book (published by Eakin Press.) The book can be purchase in Ft. Smith at the bookstore of the NationalHistoric Site in both paperback and hardback.

    Additional information about Johnson's life can be found in the information that appears in the New Handbook of Texas. Part of the statement about Johnson says:
    JOHNSON, GRANT (1858-1929). Grant Johnson, one of only a dozen or so blacks commissioned as United States deputy marshals on the western frontier, was born in June 1858 in northern Texas. He was the son of Alex Johnson, a Chickasaw freedman from Missouri, and Miley Johnson, a Creek freedwoman from Mississippi. Johnson settled in the Creek Nation between 1880 and 1890. Though many Indians had come to regard whites with suspicion and disdain, there was a history of intermarriage and tolerance between blacks and Creeks and Seminoles. Such blacks as Johnson, who spoke Creek fluently and knew other Indian languages as well, were sought and hired to serve as United States deputy marshals. Johnson received his first commission from the federal Western District Court at Fort Smith, Arkansas, on May 28, 1893..... Johnson worked as a deputy marshal from 1893 to 1906 in an area stretching from northern Texas to Muskogee, Indian Territory. After his commission ended, he worked for a number of years as a policeman in Eufaula, Oklahoma, where he patrolled the black section of town. He had a son who served as a staff sergeant in the United States Army during World War I.qv Johnson died on April 9, 1929, and was buried near Eufaula.

    Articles about Johnson can be found on microfilm in Ft. Smith, and in the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City. The following newspapers contains articles about Grant Johnson:The Ft. Smith Elevator July 4, 1890
    Muskogee Phoenix August 27, 1891
    Eufala Indian Journal Dec 24, 1891
    Muskogee Phoenix April 12, 11842
    Muskogee Phoenix Oct 5, 1893
    Muskogee Phoenix August 23, 1894
    Muskogee Phoenix Sept 22, 1894

    Zeke Miller
    Between 1894 - 1907 Zeke Miller worked as a deputy U.S. Marshall. His commission began 2 years before Judge Parker's death. He worked mostly in the central district of Indian Territory. He settled around the town of Alderson, in the Choctaw Nation. He was known to lead posses in search of train robbers. In one all black posse led by Miller himself after the MKT railroad was robbed he and his posse captured the gang of outlaws within 4 hours of the incidents. (This story appeared in the Daily Oklahoman almost 4 decades after the occurrence.-April 23, 1939.) Miller later moved his base from Alderson to Macalester. Both places were repositories for prisoner before they were brought to the Federal Court in Ft. Smith.

    Crowder Nicks
    Before he was ever given a commission to work under Judge Parker, Crowder Nicks made himself known, when he sign-handedly brought in the murderer of Sam Sixkiller in 1887. The story of the capture of Sixkilller's assailant was written about fully in Art Burton's books, "Black Red and Deadly. African and Indian Gunfighters of Indian Territory. He received a commission shortly after the incident working in and out of Parker's court in Ft. Smith. In the 1890's he was occasionally mentioned in the local press regarding the retrieval of stolen property. His tenure lasted primarily in the 1890's and is believed to have ended shortly after Parker's death in 1896.

    Bass Reeves( He is the one with a statue)
    Words are not sufficient to describe the man known as Bass Reeves. He was probably one of the first African Americans to received a commission as a U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi.

    Reeves was a man very large in stature, believed to have been born in Texas. After the Civil War, he came western to Arkansas, and settled in the town of Van Buren Arkansas, having taken up farming as a living. In the 1870 census he is married and working on his farm in Van Buren. By 1880, he was working in his new profession—as a U.S. Deputy Marshal, under the direction of Judge Isaac C. Parker in Ft. Smith. His family continued to reside in Van Buren during these years.

    Receiving his commission in 1875 his career began the most colorful, noteworthy, and successful careers of the western frontier marshals. Full anecdotal accounts of Reeves are to be found in the work by Art Burton, Black Red, and Deadly. Black and Indian Gunfighters of Indian Territory. (Eakin Press) As early as 1878, the Reeves starts appearing in Ft. Smith and Indian Territory newspapers. He was working in Parker court at the time of the execution of James Diggs, who had been wanted for years. He assisted in the capture of the outlaw Bob Dozier. In 1883 the Ft. Smith Elevator describe Reeves involvement in the capture of Johnson Jacks. In 1884, the Elevator described his effort in bringing a load of prisoners from Indian Territory. Later in ‘84, Reeves received pres in the Muskogee Indian Journal.

    A month later his efforts were written up in two different newspaper papers describing the same event, one in Ft. Smith, and one in Muskogee. His reputation began to grow as the years passed. In 1896 Judge Isaac Parker died, and the Federal Territory was later divided into districts. Shortly after that time, Parker was transferred to Muskogee in the Northern District, where he served till his death in 1910. Ironically, as successful as this man's life is, he lies today in an unknown spot in or near Muskogee Oklahoma. It is believed that he may lie in Agency Cemetery–an abandoned cemetery in Muskogee now without access from public roads. Hopefully, a movement may someday surface to restore this black resting ground, where persons such as Bass Reeves and those of his caliber can receive honor from their descendants.

    Ike Rogers
    A Cherokee Freedman, Rogers was related to Clement Vann Rogers the father of Will Rogers, the Oklahoma humorist. He was often in the company of Bass Reeves, but worked under the direction of U.S. Marshall Crump. Often many of the persons that Rogers assisted in handling were later tried in the Ft. Smith Courts. Rogers was not nearly as distinguished as Reeves or Johnson, and there are those scholars that feel that he was less than dependable. His most famous effort, however, was his part in the capture of African Cherokee outlaw Crawford Goldsby–Cherokee Bill. In addition to the work that he occasionally performed with Reeves, Rogers also worked with Rufus Cannon in the Choctaw Nation.

    Samuel Walters
    Samuel Walters was born a slave in 1840 in Arkansas. His mother was born in North Carlina and brought to Northwest Arkansas while a child. Samuel while a young man in his 20's was sold into the Choctaw Nation and became a slave of Jim Davis a wealthy slave owner in Indian Territory. After the Civil War, he married Lucinda Quesenbery from Missouri and had a family in Van Buren Arkansas. Being able to read and write, Walters became known in the Crawford County community and emerged as a leader, serving as a Minister of the Gospel in his NW Arkansas home. He frequented the Choctaw Nation, however, a land to which he had become accustomed. It is not known exactly when he began working in the Western District of Arkansas, but by the late 1870's he was one of several blacks hired to work out of Judge Isaac C. Parker's court. He was bilingual and served the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, and often used to travel to distances as far away as Texas to capture criminals to bring to the Ft. Smith Court for trial. In the early 1880's Samuel Walters, had his own personal case that was heard in the Ft. Smith court. He was bringing a criminal from the State of Texas who had several warrants for his arrest. He stopped along his route back to Ft. Smith, at the Little River courthouse and jail. The prisoner --- James Campbell was housed in the Little River Arkansas jail, and managed somehow to escape. Samuel Walters was acckused of having accepted a bribery allowing the prisoner to escape. Walters fought this case vehemently. For the next 2-3 years, he spent time defending his case held at the Ft. Smith court. The final outcome of the case is still being researched.

    One of his defenders in his own case referred to Samuel as having been an honest man, and extremely professional US Deputy Marshal of high integrity and honesty. Samuel Walters was known to be a deputy of courage and character, whose personal qualities were known by those who were in contact with him. Being a man who was literate his literacy skills would have been an asset for him in both Indian Territory and the United States.

    It is known that by the late 1880's Walters had left the court of the Western District of Arkansas, and went back to his life as a Baptist preacher. He traveled to many places throughout the Arkansas/Indian Territory community. In addition, he also had remarried this time to an African Choctaw woman---Sallie Anchatubbee Williams. Sallie was the daughter of Amanda Anchatubbee, and Eastman Williams, a Choctaw Indian. During this same time, he also changed his name from Walters to Walton. He and wife Sallie had 3 sons--- Samuel, Houston, and Louisa--a child by an earlier marriage of Sallie. Samuel did maintain close contact also with the children of his first wife Lucinda. These children used the name Walters for many years, they in later years they also began to use the name Walton.

    Samuel Walters (now Walton) was admitted into full citizenship in the Choctaw Nation as was the rest of his family---and he remained mostly in the area that is now known as LeFlore County Oklahoma. He died in 1912 in Howe Oklahoma, survived by his wife Sallie Walton , and son Samuel Walton

    Judge Parker had an interesting court. It seems that Congress closed down his district by the mid-1890's... I found a list of marshal that died while working as US Marshal for his court...

    I forgot to mention the statue inclues a dog too...
    jgoodguy likes this.

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