|OUTLAW GEORGE LANE
The first incident of note was the Guthrie, Oklahoma
Territory, federal jail break of July 5, 1896. This was the
famous break that gained the freedom of fourteen prisoners
including Bill Doolin and "Dynamite"
Dick Clifton. The man that engineered the break was an
African American criminal named George Lane, who
was part Cherokee Indian. One early account stated Doolin told
Lane he was going to be lynched and Lane went berserk and grabbed
the jail guard. Well it didn't happen that way. Lane had been
arrested for selling whisky in the Osage Nation and had served a
prior prison sentence in Texas for horse stealing.
On the night of the July 5, night guards J.T. Tull
and Joe Miller were inspecting the prisoners in the
"bull pen." Lane appeared to be reaching through his
cell bars to reach the water bucket to fill his tin can. Lane was
doing this as Tull was passing his cell. In an instant, Lane
shoved his head and shoulders through the doorway, and quickly he
grabbed Tull and pinned his arms to his sides. While so
imprisoned, three other convicts were able to get Tull's
revolver. Doolin shortly thereafter gained Miller's gun, which
had been left in a box near the corridor entrance. The guards
were then made to open all the cell doors. Thirty-five prisoners
refused to go and remained in the jail. Lane's daring was the
catalyst for Doolin's escape from the federal jail and thus
became part of the outlaw legend of Bill Doolin.
Lawman Heck Thomas later told the Oklahoma
State Capitol that he regarded Lane as the real "bad
man" in the territory. He said, "Doolin, Dynamite Dick
and all of them were afraid to make the break, except Lane."
During his escape Lane had boasted that he wouldn't be taken
alive by the law. On November 19, 1896, Heck Thomas and
Chris Madsen took a train to Greenwood, Missouri, thirty
miles east of Kansas City, to arrest Lane. Thomas had received a
tip that Lane was staying with friends in Greenwood. Locating the
cabin where Lane was holed up, Madsen took the front door and
Thomas the back door. They went in with pistols drawn. Lane
surrendered without a struggle. Lane related that he had been
hotly pursued, that on one occasion he had to swim the cimarron
River with bullets whizzing by his head. At another time he
stepped over the sleeping bodies of the Osage chief of police and
two deputies, secured a gun and walked away. Lane said, "I
knew the country better than my pursuers...but it was a dog's
life I led." Lane was returned to Guthrie on November 27,
LAWMAN CHARLES PETTIT
In Bailey C. Hanes' book Bill
Doolin, Outlaw O.T., he mentions an incident that
was supposed to have taken place at Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory.
Hanes related the story that Marshall E.D. Nix
had a physically large African American deputy U.S. marshal on
staff named Charles Pettit. Supposedly Pettit
was very eager to collect the reward for the capture of Doolin
and let it be known he would bring him in. Shortly thereafter, he
went to Ingalls and started hanging around the town saloons.
According to Hanes, Doolin confronted Pettit in one of the bars,
demanded to see the warrant for his arrest then made Pettit eat
it and wash it down with a whisky for a chaser. Doolin then
supposedly told Pettit to leave town and if he ever came back he
would kill him, at which time Pettit mounted up and rode out of
town in a hurry. As far as I know there is no documentation that
this event between Doolin and Pettit ever happened.
What we do know about Charles Pettit is that Chris Madsen
called him a "colored giant who worked the Osage
country." Pettit is said to have worked out of the Guthrie
office. He was stationed at Pawhuska, Osage Nation, for the
Guthrie court. In his autobiography, Frank "Pistol
Pete" Eaton claims he assisted Pettit in making an
arrest in Pawhuska on one occasion.
This is an interesting article on Pettit from the Oklahoma
State Capitol, July 2, 1896: "Pettit,
The Terror - One of the Best Posted and Most Daring Deputies in
"Charlie Pettit, the colored deputy
marshal, the terror of the woods but one of the best known and
trusted and good natured men, a man that fears neither man nor
devil, is in the city...Charley Pettit is at the same time the
most gentle, well disposed fellow in the territory. He is
colored, it is true, but a great genius could build a romance on
his life that would beat all the "yellow backs" that
were ever written. He could be made out to be in fiction - and in
truth, too - as the "Black Terror of the Territory."
"Charley Petit is here as posseman of H.H.
Callahan, a brave deputy marshal who killed some time
ago the famous outlaw, Tom Crook, in the Osage
nation. If ever there was a man that deserved a deputy marshal's
commission in his own name, it is Charley Pettit. He is as gentle
as a lamb and you would think butter would melt in his mouth, but
at the same time, he is as courageous as a lion..."
I haven't been able to find out if Pettit ever received a
commission under Nix, but it appears he received a prior
commission as a deputy U.S. marshal under William Grimes
of Oklahoma Territory. Grimes' payroll record for January 1 to
June 30, 1893 shows Charles Pettit receiving $340.02 in wages and
reimbursements. The following notations were found in territorial
newspapers concerning Pettit's police work:
Guthrie Leader, June 14, 1894:
"Deputy Charlie Pettit (sic), down from
Perry with prisoners, most selling whisky."
State Capitol, March 6, 1895:
"Deputy Chas. Petit came in last month from
the Osage country with W.S. Kennedy, an Osage
whisky peddler. He was given lodging at the federal jail."
Guthrie Leader, April 27, 1895:
Deputy Charles Pettit arrived yesterday from the
Osage country with Will Hill and Perrin
Rich, two Osage dealers in ardent spirits and turned
them over to the keeper of the federal inn."
LAWMAN RUFUS CANNON
Doolin was killed by a federal posse on August 24, 1896 near
Lawson, Oklahoma Territory. The posse was led by the famous
lawman Heck Thomas. On Sunday night, August
23rd, while encamped on Dry Creek northeast of Chandler, the
Thomas posse was joined by African Cherokee deputy U.S. Marshal Rufus
Cannon, a noted gunman and manhunter.
Rufus Cannon was one of the most important black lawmen of
the Oklahoma territorial era. Recent research shows that he may
have to rank second only to Bass
Reeves and Grant Johnson in regards
to black peace officers on the Oklahoma frontier.
The newspaper printed a story after Doolin's death that Rufus
Cannon, for certain, had been the posseman who had shot Doolin.
They later changed the story before the paper went to press and
stated Thomas had done the deed. The newspaper stated Cannon was
a half-blood Cherokee and didn't allude to his African ancestry.
Did Cannon actually pull the trigger on the shotgun that killed
Doolin? We will never really know for sure. A year later in a
letter of correspondence, Thomas took credit for Doolin's death.
But if Cannon didn't kill Doolin, he shot and arrested his share
of bad men.
The Fort Smith National Historic Site has records that show
Rufus Cannon receiving a deputy marshal commission on September
15, 1892, and June 1, 1893 from Judge Issac C. Parker's
court for the Indian Territory. Cannon's exact length of service
is not known, but what is known due to the newspaper reports is
that he worked both the Oklahoma and Indian Territories.
One of the first notable captures of outlaws by Cannon was
the arrest of the notorious African Creek outlaw Captain
Willie. The outstanding Oklahoma City deputy U.S.
Marshal George Thornton had been murdered by
Captain Willie near the Sac and Fox Agency in October, 1891.
Below are a couple of newspaper articles related to this event:
Watonga Republican. October 26, 1892:
"A DESPERADO CAPTURED: Guthrie, O.T., Oct.
17 - United States Marshals Rufe Cannon and J.P. Hunter arrived
here tonight with the noted Creek desperado, Captain John Wiley
(sic). Wiley killed Deputy Marshal George Thornton a year ago
besides several other men during his criminal career."
Fort Smith Elevator. November 4,
1892: "A FATAL SHOT: Deputy Marshal Rufus
Cannon, who arrested the notorious Creek outlaw Captain Wylie,
arrived in the city Tuesday. Deputy Cannon reports that on his
way back he was overtaken near the Oklahoma line by a gang of
drunken outlaws, who charged into his camp. One of the party was
captured with three quarts of whisky in his possession, and
placed under arrest. As soon as his comrades discovered he was
missing they returned and fired into the camp. Mr. Cannon
returned fire, and the leader of the attacking party fell dead,
shot through the neck. Mr. Cannon shortly afterward surrendered
to Deputy Hunter."
The next incident of note occurred when Cannon, along with
black deputy U.S. Marshal Ike Rogers (of Cherokee
Bill fame), led their posse into a gunfight with the
Cherokee outlaw Henry Starr and his gang near
Bartlesville. This altercation took place on January 21, 1893.
Starr and Ed Newcome escaped the posse, but
Cannon shot the right arm off a white outlaw named Jesse
Jackson with a shotgun. Jackson was captured and turned
over to lawman Heck Thomas for robbing the Santa Fe railroad
train on November 8, 1892 at Wharton, Oklahoma Territory.
The Coffeyville Journal on February
24, 1893 carried the following story: "Deputy U.S. Marshal Rufus
Cannon of Fort Smith, was in the city Monday, having in
charge Scott Bruner, who is implicated in
robbing the Santa Fe train at Wharton, Oklahoma Territory and the
Pacific train at Coney (Caney ?) last fall. Bruner is a desperate
fellow and the capture is an important one. He was captured down
on the Osage line at the house of a man named Washington
while making love to his sweetheart."
"Scott Bruner was taken to Fort Smith Monday as was
expected. One reason was the marshal was waiting for witnesses to
arrive. U.S. Marshal Tom Weeks, who made the
arrest with Cannon, came up from the territory Monday night and
was here all day yesterday. Weeks says Bruner is undoubtedly a
bad man. He held up two men not long since in the territory and
was surely in the Wharton robbery. Bruner is already under bond
for Peddling whiskey. Weeks and Cannon were to take Bruner to
Fort Smith Tuesday evening. There is a reward of $1000 for the
arrest and conviction of the men who robbed the train at Wharton
last fall and two of them are now captured."
The Guthrie State Capitol on August
14, 1894 printed: "Deputy Marshall Rufus Cannon
is in the city;" and on September 13, 1894: "Deputy
Marshalls Sam and Morris O'Malley and Rufus
Cannon came in with a batch of prisoners from the Creek
The Muskogee Phoenix on September 22,
1894 carried a story about a shooting Cannon was involved in:
"About a year and a half ago, Rufus Cannon and W.L.
Stamphill, deputies under Marshal Yoes,
had a fight near Wewoka with a portion of the Woodward
gang. Joe Pierce was killed and his friends
claim that the killing was unjustifiable. They attempted to have
the deputies indicted for murder, but failed. The special grand
jury.......took up the case again and returned indictments
against both. Stamphill was in the city and surrendered at once.
Rufus Cannon was out in the Seminole nation, but came in today
and gave himself up to C.J. Lamb. Both had
admitted to bond and are confident of their acquittal."
In July of 1895, Bob and Bill Christain
broke out of the Oklahoma City jail and in doing so murdered
Police Chief Milt Jones. An extensive and
intensive manhunt followed. Cannon arrested William
"Old Man" Christain and W.H. "Bill" Carr
on July 22, 1895 in Pottowatomie County, Oklahoma Territory.
"Old Man" Christain and former lawman Carr had been
implicated in assisting with the escape.
The Guthrie State Capitol on November
2, 1895 reported: "Deputy Marshal Rufe Cannon is over from
the Creek country."
The next incident of importance for Cannon was the subduing
of Bill Doolin with the Heck Thomas
posse. Being a fully sworn deputy, Cannon was ineligible for
reward monies as the member of a posse. Cannon received $10 for
mileage and reportedly Thomas gave him a share of his reward
money. Cannon died in Kansas City, Missouri at the age of 105.
In Bill Doolin's last year, he was able to break out of jail
due to the initiative of a black outlaw. Doolin may have lost his
life to a black lawman who was a member of the posse that killed
him. Doolin's grave was dug and he was buried by a black man
named Sherman Patton. This took place on August
28, 1896 at Summit View Cemetery, Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory,
where Patton was the groundskeeper.
RED AND DEADLY: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the
Indian Territory, 1870-1907. Art T. Burton: Eakin Press, 1991.
BILL DOOLIN, OUTLAW O.T. Colonel Bailey C.
Hanes; University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.
WEST OF HELL'S FRINGE. Glenn Shirley;
University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.
Fort Smith Elevator
Oklahoma State Capitol