Killed in the Line of Duty at 71…

1924 – This should make you Oklahoma proud. Law enforcement proud. THIS is what its all about: On this day, William Tilghman is murdered by a corrupt prohibition agent who resented Tilghman’s refusal to ignore local bootlegging operations. Tilghman, one of the famous marshals who brought law and order to the Wild West, was 71 years old.

Known to both friends and enemies as “Uncle Billy,” Tilghman was one of the most honest and effective lawmen of his day. Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1854, Tilghman moved west when he was only 16 years old. Once there, he flirted with a life of crime after falling in with a crowd of disreputable young men who stole horses from Indians. After several narrow escapes with angry Indians, Tilghman decided that rustling was too dangerous and settled in Dodge City, Kansas, where he briefly served as a deputy marshal before opening a saloon. He was arrested twice for alleged train robbery and rustling, but the charges did not stick.

Despite this shaky start, Tilghman gradually built a reputation as an honest and respectable young man in Dodge City. He became the deputy sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, and later, the marshal of Dodge City. Tilghman was one of the first men into the territory when Oklahoma opened to settlement in 1889, and he became a deputy U.S. marshal for the region in 1891. In the late 19th century, lawlessness still plagued Oklahoma, and Tilghman helped restore order by capturing some of the most notorious bandits of the day.

Over the years, Tilghman earned a well-deserved reputation for treating even the worst criminals fairly and protecting the rights of the unjustly accused. Any man in Tilghman’s custody knew he was safe from angry vigilante mobs, because Tilghman had little tolerance for those who took the law into their own hands. In 1898, a wild mob lynched two young Indians who were falsely accused of raping and murdering a white woman. Tilghman arrested and secured prison terms for eight of the mob leaders and captured the real rapist-murderer.

In 1924, after serving a term as an Oklahoma state legislator, making a movie about his frontier days, and serving as the police chief of Oklahoma City, Tilghman might well have been expected to quietly retire. However, the old lawman was unable to hang up his gun, and he accepted a job as city marshal in Cromwell, Oklahoma. Tilghman was shot and killed while trying to arrest a drunken Prohibition agent.

Today in History, May 17, 1954:

In 1898 the Supreme Court had ruled in Plessy v Ferguson that keeping blacks and whites separate on railroad cars was constitutional, as “separate but equal” didn’t violate the 14th Amendment.

This was eventually perverted to all public facilities being segregated.

In the 1954 Decision of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court Ruled that 3rd grader Linda Brown could attend a white school, and that segregation was illegal. The Civil Rights evolution in America had begun. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall led the team that won this case.

“This damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.” – Sen. Stephen Douglas

Today in History, May 22, 1856:

Years before the Civil War. On May 20, 1856 US Senator Charles Sumner, a free soil Democrat and later Republican from Massachussetts, had given a firey speech entitled “Crime Against Kansas” about the violence in that state over slavery.

A devout abolitionist, he excoriated the south, in particular Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who he likened to a pimp abusing a prostitute (slavery).

This enraged Butler’s nephew, Senator Preston Brooks. When Sen. Stephen Douglas heard the speech, he commented, “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.”

On the 22nd, Brooks entered the Senate chamber with two other Southern Senators, found Sumner at his desk writing and proceeded to bludgeon him nearly to death with his heavy metal tipped cane while Sumner was trapped within his desk, defenseless.

Southerners hailed Brooks a hero.

Northerners called him a coward. One of these, Republican Representative Anson Burlingame called him such on the House floor.

Brooks challenged Burlingame to a duel. When Burlingame actually accepted and showed up, Brooks did not.

Sumner would suffer debilitating pain for the rest of his life from his injuries, but would recover to become a key proponent of abolitionist policies during reconstruction, living until 1872.

Brooks on the other hand died in January 1857, less than a year after the attack, of the croup.

Knute Rockne Makes An Impact, Even in Death

Today in History, March 31: 1931 – As TWA Flight 599, a Fokker F.10 Tri-Motor wings it’s way over Kansas between Kansas City and Wichita, the structure of one of those wings fails, and shears off. The aircraft immediately crashed into the prairie, taking the lives of all eight passengers and crew. Included in the Reaper’s tally that day was a celebrated American hero. The famous player and most winning coach of Notre Dame’s football team, who led his team to morality as well as victory, Knute Rockne. The entire nation mourned as if a President had died; and the President paid tribute as Knute’s home nation of Norway knighted him. The airline industry was forever changed; TWA nearly went under and aircraft safety became a priority.

“Militia” As the Founders Saw it…Coffeyville



Today in History, October 5: 1892 – In Coffeyville, Kansas, four citizen give their lives in the successful effort to prevent the infamous Dalton gang from robbing two of the town’s banks at the same time. The Daltons made the mistake of attempting to rob a town where they were well known, and were recognized. As they entered the banks, the word was spreading and citizens were arming themselves. As they attempted to flee, they were gunned down, only Emmett Dalton surviving. Coffeyville citizens George Cubine, Charles Brown, Lucius Baldwin, and town Marshal Charles T. Connelly died in the gunfight.

Sometimes Endings are Actually Beginnings

Today in History, April 19: 1876 – Wyatt Earp is not “rehired” by the Wichita Police Department. Earp had already had a storied career as a lawman and sometimes horse thief. He took a job as an officer in Wichita, and out of loyalty to the man that hired him, beat the laundry off of a competing candidate for the Sheriff’s job.  A commission voted not to renew Earp’s employment….he moved to Dodge City and became a lawman there before moving to Tombstone, Arizona and into legend. One of his fellow officers was his friend Bat Masterson.

Disaster, A Nation Mourns

Today in History, March 31: 1931 – As TWA Flight 599, a Fokker F.10 Tri-Motor wings it’s way over Kansas between Kansas City and Wichita, the structure of one of those wings fails, and shears off. The aircraft immediately crashed into the prairie, taking the lives of all eight passengers and crew. Included in the Reaper’s tally that day was a celebrated American hero. The famous player and most winning coach of Notre Dame’s football team, who led his team to morality as well as victory, Knute Rockne. The entire nation mourned as if a President had died; and the President paid tribute as Knute’s home nation of Norway knighted him. The airline industry was forever changed; TWA nearly went under and aircraft safety became a priority.

The End of an Era

Today in History, March 7: 1885 – After the Civil War Texas Cattlemen began driving their herds north across Indian Territory to railroad hubs in Kansas. For twenty years Kansas towns (Abilene, Dodge, Hays, etc) vied to be the main hub to reap the accompanying profits. The cattle drives and the cowboys that led them became the source of our romance with the West.

However by 1885 Kansas had become a mostly agricultural state, and the cattle herds destroyed crops, their cowboys were rowdy. On today’s date the Kansas legislature passed a quarantine restricting Texas cattle from Kansas except in the Winter months, when the diseases they carried were less likely to affect Kansas dairy cows. It was a moot point by then anyway, as the railroads had made their way into Texas cattle country.

The Chisolm Trail

Today in History, March 4: 1868 – Jesse Chisholm dies. The famous Chisholm Trail is named for Jesse. Most of us assume that Chisholm was a cattle baron that established the trail to take his cattle north. Not so. Jesse was a “halfbreed” in the vernacular of the time…part Scot and part Cherokee. He lived amongst the Native Americans in Arkansas and Indian Territory, and established himself as a merchant. He often negotiated the release of hostages taken by Native American tribes. He knew the landscape well, and established a route from Wichita, Kansas to the Red River, then further south into Texas for his commerce. When Texans needed to move their cattle north to rail heads in Kansas, they used Chisholm’s trail, widening it to as much as 400 yards which can still be seen. Over a million cattle would be moved along the trail established by Jesse Chisholm.

Bleeding Kansas Joins the Union

bleeding-kansas-1

Today in History, January 29: 1861 – Kansas enters the Union as a free state.  Plain, flat Kansas has played a very large role in the formation of our nation.

I wasn’t there but a little while when I went to help a feller shingle a roof. It was about eight o’clock in the mornin’, and I was sittin’ there on the roof just lookin’ out at those miles and miles of prairies, and way off in the distance I see somethin’ about the size of a cigar standin’ up on the horizon. It didn’t seem to get no bigger and after I watched it a while I says to the feller, ‘Look at that thing out there, don’t it look funny.’ He looked where I was pointin’ and he says ‘Know what that is? That’s the freight train comin’ in.’ Well, we worked all mornin’ and we went in and was eatin’ dinner when we heard that train pull into the depot.

Mr. Botsford on Travel—Kansas,” Art Botsford, Interviewee; Francis Donovan, Interviewer; Thomaston, Conn., December 27, 1938. American Life Histories: Manuscripts for the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940. Manuscript Division

“Bloody Kansas” had fought the battle between abolishionists and slavery proponents from Missouri throughout the 1850’s. It’s internal battle was a precursor to the Civil War, during which the entire nation would battle for it’s very life over the unholy concept of one man owning another.