Oklahoma Native American Data
Edward (Ned) Christie
Three-fourths Cherokee, Edward (Ned) Christie was born on December 14, 1852, in the Rabbit Trap community of the Cherokee Nation. He grew up around his father’s blacksmith shop and became a skilled blacksmith and gunsmith. By age 10, he was said to be one of the best marksmen in the Cherokee Nation.
In the blacksmith shop, Ned and his brothers heard much about the forced removal of the Cherokees from the East to Indian Territory in 1838. Thousands had died upon the Trail of Tears, including Christie’s grandmother, an Irish woman who had given the Christie family its last name. During the Civil War, Christie’s father, Watt, and his uncles sided with the Union. Watt Christie, who had been forced out of North Carolina in 1838, said he would not be driven from his home a second time. Young Ned remained behind to help defend the rest of the family.
Following the war, several of Ned’s brothers and his father served in the Cherokee legislature from the Going Snake District. In 1885, Ned Christie, following in their footsteps, was elected to his first term in the National Council. He became known for his hot-tempered speeches on the legislative floor in defense of Cherokee sovereignty, as movement was underway to open to white settlement a 2-million acre tract, known as the Unassigned Lands, in the heart of Indian Territory. The Indians were being pressured to take their lands in individual allotments, thus eliminating the tribes as separate nations. Christie knew that once this happened, the white man would soon be in charge of those allotments, legally or otherwise. In the meantime, intruders and illegal whiskey were plaguing the Cherokee Nation.
On Easter morning, April 10, 1887, the Cherokee Female Seminary burned. The Executive Council, including Christie, was called into special session in Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation’s capital, to see what could be done about rebuilding the seminary.
Christie lived in the Rabbit Trap community with his third wife, Nancy, and a son from a previous marriage, 13-year-old James. When the Executive Council was in session, Ned customarily stayed in town at the home of Senator Ned Grease, a relative of Nancy’s. At the end of a busy day, he liked to go downtown after supper to find a drink of whiskey. Like many of his friends, he sometimes drank too much. On December 24, 1884, he had been accused of killing a young Cherokee man, William Palone, in a liquor-related incident. He was brought to trial but was declared not guilty.
On the night of May 5, 1887, in downtown Tahlequah, Christie met John Parris. A half blood, Parris had been in trouble with the court in Fort Smith for years for introducing and selling whiskey. Parris always knew where to find a drink of whiskey. He and Ned went toward Dog Town on the northern edge of Tahlequah. They crossed the bridge over Spring Branch and passed Big Spring, where a team and wagon were camped. The past three days had been cold and rainy, but this evening was clear and pleasant.
At the home of Nancy Old Lady Shell, they found Thomas Bub Trainor, Jr., eating supper, all decked out in a white shirt, ready to attend a local dance. Trainor was one of Tahlequah’s Saturday Night Outlaws. His family was well-respected, but Bub was wild and reckless. Christie and Parris bought a bottle of whiskey from Nancy. Not having a cork for the bottle, she tore a strip from her apron to use as a stopper. Ned and Parris left Nancy and Bub behind and made their way back to Spring Branch. They came across three other acquaintances, and soon all five men were drinking.
Meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Marshal Dan Maples and posseman George Jefferson were at work in Big Spring. John C. Carroll, the Western District of Arkansas marshal at Fort Smith, had sent them to investigate the growing illegal whiskey operations in the Tahlequah area. Maples inquired unobtrusively about the matter. His chief suspects were Bub Trainor and John Parris, and he had warrants for each of them.
Maples soon learned that Trainor was the most persistent supplier of whiskey in Dog Town and a frequent visitor to Old Lady Shell, among others. Satisfied with what he had learned, Maples used storekeeper James S. Stapler’s phone to notify Carroll. One of Trainor’s associates, standing unnoticed by an open window, heard everything.
After making the call, Maples walked with Jefferson back toward their wagon camp. The moon shone brightly. As they approached a footlog across Spring Branch, Jefferson saw the muzzle of a revolver resting against the side of a tree on the opposite side of the branch. Don’t shoot! he shouted.
But the assassin fired. The ball struck Maples in the chest. He fell but was able to draw his revolver and fire at the man. Jefferson fired, too. None of their shots found their mark. A few hours later, shortly after midnight, Maples died of internal hemorrhage.
The moon had set and all was quiet in the hour before dawn on November 3, 1892, in the Cherokee Nation. The posse, 25 men strong, lay in wait outside Ned Christie’s fortified house. Gus York and U.S. Deputy Marshal Gideon S. ‘Cap White, the posse leaders, gave their final orders. Christie must be kept from escaping, they said, and his supporters must be prevented from coming to his aid.
At sunrise, the door slowly opened and Arch Wolf, Christie’s nephew and a member of his gang, stepped out. When Wolf started for the nearby spring, Cap White shouted for him to surrender. Wolf replied with gunfire. Return fire from the deputies struck him in the leg and arm. As Wolf staggered toward the cabin, another bullet grazed his head, but he made it inside. Ned whooped as he always did when a fight began. A hail of bullets blazed from the portholes he had cut into the upper portion of his home. The final battle to capture Ned Christie was on.
Christie was reportedly one of the most vicious men to ever raise a gun in Indian Territory. He was reputed to be a born killer, cold-blooded and ruthless. Dime novels of the time said he walked the isolated paths of the Cherokee Nation, relentless in his maniacal hatred of the white man. He was rumored to have murdered 11 or more people, though officially he was charged with only one, U.S. Deputy Marshal Daniel Maples. For five years Christie, who maintained his innocence, had evaded the lawmen attempting to bring him in to stand trial for that murder. When his trouble with the law began, Christie was a well-respected member of the Cherokee National Council, one of three legislators in the Executive Council, which acted as an advisory committee to the principal chief. A tall and handsome man, and he could speak English fluently.
Ezekiel "Zeke" Proctor was born July 4, 1831 at Roswell, Fulton, Georgia, he was the son of William Proctor and Dicey Downing. On April 15, 1872, at the session of the district court in Goingsnake District, Cherokee Nation, there occurred a gunfight that left nine men dead and numbers wounded, two of them mortally. The episode became known in the history of eastern Oklahoma as the "Tragedy of Goingsnake" or the "Proctor-Beck Fight." The fight resulted from the attempts of a United States marshal from Fort Smith and his posse to arrest and take to Fort Smith Ezekiel Proctor who was on trial for the killing of one Polly Kesterson. Such a dramatic event had its immediate as well as its long-range effects. Immediately, it caused the federal government to pause to examine the conflict which had arisen over matters of jurisdiction between the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith and the courts of the Cherokee Nation. The long-range effect of the episode was to add to the lore of that area a series of stories, often based more on fancy than on fact. Many such stories have unfortunately not dealt kindly with some of the people involved, especially with Proctor himself. Too many writers have painted him as a "bad man," murderer, and outlaw, when actually, the records show that he was a successful farmer and rancher and lawman of some note. It is doubtful that all of the details will ever be known, but a more complete and accurate account of that fateful event can be given.
The known facts of what precipitated the trial, and therefore the fight,
are few. On the morning of February 13, 1872, Ezekiel Proctor went to Hildebrand's Mill on Flint Creek about a
half mile north of and across the creek from the present Flint, Oklahoma. There a gunfight ensued between Proctor
and James Kesterson, during which Mrs. Kesterson was killed. Proctor turned himself in, willingly giving himself
up for trial. What actually transpired at the mill may be lost to history, but the story is, as it was told
to E. H. Whitmire, that Proctor went to the mill to talk to Kesterson, with whom he was "having trouble over
some stock." When he arrived at the mill, he and Kesterson got into a heated argument, Kesterson reached for
a gun, and the shooting started. Mrs. Kesterson, trying to save her husband, got between them and was shot and
killed. Mrs. Elizabeth Walden of Watts, a granddaughter of Proctor, says that Proctor went to the home
of his brother-in-law, Charley Allen, where he left his family. He then rode one of Allen's horses to the home
of Jack Wright, Sheriff of Goingsnake District.
Just what the trouble over the livestock was is unclear. Some stories say that Kesterson had accused Proctor of stealing a cow and that Proctor came to the mill to get revenge. Others discount those stories because Proctor had previously been a sheriff and was at that time a quite prosperous farmer and rancher. A more likely story comes from one of the elderly members of the Beck family. He says that Mrs. Kesterson was well-to-do and had a number of cattle running on open range; the cattle were destroying the crops of the Indian farmers that lived on the Illinois River to the south. Mr. Beck says that Proctor was at the time a deputy sheriff and went to the mill to tell Kesterson to keep his cattle closer to home; during the discussion the fight ensued Whatever personal animosity was involved was overshadowed by the legal struggle that culminated in the shooting. The Becks were evidently incensed at the death of their aunt and felt that justice would not be done if Proctor were tried in the Cherokee Nation. The regular judge of Goingsnake District, Tim Walker, was suspended because he was a relative of the parties involved, and T.B. Wolfe was appointed in his place. He, too, was rejected for the same reason. Chief Lewis Downing then appointed Black Haw Sixkiller as a special judge to try the case. The trial had been in progress four days when Sut Beck, a nephew of Polly Kesterson, and J.A. Scales, a lawyer prosecuting Proctor, filed an affidavit charging Sixkiller with doubtful character, and asking the Chief to suspend him also under a law in 1845, called "An Act to Authorize the Chief to Suspend from Office."
Chief Downing was in a quandary, for he was related to both families. Downing did not feel that the charges were substantiated nor that they fell under the act of 1845, yet since feelings were running high on both sides, he temporarily suspended Judge Sixkiller, and called a meeting of the Executive Council for April 4, 1872. Downing filed before the Council copies of Beck's affidavit, the Chief's order of suspension of Sixkiller, the proceedings of the Circuit Court at Goingsnake in the case of Cherokee Nation vs. Ezekiel Proctor, statements on the matter by W.P. Boudinot and others, and a statement of the Hon. Charles Thompson relating to the charges. After deliberation, Captain James Vann stated his opinion which was unanimously agreed upon by those present He could not see that Sixkiller had erred or broken the law, nor did he find evidence that the allegations of Beck and Scales were such as to warrant the dismissal of Sixkiller. It appeared to Vann that the main burden of the complaint was the ruling of the Judge not to postpone the trial once more, as he had twice done already on a motion of the prosecution. The Judge had also refused to permit the prosecution to impeach the jury before the case was opened. He therefore asked that the Council sustain Judge Sixkiller, withdraw his temporary suspension, and recommend that the trial proceed. Therefore, the Council resolved that the action of the prosecution in the case was reprehensible, that it had "fractiously trumped up charges against Judge Black Haw Sixkiller," that the charges were intended to defeat the ends of justice, to create excitement and prejudice, and to create a delay detrimental to the rights of the prisoner in contempt of the constitution, thereby setting a dangerous precedent.
The wording of the Council's resolution suggests their awareness of the problem of jurisdiction, which probably gave them more impetus to avoid setting a precedent. And indeed they had reason to be cautious. The Sheriff of Goingsnake District had held Ezekiel Proctor under arrest, and at the second calling of the court on the case a deputy United States marshal asked the sheriff to release the prisoner to him on the basis of a writ which had evidently been obtained in Fort Smith. The sheriff refused, saying that he would do so only on the order of the acting Principal Chief. The sheriff felt that the marshal might return to take Proctor by force and increased his guard to prevent such an occurrence while the trial was in progress. Then there was a temporary adjournment of the court because of the prosecution's charges against Judge Sixkiller, and when the sheriff saw no further attempts to take the prisoner, he reduced his guards to the usual number. Such was the state of affairs until the special circuit court met at the Whitmire schoolhouse in Goingsnake District on April 15, 1872, at the request of Judge Black Haw Sixkiller. The same jury impaneled at the last session was sitting. The prosecutor again questioned the right of the Judge to sit in the trial and of the Principal Chief and Executive Council to give him the power to proceed after having suspended him. Defense lawyer, Moses Alberty, argued that the Judge had not been suspended but only called before the Council which was to determine whether he should be suspended and that the Council had sustained the Judge and ordered the trial to proceed. It was at this point that the gunfight began.
On April 11, Kesterson had filed information before James O. Churchill, United States Commissioner at Fort Smith, seeking a writ for the arrest of Proctor for assault with intent to kill (Kesterson had been wounded in the fight with Proctor). Churchill issued the writ and gave instructions to Deputy United States Marshals J. G. Peavy and J. G. Owens to go to Goingsnake courthouse to arrest Proctor if he was Acquitted and bring him to Fort Smith, supposedly for examination. Thus, armed with the writ and joined by the Beck party, the posse rode to the courthouse. The posse hitched their horses about fifty yards from the schoolhouse, formed by two's, and moved to the house. The marshals, led by White Sut Beck, cocked their guns as they marched. The time was nearing 11 a.m. No apparent notice was made of them until the leader, White Sut Beck, who had his double-barreled shotgun cocked and presented, ordered the sheriff, stationed at the door, to get out of the way. One of the jurors, George Blackwood, was facing the one door to the courtroom, and noticing the sheriff shoved out of the way, shouted for everybody "to look out that they were coming to get Zeke Proctor and at this instant the shooting began." Johnson Proctor, unarmed and near the door, grabbed the barrel of White Sut Beck's shotgun, pulling it from above head high to between shoulder and waist high. By that time the shotgun had been discharged, scattering all of the shot from the first barrel into Johnson Proctor's abdomen. Proctor, still grasping the barrel of the shotgun, threw the second barrel's shot well below knee level, sending only a few scattered shot into Ezekiel Proctor's legs, one leg receiving a severe wound.
Apparently expecting trouble from the white court in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the Indians inside the courtroom were equally heavily armed. The guards selected by the sheriff, were substantial men he trusted. As sworn officers of the law, they were responsible for the safe-keeping and protection of the prisoner independent of any orders from the sheriff. They reacted immediately when they saw what was about to occur. The next shots fired by the posse into the courtroom hit Judge Moses Alberty, attorney for the defense, as he sat at the clerk's table reading the evidence in the case. Alberty, receiving both blasts from a shotgun in his chest, died in his seat without speaking a word. Samuel Beck stepped in front of White Sut Beck and the attacking column and fell and died, shot by one of the men inside. Arriving at the school house around 1 p.m., W.P. Boudinot, editor of the Cherokee Advocate, was met with a sight which was near disbelief. Three men were lying dead just before the door steps. Dark pools of blood issued from each. In the house lay three more bodies, side by side, with their hats over their faces. A few steps off to the right of the door lay the body of a man with light hair and blue eyes, and next to the chimney behind the house a man lay groaning in anguish. In the bushes a little farther away, there was the corpse of a man who had staggered there to die.
Among the wounded was the presiding judge, B.H. Sixkiller, with his wrist bandaged, covering the two bullet wounds he had received. The prisoner limped about with a bullet lodged in the bone of his leg just below the knee. Others were wounded more or less. At Mrs. Whitmire's, desperately wounded, lay Deputy Marshal Owens, a man generally respected on both sides of the "line," who died the next day. Some of the badly wounded were not seen, having fled or been taken care of by their friends. The aftermath of the spectacle was to Boudinot, the most awful sight, without any comparison, that had ever been witnessed in those parts The fight had lasted no longer than fifteen minutes. Then the assailants fled, and the authorities and citizens on the ground occupied themselves with taking care of the wounded and dead on both sides of the faction. Eight bodies were hauled to the nearest residence from the court building and grounds. A ninth victim was found a short distance behind the school house, where he had run and had fallen, after being mortally wounded. Sheriff Wright stated that another body was supposedly found a quarter of a mile from the court grounds in the direction of the retreat, but he could not vouch for the accuracy of this statement. Deputy Marshall Owens was shot through the body and was taken to Mrs. Whitmire's home, where he received every attention possible under the circumstances.
Others wounded in the battle, besides the presiding judge, were as follows: the prisoner Ezekiel Proctor, seriously wounded in the knee and leg; William Beck, mortally wounded in the body; Issac Vann, badly wounded in the elbow; White Sut Beck, who led the assault and who was wounded very badly but escaped; one of the jurymen, shot through the shoulder; several other jurymen, slightly wounded (probably by shotgun blasts from the assaulting force).
The dead on the Proctor side included: Judge Moses Alberty; Johnson Proctor, a brother of the defendant (both Alberty and J. Proctor were unarmed and not engaged in the fight and were men of years); and Andrew Palone. The dead of the Beck party included Samuel and Black Sut who died immediately; William Beck who later died; William Hicks; Jim Ward; George Selvidge; and Riley Woods.
Needless to say the court was recessed for April 15. According to the court records, it reconvened the next day near the Whitmire place at the home of Arch Scraper, foreman of the jury. There was fear that the events of the day before might be repeated, and Scraper's home would afford more safety to those connected with the trial. The main reason for moving the trial, however, was probably Proctor himself. Wounded in the fight, he had been carried to Scraper's house, and he refused to waive his right to be present at the trial. The jury, who had been informed of the place of meeting the day before, were all present except one who had been wounded. The court impaneled another juror, the trial proceeded, and the jury acquitted Proctor. Ezekiel Proctor died on Feb. 23, 1907 and is buried in Johnson Cemetery at West Siloam Springs, Delaware County, Oklahoma
Source: Chronicles of Oklahoma By James Shannon Buchanan, Oklahoma Historical Society Published by Oklahoma Historical Society., 1893 Pages 307-322
When the Cherokees were driven from their homes in Georgia and Tennessee nearly a century ago, some of their most prominent families settled within the present limits of Adair County, attracted hither no doubt by the primitive forests and beautiful streams where game and fish were plentiful. Among them were the Ryder family, Augustus and Austin, who came from Tennessee in 1832, and settled a few miles east of the present City of Stilwell. Here in 1856, Thomas L. Ryder was born, who not only became prominent in Cherokee affairs but since statehood has been elected three times to serve his district in the lower house of the Legislature and once in the State Senate. At the age of sixty-six he has now retired and resides in Muskogee, surrounded by a family of children. Mark Bean, another Cherokee, emigrated to this neighborhood in 1832, developed a farm and reared a family of boys. The Starr family, George, Caleb and Noon, were also prominent Cherokees who established homes here in an early day, locating on the beautiful Barron Fork, a tributary of the Illinois River, and on Sallisaw Creek, farther south. Louis Downing, a full-blood, who was afterward elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation, established his home on Lee's Creek. Walter Duncan and his brothers, Clint and Charles, were among the other prominent .Cherokees who located in the Valley of Barron Fork. Charles Duncan, for many years, was a prominent Cherokee preacher. One of the historic spots in this vicinity is the site of the old Flint District Courthouse of Cherokee days. This temple of justice was a two story frame structure, located on Sallisaw Creek, seven miles east of where Stilwell is now located. Many important trials both civil and criminal were held in this historic old courthouse during the days when the laws. of the Cherokee Nation were in full force and effect. Many good old Cherokees will tell you that their old time laws were more rigidly enforced and penalties for violation of law were inflicted with more certainty and with less delay than is now customary under the rule of the white man.
Some of their old laws provide that such offenses as theft and assault should be punished with a given number of lashes upon the bare back of the offender, with double the number of lashes for a second conviction of the same offense, and it was not unusual, in the olden times, for an offender to be arrested, tried, convicted and punished all in one day. If it has not recently been destroyed, the old forked tree still stands near the Flint District Courthouse, to which the criminals were tied while receiving their punishment. During the later years of the life of the Cherokee Nation, however, punishment by fine and imprisonment was substituted for the whipping post. Under the old Indian regime, much annoyance and chagrin was often experienced by the tribal officials by reason of the fact that no white man, no matter how detestable he might have been, nor how flagrant his offense, could be tried or punished by the tribal courts.
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