Cherokee County, Oklahoma

Crime News

John H. Milks

A Tahleqah Fatality - John H. Milks, a non-citizen living near Tahlequah was shot last Monday week by Henry Woods and died the second day after. They lived near one another and appear to have had some difficulty about the division of a quantity of grain owned jointly. Both men were respected by their neighbors and the affair is greatly regretted on both sides. (Indian Chieftain, Thursday, August 20, 1885, page 3)

Thomas Knight Free

We received a telegram yesterday from Fort Smith stating that Thomas Knight, who was convicted some time since in the U. S. Cort at that place, has been pardoned and is now a free man.  Col. E. C. Boudinot, Knights attorney, deserves much credit for the manner in which he has worked for his client, and will noboubt be long remembered by Knight and his many frineds.  We did not learn whether the other two parties who were convicted along with Knight, were pardoned or not, bu thope so at any rate.
From the Cherokee Advocate
Wednesday, September 14, 1887 - Submitted by Vicki Hartman


Spade Sunshine was hung in the National Prison enclosure last Friday.  The crime for which he suffered the extreme penalty of the law was the killing of Long John in Sequoyah district some time about last Christmas.  The details of the killing, which were about the substance of the proof at the trial, are given in the statement made by Sunshine on the gallows.

Sunshine displayed remarkable nerve throughout, not a tremor to indicate weakness of any sort.  At ten minutes to eleven High Sheriff Hawkins went into the cell and told Sunshine that the time had come for his execution.  He had already bid farewell to his wife, and children.  Several persons were in the cell with Sunshine, to these he turned and smilling, bid them farewell, then to the High Sheriff he remarked I am ready.  We saw him first as he emerged from the jail door, a rather small man, erect carriage, fair complexion, brown hair and eyes, handsome he would have been pronounced by any one.  With a guard at either side and one in the rear, his hands manacled, he walked firmly, straight to the gallows, ascended without assistance as if going up an ordinary stairway, looked at the trap door and stepped boldly upon it.  Turning toward the High Sheriff he asked how long he would be allowed to address the people, on being informed that he would be allowed an hour if he chose he said he had very little to say, then facing the assembled crowd he carelessly catched hold of the rope that so significantly dangled over his head, he spoke in a low even voice as follows:


"I will not speak of religion now, but will relate the circumstances of the killing for which I am to suffer.  The commencement of the matter was, certain parties came to me and told me that some one was going to kill me.  I asked the party who told me, who it was that intended to kill me.  he would not tell me, but said I would be killed in a few minutes and urged me to leave.  I answered that if I had known of it before I came, I should have stayed at home; but I had harmed no one, and had done nothing, therefore I would not go away at that time. The party who told me these things was named Andrew Russel.  He then said, "I have failed to get you away," and departed.  In meditating over the matter I could not think who it was could have so much against me.  Suddenly I thought of a man who did have a grudge against me and I at once concluded that he was the man who was going to kill me.  Looking around I saw him standing near by, and I at once pulled out my pistol and shot him down.  I afterwards learned that it was other parties Russell had referred to, and that I had shot the wrong man.  If Russell had told me th ename of the man who threatened to kill me I should not have shot the ma I did.  There are persons where I came from, who heard Andrew russell tell me what he did.

I would like to make a few remarks on another matter.  I am a poor man, and have no money; if I had had a thousand or two dollars I would ot have been here today.  I would have given a thousand dollars to the Executive and a thousand to the Chief and I would have been alright; such things I have heard of the Chief.  The rumor is current that the Chief steals the people's money; now which is the worst, to hang a man for stealing the people's money, or one who killed a man.  They are equally as mean.

Some time since, when I first became a voter, party meetings would be held in the woods, some times at night.  I went several times.  A great many times I heard Jim Vann speak; he advised us when we killed Southern men to always try to get one another out.  I knew other parties who talked in the same manner.  Rabbit Bunch is one of them.  Some pepole think he is a good man but what I know of him, i think not. There is some difference of opinion in regard to my case.  I am a Cherokee myself, and the man I killed was also a Cherokee."

Here Sunshine stopped almost a minute in deep thought, and then as if reflecting upon what he had previously stated, said:

"Teh talk I give on these men - I do not say they entertain the same ideas to-day, but I warn you all to beware of such things.  This is about all I have to say of wordly matters.

Religiously I feel that I have forgiveness.  I think I have seen my God.  I don't believe I will see any more trouble hereafter."  After a slight pause he said: "This is all I have to say."

At the conclusion of his statement the death warrant was read, then High Sheriff hawkins stepped forward, pinioned the prisoners arms behind him adjusted the fatal rope, in which the prisoner assisted, and then pulled over his face the black cap, everything was now ready delay was misery and quickly the High Sheriff caught the cord fastend to the trigger of the Trap door and in an instant there was a heavy thud and a lifeless body swung round, and round in the air.  The law was vindicated - "Whoso spills man's blood by man shall his blood be spilled."  In 10 minutes the physicians, Fite, J. M. and J. A. Thompson announced that the pulse of the laws victim had ceased to beat and that his heart was still.  After cutting the body down it was found that the neck had been completely dislocated.

The statement of Sunchine in refrence to the Chief and to Rabbit Bunch is about the substance of the bitter argument used in the late campaign and Sunshine's mind had undoutebly been poisoned by some one telling him that the reason he was not pardoned was because he had no money to bribe the Executive.  To the impartial and those who respec the law Sunshines own statement of the manner of the killing will be sufficent reason why he was not pardoned.
From the Cherokee Advocate
Wednesday, September 14, 1887 - Submitted by Vicki Hartman

Thos. Terrell

It is reported that Thos. Terrell, who was convicted some time ago at Ft. Smith for introducing and selling liquor in the Indian Country, has been sentenced to two years imprisonment in the Little Rock Penitentuary.
From the Cherokee Advocate
Wednesday, September 14, 1887 - Submitted by Vicki Hartman

Trial of David Williams

The case of Mose Crittenden for the murder of David Williams will come up for trial in the Court Room in this place tomorrow.
(Cherokee Advocate Jan 22, 1890 - Submitted by Dena Whitesell)

George and Fred Dunawas

George and Fred Dunawas were hanged at Tahlequah, I.T., Friday for the murder last September, Wash Lee, a Chinaman. (Rock Island Daily Argus, April 18, 1891)

Walter Bark is Hanged

Convicted of Murdering Johnson Rees Four Years Ago - Tahlequah, I.T., March 22 - Walter Bark was hanged in the jail here this afternoon for the murder of Johnson Rees in Going Shake district several years ago. On the scaffold Bark made a short talk in which he said that he was innocent of the murder and that he killed Rees to keep the latter from robbing him. Bark was cool until the rope was placed around his neck. Then he broke down and had to be supported until the drop fell. His neck was broken.

Bark's crime was committed nearly four years ago. He escaped from the nation and was not apprehended until a year ago when he was captured at Fort Smith, Ark. While away from the nation he says he married a white woman in Texas. Bark was a full blooded Cherokee and was thirty years old. (The Wichita Daily Eagle, March 23, 1895)

A Killing at Beck Precinct

Near the Scene of Many a Bloody Encounter - An Old Feud Recalled - Goingsnake Courthouse Riot Twenty-five Years Ago - Bloodiest Tragedy in the History of the Cherokees

A shooting scrape occurred at Beck's precinct Monday afternoon, in which George Still was mortally wounded by being shot twice in the breast by Don Beck, a son of Zeke Beck. George Still was trying to keep Beck from shooting his son, and Beck turned and shot him. It occurred early in the afternoon and stopped the election, no more votes being polled at that precinct thereafter. The affair doubtless, was the direct cause of the defeat of Davis for the senate and Martin for the council, as the vote that was not cast there was largely for them. And it no doubt elected Johnson Fawling, as Martin was only two votes behind him.

The tragedy at Beck's precinct Monday, in which old man George Still lost his life at the hands of a son of Zeke Beck, recalls some of the troubles of that section twenty five years ago. At that time a feud existed between the Becks and Proctors and the friends of each, which during the course of a dozen years broke forth now and then, and the number killed on both sides ran up into the 'teens. A number of the participants were practically outlaws, in as much as they persistently resisted arrest by the deputy marshals from Judge Parker's court at Fort Smith, Zeke Proctor had killed Jim Kesterson and a woman, a near relative of the Becks, at the old Hildebrand mill, on Flint Creek. Proctor was shooting at Kesterson and the woman stepped between them to save the life of Kesterson, when she was shot dead. Proctor resisted arrest by the United States authorities, and a treaty was finally made through John Jones, Indian agent at that time, and Proctor agreed to a trial by the Cherokee courts. While the trial was in progress at Goingsnake court house before Judge Mose Alberty, circuit judge, the Beck's accompanied by United States Deputy Marshal Owens and his posse, entered the court house and demanded the surrender of Zeke Proctor. Black Sut Beck leveled a revolver at the prisoner and fired, but Johnson Proctor seized the barrel of the pistol and bore it down, and Zeke was wounded in the leg. Then the fight opened and an awful battle ensued in and around the court house. The judge was shot dead on the bench - an accidental shot, no doubt Sam Beck, Black Sut Beck and Bill Hicks were killed. Johnson Proctor was killed and several others. When the battle was over nine  men were dead in and around the court house and two more mortally wounded, who died very soon afterward, making a total of eleven killed and ten wounded.

After this the Proctors and the Becks were mortal enemies and went armed to the teeth, constantly ready for a fight, and no deputy marshal ever had the intrepidity to again attempt an arrest. Zeke Proctor afterward represented Goingsnake district in the Cherokee senate two terms, and was also sheriff of his district at a later date.

At the upper end of Long prairie, a short distance from the scene of the killing of old man Still last Monday, is what is known as the Beck graveyard at the Jeffrey Beck place. Here are buried those of the Beck side killed at the court house in the big fight, to which have been added many others who met violent deaths since.

Zeke Proctor still lives on his farm on the Illinois river, in Goingsnake district. He is an old man, and nearly the only survivor of those who took part in the Beck-Proctor feud. He is firmly wedded to the traditions of his tribe, and is bitterly opposed to the encroachments of the United States government. He is true to his friends, and above all to his country. A few years ago, while the Dawes commission was located in this city at work on the citizenship cases, and incidentally urging the Cherokees to abandon their tribal relations, Proctor applied to Chief Mayes for permission to come to Vinita to wipe out the Dawes commission as he had wiped out the Becks long ago. Of course Chief Mayes did not commission him, but it is sure had he done so the affairs of the Cherokees would have been wound up in short order. The Proctors are a war like race. Old Isaac Proctor was sheriff of Flint district a long time ago, and charges were preferred against him by political enemies, charging him with malfeasance in office. As soon as the old man heard of the charges he put his wife and child on his only pony and sent them on ahead and started on foot to Tahlequah to meet his accusers. He was followed and attacked on the road a few miles from Tahlequah. He was killed by his assailants, but died bravely fighting and whooping to the last. (The Indian Chieftain, Vinita, Indian Territory, Thursday, August 17, 1899, front page)

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