FIRST WHITE HANGING IN THE
INDIAN TERRITORY TOOK PLACE THIS
Silas Brown and Mat Craig Die
on the Scaffold at Muskogee -
Muskogee, August 25 - Silas
Brown and Matthew Craig, the
first white men to be hanged in the territory, were executed here this
Both men met death without
The daughter of Marshal
Heinrichs, Craig's victim, witnessed
the execution and smiled when the drop fell.
Brown and Craig were the
first white men to pay the death
penalty under the administration of the federal government in the
The crime for which Silas
Brown was executed was the murder
of Jas. Cuthburth. Brown, who was a tramp, arrived at Webber's Falls,
I. T. in
1896 and became acquainted with Cuthburth, a fisherman, aged 60. He
boathouse of Cuthburth on the Arkansas river, and was nursed through a
illness by the old man.
A short time later he killed
Cuthburth, weighted the body
with stones and threw it in the river. He then disappeared with the
the body of the murdered man was washed ashore and an investigation was
instituted. Brown was arrested at Ft. Smith, Ark.; brought here, tried,
sentenced to death. The date of the execution was December 8, 1897. The
was carried to the supreme court of the United States and was remanded
the appellate court of the Indian Territory. This court affirmed the
decision and the date of execution was set for August 25, 1899.
Matthew Craig was hanged for
the murder of Joseph Hendrick
of Tahlequah last February. Hendrick was a United States Marshal and
arrested Craig for introducing whiskey near Tahlequah.
Hendrick took his prisoner to
his home and both retired for
the night in the same bed. During the night Craig shot the marshal and
He was captured a short time later, tried and sentenced to hang. (The
Daily Leader, Friday Evening, August 25, 1899, front page)
Bootlegger is Released
All Charges Against Him Will Lay Dormant - He's an Old Offender -
Captain Hunt Gives Opinion of Bootlegging Industry
Guthrie O. T., July 2 - Bob Hendrix, a fullblood Cherokee Indian, was
released from custody here today by the federal officers upon his own
recognizance. Hendrix has been a much wanted man, having been charged
with selling liquor to Indians in 1900. He has served several sentences
in the federal jail at Muskogee, I. T., and when his term expired a few
weeks ago, he was brought here to answer the old charge. An attempt was
made to bring him to trial, but it was discovered that the witnesses
had either left the territory or could not be found. It is possible
that the case will never come to trial. Hendrix has been a confirmed
"bootlegger" and in spite of the many sentences he has served,
continued at the business.
Captain C. B. Hunt of the United States marshal's office was asked
today his opinion in regard to the decrease in the selling of liquor to
Indians. He said "I fully believe that there is not as much selling of
liquor to Indians as there was several years ago. We find one thing and
that is, the fellow who served a term in the federal jail for
disposing, does not relish the idea of being arrested and tried for a
similar crime, for that means that he will have a term in the Kansas
penitentiary. The laws in Oklahoma for selling liquor to Indians is
very severe and the trial judge could impose a sentence of ninety-nine
years in the penitentiary should he choose. If the judges ascertain
that a man has served a jail sentence for selling to Indians, he
usually gives the man a long term in the penitentiary and this is what
the "bootlegger" is afraid of.
"The fellow who wants to commit crime would rather steal horses or
cattle on the reservation and let the liquor business go, after he has
had one trial at it. Once in awhile we get a new man for selling liquor
to Indians, but the arrests are not as numerous as they have been. (The
Wichita Daily Eagle, July 4, 1902)
SHOOTING AT BOYNTON
W. H. Blanchard
Killed in Cold Blood by Another Negro
occurred at Boynton about noon yesterday which resulted in the death of
W. H. Blanchard at the hands of another negro, M. C. Wilson by name.
There were no witnesses and the cause of the trouble is not known, but
it is thought to have been "in cold blood." A couple of deputy marshals
were on the scene an hour later. Deputy Bud Ledbetter arrested the man,
but not until after he had refused to halt, and was about to have the
trigger of Bud's six shooter pulled on him. (The Guthrie Daily Leader,
Guthrie, Ok, August 5, 1904)
The Result of Boozing - Indian Territory
Man's Trial at Self-Murder
Second Attempt Fatal - Had Been off Water Wagon Since
Christmas - Muskogee, I. T., Jan. 7 - Frustrated in his first attempt
at suicide by taking carbolic acid Saturday, at eleven o'clock, Frank
P. Kane, a drygoods salesman of this city died yesterday morning at
seven o'clock from the effects of a second dose taken about four
o'clock Saturday morning. Mr. Kane came here about a year ago from
Kingfisher, Kansas and entered the employ of Pegram Dry Goods company.
On account of his valuable services, Mr. Pegram made him a Christmas
present of one hundred dollars. He has not been in the store since
Christmas and has been drinking heavily until Saturday night when he
became despondent, saying that he had disgraced his family and his
employer and immediately began a campaign of self destruction.
Mr. Kane is a brother to Mr. T. Kane delegate to the
constitutional convention from Kingfisher and is said to come from a
Mr. Kane left yesterday morning upon receipt of notice
of his brothers rash act, for Muskogee. (The Guthrie Daily Leader,
GRAFTER GETS HIS
Mr. J. V. Fenner bought a piece of land from a negro some time before
the restrictions were removed and took a deed, paying the negro at that
time $500.00. He made arrangements to have the negro board conveniently
near until the 9th of Aug. when he could make another deed, one that
would hold good. Well everything went lovely the negro was getting his
hash correct, three times a day and the energetic land man was dreaming
of untold wealth in the near future, but lo! Another grafter appeared
on the scene and in the “Wee Small” hours of the morning of the 8th by
much display of gold the darky was lured away from the snug retreat
that had been prepared for him and today Mr. Fenner is moving Heaven
and Earth to find that coon, but up to the present time he has met with
no success. This seems to be one instance were the "early bird failed
to catch the worm."
Council Hill Eagle, August 8, 1907, page 1, submitted by Peggy Thompson]
During a fight at Muskogee, John Flannagan was stabbed four times with
a pocket knife and later died of his wounds. One of the thrusts reached
a vital spot over the heart. Walter C. Johnson has been arrested. (Farmer’s Champion, Elgin, Okla.,
November 14, 1912, page 2 - Submitted by Peggy Thompson)
Two middle aged
white men entered the farm home of Frank Herron, northeast of town,
late Tuesday afternoon and made away with a gold watch belonging to
Mrs. Herron and a small amount of money. The theft was discovered a
short time after it occured and the local officers were notified. In
the mean time the men had passed through town and were making their way
south. A number of citizens took after them and they were apprehended
about three miles west of town. In some unaccountable manner the
burglars got the drop on their would be captors and after lining them
up and relieving them of their guns, went on their way rejoicing. At
last reports the burglars were still at large. (The Daily Ardmoreite,
January 6, 1916)
DRUGGIST GETS 90 DAY LIQUOR SENTENCE
B. D. rains, a
Hitchita durggist was yesterday sentenced to ninety days in jail by
Judge Ralph E. Campbell in the Federal Court.
guilty to a charge of introducing. H. C. Frost who was formerly in the
feed business at Hitchita, has served a ninety day sentence on a
similar charge. It was shown that Rains and Frost had a unique method
of introducing liquor. In a carload of feed consigned to Frost was
contained forty gallons of alcohol and one case of whiskey. Government
officers detected the ruse. Tuesday's Muskogee Phoenix (The Daily
Ardmoreite, January 6, 1916)
Carroll McDarment, principal of the Wagoner high school was acquitted
murder of Edgar Watts, Friday, at Muskogee.
had taken Watts and Clark Moss, two students, into the basement for
Soon afterwards, shots were heard and McDarment rushed from the
out “they tried to murder me.” Watts was found dead and Moss badly
later recovered and was the state’s star witness at the trial. It
that the boys had double-teamed on the school teacher, and the fight
ensued guns carried by the boys did the killing and wounding. School
all over the state contributed to a fund to defend McDarment, Moman
being his chief attorney. (The Daily Transcript, Tuesday, June 20,
Haskell Builder Shot – Charles
Phillips a Carpenter,
Murdered by A Negro Gambler, Sunday
Charles Phillips, a
Carpenter, Murdered by a Negro Gambler,
Charles Phillips, a carpenter
and contractor of this city,
died instantly last Sunday afternoon as the result of a bullet wound he
received during an altercation with Frank Ragsville, a negro. The
plce on the farm of M. L. McClellan, several miles south and east of
where the Phillips family had gone that morning to visit the
Reports vary, but it seems that after dinner Phillips and McClellan
walk about the place and came upon some negroes in a crap game in which
Phillips joined. After a few throws of the dice, as Phillips was ready
leave, Ragsville demanded a ten dollar bill which the other had, and
figured in the stakes. Upon Phillips refusal Ragsville shot him with a
caliber revolver, the bullet entering the chest at the lower edge of
and coming out at his back.
The negro escaped into the
woods of the river bottom and at
this writing no report of his capture has come, although posses
him that night and the officers have been looking for him ever since.
Phillips says that when she reached the body of her husband after being
notified that he was shot, no one else was in sight and his pockets
inside out, even his house keys being gone. The coroner’s jury finished
investigations Monday at Porter the killing having taken place in
county. Mr. Phillips had built a group of small tenant houses in the
of town during the past few months and a funeral service was held at
here Tuesday morning at 10:30 conducted by Rev. D. E. Gambrell of the
Church, where the family had at times attended services. A large crowd
attendance, many being unable to get into the house. Burial was made in
Haskell cemetery. Mr. Phillips was aged 45 years, 5 months and 25 days.
his wife he leaves six children. (The Haskell News, Thursday, March 14,
Found Murdered – J. L. Jobe
Killed by Stranger near
J. L. Jobe, one of our
respected young farmers, living eight
miles north of Haskell was found with his head blown off, lying in a
the Illinois river, near Tahlequah the latter part of last week.
Jobe was last seen here
Monday morning when he cashed in on
his cotton crop, paid his note at a local bank and left in company with
named Smith of Arkansas to buy a load of apples. Very little is known
Tuesday night they camped near Tahlequah. Wednesday morning about 4
shotgun was heard by neighbors near where they camped and towards
Wednesday a mule was heard braying so much that the neighbors went to
site. There they found the wagon and a mule. Hasty search showed that
missing. Search was made for Jobe’s companion and he was caught near
riding the horse that Jobe had been driving with the mule. He was
placed in jail at Tahlequah. He is said to have confessed to the crime.
Jobe’s body was found in the
Illinois river at least 200
yards from where he was shot. Dogs traced it there by where it was
the ground. The funeral was held in Haskell on Sunday by Rev. Gambrell.
J. L. Job was born at
Barnett, Mo., January 23, 1870. He was
a good husband and provided for his family. He leaves a wife and ten
the youngest two months old. He was a good man and was liked by all who
him. (The Haskell News, Thursday, October 24, 1918)
UP BIG MOONSHINE GANG
Muskogee, March 14 – One of the best organized gang of bootleggers and
moonshiners in the state, according to officers, was broken up with the
lodging in federal jail here of five men from the Sallisaw district by
J. A. Wilson, deputy marshal, and R. D. Foster, prohibition enforcement
officer. The gang kept the whisky going in a constant stream from the
moon shine still to the consumer it is said. They gave their names as
Guy Matthews, Elmer Matthews, Lit Turner, Verge Morris, and Jack
Nottingham. None of them were able to give bond.
Daily World, Tulsa, OK, March 15, 1921 - Submitted by Venetta McKinney)
The annual field day of the anti-saloon forces was observed here Sunday
with four eminent prohibitionist leaders occupying the pulpits about
town. The quartet consisted of Dr. Ira Landrith of Chicago, Lewis R
Horton of Spokane, Dr. G. M. Hammond of Kentucky, and Dr. C. F. Swift
(Tulsa Daily World, Tulsa, OK, March 15, 1921 - Submitted by Venetta
LEDBETTER & ROBERT BLAKELY
to Fate, Two Men Decreed to Die Await the Toll of
to the Rustle of the Sable Wing Blakely and
Ledbetter Ready for Current to Burn their Lives Away
Okla., Feb. 24 – At ten minutes after midnight
Thursday or early Friday morning, Robert W. Blakely and John Ledbetter,
condemned murderers from Muskogee county, will go to the electric chair
Oklahoma State penitentiary.
the dawn of their last day, Robert Blakely and John
Ledbetter are spending their last hours before electrocution in
different manner. One in a prayer and the other sullen and unremorseful.
remains sullen in attitude and denounces the witnesses
who he claims gave false testimony. When asked by the prison chaplain
welfare he appeared very indifferent but finally yielded to having a
priest visit him. When asked if he knew the Lords Prayer, it was
he had never heard it in his life. Ledbetter spent his last 80 cents
which he ate with apparent relish, but which he declares stuck in his
is resigned to his fate, tells the prison officials
he is resigned to meet death because he realizes he is just reaping
what he was
sown. He stated that aside from the fact he must be buried in the
nothing is worrying him now, but that he gives thanks to God for having
opportunity to gain forgiveness before death.
the second time since statehood a white man will meet
death in the electric chair at the Oklahoma State penitentiary, when
Friday has its birth, John Ledbetter and Robert W. Blakely both white
the death penalty for their crimes.
officials have received word from Governor Robertson
that after carefully reviewing the findings of the criminal court of
has found everything regular and will not interfere with the execution
Dempsey of Little Rock has arrived to take charge of
the electrical appliances that operate the death chair.
convicted of the murder of his rival, Robert
Moreland, has maintained a rather sullen attitude and pinned his hopes
petition on which his sister obtain
4,000 names in Muskogee to present to the governor, asking for
removal to the death cell, just a few steps from the chair Tuesday,
has lost heart and refused food.
convicted of killing his stepdaughter, Effie May
McAlfred, is resigned to his fate. His wife en route to her home in
visited him Tuesday, informing him fully of her interview with Governor
Robertson and Blakely assured her he has made peace with God, and will
Blakely left five children ill with measles and with
her baby in arms made the trip from Fort Smith to Oklahoma City, where
the refusal of the governor to interfere with the sentence of the
court. (typed as is in the Daily Ardmoreite, Thursday, February 24,
WHITE PALL OF NIGHT SPREAD OVER
EARTH, LEDBETTER AND BLAKELY DIE
of Condemned Murderers Snuffed out by Seething Shocks
When Fatal Switch is Closed
Okla., Feb. 25 – On a lonely hilltop in the little
country cemetery at Frozen Rock is being prepared today the final
of John Ledbetter, who was executed in the Oklahoma state penitentiary
McAlester this morning. Besides the little white church that Ledbetter
when a boy with his mother, a sexton toiled patiently in the bright
throwing aside the earth for the man whose love for a woman was
the law. Just two feet from the grave that is being dug today is the
Okla., Feb. 25 – The tense atmosphere of tragedy
which has hung over the Oklahoma penitentiary since Tuesday, was
morning as preparations were made outside the prison walls for the
Robert W. Blakely and John G. Ledbetter, executed at the prison shortly
men are to be buried by a group of Muskogee county
church workers, who interested themselves in the condemned men. The
headed by A. A. Taylor of Muskogee.
Ledbetter was the first to die. He walked from the
death cell to the chair at 12:15 o’clock escorted by prison officials,
Dr. J. W. Echols, prison physician and Mr. Taylor.
if he had a final statement, Ledbetter replied in
tones audible only to those nearest that he wanted Mr. Taylor and the
young people who visited him in jail at Muskogee to take care of my
thereafter the cap was placed over his face, the
electrical appliance adjusted and the current turned on.
was pronounced dead by Dr. Echols two minutes later. The
body was carried to a cot just outside the door of the chair room.
a lapse of a few minutes, Blakely walked into the
death room, accompanied by the same party of officers. He was likewise
he wished to make a last statement and in a clear voice, heard by all
room, he said.
feel I am paying the penalty I deserve. I am guilty. It
was in a fit of passion I did the crime. It was the young people of
who converted me. I feel that I am going home. I want you all to meet
the death mask was being adjusted, he repeated: Good bye
from all parts of the death chamber replied to his
moment later the dying man strained forward as the voltage
was applied. After a few seconds the current was shut off but was
re-applied. When examination revealed Blakely was not dead.
second application resulted in death.
bodies were turned over to an undertaker.
who refused spiritual advice was baptized late
yesterday having professed his faith in a protestant denomination.
75 persons witnessed the execution most of them state
employees and newspaper men. Within the wire enclosure immediately
chair were Warden Fred Switzer, Deputy Warden Garrett, Assistant Warden
Jedlicka, Dr. Echols, accompanied by six physicians, Chaplain J. D.
Taylor and an electrician.
of the condemned men wore black suits presented to them
late yesterday by the authorities as part of an entire new outfit with
be attired upon entering the chair. Ledbetter had a red rose in his
Blakely a red carnation.
attendant concealed behind a screen made the connection
upon a given signal. Twenty-three hundred volts were used.
men had been in the death cells since Tuesday.
(The Daily Ardmoreite, Friday, February 25,
1921, front page and page 2)
WITH STEPS THAT DID NOT FALTER;
WITH SMILING LIPS, BUT DEVOID OF BRAVADO, CONDEMNED MEN ENTER ETERNITY
steps that did not falter and not a trace of fear on
their faces, John Ledbetter and Robert W. Blakely white men of Muskogee
went to the electric chair Friday morning.
walked first from the death cell at 12:15 and with
the pallor of death faced spectators and officials and then smilingly
seat in the chair.
asked if he had a final message, Ledbetter replied in a
scarcely audible voice with a request that A. A. Taylor, a welfare
Muskogee and the young people of the Baptist Church at that place have
of his burial.
were quickly adjusted with electrodes in contact with
the proper vital nerve centers, and upon a signal given the electrician
current of high voltage ran through the man’s body, burning out his
exactly 60 seconds. When discontinued Ledbetter was examined by
doctors and the prison physician declared him dead.
body was removed to an awaiting cot that stood outside
a few moments lapsed when Robert W. Blakely walked from
his cell in company with the attendants and his religious advisors and
atonement demanded by law. With steady steps he entered the wicket
that contained the chair of death.
yet standing Blakely looked his audience in the eyes
feel I am paying the penalty I deserve for I did the deed
I was accused of while in a fit of passion. The young
people of Muskogee who visited me in the jail
there converted me and my trust is in God. If this was not true I could
stand and face you now. I am going home and I want to meet each of you
himself without assistance in the chair, he retained
his clam as the attendants immediately began setting the straps in
the black cap was being put over his eyes he again said Goodbye,
Many murmured responses were heard from different parts of the room.
current was on 45 seconds and the prison physician found the heart to
beating wildly so a second shock of 10 seconds followed, though the
caused death, the men of science said.
body will be taken to Muskogee and buried.
Blakely will lay in a local cemetery thans to a good Samaritan. A. A.
who payed for a lot in order that the executed body need not be buried
his wishes within the prison walls.
had much to do with the conversion of both men.
Ledbetter having professed religion only a few hours before the
had killed Robert Moreland, a rival and Blakely
killed his step daughter Effie May McAlfred. .
(The Daily Ardmoreite, Friday, February 25, 1921,
front page and page 2)
grim scene was enacted at the state penitentiary at
McAlester shortly after midnight last night when two men were led into
death chamber to die in the electric chair. They had committed murder.
sinned against society and society exacted the supreme toll as a
was the hour of retribution for Robert W. Blakely, who killed his
to hide the sin that had been committed between them, and for John
who killed his rival in love.
representing the organized fellowship of man sat in
the seat of judgment. Society pointed an accusing finger and demanded a
for a life. But is not society to blame?
are stepping stones to vice and crime. You must take
the first step before you reach the second one. The stepping stones
at all stages of life, but more so in childhood, when man is in the
It is then that our faces are pointed in the direction of our destiny.
then that that twig is bent, and as the twig is bent, so shall the tree
But who is responsible for the bending of the trig? The home, the
school and the
church, but society more than any one of these three, because society
represents all three, including too the state. If we are to hold
responsible for the bending of the twig, is not society to blame for
if it is a bad one?
need to look to our youth. Who knows but that it would
have been different for Robert Blakely and John Ledbetter if in their
there had been someone to say, “This is right and that is wrong,”
whisper a word in time, to lend a helping hand. We need to strive more
instill principles of righteousness, and to inspire uplifting ideals.
a tense atmosphere of tragedy, Blakely and Ledbetter were
led from their isolated cells into the stillness of the room where the
chair awaited them. Ledbetter at last was repentant. Blakely resigned
fate and ready to face the Almighty. A wife and little daughter at
in Muskogee prayed for the soul of Blakely, hoping against hope that
miracle would spare him to them at the last moment.
in the death chair, the executioner bids the
condemned man recite the Lord’s Prayer. Ledbetter knew it not. Blakely,
eyes closed, begins, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy
kingdom c-o-m-e.” He gets no further. A heavy hand presses down the
switch, the strapped man stiffens in his seat there is a flash as the
overwhelming charge of electricity burns through his body; a faint moan
his lips and he is no more. Society has been avenged.
what assurance have we that others will not come to the
fate of Robert Blakely and John Ledbetter? Why cannot society remove
stepping stones to vice and crime? It is unlawful in Oklahoma to be
negligent. Is not society criminally negligent when it overlooks the
where men may stumble into sin? Let us strive for a better brotherhood
men for a closer observance of life’s Golden rule. When we have
society will never to sit in judgment. (The Ada Weekly Evening News,
February 25, 1921, page 2)
Prisoner Must Sweat
Aug. 1 – When Samuel C. Hutchinson was sentenced
today in the United States district court on a charge of
$2,000 belonging to the American Express company during the period of
Judge Robert L. Williams declared he wanted to make the prisoner
for that reason he sentenced him to a year in jail instead of to the
penitentiary. Hutchinson was fined $100 also. (Drumright Evening
Thursday, August 3, 1922, page 3)
Woman Beaten to Death
Officers faced by Baffling Mystery
Okla., Dec. 28 – A middle aged dressmaker Miss
Mary Wolfenberger was found beaten to death here today.
were trying to trace her movements last night in an
effort to clear up the mystery. (Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, Thursday,
29, 1932, page 1)
Admits Hammer Killing
Okla., April 17 (AP) – County Attorney Oldham
announced tonight Bill Johnson, 30, had confessed the hammer slaying of
Wolfenberger, 60, a seamstress, here the night of December 27. (Omaha
World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday, April 18, 1933, page 1)
Hammer Killer to Hang
Okla., May 2 (AP) – Bill Johnson a negro was
convicted late today of the hammer murder of Miss Mary Wolfenberger,
old seamstress and sentenced to death in the electric chair. (San
Chronicle (San Francisco, California, Wednesday, May 3, 1933, page 15)
144 Witnesses at Slayer Execution
Okla., Friday, Nov. 10 – William Johnson, Negro,
was executed at state’s prison here early today for the hammer slaying
December of Miss Mary Wolfenberger, Muskogee seamstress.
my heart I know I’m paying for something I never done,”
the Negro told the 144 witnesses, three of them Negroes, just before he
placed in the electric chair.
Miss Wolfenberger was slain when she resisted robbery.
(Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, Washington, Friday, November 10, 1933,