An Indian Execution - How Two Seminole Murderers Faced Their Doom
Decree of the Council - The Condemned Men Shot by Relatives of the Man They Murdered - The Death Song
Wewoka, I. T., Aug. 1 - Late in the afternoon of July 22 there filed from the council chamber of the Nation at this place the high council of the Seminoles. They had been sitting in deliberation on the case of two tribesmen who were charged with the murder of a member of the Nation. As they came from the room where they had deliberated for seven hours the crowd which had gathered in the stockaded courtyard fell back and ranged themselves in a line to listen to the decree, which was delivered by the oldest chief of the notion. Slowly the members of the council walked out headed by the old chief who wended his way to a large flat rock which was sunk into the ground near the western line of the stockade. Here the councilmen paused and the old chief mounted upon the rock and held up his hand. As the signal was given a hush came upon the assembled Indians and not a sound could be heard.
"Let all be silent that they may hear the decree of the council. Blood had flowed from the body of Harg. The widow and children cry for food and there is none to give to them. Death came through John Frog and Jackson Wolf and it is our thought that there was no cause for the shedding of blood. Now this is our decree: When the sun shall kiss the death rock on the sixth morning then shall John Frog and Jackson Wolf pay the debt by giving their lives into the family of Harg that they may wipe out the stain, for our fathers have said it that blood must be wiped out by blood. And to the widow and children of the murdered man shall be given from the substance of John Frog and Jackson Wolf sufficient to keep them from want for one year. It is so decreed."
The council then walked from the inclosure and were followed by the assembled tribesmen. The two condemned men were in charge of the light horse, and were kept under heavy guard. The captain was held responsible for them until the day when they were to pay their last debt to the kindsmen of the man whom they murdered.
On the 3d day of July the Indians were preparing for the celebration of the coming holiday. During these preparations a quarrel arose which ended in a fight in which Harg was shot and instantly killed. The killing was done by the two men who were arrested at once by the captain of the light horse company, and the council convened on the following Monday to hear the evidence and assess the punishment. the trial was marked with great deliberation, and it was Wednesday before it closed. All the testimony relative to the killing had been received and then followed talks by those who were interested and who sought to influence the action of the council. First came the relatives of the dead man and told how the widow and children were without support, how Harg had been a good man to them and how the tribe had lost a valuable member. Then came the friends of the accused who argued that no good could come from taking two more men from the tribe. They, too, had wives and children who would suffer and the tribe would have to care for them.
After all was said the council announced that the decision would be announced in two weeks time. Until then the accused should remain in custody of the light horse, and should be brought before the council on the evening of the day when the decision was to be rendered. On the morning of the day in question, the council assembled in the chamber and began their deliberations. The doors were closed and none else were admitted but all around the house sat the friends of the dead man and those of the accused. Patiently they sat for seven long hours, while those who had the fate of the two men in their hands carefully deliberated. The decision was known to the council within a few minutes of the assembling, but they thought it would not look well to make such a hasty announcement and they sat and smoked, talking of all the possible features of the case until they thought that none could find fault with them, and then they filed out and gave their decision.
In compliance with the decree of the council the prisoners were guarded by the light horse until the morning of last Tuesday, when as the day broke, they were roused and taken into the inclosure which surrounds the council chamber. This inclosure is built in the form of a stockade and is about fifteen feet high, forming a perfect prison itself when the gate is locked. About fifteen feet from the eastern side of the inclosure is a rock, circular in shape which is known as the death rock. This large stone is flat on top and is sunken into the ground until only about two feet appears above the surface. Here since 1866 have all the executions of the tribe taken place. The Seminoles have greatly increased the enlightment since they were the terrors of the South in the everglades of Florida under the command of King Payne and Billy Bowlegs, but they have retained through all the vicissitudes of the tribe the custom of allowing the relatives of those murdered to enact the death penalty, and on this stone blood has been poured out on many occasions. The brown rock is dyed with many stains which neither time, sun nor weather has obliterated.
Within the inclosure were the relatives of the murdered man and those of the two who were to pay the penalty for their crime. This company consisted ofa bout fifty men, who with the council, one or two invited guests and the members of the light horse were all who were allowed within the inclosure. The death rock is so situated that the sun does not strike it until about 11 o'clock and as the death penalty said that it must be kissed six times the execution could not take place until the sun shone on the rock. It was while waiting for this moment to arrive that a scene was witnessed which could probably not be duplicated on any other portion of the globe. It was a scene which could not occur under any other conditions of life than those which surround the red man. It was fate that they shoul die, and the old savage spirit was still dominant though to make them die without giving a sign of fear. Their time had come and they would go.
As the first tinge of dawn lightened the sky on the morning of the 28th, the rapid beating of a drum roused the village and called together the members of the light horse company. It was the signal of death. With the dying away of the sound men women and child came from the houses and the village was alive with the preparation for a holiday. There were hrried preparations for the morning meal and then everyone went toward the inclosure surrounding the council chamber. Neither the dead man nor those who were to suffer the penalty had relatives in the village and from the outlying country came those who were to be the principal actors in the tragedy. As the sun rose there came from the woods along the creek which runs north of the village, those who had camped there throughout the night ready to be on hand at the earliest possible hour for the ceremonies which were to take place. Frog and Wolf had been kept under guard at the council chamber and at the first drum beat they were given their last breakfast. Both ate heartily and then they were marched between two files of the light horse into the inclosure. Here had already assembled those who were to witness the closing scene.
The condemned men were loosened from the bonds which were about their arms and they at once mingled among the people who were within the stockade, apparently as free as any who were there. They passed from group to group and chatted and talked as if they had no thought of death. They talked as if they were going on a long journey and bade their friends farewell in a laughing manner. The whole scene was that of a pleasure party and to one who did not know the real meaning of the assemblage it would have appeared as a holiday gathering. This was continued all morning, while the sun slowly crept toward the death rock, which was shunned by all during the hours of enjoyment.
Finally the fatal hour approached and a silence came over the crowd. The relatives of the murdered man drew away to themselves and cast lots to see which should have the duty of avenging the death of Harg. This was soon decided and then the two doomed men walked toward the death rock. As they proceeded they began singing in a low tone and a peculiar monotonous song. Louder and louder it became until the sound could be heard for some distance beyond the inclosure. Then those on the outside knew that the hour of death was near for they heard the death song of the Seminoles which had been sung by the dying ever since the tribe had broken away from the Creek nation many years ago.
Side by side walked the condemned men, and side by side they sat upon the rock. Calmly they folded their arms across their breasts and looked at the men who were soon to end their lives. Not a sign showed that they feared the end. Six men stepped from among the relatives of the murdered man, and with loaded rifles took their places about ten yards in front of the doomed men.
The captain of the light horse approached and bandaged the eyes of the two and then stepped back and gave the command to fire. Six reports rang out and the two bodies pitched heavily forward and laid still. the work had been done well and with the deaths had been wiped out the crime and the bodies were treated with the honor due dead members of the tribe. The whole tribe joined in paying the tributes of respect to the dead men and they had such a funeral as would have been accorded them had they fallen in battle. The decree of the council had wiped out all blood feud between the families and the whole tribe united in the ceremonies attendant upon the burial. (Fort Worth Gazette, August 2, 1891, page 8)
MURDERED BY AN INDIAN
An Oklahoma Woman Cruelly Slain by a Seminole
Wichita, Kan., Jan. 5. – Mrs. Julia Leard, a white woman was murdered by a Seminole Indian yesterday evening four miles east of Maud, Oklahoma Territory. The crime was committed in the presence of the woman’s children. Early in the afternoon Mrs. Leard had frightened the Indian away, threatening him with a rifle. Later she stepped out of doors carrying her baby, and the Indian stole into the house, securing the rifle and attempted to shoot her, but the cartridge failed to explode. The Seminole then attacked her with the butt of the gun, clubbed her to death and ravished her body. He hurled the baby into the house through the open door. Several Indians have been arrested, but the murdered woman’s 8 year-old-daughter, the oldest of her family has been unable to identify any of them as the murderer. There is great excitement in the vicinity.
(Topeka Weekly Capital, January 7, 1898, page 3) Submitted by Peggy Thompson
Wewoka, Ok., Nov. 6 - John Cudjo, the negro who killed Deputy Sheriff John Dennis in this county Saturday night, was captured Tuesday afternoon and brought to this city about 8 o'clock, when a mob seized him and hanged him to a telephone pole in front of the county court house. After the hanging at least 100 shots were fired into the negro's body. The mob then dispersed very quietly and the town is quiet.
Durant Weekly News; Durant, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory; November 7, 1913
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