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Indian Territory Executions
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(Source: Daily Oklahoman 5/16/1903 p.7 col.5)

HAS TAKEN 100 LIVES: Old Cherokee Gallows Still Standing at Tahlequah

Until five years ago, the Cherokees had their own code of laws and courts and other officers to enforce them. These laws were practically wiped out of existence by the Curtis Act and the Indian Courts were abolished. A few of the laws not inconsistent with the Arkansas laws, which apply here, are still in force.

Murder was a capital offense in the Cherokee country under the Indian laws and hundreds of Indians have paid the penalty with their lives.

In fact, the Cherokee courts did a land office business with murderers for years. Hangings at Tahlequah were very common. They came so frequently that the Cherokee Sheriff built a permanent scaffold in the jail grounds here for execution purposes. The old gallows still stands and is in perfect working order.

Old timers of Tahlequah say that more than a hundred murderers have stretched hemp from this scaffold. They have been hung singly, in pairs, and three at a time. The trap is large enough to "accomodate" three people.

The last time the scaffold was used, about six years ago, two Indians went down together. Since the Cherokee laws were wiped out and the Indian Courts abolished, all cases, both civil and criminal, are tried by the United States courts.

No hangings have occured since the change. The federal juries can bring in two kinds of verdicts for murder in the first degree. One provides for life imprisonment. The juries, now, always bring in a "life imprisonment" sentence for first degree murders. The court officials say it is doubtful if ever another man is hung in the Cherokee Nation.
 
Posts: 195 | Registered: Mon December 15 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Sometimes the executions were carried out by a firing squad, or even a single shooter known for his ability to shoot straight. Does anybody know how it was decided which method to use? Was the condemned prisoner given a choice?

--meursault
 
Posts: 215 | Registered: Thu December 11 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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meursault, I read all the Indian papers online, and don't remember reading about hangings, altho. there may of been some memories of hangings in there, * I've forgotten. I'm thinking just from what I've read, the courts decided, and if there was a choice, shooting would be the choice. I don't have any source to give.

I've wondered if the Indian courts had records, and if so, where are they?
 
Posts: 176 | Location: Texas | Registered: Mon October 18 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I, too, was surprised the Cherokee hung some of their criminals. Then I went back and examined Ethan Allen Hitchcock's "A Traveler in Indian Territory, the journal of his travels in 1841-42." When speaking of the Cherokee, Hitchcock reported whipping was the most common punishment and even blamed its use as the reason for the split creating the Western Cherokee. Then at page 62, he remarked on seeing a gallows at Talequah which had been "pronounced a sign of civilization." In speaking of the Choctaw, at page 220, he said,"Inferior Court is called when needed. Seldom needed....that is, one of the three for the district, the other two have each had a case of murder, one man sentenced to be shot."

In H. B. Cushman's, "History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians," at page 158, he says the "rifle is invariably used as the instrument of execution, for the Choctaw who has been executed by hanging was regarded as accursed...his spirit must forever haunt the place where he was hung. Hence their horror of death by hanging, and the gallows has ever been unknown among them..." The Choctaw and Chickasaw were similar in custom and law and prior to prescribed punishments, execution for murder was by sanctioned vendetta, with a member of the slain's family/clan equal in stature to the known murderer being allowed, without fear of retribution from the tribe or others, to hunt down and kill the murderer.

It's an interesting topic and one little explored and documented.
 
Posts: 512 | Location: Cortez, Colorado | Registered: Fri December 12 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Here are the names of some of the Native Americans (Indians), who were executed in Indian Territory, and their execution dates:

Jim Allen (Shot 9/24/1894); Mitchell Anderson (Shot 5/6/1885); Arneta (aka Ar-Ne-Ta, aka Amneter, aka Younger Davison)(Hanged 9/16/1881); Atowah (Shot 3/6/1887); Walter (or "Walker") Bark (Hanged 3/22/1895); Sarpire Bearhead (shot 8/4/1885); Thompson Bearpaw (Hanged 1/4/1893); James Bird (??? 6/30/1893); Anderson Burris (shot 11/14/1885); Bob Talton (aka Bob Rogers)(Hanged 7/31/1896?); Frog Davis (Hanged 9/19/1895); Joseph "Joe" Dick (shot 2/16/1894); Chester Dixon (shot 9/10/1880); Saffron Dyer (Hanged 8/21/1885); Fred & George Dunawa (or Dunnaway)(Hanged 4/17/1891); John Frog (shot 8/1/1891); William Goings (aka Walla Tonaka)(shot 7/13/1899); Haney (shot 4/ /1882); Charles Holmes (shot 5/ /1896); Timmie Jack (shot 5/1/1896); Levi James (shot 12/14/1883); Eli Levy (Hanged 11/15/1894); Silan/Silon/Solomon Lewis (shot 11/5/1894); Lilley (shot 4/ /1882); Elias Loring (shot 3/10/1893); Ruben Lucas (shot 5/31/1882); Daniel Luckey (Hanged 6/9/1882); Sam Mayes (Hanged 10/6/1893); Sam Newton (shot 3/5/1886); Willis Pettit (Hanged ???); Tom Ponaska (shot 1/6/1893); Pulmusky (shot 10/9/1896); Satanoke (shot 6/6/1879); Saunds (??? 3/6/1887); Dirt Seller (Hanged 10/18/1877); Archilla Smith (Hanged 1/1/1841); Richard Smith (Hanged 1/25/1889); Shade (or Spade) Sunshine (Hanged 9/9/1887); Sway Back (executed at Crawfish C.H. (OK?GA?) ca1828); James Swimmer (Hanged 9/18/1896); Te-Ka-To-Kah (Hanged 7/2/1847); Tulmosky (shot 3/ /1894); Tu-Ni-Ah (Hanged 10/10/1873); Charles Walsh & Henry Hadworth /or/ Charles Hadworth & Henry Walsh (shot 10/ /1896); John Waner/Warner/Weren (Hanged 4/15/1892); John Watka (shot 1/31/1897); John Wheat (Hanged 12/3/1879); Henry Williams (Hanged 9/19/1896); Jackson Wolf (shot 8/1/1891); Young Wolfe (Hanged 10/10/1873).

If anyone knows the names of ANY OTHERS, I would be very interested in hearing from you. Thanks!
 
Posts: 195 | Registered: Mon December 15 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Joseph "Joe" Dick (shot 2/16/1894);


This name is interesting to me, because it's either a Stockbridge or Brotherton name, I think.

I found this by Mr. Burton...

http://www.coax.net/people/lwf/FIP_PT1.HTM

"The Cherokee Nation had a gallows for execution at Tahlequah. None of the other Indian nations had a national prison and used firing squads for execution."

Thank you, old west for this post!

Thanks, Tower.
 
Posts: 176 | Location: Texas | Registered: Mon October 18 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
execution for murder was by sanctioned vendetta, with a member of the slain's family/clan equal in stature to the known murderer being allowed, without fear of retribution from the tribe or others, to hunt down and kill the murderer.


I know before they went to Kansas,& Oklahoma, the Delaware/Lenape had a "blood-revenge concept". I've been curious about if there are any recorded blood-revenge acts after they got to Oklahoma.
 
Posts: 176 | Location: Texas | Registered: Mon October 18 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Beats me. That's probably one you'd have to take up with the Delaware. The Five Nations had a number of inter-tribal feuds with direct connections to the tribally sanctioned vendetta.
 
Posts: 512 | Location: Cortez, Colorado | Registered: Fri December 12 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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(Source: Indian {Eufaula} Journal 2/22/1894)

JOE DICK EXECUTED - The Murderer of Thomas Gray Pays the Penalty for His Crime at the Eufaula Court House:

The execution of Joe Dick, the young Indian who murdered Thomas Gray near Eufaula last August, came off at 3'oclock last Friday evening at the Eufaula District Court House, only a few spectators being present.

A few minutes before the appointed hour, he walked out of the court house and was told by his attorney, Bunnie McIntosh, who defended him without any fee, that the time was about up for him to die and that if he had anything to say he was ready to hear it. After a prayer by Rev. William McCombs, Bunnie McIntosh gave him a farewell talk.

He confessed his crime to Bunnie, privately, saying that he did commit the crime that he was charged with, and that he fully realized that he was not justifyable (sic), consequently he was willing to pay the 'death penalty'.

When the fatal hour rolled around, the officers blindfolded him and placed him at the root of a big tree on a box. He sat up against the tree perfectly erect and his attorney placed a card directly over his heart and turned him over to the two officers, Bob Roberts and John Hawkins, who were to execute him. They stepped back about fifteen feet and when the command was given, each shot a load into his heart, the bullets going in about half inch apart and came out in his back about the same distance. He gasped, uttered a groan, fell back and in six minutes expired.

Capt. Barney Green was standing just a few feet from Dick when he was shot, and immediately advanced forward and straightened him out. Thus ended the short but wild career of Joseph Dick. He joined the Baptist church about a week before his execution and said that the angels in heaven awaited his coming; that his crime-stained hands had been washed in the blood of the lamb and he had made his peace with God and man, and awaited with fortitude the time for his execution.

The crime for which he was executed is horrible in the extreme. During the month of August, last year, he slipped upon Gray in a lonely, desolate place in an old orchard and shot him in the back three times and then left him to decay and be devoured by the animals. Search was instituted for Gray three weeks before he was found. Two boys, in there one evening, discovered the remains, there being nothing left but the bones. Officers were notified and the bones gathered up and buried.

Dick was arrested a few days afterwards within a mile of the place and was tried and convicted, to be shot on the 4th of last September; but, (he) was granted a respite by Chief Perryman until the 16th of this month, and was duly executed, according to CREEK LAW.

The history of Joe Dick's incarceration will read like a fairy story; but, nevertheless, it is true. Christmas week, he told the officers that were guarding him that he was of a lively nature and would like to attend some of the dances that were going on through the country; and, if Capt. Green would lend him his horse and saddle, he would report the next morning bright and early. Joe went to the dance, danced all night and reported the next morning for breakfast.

At another time, while John Hawkins, the officer that half executed him, had charge of Dick, fire wood became very scarce around the house and he volunteered to got to the woods and cut and haul in a load, promising to return. After being out about three hours, he returned with a big load on his wagon.

After that, he was allowed to go anywhere he desired, if he would promise to report for duty at meal times. He was about 27 years old, a full blood Creek, and was of a good family. Like a great many young men, he went astray, and was an outlaw. The Creeks have no jails; therefor, the officers guard a prisoner after he is sentenced, until he is executed.
 
Posts: 195 | Registered: Mon December 15 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you, oldwest.
 
Posts: 176 | Location: Texas | Registered: Mon October 18 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I found it oldwest. John and William Dick were Stockbridge Indians in Wisconsin.
I was just wondering if they had come down into I.T. with the Delaware.

Sorry to sidetrack things.
 
Posts: 176 | Location: Texas | Registered: Mon October 18 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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According to my research the Cherokee and Chickasaw were the only tribes with national prisons. The Cherokees used the gallows at Tahlequah during the post-Civil War years. Prior to the Civil War they also used the firing squad. I have information on executions. If I can locate my information I will post it. The Chickasaw national prison was at Tishomingo. The Creeks, Choctaws and Seminoles released their prisoners to their families until execution time. A large portion of the men executed by all the Five Civilized Tribes were Indian Freedmen, black men. A large percentage of the men incarcerated were also black.
 
Posts: 373 | Location: Indian and Oklahoma Territories | Registered: Wed February 04 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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the cherokees practiced blood law... before the trail of tears the blood law was enforced against any tribal member who gained from the selling of cherokee land or rights.. the families also avenged any wrongdoings of their relatives...Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot were killed in Indian Territory by a gang who had accused them of selling out the cherokee forcing removal...Col Stand Watie, the brother of Elias Boudinot gathered a gang and hunted down the ones responsible for the deaths of his brother, cousin and uncle. Watie and his followers hunted down and killed all the members of the "assassination party" nothin to do with hanging but...


phill cooper
 
Posts: 3 | Location: fort gibson, ok | Registered: Wed April 02 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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More Indian Territory Executions!
 
Posts: 195 | Registered: Mon December 15 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Here is a Choctaw execution that I found at the Oklahoma Historical Society: I cut and pasted it from the dissertation I am working on:

Dr. Rigsby

Choctaw executions left a lasting impression on those who witnessed them. Edmond J. Gardner, a self-described “half blood Indian of the Choctaw tribe,” recalled the execution of John Hopoksia in the early 1880’s “as clear as if it were just yesterday.” Hopoksia was a “full-blood Choctaw of the old type,” who at about fifty-five years of age suffered what he considered “a very mean act” at the hands of his neighbor. Although he had never been in trouble before and was considered “a good man” by all that knew him, Hopoksia decided his neighbor deserved to die and killed him. Like most Choctaws in his situation, Hopoksia neither tried to run nor denied his guilt. At his trial he merely contended that the neighbor was “a bad man and needed killing.” The jury disagreed and sentenced him to die. When the judge asked him if he had anything to say, Hopoksia said that he was “very sorry that he had killed the man, that he did not think he was doing wrong, but since the jury, who were men of good reputation and some of them his personal friends, had rendered a verdict of guilty, he could not believe any longer that he was not guilty, and was ready to die in obedience to the law.” The judge asked him if he wanted to return home and wind up his earthly affairs before his execution, but he stated that as there was only he and his wife there was no real reason for him to return home so he would rather remain there and await his execution.
The judge ordered that Hopoksia be shot before the courthouse door thirty days from that date and remanded him to the custody of the sheriff. John Hopoksia spent the next thirty days traveling freely about the area. When court was in session, the remote site of the Choctaw courthouse took on the air of a carnival. Families from throughout the district gathered and camped in tents. Numerous vendors, including an early photographer pitched their tents to take advantage of the crowd. Hopoksia became quite a celebrity as word spread that he had been condemned to death and had accepted his fate. He spent much of his time at the “picture tent,” having his likeness reproduced for anyone who requested it.
As a child who witnessed Hopoksia’s last days, Gardner said it appeared that the people “generally fell in love with him and they wanted to help him in some way.” Several of the white settlers encouraged him to escape and offered their help in doing so, but Hopoksia refused. He explained that if he ran off he would be marked as a coward by his people and they would disown him forever. He did not believe he would ever find peace for his guilty conscience or gain entrance into the happy hunting grounds when he died. If, however, he followed the laws of his people and willingly gave his own life in exchange for the one he had taken, he believed “he would be exhonorated(sic) and would find a happy welcome into the happy hunting grounds and this faith kept him smiling to the very last.”
Hopoksia spent his final morning talking to friends and posing for more pictures. Noon found him eating dinner with his wife who had arrived to comfort him. Shortly after 1:00 p.m., he visited the blacksmith shop where his coffin was being constructed. He inspected it, climbed in to make sure that it fit, and said “Achukma,” which means “Good” in the Choctaw language. He then returned to the spring to talk to friends until the court officers came and told him that it was time for his execution. They gave him time alone with his wife, and Gardner could hear them praying and singing hymns from the courthouse. According to Gardner, “a great crowd had gathered about the court house, a pallet of about two quilts was made on the ground directly in front of the court house door, a low backless bench about four feet long was placed in the center of the pallet. Just off the pallet and in front of the court house steps was another bench with its back turned toward the court house. Just to the right and back of the low bench was the coffin, still further to the right in the edge of the crowd was backed an empty wagon which had brought the coffin and which was to carry it away again, the driver sitting in the seat.”
An officer cleared a path through the crowd from the courthouse to the backless bench. Hopoksia and his wife appeared and walked arm-in-arm to the pallet. Before taking his seat, John shook hands with friends in the surrounding crowd, and waved at those he could not reach. When asked if he had anything to say, he said “yes,” and told the crowd that he was glad that so many friends had come and that he hoped his execution would serve to warn them against killing their fellow man and suffering a similar fate. He said he was ready to die and was hopeful of a happy after-life beyond the grave. He then took his seat on the bench and a target was pinned on his left breast. After bowing his head in silent prayer, he straightened and announced that he was ready.
An officer tied a black cloth over his eyes and signaled the sheriff in the courthouse that it was time. Obviously shaken and very nervous, the sheriff emerged, rested his gun on the back of the second bench and fired at the target on Hopoksia’s chest. John’s wife and a Choctaw officer laid him back on the pallet where he expired after only a few minutes. Hopoksia’s wife never showed the slightest grief or emotion throughout the whole process. The sheriff, however, quickly disappeared back into the courthouse where he remained unseen for the rest of the day. He and Hopoksia were friends. He offered a substantial amount of money to anyone who would act as executioner and only performed the duty himself when no one else would. John’s body was placed in the coffin and turned over to his wife for burial.
 
Posts: 51 | Location: Leflore County Oklahoma | Registered: Wed January 03 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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What about the Appeal!?! You mean there weren't 10 or 15 years of appeals to go thru!?!

On the other hand, with that much interest and friendly sentiment toward the condemned, wasn't there any form of redress by the Council available; or, were their sentences "absolute" and unchangeable?

Also, do you have the "name" of the Sheriff?

Great story! Thanks for posting it.
 
Posts: 195 | Registered: Mon December 15 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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As best as I can remember the information given was what was in an obviously very old and poorly typed 1st person narrative type document that you can see at the Oklahoma Historical Society in OKC. I doubt that the name of the sheriff was mentioned or I would have included it. I usually take pains to mention the names of everyone involved that I am sure of. It is my impression that in this case the condemned man had little interest in seeking clemency or anything else. He accepted the judgement of his friends and neighbors. In other cases like the famous case of Silom Lewis appeals were made and new trials were awarded. In other cases Indian judges granted multiple delays of execution etc.
 
Posts: 51 | Location: Leflore County Oklahoma | Registered: Wed January 03 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Old West

Here are the other Oklahoma Territory executions that I have found.

In addition to the extra-legal executions carried out by members of E.D. Nix’s police force, eight men and one woman were legally executed under the laws of Oklahoma Territory. The first, an African American man named John Milligan, died convicted of murdering an entire family with the exception of the small girl who identified him at his trial. The eight others included African Americans K.B. Brooks and Charles Perkins who were hanged together on July 1, 1898 at Muskogee for murder, George Cully hanged for murder and robbery on July 21, 1899, and murderer Robert Colton who was executed September 4, 1906 in Craig County. Two white men were also legally executed at Muskogee under territorial authority. Cyrus Brown and Matthew Craig paid the ultimate penalty on August 25, 1899.
Oklahoma’s only female victim of the noose was Dora Wright a Domestic servant who died July 17, 1903 for the brutal murder of a small girl entrusted to her care. She was joined on the gallows by murderer Charles Barrett whose ethnic origins are unknown.
 
Posts: 51 | Location: Leflore County Oklahoma | Registered: Wed January 03 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm probably wrong, but I thought Muskogee was in Indian Territory and remained part of IT until statehood.
 
Posts: 37 | Location: Lawton, Oklahoma | Registered: Sat February 12 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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You are right Jim. I got sloppy and referred to the Twin Territories as Oklahoma Territory when the area I was writing about "today's Oklahoma" was actually Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. Thanks for saving me some major embarassment with my professors!!!
 
Posts: 51 | Location: Leflore County Oklahoma | Registered: Wed January 03 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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