Beginning in 1883, Congress enacted a series of laws designed specifically to limit Judge Isaac Parker's jurisdiction and to bring law to the interior of Indian Territory. The first act gave jurisdiction of the Unassigned lands lying north of the Canadian River and east of the hundredth meridian to the District Courts of Witchita and Fort Scott, Kansas. Then, in 1885, Congress limited the power of tribal courts by requiring major felonies be tried at Witchita, Paris, Texas or Ft. Smith, Arkansas. This was followed, in 1889, by a transfer of jurisdiction for felonies for the Chickasaw Nation and lower half of the Choctaw Nation to the Eastern District of Texas located at Paris, Texas. (The same law provided the first formal definition of Indian Territory.) Also created in 1889 was the Muskogee Court, a civil court with authority over all offenses not involving death or imprisonment. That action was followed in 1890 by the creation of three divisions of Indian Territory Court with terms to be held twice annually at Muskogee, South McAlester and Ardmore. However, crimes involving punishment by death or imprisonment at hard labor still remained the province of the Paris and Fort Smith courts. In 1895, three judicial districts termed the Central, Northern, and Southern Districts with administrative courts at McAlester, Muskogee, and Ardmore were created. Each of these immediately set up permanent Commissioner Courts at various points, usually along existing railroads, within their sphere of infleuence. But, it was not until about 1898, when tribal courts were abolished that the I. T. courts began hearing major felonies.
In 1886-87, the Santa Fe laid tracks across the center of Indian Territory. The mid-point of the line was Purcell on the Canadian River which came into being in the spring of 1887. Because of its location--being on the railroad; being halfway between Fort Smith and Fort Sill; being just across the river from the Unassigned Lands soon to be opened as Oklahoma Territory--Purcell became a hub for law enforcement activities.
Resident to Purcell between 1888-1889:
W. H. (Bill) Carr who held commissions from Ft. Smith, Paris, Texas, and Witchita, Kansas. John Swain with commissions from Ft. Smith and Paris.
Matt Cook, Paris
W. W. Ainseley (also spelled:Ansley): Chief Deputy of Indian Territory Court and later East Dist of Texas
Joe McNally, East Dist of Texas
John Salisbury, commissioned from the Ardmore Court for civil cases only
Fred Waite (who lived at Pauls Valley was U. S. Indian Police Constable and Deputy Marshal)
None of these deputies were paid a salary. Their income was derived from service fees and from expenses in transporting prisoners to the distant court sites. The various courts, each with a budget, tried to reduced the work load and expense all these deputies (and others in nearby villages,) were creating by creating a Commissioner's Court to review lesser offenses, levying fines where possible and dismissing charges if warranted. The first was created in 1887 in the body Henry Kaiser at Wynnewood. Then, in February, 1889, J. E. Hocker of Purcell was appointed and Kaiser dismissed. From that point forward, as evidenced by the cases reported in the Purcell papers, Hocker examined and either advanced or disposed of most of the arrests made by Marshals in Central and Western Indian Territory, saving the Federal court hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and the citizen the swift justice promised by the Constitution. But, regardless of his efficiency, Hocker and the Federal Courts agreed to part ways because he insisted, contrary to the law, that criminal whiskey drinking was the fault of the buyer, not the seller.
Thanks for a very informative post. One of the most confusing aspects, at least to me, of the law enforcement history of the territories is the overlapping hodgepodge of legal districts and authorities. You've done a fine job of sorting this all out.
Happy New Year
It was a total accident. I was trying to figure out how Hocker got to be a commissioner at such an early date. His appointment by the way was from Judge Parker but his responsibilities were clearly to all the jurisdictions operating in the I. T. Don't why so many others seemed to have missed this connection. Maybe because it makes a better story having the lone Marshal trapising around.
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