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Starr -and- Cochran, Part 2
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BELLE STARR

Belle had previously been married to James C. Reed, and their son James Edwin "Eddie" Reed was born on February 22, 1871. At the age of 18, Eddie Reed was sentenced to a term in prison by Judge Issac Parker. Reed was granted a pardon and released in 1893. In a curious turn of events, in 1894 Reed was hired by the Katy Railroad as a guard to protect trains between Wagoner and McAlester. The U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, George Crump, appointed Reed a deputy marshal. Eddie's shooting ability was well known, and he also became known as a good officer of the law. Eddie married a Cherokee schoolteacher from Claremore named Jennie Cochran in 1895. They settled down in Wagoner. Jennie's father was Alec Cochran. (An "Alex" Cochran is listed in some documents as a deputy U.S. marshal in the Cherokee Nation. It is unknown if Alec is the same as Alex Cochran.)

The Cochrans of the Cherokee Nation emigrated to Indian Territory from Etower River, Georgia under the Indian removal. Jesse Cochran Sr. and his wife Nancy Proctor Cochran settled in the Delaware district, where Jesse was elected sheriff in 1839. Jesse Cochran Sr. was killed in 1866. A son, also named Jesse Cochran, was born on Beaty's Creek on November 27, 1847. Nancy Proctor Cochran died a few days later, on December 8th, 1847. Jesse Cochran Sr. married a second wife, Betsy Rogers and they had six children, including George Cochran (d.1873).

Jesse Cochran (d. 1866) had a brother named George Cochran (d. 1871). Another Cochran in the Cooweescoowee District named George was George Washington Cochran, who lived north of Catoosa. It is unknown if George Cochran (d. 1871) is the same person as George Washington Cochran.

George Washington Cochran was married to Nancy Vann. Their son, George W. Cochran Jr. served as a deputy U.S. marshal in 1891. George W. Cochran Jr. married Mae Cummins in 1909 and they had nine children, including Thelma. In 1929 Thelma Cochran married Cecil Martindale, and it is the Martindale place near Tiawah where the old "Cochran" family cemetery is located.

While many of the Cochran's were lawmen, a few of the Cherokees named Cochran were lawbreakers. The first courthouse in the Cooweescoowee District was at Kephart Spring, six miles northeast of where Claremore is presently located, and it was there that two horse thieves named Lookback and Cochran were tried. They had previously been caught stealing horses and had been whipped as punishment. But the third time they were caught they were convicted and sentenced to death. They were hanged in a tree not far from the courthouse.

In another reported incident, a son of Alex Cochran was wounded by deputy U.S. marshals in 1890 at Claremore. The son was described as being 1/8th Cherokee. And in 1873 an Alexander Cochran was tried for murder and found not guilty.

The Jesse Cochran family were the victims of violence in the Indian Territory. Jesse Cochran Sr., sheriff of the Delaware district in 1839, was killed in 1866. The circumstances of his death are not known. His son George Cochran was killed in 1873. The full details of what happened after the killing of George are not known, but court records and newspaper stories from the period do provide the following story. Jesse Cochran Jr. was charged in the Fort Smith court with murder as follows: "....on the 10th day of April A.D. 1873 at the Indian Country in the Western District of Arkansas and within the jurisdiction of this court with force and armes upon the body of one Rooks ....did discharge and shoot off against and upon the said Rooks....a mortal wound." Rooks, a white man, was killed. Because the victim was a white man, the charge was filed at Fort Smith rather than with an Indian court. According to the Cherokee Advocate newspaper, Jesse Cochran killed Rooks at Vinita because Rooks had, the day before, killed Cochran's brother without provocation. The murder complaint, number 399, was issued by U.S. District Attorney Wm. H. H. Clayton.

The murder case did not go to trial until 1877. An incident occurred in 1875 when a deputy U.S. marshal and his posseman attempted to arrest Jesse Cochran in the Cherokee Nation. The lawmen accused Cochran of assault and resisting arrest. Cochran disputed their claim, and in a written statement he described the events as follows: "....on the 22nd day of October 1875 in the Western District of Arkansas..knowingly...resisting.. one Hugh McGuire United States Marshal and Robert M French posse commitatus in attempting to serve and execute a certain judicial writ of arrest.....Johnson Thompson, Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson....are witnesses.....the day of the supposed resistance and assault this defendant had spent an hour or an hour and a half in the store of the said Thompson withthe said McGuire and French and they did not refer to any business with or authority to arrest this defendant, and that soon after this defendant started from said store and mounted his horse to go home and had been gone a few minutes the said McGuire and the said French....mounted their horses and being under the influence of whiskey started on a gallop after the defendant....and approaching at a rapid run this defendant and when they got up near enough for the defendant to hear their horses running and looked around, when the said McGuire and said French immediately fired twice at this defendant before the defendant fired at all or had in fact turned fully around..."

Cochran was held in the Fort Smith jail in 1876 awaiting trial. His attorney was Col. Jas. M. Bell. The case was tried in early 1877 before Judge Issac Parker. The verdict was "we the jury find the defendant Jesse Cochran not guilty of murder as charged in the written indictment - M. Philfot, foreman." It appears that the jury felt Jesse was justified in killing Rooks for the murder of Jesse's half-brother George, and, that the marshal and posseman who shot at Jesse in 1875 acted improperly.

Jesse Cochran, whose father had been sheriff in 1839, became a deputy sheriff in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation under John Gunter Scrimsher. Jesse became sheriff in 1879, and again in 1883. Frequently, the sheriff was the only peace officer in the entire district and covered the territory by horse or buggy. On one occasion, Cochran was notified by Bill Howell that several of his cattle had been stolen and were being driven in the direction of Coffeyville, Kansas. Cochran and a posse of deputies pursued the cattle thieves and overtook their camp on the Verdigris River south of Coffeyville. When the outlaws resisted, the ensuing gun battle resulted in the death of well known outlaw Jim Barker. Cochran's posse included a deputy U.S. marshal named Galcatcher.

Other duties of a Cherokee lawman included the disposition of property, as illustrated by the following notice which appeared in the Feb. 26, 1879 issue of the Cherokee Advocate newspaper: " Notice is hereby given that I will sell to the highest bidder at the Claremore store in Cooweescoowee District, C. N. on the 10th day of March 1879, 1 bay mare, branded Y. D. To satisfy an execution against one Jeff Marshall who was tried and convicted of larceny before the District Court. Jesse Cochran, Deputy Sheriff."

Jesse Cochran built a log cabin home for his family in 1879 on Spencer Creek near the Verdigris River. Prior to that, Cochran lived near Vinita. In 1870 Cochran married Susan Ross, the daughter of Houston Ross. Houston Ross was a nephew of John Ross, Chief of the Cherokee Nation before his death in 1866.

While serving as a deputy U.S. marshal, Jesse Cochran worked with lawmen such as Heck Bruner, Heck Thomas, Willis Bluejacket, Captain G. S. White, L. N. McDonald, L. W. Marks, and L. P. Isibol. These lawmen also cooperated with the Anti-Horse Thief Association. The A.T.H.A. used various methods to catch criminals, including appointing men to watch the homes and actions of suspected outlaws. If the suspected outlaw was believed to be a "desperate character" then additional "guards" would be summoned by the A.T.H.A. By working together, these lawmen and members of the A.T.H.A. were able to reduce crime to a minimum.

A lawman who worked with Jesse Cochran in the Cooweescoowee District was Heck Bruner, who moved his family to Vinita in early 1895. Bruner was described as having stubborn persistence and an unusual knowledge of the badmen he pursued. Newspaper reports claim that a small graveyard in Vinita contained the unmarked graves of twenty-eight outlaws who resisted Bruner. It was known locally as "Bruner's Graveyard." Bruner died in 1898 while trying to cross the Grand River at the mouth of Spavinaw Creek.

In the summer of 1894, the largest disbursement of money ever made in the Cherokee Nation took place when the proceeds of the sale of the Cherokee Strip were distributed. Over six million dollars was disbursed by the Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation, E. E. Starr. Jesse Cochran was chosen as the captain of the force of guards who accompanied the treasurer around the Cherokee Nation to pay each citizen of the nation their share of the money.

Payments were made in each of the nine districts composing the Cherokee Nation, beginning in Tahlequah in June of 1894. Outlaws Jim and William Cook were Cherokee citizens, but the "Cook gang" which included Crawford Goldsby was wanted for various crimes across the Indian Territory. Unable to collect their share of the payment in person in Tahlequah, on June 16th the Cook brothers went to the "Half-way House" on Fourteen Mile Creek (near present day Hulbert) operated by Mrs. Effie Crittenden. Effie was the wife of Cherokee lawman Dick Crittenden but they had separated and were on unfriendly terms. The cook in her establishment was Bob Hardin, a brother-in-law of the Cook brothers. The Cooks sent Mrs. Crittenden to Tahlequah with a written order to the Treasurer allowing her to pick up their money.

END OF PART 2


Dee Cordry
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