Mr. J. Y. Bryce,
I am requested by Mr. Grant Foreman of Muskogee to "re-write or send a similar sketch" to you for publication in the Chronicles of Oklahoma; original sketch given Mr. Foreman evidently miscarried in the mails Bombay to Oklahoma City.
To the best of my recollection the sketch was similar to this:January 30, 1880, I arrived at Vinita from Marshall, Texas. Was re-employed as operator and agent M. K. & T. Ry. for the following nine years.
This was during the rough and romantic era of the "Beautiful Indian Territory" with its great wealth of resources and natural scenery. Then, as now, whisky was the primary cause of much violation of law, subsequent crime and ofttimes tragic punishment. Outlaws and organized bandits, like the notorious Henry Starr gang, the Dalton brothers, the Albert Jennings gang and many others who fought fearlessly, desperately, but like their predecessors, finally fell victims to their hazardous and heinous occupation. Some of the bravest and best officers of their time and place, fell at the unparalleled daring desperado’s quickness of the trigger.
Captain Sixkiller, who unarmed, was unnecessarily and unmercifully shot to death on the streets of Muskogee, one memorable Christmas Eve in the long ago. His two brothers, Luke and Henry, were also Indian police officers. But how and when their end came, I do not know. For every gang there was a posse and when they met, the fighting was fierce and generally fatal.
L. P. Isabel, who I learn is still alive and living not far from Vinita, was an officer of wonderful coolness and capability, but came near his Waterloo when maneuvering with
the notorious outlaw Pigeon, strategically located in a cabin near Tahlequah, in the middle eighties. It was a close call for Mr. Isabel.
But I think the intrepid Heck Thomas was the most successful officer that ever operated in that bandit cursed country.
But train robbing proved to be a financial failure and practically disappeared from that once common class of crime. It paid no dividends, and even desperados do not want to risk their lives where there is no gain. They’re generally out for the money.
I asked Mr. Jennings in after years, how does it feel to be a bandit? In his own laconic language, he reminiscently replied, "One feels as if isolated from the whole world and acts from that standpoint. Man in that business becomes accustomed to the hardships of it and gets to believing in his business as others who are skinning the public, but in a different and more legal manner. All fear and regard for human life leaves him and he goes as a soldier to battle invulnerable to its danger, disaster and death."
I knew all the best business men and their families in Vinita during my nine years there. Knew little boys and girls who have grown to middle aged men and women. How strange and like a dream it all seems to me now. Those of middle age and upward have practically all passed away with the inevitable results of time. A few, however, are still alive. For instance, L. P. Isabel above mentioned, Edward Halsell of Muskogee, Wm. E. Halsell of Kansas City, but for the past three years has been spending most of his time at Long Beach, where I saw him late as August 14, this year, looking well and enjoying the ever rolling and refreshing ocean waves and balmy breezes. His once jet black locks, now white as snow, mark the greatest contrast between then and now. But he is still the same distinguished looking philosopher and financierthe same "Billie Halsell" of old, the Wm. E. Halsell of instantaneous decision and action.
Mr. Patton, Mr. Hall, Ratcliff, Skinner, Swain, Ballentine, Jas. and Robert Tittle and many others in the long interim, have one by one passed over the Great Divide from which no one ever returns.
Prof. J. W. Scroggs who founded Worcester Academy and was its principal for some years before going to Rogers, Arkansas, is still alive and resides at Norman, Oklahoma; a perfect encyclopedia of knowledge and a magnificent gentleman.
Like forest trees, a few remain after the great majority have been obliterated and not even a stump stands to mark the place where the noble trees once stood. As for myself, I married in Vinita May 4, 1881, established a modest little home, the only home I have ever had since leaving that farm in Johnson Co., Mo., at the age of twenty-one. But my dear wife passed away April 8, 1894, while in the very meridian of life. And so we all must fall sooner or later under the approaching scythe of Old Father Time. Thus come and go the endless caravan of human beings.
FRANK G. DECKER.