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CANNON, RUFUS (1847-1950)

Rufus Cannon was one of the most important African American lawmen in Oklahoma Territory. Born in Arkansas on January 29, 1847, Cannon had a considerable amount of Cherokee Indian ancestry. He worked out of the federal courts at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory. Much of his activity occurred during the 1890s. He captured the Creek Indian desperado called Captain Willie, in October of 1892, his first noted arrest. Willie had killed the popular Oklahoma City Deputy U.S. Marshal George Thornton and several other men during his criminal career. In a gunfight with the Henry Starr gang in January 1893, Cannon wounded and captured the train robber known as Jesse Jackson. In July 1895 Bob and Bill Christian broke out of the Oklahoma City jail and murdered Police Chief Milt Jones. In the following days Cannon arrested their father, William Christian, and Bill Carr for complicity in the jailbreak. The most famous incident involving Cannon was the subduing of the famous Oklahoma Territory outlaw Bill Doolin. In August 1896 Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas assembled a posse to capture Doolin. Thomas solicited Rufus Cannon to be a part of this group. In late August 1896 the posse killed Doolin near Lawson, Oklahoma Territory. One newspaper stated that Cannon fired the fatal shot but later retracted the story and gave the credit to Thomas. Cannon died in Kansas City on October 15, 1950.

SEE ALSO: AFRICAN AMERICANS, FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT OF WESTERN ARKANSAS, ROBERT FORTUNE, INDIAN TERRITORY, GRANT JOHNSON, ZEKE MILLER, ISAAC CHARLES PARKER, BASS REEVES, SEGREGATION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Art Burton, Black, Red and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of Indian Territory, 1870-1907 (Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1991). Art Burton, Bill Doolin and the Black Oklahombres, Oklahombres (1996).

Art Burton

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