.WAFL (lc cq`Xdؽó¥´Fƒ6öKí.‚šntry(bº”/Àè*~Ûådؽó¥´Fƒ6öKí.‚šYvurl Qhttp://web.archive.org/web/20011115025024/http://www.oklahombres.org/cochran.htmmime text/urlhvrsdata[InternetShortcut] URL=http://web.archive.org/web/20020203231305/www.oklahombres.org/cochran.htm postdؽóXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXcate bº”dؽóL½ ,T½ETYcntry(¯#¬U”\pÞ»ûü))eoíêኼ®ouZV^ƒ î`Œçurl Jhttp://web.archive.org/web/20020203231305/www.oklahombres.org/cochran.htmbsrlQhttp://web.archive.org/web/20011115025024/http://www.oklahombres.org/cochran.htmmime text/htmlhntt"a616debcebbfbe1:b61"hvrsdata Lawman Jesse Cochran

OUTLAWS AND LAWMEN
OF THE
CHEROKEE NATION

by
Dee Cordry

The removal of the Cherokee Indians from their homes in the east to the lands now known as Oklahoma brought great suffering upon the Cherokees. The removal also resulted in violence between the Cherokees who supported the removal treaty and those who did not. One family name that became well known during this Cherokee "civil war" was the Starr family. But this is not a story about Belle Starr. It is a story about Cherokees who fought each other over the removal, and Cherokees who fought for law and order.

A white man of Quaker parentage immigrated from Pennsylvania to the Cherokee country (now eastern Tennessee). He was named Caleb Starr, and in about 1790 Caleb married a Cherokee woman named Nancy Harlan, and in so doing he became a member of the Cherokee Nation. They had twelve children, including Ezekial Starr, James Starr, and Joseph Starr. Caleb Starr was involved with both the Treaty of 1816 and the Treaty of 1819, the removal treaties. Cherokee leaders attempted to preserve their remaining eastern lands, and had established a new government by 1828. John Ross was elected principal chief. Ross and his followers opposed removal. Cherokees who willingly immigrated to the new, western lands were known as the "Old Settlers".

Caleb Starr and his sons supported emigration. Ezekial Starr and his family travelled to the west in 1834. James Starr became a member of the Treaty Party, which advocated total tribal removal, and with other members he signed the controversial Treaty of 1835. James Starr moved to the western Cherokee Nation in 1837.

The remaining eastern Cherokees, under the leadership of John Ross, were forcibly removed to the west in 1838 and 1839 in what became known as the Trail of Tears. These Cherokees were subjected to incredible suffering.

Upon arrival in the Indian Territory, the differences between the Ross faction and the Treaty, or Ridge, Party erupted into violence. On June 22, 1839, three leaders of the Treaty Party - Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot - were assassinated by members of the Ross faction. James Starr and Stand Watie were due to be killed the same day, but they found refuge at Fort Gibson. John Ross was elected principal chief of a new, "unified" Cherokee government.

In the Cherokee election of 1841, Ezekial Starr was elected to the Cherokee legislature from the Flint District, and his brother James Starr was elected to serve from the Goingsnake District. But the supporters of Chief Ross were still eliminating the supporters of the removal treaty and many murders had been committed. Both sides were after blood. James Starr's son, Thomas Starr, reacted to attempts on his father's life with violence. He was accused of attacking and murdering the entire Benjamin Vore family at their home near Fort Gibson in 1843. The Cherokee civil war included murderers on both sides of the conflict, but the Ross faction labeled Tom Starr an outlaw. A reward of one thousand dollars was offered for his capture.

In 1845, Ross followers decided that James Starr would be held accountable for the actions of his son, Tom, and on November 9th they acted. Thirty-two armed men raided the home of James Starr in the Flint District. Starr was gunned down on his front porch, as was his crippled son, Buck. Both were dead. Starr's other three sons barely escaped the massacre. According to Tom Starr, in retaliation he killed every one of the thirty-two men except for those who became sick and died in bed before he could get to them. A truce was called in 1846, and a resulting peace treaty between the two factions included a special clause that "all offenses and crimes committed by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.......are hereby pardoned." It was the opinion of many Cherokees that the pardon was for Tom Starr.

Tom moved to land in the southern portion of the Canadian District of the Cherokee Nation, near present Briartown. Tom Starr served in the Civil War as a scout for General Stand Watie and became acquainted with Quantrill. After the war, some of Quantrill's former guerrillas came to visit Tom, one of them being Cole Younger. Tom's ranch became known as "Youngers Bend". Tom raised eight sons, including George and Sam Starr. In 1873 George's son Henry Starr was born.

In 1880, Tom's son Sam married Myra Belle Shirley. She became known as "Belle Starr".

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 with the 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.

HOUSTON KILLED

Leonard Williams, sheriff of the Tahlequah District, discovered the location of the Cook brothers. A posse was sent to Fourteen Mile Creek to capture the Cook gang and on June 17, 1894 a gunfight broke out. Lawman Sequoyah Houston was killed in the fight, and the outlaws wounded Dick and Zeke Crittenden.

The Cook brothers and Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill, escaped. Jim Cook had been badly wounded and the gang took him to Fort Gibson. They were forced to leave him there and he was captured by lawmen. Some reports concerning the battle at the Half-way House claim that two other members of the Cook gang, Jess Cochran (not Jesse ) and Jim French, were present at the gunfight.

Others included in the posse were reported to be Ellis Rattling Gourd and Bill McKee. A different version of the story lists the members of the posse as "Sequoyah Houston, the Crittenden brothers, Bill Nickel, Isaac Greece, Hicks, and Brackett." And Jim Cook had described the lawmen as "the Cherokee guards" giving the impression that the posse were members of the force of guards under the direction of Captain Jesse Cochran escorting the treasurer with the "strip money." However, this was not the case, as the treasurer had left Tahlequah under heavy guard on June 16th (the day before the gun battle) enroute to Vinita. Sequoyah Houston was buried in the Blue Springs cemetery.

Cherokee Bill was eventually captured and taken to the Fort Smith court, where he was found guilty of the 1894 murder of Ernest Melton. While in jail awaiting execution, Cherokee Bill somehow obtained a loaded pistol and used it to kill guard Lawrence Keating on July 10th, 1895 during an escape attempt. Upon hearing the gunshots, Fort Smith lawmen rushed to the jail. Deputy U.S. marshal Heck Bruner returned fire with a shotgun. Over 100 shots were fired in the battle. Finally, jail inmate Henry Starr was able to convince Cherokee Bill to surrender the gun and order was restored to the jail. Cherokee Bill was executed on the gallows in Fort Smith on March 17, 1896.

Both Jess Cochran and Jim French were killed trying to rob a store in Catoosa. Jess Cochran has been described in one report as the sister of Jennie Cochran, who married Ed Reed, and the nephew of deputy U.S. marshal George W. Cochran Jr.

ED REED KILLED

Deputy U.S. marshal Ed Reed, living in Wagoner, was called on to deal with with two drunks who were shooting up the town on October 24th (or 25th), 1895. The two law-breakers were Dick and his brother Zeke Crittenden, former lawmen and survivors of the shootout at Fourteen Mile Creek in 1894. The two brothers had wounded a Wagoner resident named Burns in their drunken shooting spree.

One version of the story describes Reed encountering Zeke Crittenden on the street and telling him to surrender his gun. Zeke fired at Reed and was killed with return gunshots from Reed. Dick, at the other end of town, learned of his brothers death and rode to the scene of the shooting. Upon seeing Ed Reed, Dick opened fire. Reed returned fire, mortally wounding Dick Crittenden, who died the next morning. The brothers were buried under one headstone in a small cemetery near Hulbert, only a short distance from the site of the Half-way House on Fourteen Mile Creek.

Ed Reed died on about December 14th, 1896 while attempting to "arrest" Joe Gibbs and J. N. Clark in Claremore, Oklahoma. Newspapers reported that Reed was attempting to arrest them for selling whiskey. Other sources tell a story about Reed's father-in-law, Alec Cochran, dying as a result of bad liquor from Gibbs. Reed intended to shut down the Gibbs "saloon", but when he entered the Gibbs store he was cut down by two shotgun blasts from close range.

Ed was buried in his wife's "Cochran" family cemetery near Tiawah, south of Claremore. His wife, Jennie, had lost her father and her lawman husband in 1896, and her outlaw brother, Jess Cochran, in 1895. It is not known if Ed and Jennie Cochran had any children.

Jesse and Susan Cochran had seven children, including John Ross Cochran, who was born in 1883. John Ross Cochran later married Pearl McMahan, the sister of Emitt McMahan. Emitt McMahan is the grandfather of OklahombreS editor Dee Cordry.

In addition to serving as a Cherokee sheriff and a deputy U.S. marshal, Jesse Cochran held the office of prosecuting attorney (solicitor) of the Cooweescoowee district from 1885 to 1889. In November, 1894 Jesse was appointed by the National Council to the office of associate justice of the supreme court of the Cherokee Nation. Cochran was described as a "self taught lawyer and a self made man, in a primeval country where law and order didn't come easy." Cochran knew Blackstone by heart and used it as a guide in jury trials which he held at Kephart Springs near Claremore. Cochran passed away on November 11, 1905 at his home on Spencer Creek.

Jesse's father, who came to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears, had been a lawman. Both his father and his step-brother George had been the victims of violence. Jennie Cochran may have been his niece. Her brother died an outlaw and her husband, the son of Belle Starr, died in the line of duty. Jesse's wife was a member of the Ross family, and her father's uncle, John Ross, had been a participant in the Cherokee "civil war". Perhaps family names of Cherokees who were outlaws are heard of more often, but it is the citizens of the Cherokee Nation such as Jesse Cochran who brought law and order to a territory where violence was commonly used to settle disputes.

THE END


SOURCES

Personal collection of Juanita Cochran Russell, Chelsea, Oklahoma

Virgil Talbot, curator, The Talbot Museum and Library, Colcord, Oklahoma (Note: Jesse Cochran Sr. (d. 1866) had a sister named Judah Cochran. She married Ambrose McGhee, and they were the great, great grandparents of Virgil Talbot.)

National Archives, Southwest Region, Fort Worth, Texas

The Indian Pioneer Papers, Oklahoma Historical Society

Cherokee Advocate newspaper

The Goingsnake Messenger

The Chronicles of Oklahoma
, Vol. LXI, number 3, Oklahoma Historical Society

True West, Mar-April 1977

Cherokee By Blood, Volume 1 & Volume 6

Belle Starr And Her Times, by Glenn Shirley, University of Oklahoma Press, 1982

Law West of Fort Smith, by Glenn Shirley, University of Nebraska Press, 1968

Hell On The Border, by S. W. Harman, University of Nebraska Press, 1992

Special thanks to OklahombreS members Art Burton and Phillip Steele for their contributions to this story.


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