My great granddaddy, Jim Fitzpatrick, owned the Ď97í Ranch and was in ]the cattle business with Frank Murray and Wyatt Williams. This ranch was located near Fred, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, which would now be near Ninnekah, Grady County, Oklahoma. Williams lived in Texas and had a ranch there.
In 1884, Wyatt Williams brought his part of the cattle herd up through Indian Territory. The herd on Jimís and Frankís ranches were added to that and all went to Kansas City. The cattle were to be sold and the money was to be split between the three men.
The herd made a profit of $40,000. and Wyatt Williams kept all the money for himself. Think about this! In the year of 1884 $40,000, would be, in 1999, worth a cool $525,939.17! That would buy a lot of food and clothing!
This Updated a financial disaster for Jim Fitzpatrick and Frank Murray. Murray was able to later recover and did well in business. Jim never was able to bounce back financially.
Some time after this cattle sale Jim received word that Wyatt Williams was sending hired men to his ranch to get all of his cattle. Needless to say, he, Frank Murray and their men were ready for a confrontation. From court records Jimís men were William H. Brooks, his brother-in-law, John Palmer, Dink Strong/Strawn, Reubin Goins, William J. Henderson, Thomas Jackson, George Horner and William Callahan.
The approaching men had been warned not to enter the ranch if they wanted to avoid a fight as Jim and Frank were not giving up more cattle. This warning was fully ignored as the men came galloping through the Ranch entrance. They were there to get the cattle and that was that! One wonders just how much Wyatt Williams was going to pay each for the cattle. Apparently enough to make it worth the possibility of being killed! Fitzpatrick and his men and Murray and his cowboys pursued the would be rustlers and the shooting started. Two of those men, Dick Cavett and Dick Jones, were killed during this fight and are buried at Moncrief Cemetery outside of Ninnekah, Grady CO, Oklahoma. One dying cattle rustler admitted that he and the other men hired by Wyatt Williams had shot first. Several men on both sides were injured and itís said that one of Williamsí men later died from an infected arm wound that today would not have caused much of a problem.
From what is mentioned above, it would appear to be a cut and dried case of self-defense and the defense of ones own property in the form of cattle. Stealing cattle and horses were just reasons to shoot or hang a man back then. Wrong! As fate would have it, Jim Fitzpatrick and his men were all indicted for assault and murder!
They were all taken to Fort Smith, Arkansas and tried before the famous "Hanging" Judge Isaac Charles Parker. Having read two books about this judge my feelings about him are that he was a just and an honest man though many at that time thought of him as a Bible thumping fanatic. He was going to do everything he could to get rid of the lawlessness in Indian Territory, which was horrendous. It was a haven for criminals from all over America. The worst of the worst, as it were, migrated to the land of no law to hide and wreak havoc on the law abiding residents of the area. After reading just how bad it was in Indian Territory, I could well imagine how tired any judge would become of hearing the same lists of crimes, day after day after day, not to mention those men on juries.
Isaac Charles Parker was a lawyer, ex-judge, and ex-Congressman from Ohio and President Grant chose to send him to Fort Smith. It is said that Grantís words were "Stay a year and get things straightened out." Obviously Grant didnít know just how bad "things" were it took much more than a year!
Jim Fitzpatrickís father was Theodore Fitzpatrick, who was born in 1830 in County Waterford, Ireland, came to America in 1848 and was also a cattleman who lived near Alex, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory.
From a diary, "Missionary Tour in the Chickasaw Nation and Western Indian Territory" it relates how Father Urban de Hasque went to Alex to visit "a rich cattleman" called Fitzpatrick in 1885. Father de Hasque went to the Fitzpatrick Ranch to hear confessions and say Mass the next morning on his rounds to Catholic homes. Theodore was in a terrible state of anxiety and told Father de Hasque that his son was in jail at Fort Smith after having been arrested for murder. He said Judge Parker had threatened to hang his son and he would have to leave for Fort Smith in order to be there by 10 oíclock the next morning. He asked Father de Hasque to please excuse him from the rites of confession and Mass. Father de Hasque could see just how miserable Theodore was feeling over the prospect of losing his first born child, Jim, though Father said he was a little put out over this situation. From his point of view I would think he was tired from a long ride to the ranch and was not expecting to be brushed off in such a way. Father chose not to stay so trudged on to the next family, the Huntleyís who lived at Rush Creek 8 miles from the Fitzpatrick ranch.
Theodore Fitzpatrick didnít waste time nor money doing what he could to save his son and his men from hanging. Du Val & Cravens, the best defense attorneys of that area and era, were hired by Theodore to represent his son, Brooks, Callahan, Goins, Horner, Henderson, Strong/Strawn, Jackson and Palmer.
The trial began in February of 1886 and dragged on until 3 October 1887. There were many delays during this time period. On 18 November 1885 all men were released on bail in the sum of $7,000. each, which, in 1999, would be worth a tidy $125,973.45!
On 14 October 1886 a hung jury was declared. The men who were unable to agree on a verdict were: Henry Austerman, Levi Brackett, Jack A. Cox, Hiram Henry, Job C. Key, William E. Key, William Starr, John C. Stogeley, Sampson Stanfield, Andrew J. Miller, George Harper and Gustav Foreman. A new jury was then formed and the men were found guilty.
On 30 August 1897 a motion for a new trial was denied to all but William Callahan and Jim and his men were committed to the custody of the Marshal to await final sentence. The final verdict was then brought in by the jury as all being guilty of manslaughter and they were sentenced to be hanged.
Judge Parkerís dungeon of a jail consisted of two basement cells where those waiting to be hung were kept, crowed together, under horrible conditions. The smell of human waste, sweat, disease and tobacco juice all mixed together and itís a wonder that didnít do the men in before the famous hangman, George Maledon had a chance to do his job!
Apparently there are no personal accounts of what went on at Fort Smith from any of these men. It would have been a very interesting insight conpared to what we only have in the form of court records. Having read how terrible the jail conditions were at Fort Smith, itís a wonder at least that part of the story wasnít related and handed down. But, it would seem that, at least our family, wanted this whole episode to be forgotten. I believe it was probably an embarrassment to the family to have several members appear before Judge Parker, no matter the reason.
On 18 September 1887, Du Val and Cravens, attorneys for Jim Fitzpatrick and his men, went to court in Fort Smith to withdraw evidence in the cause taken during the trial for the purpose of forwarding it to Washington, D. C.
It was found out that the jury was sent to Judge Parkerís chambers to deliberate and reach a verdict on the murder case. Some jurors felt the men should be acquitted and others felt they should be convicted. Probably there were a lot of hot tempers in that hot and stuffy room. At some point, several jurors who wanted Fitzpatrick and his men convicted, looked through law books in the bookcases and read the laws they felt pertained to this case in order to coax those for acquittal to join their side and wrap up the case, which did happen.
On 28 September 1887 President Grover Cleveland signed a Presidential pardon, text shown below, that exonerated James Fitzpatrick, William Brooks, Thomas Jackson, William Henderson, John Palmer, Reuben Goins and George Horner.
President of the United States of America
To all whom these Presents shall come, Greeting
Whereas, at the August term, 1887, of the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, William Brooks was convicted of manslaughter and sentence suspended:
And whereas, it appears that the said William Brooks was in actual danger of bodily harm in the protection of the property which had been lawfully placed in his charge the hands of the party of which the parties killed were members;
And whereas, "it seems conceded that he had reasonable cause to apprehend such danger, considering the character and the mission of the two parties and the circumstances of the case;"
And whereas, it appears the killing was excusable if not strictly justifiable;"
And whereas, his pardon is recommended by the District Attorney and by the Judge before whom he was tried.
Know, therefore, be it known, that I, Grover Cleveland, President of the United States of America, in consideration of the promises, divers other goods and sufficient reasons met thereunto moving, do hereby grant to the said William Brooks, a full and unconditional pardon.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto signed my name and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this twenty eighth day of September, A. D. 1887, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and twelfth.
By the President:
T. F. Bayard, Secretary of State
Sume mutatis mutandis to James Fitzpatrick, Thomas Jackson, William Henderson, John Palmer, Reuben Goins and George Horner.
When word got to Fort Smith the below was written:
3 October 1887
"On This Day It Appearing To The Satisfaction Of The Court That John Palmer, George Horner, Reuben Goins, William Henderson, William Brooks, James Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Jackson, Defendants Having Been Unconditionally Pardoned By The President."
It Is Therefore Ordered That Said Defendants Be Discharged Of And From The Custody Of The Marshall And That They Go Hence Without Delay.
Judge I. C. Parker
Iíll bet there was a lot of celebrating when Jim and his men returned home to their families and friends in Indian Territory.
Iíve often wondered why Wyatt Williams was not brought before the famous judge for his part in the fracas that caused the whole situation I have written about. And, I wonder what ever happened that Frank Murray did not have to appear. I would suppose that was the reason he was able to bounce back financially while Jim Fitzpatrick had to spend much time in Fort Smith, away from his ranch. I, also, wonder what happened in the trial of William Callahan.