Many pioneer families in Oklahoma have passed along stories to later generations of episodes concerning early day outlaws. In the Campbell family one of the stories concerned a fellow with many names: Elsworth Wyatt, "Zip" Wyatt, "Dick Yeager" and "Wild Charlie". Many of the remembered events happened on Cow boy Flat" n.e. of Guthrie, where a great-grandfather and a grandfather staked claims in the 1889 land run. The grandfather, Lafayette Campbell, later made his home in Garfield Co., as did most of his children. His son, Thomas F. Campbell, purchased the farm his Uncle Will Crews staked in 1893, and that land has continued in the family. But as a boy, he soon learned about Zip Wyatt, and his accounts of that cowboy who turned bad have been recorded for his family.
Wyatt was credited with stealing a saddle belonging to Tom's father. The outlaws had a hide-out near where the Campbell farm was located just south of the Cimarron River. Well, that saddle eventually made its way back to the rightful owner, but it had five bullet holes in it. Tommy and his little brothers found it exciting to stick their fingers into the bullet holes which had been acquired by Zip. ..Dick. ..etc.
Zip had filed on a claim in that area, but later relinquished it to friends of the Campbells, the George Rouse family.
Another time Zip and a friend had dinner with one of the great-grandmothers of our family, Louisa Crews. Her son Jim and daughter, Laura E. Crews (long time Garfield Co. resident), were there too, and Laura wrote her account of that meeting:
"One morning two men rode up to our house and asked if we had seen any stray horses.... About noon they returned....This time they wanted to know if they could get dinner at our house and have their horses fed.
One of the men had a good looking Winchester gun strapped to his saddle. He took it loose and showed it to Jim. "Let me sell you my gun. I need money, and I'll sell it to you cheap." Jim started to take the gun, but the man held on to it. "Oh", said Jim, "I couldn't buy an old hen and chicks, if she had more than two of them."
During the meal one of the men spoke of Zip Wyatt who had escaped from the jail in Guthrie. I said that I believed the cowboy had bought his freedom rather than having escaped by crawling through a wash hole as it had been reported. That man looked at me and said, "Ma'am, I have a friend who is a friend of Zip's. He DID escape through the wash hole". Looking at him then, I knew I was talking to Zip.
I quickly said, "If he really did, I think he deserved his freedom. I then went on to say that two of Zips' brothers went to school to me at Victory School, and that I knew his sister, Mollie, and that everyone liked her.
"Why shouldn't they?" was his reply. "She's not responsible for her brother's mistakes."
Soon after that, Zip's sister Mollie was married. Zip was there and told his brother, who in turn told one of our friends, about eating dinner at our house."
Other bits of that episode, along with tales of the Daltons and Doolins, always held the attention of all the youngsters who called Aunt Laura "The Family Storyteller".
By Stella Campbell Rockwell, Enid, Okla.
He was born Nelson Ellsworth Wyatt, the second son of an Indiana Civil War veteran, but to the settlers in the Cherokee Strip, the big man who rode among them was Dick Yeager, outlaw. He was never a big outlaw although he boasted of knowing the Daltons and some 20 murders were blamed on either him or members of his gang.
Yeager, or Wyatt, was born one of eight children of John T. Wyatt and the former Rachael Jane Quick. The elder Wyatt was a powerful man, standing over six feet tall. During the Civil War, he served in the 85th Indiana Volunteers.
The eldest Wyatt brother was known throughout the West as "Six Shooter Jack" and was an expert gambler. He was killed over a gambling table at Texline, Tex. in 1891.
The second son, Nelson, was born in 1868. Admittedly a little wild, he managed to stay out of trouble and married Annie Bailey in his father's home near Mulhall in Logan Co. in 1891. They lived together briefly and one child, a girl, was born.
Zip's first trouble came at a Fourth of July celebration in Edwards County, Kansas, at a plug horse race. A man named Balfour, a deputy, tried to arrest him for stealing a bridle and he resisted. Balfour shot Wyatt twice, once in the hand and once in the left side of the body, both flesh wounds.
Zip pulled a gun from his coat and shot Balfour dead. He mounted a horse and fled, shooting as he went. He made his way to Indianapolis, Ind. and stayed a while with an uncle. Still later, he went to visit an aunt in Cora, Ind. where he was arrested.
After long extradition proceedings, he was taken to the jail in Guthrie on a fighting case against him in Mulhall.
On Jan. 1, 1892, Zip escaped from the Guthrie jail in a mysterious manner. It was never clearly understood how he got out, but newspaper accounts of the jailbreak said he was assisted by the Salvation Army while others thought he might have bribed a guard to let him out. Another story, handed down through the family, was that the faithful Annie Bailey baked him a cake with a hacksaw blade in it.
After that, he was blamed for every crime that was committed in the territory. He was wanted in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and a reward of $5,000 was offered for his capture.
Bad as he might seem, he soon became a legend in the territories. Marquis James, who grew up in Enid after its settlement in 1893, described Yeager as any Cherokee Strip youngster's ideal of what an outlaw should be and do. To the boy, he was an almost mythological figure.
W.S. Prettyman, a photographer from Arkansas City, described Yeager as a good cowboy turned outlaw.
The pioneers in order to stop some of the lawlessness, organized the "Anti- Horse Thief Association" and assumed authority to take what action was necessary to stop it.
Late in July, 1895 Dick Yeager and another outlaw, Isaac Slack, took some horses in the community of Lacey, 10 miles west of Hennessey. The anti-horse thief association formed a posse and set out to track them down. Jack Ward, an ex-soldier who had fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War, headed up the posse.
The two outlaws rode up to the F.M. Bland homestead which was two and three quarters miles east and three miles south of the present town of Ames.
The men tied their horses near the doorway where they could see them and ate lunch. They paid Mrs. Bland $5 and left, heading west.
The outlaws were overtaken in a blackjack thicket on the North Canadian river near Cantonment in Blaine County 50 miles southwest of Enid.
They ordered the outlaws to throw up their hands, but the men came out shooting instead. Black was killed almost instantly by a shot through the head. Yeager was wounded in the chest, but managed. to escape on foot.
The wounded outlaw overtook a boy driving a pony cart and climbed in. He forced the boy to drive him in a northeasterly direction for almost 25 miles before the pony gave out. He stopped a traveler and took his horse to continue his flight.
He crossed the Rock Island tracks about five miles south of Enid and headed southeast. He was spotted and a telegraph message sent to Sheriff Elza Thralls at Enid, and a posse went out. Yeager's horse gave out 14 miles east of the tracks and the outlaw ran into Merrill's cornfield with the posse hot on his heels.
Not far from the cornfield, two boys from the Woodson school were practicing baseball for an upcoming game with the Skeleton Valley team the following Sunday.
As they practiced, a stranger came up, half limping and half crawling and ordered the boys to give him a horse. He told them he was Dick Yeager and they could see he was wounded in the side.
The younger of the boys John Pierce had no horse, but Joe Payne had ridden a pony to the practice field. Yeager mounted the pony and rode off down a draw, holding his side. His last words to the boys were "you kids get on home."
Yeager, meanwhile, had come to the claim of John Daily on Skeleton Creek. Daily had just fed his ponies and was coming up out of the creek bed when he saw a man approaching, Winchester in hand. His beard had grown out and he looked tired. There was a blood stain on his brown shirt.
Yeager then ordered Daily to get two ponies and ride with him. About a mile north, they spotted a good roan in Will Blakely's pasture. Yeager rode on to Bill Gilchrist's place where he went in and was fed some bread and buttermilk. Back on the horse, they returned to the pasture and stole Blakely's horse. They rode for awhile and Yeager took the bridle off Daily's horse and told him he could go on.
Daily galloped to the home of Billy Daniels, borrowed a saddle and rode south into Old Oklahoma to warn officers that Yeager was headed their way. He almost bumped into Yeager once, but managed to get away and went on to the home of Horton Miles, where an Anti-Horse Thief Association meeting was just breaking up.
The horse was too tired by daylight and Yeager let it go and headed on foot into a dense cornfield owned by Altin G. Ross in a bend of Skeleton Creek east of Hennessey.
Meanwhile, the posse from Enid had arrived. In the party were Garfield County Sheriff Elza Thralls and deputies New man, Powell, Brennan, Pratt, Woods and Polk. The officers took over and the group surrounded the cornfield. One Sheridan man, Tom Smith, and two deputies, Woods and Polk, were sent in to track Yeager through the cornfield. Once in the field, the men dismounted, but Woods stayed with the horses to keep Yeager from circling behind them and getting away.
Tom Smith and Ad Polk continued on a short way and came on Yeager lying in the sand asleep with his head on the saddle. They aimed their rifles and ordered the outlaw to throw up his hands. He did not do it immediately and both men fired, hitting Yeager in the abdomen.
Ad Polk's 40-70 Winchester single shot bear gun had a telling effect. He was carried from the cornfield and taken to Sheridan, a town that once thrived southwest of Marshall, where he was taken to the church.
At Sheridan, one of the strangest disputes in Oklahoma law enforcement arose. There was a reward for the outlaw, so the Sheridan men wanted him. He was in Kingfisher county, but the capture was made in Logan County, but all the officers at the church were from Garfield County.
The argument was heated and the outlaw lay wounded listening with interest. Finally it was agreed to take him first to Hennessey and then to Enid.
Jail At Last
In Hennessey, United States marshals wanted the outlaw, but the Garfield county officers wouldn't give him up. During the next month, the outlaw held court in the Enid jail. Sheriff Thralls was happy to admit visitors and Dick Yeager seemed pleased with the company.
The Enid Daily Wave of Aug. 10 reported that Drs. Champion, Woods and George were attending Yeager, but that there was no hope for him.
But Aug. 22 Yeager began to rally and asked for fruit. Up to then he had eaten nothing, drinking only a little milk. He offered to shoot the newspaper editor for suggesting he was dying. The editor, in the style of the day, suggested that the doctors would have killed a Christian man long before that.
On Sept. 7 the newspaper reported the outlaw had been "taken with a septic chill" the night before at about 6:30 p.m. and at 9 p.m. became unconscious. He lingered until 12:06 when he died in great agony.
The family was notified they could pick up the body, but they didn't. The stream of visitors continued to see the body and Sheriff Thralls admitted them all.
The Wave of Sept. 10 reported doctors had dissected the body and located the bullets. One had gone up the inner part of the femur and lodged over the pubic arch. Ad Polk's bear gun had broken the pelvis "in about 50 pieces" and ranged on up the backbone, lodging near the kidneys.
The funeral was the following Sunday morning.
The cemetery at that time was located on school land where the Kisner Addition is today southwest of the Highway Patrol Station. The late D.C. Bass built a pine coffin and James McMillen dug a lonely grave. The funeral procession consisted of McMillen, Bass, the driver of the spring wagon, and a little dog that belonged to John and Lillian Bass.
Many of the bodies from the old cemetery were moved to the Enid Cemetery when it was opened, but not that of Dick Yeager. His casket was left in an unmarked grave where it is today.
By Bill Edson, Enid Daily Eagle
Jan. 20, 1976
DROP THAT GUN
One of Enid's most respected historians was George Rainey. In his 1933 book ."The Cherokee Strip", Rainey related several stories about the Strip's well-known; outlaw, Yeager ...Wyatt. .
One story was when Yeager returned to Indiana when a big hunt was on for him. He was at the village of Cory, near Terre Haute. There was a reward offered for his capture, several thousand dollars. Sheriff James Bonsall, accompanied by Sheriff Powers and four policemen of Terre Haute, arrived at the small house on the outskirts of Cory.
As Rainey told it:
"Cautiously approaching the house before daylight, Sheriff Bonsall discovered Wyatt sitting at a small table near a door reading. Sergeant McCreary pushed open the north door and pointing a gun at Wyatt ordered "hands up". Wyatt snatched a revolver from his bosom but Peggy Smith had the muzzle of a double-barrel shotgun at his stomach and snapped. "Drop that gun or I'll blow ye's to smithers." The revolver dropped to the table and up went the fugitive's hands. The two sheriffs entered through another door and soon had the outlaw in irons."
The Indiana governor was faced with a difficult decision....both Oklahoma and Kansas had warrants out for Wyatt. He decided to surrender him to Oklahoma. On the way back the group with the outlaw stopped overnight in Topeka. The Kansas sheriff tried to persuade the Kansas governor to countermand the order of the Indiana governor. But he refused."
That wasn't the last time the Kansas sheriff saw the outlaw. When the wounded Wyatt was in the O Co. jail in Enid, Bonsall came from Kansas and as Rainey told it:
"Entering the small jail he looked at Yeager and asked, "Do you know me, Yeager?" Wyatt rolled his head toward his questioner, eyed him closely for a moment and slowly turned his head the other way without making a reply. Bonsall walked out and talked with the Garfield county sheriff. Before leaving he said to the sheriff, "I would like to know whether Yeager recognized me."Sheriff Thralls went in and asked, "Dick, did you know the man who was here a little while ago?" Yeager replied, "He's that s. of a b. of a sheriff from Kansas who brought me from Indiana."
So Dick. ..Zip. ..Wild Charlie. ..well known all over Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory and surrounding states, too, became one of Enid's 3Ds: Dick, David and Dolly, in those good old pioneer days. By Stella Campbell Rockwell, Enid
"HE WAS A BAD ONE. .. BUT. .."
IT was evening when he rode up through the rolling prairie and stopped outside the soddy that R. E. Spencer had built on his claim in the Cherokee Strip. A man on horseback, wearing a tall-crowned black hat pulled low over his eyes, and constantly looking "back down the trail" as he rode.
He dismounted, exchanged howdies, and stuck out his hand. All he wanted, he said, was a place to put up for the night. Pop Spencer told him the little soddy was pretty crowded, but he could sleep in the just-completed wooden chicken house. "No chickens in there yet," he told the rider, "and supper's just about ready."
The stranger ate like maybe he'd missed a meal or two, and when it got late he untied a blanket from behind the saddle. "The ground suits me fine," he said, and he rolled up right out there in the open, using the big black hat for a pillow. He pulled his saddle in close, and laid his rifle on one side of him and a holstered pistol on the other side.
Early the next morning Pop Spencer came out of the soddy to find the stranger saddling his horse. "No need to ride away before breakfast," he told the stranger. So he stayed for breakfast, and "ate like he was storing up." During the course of the meal he inquired if Pop had filed on his claim yet. "Been too busy getting it liveable," he told the man, "besides I've heard there are terrible long lines waiting for filing."
During the meal the man wore his six-shooter, and leaned his rifle just inside the door of the soddy. When he left, he thanked the "missus" for the good meals, put his rifle in the saddle scabbard, and tied his blanket behind the cantle. He scanned the countryside carefully; then mounted and rode off, waving as he left. Never once did he mention his name, or where he was from.
A few days later a boy rode up to the soddy and called for Pop Spencer. "Hey, he called out, "if you'll ride in today you can file! Some guy has been waitin' in line for three days holdin' you a place!"
Pop rode in with the youth, who pointed to the man who was holding his place in line. The man with the big black hat! Pop tied his horse up and went over to the man, who was squinting at him. ..with maybe just a thin smile on his face. Pop tried to stammer his thanks, but the stranger waved it all aside.
"Not too many folks has been nice to me," he said, "and you and your missus was. I imagine before long you'll be hearin' a lot of bad things about me but I want you to remember that Zip Wyatt done you a favor!"
With that, he left the line and walked off into the crowd. Pop got one more glimpse of him when he rode by again and waved to him.
In August of 1895 Zip Wyatt was captured; after Sheriff Elzie Thralls led a posse that caught up to him, badly wounded, from a gunfight, in a cornfield. He was intently watching some of the posse searching for him, and didn't notice deputy Ad Poak and Tom Smith come up behind him. When they covered him, and hollered for him to drop his guns, Zip rolled over and came up shooting. Both men shot him at the same time, but he lived.
He ended up in the Garfield Go. Jail in Enid, where crowds of curious people came to see him. He had quite a reputation as a killer and a gunfighter. Pop Spencer heard the stories that were going around about his capture, and went to Enid to see him. There was a crowd of people in the jail when Pop got there, and some of them had brought him food and beer. He was joking with them and everybody seemed to be having a good time.
Pop got close enough to say "Thanks again for the favor, Zip" and Zip just grinned, winked, and shook his head. Although he was badly shot up, it looked like he might pull through.
Sometime in September a friend rode up to Pop Spencer's soddy and told him he'd heard Zip Wyatt had died in jail in Enid. Pop reflected on that a minute, and replied, "I know he was a bad one - but Zip Wyatt done me a favor once"
[This story has been in the Spencer family since "93, and is shared with us by a grandson of R.E. Spencer.] By Dick Spencer III, Colorado Springs, Colo."
Dr. McKenzie was tending the wounded outlaw. The night before his death Dr. McKenzie noted that Yeager's fever was rising very fast. He told him that he was down to his last night on earth, and asked if there was anything he wanted to say. Yeager's reply was "Nobody to see, Doc. an' nothin' to say." He died at six minutes past midnight that night. "O" County took care of the burial of Yeager. Dan C. Bass made a pine coffin, while Yeager's body was lying on a bench in his shop. The grave (out in what is now Kisner Addition) was dug by James McMillen. A spring wagon and driver, with Mr. Bass and Yeager's body made their way to the grave. George Rainey said that a little dog followed the wagon, and that was Yeager's funeral procession. The grave was unmarked, so the burial place is still out there in what is now a very fine residential development ... perhaps near an elementary school playground! (Photo from the Garfield County History Books)
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