|ii.||MILLARD O. STILWELL.|
|iii.||SIMPSON EVERETT STILWELL, b. August 18, 1850, Iowa City, Iowa; d. 1903, Buffalo Bill's ranch outside Cody, Wyoming; m. ESTHER HANNAH WHITE, 1895, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.|
Notes for SIMPSON EVERETT STILWELL:|
Walla Owen, a.k.a. "Big Granny" in our family, often told us that we didn't want to know our family history because it was filled with outlaws and black sheep. He did tell us that he had an uncle Jack who was an Indian Scout and another named Frank who was killed by Wyatt Earp in Tucson, Az. Of course, we were fascinated by this little tidbit, but he wouldn't tell us any more than that. My interest was rekindled when I saw the movie "Tombstone" and Frank Stillwell was actually a character with whom I could identify.
Recently I decided to do some digging myself and found almost everything that I could want to know right here in the library here in Guthrie, Ok. I realized that Big Granny wasn't kidding us and that these men played roles in the Old West, even if the roles were not always positive.
In reading through THE OKLAHOMA LAND RUSH OF 1889, by Stan Hoig, I found a mention of Jack Stillwell as being an "old frontiersman" who had been at the Beecher's Island fight in Colorado. Further searching netted a story in the COLORADO HISTORICAL TOUR GUIDE of the battle, and even though there is no mention of Jack, I will quote from their version here.
In 1868 Col. George A. Forsyth was leading a group of scouts in a search for renegade Indians led by Chief Roman Nose. "In early September, Forsyth and his men reached a point on the Arikaree River when they were attacked by Roman Nose and his Northern Cheyenne, Ogallalah and Brule Sioux Dog Soldiers. As the Indians appeared, Forsyth and his men took refuge on a small island in the river and took their positions for the fight that followed. The battle was fought Sept. 17-19 but the Indians held Forsyth and his men on the island for over a week. Lt. Fred Beecher and five other scouts were killed and half the defenders wounded. The beleaguered scouts subsisted on horse and mule meat and wild plums they found on the little island"
"The first night of the battle two pairs of scouts were able to escape and go for help. The nearest Army post was Fort Wallace in Northwest Kansas, 110 miles away. Forsyth and his men were rescued by the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) the ninth day of the battle."
This seemed to be a pretty good account of the fight, but I wanted to find Jack;s name mentioned and found it in Cyrus Townsend Brady's book INDIAN FIGHTS AND FIGHTERS. Not only was his name mentioned, but it was glorified beyond anything I had expected. Mr. Brady's account is longer, more detailed and decidedly more romantic, but the basic facts agree with the Colorado story.
In his account, Mr. Brady states that Jack Stillwell was picked along with an older hunter named Trudeau to "carry the news of their predicament to Fort Wallace". He says that Jack was only 19 but that "he already gave promise of the fame as a scout which he afterwards acquired".
In their escape, they were very cautious, taking off their boots and walking backward in the riverbed, crawling on their hands and knees, hiding in buffalo wallows during the day and narrowly missing bands of Indians. He gives only praise for young Jack by saying that on the fourth morning Trudeau "all but broke down. The brunt of the whole adventure thereupon fell on Stillwell. He encouraged his older companion, helped him along as best he could, and finally, late a night, they reached Fort Wallace and told their tale."
Help was dispatched to the island and Stilwell returned with the forces of Col. Bankhead. Trudeau was not able to and died a short time later of the "hardships and excitement of the horrible days he had passed through". Brady quotes Sigmund Schlessinger, a young Jewish boy, when he describes the rescue. "Not long after a few horsemen were seen coming around the bend of the river bed, among them was my friend Jack Stilwell. Nearly all of us ran to meet the party. Soon Jack jumped from his horse, and in his joy to see so many of us alive again, he permitted his tears free flow down his good honest cheeks. I kept up correspondence with him all these years past. Last year he died. He was a big-hearted, jovial fellow, brave to a fault." In his footnote, Brady states that "Stilwell studied law, and ultimately became a judge in Texas. He was a friend of Generals Miles and Custer--also of "Wild Bill" Hickock, and "Texas Jack" Omohundro, and other famous figures on the frontier: and when he died, a couple of years ago, he was the subject of glowing tributes from high and low alike."
An account called "Arikaree" in a magazine called FRONTIER TIMES, summer 1962, features a photograph of Jack and details the campaign of Col. Forsyth which ended with the battle of Beecher's Island. "Faced with demands for protection from the settlers of Western Kansas and eastern Colorado, Sheridan got the idea of using a body of picked men, composed of entirely of battle-wise scouts-the best who could be found on the frontier- to destroy these Indians. Colonel George A. "Sandy" Forsyth, Sheridan's aide, was picked to lead these adventurers."
After trailing the Indians for some days, "Forsyth decided to stop and allow the horses to graze. Two of the scouts, Tom Murphy and Jack Stilwell, the latter only eighteen years old, urged the colonel to bivouac just opposite an island in the river. The Arikaree River, normally seventy feet wide and perhaps a foot deep, had shrunk during the dry summer until only a thin trickle of water oozed down the channels on either side of the island. Murphy and Stilwell argued that in the event the Indians attacked, the island would have strategic value. Forsyth accepted the advice. Later they were told that the Indians had set an ambush half-a-mile further. Had they ridden into it they undoubtedly would have been wiped out."
When they were attacked in the night by a small band of Indians, "at Stilwell's suggestion, Forsyth ordered his men to saddle their horses and move to the island."
Wave after wave of attacks were made upon the beseiged scouts who had dug in as best they could. At one point"Jack Stilwell called out, waving at Roman Nose, "We'll have to kill that fellow, or he'll ride us down!" Suddenly Roman Nose reeled on his pony. Dropping his rifle, he clutched his horse's mane to keep himself from falling. He was fatally wounded, killed by Louis Farley, mortally wounded himself. Later, Young Jack Stilwell, who had a reputation for being reckless and foolhardy, volunteered (to go for help). "If I can get someone to go with me, I'll take the risk." Immediately Pierre Trudeau stepped forward to accept the challenge. Forsyth wrote a brief message and gave it and a map, showing the men's position, to Stilwell to give to the commander of Fort Wallace."
To make sure that someone made it through to help, two more scouts, C.B. Whitney and A.J. Pliley, were sent out the next night. The ARICKAREE account states that Stilwell and Trudeau met two soldiers from H Troop, Tenth U.S. Cavalry, an all-Negro unit commanded by Col. Louis H. Carpenter, that at the time was camped at Lake Station on the Smokey hill Trail only seventy miles south of the Arickaree. These soldiers took the two scouts back to the fort, where they sent the news of the seige to Col. Bankhead at Fort Wallace. General Sheridan at Fort Hays ordered them to go to the aid of Col. Forsyth and his men, and Col. Bankhead left about midnight of the same day. "Stilwell and Trudeau, unfortunately, had not been able to tell Carpenter's troopers the exact location of the island. They had referred to the Arickaree as the "Dry Fork"-a name by which it was commonly known, but one which made no sense to Carpenter. Thus the colonel did not know quite where to look. He had a map, but it was vague and unreliable and none of his men were acquainted with the area."
Two days later, they were "hailed by five men who came riding toward them out of the prairie. Their leader was Jack Donovan. Donovan and Pliley had reached Wallace to find the fort manned only by Lieutenant Hugh M. Johnson and seven enlisted men... Donovan led Carpenter and thirty men of H Troop (the others followed more slowly with the wagons) to the Arickaree. The next day Bankhead's party, consisting of about 200 men, and two troops of the Second Cavalry under Colonel Brisbin joined Carpenter. One of the scouts said later that the sweetest sound he ever heard was being awakened that night by a sentry's cry, "Post number one, one o'clock and all is well!"
The article also features a picture of the monument at Beecher's Island. The inscription reads "The first night Stilwell and Trudeau, crawling out on hands and knees, started for relief, and hiding days and traveling nights reached Fort Wallace. The third night, Donovan and Pliley started. Arriving at Fort Donovan with four others immediately started back and coming upon Col. Carpenter's command, on the S. Fork of the Republican, guided them in a twenty mile dash, reaching the island at 10 am the ninth day, 26 hours in advance of Col. Bankhead with scouts Stilwell and Trudeau. The return to Fort Wallace was begun Sept. 27th the wounded being carried in government wagons."
Our Jack a.k.a. Comanche Jack, was actually born Simpson E. Stilwell. Information that I gained from my second cousin, Clint Chambers, who has been researching Jack for many years, has shed a lot of light on his life. Clint states in his article entitled "USING THE TESTIMONY OF S.E. STILWELL IN THE UNITED STATES VS. THE STATE OF TEXAS TO SCOUT THE LIFE OF "JACK STILWELL", that "A story told to me by my grandfather, Daniel Clinton Cooley, about his uncle, Jack Stilwell, has haunted me since childhood. As a boy, Jack Stilwell was sent to the well for water. When he failed to return home, family members sent to look for him found only empty buckets by the well...In 1862, Jack's father purchased land just North of Palmyra (Baldwin City), Kansas. Palmyra had a well which was famous as a watering place for the Santa Fe caravans. This may have been the well where Jack left the empty water buckets and started his life on the Santa Fe Trail in 1863." His research turned up the fact that his father and mother divorced in 1863, and this event, and perhaps dislike of his new step-mother, probably precipitated his decision to leave home at such an early age.
Jack's testimony in the case which was to decide whether Greer County should belong to the State of Texas, or whether it should be part of the Oklahoma Territory, showed a lot about his life after leaving home. He states that "In 1863, I went out to New Mexico from Kansas City over the Arkansas route to a point above Fort Dodge, there crossed and took what was known as the Cimarron Route which went in past wagon mounds into Las Vegas, Las Vegas being the first town we struck. I made several trips from new Mexico to Kansas City and Leavenworth in 1864, 1865, 1866, wintering in New Mexico. In the wintertime we used to come down on buffalo hunts, down the Canadian River and in on the head of Wolf River and through that country, over the Beaver north of there, so I became pretty familiar with that country. In 1867 I was first employed as a guide for troops at Ft. Dodge, Kansas and in 1868, i came south with General Custer's expedition to what is now Ft. Sill. From 1871 until 1876, I was employed at Fort Sill as post guide. Between 1868 and 1876 I was employed almost continually between the Red River and I might change that a little and say between the Brazos River and the Canadian River, embracing the Red River Country, in the cpacity of scout and guide and in that way became familiar with that country. I have lived (since 1976) in the territory almost all the time; made one or two trips to Mexico. About the Comanche country and at the opening up of the Oklahoma territory here, I... about 1887, I was transferred from Anadarko in the Marshal's service up here to Darlington, but then I was down there as much as up here; between Anadarko, Darlington and Ft. Sill you might say has been my headquarters.
From 1877...until 1879 I was not in the Comanche Territory. I made a trip from Anadarko through to Prescott, Arizona up the Washita, over on the Canadian up the Canadian to Ft. Bascom and from there on west. I was employed as a scout in West Texas at Ft. Davis and Ft. Stocton and (was) there during the Apache war." Clint states that his younger brother, Frank, was probably with Jack on this trip because "both men showed up in Prescott, Arizona in 1877. Jack Stilwell had left Arizona and moved on to Fort Davis, Texas in 1878 to work as a chief packer and then scout at both Fort Davis and Fort Stocton. If Frank had returned to Ft. Davis with his brother, Jack, he might have avoided such bad company and averted an untimely death."
Clint's research also turned up that Jack worked at the Ward Bugby Cattle Co. as foreman for three years starting in 1883. He was then, in 1885, elected Marshal at Anadarko, serving there for two years. In the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WESTERN LAWMEN AND OUTLAWS, the author, Jay Robert Nash, says that he was "a gunman and lawman, scouted for the army in Texas, served as a deputy U.S. Marshal in the Indian Nations and brought in several outlaws." This was also stated in THE OKLAHOMA LAND RUSH OF 1889 by Stan Hoig. "He was appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal and remained at Fort Reno and Darlington (OK). On Page 181 it states that he was appointed "City marshal of Reno City, May 6, 1889 when the town was organized." Reno City failed because the Rock Island Railroad changed the course of its line and went to El Reno instead (the Oklahoma Daily Capital, May 12, 1889)
In 1892 he became Police Judge in El Reno, Oklahoma. Clint states that "Judge Stilwell's legal education is open to question as stated in the December 15, 1893 of THE NORMAN TRANSCRIPT: "'Comanche' Jack Stilwell, the Old Indian Scout of the 60's is the City Judge of El Reno. He says he accepted the office because he didn't know any law and could therefore make an impartial judge". I think that it is interesting that Jack makes no mention of the Beecher's Island fight, but it had little relevence to the trial, and he might have been a little embarassed by the attention. Diron Alquist, who I met via the computer due to our interest in Jack, showed me the research that he had done for an article of his own. He had had access to the records and letters kept at the Ft. Sill Museum and they show when Stilwell was assigned for different trips, their purposes and the outcomes. He found that in "the summer of 1872, Stilwell made a trip from Fort Sill to Fort Dodge, Kansas with General Philip Sheridan (Shirley, 33)." Also in 1872, Stilwell was sent by Major George W. Schofield, commanding Fort Sill, to intercept troops who were escorting Kiowa chiefs Santana and Big Tree to Fort Sill to serve life sentences. As the fort was not able to handle them, they were taken to Atoka in Southeastern Indian Territory Nye, 158-159). Jack was under command of Lieutenant Colonel John Davidson, during the Comanche outbreak in September, 1874 (Nye, 212). He also states that in March, 1882, after hearing that his younger brother, Frank, had been killed at Tucson, Arizona by Wyatt Earp and several others, Jack went west in hopes of avenging his brother's death. However, he soon returned unsuccessful (Thrapp, 1371).In1895 Jack was appointed U.S. Commissioner at Anadarko, and Clint discovered that at that time he went back east to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. There he married Esther Hannah White, a young woman in her 20's, and brought her to Anadarko. In 1898, he was invited to William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody's ranch near Cody, Wyoming and it was there that he died in 1903.
The fascinating feature to me about researching Jack's life has been that stories told two brothers, Walla Owen and Daniel Clinton Cooley, inspired a great deal of interest in me and Clint Chambers, who has far surpassed me in his efforts and results, and to whom I will be eternally grateful. He has made it possible for me to have a GREAT story to tell my grandchildren, and perhaps it will help them to have an interest in the history of the family as it is entwined in the history of this country.
More About SIMPSON EVERETT STILWELL:
Fact 1: August 18, 1850, Born in Iowa City, Iowa.
Fact 2: 1863, Went out to New Mexico from Kansas City
Fact 3: 1867, First employed as a guide for troops at Ft. Dodge, Kansas.
Fact 4: 1868, With Gen. Forsyth's band of scouts-Battle of Beecher's Island.
Fact 5: 1871, Employed at Fort Sill as post guide
Fact 6: 1877, Made trip from Anadarko through to Prescott, Arizona.
Fact 7: 1878, Worked as a chief packer and then scout at Ft. Davis and Ft. Stockton.
Fact 8: 1883, Foreman at Ward Bugby Cattle Co. for three years.
Fact 9: 1885, Marshal at Anadarko for two years.
Fact 10: 1892, Became Police Judge of El Reno.
Fact 11: 1895, Appointed U.S. Commissioner at Anadarko.
Fact 12: 1895, Went east to Pittsburg and married Esther Hannah White.
Fact 13: 1903, Died at Buffalo Bill Cody's ranch in Cody, Wyoming.
Cause of Death: Bright's Disease
|iv.||FRANK STILWELL, b. 1855.|
Notes for FRANK STILWELL:|
Now to the life of Big Granny's other uncle, Frank, who had almost seemed a victim in the story I heard, because I pictured Wyatt shooting him as he stepped off that train in Tucson.
That is not the story I found in my research, but again the story was readily available in many books on outlaws and lawmen of the Old West. James D. Horan has written three volumes on these people and the chapters in The Lawmen-Accounts by Eyewitnesses and the Lawmen tell the story of the Earp brothers in Arizona and all the characters associated with them seem to come to life.
It seems that old Frank was one of the Clanton Clan that was the "cowboy element" terrorizing the area around Tombstone in the fall of 1880. The clan was " a large ranching family of hard- drinking riders led by "Old Man Clanton", as he was known. With him were his sons Peter, Joseph Isaac (Ike), Phineas (Phin), and Billy, a teenager. Associated with them were the McLaury brothers, Tom and Frank, Bill Broscius or "Curly Bill" and Johnny Ringgold. better known as Johnny Ringo."
Frank (Stilwell), who maintained a livery stable at Charleston and Bisbee, had an unsavory reputation when he arrived in Tombstone. A few years before he had shot and killed a Mexican cook who had served him tea instead of coffee. He had also been questioned in the brutal murder of an elderly miner." (Weekly Arizona Miner, Oct. 19, 1887; Nugget, March 18 1880)
When John Behan was appointed county sheriff he picked Frank to be one of his deputies. Not long after that he was implicated in a hold-up of the Bisbee stage. Frank was arrested, but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence, even though it seems that Deputies Breakenridge and Neagle did a pretty good job of investigating the crime. "In his book, Helldorado, Breakenridge tells how he and Neagle interviewed the passengers who told them one of the toad agents had used the phrase, "Have we got all the sugar?" Both men were startled. They knew this was the favorite phrase of Deputy Sheriff Frank Stilwell.
"When they returned to the scene of the robbery they found boot marks and followed the trail of the horses into Bisbee. There they discovered that Stilwell had had a shoemaker replace the high heels of his boots with low heels, which fitted the tracks at the scene of the hold-up.
"Stilwell and Pete Spence, Stilwell's partner in a livery stable, were arrested in a Bisbee saloon by Breakenridge and Neagle." Wells Fargo agent Marshall Williams, Wells Fargo detective Fred Dodge, Wyatt and Morgan Earp had also been investigating the crime and "arrived to be greeted by the two triumphant deputies who told them they were taking their prisoners to Tombstone.
The embarassed Earps persuaded Williams to swear out a federal warrant, and both groups of lawmen, one on either side of Stilwell and Spence, rode back into Tombstone.
Even though the charges were dropped, Wyatt soon made it known that the "cowboys were ready to gun him down" because he had brought in Stilwell and Spence, friends of the Clantons.
"In March, Morgan Earp was shot and killed while he was playing billiards with Wyatt in Campbell and Hatch's saloon on Allen Street. At the coroner's inquest, Marietta Spence, Indian wife of Pete Spence, identified her hisband, Frank Stilwell, Florentino Cruz, Indian Charlie, and a German named Freis as Morgan's killers. The inquest's findings identified Earp's killers as these men.
"The findings of the inquest were solely based on the testimony of the Indian woman, who many times had been beaten by her husband. Later it was determined that Frank Stilwell could not have been one of the killers crouching in the darkness: he was in Tucson at the time. The Earp murder had taken place at eleven o'clock at night. It was seventy-five miles between Tucson and Tombstone and Stilwell had been seen in Tucson early in the morning following the shooting". (the Epitaph, March 23-24, 1882: The Earp Brothers of Tombstone: the story of Mrs. Virgil Earp by Frank Waters, pp. 192-6)
"But Wyatt never considered the weak and circumstantial evidence presented before the inquest, his brother's killers had been officially named and he was determined to be their executioner.
"A few days later Wyatt and his younger brother Warren, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMasters and "Turker Creek" Jack Johnson, two gunmen who had been part of Earp's Charleston posse, accompanied the still very weak Virgil Earp and his wife to Tucson." Virgil was recuperating from an earlier gunshot wound to the arm, and he and his wife were going to the home of his parents in Colton, Ca. by train to complete his recuperation.
"They arrived at dusk. By a strange coincidence Frank Stilwell and Ike Clanton were in Tucson waitint to testify before a grand jury about the Bisbee Stagecoach robbery. There are various explanations as to why Clanton and Stilwell were at the Tucson train depot when the Earps appeared; one report had them waiting to meet a man named McDowell, another grand jury witness. There is also a strong possibility they were both lured to the spot. Perhaps another arrangement made by the Earp's powerful friends in Tombstone?"
"As always when he smelled gunpowder, Ike ran and vanished into the darkness. Stilwell hurried down the tracks, fleeing from the Earps." Shots rang out and Stilwell "died without drawing his six shooter. A special dispatch to the Epitaph, datelined March 21, described Stilwell's "riddled corpse"..."Six shots went into his body- four rifle balls and two loads of buckshot. Both legs were shot through and a charge through his breast, which must have been delivered close, as the coat was powder-burned and six buckshot holes within a radius of three inches.
"Stilwell had a pistol on his person which was not discharged. He evidently was taken unaware as he was desperate in a fight and a quick shot.
"Witnesses testified at the coroner's inquest that four men had chased then shot Stilwell. The Earps and Holliday were identified. Ike Clanton took the stand to testify that he saw Wyatt and Warren Earp, Holliday, McMasters and Johnson follow Stilwell as he ran down the tracks.
"Pima County murder warrants were issued for the accused killers but they could not be found in Tucson. After saying goodbye to Virgil and his wife, the five had flagged down a train beyond Tucson's limits and got off at Contention. There they hired horses and rode to Tombstone."
Before leaving Arizona, the Earps tracked down and killed Florentino Cruz and Curly Bill. They were never tried for the killing of Stilwell, or for that matter, those of Cruz and Curly Bill, and remained fugitives from Arizona justice as they took up new lives in Colorado.
Later in his life, Wyatt wrote accounts of his life and said of the death of Stilwell: "But even at the depot I was forced to fight Ike Clanton and four or five of his friends who had followed us to do murder. One of them named Frank Stilwell, who was believed to be Morgan's murderer, was killed by my gun going off when he grasped it."
|v.||ELIZABETH STILWELL, b. October 28, 1864, Kansas; d. 1936, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; m. (1) JOSEPH E. COOLEY, 1880, Seymour, Jackson Co., Indiana; m. (2) JOHN J. MESCHER, Abt. 1925.|
Notes for ELIZABETH STILWELL:|
She and John lived at 4021 S.W. 4th St, Oklahoma City, Ok (Capitol Hill Area). She died of a coronary Thrombosis and is buried in Kolb Cemetary, Spencer Ok. Obituary says WC from OkCity, DC from Chickasha, Tenal from Tulsa, and Walla from Dotsonville, Texas were in attendance, and Walla paid $25 toward burial.
Notes for JOSEPH E. COOLEY:
In 1880 census listed as living in Seymour, Jackson Co., Indiana with Elizabeth and her mother Charlotte. Lived in Caldwell, Kansas in 1884. Made run into Oklahoma and had a claim to land where the University of Oklahoma now stands, but abandoned it, and went into the Chickasaw Nation. They lived in Dibble, Oklahoma.
The 1910 Census of Oklahoma lists the family of Joseph Cooley who was born on Nov. 21, 1856 in Indiana. It lists his father as being born in ? (unreadable) Carolina and his mother as North Carolina. His wife was listed as Elizabeth Stilwell age 46 , born in Kansas In the CensusElizabeth lists her father as being from Alabama and her mother as from Illinois.
He brought his family to the Purcell, Ok. Territory area to participate in the Land Run of 1889. Family stories indicate that their second son, Walla Owen, was born in a half-dugout there in 1888. By the time of the Census Joseph was listed as owning his home in Purcell and that he was a retired farmer at the time. Their children were listed as: W. O., son aged 21, an electrical engineer for the telephone company, J.E., a son aged 19, an electrician for the telephone company, L. D., a son aged 16, J. M. a son aged 14, Tenal, a son aged 12, W. C., a son aged 24 whose occupation was furniture and undertaking, Arecia, a daughter-in-law aged 20, and Wallace, a grandson one year old. All the sons were listed as having been born in Oklahoma, but Arecia was listed as Kansas.
This listing differs from the family list of Clint, Cliff, Walla Owen, Everett, Giles, Dale and Tenal. In the 1920 Census W.C. is listed as the head of household, with a daughter Elizabeth, 24, and a mother Elizabeth aged 56. It was curious that Arecia and the child Wallace were not shown and where did the daughter Elizabeth come from?
More About JOSEPH E. COOLEY:
Fact 1: November 06, 1854, Waynonville, Indiana (according to WFT #4)
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