|The Three Gaurdsman - from Wikipedia
The Three Guardsmen is the name popularized in Old West
literature describing three lawmen who became legendary in their pursuit
of many outlaws of the late 19th century. Deputy U.S. Marshals Bill Tilghman
(1854–1924), Chris Madsen (1851–1944), and Heck Thomas (1850–1912) were
The Three Guardsmen, working under U.S. Marshal Evett "E.D." Nix.
Career and notoriety
Beginning in 1889, they began "cleaning up" part of what
became the State of Oklahoma. Widely considered honest, dutiful, and capable,
they were responsible for suppressing much of the outlaw element in the
Indian Territory and environs, reportedly arresting in excess of some 300
desperadoes during the next decade, and killing several others. All three
had the reputation of being dauntless in their pursuit, ignoring bad weather,
and each was known for their unique tracking abilities. Ironically the
nickname "Three Guardsmen" was given to them by outlaws they pursued. Heck
Thomas' relentless pursuit of the Dalton Gang was specifically mentioned
by gang member Emmett Dalton as one reason the Dalton Gang attempted to
rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas--to make one big score
so that they could leave the territory for a time. Resistance from the
lawmen and citizens of Coffeyville to this robbery ended the gang with
the deaths of most of its members.
They are most famous for their relentless pursuit of the
Wild Bunch, or Doolin Gang, which included surviving members of the Dalton
Gang. The three lawmen eliminated many of the Doolin Gang by systematically
killing gang members who resisted them and arresting those who would surrender.
Deputy Marshal Heck Thomas killed gang leader Bill Doolin. Deputy Marshal
Chris Madsen led the posse that killed Doolin gang members "Dynamite Dan"
Clifton and Richard "Little Dick" West. Deputy Marshal Tilghman was ultimately
responsible for the death of Doolin gang member William F. "Little Bill"
Raidler. Other gang members were also captured or killed by them.
Heck Thomas retired in 1905, and in 1907 accepted a Chief
of Police position in Lawton, Oklahoma. He died in 1912 of Bright's disease.
Bill Tilghman retired in 1910 and was elected to the Oklahoma
State Senate. On Halloween night, 1924, and at the age of 70, Tilghman
was murdered by a corrupt prohibition agent named Wiley Lynn, while serving
as town Marshal for Cromwell, Oklahoma. Cromwell at the time was a wild
town full of brothels, pool halls and saloons. One month after his death,
the entire town was burned to the ground--no building was left standing.
Chris Madsen and other former law enforcement friends of Tilghman were
believed to have been responsible, but no investigation into the arsons
was ever conducted. The town of Cromwell never recovered; as of the 2000
census, its population was less than 300.
Madsen had retired in 1905, and died in 1944 at the age
- (February 25, 1851 - January 9, 1944) was
a lawman of the Old West who is best known as being one of The Three Guardsmen,
the name given to Madsen and two other Deputy US Marshals who were responsible
for the apprehension and/or killing of several outlaws of that era.
Chris Madsen was born Chris Madsen Rørmose in Denmark.
Upon emigrating to the United States in 1876, he dropped the last name,
Rørmose. He later claimed to have been a soldier in the Danish Army
and the French Foreign Legion. Arriving in New York City, Madsen enlisted
in the U.S. Army on January 21, 1876, and served fifteen years in the Fifth
Cavalry. He was quartermaster sergeant of the Fifth Cavalry and fought
in many major Indian campaigns. Later, in 1883, he became President Chester
A. Arthur's guide to Yellowstone.
Discharged on January 10, 1891, Madsen became a deputy
U.S. marshal under Marshal William Grimes in Oklahoma Territory. He had
joined the US Marshals as a Deputy Marshal with the priority of policing
the vast Oklahoma Territory. Over 300 outlaws were either apprehended or
killed by Madsen, Thomas and Tilghman, thus leading to their nickname,
The Three Guardsmen.The three lawmen were largely responsible for bringing
down outlaw Bill Doolin and his Doolin Dalton gang. Madsen was personally
responsible for the killings of Doolin gang members Dan "Dynamite Dick"
Clifton, George "Red Buck" Waightman, and Richard "Little Dick" West.
In 1898, he joined Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders,
serving as Quartermaster Sergeant. After the Spanish-American War, Madsen
returned to Indian Territory and served as deputy U.S. marshal. In 1911
he was appointed U.S. Marshal for the entire state of Oklahoma. While in
his sixties he was appointed Chief of Police for Oklahoma City. From 1918
to 1922 he served as a special investigator for the governor of Oklahoma.
He eventually settled in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and at the outset of World
War I he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army but was rejected due to his age
Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas
|- (January 3, 1850 - August 14, 1912) was a lawman on
the American frontier, most notably in Oklahoma.
Thomas was born in 1850 in Oxford, Georgia, the youngest
of five children of Martha Ann Fullwood (née Bedell) and Lovick
Pierce Thomas, I.
At the beginning of the American Civil War, Thomas, at
the age of twelve, accompanied as a courier his uncle, Edward Lloyd Thomas,
and his father, who were officers in the 35th Georgia Infantry, to the
battlefields in Virginia.
On September 1, 1862, Union General Philip Kearny was
killed at the Battle of Chantilly, Young "Heck" was entrusted with the
general's horse and equipment and was ordered by Confederate General Robert
E. Lee to take them through the lines to General Kearny's widow. He recounted
this in a letter to his brother Lovick Pierce Thomas, II
|One evening while the fight was going on or, rather,
just before dark, a soldier came to the rear where Uncle Ed's baggage and
the darkies and I were, leading a black horse with saddle and bridle.
He brought also a sword. Just after this, Stonewall Jackson crossed over
into Maryland and captured the city of Frederick; that was after taking
Harper's Ferry (now West Virginia) and about 14,000 federal prisoners.
These prisoners were held by Uncle Ed's brigade, while the army was fighting
the Battle of Sharpsburg. We could see the smoke and hear they cannon from
Harper's Ferry. While we were at Harpers Ferry, General Lee sent an order
to uncle Ed for the horse and equipments. I carried them forward, and it
was one of the proudest minutes of my life when I found myself under the
observation of General Robert E. Lee. Then General Lee sent the horse and
everything through the lines , under a flag of truce, to General Kearney's
widow. I had ridden the horse and cared for him up to that time, and I
hated to part with him.
In 1863, Thomas contracted typhoid fever and returned
to his family in Athens. As a young man he clerked in the store in Atlanta
of his brother, Lovick Pierce Thomas, II, and then worked as an Atlanta
policeman. In 1871, he married Isabel Gray.
He and his family migrated to Texas in 1875 and with the
help of his cousin, Jim Thomas, obtained a job with the railroad as a guard.
Thomas became a railroad detective and later went to work for the Fort
Worth Detective Association. He was appointed U.S. Deputy Marshal out of
Fort Smith, Arkansas, working under U.S. District Judge Isaac C. Parker.
By 1889 Thomas teamed with two other deputy U.S. marshals,
Chris Madsen and Bill Tilghman. They became known as the Three Guardsmen
and were credited with bringing law and order to the Indian Territory,
in the state that would become Oklahoma in 1907.
The Three Guardsmen were credited with the apprehension
of more than three hundred outlaws over the next decade, killing several.
They were credited with the ultimate demise of the Wild Bunch or Doolin
Gang. Thomas was specifically mentioned by Emmett Dalton, years after his
release from prison, as one of the main reasons the Dalton Gang chose to
commit two simultaneous bank robberies in Coffeyville in southeastern Kansas,
stating that Thomas was relentless in his pursuit, and the gang decided
to make one big score, and leave the territory for a time. Instead, the
gang was wiped out in the Coffeyville robberies, with Emmett Dalton being
the only survivor.
In August, 1896, Thomas lead a posse that tracked down
and killed outlaw Bill Doolin, who had previously been captured by Tilghman,
only to escape from prison on July 5, 1896.
By 1902, much of Oklahoma had been settled. Thomas was
sent to Lawton, where he was elected as the first police chief in the town.
He served in that position for seven years until his health began to fail.
Showing his lighter side, Heck assembled a posse, chased
and captured bank robbers in the 1908 film The Bank Robbery. The outlaws
were led by Al Jennings, while the one-reel movie was directed by Bill
Tilghman, James Bennie Kent was the cinema-photographer, and it was produced
by the Oklahoma Natural Mutoscene Company. The film was shot in Cache,
Oklahoma, and at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, with Quanah Parker
having a bit part. A bystander thought that the bank was really being robbed
and jumped out a window to run for the police.
Thomas died in Lawton, Oklahoma on August 14, 1912 of
- (July 4, 1854–November 1, 1924) was a lawman
and gunfighter in the American Old West.
saved to open a saloon in 1875. Tilghman was a teetotaler
but, like so many of the famous figures of the Old West, such as Bob Ford,
the assassin of Jesse James, he saw owning a saloon as a financial opportunity.
He left Dodge City to pursue other opportunities three years later. However,
he returned briefly and he was present with Wyatt Earp, Luke Short, Bat
Masterson, and others during the Dodge City War, and was pictured in one
of a series of three photographs taken of those considered to be the "Dodge
City Peace Commission", although only one of the photos was widely publicized.
In the most famous and well circulated photo taken that day, little known
businessman and small time gunman W. F. Petillon is pictured with the group,
whereas in another photo Petillon is absent and Tilghman is instead pictured
with the group.
William Matthew Tilghman, Jr. was born in Fort Dodge,
Iowa, on 4 July 1854. He became a buffalo hunter at the age of fifteen
and claimed that he killed more than one thousand bison over his five years
of activity. During this time he may have become acquainted with Wild Bill
Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Mysterious Dave Mather, who hunted
buffalo. Tilghman's older brother, Richard, hunted with him, and at one
point during the mid-1870s when the hunting team was attacked by a war
party of American Indians, his brother was killed.
Following his hunting career, Tilghman moved to Dodge
City, Kansas, where he used the money he had
In September 1878, he served as a scout for the U.S. Cavalry
during a surge of Cheyenne raids on settlements, working alongside the
likes of gunman John Joshua Webb. Later that same year, he was approached
by Bat Masterson to serve as a deputy sheriff, and he accepted. He served
in that capacity until 1884 and earned an excellent reputation, working
at various law enforcement jobs for the rest of his life, earning the respect
of Masterson, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and Virgil Earp. By 1889, Tilghman
moved to Guthrie in Logan County in the new Oklahoma Territory during the
land rush. Town Marshal Bill Grimes approached him to serve as deputy marshal,
and he accepted.
this single handed capture of Bill Doolin in Eureka
Springs, Arkansas, brought him increased fame as a lawman, for which he
became best known. That same year he shot and wounded Doolin gang member
"Little Bill" Raidler. Raidler was sentenced to prison and was released
some years later because he suffered constantly from his gunshot wounds.
Raidler died in 1904 as a result of those wounds.
||In January 1889, Tilghman participated in the Battle
of Cimarron, a famous gunfight during the Gray County War that also involved
James Masterson, and Ben Daniels. Tilghman was wounded in the leg, but
managed to shoot his way out of town with a wagon and a few of his men.
Four others, including Masterson, were held up in the Old Gray County Courthouse
and left to shoot it out with a small army of Cimarron men.
The territory had formerly been part of the Indian Territory
and was still one of the most lawless places in the West. As a deputy US
Marshal, Tilghman was one of the three men most responsible for finally
bringing law and order to the area. The others were Heck Thomas and Chris
Madsen. The trio were collectively known as the Three Guardsmen and were
responsible for the arrest and/or killings of many of the worst criminal
elements of the era, numbering by some estimates as high as three hundred
arrests, including the systematic elimination of the notorious Wild Bunch.
On January 15, 1895,
Tilghman is credited with the capture in mid-August 1895
of the teenaged female bandit Little Britches, or Jennie Stevens, who had
quickly escaped from a restaurant in Pawnee in northern Oklahoma, after
having been taken there for a meal by Sheriff Frank Lake. Tilghman and
another marshal, Steve Burke, tracked down Little Britches and her partner
in crime Cattle Annie. While Burke apprehended Cattle Annie fairly easily,
Tilghman had a difficult task in subduing Little Britches. She fired unsuccessfully
with a Winchester rifle at Tilghman, who then opened fire on her horse.
As the animal dropped to the ground, Little Britches was taken into custody
and jailed but only after she had tried to discharge a pistol and then
to attack Tilghman physically. The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and
Culture, however, maintains that Tilghman had nothing to do with the apprehension
of Little Britches and that neither bandit had any verifiable direct connection
to the Doolin gang.
Retirement, return to law enforcement
Tilghman retired as a U.S. marshal in 1910 and was
elected to the Oklahoma State Senate. A Democrat, Tilghman had been a delegate
to his party's 1904 convention, which met in St. Louis, Missouri, to nominate
New York Judge Alton B. Parker, a former law partner of U.S. President
Grover Cleveland, to run against the successful Republican incumbent, Theodore
In 1911, Tilghman accepted the position of police chief
of Oklahoma City.
In 1924, at the age of seventy, Tilghman accepted a position
as marshal of Cromwell in Seminole County, Oklahoma, though he had been
warned that because of his advanced age he might be shot to death on the
job. During this time, Tilghman lived in nearby Chandler, where he is interred
at Oak Park Cemetery.
Tilghman was on the job as the marshal in Cromwell for
less than a year before he was killed in the line of duty, as he had been
warned might happen. He died on 1 November 1924, having been shot by Wiley
Lynn, a corrupt Prohibition Agent. Lynn and Tilghman had had numerous verbal
confrontations because Lynn repeatedly released prisoners who were arrested
by Tilghman. The incident began on Halloween night, when Tilghman, Deputy
Marshal Hugh Sawyer, and businessman W. E. Sirmans were having coffee at
a cafe called Ma Murphy's.
Shots were heard outside, and Tilghman drew his handgun
and went outside. In the street stood a drunken Wiley Lynn, with a gun
in his hand. Brothel madam Rose Lutke was standing beside him. Another
prostitute, Eva Caton, was sitting inside Lynn's car with a date, a furloughed
United States Army sergeant. Tilghman clasped Lynn's gun hand and called
for Deputy Sawyer to come assist. As Sawyer ran outside, Tilghman, Lynn
and Rose Lutke stood body to body in the darkness. Two shots rang out,
and Lutke screamed. As Deputy Sawyer rushed forward, Tilghman slumped forward
and fell. Deputy Sawyer, inexperienced, did not fire but rather disarmed
Lynn and yelled "Wiley Lynn has shot the marshal". Lynn then fled with
Rose Lutke to the car and sped away.
Wiley Lynn was acquitted after several of the witnesses
to the shooting, allegedly intimidated, failed to appear, and Deputy Sawyer,
whether he was coerced or merely incompetent, testified that he could not
see clearly as to what actually happened. Rose Lutke disappeared, and was
never heard from again. Despite his acquittal, Lynn was dismissed from
the Prohibition Unit. Years later, in a shootout with another police officer,
Agent Crockett Long of the Oklahoma State Crime Bureau, Lynn was killed,
but not before fatally wounding Long and an innocent bystander.
The local Knights of the Ku Klux Klan demanded justice
and printed fliers and warnings to criminal elements to leave town or suffer
the consequences. One month after Tilghman's murder, the
town of Cromwell was torched, with every brothel, bar, flophouse and pool
hall burned to the ground, and no arrests were ever made. Cromwell never
recovered its former "wild" status after that, and as of the 2000 census,
its population was fewer than three hundred residents.
A city park in Chandler is named in Tilghman's honor.
Tilghman's widow, Zoe Agnes Stratton Tilghman, penned
a book about her husband, Marshal of the Last Frontier.
In 1960, Tilghman was inducted into the Hall of Great
Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma
In 1915, Tilghman co-wrote, directed, and starred in the
movie, The Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws, which dramatized the law enforcement
activities of Tilghman and the other "Guardsmen." The film is noted as
an early attempt to de-glamorize the image of the criminal element.
In 1960, Brad Johnson, a star with Gail Davis of the Annie
Oakley television series, played Tilghman in the episode "The Wedding Dress"
of the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days.
Tilghman was played by Rod Steiger in the 1981 film Cattle
Annie and Little Britches.
The 1999 made-for-television movie You Know My Name dramatized
Tilghman's life and final days. It is was based on Matt Braun's novel One
Last Town, which fictionalized Tilghman's activities in Cromwell. Veteran
actor Sam Elliott produced the film and starred as Tilghman.