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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Stone Gardens: The life and legacy of native American Cherokee County Deputy "Osie" Gourd

The Curtis Act of 1898 provided that a new roll would be taken of native American families of the Cherokee tribe and supersede all previous rolls that had been taken to that point.

More than 250,000 people applied for membership, and the Dawes Commission enrolled just over 100,000 individuals to the Commission rolls at that time.

Among them was a Cherokee County couple by the name of Jessie R. and Susie R. Gourd and three of their children; Osceola "Osie" R. (19), Jim R. 17) and Sam R. (15). As best as can be determined the couple married in Indian Territory in 1881 which means their first-born son, Osie, would have been born around 1883.

The Gourds lived somewhere around a small community called Moody in Cherokee County on land that had been allotted to their ancestral family when native Americans were relocated to Indian Territory. The full Indian family surname name was "Rattling Gourd", hence the "R" initial listed as a middle name for each member of the family. making "Osie's " legal name Osceola Rattling Gourd. What little that can be gleaned from census records is that Osie's dad was a full-blooded Cherokee that had been born in Arkansas and his mother was an Oklahoma native and was only half Indian by blood. Little is known about the early life of Osie, because records for Cherokee families and the lack of biographical sketches for some Oklahoma residents at the turn of the century.

Osie must have been married sometime before 1920 because he and his wife, the former Jessie Brock, had five children and one of those, a daughter named Pauline who died in 2015 in Texas was born on June 2 of 1920. At the age of 35 the Cherokee tribe member had become entrenched in law enforcement the extent he was a deputy for Cherokee County. Ten years later in 1938, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, the "Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Errol Flynn was playing at theaters across the country and the Artie Shaw Orchestra had the biggest selling 78 RPM record in the country with Begin the Beguine." Shortly after 5 P.M. on Thursday, May 12, 1938, Deputy Gourd and two other deputies located escaped convicts. A. L. Whitham and Clovis Montgomery, in a combination café/dance hall in Camp Cook, five miles north of Tahlequah. Both men had recently escaped from a prison farm in Atoka and pair was also wanted for a recent armed robbery of a gas station in Walking Stick Spring. in nearby Adair County.

The "juke joint" was located near the intersection of State Highway 10 and Ben George Road. Deputy Gourd had received information about the men's whereabouts and he and two other deputies went to arrest them As the deputies entered the tavern, Whitham opened fire on the lawmen, striking Deputy Gourd in the abdomen. Deputy Gourd and the other deputies returned fire, striking the suspect a total of seven times with a rifle and shotgun.

Gourd shot Whitham five times with his Winchester rifle before he fell dead. When Montgomery tried to flee, he was shot by one of the other deputies and both of the suspects died at the scene.

Deputy Gourd, 45, had served with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office for ten years. He was survived by his wife and five children. Deputy Gourd was laid to rest two days later in the Moody Cemetery, which is located a few miles north of Tahlequah on County Road 82B west of the Combs Bridge. Sixteen other Gourd family members share forever slumber with the Deputy in the rural stone garden.

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