Stone Gardens: Saline District (Indian Territory) Sheriff Jessee Sunday - 1853-1897
(Information for this story was taken from several onine sources including the Oklahoma Police Memorial and Find-A-Grave.)
In the late 1800's, parts of northeastern Oklahoma were still as wild as they had been in the heyday of what was considered "the old west" days in Indian Territory. For one local lawman in the Saline District (present day Delaware and Mayes counties) that wildness put him--and his intended replacement-- in an early grave just weeks before his retirement from law enforcement.
Sheriff Jesse Sunday was completing a term as sheriff of the far-flung Saline District and his half-brother, Dave Ridge, had been elected to take his place. Sunday, also known by his native American name "De-hn-yah", was also a farmer with a big family who had inherited tribal land from his ancestors.
About noon on Sunday, September 20, 1897, sheriff-elect Ridge was on his way to the Baggett store to pick up some items his wife had sent him for. Ridge ran into some friends and had several drinks with them.
Realizing that it was late, about 6:00 p.m., and he still needed to get the items from the store, Ridge headed over to the store which was closed. Desperate to get the items for his wife, he began banging on the door to the store.
Tom Baggett and his family lived above the store. Baggett leaned out of the window above the store and told Ridge to leave because he was drunk. Baggett had closed the store early that day due to the rowdy drinking of several men and a warning there might be trouble later.
As Ridge and Baggett argued over the closed store, a shot came from across the street hitting Baggett and killing him. Ridge stayed around with a gathering crowd to help Mrs. Baggett and her four daughters.
About an hour later, two witnesses, one of whom was Jesse Sunday’s son, Andy, and Ridge met two men on a trail about 200 yards away from the shooting scene. The two men were Sampson Rogers and Wilson Towery.
Ridge confronted Rogers with the fact that he had seen him fire the shot that killed Baggett. Rogers, enraged, then hit Ridge over the head with a whiskey bottle. Andy Sunday then stepped out and got the men to leave his uncle alone.
Dave Ridge died from his head injuries that night. He was bried two days later in the Elm Grove Cemetary in the community of Rose, now in Delaware County.
Deputy Sheriff Jesse Sunday was then ten miles east of Saline guarding some prisoners when the killings occurred. Notified of the murders, he rode to town and began investigating.
He deputized several men including Wilson Towery and Cooie Bolin, both of whom had witnessed the Ridge murder. Sunday and Bolin went to the nearby home of Jim Teehee to see if anyone there had witnessed anything.
John Colvard and Martin Rowe were sitting on the porch, Colvard with a rifle across his lap. Sunday took the rifle away from Colvard without resistance, talked with the men and was told they knew nothing of the killings.
Bolin and Sunday walked back to their horses when Rowe opened fire on them hitting Sunday. Sunday dropped Colvard’s confiscated rifle, Bolin picked it up and began firing at the fleeing Martin Rowe while the wounded Sheriff Sunday was trying to catch his horse.
Andy Sunday found his wounded father by a tree near the Teehee home the next morning. He took him to the Teehee home where the sheriff died that night.
Jesse Sunday was survived by his wife Alice and six children and is buried in the same cemetary as his brother-in-law Dave Ridge.
Martin Rowe surrendered himself a month later. He was arrested, tried, and convicted of Sunday’s murder. Originally sentenced to death, the sentence was later commuted to ten years in prison at Tahlequah.
Three months later Rowe escaped and went to west Texas, later joining the Army. While in the Army all charges were dropped, and he came out of the Army a free man.