• Dennis McCaslin

Tales of the US Marshals: Joseph S. Wilson - September 22, 1891



Joseph S. Wilson, Deputy U.S. Marshal

On Tuesday, September 22, 1891, Deputy Marshal Wilson asked a man by the name of John Carey, to guide him to the home of Big Alec who lived about ten miles from Tahlequah on 14 Mile Creek.


Deputy Wilson had a warrant for the arrest of Sam Downing. Wilson told Carey he would not have to participate in the arrest of Downing, who was using the name of Sam Hickory, only help him find the house.


Once the arrest was made, Wilson told Carey he would fire one shot letting him know the arrest was successful. Carey led Wilson to the property owned by Big Alec then retreated to wait for the arrest to be made.


Wilson found Hickory hitching up a team of horses. He told Hickory of the warrant. Hickory stated he would go with the lawman but first needed to unhitch his team, saddle a horse and then advise Big Alec at a nearby fishing stream.


After unhitching the team, Wilson and Henry walked to the house and as Hickory entered Wilson fired off one shot to announce to announce the successful arrest to Carey.


Hickory grabbed a gun and shot Wilson in the side. The bullet passed through his chest puncturing a lung.


Both men exchanged gunfire before Wilson staggered to his horse. He was too weak and unable to mount the horse and fell to the ground.


Carey hearing more gunshots than planned left the area.


Wilson lived through the night and was found the next day still alive by Hickory and Tom Shade. They struck him in the head several times with a piece of wood and an axe. After dragging his body by the neck to a ravine they buried him but not before they stripped him of his hat, coat, pistol and gun belt.


They also took his saddle and bridle.


Carey reported the gunshots and a massive search was started for Wilson. Several days later, Shade and Big Alec turned themselves in but Hickory was nowhere to be found.


Wilson’s body was found on Saturday, brought to Tahlequah, examined and then buried. Hickory was finally arrested in the Osage Nation and returned to Ft. Smith to await trial.


Hickory was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. In 1894, after two appeals, a third trial was about to begin when Hickory pled guilty to manslaughter and sentenced to five years and one day in the Columbus, Ohio prison.


Tom Shade was acquitted.



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