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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

US Deputy Sam Sixkiller - Gunned down on the streets of Muskogee on Christmas Eve, 1886

Sometimes in the pursuit of history, a life becomes a legend and the legend becomes the truth.

So it goes in the life of late 1800s Indian Territory lawman Samuel Sixkiller, who served as high sheriff in Tahlequah, the captain of the US Indian Forces of the Five Civilized Tribes and a Deputy US Marshal.

Sixkiller was born in the Goingsnake District of Adair County in 1842, one of at least five children born to the union of Redbrd iSixkiller and Flora Foreman.

Sixkiller. Sam's father who had been born in the Cherokee Nation and served in the Civil War as a Commander for the Third Indian Home Guard, was prominent as a soldier and a politician during the Eastern Cherokees removal to Indian Territory


Goingsnake District Courthouse (Bottom foor)

At the age of 30, Redbird Sixkiller was one of the natives who survived the infamous Goingsnake Massacre in which a number of US Deputy Marshal's and several members of the tribe were killed in Adair County, just across the line from Siloam Springs.

In 1880 Samuel Sixkiller became the first appointed captain of the United States Indian Police of the Five Civilized Tribes, holding command over 40 officers based in Muskogee. Because of his prowess, he was eventually offered a silver star to ride for Judge Isaac C. Parker out of the Western District of Arkansas. 

Downtown Tahlequah (1884)

His time as sheriff in Tahlequah was his first experience as a lawman, where knowledge of Indian Territory and the ways of the Tribes proved invaluable and he was credited with single-handedly cleaning up the territory in and around the community from horse thieves as well as bank and train robbers.

His reputation and his skills with both a revolver and a Winchester rifle led him to be appointed as a Special Agent for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad in 1884 all the while maintaining his duties as head of the Indian police force out of Muskogee and as a US Deputy Marshal.

Part of his appeal to the US District Court of Western Arkansas was, as a member of the Cherokee tribe, he could chase outlaws all over the nation and even make arrests on reservation land.

Charlie Leflore and "Dirty" Dick Glass

The following year, Sixkiller and a group of men including another legendary lawman by the name of Charlie Leflore. were hot on the trail of a notorious outlaw gang led by a thug named "Dirty" Dick Glass.

 Glass headed up a loosely knit consortium of horse wranglers and bootleggers whose method of operation was to steal horses in the Indian Territory and take them into Texas where they would be sold with the proceeds turned into bootleg liquor to bring back and introduce into the territory.. The posse had trailed Glass and his gang to an area near Colbert in the Chickasaw Nation.

When the outlaws were confronted by the lawman, Glass went for his gun and was shot from his horse by Sixkiller. The rest of the gang was either killed or arrested during the firefight.

Early in 1886, six killer had arrested two men just outside Muskogee by the name of Dick Vann and Alf Cunningham. According to available information, the arrest of the two men for stealing horses was set aside by the Indian court because of the jurisdictional problem. Vann and Cunningham held a grudge against Sixkiller, and later that year it would prove deadly to the lawman,

On Christmas Eve of 1886, Sixkiller rode into Muskogee pick up medicine for one of his children. Unbeknownst to Sixkiller, Vann and Cunningham were in town and had been causing quite a stir when they, while in a drunken state, had tried to purchase guns from a local hardware store.

When the store owner refused to sell them the weapons, the attacked city marshal John Keys disarmed him and stole his weapons. Armed with a pistol and a shotgun, the men made their way down the streets of Muskogee spoiling for a fight.

 Unarmed and off duty at the time, Sixkiller was walking down the sidewalk towards the Patterson Mercantile Store along the main thoroughfare. When the outlaws spotted Sixkiller, Vann called put his name and when he turned around he was confronted with the shotgun held by Cunningham. The deputy was able to knock  the shotgun away and the blast slammed into the door of the nearby livery stable. 


In the same instance, Vann pulled his pistol and fired four shots at Sixkiller, hitting him three times. once in the head. The lawman fell to the ground mortslly wounded and Van pumped at least one more shot into him before the pair escaped on fast ponies into the Cherokee Nation.

Lucas Sixkiller

The Creek Nation filed charges against both men but before they could be arrested and extradited back to Muskogee, Vann was killed by an anonymous  (depending upon who you ask) opponent in a gunfight at Fort Gibson. After a number of years had passed more than one person said the person that gunned down Vann in Fort Gibson was also named Sixkiller.

Lucas Sixkiller. The younger brother of the Deputy Sheriff.

Samuel Sixkiller was buried in an unmarked grave in the original Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery in Muskogee. The church, and the cemetery, were both moved in the 1930's and it's not believed that Sixkiller's body was moved to the new cemetery.  

The old location seems to have been lost to the urban expansion of the city of Muskogee.

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