Four Days Of Seclusion Near Ada, Oklahoma

A view of family farmland.

A view of family farmland.

Just returned home after spending four days near Ada, Oklahoma, visiting the family farmland, which is now going on its third generation in my family.

I just can’t accurately express the love I have for this land.  When visiting this place, one gets to experience total seclusion and the feeling of going back in time.   Much of this land looks just as it did in the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s.  And I feel blessed to be able to walk the same land on which my grandmother raised my father.   While here, I recall the stories my dad shared about roaming the land on his horse, milking the cows at 4:00 a.m. before heading to school, and taking cream and homegrown vegetables to Ada on Saturday morning hoping to make a little money to buy groceries.  What a hard life it must have been living here during the time he grew up, but he loved it a great deal and probably wouldn’t have changed it for any other.

Did The Masons Lynch Four Accused Men?

Ada Lynching: Who lynched these four men?

Lynching in Ada, Oklahoma, 1909.

Oklahoma Outlaws Lawmen History Association mentioned my book in its recent OKOLHA Journal (Winter 2014) . . . and I am thankful to the members for doing so.  Especially for the “this is an excellent book” comment.  However, I feel I need to make some important clarifications.

In their description of my book they state, “The Masons kidnapped four innocent business men from the jail and took them next door and murdered them by lynching – not hanging.”

There are a handful of claims made in that one-line description which bother me quite a bit.  First of all, and most importantly, never in my book do I state that the Masons were the ones who lynched the four men.   I have not made this claim about the Masons for one simple reason . . . I have not found any proof to support such a claim.  Did the Masons do it?  There are good reasons to believe the Masons played a large role in the lynching:

  1. The Masons consisted of prominent people in the community who were viewed as leaders.
  2. The planning to proceed with the lynching took place in the same building/room in which the Masons held their regular meetings.
  3. Masonry is a secret organization wherein its members are sworn to secrecy.

If the Masons did in fact take part in the lynching, I do not believe they acted alone.  Lets not forget, Governor Haskell formed a grand jury to identify the people involved in the lynching.  But not one single citizen was willing to provide any information to assist in the investigation.  The town residents had a reputation of banding together, just as they did when there were lot jumpers trying to steal land from members of the community (my book, page 11).  While the Masons may have lead the way (and most likely did), I think it is fair to say that the community as a whole participated in the lynching of four accused men on April 19, 1909.

Now back to that one-line description in the OKOLHA Journal:  “The Masons kidnapped four innocent business men from the jail and took them next door and murdered them by lynching – not hanging.”  While an accused man is innocent until proven guilty, I do lean towards the belief that these four men were guilty of murder.   One of these four men was James B. Miller, who was one of the most cold-blooded assassins of the Old West.  Therefore, I never stated in my book that they were innocent.  And to say “the Masons kidnapped” the four men is misleading as well since kidnapping is usually viewed to mean a person was taken by force and held as hostage usually for ransom.  Which obviously was not the case.

In addition, the lynchers (whether they were Masons or others or both) killed these men – they did not murder them as stated in OKOLHA’s description.  Yes, in my view there is a difference.  And they did so with a lynching – by hanging.  How can we accurately claim that the four men arrested for murder were innocent yet in the same breath say the Masons were murderers when neither group of men ever had a trial to determine such facts.  Afterall, the Masons were never even arrested.



For The Love Of The Land In Pontotoc

Road leading to my father's farmland in Pontotoc County.

Road leading to my father’s farmland.

As I read daily about the state of our country and the Middle East, I find it difficult to write about my book and the happenings in my own little corner of the world.

How petty are my struggles to protect my father’s land compared to what Israel is challenged with on a never ending basis in its efforts to protect the Holy land.  My father’s land is not big by any means, and it will never compare to Israel.  But it is the land in which God has placed in my hands.  And I am truly grateful.

During one of my last visits to Ada with my father, he told me of a time in which his father told him, “Son, whatever you do, never let go of the farm.”  It was a request his father made to ensure that if ever a family member needed a place to go, he/she could go to the farm.  And while dad and his siblings divided the land amongst themselves after their father passed many years ago, they managed to this day to honor their father’s request by keeping the land in the family.   After explaining this, my dad made the same request of me . . . that I “keep the land in the family” as a safe haven should we ever need it.  As I recall this request today, I am reminded (as a Christian) of one of the Ten Commandants which has great meaning to me:

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  (Exodus 20 KJV.)

The land in and surrounding Pontotoc County has a wonderful history.  It speaks of a time in which citizens regained control over their land which was being overrun by assassins.   As I read much about our nation struggling to protect our freedoms which are written in our Constitution, I wonder if such citizens still exist.

Below is an inspiring video that makes one tremble.

It shows thousands of Jews gathering at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for a Priestly Blessing over their nation during the Passover festival of 2011. It is a ceremony that has become a tradition since the Six Day War of 1967.  When I watch this video, I can feel the love the people have for their land and I am reminded of the sacrifices they make to protect it.


Seven Intriguing Facts About Moman Pruiett

Moman Pruiett, 1872-1945

Moman Pruiett, 1872-1945

Moman Pruiett.

Criminal Attorney or just plain criminal?

And why on earth has a movie never been made about this man?  After all, he was one of the most successful defense attorneys in the United States.  Just read the following quote from Gerald F. Uelman, Professor at Law, Santa Clara University, California:


From 1900 to 1935, he defended 343 persons accused of murder.  Three hundred of them were acquitted.  Not one was executed.  But with rare exceptions, Pruiett tried all his cases in the Indian Territory which became Oklahoma.

Attorney Pruiett was an arrogant man who swaggered in the courtroom making sarcastic remarks when serious matters were being discussed and while smoking the smelliest cigars he could buy.   Having been arrested and convicted twice as a young man, he had a hatred for the justice system.  Upon his second conviction, he made this vow to the jury:

You’ll regret this.  . . .  As sure as I live, I’ll make you sorry.  I’ll empty your damned jails and I’ll turn thieves and murderers loose in your midst, and I’ll do it in a legal way.

He lived up to that vow.

In 1909 Moman Pruiett was hired by Jesse West and Joe Allen to represent them upon their arrest for the murder of Gus Bobbitt near Ada, Oklahoma.  But unless you have already read my book, here are 7 intriguing facts about Moman Pruiett which you may not know:

  1. Moman Pruiett was the son of a Confederate war captain of the Civil War.  He was born in 1872 on a steamboat named The Great Gray Eagle heading down the Ohio River.  He was named “Moorman” after his mother whose maiden name was Moorman.  After being released from prison, he changed his name to “Moman” due to a relative accusing him of shaming the Moorman name.
  2. Moman was sworn in as an attorney in 1895 at the young age of 23 with no more than a third grade education.  He was simply admitted to the bar by a federal judge who thought he had what it takes to be a good lawyer.
  3. In the beginning of his legal career, Moman Pruiett relocated from Texas to Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, where he found an abundant number of murder cases to be tried.  He fought cases in practically every county in Oklahoma.
  4. Despite his lack of education, Moman Pruiett was an intelligent man who used self-learned skills to practice tactics that abused the legal system.  He used both entertainment and fear to persuade juries to ignore the facts before them.  Using these tactics, he won many cases which set guilty men free and which earned Moman a modest fortune.
  5. Moman was fearless and maintained a distinguished appearance which made him stand out in the community.  Yet, he was cruel, hot tempered, and at odds with society.  He was quick to fight, shoot, curse, and was often consumed with fits of useless rage.
  6. After the height of Moman’s success, he moved to Miami, Florida, where he invested his modest fortune on the purchase of a small seaside mansion.  This mansion was wiped out by a hurricane and Moman returned to Oklahoma to resume his law practice.
  7. Moman Pruiett died of pneumonia in 1945 at the age of 73.  He spent his last years living on a meager pension.


Was Ada, Oklahoma, Another Tombstone?

On this day (October 26) in 1881 occurred the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.  A deadly shootout in which Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp and his brothers killed the Clantons and McLaurys.  Holliday and the Earp brothers were wounded.  The gunfire lasted only 30 seconds and it is still debated today as to who fired the first shot.  Holliday and the Earps were arrested for murder, but were released a month later when a Tombstone judge ruled they were “completely justified in committing these homicides.”  The two groups were fighting for control in the town of Tombstone, which had become one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest.

Similar to Tombstone, Ada, Oklahoma, in the early 1900s had two groups fighting for control . . . the groups were Gus Bobbitt and his gang vs. Jesse West and Joe Allen and their gang.  As happened in Tombstone, the feud in Ada resulted in death.  Tombstone, however, went on to become a tourist town wherein according to the city’s website:

“Each year many thousands of visitors walk where old west heros and villains lived, worked and fought.”

Movies have been made depicting the shootout as well.  Ada, on the other hand, tried to sweep away any remains of the feud and the murders that occurred in its community.  Over 40 people took part in lynching Jesse West and Joe Allen after they had been arrested for the murder of Gus Bobbitt.  Yet, of those 40, not a single person ever spoke publicly of the killings.   I suppose Ada could have become a tourist town much like Tombstone, by celebrating the history of the heroes and villians of their town.  But the citizens chose to live in a quiet way.  Perhaps that is one reason why I so admire the town as I do.

Shootout at OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona, October 26, 1881

Shootout at OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona, October 26, 1881


A Petition To Abolish The Corner Saloon

Corners a hell hole

A vigilante is a person who takes the law into his own hands to avenge a crime.  This usually occurs when that person feels the justice system has failed him.  The good guy gets the bad guy.  And, often times, the vigilante is considered to be a hero.

In the case of the hanging in Ada, Oklahoma, in 1909, a group of citizens took it upon themselves to form a vigilante justice committee, and they then made the decision to hang four men awaiting trial for the murder of a local rancher.  This decision had been made after numerous murder cases went to trial preceding this one, all of which the courts and the juries failed to convict.  The citizens in Ada had at least 20 assassins-for-hire living in their community.   And no one was safe . . . not even the assassins themselves.

Many people would argue that the mob wrongfully took the lives of these four men.   They would be right.  Vigilante justice is never the right thing to do.  But sometimes, maybe, it is the only thing left to do.

“The Corners consist of the saloon and a big corral, with not another building nearby, located on a high hill just above the South Canadian River, with the Chickasaw nation on the opposite bank, and the Seminole nation just to the east.   . . . “

In July 1905, the citizens of Ada prepared a Petition which they sent to their governor requesting he abolish the Corner Saloon.   The Petition cited in detail 15 assault to kill cases and nine murders which were currently on the U.S. Court’s docket in Ada and of which were noted to have come directly from the Corner Saloon.   Said Petition was signed by “every business man and seven-eighths of the professional men of Ada,  I.T., a small city of 5,000”.

Why is this Petition important?  Because it shows that the citizens sought help from their state government in an effort to force the assassins to move.  Yet, it appears as though their pleas were ignored as nowhere have I found any response to this Petition.  The Corner Saloon remained open until statehood and prohibition forced all saloons in Oklahoma to close in 1907.  This is when the criminals began to congregate on Main Street in Ada.  It would then be two years before a mob in Ada would take matters into its own hands.  The citizens wanted governmental justice.  What they got was vigilante justice.

. . . .   “A feud between two factions has raged there for years and the saloon furnishes a meeting place and bad booze to stir up the courage and emnity of the two sides, hence the murders are of frequent occurrence, but the perpetrators are seldom if ever punished.”

(The Guthrie Daily Leader, July 17, 1905.)


James Brown Miller, a/k/a Killer Miller

James Miller with wife Sally.

James Miller with wife Sally.

James Brown Miller had many occupations throughout his lifetime.  He was a deputy sheriff, Texas Ranger, livery stable owner, real estate agent, stockman, swindler, and gambler.   But the two roles for which he was known best are church deacon and professional hired assassin.

Often referred to as “Killer Miller”, James Miller, on at least one occasion, boasted that he had killed up to 31 men with his shotgun.   It is believed he killed his first man . . . his brother-in-law John Coop . . . at the age of 22.  He was arrested and tried for many murders, but witnesses who were scheduled to testify at trial rarely made an appearance as they feared for their life if they were to testify against the killer.  The people who did appear at court were church members who depicted him as a respectable citizen.  James Miller walked away from each trial as a free man.  He was never convicted or punished for taking a single life . . . until the mob in Ada lynched the cold-blooded killer who was regarded by many as “the most dangerous criminal that ever lived in Texas.”

Fort Worth Daily Gazette, August 1, 1884.

Fort Worth Daily Gazette, August 1, 1884.

“I congratulate your citizens on having rid the country of one of the coldest blooded cutthroats that ever successfully defied the criminal laws of Texas.”    ~ J. B. Wilson, Pecos, Texas, in a letter to the Editor of the Ada Weekly News.


A Visit To The National Archives

National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas.

National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas.

The National Archives’ website claims:

“Laid end to end, the sheets of paper in our holdings would circle the Earth over 57 times!”

And that doesn’t include the photographs, films, maps, charts, or 3.5 billion electronic records they have stored.  Yet, after a whole day of scrolling through rolls of microfilm in Fort Worth, Texas, I was unsuccessful in finding a copy of a signed Petition which is referenced in my book.  I was told by a woman who works there, and who is very familiar with the archives, that said copy probably does not exist.   I was also informed that of all the records created in the course of business by the United States Federal Government, only 1 to 3% was considered important enough to be kept forever.   I’m trying to imagine how many times their holdings would circle the Earth if 100% of the records had been kept.

The trip to Texas wasn’t a total loss, however.  I gained another valuable lead and had a great time hanging out with two of my kids in Texas.  And, of course, we took a little detour to Ada on the way home.

While my book is officially finished, my research continues on.

 Said one British woman to another during breakfast at the hotel in Fort Worth:

“They HAVE grape jelly in America!  In America.  They haaaaave grape jelly!!!”  



My Deep Connection To The Story

Most self-publishers are deeply connected to their subject matter. Otherwise they might not have written the book in the first place. Some of the most effective self-publishers are activists and opinion leaders with fierce loyalties and firm stands on lots of issues.

As I prepare to self publish my first book, I find the above comment by Joel Friedlander over at The Book Designer to relate to me in an encouraging way.   My connection to my book, Citizens and Assassins, is through my grandfather’s land in Pontotoc County.   I certainly have a fierce loyalty and have taken a firm stand on protecting that land since my father passed away.   It is so fierce a loyalty that I cannot budge away.  But if it were not for my love and concern for the land, I certainly would not have written this book.

It seems funny (or sad) how so many family members can see the land only as $$$$, while one stands alone who sees it as historical land which is a God-given gift which should be cherished and protected.  And it seems funny (or sad) how oddly my fight to protect the land relates to the very story about which I have written.

Honoring Two Oklahoma Marshals This Memorial Day

Allen Augustus Bobbitt

Allen Augustus Bobbitt

This Memorial Day weekend (May 27, 2013), I thought it appropriate to honor two Oklahoma Marshals mentioned in my book who were assassinated in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, just weeks before the lynching of 1909.

First, of course, is Allen Augustus (Gus) Bobbitt.  Though he was no longer serving as a marshal at the time of his death, he served as Deputy U.S. Marshal in Indian Territory during the years 1895-1897.   He was murdered/ambushed on February 27, 1909, by the widely-known cold-blooded assassin of the times – James Brown Miller.

Next, is Ezekiel (Zeke) Putnam who was killed on January 16, 1909.  Mr. Putnam was serving as city marshal in the town of Allen.  A resident named Mack Lee had Zeke killed after hiring an assassin whom he met at The Bucket of Blood named Daniel Scribner.

Ezekiel Putnam

Ezekiel Putnam

Both of these men were well liked and respected in their communities.   Both men are buried at the Rosedale Cemetery in Ada.