Vol. 3, p. 962-963
Old Indian Territory and early Oklahoma gained an unenviable notoriety as the headquarters for some of the most famous bands of outlaws known in the history of crime. While the passing of the outlaw has been observed with relief by every industrious and law-abiding citizen, there were one or two features about the reign of the outlaw which served to illuminate an otherwise unpleasant picture. Pitted against the train robbers, cattle thieves, and ruffians of every type, were the officials of law and justice, comprising a group of men probably never excelled for resourcefulness, personal courage, coolness and promptness in times of emergency, and whose skill finally purged Oklahoma from its stains of crime and border desperadoism. One of the most notable of these figures was William Tilghman, who spent nineteen years as a deputy United States marshal, and is now living retired in Oklahoma City.
Born at Ft. Dodge, Iowa, July 4, 1856, "Bill" Tilghman, as he is everywhere known throughout the Southwest, has spent nearly all his life on the borders of the frontier. His parents were William and Amanda (SHEPARD) Tilghman. His father, who was born in 1823 on the eastern shore of Maryland, is descended from Richard Tilghman, who came from County Kent, England, along with Lord Baltimore, the founder of the Maryland Colony. A number of the Tilghman family are still found along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. When a boy the senior William Tilghman left home, saw service in the Florida Indian wars, drifted to the West at a very early day, and finally located at Fort Dodge, Iowa, when there was really a fort there, and for some time carried on a sutler's store in the army post. In 1856, he removed to Kansas, locating four miles east of Atchison, and was one of the pioneers engaged in farming and stock raising until 1883. He then returned to Fort Dodge, living there some seven or eight years, and on the opening settlement of the land of the Sac and Fox Indians in September, 1891, established a new home a quarter of a mile from Chandler in Lincoln County, and lived there until his death in 1910 at the age of eighty-seven. His wife died at eighty-six on February 7, 1915. They were people who possessed all the hardy virtues of early settlers and pioneers.
Mr. William Tilghman had no formal education in schools, and his early life was one continuous training in those practices which make men proficient in all the crafts of the frontier. He left home at the age of fifteen and for the next fifteen years may be said to have practically lived with the wild Indians. When Oklahoma was opened to settlement he was among the first arrivals on that historic day of April 22, 1889, and established his first home at Guthrie. In 1891 he was appointed a deputy United States marshal, and thereafter continuously for nineteen years was in the service, being re-appointed by every United States marshal in Oklahoma until 1910. He performed his duty with a capable efficiency and courage that would be difficult to match, and by those who are competent to judge it is said that Bill Tilghman while deputy marshal had more criminals to contend with than any other officer of the law in the entire Southwest. Not long ago the famous Western sheriff and personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Bat Masterson, wrote an article for the magazine Human Life, in which he gave many interesting incidents and details of Tilghman's service as deputy marshal and the article furnishes an emphatic proof of the statements already made as to Mr. Tilghman's high standing as an officer of justice.
After retiring from the marshal's office in 1910, Mr. Tilghman was elected a member of the State Senate from the Thirteenth Senatorial District. In 1911 he resigned from the Senate to become chief of police in Oklahoma City, and in that new office his record serves to increase his standing as a man of devotion to duty. In 1914 Mr. Tilghman finally retired from active life, and is now enjoying the fruits of a long career during which he has witnessed the reclamation of the entire Southwest from the domain of the barbarian Indian and desperado into a country that is bearing some of the finest fruits of civilization.
In 1915 Mr. Tilghman was instrumental in bringing out a moving picture series entitled "The Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws," the scenes of which have been re-enacted under his direction by many of those who were actually engaged in the original work of hunting down the outlaws. This dramatic representation was reproduced in the rugged country of the old Creek and Osage Nation, where many bloody dramas in the conflict of law and order against desperadoism occurred. There is an instructive moral element in the moving picture drama, which depicts the life of the outlaw from the first act of crime until he inevitably becomes entangled in the toils of justice, and contrary to many representations of that class of people the outlaws in this drama are not represented as heroes who would readily gain the admiration of young boys, and it is Mr. Tilghman's judgment, based on a long and thorough experience with criminals, that there is no such thing as an outlaw hero.
In 1878 Mr. Tilghman married Miss Flora KENDALL. Her mother was Mrs. Nancy (KENDALL) MARRS, of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Mrs. Tilghman died in 1910 leaving four children: Charles A., William, Jr., Dottie and Vonnie. In 1903 (sic) Mr. Tilghman married Miss Zoe A. STRATTON. Her father, Mayo E. Stratton, better known as Uncle Pete Stratton, was prominently known all over the Southwest, lived in Southern Kansas and later in Ingalls, Oklahoma, and was one of the pioneers of Oklahoma cattle men, having driven, in 1868, the second bunch of cattle over the old Chisholm Trail, which led from the Texas range to the northern pastures and markets. Mr. and Mrs. Tilghman, who reside at 824 West Twelfth Street in Oklahoma City, have three sons: Tench, Richard and Woodrow Wilson Tilghman.
Transcribed by Vickie Taylor, January 12, 1999