Monthly Archives: October 2014

Families – The Famous and the Infamous

When tracing your families’ roots you never know what you will uncover. In my search I have found both the famous and the infamous.

When I first started researching the Crittenden branch of my family tree (my grandmother is Eliza Jane Crittenden), one of my cousins asked if had found out anything about those cousins of my grandmother who were shot by a sheriff in Wagoner, Oklahoma.

Of course, I started digging for information about these supposedly notorious cousins. It was easy to find the story – Dick and Zeke Crittenden shot to death by Belle Starr’s son in Wagoner, Oklahoma on October 24, 1895.

I was in the early stages of building my family tree so it wasn’t as easy to find out how, or if, they were really cousins. As Crittendens, we were probably related somehow, but how?

As I built the family tree, the connection came to light. Dick (Richard) and Zeke (Ezekial) were indeed cousins. They are my second cousins, once removed. They are the grandsons of my great grandfather Moses Crittenden’s brother, James Crittenden.

Dick and Zeke are half-brothers. Their father is Aaron Crittenden. As regular readers of my blog know, I am currently in Oklahoma on a genealogy fact finding trip. While here I went to the Hulbert Cemetery to pay my respects to my notorious Crittenden cousins of the wild west of the 1890s.

Dick Crittenden Headstone Closeup

Dick Crittenden Headstone Closeup

Zeke Crittenden Headstone Closeup

Zeke Crittenden Headstone Closeup

These brothers fill the roles of both famous and infamous.
The Famous
Dick Crittenden was a U.S. Deputy Marshal commissioned in the Western District of Fort Smith, Arkansas. On July 18, 1894, he and his brother, Deputy Marshal Zeke Crittenden, and Deputy Sequoyah Houston and posse tried to capture the Cook Gang.

They tracked Bill and Jim Cook, along with Cherokee Bill to the Fourteen Mile Creek in the Cherokee Nation, where there was a gun battle. Sequoyah Houston was killed and the posse fled, with the exception of Dick and Zeke Crittenden.

Jim Cook was wounded several times before the outlaws fled to Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. According to the stories that I found the Crittendens caught up with Bill Cook in Fort Gibson but Cherokee Bill again escaped.

There is a photo in the Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library with the following caption. “Shortly after his capture, Cherokee Bill posed with his captors at Wagoner, I.T. Left to right: (5)Zeke Crittenden, (4)Dick Crittenden, Bill, (2)Clint Scales, (1)Ike Rogers, and (3)Bill Smith.”

The Infamous
“Deputy U.S. marshal Ed Reed (Belle Starr’s son), living in Wagoner, was called on to deal with with two drunks who were shooting up the town on October 24th (or 25th), 1895. The two law-breakers were Dick and his brother Zeke Crittenden, former lawmen and survivors of the shootout at Fourteen Mile Creek in 1894. The two brothers had wounded a Wagoner resident named Burns in their drunken shooting spree.

One version of the story describes Reed encountering Zeke Crittenden on the street and telling him to surrender his gun. Zeke fired at Reed and was killed with return gunshots from Reed. Dick, at the other end of town, learned of his brothers death and rode to the scene of the shooting. Upon seeing Ed Reed, Dick opened fire. Reed returned fire, mortally wounding Dick Crittenden, who died the next morning. The brothers were buried under one headstone in a small cemetery near Hulbert, only a short distance from the site of the Half-way House on Fourteen Mile Creek.”
[Outlaws and Lawmen of the Cherokee Nation by Dee Cordry]

Dick and Zeke Crittenden Headstone Hulbert Cemetery

Dick and Zeke Crittenden Headstone Hulbert Cemetery

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Oklahoma and Arkansas Research Trip – First Stop

My apologies for going two weeks without posting. I have been preparing for my research trip to Oklahoma and Arkansas and it is here at last.

On my first trip to Oklahoma, two years ago, I stayed ten days. I suspected that would not be enough time before I started the trip, and I was right. The days sped by and I wished that I was staying another two weeks. So this trip I have planned to be in Oklahoma and Arkansas between three and four weeks.

As I was planning my route and making my list of what I wanted to accomplish that seemed like enough time. However, now that I have set out, my list questions to research keeps growing and, once again, I realize I will not be there long enough.

When I came to Oklahoma in 2012 I knew so much less about my ancestors than I do now. My increased knowledge means increased leads to follow, additional towns to visit and more questions that need answering.

My itinerary for this trip starts with spending time in Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation capital. While there I plan to:

Visit the Cherokee Historical Society

Look through documents in the courthouse in nearby Wagoner to find out more about some 1922 legal dealings of my grandfather James West

Spend a day in Westville visiting the Talbot Library and Museum and the Going Snake District Heritage Association.

  • I will be looking for information about my grandmother’s youth. She was born in Going Snake District, but that is all I really know about her childhood
  • I will also be looking for information about the Quinton family – Lydia Crittenden Quinton and Nellie Quinton in particular.  My  great grandfather married his niece Edith Quinton, who was Lydia’s daughter and Nellie’s sister.

Find out who the Jim West is that Westville was named after in 1895. Is he related to my grandfather James West’s family?

Go to the following cemeteries near Tahlequah

  • Pioneer – try to find and uncover grave marker for Margaret Crittenden
  • Hulbert – Find Zeke and Dick Crittenden’s grave
  • Elmwood – Look for David West and family and any other Wests.
  • Proctor Sanders Cemetery –  burial place of Emily Crittenden

Stand on my grandmother’s Dawes allotment land in Okay once again.

Meet with the genealogist at Stillwell Public Library to see what information she may have on Crittenden ancestors.

Next week I will post a journal of what I find while in Tahlequah. Next on the itinerary will be Vinita, Oklahoma, with a whole new set of research goals and questions!

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Finding Gems for Further Research

Yesterday I came across an obituary for my grandmother’s half-sister’s husband. For those not engrossed in genealogy and the quest for information about their ancestors, that may seem like an obscure find not worth investigating.

I am going to use it as an example of how each piece of information is worth exploring for further hints. I have formatted the obituary in italics with my research notes interspersed throughout.

The Checotah Times Checotah, Oklahoma Friday May 1, 1925

The newspaper citation itself tells me that my some of my ancestors had connections to Checotah, Oklahoma.

W.B. Beck pioneer citizen of McIntosh County answers final summons Monday.

Following a long illness of only a few days duration, death claimed the life of W.B. Beck at his community home East of Checotah Monday afternoon.

The news of his death was a great shock, to the majority of our citizens as he appeared in good health the last time he was in the city about two weeks ago. Mr. Beck was one of the best known citizens of McIntosh and was indeed a pioneer in point of residence having located here in 1969. He was a lifelong Democrat and always took an active part in party affairs and held the honor of being McIntosh County’s first representative in Oklahoma legislature. He was a man who was a friend to his neighbors, never forgot a friend nor betrayed a trust.

I will be traveling from Fort Smith to Warner Oklahoma later this month. McIntosh County is just west of Warner. I now know that a stop in McIntosh County and a visit to the museum and court house there may provide some information and possibly photos about some of my ancestors.

William Billingsley Beck was born at Corinth Miss. January 26, 1847 and his early life was spent in that state. With his parents he moved to Texas in 1860 where he resided until the beginning of the Civil War. He enlisted in the cause of the Confederate Army and served until the close of the war.

Next is the first piece of information that mentions a blood relative, Malinda J. Crittenden, my grandmother’s half-sister. Malinda’s father is my great grandfather, Moses Crittenden.

On September 6, 1866, he was united in marriage to Miss Malinda J. Crittenden at Dallas, Ark. He was married under the Cherokee law prior to 1875 thereby sharing the full citizenship with the Cherokee by blood and was the first white male to serve in the Cherokee Council, beinq elected to the body in 1898.

I did not know that my great Aunt Malinda was married in Dallas, Arkansas. A search on the internet provides a map showing Dallas as just south of Mena, Arkansas. On my genealogy trip later this month I am spending two days in Mena, Arkansas. My great grandfather Moses was granted a land patent in that area in 1860. While there I plan to go to see that land. I also plan to spend some time at the Polk County Court House in Mena researching what happened to the land when Moses left for Oklahoma.

I am hoping the local museum will have photos from that time period and may provide me with some context for what life was like for the first Cherokee families to arrive in Arkansas. This information about the marriage of my great aunt in Dallas, Arkansas provides more facts on which to base my research.

In 1868 he located near the present site of Westville, where he resided for nearly a year, when he moved to this county, which has been home.

The first week of my trip will be spent in Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation Capital. Westville is a short drive from Tahlequah. I will search the museum in Westvilee for photos of my great Aunt Matilda or other members of her family.

Besides the wife, deceased leaves one daughter, Mrs. Eliza Caughran, and two sons, Tom and Carol to mourn his loss. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

This is the most important piece of information for me. A search for Eliza Beck Caughran at Ancestry.com provided me with a photo of her family. I also now know that there are grandchildren and great grandchildren, and probably great great grandchildren, some of whom are most likely still living. Someone posted the photos of Eliza Beck and of her family.

Edith Eliza Beck Coughran and her family

Edith Eliza Beck Coughran and her family

I can now search for current records that might lead me to identifying those living relatives. My hope is that someone in the family has photos of my great grandfather Moses Crittenden and other relatives. They may also know family stories passed down about the family’s early days in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

During his early manhood, Mr. Beck united with the Methodist church. He was also a member of the Checotah Lodge, I.O.O.F., and several other organizations.

The Methodist Church and the Checotah Lodge are two more places where I might find some historical records related to my family.

Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon at Twin Grove Cemetery, in charge was Rev. E.A. Davis, pastor f the Methodist church” assisted by Rev. E.A. Spiller pastor of the Baptist church. The beautiful Masonic service was held at the Grove in charge of the local lodge. Internment occurred at the Twin Grove Cemetery East of Checotah.

I have added Twin Grove Cemetery to my list of cemeteries to visit on my trip.

Every piece of information that you discover, no matter how minor it may appear, is like a mine waiting to be searched for those gems that will illuminate details about your ancestors just waiting to be discovered.

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