Sam Sixkiller: Cherokee Lawman

Men committed to upholding the law and making the frontier safe came from all nationalities. Sam Sixkiller was born in the Going Snake District of the Cherokee Nation sometime in 1842. This is what is today Adair County, Oklahoma, which sits on the Arkansas border.

When the Civil War began, he joined the Confederate Army while his dad, Redbird Sixkiller, fought on the Union side. At age 19, Sam switched sides and served under his father who was a 1st lieutenant.

Following the war’s end, he married Fanny Foreman in 1865 and began adding their six children.

Ten years later, he became the first captain of the U.S. Indian Police headquartered in Muskogee, one of the most dangerous towns in the West. He had 100 men serving under him. Sam also was a special agent for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad and a deputy U.S. Marshal. He was a very well-spoken man whose impeccable behavior spoke of his excellent upbringing. Needless to say, he was respected by good men and, grudgingly, bad alike.

During the 1800s more lawmen lost their lives within a 50-mile radius of Muskogee than anywhere west of the Mississippi.

Sam didn’t present a particularly striking figure at 5’8” and 200 pounds, but he was one of the toughest lawmen in Oklahoma Territory and got the job done, no matter how long it took or how far he had to ride.

As it had been from the first, Oklahoma Territory was a haven for outlaws, rustlers, murderers, bootleggers and other lawless men so there was no shortage of work. He faced one of his most challenging problems after a large group of harlots moved in and practically took over Muskogee since it was on a railroad line. Ordered to clean up the town, Sam Sixkiller rounded up the working women and put them in the jail. He remarked that he’d rather face an armed gang of killer outlaws than deal with those women. After a short stay, the females had a change of heart and took Sam’s advice that they might could do better in other towns, paid a fine, and left. To which Sam breathed a big sigh of relief.

One of the most dangerous outlaws in the territory was Dick Glass. He had a thirst for killing and was deadly in a fight. Sam Sixkiller tracked him down and put two bullets in his chest.

On Christmas Eve of 1886, Sam was ambushed by a mean outlaw named Dick Vann after several run ins and arrests. Vann shot him dead. Lawmen all over attended Sixkiller’s funeral that was said to be one of the largest in the territory.

Despite a huge reward and a big posse, Dick Vann was never apprehended.

Shortly after his death, the United States government signed into law that it was a crime to kill a Native American lawman and the murderer would be tried by the government instead of the tribal counsel.

What do you think drove a man to try to keep the peace in such a lawless town like this? Surely not the money. They were paid very little.


Sam Sixkiller: Cherokee Lawman — 6 Comments

  1. Good morning Linda, great article, I’ve never heard of Sixkiller before. I think back then as it is today, lawmen tried to keep the peace in the lawless towns as a way to keep innocent people from being killed and to try and make their town a respectable place for others to settle. Being a lawmen back in those days was hard and then to not have laws to abide by made it even harder to serve. As they say ” Laws were to be broken”, but to not have any laws at all would of been chaos.
    Thanks for sharing this history lesson of Sixkiller. He must of been a well respected gentleman to of had such a huge funeral attendance.
    You have a great day writing Tally & Clay’s book, I can’t wait to read both Luke (To Marry A Texas Outlaw) and this newest one you’re writing. Love you sister friend.

    • Good Morning, Tonya……..Living in Indian Territory was very chaotic. There were so few lawmen and they were stretched thin trying to cover such a large area. Then you had the different tribes with their own set of rules. It’s no wonder it became a haven for outlaws. They could do pretty much what they pleased. Sam Sixkiller did his best to make his area safe. He was a very dedicated man.

      I’m glad you’re looking forward to Texas Outlaw. Luke is going to put you on the edge of your seat and keep you there. I can’t wait for readers to get his book. Okay, I’m off to see what trouble Tally and Clay can get into.

      Love you, sister friend!

  2. Love the blog this morning I had never heard of Sixkiller before. I really enjoyed reading this. I think some men became lawmen just for the fact that they wanted to see innocent people protected and had such goodness in them that they wanted to rid as much of the evilness of men as possible. Has to be the reason for even today policemen are not paid what they should be for the sacrifices they make.

    • Hi Glenda……I’m so glad you liked my blog. I’m sure you’re probably right. Lawmen (or most anyway) want to serve and make the world better. A few might have other less honorable motives. Some people decide to be writers because they think they’ll get rich and famous. Ha! I could tell them they need to go into another line of work for that. 🙂

      Love you, dearest lady!

  3. Hi Linda – Enjoyed your blog on Sixkiller. A Cherokee lawman must have been a rare person to uphold the law in the West. Sounds like he wanted to make a difference to all people who wanted to be treated fairly.
    I am enjoying your book, The Heart of a Texas Cowboy; that I won from P&P. Your are correct, Houston; has stolen my heart. He was quite a humble & compassionate man. Thank You, for write such awesome books.

    • Hi Lois……Thank you for coming. I’m glad my blog caught your fancy. Sam Sixkiller was quite an unusual man. He’s like the men I write about. Oh I’m really happy that you’re enjoying The Heart of a Texas Cowboy! Thank you for telling me. Nothing makes me happier. Houston is such a kind, decent man who only wants to be loved. Lara wants the same.

      Hugs and much love!