The "Tragedy Of Going Snake"

 

One of the events which, was the outgrowth of the jealous feeling between the Ft. Smith deputy U. S. marshals and the tribal officials occurred in 1871 and was thereafter known as "The Tragedy of Going Snake."

A bad Indian by the name of Zeke Proctor had become incensed at a white man who was running a little corn mill east of Tahlequah, near the Arkansas state line and decided to kill him. Proctor went to the mill where he found the white man in company with his Indian wife who was a distant relative of Proctor. A brief quarrel ensued and as Proctor raised his gun to shoot, the wife of the white man threw herself in front of the gun and received the deadly bullet which was. intended for her husband. As the woman fell, mortally wounded, her husband, well knowing that he would be the next victim of the enraged Proctor, dodged through a door, ran around the mill and made his escape unharmed.

At that time the tribal courts claimed jurisdiction in cases where the person accused of an offense and the person assaulted were both Indians, but the United States District Court at Ft. Smith, Ark., claimed jurisdiction if either party was a white man. Proctor was arrested by the tribal officials charged with the crime of murder, for killing an Indian woman. The white man made his way to Ft. Smith and filed a complaint in the United States Court, charging Proctor, the Indian, with an attempt to kill him. A posse was deputized by the court to arrest Proctor and take him to Ft. Smith, a party was organized, which included Joe Peavy, Paul Jones, an old scout, White Sut Buck, an Indian, Eugene L. Bracken, a Muskogee pioneer and several others, headed by Major Owens, and started in pursuit of Proctor. Upon arriving at the old mill where the Indian woman was killed, the company of deputies learned that Proctor's trial was then being held by the Cherokee Court, in an old log schoolhouse, some distance away. The deputies feared that the Indian Court would discharge Proctor upon the plea that the killing was accidental and not intentional, and it was their intention to await the result of the trial and to arrest Proctor in case the Indian Court declared him not guilty. As they approached the schoolhouse an Indian bailiff met them at the door and invited them to come inside.

The room was crowded with Indians, mostly full-bloods, mostly armed with rifles, shot guns or pistols, and many of them friends of the accused.

White Sut Buck, the Indian who accompanied the deputy marshals, was a relative of the murdered woman, and was among the first to enter the room. As he spied Proctor, surrounded by an armed guard, he raised his gun and shot at him. The Indians, thinking that the shot was the signal for an attack upon them, immediately returned the fire, and in an instant the shooting became general.

Major Owens was mortally wounded, several of his deputies were killed and several Indians killed or wounded.

Bracken (now city weigh master in Muskogee) and a few of the posse retreated and managed to escape unhurt, while Proctor, the prisoner, escaped with only a slight wound. This unfortunate affair served, to increase rather than to allay the acrimonious feeling that existed at that time between the tribal court officials and the United States Court officials, although neither party was directly responsible for this battle.

Read this story from the family point of view Gunfight at Whitmire School

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