So many true stories are much more exciting than fiction, and they also help writers create marvelous novels. As a writer I treasure all the stories I’ve run across in my research, and share another one with you here.
Cherokee outlaws weren’t always like the whites perceived them, or even like we might think of them today. Take, for instance, the infamous so-called outlaw, Ned Christie, whose life story reads like anything but that of an outlaw’s, and his eventual killing by white deputies of Judge Isaac Parker’s court is terrifyingly similar to more recent events at Ruby Ridge and Waco. The only difference being Christie’s killing took place in the late 1800s, not today.
Christie lived with his family and operated a blacksmith and gunsmith shop in the wilderness country twelve miles east of Tahlequah in Indian Territory, a term which Christie despised.
Nede was a counselor at Tahlequah, the national capitol of the Cherokee Nation. Only 21 years had passed since a treaty to replace the Treaty of New Echota was forced on the Cherokees. It compelled the Nation to give equal rights of citizenship to all former slaves, to grant a railroad right of way, called for a census of all Cherokees and took away land from the Nation. Already there were more whites than Indians in the Nation. Many were illegal squatters.
The Dawes Act, or General Allotment Act, was the final straw to men like Ned Christie. He saw the plan as just another way for the white man to steal the land he held so dear. Still, he wanted the tribe to use the law, and he spoke many times to his people to educate them.
In May, 1887, Ned Christie was on his way to a council meeting where he planned to once again speak out, this time against the proposed Oklahoma statehood. At that same time U.S. Marshal Dan Maples journeyed to Tahlequah to pick up a man by the name of Bill Pigeon, who was wanted for murder. Christie made the mistake of drinking a little too much the day before the meeting and lay drunk in the woods not far from a creek crossing where Marshal Maples was ambushed and killed.
Because of Christie’s vocal attempts to help his people and his opinions of white man’s law, it was politically expedient to blame the young, handsome Cherokee for the killing. Before Christie could attend the actual meeting the word was out. Ned Christie had shot down a U.S. Marshal in cold blood and it could be proved. Someone had seen it. Never mind that no proof ever existed, and that an acquaintance of Ned’s named John Parris had been tricked into placing Christie near the killing.
When Christie learned that he was wanted for murder, he hurried home, prepared for an attack by deputies, then sat down to write a letter to Judge Parker. He swore to his innocence and asked for time to prove it. He gave the letter to a friend to post, but never received a reply. The Cherokee people including Jackson Gourd, a Cherokee lawman, considered Ned Christie a politician, a statesman and a Cherokee patriot. Naturally they would protect him in any way they could.
It would take the United States government nearly four years to bring this young Cherokee to a brutal white man’s justice. In the fortified cabin, Christie, his wife Gatey and their son Arch fought off several attempts to capture him.
In 1889 deputy marshals Heck Thomas and L.P. Isbel, along with three other officers, came as close as anyone ever had to killing Christie. They did burn down his shop and house, shot Ned through the temple, blinding him in one eye, and shot Arch through the chest.
Gatey successfully spirited her wounded family away in the dark of night to a hideout cave where she nursed them back to health. Eventually Christie rebuilt the cabin with the help of friends. After that attack he never spoke another word in the white man’s language.
A posse attacked again on October 11, 1892. Christie wounded John Fields and Joe Bower. Nothing the posse could do breached the fort Christie had built. Three weeks later a 25-man posse, led by Deputy U.S. Marshal Paden Tolbert, hauled in a three-pounder cannon (some reports say the cannon was a 4-pounder) and a supply of dynamite and began an all day and all night siege. Along about dawn Ned burst from the smoke and rubble of his fortified home shouting the Cherokee death cry and firing two .44 pistols.
A rifle slug caught the warrior behind the ear and cut him down. Young Sam Maples, son of slain U.S. Marshal Dan Maples, emptied his revolver into Ned’s lifeless body. Gatey was away at the time, but son Arch and Charlie Soldierhair, Arch Wolf and Bear Paw were with Christie. They survived. Judge Isaac Parker told marshals in private that things had gotten out of hand and Christie had never been proven guilty of anything.
Today many members of the Cherokee Nation refer to Ned Christie as the last Cherokee warrior.
In my book, Dream Walker, available on Kindle, Winter Dawn, a young Cherokee woman, is sold into slavery by her brother. She longs to go to California to live like her white father’s people. When ex-soldier Daniel Wolfe helps her escape she hides away in his wagon during the night in the hopes he will take her west. http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Walker-ebook/dp/B005AXY89Qa
This is a reprint of the original Trail to Forever, and is set during the Gold Rush to California. The Cherokee and white businessmen of Fayetteville, Arkansas came together to organize the trip that would blaze a new cattle trail west and hopefully bring back gold for the coffers of the small town founded in 1836, the year Arkansas became a State. Today Fayetteville is the home of the University of Arkansas and the infamous Arkansas Razorback Football team.