4 MEN HANGING

4 MEN HANGING




This is a story of the birth of Ada, OK in the late 1890's and the struggles of the 'good'
people to overcome the remains of the old Indian Territory outlaws and renegades.

A section of the town was known as "The Bloody Bucket". It was a well known area
where the very bad men of the old Indian Territory gathered. As law and order came to
the new state, the outlaws chose Ada as the 'hold' where they could hide out from the law. 
It was such a bad place that even the law did not want to go there unless they absolutely
had to go. The story unveils as the Territorial government is coming to an end and the
new State of Oklahoma makes the effort to join the 20th century. One problem. The
criminal element of thieves, rustlers and killers need a place to continue hiding out. Ada,
OK is the perfect place. In the first ten years of the 20th century, Ada had the highest
murder rate in the state. A town with a population of about 5,000 people had 38 murders
in one year. 

As the Territorial government comes to an end, there is no need for the U.S. Marshals that patrolled the Indian Territory. A.A. "Gus" Bobbitt, the U.S. Marshall in Ada, quietly
retired to ranch on a spread near Roff. Unscrupulous white men began "Indian Skinning"
by getting the Indians drunk and buying their 160 acres of land for $50. An Oklahoma law said that such sales of land from Indians to whites had to have the approval of the county court judge.

Gus Bobbitt pushed for the honest men to hold the elected jobs of county attorney, sheriff and county judge. Jesse West and Joe Allen, two ne'er-do-wells, were getting rich "Indian skinning". These two men owned a saloon on the north banks of the Canadian River in Oklahoma Territory called the "Corner Saloon". It was a hell hole. It had it's own cemetery behind the place.

When they tried to get their slate of candidates elected, trouble with Gus Bobbitt came to
a head. A killer from Ft. Worth was hired. This killer's name was Jim Miller. Miller was
accused of killing the legendary sheriff Pat Garrett just the year before in New Mexico. It
is said that the wealthy cattlemen of New Mexico who opposed Garrett's cattle operation
paid a young cowboy to plead guilty to Garrett's murder in Miller's place.

Jim Miller was what we call today, a pathological killer. He boasted of killing 31 men but
the total is suspected to be much higher, possibly more than 50 men. Miller killed his
grandparents  with a shotgun when he was 8 years old. Texas authorizes put him in a state
institution for this deed. When he was released, he went to live with his sister and
brother-in-law. When he was 18 years of age, he killed his brother-in-law with a shotgun.

Miller's affection for the shotgun would flourish as he became a hired killer and always
used the shotgun in his assassinations. Miller was known as "Deacon" Jim Miller. He was
a devout church goer and help start many new churches in Texas. He would take the
profits from his murder for hire and donate it to the church. He was a choir member and
Sunday school teacher. 

Allen and West asked a cotton buyer, named D. B. Burwell, from Texas if he knew of a
professional killer who could take care of Bobbitt. Burwell made the arrangements for
Miller to do the job of killing Bobbitt.

Miller ambushed Gus Bobbitt on the road between Ada and Roff. Bobbitt's hired man
who was in another wagon on a return trip for supplies at Ada, escaped and rushed to
Bobbitt's ranch where he told the new widow of the shooting.

Miller lost a set of wire cutters and an oil cloth he covered his shotgun with at the murder
scene and that led to his arrest as well as West, Allen, Burwell and Miller's nephew, a
young man named Oscar Peeler who furnished his uncle with the horse.

When it was learned that the five would be defended by an infamous criminal attorney named Moman Pruitt, it
spurred the mob to action. In a military like operation, the group split into three groups. 
One group attacked and took charge of the electric company in Ada and shut down the
generators so as to turn off all the street lights. A second group took control of the streets
in the immediate area of the jail and prevented any help from arriving to stop their evil
intentions. A third group attacked the jail and overpowered the jailer. A former U.S.
Marshal, now deputy sheriff of Pontotoc county was awakened by the commotion and
attempted to draw his gun. He was pistol whipped into submission by the mob.

The keys to the cells were taken and the mob went into the prisoners cells and began
rounding up Miller, West Allen and Burwell. Young Oscar Peeler, the 18 year old
nephew of Miller was allowed to live because of his age. It is said that there was some
discussion about whether they should also take Peeler but it was decided among the mob
that procuring a horse for the killer was not serious enough to hang.

There were other killers and outlaws also in the cells but they were locked up when the
mob left. The mob only wanted these men and they were determined to get the job done. 
West fought the mob but he was like wise pistol whipped. The four men were then taken
to an abandoned livery stable behind the jail and the lynching began. Ropes were thrown
over the ceiling joint. The men's hands and feet were tied with hay wire. One by one the
were hoisted into the air.

When it came Miller's turn to swing, it is said that he told the mob "let's get this over
with". Miller coolly removed a diamond ring and diamond stick pin and handed it to a
leader of the mob and asked him to make sure that his wife in Ft. Worth got the items. 
Miller's wife made arrangements to have the local bank in Ada take care of the funeral
arrangements and ship Miller's body back to Ft. Worth.

There was a cry of outrage from the state capitol in Oklahoma City by the governor and
politicians that such mob violence could occur and would not be tolerated, the participants would be tracked down and punished. Pontotoc county sheriff Tom Smith went to Roff on a cursory investigative on one occasion. Nothing was ever done to find the members of the mob who lynched the four men on April 19, 1909 in an old barn in Ada. However, it was generally suspected that the mob was made up of members of the Masonic lodge of which Gus Bobbitt was a member.


  - Submitted by Dennis Muncrief, April 2007.

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