Friday, October 4, 2013

Last Legal Indian Execution Is In November, 1894








Thank you Dad for this little hidden treasure I found inside one of your books when faced with the unpleasant task of clearing out your office.


The caption under this picture reads:  "On April 19, 1894, Silon Lewis was sentenced to be shot "until dead," for the murder of Joe Haklotybbi.  He was given his freedom, without bond, until execution day.  On November 5, 1894, he promptly appeared at Mashalatubbe Court House, near Red Oak, Indian Territory, sat down on a blanket, removed his shoes and calmly signified he was ready.  He was shot through his lung by the sheriff, because Lewis' heart-beat was on the right side of his breast.  Guards are shown smothering him as the sheriff stands by with a Windchester."



What a story. I love history. It provides closure. As opposed to living out life on faith, not knowing what your final epitaph will read. Life is going along ok now, but will it change? People change. Things happen. History doesn't change. There is closure. I have a hard time driving by any museum when I'm traveling about.

There are lots of great tales about the wild west. What draws me to this one is the fact that it took place in the town I lived in until I was six years old. Silon Lewis' trial took place fourteen miles southwest of Red Oak, Choctaw Nation, but they ask him to report to the old council house near Wilburton (where I lived until I was 6 years old) on the morning of the execution. He shot the Sherriff, Joe Hoklotubbee (so like in the movies). He was to be shot at high noon on the 5th day of November, 1894 (high noon - just like in the movies). By the way we are talking about Oklahoma before it became a state. It was just the Choctaw Nation back then.

This article is quite something just on the surface of the story, but it just keeps on giving. Lewis' wife gave her account in her own words, which was as strangely calm and far removed from the world I know, as was the calm resolve Lewis displayed toward being executed. Part of her account reads “We carried on a normal life through the summer. Lewis managed his property as usual, but we made several trips to McAlester and Hartshorne.” She also mentioned that Lewis had his picture taken in Hartshorne about three weeks before his end. I have searched for that picture, but have yet to find it.

The reason I say this story keeps on giving is because I started researching some of the things that didn't make sense to me. Like why did they suffocate him when all those guys were standing around with guns (the law read to be shot one time)? And a thousand other questions. Mainly, why on earth did he come back (Choctaw code of honor)? Funny thing was he didn't think they would kill him. He was a prominent tribe member that owned lots of land. The sheriff even thought the locals would ride into town to save him, and was going to let him go the minute he saw their dust flying.

When it came time, high noon execution day, Silon Lewis wanted Lyman Pulsey to do it, not the Sheriff. Here's the thing. Lyman Pulsey was a close friend, and they use to hunt together when they were young men. I thought that was odd. Then I researched further and found out that if the condemned survived the execution by one shot to the chest they get to live. Guess he didn't plan on death by handkerchief.  I think Silon Lewis thought he'd be going home to nurse a bullet wound. Cocky politicians. I say this because Silon Lewis shot Joe Hoklotubbee during a political campaign. Joe was the leader in the Nationalist party of the Choctaw Nation, and Silon was the head of the opposing party. And we think politics is rough now days. 

I got more answers, but they are too voluminous to fit in this post. Instead I have provided the links below where I found the answers. 



I WROTE AN EPITAPH FOR SILON LEWIS:



Notes of interest: Moshalatubbee was misspelled in this article; appears as Mosholetvbbi, as was Hoklotubbee; appears as Hokalotybbi.

INDIAN POLICE OF THE INDIAN TERRITORY, by Art Burton
http://artburton.com/articles/indian_police_it.htm

CHOCTAW NATION OF OKLAHOMA
http://www.choctawnation.com/history/people/

CHOCTAW - AGRICULTURISTS OF THE SOUTHERN INDIANS
http://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-choctaw2.html

INDIAN CHIEFS
http://www.nativeamericanlinks.com/chiefs.htm

HARVEST
http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/h/ha041.html


Choctaw Crime and Punishment, 1884-1907 By Devon Abbott Mihesuah
I found this book on ebay, but still couldn’t purchase it. It’s there, I push the purchase button, then it’s not there. After a little research I discovered this:

Dear Trula, 
Thank you for your message. JSTOR's Publisher Sales Service does allow unaffiliated users to purchase some articles through the publisher. You can now search JSTOR and receive a list of search results. From there, select an article. If it is available for purchase, you will see a button on the yellow banner with the price of the article. Once you have clicked on that, you will be given prompts to be able to purchase the article using your credit card.


1 comment:

  1. This is such an interesting article! It makes you wonder about the order of things just a hundred years ago; which is not that long considering the larger scope of time. Thank you for sharing! Glad to see you're back!

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