Three Guardsmen

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The Three Guardsmen is the name popularized in Old West literature describing three lawmen who became legendary in their pursuit of many outlaws of the late 19th century. Deputy U.S. Marshals Bill Tilghman (1854–1924), Chris Madsen (1851–1944), and Heck Thomas (1850–1912) were "The Three Guardsmen", working under U.S. Marshal Evett "E.D." Nix.

Outlaw Person declared as outside the protection of the law

In historical legal systems, an outlaw is declared as outside the protection of the law. In pre-modern societies, the criminal is withdrawn all legal protection, so that anyone is legally empowered to persecute or kill them. Outlawry was thus one of the harshest penalties in the legal system. In early Germanic law, the death penalty is conspicuously absent, and outlawing is the most extreme punishment, presumably amounting to a death sentence in practice. The concept is known from Roman law, as the status of homo sacer, and persisted throughout the Middle Ages.

Bill Tilghman American career lawman, gunfighter, and politician in Kansas and Oklahoma during the late 19th century

William Matthew Tilghman Jr. was a career lawman, gunfighter, and politician in Kansas and Oklahoma during the late 19th century. Tilghman was a Dodge City city marshal in the early 1880s and played a role in the Kansas County Seat Wars. In 1889 he moved to Oklahoma where he acquired several properties during a series of land rushes. While serving as a Deputy U.S. Marshal in Oklahoma, he gained recognition for capturing the notorious outlaw Bill Doolin and helping to track and kill the other members of Doolin's gang, which made him famous as one of Oklahoma's "Three Guardsmen".

Chris Madsen was a lawman of the Old West who is best known as being one of The Three Guardsmen, the name given to Madsen and two other Deputy US Marshals who were responsible for the apprehension and/or killing of several outlaws of that era. The Three Guardsmen consisted of Madsen, Bill Tilghman, and Heck Thomas.


Career and notoriety

Beginning in 1889, they began "cleaning up" part of what became the State of Oklahoma. Widely considered honest, dutiful, and capable, they were responsible for suppressing much of the outlaw element in the Indian Territory and environs, reportedly arresting in excess of some 300 desperadoes during the next decade, and killing several others. All three had the reputation of being dauntless in their pursuit, ignoring bad weather, and each was known for their unique tracking abilities. Ironically the nickname "Three Guardsmen" was given to them by outlaws they pursued. Heck Thomas' relentless pursuit of the Dalton Gang was specifically mentioned by gang member Emmett Dalton as one reason the Dalton Gang attempted to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas – to make one big score so that they could leave the territory for a time. Resistance from the lawmen and citizens of Coffeyville to this robbery ended the gang with the deaths of most of its members.

Oklahoma U.S. state in the United States

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south and west, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the 50 United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

Emmett Dalton American outlaw

Emmett Dalton was an American outlaw, train robber and member of the Dalton Gang in the American Old West. Part of the ill-fated Dalton raid on two banks in Coffeyville, Kansas, he survived despite receiving 23 gunshot wounds. After serving 14 years in prison for the crime, Dalton capitalized on his notoriety to author books and become an actor in Hollywood.

Dalton Gang Group of outlaws in the American Old West

The Dalton Gang was a group of outlaws in the American Old West during 1890–1892. It was also known as The Dalton Brothers because three of its members were brothers. The gang specialized in bank and train robberies. During an attempted bank robbery in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1892, two of the brothers and two other gang members were killed; Emmett survived and was captured, tried, and convicted. He was paroled after serving 14 years in prison.

They are most famous for their relentless pursuit of the Wild Bunch, or Doolin Gang, which included surviving members of the Dalton Gang. The three lawmen eliminated many of the Doolin Gang by systematically killing gang members who resisted them and arresting those who would surrender. Deputy Marshal Heck Thomas killed gang leader Bill Doolin. Deputy Marshal Chris Madsen led the posse that killed Doolin gang members "Dynamite Dan" Clifton and Richard "Little Dick" West. Deputy Marshal Tilghman was ultimately responsible for the death of Doolin gang member William F. "Little Bill" Raidler. Other gang members were also captured or killed by them. [1]

Wild Bunch gang of outlaws in central USA in 1890s

The Wild Bunch, also known as the Doolin–Dalton Gang or the Oklahombres, were a gang of American outlaws based in the Indian Territory that were active in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma Territory during the 1890s—robbing banks and stores, holding up trains, and killing lawmen. They were also known as The Oklahoma Long Riders because of the long dusters that they wore. Of all the outlaw gangs produced by the American Old West, none met a more violent end than the Wild Bunch. Only two of its eleven members survived into the 20th century, and all eleven met violent deaths in gun battles with lawmen.

Bill Doolin American bandit in the Wild Bunch gang

William "Bill” Doolin was an American bandit outlaw and founder of the Wild Bunch, a gang that specialized in robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas during the 1890s.

Dan Clifton (1865–1896?), known as Dynamite Dan or Dynamite Dick, was an American western outlaw and member of the Doolin Gang.

Later years

Heck Thomas retired in 1905, and in 1907 accepted a Chief of Police position in Lawton, Oklahoma. He died in 1912 of Bright's disease.

Lawton, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma

The city of Lawton is the county seat of Comanche County, in the State of Oklahoma. Located in southwestern Oklahoma, about 87 mi (140 km) southwest of Oklahoma City, it is the principal city of the Lawton, Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the 2010 census, Lawton's population was 96,867, making it the fifth-largest city in the state.

Brights disease historical classification of nephritis

Bright's disease is a historical classification of kidney diseases that would be described in modern medicine as acute or chronic nephritis. It was characterized by swelling and the presence of albumin in the urine, and was frequently accompanied by high blood pressure and heart disease.

Bill Tilghman retired in 1910 and was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate. On Halloween night, 1924, and at the age of 70, Tilghman was murdered by a corrupt prohibition agent named Wiley Lynn, while serving as town Marshal for Cromwell, Oklahoma. Cromwell at the time was a wild town full of brothels, pool halls and saloons. One month after his death, the entire town was burned to the ground – no building was left standing. Chris Madsen and other former law enforcement friends of Tilghman were believed to have been responsible, but no investigation into the arsons was ever conducted. The town of Cromwell never recovered; as of the 2000 census, its population was less than 300.

Halloween Holiday celebrated October 31

Halloween or Hallowe'en, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

Prohibition The outlawing of the consumption, sale, production etc. of alcohol

Prohibition is the act or practice of forbidding something by law; more particularly the term refers to the banning of the manufacture, storage, transportation, sale, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The word is also used to refer to a period of time during which such bans are enforced.

Marshal is a term used in several official titles in various branches of society. As marshals became trusted members of the courts of Medieval Europe, the title grew in reputation. During the last few centuries, it has been used for elevated offices, such as in military rank and civilian law enforcement.

Madsen had retired in 1905, and died in 1944 at the age of 93.

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  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-07-15. Retrieved 2006-07-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)