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U.S. Marshals Making a Difference

February 27, 2002

Almanac Transcript

U.S. Marshals making a difference this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I’m Steven Knoche Kite.

Any student of Oklahoma history should know that in the late 1800s the territories were rife with violence and corruption. Outlaws in the territories had dozens of hideouts scattered throughout the area and even distributed maps of these locations amongst themselves. Lawbreakers in the area were routinely aided and abetted by various residents, and at one point there was an outlaw village of sorts, the Dogtown Settlement located near present day Wetumka.

There were forces, outnumbered though they were, who attempted to rid the area of crime. Based out of the U.S. Districts Courts at Muskogee, McAlester and Ardmore were dozens of U.S. Deputy Marshals whose job was bringing peace to the area. These Deputy Marshals were hearty, brave souls paid six cents for every mile ridden, fifty cents for every court summons served and provided with a dollar a day for expenses, that is if they could obtain and hold onto the proper receipts. These Marshals braved the elements, rugged terrain and hostile citizens all in the name of peace and order with very little money, glory or fame to show for it. One such officer was William Bartley Murrill.

Murrill was born in West Virginia and moved to Indian Territory with his parents. At an early age Murrill chose law enforcement as a career and began as a young man to live the life of a U.S. Deputy Marshal. Stationed out of El Reno, Murrill saw more than his fair share of action and was involved in numerous hot pursuits, gunfights and confrontations. Murrill's accounts provide for a fascinating look back on life in early day Oklahoma and Indian Territories. Fast on the trail of outlaws near Dover, Oklahoma Territory, Murrill was told by one rural resident, “You are Marshals and want information. Now, get out of here before I shoot you.” To which, witnesses reported, Murrill coolly replied, “You better get your head back inside or I'll crease it so that I'll know you next time I see you.” Despite such threats, Deputy Marshal Murrill managed to survive his years as territorial officer of the law leaving behind a respectable record of service to the cause. It was in this week of 1956 that the retired law officer living then in California passed away at the age of 86. U.S. Deputy Marshals making the news this week on the almanac.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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