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LAWMEN and OUTLAWS

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Written, submitted & © 2000-02 by: W. K. (Kip) Stratton


Isaac Caldwell was killed in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 1913 by Lou Green. I would dispute whether he was murdered by Green. Green at that point was the most successful bootlegger in Guthrie; a syndicate of mail-order bootleggers out of Kansas City and Wichita were attempting to muscle their way into the Oklahoma action, and Caldwell and his partner were later proved to be on the payroll of these mobsters. In short, they were bagmen for the mob. They previously had beaten Green badly and Green had told them he would shoot them if they tried to beat him again. Caldwell and his partner came to Green's shoeshine parlor, and true to his word, shot them -- in self-defense.
This incident set off one of the worst race riots in Oklahoma prior to the Tulsa riot. Green was black; Caldwell and his partner were white. A forgotten Oklahoma hero named John Mahoney single-handedly prevented Green from being lynched. There was quite an auto chase north out of Guthrie on what is now referred to as "old U.S. 77." But Mahoney managed to get Green to safety in Newkirk.
Later, after things cooled off, Green was returned to Guthrie for trial. All charges for his shooting one of the two officers were dropped after evidence of criminal wrong-doing by the part of the Guthrie police was established in court. He was sentenced for manslaughter in the killing of the other officer. He was sent to McAlester.
Now...here's the best part of the story. Several years earlier, in 1907, Green had prevented a drunken Frank Canton (!) from shooting and killing Gov.-elect Charles Haskell in his room in the Royal Hotel. Haskell was playing cards with his wife, his daughter Frances (whom I knew when she was a very old woman and I was a very VERY young man) and her husband, Leslie Niblack, publisher of the GUTHRIE DAILY LEADER. Green was the head bartender at the Royal in Guthrie. He overheard Canton making drunken threats about Haskell. He jumped Canton from behind just as he was pulling his pistol and saved the governor-elect. Whatever differences Haskell and Canton had were overlooked, for Haskell named him adjutant of the Oklahoma militia. (My belief is this: Canton was in the employment of VERY powerful business interests wherever he went: that's why he got away with murder in Montana, why the Texas Rangers let him go when he was still known as Joe Horner, etc. I think Haskell HAD to appoint Canton to the adjutant's post, in other words, but that's a whole other story).
Anyway...a few years after Lou Green was convicted of killing one of the corrupt Guthrie cops, Haskell's wife heard about the incident -- the Haskell's having moved to Long Island by this point. She pursuaded the sitting Governor to grant Lou Green a full pardon based on his saving Gov. Haskell back in '07, and Lee Cruse did that on Christmas Day. Nevertheless, Lou Green had to spend several years locked up in McAlester before he received his pardon. Unfortunate, for he probably should never have been sent away in the first place.
I heard this story from Frances Haskell when she was in her late-80s and I was about 19. I was working as a reporter on the Guthrie Daily Leader at the time (1975). A few years later, I spent a lot of time at the Oklahoma Historical Society trying to verify it. I was able to do so with a combination of primary and secondary resources. The great find was an interview with Sheriff John Mahoney in the WPA writers project's oral histories. He was on his deathbed at the time and recounted the riot and the subsequent chase out of Guthrie after Green killed the two police officers. Mahoney was the only law enforcement officer in Guthrie that Green would surrender to. The Oklahoma Department Corrections records let me know when Green was paroled, and, sure enough, a story in the Guthrie Daily Leader from that date recounted how Green disarmed Frank Canton on the night he tried to kill Haskell at the Royal Hotel. There is extensive coverage in the Leader about events in 1913, and it names names.


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LAWMEN and OUTLAWS

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

 

 
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