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Article By Mike Tower
Emanuel Patterson, a black man, lived near Cherokee Town in the Chickasaw Nation. Patterson
was sort of a rough character with a mean reputation. On August 11, 1880, Deputy United States
Marshal Willard M. Ayers, armed a writ charging Patterson with Larceny, went to Pattersons house
to serve the papers. It was late at night when the Deputy arrived at Pattersons cabin, and instead of
announcing his presence, as was customary, Deputy Ayers began pounding on the door and
demanding admittance. Patterson readily admitted that he shot, and killed, Deputy Ayers, explaining
the deputy had demanded entry into his home in a rough and abrupt manner, without stating his identify
or purpose. Patterson told the court he thought the unbidden visitor was an enemy.
Hanging Judge Issac Parker, of the Fort Smith Court, did not buy Pattersons story and told him
on October 20, 1887 that he would hang him in the Spring of 1888. Instead, Pattersons sentence was
commuted to life imprisonment for heroism.
The story behind that is that it seems another prisoner, one Bogles, who was scheduled to be
executed for a particularly brutal murder, got hold of a guards pistol about 10 minutes before the
actual execution. Bogles dashed into his cell with the weapon, and his cell mate, Emanuel Patterson,
wrestled the weapon away and tossed it to a guard. The guards knew full well, from experience, that a
prisoner with a loaded firearm usually meant several someones would wind up dead. Pattersons
action probably saved the lives of several inmates and guards.
(Source: Hell on the Border by S. W,
Harman, University of Nebraska Press, 1992; original publication in 1898. Law West of Fort Smith,
by Glen Shirley, University of Nebraska Press, 1968.)
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