Research Report 

Allen, U.S. Marshal?

Did a Descendant of William Allen Serve Under Judge Isaac (Hangin' Judge) Parker?
a work in progress by Larry Kraus

2000-2001 Larry Kraus, last update 24 Apr 2005

The Story

As American settlement moved west, the U.S. marshals went with it to uphold the law in remote, sparsely populated territories. The Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas was created in 1851 and, until 1896, held jurisdiction over 13 Arkansas counties and all or parts of the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). This vast area was home to the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks and Seminoles, removed from their homelands in the Southeast by the U.S. government during the 1830s.

On May 4th 1887 Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Maples of Bentonville went into the Cherokee Nation to serve three liquor warrants and was murdered. Judge Isaac Parker, Fort Smith Federal Judge known as the "Hanging Judge," assumed jurisdiction since it was one of his white Marshals who had been killed.

Judge Isaac C."Hangin' Judge" Parker, circa 1875.

U.S. Marshal Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas pushed into the Nations and was told by John Pariss that Maples had been murdered by a full blooded Cherokee called Ned Christie, resident of a wild area southeast of Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee nation. Ned Christie was blacksmith,  gunsmith, and Senator of the Cherokee nation. This led Judge Parker to issue a warrant for Christie's arrest for murder. Thomas took a posse into this rabbit warren, full of Christie's friends and relatives. They surrounded Christie's shack at dawn and Christie was summoned to surrender. The only answer was a blast of rifle fire from Christie and a cohort. Thomas set fire to an outbuilding of the cabin, and as the cabin blazed Christie and his henchman bolted for safety. The hired man went down, hit twice, and a slug from Thomas tore the bridge of Christie's nose and knocked out his left eye. In spite of his terrible wound, the Cherokee made it to safety and was nursed back to health by his friends. 

For five years, the U. S. Marshals were unable to apprehend Christie although he never left his home. His home, however, was burned to the ground. In 1891 another warrant was issued for Christie's arrest for assault, presumably on Deputy Marshals. Ned built a new stronger home. This double-walled structure, a cabin with another cabin wall around it and filled with sand in between, was later described as a log fort.

Ned Christie

For months Deputy Marshals Heck Bruner and Barney Connelly trailed Ned Christie without success. The marshals learned that Ned Christie was holding up in the new home (the log fort) at the mouth of a narrow canyon called Rabbit Trap Hollow, fourteen miles from Tahlequah. About daylight on the morning of November 2nd 1892, the place was surrounded by sixteen of the bravest men under Marshal Jacob Yoes' command, led by Heck Bruner and Captain G. S. White. Among these men were Deputy Marshals Dove Rusk, Charles Copeland, Creekmore and Dye and possemen Bowers and Fields. One man with a rifle could have held off a posse indefinitely. The battle raged into the afternoon without results. Several deputies had holes burned in their clothing by Christie's bullets. Christie was a dead shot, and none were so foolish as to rush the outlaw's hot Winchester.

Heck Bruner reported the situation to Marshal Yoes at Fort Smith. Yoes was determined to take the Christie at any cost. He ordered Paden Tolbert to assemble a second posse. This second posse is believed to have been composed of the following men:

Clarksville, AR: Paden Tolbert, Deputy Marshal; Frank (Becky) Polk, cook and the only black on the posse; Frank Sarber, 18 years old; Harry Clayland, 17 years old; Vint Gray; Tom Blackard; and Oscar Blackard

Bentonville, AR: Sam Maples; George Jefferson; and Mack Peel

Hartshorne, IT: E. B. Ratteree

Poteau, IT: James Birkett, Policeman

Fort Smith Museum of History. As was often the case, U.S. deputy marshals pose with the outlaw, Ned Christie, they had captured and killed. Christie's corpse leans against a board, third from the left.

Paden Tolbert and his posse met with Deputy Marshals Smith and Johnson at Baron Fork, IT, Heck Bruner and Copeland at Summer's Post, IT, and John Tolbert and his group of Deputies (that probably include Lewis "Ab" Allen) at Fort Smith, AR. This group was dispatched to Coffeyville, where they obtained a three pound cannon. Hauling the cannon in a wagon, the party returned to the scene. They hurled thirty balls into the fort without effect before finally breaking the cannon. According to legend, this was the only time until Waco when the government used artillery on a citizen. Eventually, the deputies fashioned a rolling shield out of a wagon loaded with timber. Using this shield they got close enough for Deputy Copeland to lob dynamite into the structure. Christie attempted to escape in the smoke but was shot down.

Ned's dead body was tied to a plank door, and traveled to Fayetteville where people posed for pictures with the "notorious outlaw." The body was then taken to Fort Smith so that the deputies could collect their rewards. There, Ned's body was put on public display, with a rifle propped in his arms. The body was then shipped by train to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory where Ned's father Watt and brother James claimed the remains. He was taken by wagon to Wauhilla, and laid to rest.

The Allen Connection

Three photos have come to light that seem to associate the Allen family of Johnson County, Arkansas with the U.S. Marshals involved in the capture and killing of Ned Christie. Unfortunately, the gentlemen in these photos have not yet been positively linked to the Johnson County Allens. 

Photo #1 was provided by CeCe Reynolds, great granddaughter of Ab Allen. It appeared in an Oklahoma City newspaper article related to the capture and killing of Ned Christie. The original is in the museum in Fort Smith. The Ab Allen in the photo is Absolum "A.B." Allen who was sworn in as a Deputy Marshal along with Wes Bowman in 1891. His relationship to the descendants of William Allen has not been established.

Photo #1: Ten of the 16 deputy marshals in the posse that killed Ned  Christie: Standing, from left, Wes Bowman, Ab Allen, John Tolbert, Bill Smith and Tom Johnson. Seated, from left Dove Rusk, Jack Bruner, Paden Tolbert, Charles Copeland and Captain G. S. White. It is believed that this is the first posse on the scene.
Courtesy of CeCe Reynolds.

Photo #2 is in the possession of Ann (Kraus) Ferguson. It was found in an old album containing mostly Allen photos that was handed down to her by her mother, Alice (Allen) Kraus. Ann was told that these men were U.S. Deputy Marshals and that the photo was taken in Oklahoma, but she was unable to identify anyone in the photo. The same photo was published in the book "Iron Men" along with a caption and was shown in the A&E History Channel presentation "U.S. Marshals". In "Iron Men" it is identified as Paden Tolbert's posse in front of Ned Christie's sawmill. Paden Tolbert appears in both Photo #1 and Photo #2 and obviously document the same event.

Photo #2: Paden Tolbert's posse, 1892, posed by the steam-driven sawmill Christie used to construct his log fort. L. to R.: Becky Polk [incorrect], Federal Policeman James Birkett, Oscar Blackard, Frank Sarbar, Vint Gray, Tom Blackard, Mack Peel, Harry Clayland, G. Jefferson and Paden Tolbert.  [from "Iron Men"]. This is believed to be the second posse on the scene. Courtesy Ann Ferguson. 

Photo #3 is also in the possession of Ann Ferguson. It was found in the same family album as Photo #2. This is another shot of Tolbert's posse. Since the men appear to be dressed in the same clothes, this photo is believed to have been taken in or near Ned Christie's log fort on the same day. 

Photo #3: Paden Tolbert's posse, standing, L. to R.: Paden Tolbert, Mack Peel, Oscar Blackard, Vint Gray, unknown; seated L. to R. Harry Clayland,  G. Jefferson, unknown, Tom Blackard, unknown, front row, L. to R., Frank "Becky" Polk, Frank Sarbar (18 years old). Courtesy Ann Ferguson. 


Ab Allen is mentioned several times in the book, "Iron Men" written by C. H. McKennon in 1967. The book starts in the post Civil War days in Clarksville which were tough, tough times. The book is about several men from the Johnson County and their experiences as Deputy Marshals. In this book, Ab is said to have taught school, served on local posses and worked with his father who was a blacksmith and wagon maker. His relationship to the William Allen line as not been established and none of the other gentlemen in Photo #1 have been linked to the William Allen family.

Ab Allen was the son of John Allen and Louvena Brasel. John and Louvena were both born in Tennessee. Their first two known children were born in Missouri (c1857 and c1860). Absalom was born 1865 in Johnson County, Arkansas. John and Louvena are found in Newton County in 1870 where John worked as a farm laborer and in 1880 in Johnson County where John was a farmer. Absalom married Rosetta Beasley, daughter of Quinton Beasley and Elizabeth Skaggs, on 21 September 1890 in Johnson County. That same year Ab joined the US Marshall's service in Fort Smith. Rosetta's sister, Mary Eveline Beasley married to James Wesley 'Wes' Bowman. Wes was on the second posse with Ab Allen and is the man who shot Ned Christie. Before 1900 Ab and Rosetta seperated. She moved with their children to the west coast and remarried.

According to the caption of the Photo #2 that also appears in the book "Iron Men," this is Paden Tolbert's posse posing in front of the sawmill used to build Ned Christie's "fort." That places the location at Rabbit Trap Hollow southeast of Tahlequah and the date is probably November 1892. Note that Paden Tolbert appears in both Photos #1 and #2 and both photos are tied to the taking of Ned Christie. Photo #3 is of Paden Tolbert and many of the same men in Photo #1. It was probably taken the same day in Rabbit Trap Hollow. There are no Allens or known relatives in Photos #2 or #3. So why are these photos in a very formal and expensive turn of the century Allen family photo album?

There is obviously some connection to the descendants of William Allen and this event. Though no family stories related to U.S. Marshals have surfaced in the Allen family. If Ab is not related to John William it is possible that someone else in the photos is related through marriage to our Allens or possibly the descendants of Jacob Kraus or Meltire Kendall. There are a few Kraus and Kendall photos in Ann Ferguson's album and a number of Kraus family members lived in Hagarville at the turn of the century. There may, in fact, be no relationship. In 1900 John Russell Tolbert, Paden's father, lived next door to George W. Kraus, Ann Ferguson's granduncle. Perhaps the fact that the Tolberts were friends and next door neighbors of the Krauses was significant enough to warrant placing photos of the event in the Kraus Family Album. Indeed, the Tolberts may have given the photos to the Krauses. For now, the connection is still a mystery.

Names Mentioned in this Report
and their presumed role in the taking of Christie

Additional Sources: