Oklahoma is Steeped in the History of the Old West

Larry E Lambert

One of the more interesting things about living in Oklahoma is you can still get an Old West vibe here. Of course, the Cowboy Hall of Fame is located in Oklahoma City, and is a pretty big attraction here in Oklahoma, but what I find more interesting are the back stories of some of the old towns in Oklahoma.

I live in a town called Tecumseh. Obviously, there are a lot of towns with Indians names in this state, but I’m going to concentrate on a couple of nearby towns today.

This towns are tied in with a couple of interesting Old West characters. One good guy, and one decidedly bad guy. The good guy goes first.

If you watched, “You Know My Name” you might remember Cromwell.

Cromwell is where noted fronter lawman, Bill Tilghman was killed by corrupt prohibition agent, Wiley Lynn. In ‘You Know My Name,” Tilghman was played by Sam Elliott. While the account is highly fictionalized, it did give recognition to Tilghman, one of the most famous lawmen in Oklahoma history, or the history of the Old West for that matter.

Cromwell was founded in 1923 and was a rough and tumble place very briefly. It was a boomtown and had a population of several thousand people within a few weeks. It was also a very lawless place. Enter Bill Tilghman.

It seems Tilghman was trying to clean the place up, but as mentioned, was killed by Wiley Lynn on October 31, 1923. In what could only be called a controversial trial, Lynn was acquitted. But that’s not the end of the story.

A month later the town was burned to the ground. Allegedly by friends of Tilghman. There was no investigation into the fire. As for Lynn, he was later killed in a gunfight.

What about now?

Cromwell is a wide spot on the road which, as of 2010 had 286 people in it. So, when driving through a sleepy Oklahoma town, keep in mind things weren’t necessarily always so sleepy.

Jim Miller, the most notorious Old West assassin you’ve never heard of.

To the south of Tecumseh lies the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. It’s seemly a sleepy, nondescript town. It is, however, where one of the most cold blooded killers in the Old West met his demise.

As was the case with other Old West bad guys, between murders, Miller also served as a lawman. He also was called ‘Deacon Jim” because he didn’t smoke or drink and was a regular church goer.

Miller had been tried for his crimes in the past but had always managed to escape conviction. Then Miller ventured in Ada.

There he was quickly suspected of killing Allen Augustus “Gus” Bobbitt, an Ada resident. Fearing that Miller wouldn’t be convicted, some Ada residents took matters into their own hands. They lynched Miller and three other suspects on April 19, 1909.

Both Tilghman and Miller were colorful characters who met their end in small Oklahoma towns. So, if you find yourself driving through Oklahoma, remember, there might be some interesting history behind the peaceful facade.

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You probably don't know my name, but you've likely seen or heard my work. I've written for various syndicated cartoonists and TV standups. My gags have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Barron's, Parade Magazine, and the Saturday Evening Post. The comedians I've sold to include Jay Leno for the Tonight Show. In addition, I've written for radio stations and ad agencies. I hope you enjoy my work.

Largo, FL

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