When I left off last time I had taken the tale to the point where Ned had fled to the remote area of the territory in an effort to give the Fort Smith crowd a time to cool of in their fervor to capture him. At this time I belive I should give cause as to the U. S. Marshall’s office and the Hanging Judge Parker’s belief in his guilt. First, Ned’s jacket he had on the night of his drunken stupor was found near where he had passed out. In the pocket was found the broken neck of the whiskey bottle from the night before. Also found was the strip of cloth torn from Nancy “Old Lady” Shell’s apron, used to stopper the drink. Near the scene of the shooting were the broken remains of the whiskey bottle. This was enough to convince the investigating officers of Ned’s guilt. So the warrant and order for arrest was issued.
After Ned fled the area, John Parris and a second drinking parner of the night, Charlie Bobtail, were confined to jail in Fort Smith. They were both charged in the murder of Maples along with Christie and Bub Trainor. However Trainor claimed that he was eating supper at Nancy Shell’s and well before the shooting, so he was released on bail. He continued to raise hell, and appeared in court on various other charges. Judge Parker ruled that the case could not go forward without the apprehension of Christie.
On May 18, 1889, Jacob Yates took over the duties of marshal. A man of strong principles, he started to clean up the back log of cases before him. The thing that most bothered him was the unsolved case of the killing of Deputy Marshal Dan Maples (image of maples in B&W, at left). He called upon his most trusted Deputy Marshall – Heck Thomas, reminding him there was a $500 reward for Ned Christie.
Heck Thomas was one of the most active officers ever to join the U. S. Marshals office. In November of 1887 he is reputed to have brought in a record 41 fugitives on one trip.
Thomas enlisted the skill of a well known tracker one L. P. Isbell, also a marshal ,and started his usual circuit of the territory. At Muskogee, they turned over 13 prisoners under guard, and met Bub Trainor. Trainor knew Ned Christie and also knew his habits and haunts quite well. Trainor claimed he wanted Christie captured to clear his own name.
In late September of 1889, Heck Thomas with a posse of 13 men located Ned Christie at his home in Rabbit Trap. In the early dawn of the 26th, they surrounded and crept near the house. Suddenly the large pack of dogs Christie kept began to bark and give the alarm. Thomas gave the order to rush the cabin. They could hear Ned scramble into the loft.
Deputy Thomas shouted for Christie to surrender. The outlaw kicked a plank off the end of the loft and opened fire with his deadly Winchester. Thomas then shouted that” if he was going to fight to first send out his women and children”. Christie continued to fire. The next move of the posse was to set fire to a small out-building near the house, hoping the smoke might flush out the occupants of the house. The desired effect was achieved – Nancy Christie soon ran out of the house. Young James remained behind, scrambling into the loft to reload his fathers guns.
Smoke filled the clearing and soon the flames jumped to the main house. The deputies waited for Ned to come out. Unknown to them a ball had smashed Ned’s nose, struck his left eye, and traveled under the skin around his head and lodged in the back. Blinded and unable to move, he lay there paralyzed. Young James had taken up his fathers rifle and continued to fire at the posse.
James tried to move his father but could not and finally he decided to leave the house alone. As the fires crept closer he jumped out and tried to scale a fence he was struck in the back by a bullet. He managed to stumble into the woods and stagger away .
The deputies decided that Ned was probably dead by now, and Deputy Isbell was bleeding badly from a wound he had suffered to his shoulder. The younger Christie had disapeared into the woods and they felt certain that the woman who had fled the cabin would be returning with help. So the decision was made to leave.
Nancy soon returned and, finding the posse gone, she ran into the burning cabin to discover her wounded, paralyzed husband in the loft. Unable to move his weight, other family members and friends soon arrived, drawn by the shooting and calamity, and helped get Ned out of the burning building. They removed the badly wounded outlaw to the woods, where they hid him and soon located the badly hurt boy. They sent for Dr. Bitting – a whiteman who owned a nearby grist mill.
The wounded marshall Isbell was taken to Tahleguah, where Deputy Marshal Heck Thomas telegraphed Marshal Yotes about the fight. Thomas soon returned to Rabbit Trap, where he was met with great resentment from the community for the assult on the Christie family. He was also surprised to learn that both of the Christie’s had survived the fight.
Dr. Bitting considered Ned’s wound to be serious, but not fatal. Ned’s nose had been smashed and his left eye blinded, ruining his good looks, but he would survive. Ned now had a burning hatred in his heart, his own wounds were large, but his son had been hurt and his home destroyed – all for a crime he had not committed. He swore that he would never be taken alive. He also swore if he ever got Bub Trainor in his sights he would shoot him.
Image at left is of Ned Christie, exact date unkown.
Ned’s friends built him a rock fort on a hilltop less than a mile from his burned out cabin. The stockade was well provisioned with food and water and ammunition. The trees were also cleard from the hill top so a clear feild of fire commanded the area. After getting installed in the holdout, Ned sent word to Heck Thomas where he could be found, and invited him to call again.
On November 12, Heck Thomas returned to Rabbit Trap with a posse that included Bub Trainor. After seeing Christie’s fortified position and hearing his verbal taunts, the posse decided they could not take it without a milita regiment and wisely decided to withdraw.
Thomas never attempted to capture Ned Christie again, and Ned enjoyed a period of relative peace for a period, while he and his son James continued to improve and heal. Friends and relatives helped Ned build a new home just east of his burned out one. It became a special two story structure built with two walls with a space in between filled with rock and sand. It is said to have had a root cellar and only one door, no windows on the first floor and only small shooting slots on the second. Once again Ned stocked the place with food, water and plenty of ammunition.
Ned enjoyed having his family with him, so he was delighted when his oldest daughter Mary Gritts moved in with her one year old daughter Charlotte. Ned’s nephew, 14-year old Arch Wolf, was also often there. Christie liked having young people around and he was idolized as a hero by most of the youth in the area. However it the summer of 1890, the reputation as an outlaw continued to grow. Any act of illegality in the surrounding territory was attribituted to him. Many of his former admirers and friends began to drop away. They felt that his criminal activites were beginning to become too violent to tolerate.
The reward for Cristie’s capture and delivery to Fort Smith had been raised to $1,000. Judge Parker was confident that someone would soon claim the tendered offering. During 1891-92 lawmen and bounty hunters roamed the Going Snake District. On more than one occasion Christie shot at his tormenters. The legend began to grow among the Cherokee that Ned led a charmed life and was invincable. It had now been more than 5 1/2 years since the Deputy Marshal Maples murder and Marshall Yoes became desperate to bring closure to the matter. In an effort to do so, he summoned Deputy Marshall Dave Rusk, who had beeen part of Heck Thomas’s effort in 1889. He told Rusk to get Christie at any cost or effort.
Rusk, along with five other deputies, attempted to steathly approach Christie’s house in the early hours of October 12, 1892, but once again the dogs alerted the occupants. In the ensuing gunfight two of the deputys were wounded. Once again an attempt to fire an out-building was tried, hoping the fire would spread to the main house. But this time the out-buildings were located too far away. Next, they tried to use dynamite, but the fuse refused to cooperate and would not burn. Rusk then sent word to Yoes that more men were needed. Yoes replied that help was on the way to hold fast.
The assault continued throughout the day and night, to no effect. They finally gave up in disgust and faded away. Yoes would not be disuaded. He then turned to Gus York, he was not a federal officer, but was well versed in the area where Christie lived.
York appointed Deputy Marshal Cap White as head of the posse. The group borrowed a cannon that fired a 3-pound bullet-shaped -ball, and the well armed bunch (more of a mob) set out for Christie’s fort. Leaving Fatteville, Ark. for Rabbit Trap, the group gathered more men along the way including George Jefferson, Mack Peel and Dan Maples’ son Sam, all who had been at the wagon camp the night of Mapel’s murder.
Reaching the border of the Cherokee Nation just after sunset on November 2, the posse took a short break. Setting off again they reached Christie’s cabin around 4a.m., under cover of darkness they surounded the cabin. This time the dogs sounded no alarm, James Christie was not home, the posse had heard dogs bark earlier but not now. It is believed James might have taken the dogs hunting.
Since the attack in October, Ned had stayed close to home, and his fortified house. Inside with him were his wife Nancy, daughter Mary: granddaughter Charlotte; Little Arch ( Arch Wolf): Charles Hare, a young full-blood Cherokee and Charles Grease, a 7-year old nephew of Nancy’s.
Shortly after dawn Nancy and Mary came out breifly and returned inside noticing nothing wrong. Soon Little Arch came out and when challenged refused to surrender – and the fight was on. After litle Arch wounded Gus York, the Sheriff Ben Knight, a full-blood to call for Ned’s surrender in Chreokee, to make sure Ned understood. Christie responded with a barrage of lead. He was then asked to send out the women and childern. Christie bought Nancy and Mary with the young from the root cellar and sent them out. All left except for young Charlie grease.
About this time James was caught trying to take his father two boxes of bullets, according to an article in the OKLAHOMA CITY EVENING GAZETTE. The newspaper also said that the outlaws kept up a perfect fusillade of bullets all during the day.
A huge crowd of Ned’s family and friends gathered to watch below the wagon ford. At times the heavy black gunsmoke stung their eyes, until the wind would carry it away.
The deputy marshalls kept asking for their surrender through the day, promising them good treatment. Ned and the wounded Little Arch laughed at them and declared they were winning. They thought it was funny the goverment would send so many after one man and a boy. Even the gathered crowd made fun of the officers in their so far, vain attempt.
Sheriff White sent for Watt Christie, Ned’s father to try to entreat his son to surrender. Watt Christie refused – He said he could see no evil in his son. Mary then tried to return to the house, telling the lawmen there was still a baby inside. Knight doubted her word and grabbed at her apron and five boxes of .44 catridges fell out onto the ground. Mary then turned and ran away.
The deputy kept up a long range fight until the borrowed cannon finally arrived. Apparently only the barrel was sent because it is stated they mounted it on a post-oak stump across Bitting Creek. It is further stated that the deputy’s fired 38 rounds at the cabin with no effect, the sturdy walls simply bounced the bullets off. Apparently this was just solid shot rather than exploding shells. After this dissapointing show it was decided to use a heavier charge of powder, which resulted in blowing the cannon up – much to the delight of the crowd of onlookers.
The fight continued until after dark, and several of the deputies were wounded. Dynamite was again decided to be used. After the moon went down, Charlie Copeland ran up and placed a dozen sticks of dynamite with a long fuse beside the house. At daylight on the 4th the fuse was touched.
According to the ARKANASA GAZETTE the house was wrecked, one cornor fell in, and the structure caught on fire. Ned was once again asked to surrender, he answered with the usual round of gunfire. Finally the fire became so intense that the defenders had to retreat to the root cellar. Then the roof fell in, Arch Wolfs hair caught fire and Charles Hare was hit by burning timbers. At that point young Charlie Grease was probably already dead.
In the thick smoke from the burning house suddenly the deputys saw Ned Christie burst from the flames and, firing at the neareast deputy, he nearly got away. Young Deputy Marshal Wess Bowman heard a yell and saw Ned running at him and two other depuies, firing his rifle as he came. The deputies riddled his body with bullets. In the awful, sudden silence the deputies gathered around the lifeless body. Sam Maples, Murdered Dan Maples son, ran up and emptied his pistol into Christie’s body. In the early morning stillness as the smoke cleared the surrounding hill thrilled to the morning call of the Cherokee women.
the officers found badly burned Charles Hare trying to excape, he was arrested. At first the badly burned body of Charlie Grease was identified as Arch Wolf. Arch had lost all his hair but had managed to excape. Later he would be arrested in Chicago.
Ned Christie’s body was strapped to a door from his cabin and photographed by a potographer who had tagged along with the posse. Then the body was hauled to Fort Worth, so the posse could collect their hard earned reward. There the body was placed on display as was the custom of the day. More pictures were taken, including on with the posse members (see attatched photo) . All the posse members were congratulated by Judge Parker.
Gus York recieved the $1,000 reward. After covering expences (I hope that included the cost of the cannon) and dividing it among the posse members, each man got $74. (blood money?)
Charles Hare and Arch Wolf stood trial and were convicted of resisting arrest and intent to kill. They both did time. Little Arch became depressed behind bars and was admitted to a hospital for the insane, where he remained untill 1907. James Christie was shot by an assasan, eight months after his fathers death, reportedly his head was severed from his body.
Ned Christie’s body can be seen below, marked as #5, as the marshals pose with his body: With the death of Ned christie, Maples’ death never came to trial, so no official blame was ever cast. But in a story printed in the DAILY OKLAHOMAN in 1918, the following facts came to light by a Tahlequah blacksmith, Richard A. (Dick) Humphery, who was a former negro slave, and adopted into the Cherokee Tribe (also a comom practice at the time). He had witnessed a murder.
On his way home from work on the night of Deputy Maples murder. Humphry had started across the foot bridge below the wagon camp at Big Springs. In the moonlight he saw Bub Trainor stooped over Ned Christie, who was passed out. Trainor took off Christie’s dark jacket and slipped it over his white shirt. With a pistol in hand, Trainor took up a station behind a tree near the wagon. Humphery knew devilment was afoot and, afraid of discovery, he hid in some bushes, in fear of his own life. What he witnessed was the assasination of Maples.
Fear of Bub Trainor and his wrath, Humphrey sealed his lips until well after Trainor’s own death. Trainor was killed in 1896, killed by four negros, with four shotguns, in Talala. Humphery was still afraid to tell what he knew for fear of Trainor’s gang. At 87 he wanted to set the record straight – 26 years after Maples death.
Humphery said that after Trainor shot Maples, he ran over to Christie and threw his coat over him, shook him hard and told him to get up. Christie still in a stupor, got to this feet and walked to a clump of small trees and went to sleep again. Trainor then ran away, Humphrey ran the other direction.
The day after the shooting The deputy marshals investigating the Maples killing foud Christie’s jacket and the broken bottles, there by sealing Ned Christie’s future and plunging him into a life of living hell and crime.
Today The story of Ned Christie remains a favorite legend among the Cherokee as to the injustice of the white man against their people. The Cherokee People were one of the truly civilized tribes adapting to the white man’s ways, living under a goverment much like that of the whites , they farmed and understood the concept of property ownership. . As stated earlier they took sides in the Civil War according to their own belief in the conflict. I am proud of my Cherokee blood.
Below are a few more photos related to this story:
Image of Ned Christie’s grave site and photo of Parker before he became a judge.
Image of George Maledon, an executioner of Judge Parker referred to as the “Prince of Hangmen”. The second image refers to a “Fort Smith Hanging”, no date or details are available.
All this and more is readly available on the internet.
Much is also there for those interested in the Cherokee people.
Thanks for stumbling through this mess with me again.