This Day In History: Legendary Western Lawman Is Murdered (1924)

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On this day,  legendary lawman of the Old West was murdered. William Tilghman, who had been a lawman for almost half a century and who had brought countless outlaws and rustlers to justice was gunned down on this date in 1924. Remarkably, he was not killed by some robber or desperado but by a prohibition agent. Tilghman was murdered by the agent who was corrupt and who demanded that Tilghman turn a blind eye to an illegal bootlegging operation.  The dead lawman was 71 years old when he was gunned down.

Tilghman was one of the most successful lawmen of his day and he was one of the men that cleaned-up the Old West. He was often in demand because he was an effective marshal. Tighlman was known to all as ‘Uncle Billy’

He was born in Iowa in 1854 and he moved west when he was only a teenager. At first, he fell in with a bad crowd and he became involved in crime. It is suspected that he and his friends were involved in rustling horses from an Indian Reservation. However, Tilghman was a smart kid and he decided that a life of crime was only a one-way ticket to the penitentiary or to the gallows. He moved to Dodge City (Kansas) and eventually became a deputy sheriff and opened a saloon. However, he was a controversial figure and he was twice charged with holding up a train but the charges were later dropped on each occasion.

Tilghman came to be regarded as an honest and dependable lawman. He became the marshal of Dodge City. After helping to clean up that town he moved to the new territory of Oklahoma and he became the deputy US marshal for the entire area. The territory was lawless and full of rustlers, outlaws, and bandits. Tilgman, helped to end the lawlessness in the territory and was involved in the killing or capturing of several well-known outlaws such as Bill Doolin. He was tough but fair and he always made sure that any criminals got a fair hearing. Tilghman did not tolerate the many vigilantes who carried out lynchings in his jurisdiction.  He protected any prisoner from vengeful mobs.

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Colt 45- one of the most popular guns in the old west

Tilghman on one memorable occasion arrested the leaders of a mob who had lynched two Indians who had been wrongly accused of murdering a white woman.  Later he arrested the real killer of the woman who was a white man.

Tilghman later went into state politics and there was a silent movie made about his career and adventures.  However, he could not hang up his gun. At the age of 70, he accepted the job of marshal of the town of Cromwell Oklahoma. It was here that he was murdered by the probation agent.

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Prohibition agents in 1926

 

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