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History of Law Enforcement in Graham and Young County

tee pee Gros_Ventre_Camp,_Fort_Belknap_R

The 1860's

After the defeat of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Federal Troops slowly began to filter back into the area to reoccupy old forts along the Texas frontier.

The late 1860's were a time of intense frustration and concern for both Indians and Texas Settlers. With the Federal garrisons that were supposed to protect settlers and monitor Indian activity undermanned, Indians slipped off reservations to raid and return with little that could be done, To protect the citizens of Young County from Indian attacks, Fort Belknap was established in Young County in 1869.

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Graham was founded 1869

Original law enforcement officials consisted of a Town Marshal, Night Watchman and the County Sheriff.


Most people don’t realize how much western history has occurred in Graham and Young County. Graham was located in a pivotal area in North central Texas, near Fort Belknap, and right on the Butterfield Overland Stage Route.

Early citizens of Young County were constantly threatened by Indian raids, one of the most well-known being the Warren Wagon Train Massacre near the Young / Jack County line.



Kiowa Indian Chief

TDC Inmate#2107

The 1871's

In 1871, three Kiowa Chiefs Satank, Satanta, and Big Tree, gained notoriety for the Salt Creek Massacre, also known as the Warren Wagon Train Massacre.   They had left the reservation and made their way to the young county area settling on an ambush location near Salt Creek. That morning, a military party passed by on its way to Fort Belknap, but the Indian shaman told the Chiefs to let it pass, better targets were coming. Ironically, in the military party was an officer named  General William Tecumseh Sherman, commander of the Army who was passing through the area to determine the validity of reported Indian incursions from the reservations in Oklahoma.


Later that day, the Indians spotted a wagon train and swept down the hill to attack, killing the wagon master and seven teamsters, as well as looting all the wagons and taking their plunder back to the reservation. When General Sherman heard the news from a teamster who escaped the slaughter, he ordered ruthless reprisals. He also reversed an earlier order that prohibited soldiers from pursuing Indians on to the reservations. Sherman traveled to Fort Sill, where he personally arrested Satank, Satanta, and Big Tree and ordered them transported back to Texas to be tried for murder. It was the first time in United States History that Indians were tried in a criminal court for Murder.

Satank was killed during an escape attempt, but Satanta and Big Tree were put on trial. By early July both had been sentenced to hang. In the weeks that followed, hundreds of Indians left the reservation and joined their relatives on the Staked Plains. To avert all-out carnage, Governor Edmund J. Davis commuted the sentences to life in prison. The Indians were eventually paroled,  He was released and soon returned to his raiding.  He was rearrested and while serving another prison term at the new state of the art Huntsville prison. but Satanta, despondent over incarceration pretended to be sick and jumped through a window on the third floor of the infirmary to his death in 1878. In the book Ghost Stories of Texas, it is reported guards have seen his ghost reenacting his death on the now deserted third floor. It is rumored that Satanta was the role model for the character Blue Duck, in the McMurtry novel, Lonesome Dove.


The City of Graham Texas was founded less than a year after the Salt Creek Massacre in 1872 by two brothers from Kentucky, Colonel Edwin Smith Graham and Gustalvous Adolphus Graham. These two men had purchased land from the Texas Emigration and Land Company. Upon their arrival in the area in 1869, and they  purchased a nearby Salt plant on Salt Creek. The brothers have the distinction of having drilled the first gas well in the state of Texas while searching for additional sources of salt water. At the time of its founding, law enforcement in the area consisted of a Town Marshall and a County Sheriff.



Marlow Brothers

In 1888, the bloodiest gun battle of the Old West occurred just outside the city of Graham involving the Marlowe family. The Marlowes had recently moved from Oklahoma to Young County. One of the brothers was falsely accused of horse theft  and murder. The Sheriff, eager to collect the reward bounty, proceeded to the family place and while attempting to make the arrest, a deputy was  shot and killed. All four brothers were arrested on trumped up charges and loaded into a wagon for transport to Fort Richardson, near Jacksboro. Townsfolk, believing the charges justified and outraged at the death of the deputy, ambushed the wagon at a location near Old Finis Rd. Two of the brothers were killed, and two  escaped, later clearing their names and their brothers.  The town of Marlowe Oklahoma is named after the family.  The story is retold in the book A Pilgrim's Shadow, by Alan Huffines, and the John Wayne movie, The Son's of Katie Elder was loosely based on the  story of the Marlowe tragedy.

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