Zip Zapped! Zip Wyatt vs. Everyone in Western Oklahoma. One Against One Thousand. 125 Days of Flight & Fight

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August 2, 1895

A mile and a half north of Cainville, Oklahoma, lawman Marion Hildreth and five men surround a homesteader cabin.

After eating supper, Ike Black and Dick Yeager (a.k.a. Zip Wyatt) come out of the cabin, arguing over a last chaw of tobacco. Deputy Hildreth shouts, “Throw up your hands!” The outlaws do, “but each hand contains a Winchester or Colt’s revolver.” Hildreth shoots Black in the head, killing him instantly.

While the posse shoots at Wyatt,  the outlaw fires his Winchester “as fast as he [can] lever and pull the trigger,” an eyewitness later says. A bullet strikes Wyatt close to the “nipple of the right breast … plowing a bad furrow half way around his body.” Wyatt drops his Winchester but quickly retrieves it. He then shouts, “Marion Hildreth, you have killed the best man in Oklahoma!” before sprinting into a cornfield.

Seriously wounded, Wyatt tramples a path through the tall stalks, while the posse sends “rifle balls after him as rapidly as possible.” Running east over a sand hill, Wyatt is in plain view for nearly a half mile. No one follows, however, because of the posse’s “respect for his demonstration.”

Two miles from the shoot-out, Wyatt encounters a young doctor named Edington. Although the doctor bluntly tells him, “You are not able to travel with that wound,” Wyatt replies, “I have to travel. Fix me up.” After being treated, Wyatt commandeers the doctor’s little buckskin horse and heads east.

Two trackers pick up Wyatt’s trail, following it two miles, until they meet “the horse coming back with saddle and bridle.”

Wyatt’s wound is so bad that he can’t ride. Instead, he has “persuaded” a farmer with a span of mules and a lumber wagon to haul him close to the Cimarron River. As he wades across the river, Wyatt spots “a fourteen-year-old boy in a one-horse cart.” Wyatt demands a ride. “Frightened nearly out of his senses,” the boy drives Wyatt “at top speed 25 miles east into southwestern Garfield County.” The boy is then released, and Wyatt drives on in the cart.

August 3, 1895

A 40-man posse tracks Wyatt to Turkey Creek and then detours into Hennessey to get fresh mounts. At 2 p.m., the posse learns that Wyatt has crossed the Rock Island railroad tracks about five miles south of Enid. At Waukomis, the lawmen telegraph the Garfield County sheriff for assistance. In Skeleton Creek Valley, 14 miles to the east, the posse discovers an abandoned cart and horse. They have no idea how close they are to the outlaw.

On Skeleton Creek, Wyatt appears at John Daily’s cabin, demanding food and a horse. Daily notes the dry blood on the front of the outlaw’s brown shirt, his three weeks’ growth of beard and his haggard appearance. Daily tells Wyatt he can’t help him. Stumbling on, Wyatt finally finds a horse, and when that one tires, he finds another and then another.

August 4, 1895

Multiple posses dog Wyatt’s trail southeast of Sheridan, toward Marshall in Logan County. Five miles south of Marshall, Wyatt’s last horse is found grazing. The fugitive’s tracks lead to a cornfield on Alvin Ross’ farm.

Unconscious from exhaustion, Wyatt lies on a sandy mound where the corn won’t grow.

As the posse surrounds the field, three volunteers wade in (although one eventually turns back). Quietly and carefully, they track Wyatt’s faltering footprints through the corn rows, until they discover the unconscious outlaw with his Winchester in his right hand and a cedar-handled Colt’s revolver near the other.

Leveling their Winchesters, the two men call out: “Up with your hands Dick—we’ve got you!”

Wyatt’s eyes pop open, and he instinctively grabs his weapons. Both posse members fire simultaneously, “the balls taking effect two inches apart in the outlaw’s right hip and abdomen.”

After being tracked by 1,000 men and eluding capture for 125 days, Zip Wyatt lies mortally wounded. His long flight and fight are finally over.

 

Events Leading Up to the Gunfight on August 2, 1895

 

June 4

After numerous robberies, the Wyatt-Black Gang (also called the Zip Wyatt Gang) is hiding in its Gyp Hills cave (see below) when the members are attacked by a posse led by Sheriff Clay McGrath. The fight is “kept up one whole day,” and the lawmen kill one horse and capture half the gang: Belle Black and Jennie Freeman. The women outlaws report that their men have been wounded—Wyatt has been shot through the left arm, and Ike Black in the right heel—but, in spite of their wounds, the men escape on foot.

July 19

Freeman’s father tells a neighbor (who alerts authorities) that Wyatt and Black were at his house near Sheridan while he was away, and that he is “afraid of them” and expects them back in a day or two.

July 25

Posing as lawmen, two riders believed to be Wyatt and Black take supper at a farm near Winnview and make “suave inquires” as to the best place to buy supplies. They ride a few miles to Oxley and rob the general store and post office.

Heading back to their hideout in the Gyp Hills, the duo is surrounded in camp at the head of Salt Creek. In the ensuing gunfight, a Blaine County deputy sheriff is wounded in the left shoulder, but the outlaws escape, once again, on foot.

Late in the evening, the two come out of the hills, five miles west of Okeene, steal a horse and cart from a farmer, and slip through picket lines, with Wyatt “playing a French harp.” (Wyatt evidently put the guards at ease by calmly playing his mouth organ.)

July 29

A nine-man posse from Lacey trails the outlaws to the Gyp Hills and follows the two “five miles further in a northwesterly direction, where they holed up in a canyon.”

As the posse surrounds the outlaws, a running fight ensues and lasts about 25 minutes; “the outlaws [were] firing faster than we,” says Jack Ward, one of the posse members. Ward later reports the two “passed out of the canyon near me, and fired at me. I fired deliberately at [Wyatt] three times … felt sure I struck him once in the breast … he fell twice,” but then the outlaws capture two of the posse members’ horses and once again, they escape.

July 31

The outlaws take a “zig-zagging course” along the North Canadian River, with several posses (reported to be 200 members strong) in hot pursuit.

 

Aftermath: Odds & Ends

After being shot on August 4, Zip Wyatt was moved to a small church in Sheridan, where numerous posses from various jurisdictions fought over the prisoner and the reward. The half-conscious Wyatt listened to the dispute for some time, until finally whispering to a deputy: “If you’ll give me my six-shooter for about two seconds, I’ll stop the argument.”

A “distinguished guest” at the Garfield County jail, Wyatt lived in pain and “a bunch of suffering humanity,” as one of the newspapers put it, until 6:30 p.m. on September 6. Before Wyatt’s death, a doctor asked him, “This is your last day on earth. Is there anyone you wish to see or anything you wish to say?” A grinning Wyatt replied, “Nobody to see, Doc, an’ nothin’ to say.”

A grand jury discharged Belle Black and Jennie Freeman, finding “no evidence of a criminal nature against them, other than their presence with the two outlaws.” Freeman, according to an 1898 Oklahoma newspaper, “was converted during the year she spent in the federal jail, and is now travelling as an evangelist.” Black apparently settled down with a new husband and raised a family, successfully hiding her outlaw past.

 

Recommended: Desperado from Cowboy Flat: The Saga of Zip Wyatt by Glenn Shirley, published by Barbed Wire Press.

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Bob Boze Bell

In 1999, Bob Boze Bell and partners bought True West magazine (published since 1953) and moved the editorial offices to Cave Creek, Arizona. Bell has published and illustrated books on Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, as well as Classic Gunfights, an Old West gunfight book series. His latest books are The 66 Kid and True West Moments.