The Springfield Republican
May 20, 1908
(Very similar stories also appeared in the Baltimore Sun (July 26, 1908) and the Dallas Morning News (June 8, 1908.)
Famous Killer Dead
Turner Turnbull Lived in Blood and Oklahoma
(Muskogee, Okla. Letter to the Kansas City Star)-Turner Turnbull is dead at his home east of Caddo, in the Choctaw Nation and the man who made his Winchester the law, and scattered graves of horse thieves all along the valley of the Blue and Boggy rivers in what he believed to be a righteous war of extermination, went to his final rest an honored man in his community. For many years, dating back into the early 70s, the name of Turnbull was interwoven with the history of the Choctaw Nation, a terror to outlaws and thieves who claimed the country as their own. There were three of the Turnbull brothers, Turner, Simon (Simeon), and Daniel, two of whom were killed by outlaws. They had always lived near Caddo and the bones of many outlaws and cattle thieves are lying in shallow graves between the Blue and Boggy Rivers, unmarked and unknown, sent to the grave by these brothers and their sworn confederates, who, in the days of the Indian courts, generally took the law into their own hands. They hated thieves above all criminals and made “short shrift” of them when they got a chance with their Winchesters.
One time a bunch of horse thieves had been captured near where the post-office of Blue is now located. Three of them, all Choctaw Indians, were killed on the spot. The other, a mere boy, was tied to a tree and whipped into insensibility. He wears the marks of this terrible whipping to this day. He became a minister and is now pastor of a church near Ardmore.
Frank Long was a member of the Turnbull rangers. His wife was a Choctaw and he frequently took her with him on long trips through the Choctaw Nation, she acting as interpreter while he traded with the Indians. Two negroes robbed Long’s house and one day they came back to Long’s and there the Turnbulls found them. They took the two negroes out and hanged them. A few days later a party of negroes organized and went to Long’s place. He saw them coming and slipped away, notified the Turnbulls and they returned surprising the negroes. A running fight ensued in which Sam Boyd was killed at Buffalo Hill and the rest chased to Double Springs and the entire bunch killed. For this they were indicted by Judge Parker’s court at Fort Smith and for 13 years Turner Turnbull was a fugitive. He was finally captured and acquitted of the charge.
While he and Frank Long were under arrest they escaped with the shackles on at Atoka. Frank Long was never recaptured, but later was killed by Tandy Folsom, a deputy marshal.
While Turnbull was in hiding, a Choctaw Indian took a horse from Harris Cairns at Caddo. Turnbull and another man trailed this Indian into the mountains on the old Antlers road, before the town of Antlers was built, and overtook and killed him. This was one of their serious mistakes, for it developed later that the Choctaw had not taken the horse as a theft, but was eloping with an Indian girl and only took the horse to get her away from her people and return it. The girl was with him on the horse when he was killed. She was sent back to her home.
In the early 80s the Turnbulls and three other men started after a gang of thieves that had stolen several horses in what was then Atoka County. A fight came on and two of the outlaws were killed, but in that fight Daniel Turnbull was shot through the lungs. As he lay on the ground he swore that no horse thief should have the honor of killing him, and drawing his six-shooter, he put a bullet through his brain, killing himself instantly and before his brothers could prevent it. The man who shot him was hounded day and night by the Turnbull crowd and was finally riddled with bullets.
The chase of this band was never given up until it was completely wiped out. The last member was caught and was shot at Wilburton by the executioner of the Choctaw Indian court. The days when these wild scenes were enacted were before there was any law established by the white man in this country. The only authority was the federal court at Fort Smith and the Indian tribal courts. The former was 150 miles away and only occasionally a deputy marshal and his posse came through. The Indian courts exercised jurisdiction over the members of their own tribes only.
Where honest white men settled they had to protect their lives and their property with their Winchesters and leaders always came to the front. The Turnbulls were such men. After the federal courts were established in Indian Territory and the horse thief, the rustler, and the murderer was wiped out, these pioneers settled down to a peaceful and prosperous life. When Turner Turnbull died he was a man of wealth, whose word was as good as this money; a director in the Bokchito National Bank, a Mason, and a respected citizen. If he ever regretted the bloody part he took in the outlaw warfare of the lawless days, he never made it known.