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Heck Thomas - Legendary Lawman of the Oklahoma Territory

Born in Georgia, Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas began his career as a lawman by serving on the Atlanta police force. He later moved out west to fight for law and order in one of the Old West's most lawless regions, Oklahoma Territory. By 1889 Thomas teamed with two other deputy U.S. marshals, Chris Madsen and Bill Tilghman. They became known as the Three Guardsmen and were credited with bringing law and order to the Indian Territory, in the state that would become Oklahoma in 1907. This page explores the life and times of Heck Thomas.

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Books about Heck Thomas

Heck Thomas: Frontier Marshal
by Glenn Shirley
Public figures always have lots of stories floating around about them. Glenn Shirley has taken the facts that can be verified and added the appropriate amount of writer's description to make an excellent book. His presentation of some of the real life characters may differ with others but they are easy to verify one way or the other. All in all, it is an accurate and very entertaining read.
320 pages, University of Oklahoma Press; First Edition, 1981.

Taming the Sooner State: The War Between Lawmen & Outlaws in Oklahoma & Indian Territory 1875-1941
by R. D. Morgan
Oklahoma is a state rich in lawmen and outlaw history, truly the last bastion of the "Old West." The state has a tradition of banditry dating back to the time of the Indian Territory. The following account presents a collection of rare photographs, biographical sketches, and true stories offered in chronological order dealing with the epic battle between the forces of law and order and wrongdoers taking place in a geographic area encompassing the modern state of Oklahoma. This narrative, which represents nearly ten years of research, is presented in two-part form within a single volume. Part I covers the period of 1875-1919, chronicling events taken from the Indian and Oklahoma Territories to statehood and beyond, while Part II covers the period 1920-1941. This work does not represent an attempt to tell a complete history of lawmen and outlaws in Oklahoma. It is merely offered as a series of prime examples of the genre.
214 pages, New Forums Press; 1st edition, 2007.

Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas
A Chronological Biography

January 3, 1850 - Heck Thomas was born in 1850 in Oxford, Georgia, the youngest of five children of Martha Ann Fullwood (née Bedell) and Lovick Pierce Thomas. At the beginning of the American Civil War, Thomas, at the age of twelve, accompanied as a courier his uncle, Edward Lloyd Thomas, and his father, who were officers in the 35th Georgia Infantry, to the battlefields in Virginia.

September 1, 1862 - On September 1, 1862, Union General Philip Kearny was killed at the Battle of Chantilly. Young "Heck" was entrusted with the general's horse and equipment and was ordered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee to take them through the lines to General Kearny's widow. He recounted this in a letter to his brother Lovick Pierce Thomas.

One evening while the fight was going on or, rather, just before dark, a soldier came to the rear where Uncle Ed's baggage and the darkies and I were, leading a black horse with saddle and bridle. He brought also a sword. Just after this, Stonewall Jackson crossed over into Maryland and captured the city of Frederick; that was after taking Harper's Ferry (now West Virginia) and about 14,000 federal prisoners. These prisoners were held by Uncle Ed's brigade, while the army was fighting the Battle of Sharpsburg. We could see the smoke and hear they cannon from Harper's Ferry. While we were at Harpers Ferry, General Lee sent an order to uncle Ed for the horse and equipments. I carried them forward, and it was one of the proudest minutes of my life when I found myself under the observation of General Robert E. Lee. Then General Lee sent the horse and everything through the lines , under a flag of truce, to General Kearney's [sic] widow. I had ridden the horse and cared for him up to that time, and I hated to part with him.

August 24 (or 25), 1896 - Bill Doolin is killed in Lawson, Oklahoma by a posse that includes Heck Thomas. The date of Doolin's death, while not a true controversy, is listed as August 25th as often as it is August 24th. In the notorious shootout at Ingalls, Oklahoma, Doolin was wounded but shot and killed Deputy Marshal Richard Speed and escaped with several of his men. Hearing that Doolin was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Bill Tilghman was sent to arrest him and he did so. Unfortunately, the night before his trial was to begin, Doolin and several inmates escaped from the Guthrie, Oklahoma federal prison. Heck Thomas received word that Doolin was hiding at his father-in-laws homestead near Lawson, Oklahoma. On the night of August 24 (or 25), 1896, Thomas and nine deputies, including his son Albert, surrounded the place and when Doolin came out of the barn Thomas called for him to surrender. Instead he shot at Thomas and the posse in turn shot and killed Doolin. The fatal shot was probably a shotgun blast from Heck Thomas. Once again controversy springs up and there are several versions of what happened in the shooting and whose shotgun killed him. The undertaker counted twenty buckshot wounds in his chest.

August 14, 1912 - Heck Thomas dies in Lawton, Oklahoma on August 15, 1912 of Bright's disease. Henry Andrew "Heck” Thomas was buried at Highland Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma , where his grave remains today.