Pioneer James Madison Ennis - Antlers, OK
On June 16, 1913, James Madison Ennis was appointed postmaster at Antlers by President Wilson, succeeding C. E. Archer. At Fort Smith, Arkansas, in October, 1893, James Madison Ennis married Effie Basham.
James Madison Ennis was a postmaster at Antlers, Oklahoma and had for years been one of the best known public characters in the old Choctaw Nation. His record was especially interesting for his long service as a deputy United States Marshal.
James Madison Ennis was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee, November 8, 1862, the son of John C. and Parthena (Hughey) Ennis. There was another son, R. A. Ennis, who was an intermarried Choctaw citizen and lived at Haworth.
When James M. Ennis was quite young his parents moved to Texas, and his father died in Abilene in that state in 1880. The public schools of his native state and of Texas gave him his education, and he also spent four years in a private school in Huntsville, Alabama. For a time his home was at Clarksville, Texas, where he entered the employ of H. Herman of New York as a timber buyer in the Choctaw Nation. Mr Herman had a sawmill at Herman's Point in Towson County, and the buying range covered territory along Red, Little and Kiamichi Rivers.
Besides prosecuting his business as a timber buyer Mr. Ennis also owned a general merchandise store just over the river from Bon Ton, a noted place of the South Choctaw country. Later he entered the employ of the government, and subsequently for twenty years was a farmer and stockman near Antlers, Oklahoma. He still had some valuable farm land near that town, and had some livestock interests which required part of his attention.
The experiences of Mr. Ennis as an officer in the Choctaw Nation covered a wide range of activities, and embraced many interesting features of life in those days. During the four years that he was deputy marshal, 19 commissioned officers were killed and many were wounded. Mr. Ennis was wounded once. This wound came at the hands of Will Meeks, who was charged with horse stealing, and whom Ennis located at a dance near Red River.
Meeks fired when Ennis entered the room while a dance was in progress. Meeks, however, did not escape but was arrested by Ennis and taken to Fort Smith. He was the first man ever to be granted a new trial by United States Judge Parker at Fort Smith, and on second trial he was acquitted.
The territory embraced in the district covered by Ennis as marshal was that of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. There were numerous cases of murder and theft and several of those arrested by Ennis on these charges were hanged in Fort Smith. So vigilant and vigorous were his activities that many organized bands of thieves were broken up summarily.
An interesting case in his experience indicates the distinction between federal and tribal laws of that period. At Fort Towson a merchandise store owned by J. Rosenthal, an intermarried citizen, was burglarized by Indians, whom Ennis arrested and took to Fort Smith. There the Federal Court disclaimed jurisdiction in such a case. The Indians were returned to the Choctaw country, but could not be prosecuted under tribal laws because Rosenthal had not complied with the law in the matter of obtaining a license when he was married to an Indian woman.
Goodland was the official headquarters of Ennis and prisoners were transported to Fort Smith by wagon, such a trip and return sometimes requiring sixty days. During his service, John McAlester was killed at Purcell, John Phillips was killed in the Creek Nation, and posseman Williams was killed in the Chickasaw Nation. These were among the best known and bravest officers of Indian Territory.
Deputy Marshal Ennis recalled the killing of Frank Dalton, a deputy marshal, near Fort Smith in Indian Territory. His murderer was a boy eighteen years old, a member of a band of horse thieves. This boy was the only one of the band left after Dalton and Jim Coe had fired into their tent, and Dalton was shot through the head after he had emptied his Winchester and was trying to release the hung trigger on his revolver. The boy escaped and was followed by Ed Stokely and Bill Moody to the vicinity of Stringtown, Indian Territory, where he was overtaken.
Refusing to surrender, he was fired upon. he fell after the first fire and when Stokely advanced to him the lad raised himself up and put a ball through the officer's heart. This daring young desperado later surrendered to Moody and was taken in a wagon to Stringtown with the body of Stokely, but died about the time the party reached Stringtown.
Most of the troubles of that period were brought on by white men, is the mature opinion and judgment of Mr. Ennis, who can recite almost any amount of evidence to support his opinion. As a rule the Indians were peaceable and law abiding. In fact Mr. Ennis classes them as among the best people in the world in the matter of obedience to law. -- Vol. 3, pg. 1222, A Standard History of Okalhoma, by Joseph B. Thoburn
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