The Saturday, he traveled
all day, but about 2 p.m., he overtook a man walking that said
he was going to Texas and was taken sick. So Tarleton asked him
to get in and ride. He fixed him a good place to lay down in
his wagon. Soon afterwards three men met him riding horseback.
They spoke and rode on, then a half hour before sundown the same
three men came along again and he asked them about a good camping
place. They knew exactly where it was and told him to go half
a mile, then he would find a grassy spot for grazing and good
spring for water and plenty of good wood. He thanked them and
they rode on. He went to the campsite. Sure enough, there was
a good place. He took his team out of the harness and watered
them, then hobbled them to graze, intending to tie them up at
bed time. Then brought water and built a fire and was cooking
supper. It was getting dark by then. Here came those three men
again. They rode up and ordered him to give up his money. He
stepped to the wagon for his gun, when the man he had hauled
all evening grabbed it and would not let him have it.
He told them he did not have but
very little money, just enough to bear his expenses back home,
but they would not believe him for he had gone to collect his
inheritance and they knew he had it. He gave them all he had,
which was $40.00, but they were not satisfied and put a rope
around his neck and put him up behind one of the men and took
him off. He asked to be permitted to pray, but they refused,
and took him to where Cow River, and about Spring Creek come
together. Here they killed him, cut his head off and tied rocks
to it and his body and sank them where the River and the Creek
Then they searched the wagon for
money, but did not find any. So they divided the things, and
the mules between the four of them, burned the wagon and left.
He had a lot of fine linen, bed clothes and pillows and a goose
feather bed that the other children were sending Catharine. They
were her mother's things.
The next morning was Sunday and
the people were going to have all day preaching at a nearby school
house, and dinner on the grounds. A bunch of young men went before
sunup to seine for fish to cook for dinner, and the first drag
they made with the seine, they dragged up Tarleton's head and
recognized him. They went and reported to the neighborhood. They
found his body and took him to Baxter Springs and buried him.
The Sheriff and a posse went in
search of the murderers and found one of them and his wife going
down the river with the feather bed and pillows in a canoe. They
got them, then chased another one of them on one of the mules
and caught him. I don't remember where they found the other,
but the fourth man was shot and killed afterwards by another
outlaw. That was up there in what they call the Cookson Hills
right where Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri come together.
Well, the officers stood in with
the outlaws and was afraid to punish them. They would try and
turn them aloose. So the good people decided they would not let
those men go free. After the trial in which they were found not
builty, the good men were outside of the court house door and
as they came out, they got them and took off to the woods and
hung them. They let the one that turned state's evidence go free.
He was the one that rode in the wagon. He really had nothing
to do with the killing.
Tarleton was killed the 30th day
of July 1867. Aunt Mary, his baby girl, was born July 22, eight
days before he was killed. He was hurrying home to get home before
time for her arrival, but he was a long way from home. He was
supposed to get back three weeks before that time.
The man that turned state's evidence
said he called his wife's name three times as they bound him.
They did not hang him, but bound him to a tree and shot him,
then cut his head off. His wife, that same hour of the night,
heard him and woke up when he called her name. She was awakened
from a sound asleep, thinking she heard her husband call her.
Believing he was returning home, she went to the door but no
one was there. She lay back down, then thought she heard him
call and went to look again.
His wife and children waited in
vain for his return. After three weeks, Brother Broils of Baxter
Springs, Kansas, wrote a letter telling them about the murder.
It was very sad.
from The Erie Catharine
Taylor - William Wesley Wilks Family, by Doris Nan Ross Brock: Cleveland, OH, 1971,