This shooting affray was first reported to have happened near Newton.  As it turned out, it actually happened on a railroad car near the Oklahoma (Indian Territory)/Texas line.  The railroad car was brought into Newton for repair which led to the original report, and local workers were tasked with the cleanup.  This alone is Harvey County’s connection to this incident.  Marshal Tom C. Smith described here is NOT the same Tom J. Smith who was Marshal in Abilene, Kansas.

Shooting Reported Near Newton
A gentleman who came in on the Santa Fe last evening reports a tragedy to have occurred on one of the Santa Fe trains at or near Newton yesterday.  He could give no further particulars than that it was a shooting affray of some kind.  The Wichita Daily Eagle, Wichita, Kansas.  Saturday, November 5, 1892.  Page 5.

A Shocking Tragedy
Train No. 406 to-day brought in a car that was the scene of a dreadful tragedy last night.  It took place in the Chickasaw nation just over the line from Texas and was between a negro and several United States marshals.  It seems that the negro heard one of the marshals, Tom Smith, making remarks derogatory to the negroes and he naturally took it up.  They had a hot dispute and after crossing the line into the territory, Smith went into the car where the negro was with the intention of killing him.  But the colored man was too quick and fired, instantly killing Smith.  Two other marshals then took up the fight and shot the negro dead.  During the firing one of these men was shot through the neck but not killed.  The car in which the affair took place is an ugly sight.  There are blood stains all over the floor and bullet holes all around.  That more people were not killed is a matter of surprise for the car was well filled.  The Newton Daily Republican, Newton, Kansas.  Friday, November 4, 1892.  Page 4.

Bloody End
A Negro Desperado Kills A United States Deputy.  The Negro Killed By Others.  Gainsville, Texas – The half sleeping passengers in the Negro compartment of last nights northbound Santa Fe were suddenly aroused about 11 o’clock by two sharp reports from a pistol. Straightening up they found lying in the aisle a gasping man from whose head spurted blood and brains. Standing over him they saw a big yellow Negro with a smoking revolver in his hand. Scarcely had they comprehended what they saw when the door between the two compartments flew open and was drawn revolvers in jumped two men. The Negro straightened up and his revolver spoke. It was answered instantly and the Negro felt with his feet nearly touching the head of the man he had just wounded mortally. He tried to rise, the pistol rang out three times and the huge form of the Negro convulsed and sank back.  The actors of this bloodcurdling scene were Tom Smith, Dave Booker, and Ingram, all Deputy United States marshals, and a Negro who is thought to be the notorious “Commodore Miller,” who, after killing a policeman in Dallas, Texas, gave the officers and blood hounds a lively chase for nearly a week. The marshals boarded the train in this city and were bound for Ardmore. The Negro got on it Fort Worth and was in route to Guthrie, Oklahoma. When he entered the train the Negro took a seat in the coach provided for whites and left it reluctantly at the command of the conductor.  When the marshals boarded the train they saw a man who they suspected of having whiskey with him. The man seeing the marshals eyeing him went forward into the Negro compartment. As soon as the train crossed Red River bridge Marshall Smith went forward intending to search the man’s effects for whiskey and to arrest him if any were found just as Smith shoved open the door the Negro without any warning, pulled his gun and fired at the officer. The bullet struck Smith on the head just above the eye. Just as he fell the Negro shot again, the bullet striking him in the hands.

Booker and Ingram, who were in one of the coaches, ran forward. Just as Booker opened the door the Negro fired at him. The bullet grazed his neck. Booker then fired and the Negro fell with a ball in his abdomen Booker fired three more shots, each one taking effect in the Negroes abdomen.  Smith was sinking rapidly and when the train reached Thackerville, 3 miles distant, he died. The Negro lived until the train reached Marietta, which is about 20 miles distant from this place. Both bodies were taken onto Ardmore, where “Miller” will be buried tomorrow. Smith’s body will be sent to Paris, where his family lives, for burial.  Smith died just as he had caused many others to die. He was the leader of the Woodpecker faction in the race war which prevailed several years ago in Washington County, this state. It is said of him that in one battle he killed seven men without removing the Winchester from his shoulder. Later he was Marshall of Taylor, Texas, where he is said to have killed two men. He organized the expedition of Texas marshals who went to Wyoming last spring to participate in the war between the “rustlers” and the cattlemen. He, like the rest, was arrested and was released on his own recognizance only a short time ago.  The dead Negro is thought to be “Commodore Miller,” as he corresponds to the description of Miller. This belief is somewhat strengthened by the fact that he shot without the slightest provocation, believing, it is thought, that the officer intended to arrest arrest him.  The Newton Daily Republican, Newton, Kansas.  Saturday, November 5, 1892.  Page 1.

The story according to the United States Marshals Service’ “Officer Down Memorial Page” gives the following information:[1]  Deputy U.S. Marshals Tom C. Smith, Dave Booker and a man named Tucker left Gainesville for the Chickasaw Nation in the Indian Territory. The three lawmen boarded a northbound Santa Fe train. Around 11:00 p.m., just inside Indian Territory, the three deputy marshals entered a passenger car, reserved for African Americans, to walk to the smoking car. One of the African American passengers took offense to white men in the sleeping car, and pulled a pistol and shot Deputy Marshal Smith through the heart killing him. Deputies Booker and Tucker pulled their pistols and killed the assailant. It was reported the killer was Commodore Miller who was wanted in Dallas County and was escaping to the Indian Territory.  Smith was survived by his wife, Sallie, and their four children. He is buried in the Taylor Cemetery  Smith’s father was the sheriff of Fort Bend County from 1852-1856. Smith later served as a Fort Bend County deputy sheriff and was involved in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War, Democratic “Jaybirds” were fighting the Republican “Woodpeckers” who had power since Reconstruction, in which Sheriff J.T. Garvey and others were killed on August 16, 1889. Smith also served as the city marshal of Taylor, Texas; a deputy U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas; and a cattle detective involved in the Johnson County War in New Mexico. He returned to Texas in 1892 and became a deputy U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Texas operating out of Paris, Texas. His territory covered Texas and southern part of the Indian Territory.  [1]

(c) Excerpted from the book Deadly Encounters: Murder In Harvey County by Darren McMannis.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email