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William M. Tilghman

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William Matthew "Bill" Tilghman was born, blue eyed, at Fort Dodge, Iowa on July 4, 1856. His career as a Peace Officer spans fifty-one years in both the Wild West era and the twentieth century.

He was a quiet, soft-spoken man who never drank, smoked or used foul language. Yet for 51 years he served as one of the greatest peace officers of the old west. He was also a frontier scout, buffalo hunter,movie maker, and state senator.

Because of his knowledge of the Indian country and his ability to get along with most of the red men, he was sworn in as a deputy sheriff in Dodge City, Kansas by Charlie Bassett. Lawman and gunfighter Bat Masterson called Bill Tilghman "the greatest of us all." Bill was not a flamboyant man and was not noted for his fast draw or marksmanship; however, he was celebrated for his unwavering courage. Bill also served under Bat Masterson and Pat Sughrue. In April 1884 he became city marshal of Dodge City. After a two year stint he resigned and returned to ranching.

Hard times had come to the plains and after a few years he sold out and went to Oklahoma during the land run of April 1889 and established his first home at Guthrie. In 1891, he was appointed a deputy United States Marshal and served continuously for 19 years, being re-appointed by every United States Marshal in Oklahoma until 1910. In 1893, he was known as one of the "Three Guardsmen" who brought law to the town of Perry, and tracked down members of the Doolin gang, including the arrest of outlaw Bill Doolin at a bath house in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

In 1900, Tilghman was elected sheriff of Lincoln County, Oklahoma, where he mastered the art of politicking through the use of the expanding newsprint media. He was later elected as a member of the Oklahoma State Senate. In 1911, he resigned from the Senate to become chief of police in Oklahoma City. In 1915, Mr. Tilghman was instrumental in bringing out a moving picture series entitled "The Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws," scenes of which were re-enacted under his direction by many of those who were actually engaged in the original work of hunting down the outlaws. Tilghman was persuaded to come out of retirement in 1924 to clean up the town of Cromwell, Oklahoma. Early on this job, a drunk prohibition officer, Wiley Lynn, shot and killed Tilghman as he led Lynn to jail.

... as seen through the eyes of one person.


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