When I wrote Dashing Irish, Texas Devlins Book Three, I incorporated cowboys from a variety of ethnic backgrounds because, as you may know, not all cowboys were white in the old days anymore than they are now. I gave Tye Devlin a black ranch hand friend who plays a part in the big trail drive to Kansas. There’s also a Mexican wrangler who teaches Tye how to break a wild bronc and a half-breed cowboy who makes Tye jealous by flirting with Lil, the heroine.
That character, Choctaw Jack, caught my attention from the first moment he popped into my head. I soon knew he would be the hero of the next Texas Devlins book, Dearest Irish. But how did he come to life? Where did I get the idea for his name and later for his sideline profession as a blacksmith?
The answers lie in the research I did for Dashing Irish. There were trips south to Bosque County, Texas, home of the Devlins, and trips north to Oklahoma (the Indian Territory) through which the Chisholm Trail passed. And there were the books about cattle drives, ranching and the Indian Nations.
In one of those books I read about a notorious mixed-blood outlaw nicknamed Cherokee Bill who killed seven men and, with his cohorts, terrorized the Indian Territory for over two years. He was eventually caught and sentenced to death by U.S. District Judge Isaac Parker, the “Hanging Judge.”
That story gave me the idea for Choctaw Jack’s name, although he wasn’t going to be an outlaw. (He does hide an unsavory past. Shh, don’t tell.)
I also learned about another legendary Cherokee named Ned Christie (NeDe WaDe in Cherokee.) He was on the executive council in the Cherokee Nation senate and served as one of three advisers to Chief Bushyhead. Ned’s parents were survivors of the Trail of Tears ordeal and belonged to the Keetowah band, most traditional among the Cherokee.
Ned Christie was a large, powerful man at 6’4”. Perhaps that explains why he became a blacksmith and gunsmith. Now you know what gave me the idea for Jack to be a blacksmith as well as a cowboy.
Unfortunately, in May 1887, Ned was wrongly accused of shooting and killing U.S. Marshal Daniel Maples in the Cherokee Nation. Fearing he would not receive justice from a white jury, Ned hid out and appealed to the U.S. Court of the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith (also in charge of the Ind. Terr.) for bail to allow time to prove his innocence. Judge Parker turned down his request.
Labeled an outlaw, Ned Christie held off U.S. marshals in fortified locations for the next five years, fighting what has been called “Ned Christie’s War.” He was shot and killed in his final battle against the lawmen in 1892. His body was put on display in different locations so the lawmen and others could have their picture taken next to the notorious “outlaw.”
Twenty-six years later, a man named Dick Humphreys told authorities he had witnessed Marshall Maples’ killing. He said it was not Ned Christie who shot him, but a man named Bud Trainer. Christie’s name was finally cleared. Some researchers believe his opposition to railroad development in the Indian Territory may have led to him being falsely accused of Maples’ murder.
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