Friday, January 24, 2020

SO YOU WANNA BE A MARSHAL by Marisa Masterson

The Old West was wild for about seventy years--a long time to go without justice or law enforcement. Good thing President George Washington signed the law in 1789 that allowed for the creation of the United States Marshal Service. Without the federal marshal, the Wild West might have been, well, wilder.

Originally, marshals were charged with executing warrants. From the earliest days, these marshals were allowed to recruit local deputies or even temporary marshals to help them. Morgan and Wyatt Earp as well as "Doc" Holliday were examples of men hired as special deputies. They were made temporary marshals to deal with the Clanton gang in a little shootout that took place at a spot called the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Dodge City Peace Commission, 1883
A marshal didn't have to be someone with legal training or a spotless background. Men such as Wyatt Earp could have criminal acts in their past and still serve as a marshal. They simply needed a strong commitment to enforce the law as well as to execute warrants given them by a judge.

Bass Reeves was a man like this. He couldn't read, but he is well-known in history as a sucessful marshal in the Indian Territory. Someone would read the warrant to him which he then memorized. Reeves fearlessness and ability to speak five Native American languages worked in his favor as a marshal.

For my upcoming novel, The Teacher's Star, I used the wording from Bass Reeves Oath of Office (right). A lawman in need of help convinces my heroine to become a temporary marshal--

Delia’s brows flew upward. “So, you knew where I was headed? That’s why you sat by me?”
He gave an abrupt nod and reached into his inside coat pocket. His right fist gripped something tightly as he withdrew it. A piece of paper appeared in his left hand from his outside pocket.
“You want me to cuss?” Was the man delirious?
“Sign. Like swearing in…to office.” The man thrust the paper toward her as if reaching up to her while he dangled from a cliff.
He wanted her to sign it? Easy enough.
She dug briefly in her oversized reticule and came up with a short pencil. Taking the paper, she filled in her name and the affixed her quick signature in what looked to be the correct spot.
“Read—to me.” He gagged and gripped his belly, face now snowy white.
Sneaking her wire-framed spectacles out of her bag, she slid them quickly up her nose and began to read softly to the suffering man.
“I, Delia Perkins, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute all lawful precepts, directed to the Marshal of the United States for the territory of Wyoming, under the authority of the United States—”
Her voice trailed off, alarm keeping her from closing her mouth. “What are you doing here?”
Mr. Jessup ignored her question. Between pains, he groaned out, “Finish it.”
Adventure, obedience, pride. She didn’t know which of these drove her at that moment. Delia opened her mouth and wholeheartedly affirmed, “And in all things well and truly, and without malice or partiality, perform the duties of Deputy Marshal of the Wyoming Territory during my continuance in said office, and take only my lawful fees, so help me god.”
The raspy voice begged, “The pencil. Paper.”
She handed both to him. Jessup crawled his name. “Date.”

Retrieving the pencil and paper, she filled in September 21, 1871, showing it to him. He nodded and opened his right fist. A silver star landed in her lap, gleaming against the dark drown skirt of her traveling suit. A large envelope landed on top of it.

By 1893, the Wild West was declared officially tamed. U. S. marshals went on executing warrants as well as stepping in to suppress major labor strikes. In the 1920s, marshals helped to enforce prohibition. None of this sounds like the dangerous and exciting man who rides into town with a silver star on his vest, ready to single-handedly bring justice. Sigh!

Look for The Teacher's Star to be released March 3, 2020 as a part of The Belles of Wyoming.

 Inspired by Shakespeare's As You Like It --

Ginger Snap is trapped. She hates living a lie. Yet, her family will be homeless and hungry if she doesn't. Once she meets Theodore Edwards, she becomes desperate for a way to escape the web of deception tangled around her.
Theodore Edwards wants to help people. After all, that's why he's sure he has a calling to become a minister and not a lawyer. Now finished with the law degree his family insisted on, Theodore travels to Kearney, Nebraska. If he stays there six months, working for his father's cousin, the family will pay for his seminary training.
Simple enough he thought, but Theodore didn't count on a boarding house filled with crazy animals, train robbers, or a beautiful woman who seems to disappear when he goes looking for her.
Will he find the helpmate his grandfather predicts he'll meet? How can he keep her when she keeps running from him?


  1. Julie, I so enjoyed your blog. Isn't research fun as well as revealing amazing figures in history. I came across Bass Reeves over fifteen years ago when I was researching U.S. marshals. I was so elated to discover a U.S. marshal who couldn't read but executed his duties without a mistake. That reassured me that my hero could be believable in the same way. I even did a recent blog about Bass and have saved a documentary on my tv. I look forward to reading your book. Sounds like a good'un.

  2. My apologies, Marisa, for calling you Julie. I had just read a post of hers before yours and by the time I'd read all the way through your blog, I inadvertently mixed up the names.

  3. This is so very interesting, Thank you for sharing this info. The book sounds like a very good read and the cover is beautiful, Thank you for sharing about the book also. Have a Great weekend. God bless you.

  4. Nice excerpt and interesting post Marisa.

  5. Every time I see Bass Reeves' name I want to yell "Hi Yo, Silver!" Good post, Marisa.

  6. Wonderful post, Marisa. I can't wait to read your book. As a child, I wanted to be a U.S. Marshal and tame the old west not understanding that the old west was gone. Now, I fulfill that dream by reading and writing about the west and the heroes helped tame it.

  7. Great article.

    Do you have the titles for books 20-23 of the Lockets & Lace collection?


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