On November 1, 1924 one of the last Old West lawman died. Bill Tilghman was 71 years old and still serving as a lawman at the time.

Coming out west at the age of 16, he fell in with a group of less than honest young men who stole horses from Indians. After several narrow escapes with angry Indians, Tilghman decided rustling was too risky and went to Dodge City, Kansas, where he served a short while as a deputy marshal before opening a saloon. Incidentally, he was arrested twice for train robbery and rustling, but the charges didn’t stick.

In spite of this shaky start, Tilghman built a reputation as an honest young man in Dodge City. He became the deputy sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, and later, the marshal of Dodge City. In 1891 Tilghman became a deputy U.S. marshal for the Oklahoma Territory. Lawlessness plagued Oklahoma, and Tilghman helped restore order by capturing some of the most notorious bandits of the day.

Over the years, Tilghman earned a well-deserved reputation for treating even the worst criminals fairly and protecting the rights of the unjustly accused. Any man in Tilghman’s custody knew he was safe from angry vigilante mobs, because Tilghman had little tolerance for those who took the law into their own hands.

In 1924, after serving a term as an Oklahoma state legislator; making a movie about his frontier days; and serving as the police chief of Oklahoma City, Tilghman accepted a job as city marshal in Cromwell, Oklahoma.

How did he die? Not of old age or at the hands of a hardened outlaw. Tilghman was shot and killed while trying to arrest a drunken Prohibition agent.

Filed under: Old West History

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!