Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – U.S. Deputy Marshal Gary Teel is Not Asked Back to Sapulpa
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
Before statehood, Indian Territory (I.T.) was often seen as a lawless land with many opportunities for outlaws. U.S. Deputies roamed the territory, taking charge and intercepting crimes in territory towns. Sapulpa had a reputation of being a haven to many outlaws and vices, such as gambling, liquor, and murder. One U.S. Deputy was assigned for the area of Muscogee, Sapulpa, and closeby areas. U.S. Deputy Marshal Gary Teel made headlines for his arrests of thieves, gamblers, and criminals.
But this week in Sapulpa history, many Sapulpans and the District Attorney D.A. McDougal believed it was time for Teel to not return to duty in the Sapulpa township.
1904. “Teel captures the booze. Deputy Marshal Teel got busy last Sunday got busy at the Frisco depot and landed on a case of Oklahoma beer that was billed over the Red River division. The case contained 48 bottles of the foamy stuff. Teel confiscated the beer and smashed it on the railroad tracks.” Teel made sure that the township would stay a dry town, and no black-market liquor would cross into the area.
Red Fork citizens had a similar incident, however, residents of Red Fork were not having the law telling the citizens what to do. Two officers, Commissioner Jennings and Deputy Teel visited Red Fork. “They didn’t catch a thing at Red Fork, although over half the town were summoned by Teel.” The officers entered the town after “some reports of lawlessness in that town” and went to investigate. Teel summoned most of the citizens to the stand as witnesses of the character of the town. “After being put on the stand, they [the citizens] forgot all about everything they ever knew. Commissioner Jennings and Teel returned in the afternoon after a practically fruitless trip.”
Just weeks later, Teel investigated a possible suicide or murder in Sapulpa. “Walt Whitaker, local gambler found dead with bullet in his heart.” The town was no stranger to murder, and Teel was able to gather a story of the night of the death. “Whitaker, as a gambler and local sport, was well known in this part of the Territory. While it is generally conceded that he came to his death by his own hand, there are a number who hold to belief that Whitaker was fouly murdered and then hauled out and dumped near the [cotton] compress. Two men out driving reported that while out near the compress, they saw the flash of a gun and then some people running away from the scene. It is also reported that Whitaker was in trouble without money and at outs with his wife. Nothing was found in his pockets, except loaded dice and cards emblems of his profession, to indicated why he would commit the deed.”
1905. Deputy Teel’s daughters moved to Sapulpa. It had not listed where his family had been staying, however, often husbands and fathers would work in townships and states away from the family during Territory days. On the train into Indian Territory, after leaving to retrieve his daughters, Teel was able to apprehend a whisky-peddler. “Teel was on the train returning home. He noticed a fellow get on with a might heavy grip, and as soon as the train entered Indian Territory, Teel opened the grip. It was pretty full of booze.”
As stated earlier, U.S. Deputies were assigned to an area to bring law to the land. Sapulpa papers would call U.S. Deputy Marshal Gary Teel as one of the “busiest men in the Creek Nation.” Teel was also assigned to Tulsa. The law was keeping Teel busy in the Indian Territory. Many stories of Teel arrests in the area made headline news. “Teel arrested bootlegger near Bixby.” In Muscogee, “Teel arrested a horsethief from Manford, arrested in Pawnee.” Teel would arrest potential thieves and vandals. “Teel arrested four men charged with fence breaking.”
1906. Sapulpans spoke out against Teel for abuse of power. “An officer of the law has a right to do his duty and should do his duty under any and all circumstances, and generally speaking no one is going to interfere with the performances of such duty. On the other hand an officer of the law has no right to use his authority in an endeavor to bulldoze or assault a citizen, whether it be in his place of business, upon the street or public highway.”
The evening of January 27th, 1906, Teel was in town from Tulsa, and he wished to find possible booze in town. “Teel sent a [person] into the Turner Drug Store to buy what he could in the way of invigorating beverage. The [man] came out with three bottles of McLean’s Strengthening Cordial, a patent medicine.”
Teel arrested the clerk at the drugstore and called Dr. Turner to have him come in, aw well. “Teel accused Turner of changing the corks in the bottles.*”
*Note: this could be in reference of accusing Turner in changing the medicine from said bottles to liquor beverages, similar to changing labels on drinks.
Dr. Turner said he never changed the the bottles, and Teel lied. Teel slapped the doctor twice. “Turner made no effort to protect himself, but at once swore out a warrant for Teel, charging him with assault and battery.” It was said that Teel believed liquor was in Turner store, and had been trying for weeks to capture the liquor.
This week in Sapulpa history, on February 1, 1906, Teel went back to Tulsa, and had another Marshal to serve in Sapulpa for the time being. Teel was not arrested, but was also not re-appointed to the Sapulpa district. The townsfolk did not wish to have Teel back in their area. Marshal Bennet took over the duties in Sapulpa.
However, Teel and his daughters lived in Sapulpa. Just weeks later, the Deputy Marshal was in town when a shot rang out in town. “The case is the result of a family affair and is about as follows: Hickcox was married some weeks ago to Miss May Teel, a daughter of U.S. Deputy Marshal Gary Teel. For some time, he thought an affection existed between his wife and Wisda, a brakeman. Wisda, lived in the Garst building. His suspicions were aroused and went to Wisda’s room where he found his wife in company with Wisda. He pulled a gun and shot Wisda, the ball striking at the waist.” U.S. Deputy Marshal Freshour of Bristow arrested Hickcox.
Gary Marshal and another officer, John Querry, both Deputy Marshals, “tendered their resignations as officers in the employ of the government, and both will reside in Tulsa in the future. ‘I hereby tender my resignation as Deputy Marshal for this district, to take effect March 31. I would rather have two big marbles at the north end of Main Street in Tulsa, with instructions to roll them up and down the street the rest of my life than to have to live in Sapulpa, and be marshal of the Western District.”
Marshal Teel was honored by the city of Sapulpa by naming Teel Road after him.
(Sapulpa Democrat, February 1, 1906, February 22, 1906, April 5, 1906; Sapulpa Light, March 10, 1905, May 12, 1905, February 23, 1906; Sapulpa Signal, July 14, 1904, July 21, 1904, August 4, 1904, January 12, 1905)
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The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.