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Terrible Tragedy, Attack upon a Cherokee Court

Posted By Dennis On In Native American,Oklahoma | No Comments

From time to time we have chronicled the postponement of the case of Ezekiel Proctor charged with the murder of (Mary) Polly Hildebrand, the last trial being set to come off last Monday, the 15th instant. We had business there, and arrived about half past 1 o’clock. And what a sight met our gaze when we rode up to the small school-house where the court had been called. Three men were lying just before the door-step in those negligent and still postures so terrifying to the living. Dark pools of blood issuing from each told the horrible story of the manner of their death. In the house, lying side by side, with their hats over their faces, lay three more bodies—-one, all that was left of an old and valued friend (This may have been Mose Alberty the defending attorney). A few steps off, to the right of the door, lay the body of a man with light hair and blue eyes, which betokened his white extraction (probably George Selvidge). Next to the chimney, behind the house, was another, and near by, partly supported against the wall, was a man groaning in the anguish of a desperate wound – probably William Beck). In the bushes, a little further off, was yet another corpse of a youth who had staggered there to die. Looking at the living we saw the presiding judge, B. H. Sixkiller, with his wrist bandaged, where he had been seriously wounded by two bullets. The prisoner was limping about with a bullet in the bone of his leg below the knee. Others were wounded more or less. At the nearest residence was lying, desperately wounded, Deputy Marshal Owens, a man generally respected on both sides of the “line”. Some of the badly wounded we did not see, they having fled or been taken care of by their friends. The spectacle which harrowed our sight was the most awful, without any comparison, that we have ever witnessed.”

A tug of war began between the Federal Government and the Cherokee Nation over their ability to conduct court business. The Federal court system wanted Zeke tried in Ft. Smith and the Cherokee Government felt that the feds had interfered in their business. There was right and wrong on both sides. A report was sent to the President of the US and Congress. Finally, after a lot of wrangling the Federal Government said if you will not arrest Sut Beck for the killing of Johnson Proctor and the wounding of Zeke we will not arrest Zeke for the murder of Mary Beck Kesterson and the wounding of James Kesterson. And there it ended.

Zeke Proctor and Sut Beck did all they could to avoid each other for many years. In the 1890s they met accidentally at the Courthouse in the Cherokee Capitol in Tahlequah, OK. They shook hands and each went on their way without any trouble. It finally was over but it will never be forgotten. Because the Federal Government felt the Cherokee Government could not govern itself they pushed the process for statehood forward and Oklahoma became a state sooner than was originally intended.

George Selvidge
George Selvidge

As a result of last week’s article on Going Snake, Mrs. Earl (Selvidge) Overly of Colcord, Oklahoma, has submitted some additional information about her grandfather George W. Selvidge, who was killed in a fight at Ezekiel Proctor’s trial at the Whitmire School. Proctor was on trial for the murder of a woman who was a relative of the Beck family, a family of Cherokees who lived near the old Beck Mill in what is now Delaware County.

Selvidge was a farmer who lived three miles east of Colcord where Mrs. Overly lives now. He was married to Sabra (niece of Mary Beck Hildebrand Kesterson) Selvidge and attended Proctor’s trial with his brothers in law.

Proctor and the Beck’s had been feuding for some time, according to Mrs. Overly, and Selvidge and three of the Beck’s were killed in the fight with Proctor and another Beck was injured.

Selvidge and two of the Beck’s killed in that fight were buried in the Beck Cemetery two and a half miles east of Colcord.


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