Five men on horseback—three deputies and two prisoners—came across a deserted cabin near Muskogee, Oklahoma Territory, in April 1888, and decided to take cover from the approaching darkness and dropping temperatures. 

Oklahoma Territory

The group included outlaws John Billee and Thomas Willis and Deputy U.S. Marshals Will Ayers, James Wilkerson, and Perry DuVall.

The lawman arrested the two outlaws for the April 12th robbery and murder of W.P. Williams. After the killing, they buried him in a ravine in the Kiamichi Mountains in southeastern Oklahoma. 

When the group bedded down, Billee and Wilis were handcuffed to different deputies to prevent them from escaping. 

During the night, while everyone slept, Billee managed to wriggle one of his hands out of the restraints and grabbed the deputy’s gun. 

Billee, a Creek Indian, known for his bad temper, squeezed the trigger several times, wounding all three lawmen.

Before Billee could escape, Deputy Wilkerson drew his gun and fired back. 

The outlaw went down and all three lawmen subdued him. 

The following day, deputies escorted Billee and Willis to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  

Although Ayers, Wilkerson, and DuVall succeeded in bringing in the two killers, they found themselves the target of severe criticism for allowing Billee to get the jump on them. 

The two outlaws went on trial for killing Willams. Both were convicted and sentenced to death.

Billee displayed such a savage temper, he had to be chained to the wall of his prison cell. According to some accounts,

According to some accounts, Billee feared hanging so much that with hangman George Madelon to shoot him. Maledon declined.  

Following several legal delays, Billee and Willis were escorted to the gallows at Ft. Smith on January 16, 1890, and hanged.  




Join the StoryTeller Posse
and receive a FREE copy of
“When the Smoke Clears: Gunslingers and Gunfights of the Old West.”

Tom Rizzo invites you to “Discover the Historical West” and read about the characters and events that shaped the American frontier. If you enjoyed the story above, please share it with your friends. Better yet, saddle up for Tom’s VIP Readers Posse in the box above to receive occasional dispatches about adventures on the High Plains & beyond.


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>