“WOMAN WITH A BADGE”

— FEARLESS AND EFFICIENT — 

Deputy U.S. Marshal F.M. Miller adjusted her Colt revolver and cartridge belt. After a quick glance at a wagon full of prisoners, she and lifted herself into the saddle.

Deputy US Marshal

According to the Nov. 19, 1891, issue of the Muskogee Phoenix, Miller spent most of her time transporting and guarding prisoners.

The first female deputy assigned to Indian Territory in the late 19th century, Miller was appointed to the marshal’s service by a federal court at Paris, Texas. 

Earlier the same month, the Fort Smith Elevator described “Mrs. Miller…(as) a dashing brunette of charming manners…” who rode with Deputy U.S. Marshal Ben Campbell for the federal court at South McAlester, Indian Territory.

She goes with him on all his trips and wears a Mexican sombrero,” the paper noted.

The same article described Miller as “…expert shot and a superb horsewoman, and brave to the verge of recklessness. It is said that she aspires to win a name equal to that of Belle Starr, differing from her by exerting herself to run down criminals and in the enforcement of the law.”

Another newspaper reported she also assisted Deputy U.S. Marshal Ben C. Cantrell in transporting prisoners from Talihina to the federal jail in Muskogee.

Regarding Mrs. Miller’s unique position as Deputy U.S. Marshal, one newspaper commented, “Hopefully in the future, there will be more information on this colorful peace officer.”

Newspaper and other accounts indicated that Miller achieved a reputation as fearless and efficient who locked horns with a number of outlaws during her career.

Unfortunately, not much information exists about what she did before pinning on the badge.  

Several other women served with the U.S. Marshal’s Service in the late 19th century. Miller was the only female deputy marshal known to work Indian Territory.

The Oklahoma Historical Society noted that other women wore badges in Oklahoma Territory. Miss S.M. Burch and Miss Mamie Fossett handled office duties and took to the field to serve writs and warrants. 

The historical society said a newspaper account in 1898 noted the two women also made arrests.

In the Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement, 24-year old Deputy Marshal Ada Curnutt took a train with warrants for two men in Oklahoma City, arrested them, and escorted the outlaws to Norman.

No information appeared available on the fate of Mrs. Miller or the two other women mentioned, but it’s likely they demonstrated an unquestioned degree of proficiency and courage.

The U.S. Marshal at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and his 200 deputies patrolled the 74,000-square mile jurisdiction of Indian Territory and Western Arkansas, considered the most violent of American territories. 

The territory served as home to hundreds of outlaws from around the country—sought for a broad range of crimes that included murder and manslaughter, rape, robbery, arson, adultery, and bribery.  

The occupation of Deputy U.S. Marshal courted constant danger. Between 1872 and 1896, over one-hundred deputies died enforcing the law throughout the territory.

The U.S. Marshal Service dealt with crimes among non-Indians, while Indian authorities handled their own crimes.

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8 comments to “WOMAN WITH A BADGE”

  • Astonishing choice of career for a woman at that time in our history.

  • Hi Patti-Absolutely, especially because she was assigned to the most lawless area in the West. Quite an accomplishment.

  • Superb information. I’m researching for my book on the US Marshal Service Western District where these women served. I live near the US Marshal Western District Museum in Fort Smith, AR. Wonderful stories linked to Indian Territory.

  • Hi Velda, I’m glad you found the information helpful for your book. All the best with your project and when you get to market, let us know. Always interesting to read about US marshals.

  • Paul Nichols

    Are there any known photographs or paintings of Francis Miller?

  • Hi Paul, several efforts have been made to find a photo of her but none appear to exist.

  • Sharon Henson

    Just watched the movie tonight about FM Miller F for Francis. Was very good movie as for actually what happened ? But no doubt she was brave and driven to her duty and goal.
    It inspired me to look up law in forcement women who h I was surprised to find several other women so driven. Thanks to all who presented articuals on other brave women, even the first women lawyers.

  • Hello Sharon–thanks for stopping by and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the blog on FM Miller. Miller and others certainly displayed the courage and commitment needed to survive the difficult challenges they faced in those days.

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