Tuesday, January 19, 2010

R.I.P. Charles Marlow (Marlow Brothers Saga)

(GPS: N34 07.340 W118 14.850)

Charles Marlow on the left and George Marlow on the right:

For some years I have debated putting this one up. As I have explained in the past, I do visit some cemeteries, but I do not make a habit of it or enjoy it as much as some of the other things you see posted on here. When it comes to actors graves I know of a few, but I enjoy visiting where they did their acting as a tribute rather than a gravesite. Historical persons are a little different story. In many cases, a gravesite may be all that is left of what is known about them. This one is a little more personal to me in that I did the work of trying to find where the gravesite was. It was not up on Find a Grave at the time I was looking, and I do not believe it is up there now as I put this up. (Edit 12/30/2010): Interesting coincidence a month later it was put up. Not surprised. lol!)

Part of the reason I held off on it too is I would like to visit the locations of the events that the saga of the Marlow brothers took place. I can not say when that will be, but I do intend to do it someday. Let me give you a little background on why I am going to go ahead and put this one up. One element of Old West history I have studied is blood feuds, vendetta's, and mob violence. I am not a big fan of the mob mentallity. I do not like it when people gang up on a person, or a few, no matter what they have done. I have seen it in my everyday life at times, but I also have seen it online as well. It just comes across very cowardly to me. This is why I like reading about stories of great courage where the few stand up to or fight back the mob. This is one of those cases.

Today marks the anniversary of the Battle at Dry Creek on January 19, 1889 I will talk about.

The gravesite of Charles Marlow:

In the future, if I ever do what I intend to do about visiting the sites in Oklahoma and Texas I will do a longer blog series, but just for this I am going to hit a few highlights of the story. You can refer to the links or read the books to get the details.

Although Marlow, Oklahoma is named for the family, and is where they lived at times, the story really takes place in Graham, Texas. The five brothers, Boone, Charles, Alfred, Llewellyn, and George were thought by the community to be horse rustlers. Sheriff Wallace and his deputy were sent to make an arrest. Boone ended up fatally wounding the Sheriff. Boone escaped to Oklahoma after this, but the rest of the brothers gave themselves up.

With the death of the sheriff, the town rose up and started talking about taking the law into their own hands. The brothers started to fear for their lives so they escaped the town jail, but were captured right near their family home. Before they were sent to the jail a second time, they were chained and schackled together in pairs: Charles and Alfred, George and Ellie.

On the night of January 17th, 1889 a mob showed up at the jail demanding the brothers. The brothers would not come out. One of the mob members ran in and was hit over the head by Charles. No one knows who the member of the mob was, but as a coincidence a Robert Hill died a few days later due to "inflammation of the brain." More than likely, Charles slammed part of the jail cell's sewer pipe over Robert's head. The mob reluctantly left.

With the act of the mob, the U.S. Marshall in Dallas, Texas informed his deputy Ed Johnson to move the Marlow brothers to Weatherford, sixty miles away. On the night of January 19, 1889 they moved out in wagons with a few guards. A few miles from town an ambush was set up by a bigger mob, probably around 25-30 men, to kill the brothers by force at Dry Creek. The brothers jumped out, still attached to each other, got some weapons from where they were located in their small transport. It is a bit disputed what the guards were actually doing, it is unlikely that Ed Johnson was supported the mob, but in any case, the Battle of Dry Creek began. Alfred and Ellie were killed during the action. Many members of the mob were either killed or severly wounded by the brothers. It is reported the battle went on for around 30 minutes. Charles and George survived. They disconnected themselves from their dead brothers. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Boone was eventually given poison in his food resulting in his death from those that were seeking the bounty on him.

Charles and George eventually ended up in Colorado. Court cases did happen, members of the mob were convicted, but due to appeals all the way to the Supreme Court none of the members ever served penitentiary time for conspiracy.

Okay, so how did Charles Marlow finally end up in California? Well, there is nothing too dramatic about this. He lived his life in Colorado and simply moved to Glendale, CA. Here, he lived out the rest of his life. After reading the story about his life many years ago, I went on a trek to find his grave plaque. He and his wife, Emma Jane, are buried right next to each other at Forest Lawn Glendale. I really have no intention of letting this happen, but if for some reason I ever had to fight off a mob it would be right here at Sunrise Slope with Charles at my back. They wouldn't stand a chance.
A bunch of books have been written about the family and the events. Let me list the two I own and a few links:

Rathmell, Willam. Life of the Marlows: A True Story of Frontier Life of Early Days. Edited, with Introduction and Annotations by Robert K. DeArment. Denver, University of North Texas Press, 2004.

The Rathmell account is the main source of our knowledge about the family and events. He interviewed Charles and George so his account is their point of view. However, you really want the DeArment version because he balances it out the author's bias with the opposing point of view when needed in his annotations.

Sonnichsen, C.L. I'll Die Before I Run. New York: Devin-Adair, 1962.

I like the Sonnichsen book because it has lots of Texas blood feuds and does contain a chapter of this saga.

Marlow Brothers blog at BlogOklahoma

Wildcatter Ranch Website (with a few picture locations)

The Original Newspaper Article after the Battle of Dry Creek (transcribed)

A final note, if you have seen The Sons of Katie Elder with John Wayne you now know the basis of that movie. Sort of, the family story was the basis of the movie, but the only thing left that resembles it is the big gunfight at the creek in the movie. The rest of the movie has nothing to do with the family.