Sunday, October 9, 2011

More stories about Jailer Days - Deadwood South Dakota

"A New Suit of Clothes"

"Many men in Deadwood were without their families such as miners, adventurers, cowboys, and you name it..Some literally "ended up" in jail and died there. In that case, they were given a new suit of clothes to be buried in.  I don't know who provided it, the town, the territorial government or who.

There were two brothers, Ike and Jake, who had a tailor shop.  Dad thought up a scheme to give them a scare.  He sent someone to tell Ike one of the inmates had died and he wanted to make him a suit.  Ike came to measure the man who was "laid out" on the table looking very dead.  Ike carefully measured him but when he measured his chest the dead man raised up and grabbed Ike in a tight embrace.  Poor Ike froze.  When everyone laughed, he recovered.  The 'dead man" got off the table, but Ike said, "No,no..somebody go get Jake."

So the little drama was repeated, but Jake didn't freeze.  He gave the 'corpse" a terrific blow to the face and ran out the door and down the street out of sight.  They later found him in the black smith shop.  The blacksmith wondered what the poor man had seen.  Dad realized then that sometimes a good joke can backfire, but it must have been funny at at the time.  Dad would laugh so much he could hardly tell this story."..from Estelle.

Crow Dog's Story

"When the Dakotas became a territory, officials, anxious to establish law and order (and give the new circuit courts something to do), rounded up all known criminals, including Chief Crow Dong, who had killed Chief Spotted Tail. My father, D.S. Billington, was the jailer in Deadwood at that time.  Some years prior and at the invitation of Chief Yellow Bird, my father had hunted with the Indians.  Few white men had this privilege.  He came to have a great respect and admiration for the Indians.  He and Crow Dog became friends.

Crow Dog had an arrow wound in one lung.  Dad, knowing also how painful it was for an Indian to be caged, told Crow Dog that he would let him out during the day if he would return at sunset every evening to be locked up for the night.  My father had absolute faith that an Indian would keep his word to a friend. So, with one of my father's two English bull dogs, Crow Dog would go up to White Rocks every day and return at sunset every evening.  This went on for nearly four years.

Most people expected the day would come when Crow Dog would not return, but Dad's faith in him never wavered. The wait Crow Dog endured was unusually long for a man accused of a crime which carried a sentence of death.  Crow Dog was sure he would eventually be hanged according to white man's law.  The reasons for the long wait was that there was no one to defend him  No one wanted to take a losing case.

One day Dad and another man had to go down Spearfish valley to pick up the body of a man killed by the Indians..that's another good story.  Crow Dog overheard their plans.  That evening Crow Dog and the dog did not return.  People were sure their predictions had come true.

When Dad returned, he was soundly repremanded, but he still believed that Crow Dog would eventually return.  He probably went to the Reservation to tell his people good-bye.  Not having Dad's faith in Indians, the Marshall sent a man named Billy to bring back Crow Dog.  I don't remember how many days had passed before Crow Dog came back to Deadwood alone.  When asked where Billy was, Crow Dog answered, " I do't know any Billy, I left by myself.  I came back by myself."  Dad asked about his dog.  Crow Dog said,  "Sorry, I ate it."

In the meantime, a young lawyer in Boston named A. J. Plowman had heard about this "strange" case.  Not knowing anything about the West, other than tales he had heard, he thought that it would be quite a lark...and some publicity go West and take this case.  He went to the Reservation and talked to many Indians.  He learned that Crow Dog had been tried by the tribal council and that he had been exonerated by them. At Crow Dog's long awaited trial, young Plowman then proved that this was double jeopardy, and Crow Dog was freed.

Unlike the television rendition of this story, the people of Deadwood were glad that Crow Dog was set free.  They had come to like this Indian who had been quite a fixture in Deadwood.  Many had to admit that Crow Dog had taught them an unforgettable lesson in honor."

Laws were changed after this decision was made as  Crow Dog had to petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a Writ of Habeas Corpus and the Supreme Court had accepted the case.  1863 [1][6][9][10][14]

In the BLACK HILLS DAILY TIMES NEWSPAPER appeared this article dated Dec. 1883 p3.col.2 :

When Jailor Billington heard of the supreme court decision, last night, he went to Crow Dogs' cell, awoke him, and told him the news.  Crow Dog leaped out on the floor, jumped up and down exclaiming, "bet your boots, bet your boots: washta, washta."  

To see the whole story go to link:

Note:  This story was submitted by Estelle Billington Fontana in 1985, to the Adams Museum in Deadwood, along with an Indian purse, knife and peace pipe that had once been give to Dee Billington from Yellowbird.  Also submitted was an album that had been signed by Crow Dog.  He drew a picture of a dog with a crow on his back.   He also drew a picture of himself and Chief Spotted Tail on horseback.

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