Mabel Willebrandt May Have Had
Reason For Wanting Federal Post
Former Assistant Attorney General Checked Up on Slayers of
Young Uncle in "No Man's Land" While
In Department of Justice.
Liberal, May 19.- Everyone remembers
Mrs, Mabel Walker Willebrandt,
the thoroughgoing lady
who was a s s i s t a n t attorney general
of the United States during the
Miss Kate Wright of this city
has her own Ideas as to why Mabel
Walker took up law and headed
her career towards that branch of
her profession which would put h e r
Into contact with the d e p a r t m e n t of
justice. She may be wrong, but
a few y e a r s ago, w h e n Mrs. Willebrandt
was holding that office,
a department of justice agent visited
Miss Wright, whose father was
Charles R. Wright, pioneer lawyer
of this southwest country-
But the story really starts In
July, 1888, or even before. Mr.
Wright had been out In Stevens
county before his wife and family,
who came that month to settle
with him in Voorhees, which was
once a little city of 50 j u s t 18 miles
due west of Liberal. They lived in
the back of a grocery store. Kate
Wright was j u s t a little girl then.
At t h a t time, further north in
Stevens county was Woodsdale, another
"buried city," now covered
with a wheat field. In Woodsdale
lived Dave Walker, who was t he
editor of a newspaper controlled
by Col. S am N. Woods, famous early
day c h a r a c t e r who once said he
participated In every county seat
. war all t h e way t h r o u g h Kansas.
Sought Stevens County Seat
Col. Woods has j u s t finished making
a valiant fight to have the
county Beat established at Woodsdale.
The n o r t h end of t h e county,
pro-Woodsdale, had tried to align
the south part against Hugoton.
I n a big barn-like building in
Voorhees they had had a meeting
to discuss the location. Hugoton
was in t h e center of the county.
Men made fiery speeches. Suddenly
the lights were shot out. No one
was shot, but In t h e end Col. Woods
was kidnaped and taken down
across the neutral strip, now t he
Oklahoma Panhandle, and held
quietly in Texas until after t h e election,
which Hugoton won. Without
Col. Woods, whom Miss Wright recalls
as a qukl-looking man who
actually smouldered underneuth h is
placid exterior like a volcano and
would r a t h e r have fought t h a n eaten,
the cause was lost.
Things quieted down then, and in
the Interim, the Wrights arrived.
Miss Wright had two older sisters,
and they had back in s o u t h e r n Iowa
been called upon by a young man,
Ted Eaton, who lived across the
line In Lucerne, Missouri. He was
not much over 20.
E a t o n Comes t o Southwest
P r e t t y soon, they heard by that
curious prairie grapevine telegraph
that Ted E a t o n had come to join
his relatives, the Walkers, in
Woodsdale. Eaton was a n uncle of
Mabel Walker who w a s t h e n just a
baby in t h e a r m s of Mm. Walker.
Mabel was born In Woodsdale.
Late one r i g h t as t h e W r i g h t s lay
asleep they heard horses munching
grass outside. There was no dls- :
tuibmice, however, only a few whin- :
nies, and t h e young girls paid little j
Next morning, they learned that
it was Sheriff Cross and a posse of
wix or seven, most ly lads In their
twenties. Among them, they learn-!
d, hud been Ted E a t o n . They were
sorry to have missed him, hut their
father bald he left word to tell the
girls hello and that he would be
back up from the s o u t h In a day or
two to see them.
Early the next morning, when
they were a t breakfast, t h e r e came
an excited knocking at the door.
Mr. Wright went out to see what a
chalk-faced boy wanted.
Presently lie returned. His face
was drained of color.
Leaves In u Hurry
"There's been a terrible accident
(own In the neutral strip and I've
got to go," ho .said. "1 told Sheriff
Cross that they oughtn't to go down
t h e r e them would he trouble sure
ua shooting," ho added. Then he
hitched up a buckbourd wagon and
left, lushing the horses as he disappeared
over the flat horizon of
About noon, Kate Wiight noticed
u cowboy coming on a horse across
t h e plain. As t h e horse drew near- ,
r, she noticed that the man was
half-slumped over the horse's head.
The horse, going Its own way with :
loose reins, was making for the 1
| (own pump and watering trough,
I 100 y a r d s away.
Kate Wright run out to meet
thern, und s h e haw t h a t t h e boy was
: covered on one side with blood, evid
e n t l y from a wound in his uhoul-
1 J c i. It v.jiti partially dried and
mixed with sweat. She remembers
It was a hot J u l y day.
Feared to Help Wounded Man
She r a n to t h e hotel and notified
two Frenchmen who operated It
and then told her chum, Cora Custer,
whoso father, the only man in
the settlement at that hour, came
and helped carry the weak youth
into t h e hotel. But t h e Frenchmen,
sensing that this was a n a f t e r m a th
of t h e county seat war, w e r o afraid
t h a t his a s s a i l a n t s would follow h im
and kill anyone who harbored him.
So they carried him a n d p u t h im
In a tent and old Dr. F u r n e s s , a
Quaker homeopath, tended him. Mr.
Custer did n o t t h i n k he would live.
As ho l ay there, weak from loss of
blood, they took down what they
thought was h i s dying statement.
His name was H e r b e r t Tonney,
and he was only 16 or 17. He h ad
been In Sheriff Cross' posse.
Sought Arrest of Abductor*
This part of t h e story' he did n o t
tell—that Col. Woods had sent t he
sheriff, who s t r a n g e l y was a pro-
Woodsdale man, down into t h e neut
r a l s t r i p to force a r r e s t of several
Hugoton men t h e r e on a fishing
t r i p.
Col. Woods had h e a r d t h a t some
of the men who h a d kidnaped h im
were among those fishermen. They
were supposed to be camping near
Wild Horse Luke.
The boy s t u t t e r e d and gasped as
he told the story. They thought he
would die a t a n y minute.
The posso had reached a little
valley where some h a y m a k e r s were
at work on the night after they
had been at Voorhees. They made
camp for t h e night.
The same grapevine system
worked and the Hugoton men
heard they were being sought.
Late at night they came upon t he
valley, sneaked quietly along and
came upon the h a y m a k e r s.
Shot Down In Cold Blood
They learned who was in the
party, knew they were enemies, a nd
said, "Where are the blanketyblank
Informed where the sheriff a nd
his men were they crept around a
knoll, jumped out, o r d e r e d them to
stand up, p u t t h em against the litt
l e hill and shot t h em down, one
right after another. One of them
was Ted Eaton.
The story Is t h a t t h e m a n whose
t u r n it came to be t o shoot Tonney,
youngest member, had a boy
of his own, and couldn't go through
w i t h It, so sliot h im In t h e shoulder.
Hoy's Life Saved
The Hugoton men then went
along and kicked the posse members
to m a k e sure they were dead
and pumped another bullet into
each form to make sure they were
dead. One of t h em said the boy
should be shot again, but t h e m a n
with the eon of his own is said to
"Oh, he's only a kid; on« shot
And the hoy h a d f a i n t e d away,
or feigned death, and ho lived and
today Is a cripple alive in Flora,
Illinois. This was the boy who
lay on the cot and told what I
the eager little group thought was
his "dying statement."
Dead men tell no tales, and that
is why t he Hugoton men h a d wanted
to make sure. But. s y m p a t h y or
chance stepped in and saved one
boy and he told who h a d shot t he
other five or six down In cold
All Eventually Tried
There was, beore 1890, no courts,
no government in t h e Oklahoma
strip, but Col. Woods moved heaven
and e a r t h and f i n a l ly h a d I t mads a
part of Texas so t h e k i l l e r s could be
All the Hugoton men were tried
a t P a r i s and convicted, but never
hung. Later when Mrs. Willebrandt
had grown up, however, they
wero all dead, except possibly one
Sam Robinson, who, h i s wife had
said, died in Kentucky, after escaping
from a Colorado penitentiary
whero ho h a d been sent for other
crimes. Ho was never found, anyway.
But the department of justice
agent camo checking up on the
Hugoton men, to make certain, and
t h a t is why Miss Wright has her
own idea about .why Mabel Walker
went into law and finally to a
b r a n c h of i t connected with t h e department
of justice—to avenge the
slaying of h e r youthful uncle, Ted