Deadly Affrays: The Violent Deaths of the U.S. Marshals

by Robert Ernst (assisted by retired Deputy U.S. Marshal George R. Stumpf), ScarlettMask Enterprises, Avon, Ind., 2006, $35.

 John Hicks Adams served as a deputy U.S. marshal in Arizona Territory for only 10 days. While he and Deputy Cornelius Finley were trailing a gang of Mexican stagecoach robbers in the mountains south of Tucson, they were ambushed and killed on September 2, 1878. The killers fled across the border, where five were arrested in Sonora. Mexican officials refused to extradite, and the fate of the killers is not known. John Zeke met his end on February 15, 1872, in present-day Oklahoma. After arresting a suspect in a safe theft, Zeke said, several teamsters interfered with him and shot him in the chest. He died in a Fort Gibson hotel moments later, and although a posse took off in pursuit, the fate of Zeke’s killers is also unknown.

In a nutshell, Deadly Affrays examines members of the U.S. Marshals Service killed in the line of duty, from A to Z. Author Robert Ernst researched the subject for 18 years; he had a lot of ground to cover, since George Washington formed that federal law enforcement agency way back in 1789. Since the killing of Robert Forsyth, one of the 13 original marshals, in Georgia in 1794, at least 287 other marshals have met violent ends, including 252 who were shot.


Originally published in the June 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here