Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, July 11, l90l
The following sketch of the career of HEC BRUNER in the Indian Territory appeared in the Corydon Democrat of last Friday, says the Lineville Tribune, but the article does not state that HEC BRUNER was born and reared at Cleopatra and that his father, ELI BRUNER, was a brother of D.M. BRUNER, of Clio, ADAM BRUNER, of Cleopatra, and MRS. LUCINDA BUTCHER, of this place. His father with his family and HEC, moved to Salome Springs, Arkansas, from Cleopatra, when HEC was about l2 years of age. He was drowned in Grand River, Indian Territory, about two years ago in attempting to swim it in order to serve official papers on parties living on the other side.
We are indebted to B.E. WEST, of this place, cousin of the subject of this sketch, who visited him at Vinita, Indian Territory, while he was United States Marshal of that district:
"HEC BRUNER, a United States Marshal of Indian Territory in the early days, enjoys the rare distinction of having a cemetery named after him. And the strange part of it is that no one is buried there except his own victims. There are 28 mounds in the cemetery. Under each lies the bones of some bad man who brushed up against BRUNER and got the worst of it. When BRUNER was Marshal, the Indian Territory was about as wild as a country ever gets. It was filled with horse thieves, train robbers and desperadoes of all kinds. A law abiding, peaceable citizen did not stand much show. Murders were so common that they were not considered news. Thefts attracted no attention whatever except from the ones who suffered loss. The country was run as near along anarchist lines as the most ardent anarchist of New York or Madrid could hope. Little attention was given to the "consent of the governed."
The desperado with the quickest movement of his shooting hand and most nerve ruled the roost. That was the condition until HEC BRUNER was appointed United States Marshal. When he took charge of the office, he decided to revolutionize things and make Indian Territory "a good place to live in." His friends laughed at him, although they knew he had nerve. To go up against the notorious gangs of the country, they said, was foolishness. It might result in cleaning out a gang or two, but in the end would result in the Marshal being wiped off the map. What was the use to endanger one's own life in order to make trouble for the desperadoes, they would ask. To this BRUNER replied that he would drive the opening wedge toward civilizing the territory if it cost him his life the first day. He stuck to his resolution, and he did not lose his life either. But he had several narrow escapes. He was punctured by bullets until his frame could be "used for a sieve," and he had his blood spilled in many a fight, but not enough of it at any one time to make him bite the dust. While the desperadoes were making it interesting for BRUNER he was keeping them busy. He was a dead shot, and whenever he pulled the trigger on his man it meant a separation of soul and body. There was no discount on the fact that BRUNER began to hunt down the desperadoes.
The first one he killed was buried in a grave south of Tahleynah. The second was also buried there. And so it went until the carcasses of 28 bad men who had met death at the hands of BRUNER, while he was acting in the line of duty, were buried in that grove. A rail fence was run around the graves and the cemetery was named "BRUNER's Graveyard." Only one grave in the yard is marked with a marble stone. This is the grave of a noted horse thief. His pals chipped in and bought the tombstone because he was "a good fellow." All the rest of the graves are marked with wooden slabs. Many of them are enclosed with slab fences, while others are enclosed with rails laid in hog-pen fashion.
After BRUNER got his graveyard pretty well filled up the desperadoes began to realize that he meant business, and whenever one would hear that BRUNER wanted him, he would come into town and give himself up rather than run the risk of being the next one to occupy space in BRUNER's Graveyard. From that time on BRUNER had an easy time. He accomplished his object. He had driven the entering wedge in the civilization of the toughest country the sun ever shown on."
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
"With permission from the Leon Journal Reporter"
January 2l, 2003
*Tahlequah (is the proper spelling)In Oklahoma, near Tulsa base of the Western Band of the Cherokee Nation.
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