Barber County Kansas
Never in the history of Barber county were our people so horribly shocked as they were last Thursday night when the awful, heartrending news was flashed over the wires that Sheriff E. L. McCracken was shot and mortally wounded at Kiowa, by James Clark, better known as "Dad" Clark, while attempting to serve a warrant on him.
Sheriff McCracken lingered until 12:10 Sunday afternoon when he passed away.
Clark is a notorious bootlegger, who has been hanging around Kiowa for a number of years. He worked at times, at the cobbler trade as a side issue to cover his real business. The day before the shooting he was wanted as a witness in a petty larceny case and a subpoena was issued for him, but when Deputy Sheriff Downtain went after him he had left and secreted himself. Later in the day a warrant was issued charging him with selling whiskey. In the evening he returned to his house and barricaded the doors.
Sheriff McCracken and City Marshall Bunton of Kiowa learned of his return and they went to the house to arrest him. They asked Clark to come out, told him who they were and what their business was. Clark made no answer but did considerable shifting through the house. Finally they broke down a door and for Clark's benefit talked of firing the house. This frightened Clark and he escaped through a window and ran into an outhouse.
Sheriff McCracken followed him and walked around the little building several times telling him he must come out. Clark continued to be silent and as it was nearly train time, the sheriff concluded to bring matters to a focus and stepped to the door which by this time was partly opened. Clark was at the door and in the darkness it appeared to the officer that he had his hands up and Mr. McCracken reached for him.
At that moment Clark pressed his revolver against the sheriff's breast and fired, Sheriff McCracken did not fall but immediately began to fire into the outhouse, Clark closing the door and standing in one corner as soon as he had shot.
Sheriff McCracken fired four shots into three sides of the outhouse, after he was shot, and had Clark stood in any other corner he would have been killed. At the fourth shot Clark got out and started to run. Marshal Bunton, who was some 30 feet distant then fired and hit Clark in the leg which felled him and lost his revolver. He then began to beg for his life.
Bunton took charge of Clark and after the three had walked a short distance Sheriff McCracken said to Bunton, "Clark I'm all in," and fell. He told Bunton as soon as he was shot that he was hurt but he did not think seriously. Marshal Bunton then called for George Leonhart whose house is close to the Clark house, turned the prisoner over to him and summoned physicians and other help to care for Sheriff McCracken. He was carried to a small restaurant close to the Santa Fe depot where Drs. Cloud, Fulton and Harris of Kiowa took charge of him.
During the entire night no hope whatever was given for his recovery in fact he seemed to be dying then and did not rally until Friday morning. Dr. Updegraff of Anthony and Dr. J. H. Donovan of this city and Dr. Basham of Wichita all joined the other physicians during Friday and the battle to save Sheriff McCracken's life was vigorously prosecuted. But the encouragement of these eminent physicians was short-lived.
The seemingly favorable conditions that existed during the greater part of Friday, began to vanish at 5 o'clock in the evening when vomiting began and much blood and putrid matter was thrown up. Until that time Sheriff McCracken himself was cheerful and had confidence of being able to win the battle.
His courage was characteristic of the man, he maintained a bright disposition and even joked with the anxious friends surrounding him, but when he was seized with the stomach trouble he foresaw the result, made a few requests concerning business matters and along in the night lapsed into semi consciousness.
His pain during the entire time was intense; he suffered indescribable misery and but for his indomitable courage, physical endurance and will power he would not have lived more than a few hours after the shooting.
The murderer was taken to Wellington on a freight train soon after the shooting, for safe-keeping, and to this precaution on the part of the officials at Kiowa he owes his life.
As soon as it became known that Sheriff McCracken had been fatally wounded there was a storm of indignation throughout the county and desperation would doubtlessly have been resorted to. Here again Sheriff McCracken demonstrated his largeness of heart. He requested that the old man be not harmed. The sheriff himself could have shot him but he was on the side of mercy, believing that it could not be in the heart of a man 70 years of age to commit murder.
The Body was brought from Kiowa to this city Sunday morning accompanied by two hundred sorrowing and tearful citizens of that city. The funeral was held at the Christian church in this city Sunday afternoon. All the ministers in the city participated in the services, Elder Barnum, pastor of the church, and of which Mr. McCracken was a faithful member, preached the funeral sermon. Music was furnished by a specially selected choir and the floral tributes were most beautiful and imposing. The city officials of Kiowa were honorary pall bearers and the acting pall bearers were Hon. O. P. T. Ewell, U. S. Landis, H. A. Bailey, A. W. Rumsey, R. C. Burgess and S. T. Ishmael, who were chosen from among the sheriff's hosts of friends.
The funeral was the largest ever held in Medicine Lodge. The church seated over 500 people and only a small part of the assembled throng could find standing room within. A conservative estimate of the people who were out to attend the funeral is placed at 1200.
The services were concluded at the grave in Highland cemetery at 5 o'clock.
A postmortem examination revealed a worse state of affairs produced by the shot than was even feared during the struggle for life. The ball entered the middle of the breast close to the throat; it ranged downward, passed below the heart and lodged in the stomach. It was a 38 caliber bullet but mounted on a 45 caliber stock which increased the power of the charge. The internal bleeding was the direct cause of death although the severing of blood vessels and tissues alone might have been sufficient to end fatally.
During this terrible tragedy Mrs. McCracken was confined to her bed, which makes the calamity thrice sad. She gave birth to a child two days before and hence was in no condition to withstand such awful shock. But Mrs. McCracken displayed most remarkable courage and no serious results are feared. She is a brave woman and her resolution to live through it and bring up her children has at once endeared her to the general public and has earned for her the plaudits of everybody. To this good woman expressions of sympathy can do little to soothe and heal. Her grief is so far beyond human realization that it seems a supreme power only can send her healing balm.
Enos L. McCracken was born in Montague county, Texas, December 2, 1863; died at Kiowa, Kansas, March 21, 1908, aged 44 years, 3 months, 19 days. He first came to Barber county in 1881 and worked at the cattle business several years and then went to Oklahoma as a ranch foreman where he remained until July, 1894, when he again returned to Barber county and bought a ranch in Elwood township.
He was married to Ella Smith, daughter of Wm. and Mary E. Smith, October 28, 1894. To this union were born eight children, five boys and three girls, all of whom are living, the oldest being less than 12 years old and the youngest a baby only a week old. There also remain to mourn his untimely death, five brothers and three sisters all of whom, excepting Tip McCracken of this county, reside in Oklahoma and Texas. One brother and two sisters, were unable to attend the funeral.
In November 1906 Mr. McCracken was elected sheriff of Barber county by a decisive majority of 266. He filled the office so acceptably, so faithfully and so impartially, that it was common sentiment among his republican opponents, politically, that there should be no opposition to him this year.
When we undertake to say in words what is due this magnificent man our hand palsies and our emotions are almost beyond control. Thousands of hearts are overwhelmed with agony and throughout Barber county there is a grief that penetrates into practically every home. But while hearts are bleeding and heads are bowed in deepest sorrow, there comes this soothing benediction: Bud McCracken died at the post of duty. He had a sacred oath to fulfill and like other true, christian, resolute conscientious American martyrs, died in an exalted calling and as the years go on and on the memory of this beloved man will be emblazoned on the hearts of his countrymen more proudly than any epitaph inscribed on sepulchral tablets in the hall of fame and his spirit will find sweet fellowship in the Valhalla of the never dying years.
A Tribute to Bud McCracken
A movement is on foot to institute a public subscription throughout Barber county to secure a suitable memorial tablet to be placed in the court house or court house yard in honor of Bud McCracken who died in the discharge of his duty as a fitting recognition of his valuable services. In a few days a working organization will be formed and every man who feels that he was Bud's friend will be invited to contribute. Small amounts will be received as cheerfully as large ones. There is no question about the raising of funds, they will be forthcoming; but it is desired that all be given an opportunity to contribute a little. It is desired to make this a most beautiful tribute and the more names on the list the better.
Later the duly authorized ones to receive subscriptions will be announced.
They Esteem Barber County people
The brothers of Bud McCracken, our martyred Sheriff, who were called here from Texas and Oklahoma last week desire to express their great appreciation to the people of Medicine Lodge and Barber county for the manifold kindnesses shown them and the family of their departed brother. They are especially proud of the enormous gathering at the funeral and the tributes paid Bud on every hand.
F. R. McCracken, the brother from Alanreed in the Panhandle, who arrived just in time to see his beloved brother before going to the cemetery, departed for his home yesterday morning. Before leaving he called at the Index office and requested this little message to Barber county people. He says he will always have a warm spot in his heart for Medicine Lodge and Barber county.
GONE TO HIS DOOM
James Clark, The Murderer, Died at Wellington Monday Evening
"Dad" Clark, the old inebriate who murdered Sheriff McCracken, died in the Wellington jail Monday evening. The wound inflicted on his leg by the officers at the time of the capture proved fatal. One of the bones in the leg was broken, gangrene set in and amputation was necessary. Clark did not regain consciousness after the operation.
This death was most fortunate. It is very doubtful whether people could have refrained themselves when the old fiend would have been brought back for trial and for that reason it is best that he has gone to his doom so soon.
We understand that the body was buried in Wellington.
The assassination of Bud McCracken was the greatest sensation in Barber county since the bank robbery in Medicine Lodge in 1884 and if the murderer had not gotten out of the county he would undoubtedly have suffered the same fate as the murderers of that time.
All honor to the people of Kiowa for the tender care given Sheriff McCracken in his suffering. The blow struck Kiowa as hard as it did Medicine Lodge and the people of that city feel deeply the great loss. They did all that human power could do to prolong Mr. McCracken's life but fate was a against them. The Kiowa people certainly paid a beautiful tribute to their departed friend in the way of floral offerings and the numbers accompanying the body to Medicine Lodge.
In 1987, Sheriff E.L. McCracken's name was added to the Kansas Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Pearl Clark Bunton, Kiowa Chief of Police.
District Court Cases
Barber County Index, October 21, 1903.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!