EARLY-DAY HISTORY ENTWINED IN LIVES OF LAWMAN AND WIFE
By GARY REID, Daily Times Associate Editor
Marriage to a peace officer isn't a life-long picnic, but if it consists of the right lawman, the right wife and plenty of devotion, courage and hard work, it can last quite a while.
Even 60 years.
That is the marriage record which Mr. and Mrs. John William Cross will chalk up Friday, Nov. 1.
Mrs. Cross, who was Nellie Caroline "Callie" Landreth before she married Cross on Sunday, Nov. 1, 1903, knew that Cross was a lawman when she married him. He has been wearing a badge and a gun since he was 19 years old, and today, at 84, he still wears the badge and the gun as a Wewoka constable and district court bailiff.
The Crosses said they still remember clearly their wedding day. "I rode from Allen to McAlester on Oct. 25 to get the marriage license," Cross said. "And we were married on Sunday, Nov. 1, 1903, at the home of my sister at Allen by a Methodist minister," Mrs. Cross said.
He was 24 and she was 16 when they were married. They had met a couple of years earlier while Cross was working as a cowboy on a nearby ranch in addition to serving as a U.S. Marshall posse deputy and scout when the need arose. Mrs. Cross, an orphan, was living with her sister.
Cross had come to McGee in 1890 and arrived at Allen in 1901. After their marriage, they made their home in Allen for a while then moved to Sasakwa in Seminole county in 1906.
The entire area was Indian Territory then and Cross was named a deputy Sheriff shortly on arriving in the county. "He farmed in addition to working as an officer," Mrs. Cross said. "Officers didn't make enough to live on then, and an officer had to have another job," Cross explained.
They moved to Wewoka on August 25, 1925, and their two sons, Leslie, who was born March 1, 1905, at Allen, and Walter, who was born Jan. 11, 1912, at Sasakwa, graduated from high school here.
A deputy's hours were pretty irregular back then, as now. For instance: Mrs. Cross said that after moving to Sasakwa, Uncle Bill, as he became known throughout a many-county area many years ago told Callie he was going to town for a couple of hours.
Several hours later, Mrs. Cross told their son, Leslie, to go to town to see if he had made it in all right.
Leslie couldn't locate his father.
Two or more days later, she finally got a telegram from Corinth, Miss., where Cross had followed and captured a man wanted here.
"There wasn't any time to notify my family until I had the man in custody," He said.
"Back then, we didn't have the equipment available now such as radios, cars, etc," Uncle Bill said.
"We didn't even have flashlights," he added.
"If you saw somebody that was wanted, all you could do was start chasing him and keep after him until you caught up with him," he related.
Mrs. Cross had to stay by herself for long periods of time -often as long as two weeks.
"It was wild and woolly then" she said.
"I remember once while we were at Sasakwa we lived out at the end of the road out in the woods," she said. "If you saw somebody coming down that road, you knew he was coming to see you," she stated.
"I wasn't used to shooting a gun then, either," she said. "one day a cousin and I were staying there while Bill was gone when I saw a rider."
They went in the house and locked the heavy oak door.
"Whoever it was tried to break in," Mrs. Cross said. "When the wooden latch started giving way. I grabbed Bill's .44 Winchester rifle and pointed it at the door. I yelled to the man that if he didn't ride on I was going to shoot through the door."
The man pushed on the door once more and Callie let fire. The heavy recoil of the big rifle spun her around.
"I don't know how it happened but after I shot the gun I was facing the opposite direction. I was facing one door when I shot and a door across the room afterward," she said.
A second shot wasn't necessary because the man jumped on his horse and left quickly.
"I'd have shot him," Mrs. Cross said. "If I hadn't been afraid to open the door to shoot, I'd have shot at him again," she said.
"After that, Bill always had to take me somewhere to stay when he left for an extended stay away from home," Mrs. Cross said.
She also learned to shoot a gun after that. "Bill and I would go out and practice," she said.
Cross states that she got pretty good, too.
"I was pretty accurate with a rifle, but I never did learn to shoot too well with a hand gun," she said.
"At least I never did learn to shoot as well as Bill or the two boys. All of them could throw a hickory nut in the air and draw their guns and shoot it before it hit the ground," she continued.
"I always told people I let the boys cut their teeth playing with my gun," Cross said.
He still has his three old guns, a .45 Colt six-shot revolver which he bought when he was 17 years old, and a pair of matched, pearl-handled Smith and Wesson .44's.
Cross won second prize in a peace officer's convention shooting match in 1925.
Using the Colt .45 he shot 94 in a 100 point contest, compared to the winner's 96.
Asked if he had ever considered selling the revolvers, which have become more valuable through the years, Cross said:
"Them two guns have saved my life lots of times. I wouldn't care to sell them."
Displaying scars on his wrist, Cross said he used the .45 to smack an Indian "who was raisin' sand" in Sasakwa and attacked him with a knife.
"School children were just passing by when he came at me," Cross said, "so I couldn't shoot my gun."
Wrestling with the man, who had grabbed him from the back and was trying to get at his throat with the knife, Cross a six-foot two-inch 200-pounder finally managed to get his .45 from it's holster and swing upward against the man's head.
Although the attacker came to, he died a couple of days later.
Probably the most tense time of their lives came during the "Green Corn" rebellion during the onset of World War I.
A bunch of men, who didn't want to serve in the army, banded together in defiance of law officers who were ordered to bring them to officials for induction or jail, Cross said.
"They were mostly good people, who, because of poor communications, were uninformed," the long-time officer said.
"I came to Wewoka and told (Sheriff) Frank Grall that I needed some help down there," Cross related.
"He told me you're just afraid," Cross said, "I agreed and told him 'they're going to tear things up down there'."
Cross said he then took his commission out of his pocket and pulled his badge off and laid it on the desk.
"Moss Hanson, the under-sheriff, urged Cross to stay on and Grall agreed to help him."
They met at Crossroad school the next day and had begun searching the countryside for draft resisters, when they were ambushed. "We found out later it was the third one set up for us," Cross said. He still carries a slug in the back of his head as a result of the ambush shooting.
"We found 15 small bottles of strychnine, which the resisters had threatened to use to poison all the wells in the country," he said.
"Over 100 people ganged up at one site and killed beeves belonging to one man and stripped a field of corn for roasting ears," Cross said.
Officers from a large area worked together and broke up the rebellion after that.
Mrs. Cross said she had heard a rumor during the day of the ambush that Bill had been shot and killed.
When he finally got around to calling about 4 p.m., "I was worried sick," Mrs. Cross said.
"When he'd bring in a gang, I would have to cook for them until he had enough to take in a buggy-load to the jail," Mrs. Cross said.
"She's been telling off on me so much, I think I'll just tell a little something about her." Cross said of his wife.
"She used a 10-gallon coffee pot, and one day when one of the prisoners told her he'd have shot me, she drew back the coffee pot to hit him. She would have, too. if I hadn't stepped in," Cross says.
Mrs. Cross, who details the primary requisites for a peace officer's wife as doing "a lot of hard work, and staying home and taking anything that's put on you," said:
"Still those were mighty good old times."
"I used to go with him on a lot of trips. We'd just get on our horses and ride off," she said. "We thought nothing of saddling up and riding to McAlester for the day,"
She also accompanied him occasionally when he served legal papers.
She recalled one particular instance when they went to an area infested with a pretty tough bunch.
"Bill walked up to the house to serve the papers and I planned to stay at the buggy," Mrs. Cross said. "I heard some men yelling and shouting, and I thought there must be a bunch of drunks on the rampage," she continued.
She said she got out of the buggy because she was afraid the horse would become scared by the "whooping and hollering" and run away with it.
"As the voices came nearer, I left the buggy and started running in the direction I though Bill had gone, and he came meeting me," she said.
Cross investigated and found a couple of men driving cattle out of the brush, she said.
"I said I'd never go with him again," she said, but she did.
Cross, although never serving as sheriff, has continued employment as a law officer since statehood. He served under a U.S. Marshall and as a deputy sheriff until 1929. Since 1929, when he was appointed a constable in Wewoka, he has served in that position. He has won every election in which he has been a participant and hasn't had an opponent since 1936 for the district one position. He also serves as district court bailiff.
Cross says he has lost "a lot of night's sleep" looking for Pretty Boy Floyd and George and Matt Kimes, three of the area's most notorious criminals in the early days.
Mrs. Cross related the quotation of an old doctor who used to treat the Kimes boys occasionally for wounds they received in their forays:
"He told them 'Don't you ever shoot Bill Cross or I'll let you die'," Mrs. Cross said.
That type of feeling is prevalent throughout the area.
Other law enforcement officers agree that Uncle Bill has been and still is, a very fine officer.
"He can call most of the people in Seminole county by their first names and he knew their parents and grandparents before them," one officer said.
The Crosses live at 318 East 10th in Wewoka.
Although Mrs. Cross isn't getting around quite as spryly as she did before suffering a ruptured appendix a year ago, she is home and is about on a limited scale.
Uncle Bill has learned that he is quite a hand at housework and in the kitchen since her illness.
"Now I'm getting repaid for all those meals I've fixed for him," Mrs. Cross said jokingly.
They don't plan any special observance next Friday when they celebrate the 60th anniversary of their marriage.
They are looking forward to a visit by their son, Leslie, who lives in Wewoka, and a phone call from their son, Walter, who lives in California.
They also are hoping to hear from their three grandchildren, Gene, Carolyn and Bill Cross, who are Walter's children, and from Gene's four-year-old son, their only great grandchild.
Although the Crosses' recipe perhaps doesn't sound much like that of a "Sunshine Cake," the title of a popular song a few years ago, it has worked. And anybody knows that old home-proven recipes are better than those you get on cake mix boxes.
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