Series page, Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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Foreword

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pp. xiii-xiv

Bill Neal’s Skullduggery, Secrets, and Murders is another splendid analysis of a crime gone wrong. This book describes a unique conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, a crime that today continues to confound insurance companies and law enforcement. Bill Neal follows the conspiracy...

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Preface: Curious Remarks an Author Sometimes Hears

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pp. xv-xvi

I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time. I was about to give a book talk at the River Valley Pioneer Museum in Canadian, Texas, when the wife of a prominent local rancher pulled me aside and whispered, “I don’t believe I’d get into that Isaacs mess if I were you...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-2

Many acknowledgments are in order. First, and foremost, I thank my wife and companion, Gayla Neal, who is also my secretary, research assistant, and the doer of all manner of other unglamorous tasks. Next on the list has to be Mike Tower, of Elmore City, Oklahoma, author...

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Prologue: The Approach of Four Armedand Mounted Strangers

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pp. 3-4

Th e moment she spied those four mounted strangers riding into town, Mrs. John Miller knew they were up to no good. Canadian, Texas, was a small village in 1894, and she had never seen any of them before. All were well armed—she could see those...

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1. Midnight at Woodward: Oklahoma Territory, March 13, 1894

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pp. 5-9

As the investigation into “that Isaacs mess” unfolded, it turned out that there was not only one cold case mystery to be solved. Th ere were three.
First, who were the outlaws who executed the bizarre scheme to swindle Wells Fargo...

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2. The $25,000 Wells Fargo Money Packets: The Kansas City Union Depot, November 21, 1894

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pp. 10-13

November 21, 1894, was a day that A. A. Rinehart would recall vividly for the rest of his life. Rinehart, the station agent at the Wells Fargo Express office in the Kansas City Union Depot, thought he’d misunderstood what the customer said. This little...

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3. An Unlikely Aggregation of Heroes, Villains, and Spectators: Canadian, Texas, November 23, 1894

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pp. 14-20

They saddled up long before daylight—there were four of them—and they rode west along the South Canadian River, and by nine o’clock they were almost to the state line—out of the rough, brushy, outlaw-friendly haunts of the Oklahoma Territory...

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4. Shootout at the Canadian Depot: Sheriff Mcgee Versus the Outlaws

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pp. 21-26

Sometimes there comes a moment—maybe a second, maybe only a split-second, no matter—when a decision of such life-changing magnitude looms up so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and so dramatically that it is frozen forever after in time...

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5. Struggling to Hide The Money Packets: Enter Sam Isaacs

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pp. 27-29

By the time station agent A. B. Harding arrived at his Wells Fargo office that Saturday morning, everybody in town had already heard about the shooting of Sheriff McGee the night before. A man Harding had never seen before was waiting for him to open...

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6. The Isaacs Brothers and Izzie, Too

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pp. 30-32

As soon as they could mount a horse and draw a paycheck cowboying for frontier ranchers, the four Isaacs brothers—Will, George, Sam, and John—had left home and headed west.¹ They were the sons of Joseph C. and Mary Jack Isaacs, dirt-poor Alabama...

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7. George Isaacs Decides to Do the Right Thing--Sort Of: Canadian, Texas, November 27, 1894

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pp. 33-39

Wells Fargo Express detective Fred J. Dodge arrived in Canadian on the Tuesday after Sheriff McGee had been fatally wounded the previous Saturday evening. At that point George Isaacs had not been charged with murder, only with the lesser offense of...

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8. The Murder of a Wells Fargo Undercover Agent Taloga, Oklahoma Territory, January 22, 1895

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pp. 40-51

The moment that secret undercover agent Fred Hoff man dropped that letter into the mail slot at the Taloga post office, he sealed his own fate; he was a doomed man.
Of course he didn’t realize that fact—not then or for the rest of the brief...

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9. Lizzie Isaacs Upstages Husband George with a Murder of Her Own: Chickasha, Indian Territory, May 30, 1895

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pp. 52-53

After George was jailed in Canadian, Texas, for the McGee murder, the rambunctious Lizzie retreated to the couple’s known outlaw hideout cabin on the banks of the Washita River near Chickasha in the Indian Territory. Her brother, John Ellis...

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10. The Murder Trial of George Isaacs: "Jim Stanley Was There": Quanah, Texas, October 20, 1895

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pp. 54-66

A murder trial is a whole lot more than just a murder trial— at least it was in any small West Texas town before the turn of the twentieth century. Life-and-death courtroom dramas were pageantry like no other in that time and place before movies...

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11. Getting Rich on Thirty-Dollars-a-Month Cowboy Wages: An Open-Range Mystery

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pp. 67-77

In 1884, when Sam Isaacs was twenty years old and brother John was eighteen, they saddled up and left their central Texas home country and headed north—Sam riding a borrowed horse and leading a packhorse upon which they had strapped...

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12. Jailbreak! The Secrets of Jim Harbolt

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pp. 78-88

Jim Harbolt knew many secrets. Important secrets. Important enough, he reckoned, to buy himself a get-out-of-jail-free card. And maybe even important enough to let him get away with murder—the murder of a Texas sheriff.
For openers, he knew...

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13. The Trial of Jim Harbolt: Turning Gold into Dross: Clarendon, Texas, February 1, 1897

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pp. 89-93

Even though George Isaacs’s conviction for the murder of Sheriff McGee had become fi nal aft er his appeal was denied, Jim Harbolt needn’t have worried about whether Sam and Will Isaacs would fi nance his defense. Although they denied it, Sam and Will hired...

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14. The Trial of Joe Blake: The Jailhouse Letters: Vernon, Texas, March 1, 1897

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pp. 94-104

In a jailhouse letter to Dan McKenzie dated August 11, 1895, Joe Blake wrote: “Dan, you asked me what I would swear. I will tell you what I have told them and that is what I will swear on the witness stand if it suits you and if it don’t, let me know by return...

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15. The Fred Hoffman Murder Trial: Temple Houston’s Magic: El Reno, Oklahoma Territory, November 17, 1897

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pp. 105-116

The prosecution’s case against young Alfred Son for the cowardly assassination of D County treasurer and law-and-order champion Fred Hoff man looked for all the world like a slam dunk, an open-and-shut case.
The D County grand jury had indicted not only...

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16. Pardon Me, Please! George Isaacs Meets the Consummate Con Man

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pp. 117-131

At the bottom of George Isaacs’s prisoner intake form was this item: “Expiration of Sentence: ____.” That’s where the prison official in charge of inmate records filled in the blank with the bleakest of all notations: “Death.” The form further revealed that...

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17. Here Comes Lizzie Again: More Murders and Mayhem

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pp. 132-138

Almost three years had lapsed by the time the US federal court in Chickasha fi nally called the trial of George Isaacs’ wayward wife, Lizzie Isaacs, for being accessory to the murder of Sterling Elder back on May 30, 1895. Both Lizzie and her brother...

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18. Fitting the Pieces Together: George Isaacs’s Accomplices: the Man Behind Jim Stanley’s Mask

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pp. 139-153

The tales of George Isaacs and his rambunctious wife, Lizzie, have been told. Yet there remain unanswered three questions: Who were the masterminds behind the ill-fated 1894 attempt to scam Wells Fargo out of twenty-five thousand dollars? Who...

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19. Striving for Respectability: Sam and Will Isaacs

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pp. 154-158

After they had achieved prosperity, and after they had avoided an indictment in the McGee murder scandal, Will and Sam Isaacs refocused their attention on achieving respectability. In this endeavor the two brothers were treading down a path that...

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Epilogue: Sunset on the Trail: The Fate of the Other Survivors

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pp. 159-162

Nobody was ever convicted for the murder of Fred Hoffman, a crime that cried out for justice—cried out for a conviction and a hard sentence. Yet, in another sense, Fred Hoff man’s sacrifice on the altar of law and order was not in vain. The cowardly assassination...

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Appendix: Deputy Today, Outlaw Tomorrow—and Vice Versa

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pp. 163-174

As Texas Ranger captain Bill McDonald pointed out in his autobiography, the Texas Panhandle in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was a wild, chaotic, and picturesque place, and some of the most picturesque of those who called it home were “outlaws and deputies by...

Notes

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pp. 175-196

Bibliography

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pp. 197-206

Index

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pp. 207-218

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About the Author

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pp. 219-219

As a practicing criminal lawyer, Bill Neal spent more than four decades frequenting county courthouses in West Texas and hearing tales of sensational crimes and celebrated trials of bygone years. Shortly before his retirement from active law practice, Neal decided to resurrect these old tales...