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Pale Horse Revelations #53 - Chris Madsen

Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations. where we explore significant people, places, and events in Old West history. While I make no promises, don't be surprised if some of these places, people, or events find their way into future Pale Rider adventures.

In last week's blog we met the first of three legendary lawmen, who together became known as the Three Guardsmen. The title was earned as a result of their role in cleaning up the previously lawless Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). This week I want to introduce you to the second of these three lawmen, Chris Madsen.

At first glance, Madsen was every bit the equal of the man we met last week, Bill Tilghman. However, as I dug deeper in my research for this post, another, less flattering image emerged. The question I put before you is, who was Chris Madsen really? Legendary lawman or scoundrel? I will do my best to present both views and leave it to you, my readers, to decide for yourselves.

There are a couple of points that all sources agree upon. First, he was born in Denmark as Christen Madsen Rormose. Second, he arrived in the United States in 1876 and served in the Fifth Calvery for fifteen years before venturing into law enforcement. Beyond these facts, there is little agreement.

According to some sources he emigrated to the United States after serving in both the Danish Army and the French Foreign Legion. Other sources paint a very different picture. According to these sources he was a career criminal with multiple arrests for vagrancy, begging, fraud, and forgery. He allegedly served five years in a Copenhagen prison from 1869 to 1874 for these crimes. According to this version his arrival in the United States was not voluntary. He was, in fact, deported from his native country with the expense paid by the Danish government. Apparently, this was a common practice among European nations utilized to rid themselves of incorrigible criminals.

All sources agree that upon arriving in the U.S. Madsen dropped his last name and enlisted in the Army. He served fifteen years in the Fifth Calvery. Beyond this, sources are divided. According to some Madsen served as the quartermaster sergeant for the unit and participated in many major Indian War campaigns. Alternate sources acknowledge that he participated in the Bighorn-Yellowstone Expedition after the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 and saw significant action against the Ute Indians in 1879.

But these sources also suggest that much of his account of his service was embellished. Even more damning, they report that he was court-martialed for stealing government grain, but ultimately acquitted. He was later convicted of larceny and served five months in the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

Again, the sources are in agreement that after his discharge on January 10, 1891, Madsen became a deputy U.S. marshal under U.S. Marshal William Grimes in Oklahoma Territory. But that is all that the sources agree on. According to some, Madsen, along with Tilghman, and Heck Thomas (the Three Guardsmen), was largely responsible for bringing justice to the lawless territory. Together, the three men are credited with the apprehension or killing of 300 outlaws. Among these outlaws were the members of the Doolin-Dalton Gang, also known as the Wild Bunch. Madsen was credited with personally killing gang members Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, George "Red Buck" Waightman, and Richard "Little Dick" West.

The alternate version of the story is that Madsen and others greatly inflated his reputation. That he, in fact, was rarely involved in gunfights. Rather, he spent most of his career in an administrative role. This version also reports that in 1893, after U.S. Marshal Evett D. Nix was removed from office for gross maleficence, the federal inspector also recommended that Madsen (and others) be relieved for filing false reports. Instead, Madsen resigned and went to work for the U.S. marshal in the Western District of Missouri.

In 1898 he returned to Indian Territory as a special deputy in the Southern District. That same year war broke out between America and Spain. Madsen joined Theodore Rosevelt's Rough Riders and served as the unit's quartermaster sergeant. On this, all accounts agree. After the war Madsen returned to Indian Territory as a deputy marshal. In 1906 he served as the chief deputy under John L. "Jack" Abernathy. He held that post until 1911 when he briefly served as interim U.S. Marshal after Abernathy was removed from office.

According to some sources Madsen left active law enforcement in 1913 and worked as a guard, a court bailiff, and superintendent of a soldier's home. Another source, claims that he was appointed Chief of Police for Oklahoma City at the age of sixty and served as a special investigator for the governor of Oklahoma from 1918 to 1922.

Sources agree that Madsen eventually settled in Guthrie, Oklahoma. There, he died on January 9, 1944, at the age of ninety-two. He was laid to rest in Frisco Cemetary in Yukon, Oklahoma.

This brings us to the end of another edition of Pale Horse Revelations. I leave you with the same question I posed at the outset of this post. Who was Chris Madsen? Legendary lawman responsible for cleaning up the lawless Indian Territory? Or an intelligent but cold scoundrel with no desire to change his ways? Like most legendary figures the truth probably lies somewhere in-between.

Whichever side of the coin you land on, I hope you found the post to be both interesting and entertaining. As usual, I have tried to provide some interesting historical information while trying not to bog the casual reader down with too much detail. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to dig in and do a little research of their own.

  As a reminder, I would love to hear your suggestions for topics to focus on in future editions of Pale Horse Revelations. If there's a particular location, person, or event that you would like to know more about, please let me know. Just fill out the Contact form found on the "Contact the Author" page of this website and indicate your desired topic in the message box at the bottom of the form. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Please be sure to check back next week for the next installment of Pale Horse Revelations and thank you for your continued interest and support.

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