By Marlin Keys
Marlow is a beautiful town of about 4,600 friendly people situated east of Lawton known as one of the wild west towns of historical Oklahoma.
The famous Chisholm Trail crossed directly through the area which brought settlers to the vicinity, including A. B. Smythe, who built a house and store on the present site of Marlow in the late 1880s.
The city, however, was named for the Dr. Williamson Marlow family, who also settled in the area in the early or mid-1880s.
Born along the Chisholm Trail and on the banks of Wild Horse Creek the legend of the Marlow family and the five Marlow brothers has been proven to be more fact than fiction. Local historians claim that the 1965 Hollywood movie ”The Sons of Katie Elder” was based upon the story of the Marlow brothers.
Dr. Williamson Marlow and his wife, Martha Jane, a relative of Daniel Boone, first established a homestead in this area during the early 1880’s. The site of the original Marlow family home is reported to have been located just north of Redbud Park.
Somewhat of a nomad by nature, Dr. Marlow provided medical treatment to the many settlers in this portion of Indian Territory and to many cowboys driving cattle up and down the Chisholm Trail. He also farmed while his sons reportedly herded horses, selling many of the animals to the U.S. Army located at neighboring Ft. Sill. Dr. Marlow died in 1885.
The sons worked on railroad grading crews and as farmers and stock handlers. The family bothered no one until late 1885, when Boone shot and killed cowboy James Holston (or Holdson) in Vernon, Texas, allegedly in self-defense. Although a court hearing would later dismiss murder charges against Boone for lack of evidence, he fled to Colorado. The family followed, joined him in Trinidad and later that year moved to Indian Territory, where they felt Boone might be safer from prosecution.
In 1888 the five Marlow brothers were accused of horse-stealing, a charge which was later proven to be unfounded but nonetheless made them known as outlaws and thus became the legend of the outlaw Marlow brothers.
Four of the brothers (Charlie, Alfred, Boone and Lewellyn) were arrested and transported by a U.S. Deputy Marshall to the Federal Court in Graham, Texas, for trial.
Hearing of his brother’s arrest, George Marlow took the entire family to Graham to clear his brothers but soon found himself behind bars as well.
Boone Marlow ultimately escaped and returned to the Marlow area in Indian Territory, while his four brothers were scheduled to be transported to another jail in Weatherford, Texas.
Several attempts were made by Graham citizens and law enforcement officials to lynch the Marlows.
On the evening of January 19, 1889, the brothers were shackled in pairs — George to Lewellyn and Charlie to Alfred — for the trip to Weatherford in a horse drawn wagon, accompanied by another wagon and a buggy. The lead wagon held six prisoners, chained together in pairs, and a guard, Phlete A. Martin. The second wagon carried Deputy U.S. Marshal Edward W. Johnson, three guards, weapons and ammunition, while four more guards followed in the buggy and on horseback.
As the group reached Dry Creek outside of Graham, a signal was given and a hidden mob of several masked figures rose from the roadside bushes, one man commanding: “Halt! Hold up your hands!” Diving clear of the lead wagon, Martin shouted, “Here they are—take all six of the sons of bitches!” What followed was a deadly gunfight between a vigilante mob and the prisoners—George, Charles, Alfred and Llewellyn Marlow and two others—the climactic act in a pageant of frontier justice that included misinformation, persecution, politics, mistakes, mob attacks, murder, lawsuits, a famous Texas Ranger, a coolheaded Colorado lawman and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The guards ran to join the mob while the brothers leaped from the wagon and armed themselves with guns they took from guards.
In the vicious gunfight that ensued, Lewellyn and Alfred were killed. Both George and Charlie were seriously wounded.
Retrieving a dead mob member’s knife, George Marlow unjointed his dead brother’ ankles. He and Charlie used a wagon to escape the ambush site.
Three members of the mob were also killed and a number of others wounded. Several members of the mob were later prosecuted and convicted for the assault upon the brothers.
Boone was later poisoned near Hell Creek west of Marlow. His corpse was then shot in an attempt to obtain a $1,500 reward, but his killers, too, were brought to trial.
Alfred Boon, and Lewellyn are buried in a small cemetery at what was once Finis, Texas outside of Graham.
George and Charlie Marlow survived the attack and eventually moved their families to Colorado where they became outstanding citizens, serving as law enforcement officers.
In 1891, after sentencing mob members for their part in the attack, Federal Judge A. P. McCormick was quoted as saying: “This is the first time in the annals of history where unarmed prisoners, shackled together, ever repelled a mob. Such cool courage that preferred to fight against such great odds and die, if at all, in glorious battle rather than die ignominiously by a frenzied mob, deserves to be commemorated in song and story.”
The Marlow brothers—from left, George, Boone, Alfred (Alf), Llewellyn (Epp) and Charles (Charley)—pose in 1880 with their mounts at Fort Sill, Indian Territory. (Photo courtesy Marlow Area Museum, Marlow, Okla.)
Nowadays if you find yourself in Marlow you’ll spot plenty of outlaws but I should mention that the Outlaw is the name of the Marlow schools’ official mascot.
Marlow has a museum and numerous stores and shops where you can enjoy shopping and some great restaurants too. People from far away come to dine at a famous Italian restaurant right on Main Street called Giuseppe’s Italian Dining and another restaurant with pizza you’ll swear was made at an authentic New York Pizzaria called DiCintio’s Pizza Cucina.
There’s plenty more to enjoy in Marlow, I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourselves.
For you cowboys coming here looking for a pretty gal I should mention, I rode into town years ago and married the prettiest girl in Marlow. She owns Lindas Flowers Gifts & More in Marlow.