Eagle Feather (early accounts called him Chief Charley Smith, a name purportedly given to him on the reservation by the U.S. Government and one he had to use to collect commodities) led a group of Sioux from the Pine Ridge into Wyoming, now a state for all of 13 years, on a hunting expedition, a hunt that had been given permission by Indian agent John R. Brennan. The small band headed for the area of Thunder and Lightning creeks in what is now Niobrara County Wyoming. The hunter’s accompanied by wives and children shot a few deer, sage grouse and antelope as they traveled across the plains, enjoying a taste of their old life style.
Weston county Sheriff William (Billy) Miller rounded up a posse of local stockmen and headed out to stop the Wyoming hunt. The stockmen may have been duped into believing the tribe was shooting cows instead of game and willingly traveled along to stop this new, “Indian uprising”. When the posse caught up the number of Indians in the party stopped them in their tracks. Miller believed there were too many Indians to arrest for various violations of game laws, trespassing and killing ranch stock and took his crew back to town. The next day the sheriff and his, now larger, posse caught up with the Indians at Lighting Creek and the,” Battle of Lightning Creek,” or “The Last Indian Battle,” took place.
Sherriff Miller and his deputy Louis Falkenberg were killed along with Chief Eagle Feather and several of his hunting companions. A few days later a hearing was held in nearby Douglas and the Sioux were released for lack of evidence that they had committed a crime other than defending themselves.
Wyoming Governor Fenimore Chatterton was enraged at the courts decision and tried to get the Indians in court for murder despite the findings of the Douglass court, but his power did not stretch that far.
Today if you Google, the last Sioux battle, you will first find, Little Big Horn (1876) then Wounded Knee (1890), both of great importance to the west but not the last, that would be Lightning Creek in 1903.
NOTE --A month after the Lightning Creek battle Governor Chatterton allowed popular range detective/shootest Tom Horn to be hanged in Cheyenne, a decision that most likely cost him reelection the next year.
Living in Wyoming, I love everything about the West, including very old and brand new western stories. I have published nine books, all of which are available online as soft covers, or eBooks. In addition to my books, I am an avid blogger and short story writer and have published more than a dozen historical articles, both online and in print. In addition to writing I am an avid reader, photographer, hiker and master gardener. When not reading or writing, I can be found playing golf or with camera in hand snapping photos.