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Oklahoma Memories

Frank Eaton

2010-11-01

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"In '68 my father was called to the door and shot down like a darned mad dog."

That's the voice of Frank Eaton, and that's beginning of the story of how he became known as Pistol Pete.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Frank Eaton was born on October 26, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut, but at an early age his family moved west.

"Why my parents came to Osage County, Kansas, Carbondale, south of Lawrence, southeast of Lawrence, in 1867."

It was shortly after moving to Kansas that Eaton's father was shot and killed. Eaton's father had sided with the North in the Civil War.

"In '68 my father was called to the door and shot down like a darned mad dog by a bunch of well, by a bunch of Missouri 'jebs.' Men that had been on the other side of the fence in the war, and there was six of them that killed him, there were six men killed him.""

Eaton explains what happened next.

"But after the death of my father there was a man there by the name of Moses Beaman, a friend of father. He came over there and put a hand on top of my head and he said may an old man's curse rest on you for the longest day you live if you don't find and shoot the men that murdered your father.""

Eaton was only eight years old at the time.

"Well I was just a kid of a boy, and I thought I had it to-do, and he came over with a pair of old dragoon cap-and-ball pistols and learnt me how to use them. That's how I got my name of Pistol Pete. I learnt how to use them guns. I can use them just better than any man in the state, I think."

He began practicing with the pistols, and by the age of fifteen went to Fort Gibson to learn more about handling guns from the Army troopers stationed there. At 17, he was appointed a Deputy U.S. Marshal by Judge Isaac Parker. It was then that he began tracking down his father's killers.

"I saw every one of them. I only stayed for one last funeral and another man killed him. That was in Buckhart, Douglas County, Missouri.""
Frank Eaton carried loaded guns and was either a marshal or a deputy sheriff until late in his long life. He was still said to be fast on the draw well into his nineties. He died in 1958 at the age of 97. He had been married twice, had nine children, 31 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren

After seeing Eaton ride a horse in the 1923 Armistice Day parade in Stillwater, a group of Oklahoma A & M College students decided that Eaton as "Pistol Pete" would be a more suitable mascot than their mascot at the time, a tiger. They felt that "Pistol Pete" represented the Old West and the spirit of Oklahoma. However, it was not until 1958 that "Pistol Pete" was adopted as OSU's mascot. The familiar caricature of "Pistol Pete" was officially sanctioned in 1984 by Oklahoma State University as their licensed symbol.

You can learn more about Frank Eaton and many other men and women who helped shape our state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rdStreet, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.