Frank M. Canton

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Frank M. Canton

Josiah Horner (September 15, 1849 – September 27, 1927), better known as Frank M. Canton, was a famous American Old West lawman, gunslinger, cowboy and at one point in his life, an outlaw.


Early life[edit]

Josiah Horner was born on September 15, 1849, in Harrison Township, Henry County, Indiana and drifted into Texas working as a cowboy. In 1871, he started robbing banks and rustling cattle, which at the time was a capital offense. On October 10, 1874, Horner got into a gunfight with some Buffalo Soldiers, killing one and wounding the other.[1] In 1877, he was arrested for robbing a bank in Comanche, Texas. He escaped from Texas Ranger custody and moved to Ogallala, Nebraska, and took up a herd of cattle. While in Nebraska, he officially changed his name to Frank M. Canton and vowed to give up his outlaw ways.

Johnson County War[edit]

Frank Canton hired on as a stock detective for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. He was also elected sheriff of Johnson County, Wyoming. In 1885, Canton married and had 2 children, one of whom died early in childhood. Canton resigned the sheriff's job and returned to working for the W.S.G.A., and at the same time working as a U.S. Deputy Marshal.

During the Johnson County War, Canton signed on as one of Frank Wolcott's Regulators. On April 9, 1892, Canton led the Regulators to the "KC Ranch", where Nate Champion and Nick Ray were staying. Two other men at the ranch that day were captured as they emerged shortly after the Regulators arrived. Ray was shot and killed in the opening minutes of the ensuing gunbattle. Champion, a one time friend of Canton's, held off the regulators in a gunbattle for most of the day, killing at least four of the Regulators and wounding others. At 5:00 p.m., Canton set the house on fire. Champion soon burst out of the house firing his Winchester rifle and was shot 28 times.

A few days later Champion's friends, led by Sheriff Angus, trapped the Regulators at the "TA Ranch". When the battle was all but over, the U.S. Cavalry came in and saved the Regulators. Canton was released from custody but reportedly regretted the incident with Champion. Also while working for the cattlemen's association, Canton was involved with the clashes between the wealthy cattlemen's association and Cattle Kate, which eventually resulted in her lynching. It was following those incidents with both Champion and Cattle Kate that Canton left the cattlemen's association.

Feud with Dunn[edit]

Canton traveled to Oklahoma, and became a respected Deputy U.S. Marshal under Judge Isaac Parker, based out of Fort Smith, Arkansas. He worked with other famous lawmen such as Heck Thomas, Chris Madsen, Bass Reeves and Bill Tilghman during that time. In 1895, Canton joined a posse that tracked down Bill and John Shelley, who had escaped from the Pawnee jail and barricaded themselves in a cabin across the Arkansas River. After 5 hours and more than 800 shots fired, Canton sent a burning wagon into the cabin, and the outlaws surrendered.

On November 6, 1896, Bill Dunn, a man whom Canton had arrested for rustling previously, rode into Pawnee, Oklahoma, intent on killing Canton. Dunn repeatedly swore that he would kill Canton the moment he sees him. Canton knew that Dunn was looking for him but he was more concerned of his job at that time. As Canton walked from the courthouse, Dunn approached him and had a verbal engagement. Dunn then said "Damn you, Canton. I've got it in for you!" before going for his pistol. Canton on the other hand manage to draw his firearm faster since Dunn's pistol got caught in his suspender. Canton's shot Bill Dunn in the head, killing him instantly. The shooting was ruled self defense.[2]

Later life[edit]

In 1897, Canton went to Alaska to follow the gold rush but instead became a Deputy U.S. Marshal. He returned to the states in 1907 and became Adjutant General for the Oklahoma National Guard. At some point during this time, Canton arranged a meeting with the Governor of Texas. He confessed that he was secretly Joe Horner, and the governor took his law enforcement service into consideration and granted him a pardon. He chose to be known as Frank Canton for the remainder of his lifetime. Canton died on September 27, 1927, in Edmond, Oklahoma.[3]

Dramatic representations[edit]



  • Canton, Frank M., (1930). - Frontier Trails: The Autobiography of Frank M. Canton. - Edited by Edward Everett Dale. - Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin. - 191328781.
Reprint: 1966. - Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. - 8206819.
  • DeArment, Robert K. (1996), Alias Frank Canton. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.ISBN 0-8061-2828-3

External links[edit]

Police appointments
Preceded by
Nat James
Sheriff of Johnson County, Wyoming
Succeeded by
William G. "Red" Angus