Tuesday, June 6, 2023


US Marshals, East Texas

 I like accuracy, don't you? As I wrote Davis's Debt, I started to wonder. Have I been using the correct title for any lawmen that I include in my novels. So what was the difference between a sheriff and a marshal in the Old West?

After some digging, I found that many people use the titles of sheriff and marshal interchangeably. I'm not alone in relying on western novels and old movies as the source of my understanding those titles. Really, they were very different.

If we want to be technical about it--and we do for accuracy, right?--a sheriff was elected. He would have jurisdiction over a county. His role was to keep the peace in that area, so he was known as a peacekeeper.

There were two different marshals. Neither was elected.

The first was a town marshal. This man was appointed by city officials and had no power outside the town line. In some instances, the town marshal was limited to overseeing public safety. 

The second was the US Marshal, appointed by government representatives, like judges. They often acted as the sole law in new territories of the West. 

Wyatt Earp was appointed as Deputy
US Marshal,but only to deal with the problem
in Tombstone.That makes him more like a town
marshal, except hewas authorized to kill men. 

So, there we have it. Yet, I found that some towns still used the terms interchangeably in their infancy. It could be that our old movies were not that far off.

Please, take a look at this excerpt from Davis's Debt. You will see how I have applied this information.

“Don’t see you in town much, Davis. Whatcha up to?”

The raspy tones of Marshal Chapford’s voice sent a frisson of alarm down Ike’s spine. Almost unwillingly, his head turned in the man’s direction. The wink of light on the man’s tin star deepened his apprehension.

“Got business is all, Marshal. Nothing to worry the law.” He mumbled the words, moving away toward the stage office. He would ask about routes.

The man put a hand on his arm, stopping the other's retreat. “Hold up. I wanna ask if you’ve heard about the rustlers. They’ve been troubling your neighbors.”

He gave Chapford’s hand a meaningful look. His cold gaze rose to meet the lawman’s and the hand slipped away. The marshal glowered as he took a step back.

“Just wanted you to know what’s happening. Hope those rustlers won’t bother you.”His tone said he wished the opposite. One more thing that did not make sense to Ike about the man.

At the rancher’s continued silence, Chapford sputtered, “I know you’re a hard man, tough enough to deal with rustlers on your own. Only, it’s my job to warn you about such things.”

Ike scowled. “Your job ends at the town line, you being a town marshal and not the county sheriff. What’re you doing, chasing after cattle thieves?”

Chapford met his scowl without flinching. “Heard about the rustling. That’s all. If folks ask for my help, I’ll give it.”

With a snort, Ike Davis narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, and it don’t hurt that any rustlers more’n likely have a bounty on their head.”

The smarmy man smiled. “That’s a fact. Helps pay my bills to round ‘em up. Money’s important to a man.”

Davis's Debt releases June 20th. It's available now for pre-order! 


Ike Davis struggles to understand what the people around him mean by their expressions. He realizes that about himself. It's one reason he has for staying away from the town and its residents. Will marrying really change that?

Mae Williams arrives to claim what is owed to her father. They had saved Davis during the war. Now marrying Mae becomes his way of paying back the debt.
But marriage!

Can anything good come when the man is forced by honor to marry a woman who is not like he expected?

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