U.S. Marshal C. P. Dake

All we know about this man’s family is that (a) they were Canadian, (b) they moved to New York when their son was still a child, and (c) they demonstrated one heck of an imagination when they named their son Crawley.

As a young man, Crawley P. Dake (15 September 1836-9 April 1890) operated a retail store in Michigan while also serving his community in various minor public offices.  He married Catherine E. Smith and the couple had one son, born in 1860, whom they named Charles Allison Dake.  At the beginning of the American Civil War, Crawley Dake was 25-years of age.  His prominence within his community enabled him to raise a company for service with the 5th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment[1].  Until 1863, the regiment remained in Michigan “protecting the capital.”  Apparently, someone well-placed in the Michigan political hierarchy was concerned about another invasion from Canada, but when that didn’t happen (as it only rarely ever has), the regiment was assigned to the Army of the Potomac.

Dake and the regiment participated in the Battle of Hanover, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Battle of Williamsport (Maryland).  At the Battle of Mine Run, Major Dake received a serious wound to the leg and was subsequently separated from service due to medical incapacitation.

Once recovered from his wound, Dake served briefly as Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal in Detroit, and for the Internal Revenue Service[2].  On 12 June 1878, Dake was appointed United States Marshal for the Arizona Territory.  Territorial Governor John P. Hoyt objected to the appointment.  On this very same day, Gov. Hoyt learned that President Rutherford B. Hayes had replaced him with John C. Frémont.  Why he objected to Dake’s appointment is unknown, but Michigan’s congressional delegation prevailed in the argument and Dake assumed his office.

Dake took with him to Arizona two men who were skilled administrators.  With their assistance, Dake established an efficient office, created a bonds program, and appointed eight deputies.  One of his first challenges was to find ways to run his office with limited funds allocated by the government for that purpose.  The process of obtaining operating funds was also perplexing.  Before he could pursue outlaws, he first had to ask for special funds.  The delay incurred while waiting for funding authorization frequently meant that desperadoes had ample opportunity to flee into Mexico.  In this regard, Dake had difficulty addressing the problem of stagecoach robbery in Arizona.  Stage robbery was a serious problem because it underscored the amount of lawlessness in the territory, because it had a negative impact on commerce.  When mail robbery became a federal crime, it became the duty of U.S. Marshals to sort it out.

Crawley Dake, as a man of action, refused to wait for permission of higher authority to pursue suspects.  Attempting creativity in law enforcement, Dake posted a $500 reward.  Though successful, Washington bureaucrats refused additional funds.  By the fall, Dake was working closely with Mexican officials to fight outlaw activities along the border.  Without first seeking permission, Dake sent deputies into Mexico in pursuit of bandits who had stolen five-hundred pounds of silver bullion.  As I’ve said, a man of action.

In September 1878, Territorial Judge Charles Silent[3] asked Dake to deputize John Adams and Cornelius Finley.  Less than two weeks later, deputies Adams and Finley were accosted by five Mexican bandits who killed them.  One of the suspects in the killing was a man identified in the Arizona Weekly Star as Florentino Saiz.  During the coroner’s inquest into the death of Morgan Earp, Pete Spence’s wife Marietta Duarte, implicated her husband and four other men, including Florentino Cruz, in Morgan’s murder.

Some historians have speculated that Saiz and Cruz were the same person.  Two men wanted as suspects in the murder of Adams and Finley were known living in Mexico.  Typically, Mexican authorities refused to extradite them; justice for Adams and Finley would not be served until Wyatt Earp killed Florentino Cruz during his vendetta ride —if in fact Saiz and Cruz were the same man.

While Dake was struggling with ever-increasing crime, Washington bureaucrats sat on their duffs refusing to acknowledge that the western territories were “out of control.”  Despite several hundred federal troops stationed in Arizona, the U.S. Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act (1878), which limited the power of the federal government in the use of federal military personnel to enforce domestic policy.

Note: The Posse Comitatus Act originally applied to the U.S. Army only but was later expanded to include the Air Force.  The Act excluded the Navy and Marine Corps, but Navy Regulations later incorporated those prohibitions to both services.  Note further that exceptions were applied to the Marine Corp in 1921 and 1926 when units of the Marine Corps participated in measures to protect the U.S. mail service.  Marines could not pursue outlaws, but they were allowed to shoot them dead during robbery attempts.  See also, General Order No. 1.  The Act also does not apply to the U.S. Coast Guard, owing to their law enforcement mission, or to the U.S. Space Command for similar reasons.

In 1879, Congress denied any appropriations to the U.S. Marshal’s Service, which forced Dake to use his remaining funds to prosecute those already in federal custody.  In late November 1879, Dake deputized Virgil Earp to help resolve on-going problems in Eastern Pima County (later, Cochise County) with the so-called Cowboys, who focused their unlawful activities on stage robbery, cattle rustling, horse stealing, and murder.

When Dake was unable to resolve a long-simmering feud between the Earps and Cowboys, prominent Territorial Democrats soundly criticized him.  Following the shootout at O.K. Corral, Dake was forced out of office and replaced by Zara T. Tidball.  For additional information about this period in Arizona history, see The Cowboy War, Who Were the Earps, and Wyatt Earp.

Three years after he resigned from the Marshal’s Service, Dake was charged for misappropriating funds, which of course he did —but only in the interests of doing his job.  In any case, Dake was later cleared of any wrongful activity.  Dake died in 1890 after suffering an illness for two years —he was 53 years old.


  1. Ball, L. D. The United States Marshals of New Mexico and Arizona Territories: 1846-1912.  Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.
  2. Goff, J. S. Arizona Territorial Officials, Volume IV: Secretaries, U.S. Attorneys, Marshals, Surveyors General, Superintendents of Indian Affairs, 1863-1912.  Cave Creek: Black Mountain Press, 1988.
  3. Roberts, G. L. Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend.  New York, 2007.


[1] Part of the Michigan Brigade which was, for a time, commanded by Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer.

[2] The IRS was created by the Revenue Act 1862, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, which also imposed the first income tax on the American people.  Between 1862-1864, the IRS increased taxes from 3% of everything over $800 to 5% on earned  income between $600-$5,000 and 7.5% on income between $5,000-$10,000, and 10% on income above $10,000.  IRS has been increasing taxes ever since because government has never seen a tax it didn’t like.

[3] Silent (1842-1918) was a German-born jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Arizona Territorial Court, and later became one of California’s leading private defense attorneys.

About Mustang

Retired Marine, historian, writer.
This entry was posted in Arizona Territory, History, U.S. Marshals. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to U.S. Marshal C. P. Dake

  1. Andy says:

    Crawley Dake might not have been the type of character made famous by the dime novel. Nonetheless, he appears to have been just as instrumental in bringing law and order to the frontier as any of his more renowned contemporaries.

    Good guys don’t always get much coverage in the history books. Crawley seems to be a pretty good guy.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. kidme37 says:

    Seems like too many times it take a Dirty Harry to get the jobs done.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.