Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton (October 26, 1860 – April 8, 1958)
Francis Boardman Eaton was born on October 26, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1868, the Eaton family joined the rush to Kansas homesteading eight miles west of Carbondale. The Eatons built their home on the sight of an old hotel along the trail left by Quantrill’s raiders on their retreat to Lawrence. It was there the eight year old Frank saw his father gunned down in the moonlight by a lawless gang of Southerners who called themselves the Regulators. Moses Beaman, his father’s friend and neighbor, told young Frank, “My boy, may an old man’s curse rest on you the longest day you live if you don’t find and shoot the men that murdered your father.”
Beaman gave Eaton his first gun, an old Dragoon cap n’ ball pistol. Eaton referred to Moses Beaman as “the man who learned me how to shoot.” Soon he was so proficient that he could shoot the head off a rattlesnake with either hand by merely “point firing.” In 1875 Frank went to Fort Gibson to see what the 6th Cavalry soldiers could teach him. He outshot everyone at the fort and Colonel Copinger, commander of the fort, gave him a badge for his marksmanship. The Colonel also gave him the nickname “Pistol Pete”.
Eaton’s quest for his fathers’ killers began in earnest in 1887 when within 3 months he had accounted for 3 of the murderers. He learned that two of his fathers killers, Doc Ferber and Shannon Campsey, were living in a cabin along the Canadian River southwest of Webbers Falls, (indian Terriory). Eaton rode into the clearing where the cabin was located and saw Campsey grabbing a rifle on the porch. Frank called out, “Hello, Shan, don’t you know me?”. Campsey took aim but Eaton’s fast draw left him dead on the front porch. Eaton rode off in search of Doc Ferber and found him working cattle in a nearby clearing. Eaton shot him off of his horse with “two forty-five slugs through his breast”. Both Ferber and Campsey were known cattle thieves and for his action against them Eaton was hired as a detective by the Cattlemen’s Association.
Eaton then set off to find Doc Ferber’s brother John, who had been helping sell the stolen cattle in Missouri. The night before he arrived, Ferber was killed for stealing a jack from the bottom of a deck in a poker game. Eaton attended his funeral to make sure he was dead. While attending the funeral he learned that Jim and Jonce Campsey had a small ranch in the Ozarks. Eaton found the brothers at home and challenged them to a duel, killing both of them only feet apart.
Eaton then got wind that Wyley Campsey was tending bar in Albuquerque. With the help of Pat Garrett, Eaton rode off to the west where they found Wyley and two of his hirelings at the bar. Eaton ordered Campsey to “fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” shooting him twice through the heart as he reached for his gun under the bar. The two guards wounded Eaton shooting him in the leg and in his left arm. Garrett helped Frank and saw to it he received help from friends out of town.
In 1923, students at Oklahoma A & M College, now Oklahoma State University, asked Eaton to pose as the school’s mascot after seeing him in an Armistice Day parade. Eaton agreed and became the “original cowboy” and living symbol of Oklahoma State University until his death. His likeness was also adopted as the mascot of the University of Wyoming and New Mexico State University.
Hopefully y’all will have a new appreciation for OSU’s Pistol Pete mascot.