By Ray Shelley
End Of Watch (EOW) is the last breath taken by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty. He was losing his life trying to protect his life, your life, or your families.
When a Law Officer leaves home, his mindset is to protect and serve, with the expectation of returning home safely. Most accomplish that goal, but some experience the EOW.
One such officer was United States Deputy Marshal James H. Bush, given the oath of office in 1904 and stationed in Mena, Polk County, Ark.
Bush had been very prolific in enforcing the federal timber law and had received several death threat letters. Also, his friends had warned him his life was in danger if he continued to pursue these warrants. Yet, paying little mind to the threats, he continued to uphold the law.
On June 27, 1906, Deputy Bush, with two posseman, Bob Miller, and Newt Givins, headed to Camp Wilder, nine miles east of Hatfield, to arrest Martin Miller. A warrant had been issued for Miller, charging him with breaking federal law violating the government homestead law by cutting and removing timber off government land. In an attempt to serve the warrant, Miller killed Deputy Bush.
Bob Miller and Givins hightailed it back to Mena and informed Polk County Sheriff, D.B. Joplin, of what transpired at the Miller residence.
The following morning Sheriff Joplin was accompanied by Dr. A.J Poole. When the Sheriff arrived at the Miller residence, he found Deputy Bush’s dead body approximately 30 feet from the front porch. Also found deceased was the deputy’s horse. Dr. Poole determined a 30-30 round had killed Deputy Bush, and a thirty-eight round killed the horse.
Dr. Poole attends a bullet wound to Mr. Martin; he was hit in the ribs by one of Deputy Bush’s bullets.
Marin Miller admitted to shooting Bush. Sheriff Joplin confiscated a Winchester 30-30, a Winchester 38 cal, a shotgun, and 250 rounds of ammunition. The Sheriff determined both husband and wife fired at Deputy Bush from within the house and placed both the Millers under arrest returned to Mena, housed them in the Polk County jail, to await a court date.
A Mena Star reporter contacted Bob Miller for his version of what transpired the night before at the Miller residence. Mr. Miller stated, “When the three of them arrived at the Miller residence, Givins called out for Martin. Mrs. Miller came out on the porch and asked them to state their business. Deputy Bush advised her he had a warrant for her husband, and he was there to arrest him. Mrs. Miller said her husband wasn’t home. Bush told her to go back inside and strike a light; he was coming in to see for himself. As Bush entered the house and confronted by Mr. Miller, words were exchanged, and then shots fired. Deputy Bush shot in the chest, turned, and returned outside where he fell dead. Then Newt Givens and I hightailed but to Inform the Sheriff”.
On July 26, 1906, while in jail, Martin Miller suffered a severe attack of heart trouble. Brought on by dropsy from which he has been suffering for some time. Despite prompt medical attention, Mr. Martin passed away. His wife, charged with being implicated with Miller in the killing of Bush, released the previous Monday, was with him when he died.
End Of Watch for James H. Bush was June 27, 1906. Deputy Bush leaves a wife and four children.
According to Robert Ernst, author of the “Deadly Affrays” (an excellent reference book on the U.S. Marshals’ violent deaths), Martin Miller arrived in Camp Wilder from Texas four years before the killing of Deputy Bush.
According to Mr. Earnst, this was not Deputy Bush’s first encounter with Miller. In 1905, Bush assisted an agent of the General Land Office investigating land fraud in the Mena area.
While riding close to the Miller residence, shots were fired at them. Bush felt the gunfire came from the Millers but couldn’t prove it. So, interviews were conducted, and evidence was turned over to the Grand Jury.
Shortly after the Grand Jury hearing, Millers’ son-in-law Ab Miller was poisoned with arsenic; fortunately, he survived. Martin Miller was arrested and released on bond pending his trial.
Then the second warrant came down for Martin Miller for illegally cutting government timber.
That is the warrant Deputy Bush was attempting to serve when Miller killed him.