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Updated: Dec 27, 2023


On November 27, 1887, two Deputy U. S. Marshalls, James R. Cole and Frank Dalton, went into Indian Territory just outside Fort Smith, Arkansas. They were searching for Dave Smith who was wanted for both larceny and the introduction of liquor to the Indian Nation. Cole and Dalton were headed to Payne’s Clearing and their fate.

Payne’s Clearing in the Indian Territory on the other side of the Arkansas River from Fort Smith is where Dalton was gunned down. Trisler got a lead to where it was from records in Hanging Judge Parker’s courtroom which lead to the Payne family in Oklahoma and where Payne’s Clearing most likely was.

Author Harold Trisler

Trisler was a registered nurse for years. When he retired, he began the research on his book. Trisler has produced an in-depth period piece about a shooting that took place on the Oklahoma side of the Arkansas River in sight of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Finding the Lost Dalton is an intriguing analysis of this event and the lives of the men involved in the death of a U.S. Marshall. Trisler goes into what happened after the Dalton killing and why it mattered.

Plaque at the Marshal’s Museum

Trisler’s book covers his years-long search into this case. This is an historical account of the shooting. Most important, this is a story of how the murder location was pinned down and recorded for posterity.

Trisler is a strong advocate for learning about and preserving the history of Fort Smith and the surrounding area. His intriguing book was a finalist at the 2023 TAZ (The Author’s Zone) Awards in Pittsburgh PA, in the category of Non-Fiction History.

Non-Fiction History

Finalist-Finding the Lost Dalton by Harold Trisler


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