21 – Cuffs Worn By Isam Dart When Murdered By Tom Horn

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

Isam Dart is a fascinating character in US history. Unfortunately, he is best known for untrue tales and for being murdered by the West’s most famous hit man – Tom Horn.
There are countless stories about Isam Dart growing up as a slave in Arkansas. After being freed, the story goes, he ran with the vicious Tip Gault Gang under the alias Ned Huddleston. However, nearly all of this is pure fiction – including the very existence of a “Tip Gault Gang”.
In reality, Isam first shows up in the 1870 census at the age of 12 living in Seguin, Texas- his birth state. As a cattle driver, he eventually made his way to Brown’s Park, Colorado around 1883 about the same time as fellow Texan, Madison (Mat) Rash. Isam was well-liked in Brown’s Park and known as a “top hand among cowboys” and an expert bronco buster. He was an accomplished and well-respected African-American thriving among a nearly 100% white population in an era that was frequently hostile to African Americans. We’d love to have met him.
Isam and Mat soon had their own cattle operations in Brown’s Park, but were dogged – as many in the area were – by accusations of occasional rustling. In 1900, a man by the name of “Tom Hicks” began working as a hand for Mat Rash. After a few months, Mr. Hicks simply vanished. Then, on July 8th, 1900, Mat was shot dead in his cabin. On October 3, 1900, Isam met the same fate while walking to his corral.
It was later declared that the mysterious “Tom Hicks” was none other than infamous gun-for-hire, Tom Horn. All evidence suggests that he was hired by large cattle barons to enter Brown’s Park to gather evidence of rustling… and then put an end to it.
The leather wrist cuffs pictured here were removed from Isam Dart’s body by Eb Bassett before his burial. After Eb’s death in 1925, they were kept by his sister, the well-known Josie Bassett Morris. The museum acquired them from Josie’s great-grandchildren in March, 2016. They bear one of Isam’s brands (D I Half-Circle) and numerous carved stars.
Be sure to check out this amazing 3:34 video from American Heroes Channel regarding Mat & Isam’s demise and featuring the museum’s own Dan Davidson.