Daughter of a Methodist minister, Ada Curnutt moved to the Oklahoma Territory with her sister and brother-in-law shortly after it opened for settlers. She soon found work as Clerk of the District Court in Norman and as a Deputy Marshal to U.S. Marshal William Grimes. The slim 20-year old, however, was not a “hard” woman as evidenced by her avowed favorite hobby of painting china.
But when duty called, Ada was ready to respond. Shortly before Christmas in 1893, she received a telegram from Grimes, instructing her to send a deputy to Oklahoma City to bring in two notorious outlaws named Reagan and Dolezal. All the other deputies already had warrants and were out scouting for suspects. Not one to shirk her duty, Ada boarded the train for Oklahoma City and upon her arrival asked around for information on her quarry. It didn’t take her long to find them at a gambling house and saloon. She then asked a man on the street to go in and tell them that a lady needed to see them outside.
When the two emerged, Ada read the warrants to them and placed them under arrest. Heavily armed, they scoffed at the idea that this unarmed young woman could actually arrest them. Calmly, she pointed to the crowd gathered around and announced that she was prepared to deputize every man in the crowd to aide her in doing just that. She handcuffed them without incident and escort them to the train station, where she telegraphed the marshal’s office in Guthrie that she was bringing them in.
This was not Ada’s first arrest. Earlier that year she had arrested 19 men one night at the Black and Roger saloon in Oklahoma City for perjury in land contests.