Frank Eaton also known as “Pistol Pete” lived a life worthy of legend. Now you might be wondering why this name sounds familiar… Well, that’s because “Pistol Pete” is the mascot for Oklahoma State University, the University of Wyoming and New Mexico State University.
Frank Boardman Eaton was born on October 26, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut. After the Civil War, his family moved to Kansas in 1868 where his father was murdered by vigilantes. Frank promised to bring his father’s killers to justice and began practicing his marksmanship. He moved to Fort Gibson to learn everything the soldiers would teach him and was given the nickname “Pistol Pete” when he outshot everyone at the fort. By the late 1880s, Frank Eaton had found and killed all of his father’s murderers.
Frank Eaton joined the rush to find land in Oklahoma Territory in 1889 settling in Perkins, Oklahoma. He was named a sheriff and blacksmith in the town. He married Orpha Pearl Miller in August 1890, and they had two daughters. Tragically, Orpha passed away in 1902 and he knew that he needed help raising his daughters. He married Anna Rosetta Sillix in 1903 and they had an additional eight children.
Frank Eaton published a weekly column in The Perkins Journal from 1950-1956. It was titled “Truthful Pete Says” and later changed to “Pistol Pete Says.” He’d help set the type by hand and crank the hand press. The newspaper has been digitized and you can read them online.
Eaton was a well-respected member of the community and children loved to hear his stories. He made public appearances until the late 1950s.
Eaton passed away on April 8, 1958, in his sleep. Over a thousand people traveled to Perkins to attend his funeral.
How did “Pistol Pete” become the mascot for several universities?
Frank Eaton was involved in an Armistice Day Parade in 1923 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. A handful of students from Oklahoma A&M saw him riding a horse and decided he should be the mascot rather than the tiger that was currently used by the school. In 1958, the school formally adopted “Pistol Pete” as the mascot.
This year Oklahoma State University is celebrating 100 years of “Pistol Pete” being their mascot.
We hope you enjoyed learning the true story of “Pistol Pete” Frank Eaton. We hope you’ll join us next time as we continue ‘breaking trail’ as we learn more about the hundreds of stories housed here at The Cowboy!
Your friend, Frank Eaton (Pistol Pete), ca. 1940, Ann Dawson Collection, Dickinson Research Center, 1971.5.20.
Members of the Cherokee Strip Cowpuncher Association, 1952, Ann Dawson Collection, Dickinson Research Center, 1971.5.21.
Dean Burch and Pistol Pete in Perkins, Oklahoma, ca. 1950, Ann Dawson Collection, Dickinson Research Center, 1971.5.23.
[Pistol Pete Eaton with waist-length hair, colt in holster, and wooly chaps atop horse], ca. 1935, Ralph R. Doubleday Rodeo Photographs, Dickinson Research Center, 79.026.2631.
Last members of Cherokee Strip Cowpunchers Association, September 17, 1951, Ann Dawson Collection, Dickinson Research Center, 1971.5.24.
Reunion of Cherokee Strip Cowpunchers Association, 1951, Ann Dawson Collection, Dickinson Research Center, 1971.5.22.