Crawford Goldsby was born on February 8, 1876, in Fort Concho, Texas. He was one of four children born to St. George and Ellen Goldsby. His sisters name was Georgia and the brothers Luther and Clarence. The father (from Alabama) had been a member of the Tenth United States Cavalry, (The famed Buffalo soldiers). He claimed to be black, Sioux, Mexican, and white. He had gone AWOL from the army in Texas because of a fracas of some type. He fled and found refuge in the Indian Territory . Bill’s mother was believed to be one half black, one-forth white and one-forth Cherokee. Born in the Delaware District of the Cherokee Nation, her parents had been slaves owned at one time by a Cherokee, Jeffery Beck.
Abandoned by her husband in Texas, Bills mother went to her family at Fort Gibson – Indian Territory. She in turn abandoned her son Crawford, leaving him in the care of a black woman, Amanda Foster. He remained there until the age of seven, then moved to Fort Gibson with his mother. He was then sent to the Cherokee, Kansas, Indian School. He spent three years there, then was sent to Carlisle Industrial School for Indians in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for two years. Seemingly to no avail, for some sources claim he could barley read or write.
After leaving school he returned to Oklahoma.
Crawford’s mother remarried when he was about thirteen. He did not like or get along with his step- father. He began to hang with the wrong crowd and started drinking liquor and rebelling against authority.
At fifteen, he went to live with his sister, Georgia, and her husband.
At seventeen, he worked on a ranch where it was said he was liked by all.
At eighteen he attended a dance at Fort Gibson. A fellow by the name of Jake Lewis beat up his little brother. Crawford shot him twice and, feeling that discretion was the better part of valor, he headed for the Creek and Seminole Nations. There he would meet the Cook brothers Jim and Bill.
( Oklahoma was not just the home of the Cherokee, this was where the government was trying to cram all the eastern Indians at the time. This was land originally thought of as no one would want, but now the whites were eyeing large parts of it, wanting it for themselves.)
The Cooks were already wanted by the law. In the summer of 1894 they persuaded a restaurant owner to go and collect some money that was due each of them from as payment for some land, in the sale of the Cherokee Strip. She did collect the money for them, but was trailed by a sheriff’s posse attempting to apprehend the Cook brothers. There was a gunfight as a result, with one wounded and one killed. The restaurant owner was later questioned and asked if Crawford was one of the three. She replied no that the third one was “the Cherokee Kid”. This is where Crawford obtained his nickname of Cherokee Bill.
Now with a string of robberies and murders across the Cherokee and Seminole Nations in July of 1894, The Cook Gang had made itself known.
Here biographers differ in belief, some do not think Crawford began his trail of exploits until his eighteenth year when he joned forces with the Cook’s. Others believe he killed his first man at twelve – Supposedly his brother-in-law over something to do with feeding hogs.
Also they do not agree on how he got the name Cherokee Bill. The number of people he killed ranges from seven to as many as thirteen. But all agree that by eighteen he had joined the Bill Cook Gang . Bill later formed his own gang. Some claim he rode with Henry Star, Belle Star’s son. Others claim he only met Henry Star in Jail. He claimed to have ridden with Billy, The Kid, but no one really belives that statement.
When working with material you gather off the internet, often you find different versions of the story from various reseachers, for instance.
The man Crawford is said to kill at the age of twelve, was his brother-in-law, after he was told to feed the hogs. He was supposedly not prosecuted because of his age. Then as a teenager he took to petty thievery and by sixteen was an expert shot. Shooting Jake Lewis at the dance in fort Gibson, in this account, in an argument over a girl. Then fleeing to the Indian Nation.
In this account after the lawmen had trailed the female restaurant owner to the Cook gang, it was in the ensuing shoot out, as the outlaws fled, The Cherokee Kid turned in the saddle and with his rifle fired the mortal shot that killed Deputy Sequoyah Huston.
After the fight with the marshals at Tallequah Cherokee Bill, as he was now known, took refuge at his sisters home, Maude Brown (this is a new name for me as earlier I thought he had only one sister , Georgia. whose husband he killed at twelve). Maude’s husband was a bad drunk, he took a whip to her when she did not move fast enough to please him in her chores. While he was beating her, Cherokee Bill calmly walked up behind him and shot him in the head. Then he mounted his horse and rode to rejoin the Cook brothers.
In the summer of 1894, Bill robbed the depot in Nowata. He shot the station agent Richard Richards as he went for his gun, killing him. He then calmly waited for the train to arrive, walking the platform. After the tain stopped he pounded on the door of the express car. When the door opened conductor Sam Collins ordered bill to leave. Bill shot him in the face, killing him also. The Brakeman came running and Bill fired at him, wounding him. Bill then mounted his horse and rode away. No mention is made of him getting any money for his troubles.
July 1894 Bill and the Cook brothers performed their only reported bank robbery, robbing the Lincoln County Bank in Chandler. Bill is credited for the killing of the towns only barber, who was trying to raise the alarm about the robbery in progress.
This same year Bill and several of his own little gang are reported to have robbed every store in Talala Indian Territory. They started at one end of the street and robbed their way down to the other end of town. It is said they returned once again and did the same deed on another occasion.
Later that same year, 1894, The Cook’s and Cherokee Bill robbed the Shufeldt & Son store in Lenapal Indian Territory. During this robbery Bill killed Ernest Melton, simply a bystander. This was the murder that Judge Isaac Parked placed a reward of $1,300 on Cherokee Bill, DEAD OR ALIVE!
Bill was infatuated with Maggie Glass, a cousin of Isaac “Ike” Rodgers. Rodgers had been a deputy for Deputy Marshal W. C. Smith when needed for a posse. Smith arranged for Rodgers to lure Bill to meet the girl. On the evening of January 29, 1895, Bill paid Maggie a visit. As the evening wore to a close after a fine dinner, Bill fell asleep. While Bill slept Rodgers enlisted the help of a neighbor, Clifton Scales, to jump Bill and tie him up. They then delivered him to Fort Smith.
On February 26,1895, Cherokee Bill stood trial for the murder of Ernest Melton during the robbery of the Shufeldt & Son Store. Found guilty, Judge Parker sentenced Bill to be hung on June 25, 1895. Bill joked to the Court that no would ever put a rope around his neck. His lawyer J. Warren Reed was sucessful in gaining several appeals that delayed the execution date.
While the appeals process was going on Bill persuaded a trustee at the jail to smuggle in a pistol to him, which he then hid in a hole in the wall of his cell. On the night of July 27, Bill tried his break. During the day the prisoners on murderer’s row were allowed to roam the common corridor in the lowest cellers of the jail, but at night were locked in their individual cells.
Guard Lawrence Keating came to lock the individual doors, when Bill appeared gun in hand. Keating reached for his gun and Bill shot him. Keating tried to stagger back up the corridor and Bill shot him in the back again. Other guards raced to the scene, guns drawn, and began firring at Bill, who retreated behind the door from his own cell. Other prisoners huddled under their bunks in fear. As the gun battle lasted for several minutes, with neither side able to gain an advantage.
Henry Starr then told the guards if they would let him talk with Bill he would get him to surrender. After talking to Bill , Henry then reappeared with Bill’s gun, and the fight was over. Keating died on site. ( I wonder just how much ammunition could Bill possibly have had to extend the fight much longer anyway?).
Bill was quickly tried for the murder of Keating, and convicted. Sentenced to hang on Dec. 2 1895, his lawyer tried appeals again but this time the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the murder verdict for the Keating slaying. Execution was scheduled for March 17, 1896. On that day Cherokee Bill was led from under the court house. As he stepped into the sunlight he is reportd to have said “It is a good day to die”. Led to the gallows and up the steps, the noose was place around his neck. Asked if he had any last words, he replied, “I came her to die, not to make a speach.” These were his last words and a moment later the show was over for the crowd and the Cherokee Kid.
His Mother claimed the body and took it Fort Gibson to bury it.
Judge Parker characterized Bill as a “bloodthirsty mad dog who kills for the love of killing” and as “the most vicious” of all the outlaws in the Oklahoma Territory.
Numerous publications recount Bll’s life of crime. He was great fodder for the penny and dime novellas of the day.
So was this kid born to be bad?
Next one of the marshals most of you never heard of and probably
more deserving of fame the Wyatt Earp.
thanks for beating the bush in the Indian Territory with me.