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. (more…)