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Al Spencer & Gang
<Old West>
The following information was compiled by David Murray of Inverness, Scotland, in 1996:

The bulk of this article, concerned mainly with the activities of Al Spencer and his numerous associates in the early 1920's - and regarded more as a tentative exploration rather than anything like a definitive study - is based on reports taken from contemporary newspapers, ie. Tulsa Daily World, Bartlesville Morning Examiner, Bartlesville Daily Enterprise, Pawhuska Daily Capital, Pawhuska Daily Journal, and the Osage County News. For, although the outlaws got a lot of press coverage in their own times, not much seems to have been written about them since. In "A Dynasty of Western Outlaws" by Paul I. Wellman, he included a short and not very accurate account of Spencer, concentrating mainly on the Okesa train robbery. Arthur H. Lamb's "Tragedies of the Osage Hills" included a number of episodes largely based on excerpts from the contemporary press. The memoirs of Henry Wells were published in a small volume entitled "Outlaw's End", but while Wells was undoubtedly an associate of Spencer in several of his exploits, his later accounts of them tended to vary with each telling, and much of what he said has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

And, apart from two or three fairly poorly researched articles, which have appeared in various magazines, that appears to be that.

As Henry Wells was an established outlaw long before Al Spencer was heard of, and is generally regarded as having been Spencer's mentor-in-crime. We will start with him. He was the subject of "Henry Wells Out-lived Them All" by Arthur Shoemaker, printed in True West magazine of February 1990, an article based largely on heresay and on quotations from Wells himself, some of which conflict with his recollections as written in "Outlaw's End."

From the two sources, however, it would appear that he was born on a farm in Lee County, Virginia, about 1881, and raised as a youth in Wheaton, Missouri. He left home due to some trouble over a girl, so he said, and made his way to Oklahoma where he worked for a couple of years in the expanding township of Bartlesville. After a knife fight, in which he apparently injured two men, he took himself off to be a cowboy in the Osage country. Within a few years, by now married to a nurse from Oklahoma City, he had established himself in a cabin tucked away in Lost Creek Canyon, southwest of Okesa, a flagstop on the M.K.T. railroad, and was employed as a cowboy by Charles Johnson, who ran a spread between Bartlesvilles and Pawhuska.

From late 1914 onwards, northern Oklahoma suffered an unprecedented series of bank robberies. Officially, a number remained unsolved, but several were known by the authorities to be the work of experienced and well known outlaws. Behind many of them was reckoned to be the influence of the famous Henry Starr, an inveterate bandit since the early 1890's and lately paroled from the Colorado penitentiary in September 1913. Now, middle-aged, Starr was actually revered in outlaw circles, not merely because of his impressive career of banditry, but because of his personal qualities of intelligence, leadership, courage and loyalty. Unfortunately, as these qualities were directed against the laws of his country, he was also a common criminal; and, to his discredit, he was probably at least partly responsible for leading astray many young men who might otherwise have stuck to the straight and narrow.

One of his aides was Henry Wells' employer, Charles Johnson, an expert rider and roper, who doubled up in bank robberies when the notion took him.

According to Arthur Shoemaker, Wells claimed to have taken part in thirteen or fourteen bank robberies which, given his reputation, may well have been the case. Certainly one of the first in which he was involved, at least according to his own memoirs, was that of the Avant State Bank in the Oklahoma oil town of Avant on Friday, January 29, 1915. Four men, he said, took part in the robbery, one taking charge of the horses at the edge of town while he, Charles Johnson and another man strolled to the bank wearing overalls and carrying lunch pails, posing as ordinary workmen.

They entered the bank just after 2 p.m., held up the president, the cashier and a customer, locked them in the vault and helped themselves to whatever booty was available, $1,700 according to the newspapers, $5,000 according to Wells. By the time they were through, the horse-holder had brought the horses round to the rear of the bank. As they escaped, however, Johnson's horse broke a leg. Leaving it where it lay, presumably, he ran to an oil rig, smeared himself with oil and was ostensibly working away when a pursuing posse came along. When they asked if he had seen the bandits, he told them he had, then directed them off in the wrong direction.

The victims of the robbery were able to come up with only one bandit description: a large dark complexioned man with black eyes and long black hair, armed with a Winchester and two revolvers. Johnson was arrested in Kansas four days later but was quickly freed when bank staff were unable to identify him. On March 12, Claude Sawyer, a member of Henry Starr's entourage, was picked up at Muskogee as a suspect; but, evidentally, he was also later released. Henry Wells, himself, apparently came under no suspicion.

A few weeks later, Wells was in aciton again. At the behest of a man named Albert Hickman, he attended a meeting at Hickman's home southeast of Newkirk, attended also by Bill Putnam and C.C. "Big Boy" Currie, both well-known outlaws and pals of Henry Starr. Hickman had drawn up plans for the robbery of the Farmers National Bank in Kaw City, Osage County, and when he presented them to the trio they duly agreed to carry out the job.

At 2:15 p.m. the following day, Tuesday, April 6, 1915, they presented themselves at the chosen bank. Some farmers were near the door, arguing as to whose cows gave the best milk. Recollected Wells: "I said to the rest of the boys as we walked into the bank 'let's see how much milk this here cow will give' and laughed purty loud. There was three men in the bank," he continued, "and they was scared stiff when they saw our smoke-poles. It was as easy as fallin' off a log. Why, they nearly begged us to take the money and get out."

Press reports said that President John Hoefer and assistant cashier A. W. Sanderson were forced to gather up the available cash - some $2,015 - and were then forced into the vault. The dial was spun, but because of the frequency of recent bank robberies, Hoefer had been in the practice of leaving the dial mechanism disengaged, with the result that he and Sanderson got free virtually as soon as the bandits had gone.

The robbers rode openly across country towards Pawhuska with three car-loads of citizens after them. At one point, shots were exchanged and Wells' horse was shot. He climbed up behind Currie and they escaped into a stand of black jacks. The posse, evidentaly deciding that they had done enough for the day, returned to town.

On August 12, while attending the trial at Chandler of his boss, Charles Johnson, for his alleged part in the Stroud bank robbery, Wells was arrested and charged with the Kaw City job. At his trial at Newkirk on October 7, defended by the same John R. "Jack" Charlton who had earlier defended Johnson, he was acquitted after producing several witnesses who testified that he had been elsewhere at the time of the robbery.

Wells' next recorded robbery is difficult to write about, mainly because he and the press gave accounts which were similar in some respects and different in others. The venue was Wynona, an Osage County hamlet, which boasted two stores, a pool hall, two or three dozen residents and a single bank.

According to Wells, he visited the place to buy a wolfhound, found that the people selling him the dog were about to be foreclosed by the bank, and decided in revenge to rob it, to which purpose he enlisted the aid of an Arkansas penitentiary escapee named Arch Kitterman.

"When we hit town," recalled Wells, "Kittimer (sic) and me hitched our horses in the alley behind the bank. The bank president lived in the rear of the bank and there was a hardware store a couple of doors down from the bank on the same side of the street. As we went into the bank, I noticed a couple of men standing across the street give us the once over. I never thought nothin' about it at the time, so we jest barged on in. The banker saw our guns and lit out for the rear of the bank. Kittimer corralled the cashier, the only other man in the bank, an I chased the president. His wife was making a raisin pie and she had a panful of raisins in her hand when I come in at the door. I jest herded them both in front of me - all the time eating raisins out of the pan that the banker's wife was holding. I was never scared or shaky in a job in my life and I allus tried to laugh and joke with my victims - unless they wanted to put up a fight."

When they left the bank, however, they ran into a barrage of gunfire from he onlookers across the street, having alerted the township to the fact that their bank was being robbed. Both their horses were shot and a bullet tore through Wells' hat, narrowly missing his head. As they fled on foot, Wells still carrying his sack of loot and firing back with his Luger pistol, another bullet tore off one of his spurs.

"I was getting plenty sore at these people," he recounted. "One of them killed a horse for me and lost me a good Stetson hat, and now this boob ruined a pair of hand-made spurs that I was might proud of."

They fled across a freshly ploughed field and took refuge in a thicket; however, shortly after, (they) were forced to surrender as the townsfolk closed in around them.

So much, anyway, for Wells' account. He said the holdup took place in the Spring of 1916, but newspapers of the time reveal that the same First State Bank was held up shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2, 1915, by two overall-clad bandits aged about 28 and 23, one sporting a Colt automatic, the other a Savage automatic pistol. They hitched their horses behind the pool hall, went into the bank and held up cashier T. R. Williams, his wife and bookkeeper Walter Leonard. Some $1,299 in currency and silver was bundled into a white cloth sack and the bank people bundled into the vault. They got free very quickly and raised the alarm.

Using wirecutters to snip a fence east of town, the bandits headed for the hills. A posse of citizens went after them, but changed their minds after a few minutes, electing instead to wait for the arrival of Sheriff Harve Freas from Pawhuska, by which time the bandits were well away from the scene, believed to be ensconced in the realtive safety of the Osage hills.

Whether or not the different accounts referred to the same robbery, Wells and Kitterman were arrested for it. They pleaded guilty in court and drew ten years each in McAlester Penitentiary. Conviction took place on December 5, 1916, and Kitterman served only three or four years before being paroled, only to be killed in a shootout with police at Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1920.

Ethan Allen Spencer, commonly known as Al, was born near Lenepah in Nowata County, Oklahoma, on December 26, 1887, and was thus easily old enough to have been taken by his daddy to Fort Smith for Cherokee Bill's hanging in 1896, had Spencer senior been so inclined. When he was a teenager, such notorious "old time" outlaws as Bert Casey, Ben Cravens, and the Martin-Simmons gang were still skulking about the state. He came of a law-abiding farming family, and in his own youth and early manhood, like so many others, farmed and cowboyed in various districts of northeastern Oklahoma.

Althugh it can be assumed that he was never a goody-goody, he seems to have been fairly late getting involved in serious crime, and in fact was a married man with an infant daughter, and in his early thirties, before he became embroiled with the law.

In 1916, he was arrested in Nowata County with four charges of cattle theft against him. That his bond was set at $10,000 would suggest that he already had a dubious reputation. Whether he skipped bond, or simply managed to wangle his way out, he was free over the next two or three years, in which time he graduated from stock-theft to car-theft and burglary.

In 1919, along with Nick Lamar and Bud Lawler, he burglarised Durnell's Ready-To-Wear store at Neodesha (sic) in the southern part of Wilson County, Kan., fencing the proceeds via George Tolliver of Coffeyville and Roy Majors of Independence, both well-known crooks. The William J. Burns Detective Agency was hired to track down the robbers, and operative H. O. Brown soon uncovered the Tolliver-Majors connection. When Majors was picked up, he spilled the beans and directed the officers to Spencer's half-sister's home near El Dorado, Kan., where most of the stolen goods were recovered.

Brown next intercepted a telegram from Spencer - going by the name of Cook - to Tolliver, asking him to send $200 to La Junta, Colo. A return telegram was promptly sent to "Cook" telling him the money would be sent to the post office in La Junta. When Spencer went to the pick up, he was arrested by Burns operatives and whisked back to Kansas, where in due course he was convicted of the Durnell robbery and sentenced to five years in Lansing Penitentiary.

However, Nowata County still wanted him for "the larceny of domestic animals", and an interstate deal was worked out whereby he was returned to Oklahoma, pleaded guilty to the stock theft charges, and on March 8, 1920, started a term at McAlester Penitentiary, the length given variously as three years and ten years, but maybe something more like 3-10 years.

The Oklahoma outlaw community being whatit was, it is not unlikely that Wells and Spencer knew each other before they reached McAlester, but whatever the case, they got to know each other pretty well inside. Spencer also made other acquaintances who were to figure in his later life, notably the future Public Enemy, Frank Nash, at the time serving a sentence for murder, and most immediately a six-foot, sixteenth-part Cherokee named Silas Meigs, known as "Puck", an abbreviation of his Indian name. According to a newspaper account of his career, it started when fellow pupils at the Park Hill Mission School egged him into burglarising the homes of some of his teachers, a prank which landed him in reform school.

After his release, he stole some cars, then stuck up and robbed the assistant postmaster at Park Hill as he was returning home from a poker game. For this, he got fourteen years in McAlester. Allegedly, he was not very bright, but was astute enough to earn himself trusy status, and a job in the milk-house, outside the prison walls. Towards the end of 1921, he simply strolled away to freedom, Henry Wells gaining him a 15-hour start by telling the prison officials that he was probably away drinking at a "chock joint" frequented by the trustees.

(To Be Continued)
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The Wellman book, Dynasty of Western Outlaws, is what caught my attention and started my interest in Oklahoma lawman and outlaw history. While not always accurate, the Wellman book did introduce me to this world of characters.

Thanks for submitting this information for everyone to view. The "Al Spencer" gang leads in so many directions....Henry Starr, Frank Nash, etc.

Dee Cordry webmaster
Posts: 158 | Location: Piedmont, OK | Registered: Wed November 12 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<Old West>
More Information about Al Spencer, compiled by David Murray of Inverness, Scotland, in 1996:

At this period in Oklahoma penal history, it was not at all uncommon for prison inmates to be granted leaves-of-absence, often under near scandalous circumstances. A number of State Governors earned notoriety for their apparently inexplicable leniency towards prisoners, even those who had committed major crimes. Consequently, there is nothing mysterious about Spencer's being granted such a leave-of-absence on July 26, 1921, ostensibly to attend to "some family business." He returned on August 27, driving a car which, according to (Henry) Wells, he had stolen in a Kansas border town, and diplomatically presented it to the Deputy Warden. The latter, continued Wells, had its engine numbers filed off, after which "he wore it out." A good story, whether true or not.

Anyway, Spencer was soon granted trusty status, and having been trained as an electrician in prison, was sent outside the walls on January 27, 1922, to do some work in a private house. The job complete, he packed up his tools and, like (Silas) Meigs before him, simply walked away.

Meigs, meanwhile, had resumed the stick-up business. About noon on Wednesday, December 21, 1921, unshaven, dressed in workman's clothes and brandishing a small revolver, he held up the Nelagony State Bank at Nelagony, a small town on the western edge of the Osage Hills. He escaped on horseback with $1,503 in a sack, and a posse which went after him returned empty-handed, reporting ruefully that his tracks had "led nowhere."

Evidently, Spencer lost no time in making contact with him, and it was only a couple of weeks after his departure from McAlester that they teamed up as bank bandits.

On Monday, February 13, 1922, although the banks were closed in honour of the anniversary of Lincoln's birthday the previous day, cashier R. M. Grimes and assistant cashier C. T. Everettson went in to the American National Bank in Pawhuska to deal with some urgent business. Everettson boarded at the Grimes home, and as they walked back for lunch, he remembered that he had left some papers in the bank. He went back to retrieve them and was there shortly after noon when Meigs and Spencer walked-in. Spencer was wearing a mackinaw and sporting a small moustache. Meigs was wearing a hat and rough coat, his face covered in its usual three-day stubble. As Meigs stood over six feet tall, while Spencer was five inches shorter and some sixty pounds lighter, they would have stood out in any crowd, let alone as bank bandits.

Everettson didn't know the combination to the safe, but the bandits calculated that sooner or later Grimes would return to see what was up, whcih was exactly what happened. He walked in to be greeted with a pistol stuck in his ribs and the information, according to the Bartlesville Daily Enterprise: "We're old timers and we don't want to hurt anybody, but we're going to hurt you if you don't open that safe." Grimes refused to do as ordered, telling them they would just have to go ahead and do their worst. After repeated threats, Spencer finally told him: "All right, we don't want murder on our hands. Keep your money." For which, reported the Osage County News, Grimes was "very thankful."

Reduced to looting the cash drawers, Spencer and Meigs came up with a miserable $147 and sixty cents, hardly worth the bother - and, certainly not worth the risk - of robbing the place.

By this time, according to the various press reports, fully thirteen customers had wandered into the bank thinking it was open for business after all. They were all herded into the small vault, protesting in alarm that with so many of them in such a confined space they might suffocate before they could be rescued. After some hesitation, reportedly, the bandits agreed to take Everettson with them, on the understanding that they would turn him loose just outside town and he would return to free the prisoners. In the event, he was released as promised; but, by the time he got back to the bank, the prisoners had managed to free themselves by unscrewing the door hinges with the screwdriver which many banks kept in their vaults for just such a situation.

The press had hardly stopped discussing the implications of the Pawhuska robbery and the growth of banditry in the area generally before Spencer and Meigs struck again, this time in the lumber town of Broken Bow in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma. On Tuesday afternoon, February 21, they stuck up the McCurtain County bank, locked cashier Russell Herndon and two customers in the vault and escaped by the back door with between $7,000 and $8,000. They hijacked a service car and forced the driver to take them to a spot three miles north of town where they had left two hired horses tethered.

They managed to elude a sheriff's posse which went after them; but, according to Henry Wells, then proceeded to get well and truly lost in the unfamiliar terrain, and spent three or four days wandering around, somehow losing their horses in the process, before they managed to jump a north-bound freight train. They finally arrived back in the Osage Hills, said Wells, "dead tired and dirty as coal and cinders could make 'em."

Following their return, Meigs went to hide up for a spell at the home of Sol Wells (brother of Henry) near Bigheart, about twelve miles northwest of Bartlesville. He was there on Saturday afternoon, February 25 - only four days after the Broken Bow robbery - when a Osage County posse under the orders of Sheriff C. D. Musselwhite turned up looking for an illicit still, reported to be in the area. As three of the possemen approached the Wells place, Meigs opened fire with a high-powered rifle, mortally wounding Claude Collins, an oil company employee who served occasionally as a posseman. He was then himself shot dead either by the dying Collins or, as a later newspaper report suggested, by the other possemen, who generously credited Collins with the killing so that his widow could collect the reward offered for the outlaw.

Part of the $153 found in Meig's possession was identified as having come from the Broken Bow bank, and bank officials, viewing his body, later positively identified him in that robbery, and in the earlier holdups at Nelagony and Pawhuska.

As yet unidentified as the smaller bank robber, Spencer was by now thoroughly ensconced in the Osage Hills, which at that period were about as safe an outlaw haven as America had to offer.

"Since the days when Abilene, Arkansas City and Dodge . . . were young and flourishing cowtowns," wrote Gerald Moore, "the 'Osage' has been a haven of the fugitive. It lies in northeastern Oklahoma - a vast stretch of heavily timbered hills and rocky canyons with here and there a winding path through almost impenetrable tickets of scrub oak. Five minutes walk in any direction from Pawhuska, the county seat, and one may lose himself in the dense undergrowth . . . There are places in the country, such as the Lost Creek Canyon where Henry Wells has his home, where you can stand on a rocky mound, look for twenty miles in any direction and see no trace of human habitation. Then, in a deep canyon, three hundred yards away, you might stumble upon a previously invisible ranch house. An ideal stomping ground for men on the scout."

And also, Moore might have mentioned, adjacent to the Kansas line, offering a quick escape into that State in the event that even the Osage became too "hot."

Apart from Wells at Lost Creek Canyon, Spencer had friends at Barlesville and Ochelata, brother-in-law Grover Durrell at Pawhuska, and at Okesa he had Ike Ogg, a middle-aged oil worker whom he had met in Nowata County, and who later claimed to have been an unwilling aide in Spencer's crimes.

In "A Dynasty of Western Outlaws", Paul I. Wellman wrote: "In the year and eight months between Spencer's escape from McAlester and his death, he and his gang robbed twenty banks by actual knowledge, and he was accused of robbing twenty-two more." In fact, the total usually given by the newspapers of the time was twenty-seven bank robberies, a figure given for recent holdups in one of the Oklahoma Bankers' Association's periodic reports, issued at a time when Spencer had become notorious. Some of the press appear simply to have credited them all to Spencer, disregarding the known fact that some of them were the work of unrelated bandits. Wellman probably got his totals from Courtney R. Cooper, who in "Ten Thousand Public Enemies" stated that Spencer and his gang had held up 42 banks.

With present knowledge, it is impossible to state just what Spencer's actual tally was, but somewhere between a dozen and twenty would seem most likely.

Also, he never really headed what could be called "a gang." His circle of associates constantly changed, new recruits being enlisted as older hands fell foul of the law.

A contemporary press report, incidentally, said that Spencer didn't look or talk like an old-time bandit, but more like "a dry goods clerk out on a fishing trip." Unfortunately for the legend, he appears in fact to have been fairly close to the "clerk" stereotype - - mean, suspicious and self-centered - - which may explain why he outlasted most of his companions.

As mentioned already, Spencer had not yet been identified as a bank robber, and was wanted only as a fugitive from McAlester. His involvement in the bank robberies already mentioned was only discovered much later. From an anecdote provided by Henry Wells, however, it would seem that he must have been back robbing banks fairly soon after Meigs' death. According to Wells, early in May 1922, a foursome made their way to Pineville, a small town in the extreme southwestern corner of Missouri, intending to rob the town's two banks. Named by Wells, they were Wells himself, Spencer, J. Majors and Lewis Connelly.

Majors, more commonly given as Jay C. Majors, was an oilfield contractor and an experienced bandit. Connelly was surely the same man as Louis "Slim" Connelly, who had been robbing banks at least since 1914, and would still be robbing them, as a member of the Alton Crapo gang, in the early 1930's. It is difficult to imagine such a quartet being together for any length of time for any other purpose than bank robbery.

At any rate, they stayed at the home of a rancher nephew of Wells named Brandy Garrett; and, while preparing for their raid, spent a few quiet days fishing in the local creek. All went well until they decided they needed some liquor, and raided the home of a local bootlegger. Presumably, the fellow had an arrangement with the local authorities, because on the evening of May 14 (1922), a squad of local officers went out to chekc up on them. Different accounts were given of what ensued. According to the officers, they approached a car containing three men and a woman, shots were exchanged and the suspects escaped.

According to Wells, the gang were on their way daown to the creek to check their fixed lines when the officers appeared.

"Al thought they were lookin' for liquor," he said, "so he told them to come on up to the car. Instead of doin' that they stepped behing trees and told us to throw up our hands and come outa' the car. This J. Majors was scared to death and he did just like they told him to. They must of been plenty scared too, for they cut down on him and shot him in the groins. Al rolled out the other side of the car with both guns blazing when the officers started shooting. I kin take you back there an' show you yet where he peeled the bark around the trees where these men were hiding. They took out through the woods and crossed a little creek with Al right behind them. That was the last I seen of Al until he got back up here."

Wells and Connelly took the stricken Majors to hospital in Joplin, where he was arrested a few hours later, then hightailed it back to Oklahoma. The woman, Eva Ewers, was also arrested. After routing the posse, Spencer made his way back to the Garrett place, and a few hours later, kitted out to look like an itinerant harvester, was driven in a wagon to Neosho. There, he stowed himself away on a freight train bound for Oklahoma, and eventually got back to the Osage without further mishap.

Presumably, Connelly wasn't too impressed with Spencer's trigger-happiness as he appears to have dropped from the picture. However, about this time, a new character appeared on scene, namely Dick Gregg of Sand Springs, a suburb of Tulsa, who having been born on January 30, 1902, was now just over twenty. Arthur Lamb, who knew him quite well, said that he was a likeable young man who appeared to yearn for "a better life," but the record suggests otherwise. Wells said that he was interested only in guns and fast cars and that his father, unable to control him, was only too happy when Spencer took him off his hands. This is significant because the father, John Gregg, was himself a hard character - - a couple of years later, in an altercation in a rooming house at Shidler, Okla., he killed the notorious Major Poffenberger, formerly of the Majors gang of southeatern Kansas.

About three weeks after the Pineville affair, Gregg and a coupld of others, having run short of provisions, decided to take a run over and burglarise a store in Ochelata. Having broken into the place, at about an hour after midnight on June 7 (1922), they were spotted at their work by Night Marshal William B. Lockett (or Lockhard), a middle-aged family man who had been in the area for about ten years. When he accosted them several shots were fired and he was killed instantly with a .38 bullet through the heart. A witness, who kept discretely out of the way, later reported that he heard one of the gang saying: "You've followed us long enough, you old bastard." (See; "Oklahoma Heroes" by Ron Owens p.132).

Spencer, Gregg and a third man, jumped into their car and escaped. The fourth robber, at the rear of the store when the action took place, managed to escape attention but had to walk home.

According to Wells, it was Gregg who fired the fatal bullet, but a newspaper article some months later quoted Spencer as expressing regret at having to "bump the old man off."

On Friday, June 16, a little after noon, Spencer and Gregg stuck up the Elgin State Bank at Elgin, a small town in Chautauqua County, Kan., lying so close to the Oklahoma state line that it was practically in the Osage. Neither bandit was masked, indicating that they weren't overly worried about being identified.

Cashier D. H. Hall and his wife were in the bank, along with several customers. One of them had just cashed a cheque for $150 and was standing, no doubt anxiously, with the money in his hand. Spencer carefully told him to hand the money over to Hall, so that when it was added to the loot it would be the bank's loss rather than the customer's. A small boy who had just cashed a cheque for $3 was ordered with a grin to stick the money in his pocket. Gathering up between $1,500 and $2,000 in currency, and a bundle of bonds reported to amount to $20,000, the bandits hustled the Halls outside and into the getaway car, two other customers being forced to stand on the runningboards, one on either side, to act as shields. As the car gained speed, however, one was pushed off and the other jumped, neither being hurt in the process.

As the bandits crossed the state line and headed south into Oklahoma, a pursuing posse from Elgin gave up the chase, to be replaced by other posses from Pawhuska and Bartlesville. Mrs. Hall was set free after a few miles with orders to tell the possemen that if any shots were fired they would kill her husband. One posse did briefly make contact with them, but refrained from shooting for fear of hitting Hall, and before long, Spencer and Gregg gave them the slip. Just north of the Bartlesville-Pawhuska road, the getaway car was abandoned after it got a flat tire and, still with Hall, the bandits trekked the last few miles to Ike Ogg's home near Okesa. Ike, apparently, was alarmed at thus being openly involved in the affair, but needlessly, as Hall had no idea who he was.

After some debate, it was decided to set Hall free in the woods. Next morning, tired and dishevelled, he managed to find his way to Okesa.

The activities of Spencer and his cronies over the following months can only at present be traced by the growing series of bank robberies in which they were - - or were believed to be - - involved.

On July 26, 1922, four masked bandits held up the Citizens National Bank in Spencer's hometown of Lenepah, Okla., making off with $1,339, but escaping northeast rather than west towards the Osage. The newspapers came up with no suggestions as to who the robbers were, but Spencer must be at least a likely candidate.

On Friday afternoon, September 8, four bandits driving a Buick touring car appeared at Centralia in Craig County, twenty miles northwest of Vinita. While two stayed in the car, the other two marched into the First State Bank and held up cashier Clell Farbro. As they were collecting the loot - $200 worth of Liberty Bonds and $2,980 in currency - two youths named Blaine Delquest and Glenn Corlette walked in, to find themselves, a couple of minutes later, being bundled into the vault along with Farbro. Although the bandits again made a clean escape, this time there were repercussions.

On September 15, Nowata Chief of Police Henry Lowery, Vinita City Marshal M. O. Gabbart and Deputy U. S. Marshal Julius Payne, searching for an illicit still in the Big Creek area, had a run-in with a young Cherokee named Ralph Carter. When he started to haul out his pistol, Gabbart killed him with a bullet through his heart. Next day, officials from the Centralia bank positively identified him as one of the robbers.

On October 2, three men giving their names as Clyde Berry, Lloyd Cox, and C. C. Carter, were arrested by a Deputy Sheriff at Bigheart, Okla. It turned out the "Carter" was, in fact, Dick Gregg. Farbro was unable to identify him as one of the Centralia gang (which could simply mean that he was one of the pair who stayed in the getaway car) but by now the Kansas authorities wanted to talk to him about the Elgin robbery. Two weeks after his arrest, following complicated legal proceedings, he was extradited to Kansas.

On October 14, evidently recovered from his gunshot woulds, Jay C. Majors was picked up in Bartlesville by Chief of Police L. U. Gaston. Although he vehemently protested his innocence, he was identified by Farbro and lodged in jail at Vinita.

Most significantly, however, a newspaper report soon after the robbery named one of the gang as A. L. Spencer, the first time - after at least half a dozen bank robberies - that Spencer had been identified.

On Friday, October 13, 1922, a five-strong gang held up the First State Bank at Osage, escaping with $1,188. What made the robbery unusual (although by no means unique) was that two of the gang were dressed as women. Some of the press took the view that they must have been men disguised as women, particularly as one of them actually held a pistol on cashier W. S. Alyea and two others as two men scooped up the loot. Unless the thing was a joke, however, it is hard to see why on earth men should have dressed up as women to rob a bank.

On August 26, 1923, the Tulsa Daily World ran a story on a Pawhuska tenant-farmer and suspected cattle-thief named Jim Lohman, stating categorically that he had been a member of Spencer's crowd, had taken part in the Osage robbery, another bank holdup at Grainola, and various other activities, and had eventually been expelled from the gang due to his "nervously apprehensive disposition." Although none of the witnesses to the robbery could identify Lohman, and he later launched a defamation suit against the Tulsa World, claiming $50,000 damages, it is difficult to imagine the newspaper naming him so positively unless it had some sort of evidence to back it up.

The article also stated that Lohman had been the boyfriend of a girl named Goldie Bates, who threw him over in favour of Spencer. In light of this, it is quite easy to imagine badman Al going out to impress his new girlfriend by taking her along on a bank holdup and actually letting her brandish a pistol. From what is known of Goldie, she would have been well up to the job.

Henry Wells, incidentally, had been paroled after serving five years and a day of his prison term, and was in no way reformed. According to his memoirs, he was visiting the oil town of Dewey, a few miles northeast of Bartlesville, when he ran into another Osage Hills worthy named Clarence "Pat" Ward, an occasional bandit who was at the point earning an honest living as an oil worker. Wells went along with him when he cashed his pay-check at the local bank and out of sheer habit "cased the joint," noticing that it would make a good target for holdup, particulary as the windows were set high enough that people in the street couldn't see in.

Back in the Osage, he said, he mentioned the bank to Spencer and Gregg, and with a third man, they promptly went up and robbed the institution. The holdup, which took place about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 18, was well reported in the press. The bandits drove into Dewey in a Hudson sports car; three men, with a woman at the wheel. They parked near the Security National Bank and, while the woman stayed in the car, the men went in and held up cashier C. H. Kaylor and bookkeeper Ernest Koester. The drawers yeilded up $2,453 in currency and cash. The bank men were locked in the vault and the bandits drove away without attracting any attention. Kaylor got through by telephone to the local exchange, where an alarm system was in operation, and a crowd of armed citizens converged on the bank uder the mistaken impression that the bandits were still inside.

Reported the Bartlesville Daily Enterprise - "The bank robbers had disappeared as effectively as if the earth had opened and swallowed them up. After a search lasting until dark, members of the posse returned empty-handed and gathered together for the purpose of simmering down all the wild rumors which were rampant following the robbery . . . It is agreed that the robbery was one of the neatest jobs of its kind ever staged in this section of the country and everything points to the fact that the mystery will never be solved unless the robbers themselves come in voluntarily and confess to participating in the crime."

The best guess seemed to be that the bandits had driven north, then turned west and made a run for the Osage Hills. The same night Lloyd Cox, one of those arrested with Dick Gregg a couple of weeks before, was picke up on the grounds that he owned a Hudson speedster; but, when Kaylor and Koester were unable to identify him, he was released.

Despite Wells' story, Dick Gregg was definitely not one of the bandits, having been handed over tothe Kansas authorities only two days before. Nor is it likely that Spencer took part. Kaylor and Koester described the bandit trio. One was 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds, with light hair, a fair complexion and a light-coloured suit. Another was a large man, weighing about 185 pounds and wearing a leather coat, and the third was described as a slender six-footer with a black beard and moustache, wearing a black suit and black hat. None of the descriptions remotely resembled Spencer.

Suspicion inevitably fell on Clarence Ward, and also on another Osage Hills badman named Ed Shull, but that was apparently as far as it got. A veteran Texas bandit named Thand C. Caton, then known to be operating in southern Kansas, was later mentioned, but again apparently without result.

At Bartlesville, however, Chief of Police Gaston realized that one of the descriptions given fitted Henry Wells, and when shown a mixed bunch of photographs, Kaylor at once picked out the one of Wells. Ordered to report to Sheriff Musselwhite's office in Pawhuska, Wells was then identified by Kaylor in the flesh and was duly charged.

Tried in October 1923, a year after the robbery, he presented an alibi, backed up by various friends and relatives, that his brother Sol's infant child had died only two days before the Dewey bank was robbed and that at the time of the robbery he had been involved in family affairs. A Bartlesville barber was then brought in to testify that he had shaved Wells only four days before the robbery, whereas the bandit described as Wells by Kaylor had been heavily bearded. Although Kaylor was still positive in his identification, Koester was now not so sure. In the end, the jury were unable to reach agreement and Wells was discharged.

At the same time his involvement must remain a strong possibility. In his memoirs, he mentioned details about the robbery that normally only a person at the scene would have noticed, such as that when the bandits left the bank they waved a hat to summon the getaway driver. Also, it should be noted that in his later years, Wells boasted that one of the reasons he usually managed to escape punishment for his crimes was his ability to work up a good alibi, invariably backed up by others.

As 1922 drew toward a close, the outlaws' exploits showed no sign of diminishing.

- - - - - - To Be Continued - - - - - -
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This stuff is great. Keep it coming but hope to see the whole article in a near-future Journal.
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More information about Al Spencer and his gang, compiled by David Murray of Inverness, Scotland:

As 1922 drew towards a close, the outlaws' exploits showed no sign of diminishing.

On the night of October 20, only two days after the Dewey holdup, Jay C. Majors and six others broke out of Craig County jail at Vinita while a revival meeting was going on across the street, and escaped in cars hijacked from passing mortorists.

Two days later, October 24, (Al) Spencer and two recruits looted the First State Bank at Talala in Rogers County, twenty-five miles southeast of Bartlesville. Only cashier C. F. Bullard, his wife and his sister were present, and one of the women recognized Spencer from schooldays. He knew her as well, reportedly referring to her by name. They escaped with about $1,200, gave three pursuing posses the slip in the Ramona area and were presumed to have made tracks for the Osage.

One of the aides, later convicted of the robbery, was a young Missourian, now resident at Nowata, named Ralph Clopton, whose only record so far was a term in reformatory for a Nowata County burglary. The other was almost certainly Emmett Daugherty, reputedly a nephew of Henry Starr. He also was eventually arrested in connection with the robbery, but escaped charges because, by that time, cashier Bullard was facing embezzlement charges and in no position to testify against anyone.

A few days later, November 3, Jay C. Majors and another of the Vinita jailbreakers, Julius Dykes, shot it out with a four-man posse in the Dog Creek Hills, West of Vinita. Dykes was wounded and captured; and, although Majors escaped, a trail of bloodstains suggested that he also had been wounded in the skirmish.

Six days later, November 9, 1922, three bandits held up the Valeda State Bank at Valeda, Kan., a few miles north of the Oklahoma line and ten miles east of Coffeyville. Spencer and Clarence Ward were both named as suspects; and, three years later, Lee Clingan, a known pal of Dick Gregg, was tried for the robbery, outcome unknown.

Two days later, November 11, officers at Dewey caught five robbers looting the Model Clothing store. They came out shooting, killing officer Herbert Marlow. (See; "Oklahoma Heroes" by Ron Owens p.140) The actual killer was Spencer associate Jesse Paul, alias "Big Boy" Berry, who pleaded guilty to the murder at Bartlesville on July 28, 1926, outcome unknown.

A few weeks later, December 2, four bandits held up the Towanda State Bank at Towanda, Kan., about twenty miles northeast of Wichita, and quite near the El Dorado home of Jay Majors' wife. The gang escaped into Oklahoma with $2,044 in currency and about $20,000 worth of bonds. Jay C. Majors was one of the quartet, and was in fact convicted of the robbery, and it was strongly suspected that the other three included Spencer and Clopton.

Twelve days later, December 14, three bandits held up the Caddo National Bank in Caddo, Bryan County, in southern Oklahoma, escaping with several thousand dollars in currency and Liberty bonds. Two of the gang turned out to be Osage Hills desperadoes Ed Shull and Earl Holman, and the getaway driver was believed to have been Clarence Ward, all three described by at least one newspaper article as members of "the Spencer gang."

Five days later, Tuesday evening, December 19, four bandits barged into the Truby jewelry store at Independance, Kan., slugged proprieter M. L. Truby and looted the place of between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of rings, watches and other valuables. They escaped in a Hudson speedster driven by a fifth man. From later confessions, it was more-or-less established that the bandits were Spencer, Clopton, Emmett Daugherty and Nic Lamar, with Majors driving the getaway car.

An so it went on; however, at least it can be said that the outlaws didn't operate with total impunity.

On the night of December 26, Chief Gaston of Bartlesville got a tip that Majors was spending Christmas at his wife's home at El Dorado, Kan. He passed the word on to the Kansas authorities and a seven-strong posse surrounded the house. Majors, in a defiant mood, managed somehow to get the drop on Sheriff Newt Purcell and held him at gunpoint for a tense half-hour before being persuaded to surrender. A search of the house revealed it to be richly furnished, presumably from the proceeds of robberies, and three cars were found in the garage.

Although identified as one of the Independence robbers, Majors was tried for the Towanda bank robbery. Convicted on April 18, 1923, he was sentenced to 21 years' imprisonment. This turned out, however, to be a life term, for on May 5, 1926, while doing some electrical work in the mineshaft at Lansing Penitentiary, he came into contact with a live power line and was instantly and fatally electrocuted.

Within the space of under four months, from the Centralia bank robbery of September 1922, Spencer had become the most publicized outlaw in the Midwest, if not the United States as a whole. Nonetheless, the biggest crime story in Oklahoma in the early 1920's was the series of murders of oil-rich Osage Indians instigated and planned by William K. Hale, a wealthy cattleman with extensive holdings in the Osage Hills. Over a period of three or four years, starting in 1921, over twenty Osage men and women were murdered by explosives, gunfire and other means by an assortment of ex-convicts and riff-raff hired by Hale. In every case, as the authorities eventually came to realise, Hale or one of his friends was in the position to benefit financially by way of the inherited oil "headrights", which on the death of the owner passed to the next of kin.

Apparently, under the impression that a man who would rob banks would just as easily murder people for profit, Hale, at different times, approached several well-known Oklahoma outlaws with a view to hiring them as assassins. One of these was the notorious Irvin "Blackie" Thompson, who later became a prime witness in the Osage Murder Trials. Another was Spencer.

At the trial of Hale and his confederates in 1926, Dick Gregg, giving testimony for the prosecution, told of a meeting that had taken place at Ike Ogg's house in December 1922, attended by Hale, Spencer, Gregg and Max Billingsley. A bottle was passed round and the talk was evidently friendly, but Spencer refused to be drawn into Hale's plans; and, when a second meeting was arranged some time later, he failed to turn up. Five months later, however, Gregg and Lee Clingan had a meet with Hale on the Fairfax road and were offered $3,000 to murder a wealthy Indian named W. E. Smith. Clearly less discriminating than Spencer, Gregg considered accepting the deal and actually went to the Smith home to size it up; but, in the end, he found that he also lacked the stomach for cold-blooded murder. The Smith family were eventually blown up on Hale's orders by a thug named Ace Kirby.

Towards the end of 1922, possibly working belatedly on the theory that they should not foul their own nest, Spencer and his cronies moved their field of operations from Oklahoma to southern Kansas, as can be seen from the robberies at Valeda, Towanda and Independence.

On Thursday, January 11, 1923, three bandits held up the Virgil Bank at Virgil, an oilfield village in Greenwood County, Kansas, about seventy miles north of the Oklahoma line. They escaped with about $3,000, but six miles south of town their car broke down and they hijacked another from two worthies named Banty Johnson and Pike Ditty (who with such names must surely have been "good old boys.") As they drove through Quincey, some citizens, who had been alerted to the bank robbery, but were unaware that they now had hostages, pot-shotted at them, three times wounding the unfortunate Pike.

Letting the wounded man go, the bandits continued southward, but had gone only a few miles when the hijacked car broke down near Toronto. They took cover in some woodland -- some two hundred officers and civilians now scouring the countryside for them -- and, after dark, hijacked yet another car from posseman Billy Peters. They continued to Coffeyville without further adventures, freed Peters and Banty Johnson, who by this time must have been exhausted, and crossed the line into Oklahoma.

Five days later, Tuesday, January 16, Al Spencer, Ralph Clopton, Henry Wells and Emmett Daugherty raided the Cambridge State Bank in the village of Cambridge, Cowley County, Kan. Cashier M. F. Hampton was busy on a balance sheet when the bandits arrived in a Studebaker. One, probably Wells, stayed in the car, Daugherty stationed himself at the door of the bank and the others entered, threw guns on the cashier and a clerk and ordered them not to move. The banker, Mr. Benjamin, returned from posting a letter and was ordered to "open up the jug." He made such a hash of it, either deliberately or through nervousness, that eventually Spencer told him impatiently to get out of the way and stand against the wall.

The safe, which turned out to be already open, was looted, as was the vault. During proceedings, an elderly customer entered the bank and refused Daugherty's order to hand over his cash. Daugherty hit him on the head with his revolver, which accidentally went off, sending a slug into the ceiling. Spencer ran over yelling "Who done that?", and when he learned what had happened promptly hit the old man again.

The loot, as given later by the Tulsa Daily World, came to $175 in silver, $8,000 in currency and $9,350 worth of bonds.

As the gang dashed from the bank, aware that the gunshot would have aroused the area, a local man named Van Hamilton was standing and gawking on the sidewalk. He was quickly bundled into the car, presumably as a hostage, and the bandits roared off. Their flight back to Oklahoma, however, became a gauntlet of gunfire. Alert officers let fly at them as they drove through Dexter and Cedarvale, and again as they approached the Oklahoma line. According to Wells' account, in which he referred to Cambridge only as "a little town up in the edge of Kansas," they allowed nothing to stop them, crashing through gates and fences as the need arose. At an area of pastureland known as the Big Green, just inside Oklahoma, some fences wire became tangled in the car wheels. Clopton jumped out to free it just as another posse arrived on the scene.

The possemen brought their car to a halt and jumped out shooting, and Clopton went down with wounds in his arm and shoulder and a bullet through the lung. His companions hauled him back into the car and somehow they managed to get away, the Studebaker now badly shot up, with one wheel in ribbons. By now, according to later accounts, only Spencer and Wells remained unhurt. Daugherty had been wounded in both legs and the hostage, Hamilton, semi-conscious from a head wound received in the shooting at Dexter. It was decided that Clopton and Hamilton were too badly hurt to travel any further. Clopton was left at the Henry Mayes farm, eight miles north of Pawhuska, the understanding being that Mayes would fetch a doctor to see to him, while the unfortunate Hamilton was left in a barn nearer the city.

On the outskirts of Pawhuska, the remaining three bandits finally ditched the wrecked Studebaker, and at about 9 p.m. held up a local florist named C. C. Martin, who was out in his yard preparing his own car for a trip next day. Without allowing him to tell his wife what was up, they announced that they were moonshiners escaping from the law, and ordered him to drive them to Bartlesville. Whey they got there, they quickly stole a new Buick that was parked on the street, gave Martin $10 for his trouble and ordered him to get himself back to Pawhuska.

The Buick was later found abandoned in a wooded area south of Bartlesville, close to a little-used route into the Osage Hills, which ties in with Henry Wells' claim that they made their way, finally, to a hideout near Okesa.

When Van Hamilton was discovered, by now delirious from his wound, it was assumed that he was one of the bandits; and, even after the full story of the holdup was revealed, it was some time before he was finally cleared.

Martin, the florist, made his way back to Pawhuska, but by a roundabout routs, and without stopping on the way to notify the police or anyone else of his experience, which might suggest that the $10 he was given was an incentive to "keep quiet" for a while. Some of the press milked the story for its entertainment value - - the Osage County News hinted (obviously as a joke) that he had made up the story just so that he could have a late night out.

"However," concluded the article, "Mr. Martin denies the charges and says that he never wants another such experience. Likewise, Mrs. Martin says she does not want him to pull any more bank robbery stuff like that for an excuse to get away. All he has to do now is to tell her that he's going up town for a while."

Ralph Clopton, meanwhile, had been turned in to Sheriff C. A. Cook by the farmer Henry Mayes, and in jail at Pawhuska readily confessed to his part in the robbery. He named Spencer as the boss, but said that he didn't know the other two robbers. According to some reports, he confessed to two Oklahoma and three Kansas bank robberies; however, according to Arthur Lamb, he only confessed to that at Cambridge and the earlier one at Talala, Okla., tried at Claremore on March 3, 1923, convicted of the Talala robbery and imprisoned for fifteen years.

This time over a month passed before the next strike, at Chautauqua, Kan., just over the state line from the Osage. About 3 p.m. on Monday, February 19, two bandits strode into the Chautauqua State Bank, and while the younger one -- judged to be in his early twenties -- set about collecting the loot, the older one held cashier R. A. Burns and his wife at pistol point, drawing from Burns a later comment to a reporter of the Bartlesville Morning Examiner (2/2/1923): "That fellow knew his business for he was as cool a man as I ever seen. He joked me about a gun I had under the money till, about what a poor town this is, and many other things. Twice he cautioned the younger fellow to go slow and not get scared."

The pair escaped with about $1,000, driving south in a Hudson speedster stolen the previous week from an Osage Indian in Pawhuska. Burns and several citizens piled into a car and set off in pursuit, following them into Oklahoma. Cresting a summit on the road, they suddenly came upon the bandits' car halted ahead of them, the younger bandit working on a flat tire while the older one stood with his rifle at the ready. Losing their nerve at the confrontation, they drove on past and didn't stop until they had put a couple of corners between themselves and the bandits.

While the others went off to fetch reinforcements, Burns left the car and made his way back on his own through the trees, in time to see the bandits abandon their car and take to the woods. As word of the holdup spread, other posses joined the hunt, and an Osage Indian named Matt Bowhan took off to help the searchers in his oil-rich son's airplane, purchased the previous week. He found where they had left their car, and actually spotted them in the woods, trying to burrow out of sight among fallen leaves; but, by the time he had directed other searchers to the scene, they had vanished.

At first, cashier Burns identified the bandits as Al Spencer and Dick Gregg, but this came into doubt when it was recognized that the descriptions given of the bandits fitted neither man. Eight days after the holdup the Bartlesville Daily Enterprise reported that "investigation has shown that Spencer was not present when the robbery took place," and on April 25 the same newspaper said that "at the time it was thought that the robbery was comitted by Spencer and Dick Gregg; but, with the evidence uncovered by the police, Wells and Vince are known to be the guilty persons." The "Wells" referred to was, of course, Henry Wells, and the "Vince" was Scott Vince, son of a grocery-store owner on the Pawhuska-Bartlesville road, who protested vehemently that his boy had never been in trouble before in his life.

All that being said, Wells in his memoirs actually admitted that he was one of the Chautauqua robbers, revealing that they had escaped from the searching possemen in the woods by stealing a car from a local rancher and driving to Bartlesville, whence the obliging Stanley Snyder drove them back to the Osage the same night. He also mentioned that, while they were escaping from the robbery, the gear lever of the getaway car had got stuck in second -- a fact which had been commented on by press reports of the robbery after the abandoned car was examined.

Both men were arrested on April 24: Wells at his brother Sol's home near Okesa, Vince at his father's store. Neither Burns nor his wife was able to identify them, however, despite Wells' later assertion that he was guilty, and after three days in the jug, they were set free.

By early 1923, Al Spencer's name cropped up in one newspaper or another virtually every day. Sometimes these reports were speculative or anecdotal, and frequently tinged with humour, such as the snippet about 11-year old Arthur Bales of Bartlesville who ran off to Okesa armed with a box of chocolates with which he intended to lure Spencer out of the Osage. The press took delight in reporting his father's reaction when he telephoned asking his pa to come and collect him: since the whippersnapper had got to Okesa under hisown steam, let him make his own darn way home!

Maybe young Arthur's plan would have worked at that, for only a couple of days earlier, another report had Dick Gregg sitting in a car parked near the City Hall in Bartlesville, engine running, while Spencer bought a pile of chocolate bars in an adjacent store.

On April 4, 1923, the Bartlesville Morning Examiner printed the following letter, presumably largely tongue-in-cheek:

"If the editor will be kind enough to print this, I wish to correct a very mistaken opinion you seem to have of these two prominent men, Al Spencer and Dick Gregg. Everyone supposed to have seen them describes them as roughly dressed and rough speaking. On the contrary, Al speaks very soft and slow, and Dick, while speaking swiftly, speaks each word distinctly. As to their manner of dress, I will tell you how they were dressed as I walked down the street between them a week ago. Gregg wore a brown tailor-made suit of the latest style, soft brown hat, brown shoes, hose and gloves; a tank silf shirt and black tie. He wore tortoise-shell glasses and carried a slender cane. Spencer was dressed likewise except his attire was grey and he wore nose-glasses.

Neither had guns strapped on. They seldom do now. But, in their coat pocket, each carried a tiny pearl-handled gun. I know, for when we got in their black low-swung high-powered roadster, I sat between them and Gregg took his gun, it being in the way, and dropped in in my lap saying I would have to keep "bogies" away while he drove. The roadster is their favourite car.

But, how can they be so well-dressed in a camp? Well, their camp would be taken for a millionaire sportsman's camp. They carry a dynamo on one car and have the camp lit with electric lights. They even carry a portable bathtub and each has a personal servant. Gregg said they did not even have to oil their own guns, but preferred to, though his man, a fello0w whose life he saved, took better care of them than he did.

They always stop at the best hotels when traveling and have a good many different disguises. Spencer in one disguise is known as a good friend of a certain officer. You can see how mistaken the fellow was who thought he overheard Gregg say he wanted pip corn (sic). They never call each other by name but have nicknames; and Gregg don't like popcorn.

Gregg, when among friends, is a dreamy-eyed boy. He was just a fun-loving kid at home, but every theft and bad deed in the neighborhood was wrongly laid to him. He resented it, but when his boyhood sweetheart believed the tales, he swore he would show her he could be a real "bad man", not a sneak thief. And he always keeps his word. And once in, you know there is no way out of the spider's web. As for Spencer, there are many stories as to why he became an outlaw, but no one, not even his best friend, Gregg, knows the real reason."

It was not all fun and games, however. On the night of March 7, two men in a Ford car sped past Chief of Police Gaston's home in Bartlesville, firing several shots at the house. One bullet passed through the spot were Gaston's 14-year old daughter had been sitting shortly before. Although it was speculated that Spencer might have been involved, it went no further than that until much later when the widow of Stanley Snyder stated that her husband had twice helped Spencer in unsuccessful attempts to murder Gaston.

On March 27, 1923, the Bartlesville Daily Enterprise reported in wonderfully dramatic sytle:

"Al Spencer, hunted chief of a desperate band of bank robbers, was reported wounded but still at the head of five survivors of his band now engaged in a pitched battle with a big posse in the wooded hills three and one-half miles south of Terlton, Okla....The bandits are already surrounded by a cordon of steel dealing death-fire at every point. Crawling slowly up the wooded hillside, grim-faced possemen are inch by inch closing in on the desperado and his four pals, raking the top with steel jacketed bullets as they draw to death grips with the dangerous outlaws."

All very colorful, but not particularly accurate.

On Monday afternoon, March 26, 1923, in a Buick touring car stolen shortly before in Cherokee, four men drove into Mannford, twenty miles west of Tulsa, Okla...and pulled up outside the State Bank, occupied only by sisters Cornelia and Juanita Coonrod. One bandit took a stance by the door; two others entered the bank. As Juanita Coonrod later told the Bartlesville Daily Enterprise:

"I walked to the cashier's window and asked the men what they wanted while my sister continued working on the books. 'Where is the cashier?' one of the men asked me. I told him I was the cashier. 'Well, aren't there any men here?' was his next question. I explained that father was the head of the bank but had gone to the country for the morning. At that both men pulled revolvers and said 'Stick up your hands, girls.' Then, one of them kept a gun on me while the other ran around and confronted sister, who had screamed as the guns were drawn. Sister's screams attracted Harry Zeickafoose, who works in the store next door. As he rushed in to see what was the matter, the robbers backed him up against the wall. Then, one of them lined us up all three together with our hands in the air while the other went through the tills, taking about six hundred dollars."

Cornelia's scream had evidently alerted more than Harry Zeickafoose, for as the gang jumped into their car and sped away, several shots were fired after them. A posse was quickly organized under Deputy Sheriff Rider Bruner and the chase began. About five miles out, near Terlton, the bandit car was found, one man trying in vain to mend a punctured tire, but the other three nowwhere in sight. He surrendered without a fight, saying that his name was Harry Roher, but later indentifying himself as Leo Sturtz, a motor mechanic from Tulsa.

The rest of the gang were spotted making their way up a wooded hillside, and as evening drew in a small army of officers and civilians from Pawnee, Creek and Tulsa Counties got set to storm the hill. Several shots were exchanged, one of them knocking Deputy Bruner's pistol from his hand, but none of the possemen were wounded. Eventually, one of the bandits was seen to fall; and, shortly afterwards, his body was found by the advancing officers, carefully laid out by his companions. During the night the remaining pair managed to slip through the cordon, and at about 3 a.m. begged a drink of water from a farmer just outside Mannford, after which nothing more was heard of them.

The following day, with scores of officers and civilians continuing to search the area, a trigger-happy posseman fired at what he thought was a bandit skulking through the trees, and mortally wounded fellow searcher Jackson Ringer.

The slain bandit -- middle aged, short and heavily built, with prominent cheekbones, sallow complexion, grey-streaked hair and several gold teeth -- turned out to be A. G. "Bud" Maxfield, one of Henry Starr's team in the Stroud raid of 1915, and a badman since as far back as the late 1880's. As befitting his status, he was given a fine send-off in the Second Presbyterian Church at Tulsa, and the Tulsa Daily World later wrote:

"Bud Maxfield is dead. Another of these picturesque characters of the old territorial days when men were measured not by their prowess in business but by their prowess with the six-pistol, has crossed the Great Divide...His journey into eternity started not at the bid of sickness or the call of old age, but by the spatting of guns handled by officers of the law...Although Maxfield was never regarded as one of the dangerous gunmen of territorial days, his close associates and pals were always those who were quick on the draw and possessed exceedingly nervous trigger fingers."

A couple of days after the robbery, Leo Sturtz confessed to Tom Wallace, County Attorney of Creek County, saying that the gang -- himself, Maxfield, Al Spencer and "a tall man they called Flinn" -- had congregated at Sandy McMillan's roadhouse about four miles north of Tulsa prior to driving to Mannford. His own role, he said, had been to drive the others to and from the robbery, for a fee of $300. He also claimed that he had not even been in Mannford, having been dropped off outside town on the way in and picked up agian on the way out. This seems a bit unlikely, the primary function of the getaway driver being to provide quick escape from the scene of the crime. If he was indeed dropped off outside town, the reason would have had to have been, as they say, that he "chickened out."

Although he named Spencer as one of the gang, and the Coonrod sisters picked out Spencer from photographs as one of the bandits who entered the bank, there is some doubt that Spencer was actually present. Deputy U.S. Marshal John Moran, who apparently kept extensive files on Spencer and Bud Maxfield, said that he had never come across any connection between the two, and doubted that they would work together. The Mannford robbery, he suggested, was purely the work of Tulsa men with no assistance from Spencer.

This is substantiated to some extent by the report that the day after the robbery, Spencer and a couple of others drove openly around the streets of Bartlesville, waving and shouting to acquaintances. Had he been hunted nearly to his death only hours before, it is unlikely that he would have had the appetite or the stamina for such antics.

Two other names subsequently mentioned in connection with Mannford were Clarence "Pat" Ward and H. E. "Big Boy" Berry, alias Jesse Paul, either of whom might have been the mysterious "Flinn." Whatever the case, no proceedings appear to have been taken against them.

Leo Sturtz made the newspapers again on the night of May 23 when he and ten other small time criminals, among them Jack Starr, another alleged nephew of the famous, Henry Starr, broke jail at Sapulpa. If he was later recaptured it would appear that the press didn't consider the fact worth reporting.

The Gentry, Ark., bank robbery -- possibly the only bank holdup that Spencer pulled in that state -- appears to have been the brainchild of one Carl Reasor, a veteran of the Spanish-American War who lived with his wife and four children at Rowe in northeastern Oklahoma, fairly close to the Arkansas line.

- - - - - - - TO BE CONTINUIED - - - - - -
Posts: 195 | Registered: Mon December 15 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I agree with Rick, this is great information.
I've been trying to find something on J. Majors for years. He is an uncle by marriage, and the family stories abound, but no one really has an exact date or information.
This is more than I have been able to find in years.
Anything that anyone else can contribute on
Majors would be appreciated.

Posts: 7 | Registered: Mon December 08 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<Old West>
More information about Al Spencer and his gang, compiled by David Murray of Inverness, Scotland, in 1996:

The Gentry, Ark., bank robbery - possibly the only bank holdup that Spencer pulled in that state - appears to have been the brainchild of one Carl Reasor, a veteran of the Spanish-American War who lived with his wife and four children at Rowe in northeastern Oklahoma, fairly close to the Arkansas line.

"The plan" said Henry Wells, "was to take two cars down there and stash one with Oklahoma license plates this side of the line and take the other one into Gentry to rob the bank. We was going to drive the car out a few miles from Gentry and then take to horses to get over the hilly rough country. That way, they couldn't trace us, because they wouldn't find out about the horses until it was too late..." Reasor's contribution was to supply the horses, and to map out the best escape route from Gentry back across the line. Which being said, Gentry was literally only a few miles from the Oklahoma border.

Towards the end of January 1923, under the name of Clifford, (Al) Spencer rented a 50-acre farm in Delaware County, Okla., adjacent to Arkansas, leaving it in charge of his part Indian half-brother, Campbell Keys, who, he explained to the owner of the property, was a dope-head undergoing a cure, and needed the isolation. Subsequently, Spencer (alias Clifford) made several trips to the farm accompanied by his girlfriend, ostensibly to see how Keys was getting on, but actually to complete plans for the Gentry robbery.

The identify of the actual bank robbers is, as usual, slightly controversial, but only slightly. (Arthur) Shoemaker names them as Spencer, Wells, Gragg and Bud Ewers, but how he came by this list is anybody's guess. Wells, who gave a vivid account of the robbery, listed them as "me an' Al Spencer an' Ralph White an' Nick Lamar an' some more boys"; but, as his tale progressed, it became clear that he was referring to the gang as "they" rather than "we", and there is no reason to suppose that he was present. In fact, from identifications by witnesses, subsequent confessions and reportage by the press, if is fairly certain that they were Spencer, Nick Lamar, Big Boy Berry and Ralph White, with a fifth man to look after the horses. He was named by Wells as Si Fogg, but could have been an elderly Indian outlaw named Red Cloud Scruggs, who was later implicated in the robbery by Big Boy Berry, and was killed in a holdup later the same year.

Lamar and Berry have been mentioned before. Both were hard-bitten badmen in their mid-thirties: Berry, a World War I veteran who had reportedly served nineteen months in France; Lamar, a native of Atlanta, Ga., and one of Spencer's earlier criminal associates, like Spencer, had been imprisoned for the Kansas store burglary in 1919; however, he had escaped after three years and was rumoured to have taken part in several Spencer holdups.

Ralph White is a more elusive figure. He was fairly often referred to in the press, and on occasion was described as Spencer's "right hand man". If this was true, however, it was not a relationship that lasted very long.

About noon on Saturday, March 31, 1923, the bandits drove into Gentry in a new Studebaker car, which had been hijacked in Bartlesville three nights before from a businessman named W. C. Smith.

While White stayed at the wheel, the other three walked into the First National Bank. President Marion Wasson, cashier J. Napp Covey and three others were ordered to raise their hands; and, while Berry and Lamar held them at pitol-point, Spencer bustled about scooping up whatever currency and silver he could find, a grand total of $2,053 and sixteen cents. In the midst of the proceedings, a female employee managed to push an alarm button with her foot and within seconds armed citizens wer converging on the bank.

Shoving their victims into the vault, the gang "lit out with lead flying at 'em from every corner." With all their planning, however, they hadn't thought to cut the telephone wires leading out of town, and the news of the holdup was quickly broadcast ahead of them. As they approached the hamlet of Bloomfield, two or three miles west of Gentry, a crowd of officers and civilians armed with rifles and shotguns stationed themselves behind a stone wall fronting the village store.

"When Al and the boys reached there," related Henry Wells, "Winchesters and shotgun slugs tore into the car from behind the stone walls. Nick Lamar was the first man out with a bullet in his shoulder and his legs all shot to hell. They slung plenty bullets theirselves and I bet they's some of them old timers down there still carrying bandits' lead. Ralph White got shot in the side and arms and Al got a slug through the fleshy part of his right arm. They got past the store still right side up and come on to where they had the horses hid. Well, here's where trouble hit hard. The boys didn't have anything but iodine to doctor their wounds with and nothing but strips of their clothes for bandages."

About eleven miles west of Gentry, and now well within Oklahoma, the gang abandoned Smith's badly shot-up and bloodstained car (which was returned to its rueful owner in this condition a day or so later) and hauled themselves painfully onto the waiting horses. On their subsequent ride across country, they had to stop every few minutes to rest and tend their wounds, and it was several hours before they reached Carl Reasor's home. A doctor was summoned but had still not arrived when two Delaware County Deputy Sheriffs turned up, accompanied by Sheriff George Maples of Benton County, Ark.

Spencer and White appeared at the door of the house and loosed a barrage of shots at the officers, wounding Deputy Ben Smith and narrowly missing Maples. The officers scattered for cover, and seconds later, the outlaws burst from the rear of the house and escaped into the brush, leaving fresh bloodstains behind them. When the officers got into the house a few minutes later, without further bloodshed, they arrested Reasor, Campbell Keys and a young man named George Tibbs; and, in a barn nearby, they found a Cadillac stolen in Bartlesville a coupld of weeks before. To avoid red tape, Reasor and Keys were whisked at once across the state line and lodged in jail at Bentonville, Ark.

The bandits, meanwhile, had presumably retrieved their horses, for according to Wells they had another painful day in the saddle before hiding up the second night after the holdup in the graveyard of a small town on the Grand River. Spencer, evidently the least wounded, walked into town and, explaining to inquisitive townsfolk that he had been on a fishing trip and had wrecked his car, telephoned Stanley Snyder at Bartlesville.

In the interim, his companions had managed to scrounge four dozen eggs from a local farmer. Recalled Wells: "When by the time Al got back the boys had built a fire and boild and et all them eggs, they was that hungry. Al shore was sore when he found out they hadn't saved him any."

A few hours later, Stanley Snyder and another shady character named Pat Durkin arrived in a big Packard sedan and transported the woebegone crew back to the Osage.

Over the following months, robberies continued to plague Oklahoma banks. A number were in the Osage Hills area and were tentatively credited to the Spencer circle -- such as those at Hockerville and Fairfax, and three successive holdups at Barnsdall -- but, only two further major crimes were fairly definitely ascribed to Spencer, and one of them destroyed whatever regard the residents of the Osage might have held for him.

If Spencer was indeed guilty of the Pawhuska post office raid, it was an unusual job for him -- the first night-time robbery he had attempted for certainly several years. As with most after-dark robberies, the facts were confusing if only for the fact that it was difficult for witnesses to see exactly what was going on.

At about 11 o'clock on Monday evening, April 16, a boisterous group of several men and two women, apparently late-night revellers, drove into Pawhuska in two large touring cars and parked near the post office. When Deputy U.S. Marshal Tom Walton went to have a word with them, a pistol was stuck in his face and he was ordered to lie down in the street as, shortly after, was Harry Foster, a driver for the Yellow Cab Co. Without more ado, two or three of the robbers broke into the post office building while three men and two women stayed outside, the men stationed at various points around the vicinity.

Some time after midnight, Star Taxicab driver Kels "Shorty" Harrison locked his cab up for the night and began strolling home, being joined on the way by Bob Wilkerson, son of a former chief of police, and himself a special officer with the Pawhuska department. Chatting casually, they reached the post office and prepared to go their seperate ways. As Harrison turned, however, a robber stationed behind a tree shouted at him to stop, then blasted him with a shotgun. Harrison fell with several pieces of No. 4 buckshot in his lower body, then got up and staggered for a block before falling again. Wilkerson, in the process of drawing his pistol, was also shotgunned, several pieces of No. 4 taking him in the arms and legs, and one severing the femoral artery in his left groin.

"You ignorant bastard" one of the women reportedly screamed at the shooter. "You've shot two innocent men and now there'll be hell to pay." Seconds later, a tremendous explosion rocked the post office, shattering windows, wrecking the inside of the building and blasting the inner door of the safe off so violently that it hit the ceiling and landed thirty feet away. At the same time, the inner door was buckled inward in such a way that it couldn't be opened.

The blast brought local residents to their doors and into the streets "in various stages of undress" and the robbers on guard outside began loosing off their firearms at random. As many as fifty shots were fired, many of them lodging in the walls of nearby houses and several narrowly missing the townsfolk. So intense was the gunfire, apparently, that the area round the post office was wreathed in smoke.

Empty-handed, the robbers inside rushed from the post office, the whole gang piled into their cars and they roared off in the direction of Bartlesville.

Harrison and Wilkerson, both critically wounded, were rushed to the hospital. Within a couple of days, Harrison was well enought to sit up in bed, smoking a cigar and "conversing rationally with those about him," but Wilkerson died several hours after being shot. What made his death particularly tragic was that he was only twenty-two, and had been due to be married the following day.

Within half-an-hour, Sheriff Cook of Pawhuska was on the trail of the gang, accompanied by Osage County assistant county attorney, L.A. Justus, Jim Jenkins, Harry Mays, Scotty Harrison, John Henderson and Indian Officer A. M. Boyd. Their difficulties compounded by the fact that it was dark, they cast about here and there, heading first towards Kansas, then southward again and finally, after several hours, concluding that they had no idea where the outlaws had gone. They were planning to go into the Osage Hills when they were joined by J. W. Robinson of the Pinkerton Agency in Bartlesville and A. B. Cooper of the Burns Agency in Kansas City, and, shortly afterwards, by Bartlesville officers John Creed and Harve Parrick.

The newcomers, it was reported, suggested that they had an idea who the robbers were; with nothing else to go on, the Pawhuska men agreed to go along with them; and, so it was that at about 5 p.m., roughly seventeen hours after the post office affair, the combined posses descended on the Ward home, located three miles south of Ochelata.

Creed and Parrick were in the house questioning a couple of women occupants when a bullet crashed through the ceiling from the attic above. They and the other officers responded by sending a barrage of shots into the attic until there were yells of surrender and Ed Shull and Clarence Ward emerged, the latter's right femur shattered by a rifle bullet. With them were found two high-powered rifles, a Luger automatic pistol and about 1,000 rounds of ammunition, ample corroboration of the already-known fact that they were not the most upright citizens.

It was later rumoured that Campbell Keys had been in the attic as well, but somehow escaped detection; but, quite naturally, this was pooh-poohed by the posse.

Ed Shull (alternatively given in the newspapers as Schull, Shell and Schell) was a suspect in at least two bank robberies, and wanted for the wounding of Pawhuska officer T. E. Van Noy a few months before. He insisted plaintively that he had fired at the posse "merely to scare them away," and that he had only set eyes on Al Spencer once in his life. As to the post office raid, he knew nothing about that. After considerable squabbling between the Bartlesville officers and the Pawhuska men, he was taken to Pawhuska; but, within hours, he was spirited back to Bartlesville when it became obvious that a lynch-mob was building up. According to the Pawhuska Daily Capital, he was a badly-frightened man by the time he was lodged in the comparative safety of the Washington County jail in Bartlesville.

Anxious to avoid being involved in the Pawhuska affair, Shull made a written confession to the recent Caddo bank robbery in Bryan County. Six days after his capture, acting presumably on information supplied by him, A. B. Cooper, officers Creed and Parrick and Julius Payne of Vinita raided Sol Wells' home near Okesa and arrested Earl Holman.

The pair were taken to Bryan County where Shull was quickly convicted and, owing to his confession, given a mere five years' imprisonment. Holman was tried at Durant on July 24, convicted and sent away for thirty years.

Shull's light term drew from the Osage County News the comment: "Instead of letting the Osage County officials force a confession out of him on the charge of being connected with the Pawhuska post office affair, the officials of Washington County seemed anxious to let the Caddo officials take Schell and give him a light sentence. Why this attitude we cannot tell, but it seems queer to the people of Pawhuska and Osage County . . . "

In reporting the capture of Shull and Ward, Sheriff Cook praised his own men above the others in the posse, claiming that it was his high-powered rifles that had won the day. The Osage County News later went as far as to say that the Bartlesville men had actually "tumbled over one another" in their anxiety to get out of the line of fire when the shooting began. The Bartlesville Daily Enterprise reponded in equally vituperative style, pointing out that Creed and Parrick had also been armed with high-powered rifles, and claiming that it was the Osage County men who had shown the white feather. But, all this was only a manisfestation of the more-or-less continuous rivalry and bickering that went on between the various counties, their officers and their newspapers.

Clarence Ward, who allegedly had been "a good, honest, industrious country kid" before being corrupted by his wife into "a desperado, and a dangerous one," was too seriously wounded to face any legal proceedings and, indeed, his shattered leg later had to be amputated. Although a suspect in several Al Spencer robberies, as mentioned previously, he was charged with the Caddo job following Shull's confession, but was freed on $10,000 bond due to his weak condition. When his case was called, he failed to turn up for trial. When it was found that he was still suffering badly from his wound, this was overlooked and his bond was reinstated. What became of him has yet to be ascertained.

While it was not officially established who had pulled the Pawhuska raid, and who had killed Bob Wilkerson, within a few days the general opinion was that it had been the work of Spencer and his cronies rather than Ward and Shull. A crook named Riley Dixon (later one of the Okesa train robbers) was named as a suspect, as were Big Boy Berry and Ralph White, and for a while the latter was suspected as Wilkerson's actual killer. Eventually, however, following statements by various captured outlaws, the finger of suspicion pointed at Spencer himself, which certainly doesn't conflict with the description that the killer had weighed around 145 pounds and had several days' growth of sandy-coloured beard. That being said, the view was also expressed that Spencer always contrived to be where the money was; and, that if he had acted true to form, he would have been one of those inside the post office, rather than on guard outside.

Following the capture of the Caddo robbers, other outlaws soon found themselves in the toils.

On Saturday morning, April 21, driving a Cadillac stolen recently in Tulsa, Spencer, three other men and a woman bought supplies at a country store near the Post Oak schoolhouse, then drove east towards Wayside and stopped to rustle up breakfast at Post Oak Creek. Word of their presence was relayed to Bartlesville, where Sheriff Andrew Henderson got together an expeditionary force and set off in pursuit. They soon found the Caddy abandoned on a farm at Coon Creek, four miles southeast of Wayside, and a man was spotted running off across country about a quarter-mile away. In the car were blankets and camping gear, hair clippers an safety razors, food, an overcoat with buckshot holes in it and another with the name R. White marked on it, and various firearms including a folding Mauser rifle known to have belonged to Spencer for several months, and believed to have been used in the attacks on Chief Gaston's home at Bartlesville.

Numerous other officers and civilians joined the Henderson posse to scour the area and late in the afternoon, about two miles from where the car was abandoned, a member of the Anti-Automobile Theft Association found a man lying on the ground behind a fallen log. Plainly exhausted, he offered no resistance although armed with a rifle and a .38 revolver, and a belt of cartridges round his waist. He turned out to have a nubmer of buckshot wounds on his back and elsewhere, a partly due to a scar on his neck was quickly identified as Nick Lamar.

A couple of weeks later, Friday, May 4, officers at Amarillo, Tex., stopped a Nash car and arrested the occupants, who transpired to be the much-wanted Big Boy Berry, a convicted Texas horse-thief named Carl Priss, and Al Spencer's girl friend, Goldie Bates. The car was found to have been hijacked from a man in Ochelata, Okla., the evening before the Pawhuska raid.

The trio were returned to Oklahoma where Priss and the girl were freed soon after, no evidence being found to connect them with any current crimes. There was some debate as to what to do with Lamar and Berry. Both were suspected in Oklahoma bank robberies, where the penalty for bank robbry was five to fifty years. In Arkansas, the maximum penalty was twenty-one years, but what tipped the balance was that, presumably, to avoid charges in the Pawhuska affair, the pair confessed to the Gentry robbery and were duly handed over to Arkansas.

In the Benton County circuit court at Bentonville on June 2, 1923, they were convicted and consigned to the State Penitentiary; Berry for 7-10 years, Lamar for 15-20 years.

As to the others involved in Gentry, Campbell Keys, arrested with Carl Reasor after the robbery but later freed due to lack of evidence, was finally picked up at Nowata in September 1923 after evidence had been found positively linking him with the robbery. He was ostensibly being taken to Jay to face auto-theft charges when his escort "strayed' over the state line into Arkansas and bumped into none other than the Sheriff of Benton County, very conveniently armed with a warrant for Keys. Without further ado, the Oklahoma officers handed him over, thereby saving themselves and Arkansas a lot of extradition paperwork.

Subsequently, Reason and Keys were convicted as accessories in the Gentry robbery and sentenced to three and five years, respectively.

Ralph White, the fourth member of the actual robbers, appears to have parted company with Spencer about this time; and any rate, there was no real suggestion that he was mixed up in the Okesa train robbery. He survived the final dissolution of the Spencer entourage and for some months managed to keep a low profile; but, on September 13, 1924, he was arrested after a shootout with Sheriff Cook and several deputies near Pawhuska. Two others arrested with him, Blaine Nichols and Roscoe Smith, were later freed -- although, when arrested, the trio had been driving a stolen car. White, badly wounded in the battle, was turned over to the Arkansas authorities, having been positively identified as one of the Gentry gang. As with others already mentioned, the final outcome of his case has yet to be uncovered.

Wrote the Pawhuska Daily Capital on July 21, 1923: "The robbing of banks in Osage County is reaching a place where it is a notorious disgrace. Something should be done to stop this pastime on the part of criminals that are making this county their rendezvous . . . Would it not be sensible just for a few weeks for the officers now working on the capturing of manufacturers of booze to take a vacation from that duty and go out and capture a bank robber, or two? This paper does favour a strong and aggresive move to stop the sale of liquor; however, it does seem that too much time is spent in the chasing of booze hounds at a time when the banks are being robbed . . . This flirting of the bank robbers with the officers here should stop . . . It is common talk that the rendezvous of the bank robbers is near Okesa, and that place is within twenty miles of this city. If a civil army must be oranized, then let's have it."

The question of why Spencer, operating within a fairly limited area and never, apparently, straying far from the Osage, should not have been killed or captured so far, is a good one, and no doubt complex. One reason that he had evaded capture was the inability of the various authorities to work together, and another may well have been the greater than normal proportion of outlaws and outlaw-sympathisers who inhabited the Osage at that time, most of them presumably happy to help each other out when the going got rough. Yet another must have been the sheer risk involved. Spencer had more than once announced that he would never be taken alive, which implied, of course, that he would fight to the death if cornered. Many must have reckoned that the dangers were not worth the potential rewards.

Rewards themsevles were always a tricky problem. At the latter part of his career, rumour had Spencer worth thousands of dollars, dead or alive, but the reality was less impressive. An article published at the start of 1923 commented:

"According to City, county and state officers, the alleged rewards being offered over the country for the capture of criminals are more or less of a joke. In a few cases, you get the reward but in most cases you can sit and whistle while waiting for it . . . There are many things to be considered in the capture of outlaws besides the reward, and before you go out to look for Spencer bear this in mind. When you are alive, you are here; and, when you are dead, there will be no rewards offered for your return."

The same article suggested that at that point, February 1923, the rewards offered for Spencer totalled no more than $500, a similar sum previously offered by the State of Kansas having had a ninety-day limit attached to it. Besides which, it added, institutions normally only paid out rewards on the conviction of criminals, and as the same criminals were usually only tried, convicted and imprisoned for one offence at a time, it could be years before rewards were paid out.

By July 1923, Spencer's hide was officially worth considerably more, the Benton County Bankers' Protective Association offiering $1,000; the post office department $200; the Arkansas State Bankers' Association $500; the National Surety Company $100; and, the Fidelity & Deposit Company of Maryland $100. A grand total of $1,900 -- still not really worth the risk of being killed or seriously injured.

When, following the Okesa Train Robbery, the rewards for Spencer finally reached genuinely substantial proportions, it was a different story altogether. (Okesa Train Robbery - Next!)

- - - - - - To Be Continued - - - - - -
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<Old West>
More information about Al Spencer and his gang, compiled by David Murray of Inverness, Scotland, in 1996:

In "A Dynasty of Western Outlaws" the late Paul I. Wellman devoted several paragraphs to Spencer's vanity, lust for publicity and desire to see himself equated with the "old-time outlaws" such as the Dalton gang, Bill Doolin, and Cherokee Bill.

"But presently," wrote Wellman, "the newspapers began to temper their descriptions of him. He might be in the old tradition, they said, but he lacked the real daring of the others. His robberies were all of banks -- easy game, the newspapers gibed, compared to robbing trains."

Later, in the same writing, he quoted newspaper editorials which labelled Spencer as a "Sure Thing Bandit" and a "Petty Bank Robber."

With due respect to Wellman, this was all nonsense. In the first place, while robbing trains was in some ways more technically complicated than robbing banks, it was certainly a less hazardous occupation. Bank robbers always faced the possibility of being shot at by armed and irate citizens at the scene of the crime, and a great many bank robbers were actually killed in the act. Train robbers, on the other hand, usually had only to contend with a crowd of frightened and unarmed passengers, a conductor whose job was to ensure that no harm came to these passangers, and at worst, a determined mail or express messenger whose defiance usually manifested itself not by rushing out with guns blazing, but by locking the door tight until, hopefully, the bandits departed. Very few train robbers were killed while robbing trains.

In the second place, no editor in his right mind would have described Al Spencer as "a sure thing bandit" or a "petty bank robber", which he very obviously was not. Furthermore, while the newspapers frequently resorted to colourful prose in describing outlaws' exploits, they certainly did not make a habit of inciting criminals to commit serious crimes, as Wellman's writing would suggest.

Apart from all than, it is highly unlikely that Spencer was the instigator of the only train robbery in which he took part. It is far more likely that it was the brainchild of Earl Thayer, a veteran Indian badman, who had been robbing boxcars on the Santa Fe railroad as far back as 1902, and was suspected of being the organizer of a train robbery by the Jeff Duree Gang at Edmond, Okla., in 1921. Henry Wells concurred with this viewpoint, stating that Thayer and Frank Nash were "the masterminds of the outfit when it came to train robbin'."

According to Wells, the first moves were fairly chaotic. Several of the bunch went to Arkansas to look for a likely holdup spot but failed to find anything that took their fancy. As they were driving home with a quart of nitro-glycerine on the runningboard, wrapped up in an old blanket, they discovered that the blanket was smouldering, presumably due to a carelessly discarded cigarett butt. Not knowing much about high explosives, they hastily dumped the bundle by the roadside and drove off without waiting to see if it exploded, which presumably it did not.

Having ruled out an out-of-state robbery, some of the gang favored the Oklahoma City area, but this was vetoed by Thayer, who lived in that city and wanted no heat in his own back yard. Spencer, apparently, not having the same qualms, plumped for Okesa, a flagstop on the Missouri-Kansas-Texas line midway between Pawhuska and the boundary of the Cherokee Nation, and consequently right on his doorstep.

The crew assembled for the robbery were Spencer himself, Earl Thayer, Frank Nash, Rile D. Dixon, Curtis Kelly, George Curtis (alias Whitey Fallon), and Grover C. Durrill, all but Durrill having served time in prison.

The date was arranged after Stanley Snyder provided the information that the Commercial National Bank at Muskogee intended to send a shipment of $20,000 in readily-negotiable Liberty Bonds to the State Treasurer in Oklahoma City. Ike Off suggested that the gang should wear rubber finger-stalls to avoid leaving fingerprints. This was agreed, and Ogg made the trip to Pawhuska to buy several sets of the things, which were distributed, although, as Wells commented, gloves would have done just as well.

Ogg's other main contribution to the scheme was to ensure that the selected train would stop at Okesa, which was only a flagstop; that is, the train would only stop there if someone wanted to get on or off. Ogg would board the train at Bartlesville and have the conductor halt it at Okesa, where the gang would be waiting. In the event, however, he was preparing to board the train at Bartlesville when he noticed another Okesa man getting on, a section foreman named Charley Carson. In the knowledge that the train would stop at Okesa with or without his help, he elected to stay in Bartlesville.

At 12:25 a.m. on Tuesday, August 21, 1923, the southbound M.K.T. train No. 123, the "Katy Limited", pulled in at Okesa to let Carson disembark; and, as it did so, the robbers moved into action.

A good account of the holdup was given by the train's fireman, Byron D. Tower, and printed in the Pawhuska Daily Captial of August 21. It read:

"We were notified just out of Bartlesville that we had a flag stop for Okesa. We made this stop and had hardly gotten under way once more when I happened to glance back from my seat at the left side of the engine cab. In the shadows, I fancied I could see a man clinging to the top of the tender. I turned full round and as I did so two men leaped down from the tender and confonted me. They ordered me to get down off my seat and I did so. One of the two, a big brutal fellow, who towered over me like a giant (Tower himself is no pygmy. He weighs 220 pounds and stands six feel tall.) jabbed a gun into my ribs and told me to lay down on the deck and be damned quick about it. As I laid down, he kicked me and told me to get up and turn over. As I started to rise, he struck me over the head with the gun.

I must have been unconscious for a matter of a minute or two. When I came to, I found myself lying face down on the deck. Blood was streaming into my eyes, blinding me, and my clothes wer soked with blood, while my head buzzed like a sawmill.

The train was just drawing to a stop. When it stopped, the big fellow kicked me again and made me get up and climb down to the ground. Taking me back to the conjunction of the baggage car and the first coach, he bade me loosen the coupling, which I set about doing. As I did so, I reached about to close the air locks, so as not to set the brakes on the forward cars. The bandit misunderstood my movements and jammed his gun into my ribs over my heart, he said, 'Make it snappy you @%^#*&@ or I'll blow your god-damned heart out'.

Finally, I got the coupling undone and the bandits ordered Engineer Miller to move the train forward a distance of about three car-lengths, which he did. The bandits then herded the four of us, Engineer Miller, the express and mail clerks, and myself, into the opening between the two sections of the train and made us sit down on the track, cursing us at every breath and repeatedly firing their guns to frighten us and probably terrorize the passengers. Then, they rifled the mail car and the express car but my head was so dizzy I did not see what they got or what they did.

After they got through with the express and mail cars, one of the men suggested that they go back and rob the passengers. One of the men, who seemed to be the leader of the band, sent two men back to look the cars over and they returned in a minute or two stating that the cars were locked. One of the men asked where the bottle of juice was, stating tht he would 'blow the damned car to Hell'. We interceded, telling him that that would mean many women and childere would be killed. Here, the leader interposed and said to let that go, but to line us up and shake us down. This two men proceeded to do. They took a watch and some money from the engineer and took my wallet, containing $10 in money, but left me my watch . . . I pleaded with them to take the money but to leave me my lodge receipts, union card and other papers which were in the wallet. They roughly declined to do this, however.

I think that there were five men altogether. When they got ready to leave, the leader called the roll aloud until he got five, and then remarked 'All here, all ready?' He ordered them to get to the car and beat it. I heard the automobile engine start somewhere over on the west side of the track beyond the engine and a moment later I heard the deep roar of a high-powered motor as it echoed between the hills and gradually died away into the night.

We recoupled the train and proceeded to Nelagony where I left the train and it proceeded to Oklahoma City under charge of Engineer Miller and Conductor Koch."

Engineer William C. Miller, a veteran of twenty years' service, added:

"I have been in smash-ups and have run trains through Oklahoma when most of it was Indian Territory, when most engineers carried a gun for their own protection, but last night was the worst ever. Imagine yourself at the mercy of a drunken outlaw who would not even listen to the leader of the gang."

It was found later, in hospital at Wynona, that Tower's skull had been dented, but fortunately not fractured, by one of the brutal blows.

It is hard to determine just what robber did what in the holdup. According to Wells, Curtis Kelly was assigned to guard the rear of the train while Grover Durrill and George Curtis kept the passengers in order. Wellman said that the bandits who climbed over the tender were Spencer and Nash, but this seems unlikely. The apparent leader of the gang, who wore a red handkerchief over his face, stage-robber style, as opposed to the ladies' stockings, eye-holes cut, worn by all the others, apologized to the crew for the big bandit's brutality, explaining:

"It's his first job and he let his nerves get the best of him."

Durrill was the only one of the crew likely to have been pulling "his first job", and standing just under six feet tall seems to have been the only one remotely approaching the "giant" description given by Fireman Tower. The best guess would be that Kelly, Curtis and Dixon stood guard in various positions while Thayer and Spencer tackled the money side of things and Nash and Durrill climbed over the tender and help up the crew.

Nash, reportedly a well-educated man, is generally reckoned to have been the red-masked bandit who -- "exceedingly cool throughout the entire operation" -- gave the others orders, while at the same time chatting amicably with the trainmen about "the merits of Samuel G. Blythe as a plitical writer", and about the recent death of President Warren G. Harding.

At any rate, the crew having been held up and the train divided, the express messenger, John Beaver, was ordered to open his safe, which yielded up not much more than some envelopes containing Katy railroad checks. When the bandits began opening them, Beaver dissuaded them, telling them they would do them no good, and would only get them in trouble.

"Hell," said one of the bandits, tossing the remainder of the envelopes back into the safe, "that's not what we're after anyway. Can't afford to fool with them."

They were luckier in the mail car where, after threatening mail clerks, Charles D. Weiss and Warren Burch, they laid their hands on the expected consignment of Libert Bonds, plus about twenty packages of registered mail. (A report four days after the robbery said that the loot included about $2,000 in cash, the twenty $1,000 Libert Bonds, and enough stuff from the registered mail to bring the total to somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000.)

They were prevented from robbing the passengers by the quick thinking of the black Pullman porter, T. J. Davis, who, when he realized that the train was being robbed, raced round and locked all the doors. He also made is way round the passengers trying unsuccessfully to get his hands on a gun, and telling a pressman later:

"I suppose they were all from Kansas. They sure wasn't from Oklahoma or they would all have had gats."

Other anecdotes emerged in the reporting of the holdup: about the fat man who squeezed under a seat to get out of harm's way and could hardly be hauled out again by several people when the holdup was over; or the female passenger who said she "had always heard that this was a rough country down in Oklahoma and she wished now that she hadn't come down this way at all." And, the nice little overtly racialist tale about the two blacks in the "jim crow car" who got down on the floor, one of them trying to crawl under the seat while a courageous white man told him he would be just as safe up above.

"Ah knows, boss," he replied, "but ah feels jest a lot more comfortable right down here, suh, yes suh, right down here."

Anyway, while the flagman ran back down the tracks, frantically waving a red lantern to halt an oncoming freight train, the bandits took their loot, piled into three cars parked near the tracks and drove away.

The robbery began to unravel, however, even while it was still in progress.

After alighting at Okesa, Charley Carson was walking home when he saw the lights of the train again pull to a stop, and a few moments later heard shots being fired. Running to a telephone box, he called the railroad authorities; and, only half-an-hour after the holdup, Osage County Sheriff C. A. Cook was called out of his bed and told what had taken place. As he hurried to the scene by car, officers were given orders to watch all roads leading towards Pawhuska, word having been recieved that the gang were headed that way.

Within hours, a small army of officers had been drafted into the case, including U.S. Marshal Alva McDonald, a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Klondike Gold Rush, staunch Republican, personal friend of Teddy Roosevelt, and peace officer of wide experience.

Within hours also, on the afternoon of August 21, Ike Ogg was arrested at his home in Bartlesville, charged with complicity in the robbery. Owing to the fact tht he very quickly began to "sing", it is hard to be sure exactly what happened, the authorities being in the habit -- for obvious reasons -- of giving out often misleading information to the press when working with informants. The story was that he had been spotted in the railroad depot at Bartlesville when the robbed-to-be train passed through, an odd circumstance considering the time of night. Then, one of the finger-stalls used in the holdup was found discarded near the scene and easily traced to a drugstore in Pawhuska where the proprietor had no difficulty in remembering that a bunch of such objects had been purchased by Ogg.

However, his revelations were evidently not immediate, for on Thursday morning, August 23, several dozen sheriff's deputies, Federal agents, city police officers, postal inspectors and railroad detectives drove out of Pawhuska in a fleet of cars, bound for various destinations, their objective seemingly being to arrest anyone who might be connected with the train robbery. They returned the same afternoon with a rag-tag bunch of worthies, several of whom had known criminal records: Charles Johnson (suspected first of being the boss of the robbery,) Roscoe Smith, Ed Burris, Bernard Blount, Tom Simpson, Albert "Buck" Davis, Harle E. Davis, Max Billingsley, Walter Philpott, Elkin "Bud" Jenkins and Henry Wells, who yelled jocularly to an officer as he was brought in:

"You needn't reserve a room for me tonight. I've got one already."

Also arrested was Goldie Bates, nabbed at Ike Ogg's home after a furious struggle. She was taken to Pawhuska wearing a short dress and "flaming red" stockings with red sandals to match, her hair neatly waved and her eyebrows finely pencilled. Under interview, she chatted freely about her family and her schooldays, and about what she had done for a living -- mainly working in cafes -- but refused to say anything about the train robbery or about Al Spencer, whose name was already being mentioned. When a secret service man came in and laid his hat on the hotel room bed she jibed:

"It's bad luck to lay your hat on the bed -- don't you know that?"

As the handcuffed prisoners were brought in and marched into the Duncan Hotel, crowds of citizens gathered excitedly to enjoy the goings-on, and for the press it was a circus. Reported the Pawhuska Daily Capital of August 23:

"The newspaperman was permitted to glimpse the prisoners as they lolled about the hotel rooms in charge of their captors. Heavily-laden cartridge belts and dark bulges at the hip of each guard foretold the danger of any attempt upon the part of the prisoners to escape. They are a rough, unshaven, dangerous looking lot, as a whole. Practically all are clad in overalls or dirt-covered khaki. Some sit and converse with their captors; one or two smile occasionally, but the majority maintain a sullen silence.

And no wonder considering that, despite McDonald's confident statement to the press that "We have arrested every man who participated in the Katy train robbery with the exception of two," none of them were actually guilty.

Stanley Snyder was added to the bag the following day, and on August 28, north of Bartlesville, Emmett Daugherty was arrested by H. O. Brown and A. B. Cooper of the Burns Detective Agency.

Several of the prisoners -- Burris, Simpson and the Davises -- were released within a couple of days when no charges could be found against them. Daugherty, quickly cleared of the train robbery, was held in connection with the Talala bank robbery and the Independence, Kan., jewelry store robbery. It appears that he got off in both cases, in the Talala robbery because, as mentioned before, the bank men were by noe themselves under arrest for embezzlement. The rest were arraigned before the U.S. Commissioner in Pawhuska and taken for safekeeping to the Federal Jail in Guthrie; however, with the exception of Ike Ogg, who pleaded guilty to complicity in the robbery, all were freed within a few weeks, because by that time most of the real train robbers were in the bag.

On the day of the mass arrests in the Osage, Earl Thayer was picked up at his home in Oklahoma City. When informed that a Federal warrant had been issued for him he declared:

"Well, it don't surprise me one bit."

The following day, he was arraigned and bond set at $50,000.

Curtis Kelly was arrested by Marshal McDonald and Postal Inspector Jack Adamson early on Thursday, August 30. Significantly, very little was made of his capture, the reason being that, like Ogg, he quickly decided to confess; and, the authorities were obviously keen to keep the rest of the train robbers in the dark as to what was going on, at least until it had been fully established who they were.

On September 6, however, announcing a reward of $2,000 per man, the post office finally published the names of the bandits still at-large. The notice included the sentence:

"When an offender is killed in the act of committing any of the crimes numerated therein, or in resisting lawful arrest there for, the same reward may be paid as though he had been tried and convicted."

In other words -- DEAD OR ALIVE!

The wanted men were listed, with descriptions:

Al Spencer, alias Junkey, age 36, eyes gray, hair chestnut, complexion medium, height 5 feet 6 1/2 inches, weight 135 to 140 pounds, build medium, athletic, teeth irregular.

Riley Dixon, alias Pug, age 26, eyes brown, hair dark chestnut, complexion medium, height five feet and 3/8 inches, weight 120 to 125 pounds, slender build. Has letters RDD tattooed in blue ink on left forearm.

Frank Nash, age 33, eyes dary gray, hair very black, but bald on top of head, height 5 feet 9 inches, weight 160 pounds, build medium slender, large Roman nose, coarse voice, but speaks good English, walks erect and fast. Has one half-inch scar over right eyebrow, also small scar over bridge of nose.

Grover C. Durrill, age 35, eyes dark, hair dark, rather curly, comlexion florid, height 5 feet 11 inches, weight 175 pounds.

George Fallon, alias Whitey, age 28, height 5 feet 6 3/4 inches, weight 155 to 160 pounds, medium build, hair light chestnut, eyes blue, complexion fair.

"With the exception of Durrill" concluded the notice, "all of these men are ex-convicts; all are dangerous gunmen and may be travelling together. They use high-powered automobiles, and when last seen were driving a Hudson Super Six. This gang changes automobiles frequently. If these me are located, cause their immediate arrest, and notify the undersigned by telegraph, government rate, collect.

L. A. Johnson, Post Office Inspector in Charge at Kansas City."

The same day, September 6, the Pawhuska Daily Capital quoted a cocky letter purportedly written by Spencer to McDonald and Adamson, and presumably penned in ignorance of the fact that the reward notice was to be issued that day.

"You are clever, Mr. McDonald," it read, "and you also, Mr. Adamson. But don't think you are fooling me with this bunk you have given out to the newspapers. I know what you are here for. I know you are afte me. You may deny it to the newspapers from now until Hell freezes over but I will be looking out for you and watching your movements just the same."

Within less than two weeks, however, he was dead.

(Death & Capture of Al Spencer and his Gang - Next!)

- - - - - - - To Be Continued - - - - - - -
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As many researchers are aware, Spencer is buried at the Ball Cemetery near Childers, Oklahoma in Nowata County.
Interred at the same samll buriel ground is of course the outlaw Dick Gregg along with most of the notorious Jarrett family. Walter-1879-1912-shot dead-Levi (Lee) 1883-1921- died in a car crash (He was a member of the Poe-Hart Gang as well as a running buddy of Tom Slaughters)-Glenn-1891-1920-another Poe-Hart gangster-died in a prison accident-Roger (aka Buster)-1897-1966-(liver failure) Bank robber ran with Sam Coker and Albert Conner- sister Hazel-1895-1979, wife of Albert Conner(married 1912) as well as Wilber Underhill (married 1933)-she is buried next to Albert Conner who was fatally wounded on April 3,1923 while robbing a store in Coffeyville, Kansas with Buster Jarrett and Max Weibe, who also died of his wounds. Conner, whose sister Ella was married to Lee Jarrett,(sometimes spelled Connor) was head of the Cedar Creek Gang. Glen and Roger's graves are unmarked.
The Jarrett's parents, James(a bootlegger) and Nellie, are buried nearby as is another son named Benard, died 1963. The rest of the Jarrett brothers, Ross,Floyd,Howard,Ralph,and Earl (all career criminals but Howard) are interred in various grave yards across the country.
Posts: 126 | Registered: Wed December 10 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<Mike Koch>
Very good description of the several bandits, oulaws, and/or gangsters that are buried at Ball Cemetery, especially the various family members of the Jarrett family. They had many family members who became bandits over a long period of time, early 1900's to 1930's. Hope to see their (Jarrett Family) story in print someday.
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<Old West>
The following information on Al Spencer and his gang was compiled by David Murray of Inverness, Scotland, in 1996:

The first accounts of (Al) Spencer's killing were straightforward enough. According to (U.S. Marshal Alva) McDonald's report, detailed in the Pawhuska Daily Capital of September 17, 1923, he and his posse had been on the outlaw's trail for over a week when they got "a big tip" that he was due to leave his hiding place on Saturday evening, September 15, to "keep an appointment with a party to whom it was understood he was to turn his share of the Liberty Bond loot." On a cold, drizzly night, the posse set up an ambush on either side of the road; and, after a long wait, they were beginning to think he had given them the slip. Suddenly, he was spotted crossing a bridge on the road ahead and making his way towards them.

"We waited until he was close enough so that we could make no mistake," said McDonald. "Then -- 'Hands up.' The command rang out as guns were leveled at the bandit's breast. The flash of a gun as two shots rang out was the answer. The song of Spencer's bullet was still in the air when our own guns flashed -- and the bandit fell. When we reached him, he was dead."

Unshaven and emaciated, weighing no more than 115 pounds, he was dressed in blue overalls, an army shirt, grey coat, black felt hat and heavy brown shoes. He was carrying a .35 Winchester automatic rifle and a .38 Colt revolver, stuck in his hip pocket, muzzle upward, and had plenty of cartridges for them. In his pockets were a sack of keys, a couple of letters and some newspaper clippings. According to one report, he had been hit by eight bullets -- two through the heart, three in the left arm, one in the left leg and, significantly, three in the back.

Whether or not he was carrying any money was a moot point, the first reports saying that he was not, and various reports differed in detail from each other and from the of McDonald: that he had been shot before he crossed the bridge rather than after it, that he was shot without warning rather than after being challenged, that having learned where he was hiding, one section of the posse drove him like grouse-beaters through the woods to where the other section lay in ambush.

All accounts agreed, however, that the actual killing occurred just within the Oklahoma State line, a couple of miles southwest of Caney, Kan. Very soon, a different story began to emerge.

The Barlesville Daily Enterprise of September 19, reported that: "It was Spencer's trick of not playing fair with his pals that brought about his killing. It has been found that the night Spencer was killed he was leaving his hiding place in the Osage Hills to carry his $10,000 in government bonds . . . to market; and, with the money he expected to get from this sale, he intended leaving the country. Only part of the bonds really belonged to him. There were seven men in the train robbery and they obtained twenty $1,000 Libert Bonds. It was impossible to divide the amount equally. Each of the theives took two bonds, leaving six undivided. Spencer agreed to sell these and split the proceeds with the others. He also had two bonds belonging to another pal. Shortly after the gang separated, it became known to the other members that Spencer planned to sell the $10,000 in bonds in his possession and leave the country.

It was when news of Spencer's scheme to double-cross his pals got back to the gang that the other theives began to work for their revenge. They knew where he was hiding, but could not approach the place as he had sent out warning that he would kill any of them who came looking for him. The night he was killed word came to him that one of the members of the gang was coming to settle with him. This information, which the Federal Officers knew would be delivered to him by an Osage farmer shortly before 10 o'clock Saturday night, was the piece of news that was calculated to start Spencer traveling. It had the desired effect and also sent him out of the woods at the point where he was expectd to emerge . . . And, that is why he was taking no precautions. He figured that the danger lay behind him and that he was escaping from the vengeance of a pal."

The "pal" referred to was Stanley Snyder, a Kansan who had spent most of his adult life in Oklahoma. When not working as a tailor, he dealt heavily in bootleg booze and, as has been mentioned, served as spy, chauffeur and general handyman for Spencer and his friends. His admiration for the outlaw had, however, turned to contempt due to Spencer's meanness and disloyalty to his companions. After his own death, Snyder was quoted as having said:

"No friend of Spencer would walk two feet to avenge his death. He was too cheap. I went out into the Osage and saw him shortly after J. C. Majors was convicted . . . I asked him to give me some money to send to Mrs. Majors, who was in destitute circumstances. He refused to give anything and said he couldn't see his way to giving anything to help any man who was fool enough to get caught."

On May 9, 1924, the Bartlesville Daily Enterprise revealed that "The story as told by officers after the death of Spencer was that he was killed in Oklahoma, a few miles southwest of Caney, Kan. It is no longer necessary to conceal the fact that he was not killed in Oklahoma at all, but about five miles north of Coffeyville, Kan., and a half mile east of a schoolhouse standing beside that road." It added that Snyder discovered where Spencer was staying and lured him to the spot where he was shot to death by McDonald and his posse.

Even this, however, may not have been the whole truth. In his memoirs, Henry Wells said that following his arrest after the Okesa robbery, he had been lodged in the same cell as Snyder and Max Billingsley, who had handled stolen bonds for the bandits.

"The dicks knew Snyder had contact with Al Spencer," said Wells. "They offered him his freedom to trap Al Spencer. I overheard Max and Snyder plotting to kill Al . . . Al was working on a little farm up near Coffeyville, Kansas, at the time and Snyder went straight to him as soon as he was turned loose. He arranged to meet Al at a schoolhouse close to where he was working. Al thought he was coming to get the bonds to cash them.

Al always went round with a gun on him and this time he had two revolvers and an automatic shotgun. Snyder brought some eats along with him and Al just happened to turn his back to him while he was eating. He trusted Snyder, y'see, and he wasn't a bit suspicious. Snyder just grabbed Al's shotgun and shot him in the back and exactly through the heart. Al never had a chance.

I got this straight from the undertaker that embalmed the body. He said that the food Al was chewing was still in his mouth when the body was brought in. Snyder went back to Bartlesville after a bunch of officers when he had killed Al and they must have shot his body full of holes when they got there. The undertaker said the wounds from the Winchesters and six-guns of the officers didn't bleed a bit. All the blood from Al's body went out through the hole Snyder made with his shotgun."

Soon after the actual killing, it had been reported that one of the possemen, Luther Bishop of the Oklahoma City Police Department, had fired four shots at the outlaw after he was downed, after which he was restrained by his companions. This could merely have been a story concocted by the officers to explain away the unusual location of some of the gunshot wounds on Spencer's corpse. Whatever the case, the circumstances of his death raised a number of questions which have still possibly to be answered.

On September 17, his body was put on display in McAllister's undertaking parlor in Bartlesville and over the day something like 15,000 people crushed in to get a look at him, among them his widow and 12-year old daughter, Geneva, both of them reportedly sobbing pitifully before they were led away by Campbell Keyes. At midnight, he was shipped out by train for Nowata; and, on September 20, he was buried in the Bald Knob cemetery, located 10 miles east of town, the funeral having been postponed from the previous day due to heavy rain. His widow and daughter, his siter Mrs. F. A. York, and Campbell Keyes were the only mourners.

Ironically, two of those most closely involved in his death themselves fairly soon came to violent ends.

On the morning of May 9, 1924, Stanley Snyder's wife took out a .38 Colt automatic and pumped five bullets into him, explaining to the police that he had regularly beaten her up and only minutes before had threatened to kill her.

Luther Bishop, apparently the one who first suggested using Snyder to hunt down Spencer, had also been heavily involved in the infamous Osage murder trials and was known to have many enemies in the criminal world. On the night of December 6, 1926, he was shot to death in his own bedroom by an unknown assailant; and, while outlaws James Callan and Matthew Kimes were mentioned as suspects, as for a time was his own wife, his murder remained a mystery.

Whitey Fallon having been arrested by post office inspectors at his hometown of East St. Louis, Ill., on September 13, only three of the Okesa robbers remained at-large following Spencer's death.

Early on Friday morning, September 21, a posse led by McDonald and Adamson surrounded a bunkhouse on the Rose ranch at Little Hominy Creek, 21 miles southwest of Pawhuska. An order for the occupants to come out met with no response; however, when a few shots were fired into the building, big Grover Durrell emberged, hands in the air, followed by his father-in-law George Wilson. Unlike the rest of the train robbers, Durrell had a reasonable reputation, his only known trouble with the law having taken place a coupld of years before when he shot and wounded another man in a quarrel over money, the case being dismissed when the victim failed to turn up in court to testify. Like Thayer, Kelly and Fallon, he was sent to Guthrie jail on the now standard $50,000 bond.

Although a veteran of two prison terms in Oklahoma, the diminutive Riley Dixon apparently lost his nerve at the news of Spencer's death and threw away his guns, explaining that he would be less likely to be shot if he was unarmed. Leaving Durrell's home, where he had been staying, he set off for Mexico, travelling by train to El Paso on the Mexican border. Faced with crossing the international line and possibly being spotted by the border guards, he again took a fit of nerves and decided to remain in the United States. He took a job on a hay ranch and kept a low profile; however, on October 17, he went on a trip to Deming, N.M., with some fellow workers and was sitting in a store drinking a bottle of soda water when a local sheriff walked in and arrested him, having recognized him from the description given in a post office circular. He insisted at first that his name was Davis, but the "RDD" tattooed on his arm was a dead giveaway and he soon broke down and confessed his identity. A few days late he was returned to Oklahoma.

Thus, Frank Nash, by far the most astute of the entire crowd, proved also the most elusive.

An incorrigible criminal, Nas had already served three terms in McAlester Penitentiary: the first time for bank robbery at Lawton, the second time for murder, and the third time for bank robbery at Corn. Each time, such were the quirks of the Oklahoma penal system, he had been freed by pardon.

Following the Okesa job, he fled to Mexico and got a ranch job 150 miles south of the border. Via an unidentified informant, the post office department soon learned where he was, and a plan was hatched to capture him -- the details of which were not publicized, probably to avoid international embarrassment. On Friday, November 9, 1923, at a sparsely populated point about 25 miles from Sierra Blanca in western Texas, he was lured across the Rio Grande, ostensibly to lend his hand to a spot of cattle rustling. Marshal McDonal and other officers were lying in wait and he was arrested.

In Federal Court at Oklahoma City on March 1, 1924, Nash, Thayer, Dixon, Curtis (alias Whitey Fallon), Durrell and Curtis Kelly were convicted of the Okesa robbery and sentenced to 25 years each in Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kan. It was perhaps a bit hard on Kelly, who had entered a guilty plea, and whose cooperation had helped in the capture of various other gang members.

Although most of the men associated with Al Spencer were now dead or behind bars, violence postscripts had still to be written.

Following the arrest in 1922, Dick Gregg was handed over to Kansas to be charged with the Elgin bank job, but later skipped bond. For several months thereafter, nothing much was heard about him. On May 21, 1924, he created a disturbance at theoiltown of Lyman in Oklahoma's Burbank field, stuck up two officers who tried to arrest him and hailed a taxi, telling his captives that he was going to take them out to the country and kill them. The taxi driver, however, managed to knock his pistol from his hand; and, after a fierce struggle, he was subdued.

A week later, he was handed over to Kansas, and in due course, convicted of the Elgin robbery and imprisoned for 10-20 years.

In 1926, he was loaned to Oklahoma to act as a witness in the Osage Murder trials; and, after being held for eighteen months in Pawhuska jail, escaped on November 23, 1927, embittered (according to Arthur Lamb) at not being pardoned for his testimony.

Over the next two years, he was named in five Kansas and Oklahoma bank holdups, and evidently considered himself a professional bandit. When it was suggested in a newspaper report that he had stolen chickens in Kansas, he wrote indignantly to the Tulsa Daily World:

"I've never been so hard up that I had to steal chickens. I'm a bank robber and a darn good one. Please print the correction."

On December 9, 1927, four bandits stuck up the First National Bank at Sand Springs, Okla., escaping with $6,500. Gregg was later identified as one of the quartet, as were Jack Long and Chet Fowler, both also well-known bank robbers.

On January 31, 1928, Gregg, George Eason and Charley Emick (who later confessed) held up the First State Bank at Centralia, Okla. They escaped with $1,441 and wer driven to safety by a fourth man named Herb Willison.

On February 28, 1929, Gregg and another man held up the Redfield State Bank at Redfield, Kan., but were routed when cashier Leonard Ruthrauff grabbed a pistol and began shooting. Both bandits were thoroughly identified and the second man, Pawhuska taxi driver Milo Atkinson, was later imprisoned for the robbery.

On March 20, 1929, Gregg and George Eason held up the Wynona National Bank at Wynona, Okla., escaping with about $5,000.

About noon on Friday, July 26, 1929, three men held up the Peoples State Bank at Wichita, Kan., and escaped in a car driven by a woman. A couple of weeks later, the Wichita authorities named two of the bandits as Gregg and Chet Fowler. The woman was probably Gregg's girlfriend, Golda Jennings. Two weeks later, August 11, following a tip from Golda's father, the couple were stopped at a police road-block in Iola, Kan. Gregg did a quick U-turn, only to ditch the car a few blocks away. He escaped on foot, but Golda was captured, along with several firearms.

Eighteen days later, Gregg's career reached its explosive finale. After a night's heavy drinking, he and an Indian friend named Bob Dyer were driving in a stolen Chevrolet on August 28, 1929, when they collided with another car on the Sand Springs road near Tulsa. He managed to smooth the incident over with the other driver; but, as he was driving away, two Tulsa Highway Policemen, Ross Darrow (42) and A. L. "Link" Bowline (39) arrived by chance on the scene. After talking to the other driver, they went after Gregg and Dyer and ordered them to pull into the curb. They did so, and while Bowline approaced thier car to question them, Darrow pulled the police car into the curb a few feet ahead.

According to witnesses, Bowline had his pistol out and pressed into Gregg's stomach when the latter "lazily pulled his gun out and fired upward." The bullet took Bowline near the hert, killing him instantly. (See; "Oklahoma Heroes" by Ron Owens p. 53)

Seeing his partner fall, Darrow pulled his pistol and charged into action. He and Gregg fired simultaneously, emptying their pistols in a furious burst of firing, at the end of which Gregg was dead with a bullet through his right temple and Darrow dying with a bullet in his chest. (See; "Oklahoma Heroes" by Ron Owens p. 82) Bob Dyer fled the scene on foot but was picked up a few minutes later, still in a drunken state.

When told of his son's killing, Darrow's father, a proprietor of a music store, tearfully told newspaper men: "He was my pal, the only one I had."

Bowling, a war veteran, had been a policeman for only a few weeks, and was due to start a new job two days later. Both men left widows and families.

In 1931, two more ex-Spencer associates bit the dust in equally spectacular fashion.

Earl Thayer, sixty-five years old and suffering from a heart condition, decided that he was unlikely to survive his prison term, and with a violent mail robber named Willie Green cooked up an escape plan. Also involved was Okesa train robber, Frank Nash, who had escaped from Leavenworth on October 19, 1930, and had since, as a member of the so-called Holden-Keating gang, became one of America's most wanted outlaws.

Nash was contacted in Chicago by a recently-released Leavenworth inmate named Harold "Monk" Fontaine; and, on Thayer's request, he and Fontaine made a trip to Peoria, Ill., and bought a sawed-off shotgun, four revolvers and seventeen sticks of dynamite. This assortment, sealed into the inner tubing of a car tire, was smuggled into the Leavenworth prison warehouse in a 30-gallon barrel of shoepaste. Inside the prison, the escape plotters secreted the weapons and boiled down the dynamite until they had obtained a bottle of nitro-glycerine. (This method of obtaining the volatile explosive was well-known to all safecrackers.)

By this time, seven men were in the escape team, namely, Green and Thayer, Okesa train robbrs Grover Durrell and George Curtis, mail robbers Stanley Browning and Tom Underwood, and bank and train robber Charles Berta.

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday, December 11, 1931, following the last sitting of breakfast in Leavenworth's massive dining hall, the seven escapers used forged passes to get past a guard and into the corridor which housed the prison's office rooms. Once there, they hauled out their hidden firearms, burst into the warden's office and captured Warden Thomas B. White and his secretary, who were then marched at gunpoint to the prison's outer gate. There the guard refused at first to open up, whereupon the bottle of nitro-glycerin was produced, to the accompaniment of dire threats.

Warden White, an ex-Texas Ranger, was reputed to be absolutely fearless, but realized quickly that the escape could turn into a bloodbath if the convicts were thwarted. He ordered the gate to be opened and the escapers and their hostages streamed out.

From that point, the escape began to turn into a debacle. Warden White, having managed to drop his car keys without being noticed, the escapers were left without means of transport. They managed to hijack a car on the highway and piled into it, taking White with them; but, after only a mile or so, the overburdened vehicle became bogged down and had to be abandoned. They hijacked anothe, but it also packed in before long. They tried to steal yet another from a country schoolmarm, but failed even to start it as the canny woman had installed a secret switch below the bonnet.

By the time the escapers reached the Joe Gates farm, only eight miles from the prison, news of the escape had been telegraphed throughout the region and scores of prison officers, National Guardsmen, officers and civilians were out hunting for them. They decided to split up.

Berta, Underwood and Browning went off together, tramping across the fields. They managed to catch two horses, but one of them promptly bolted and the other refused to move with three men on its back. Finally, early in the afternoon, they were found by a search party hiding at the bottom of a brush-filled hollow. Berta tried to make a fight of it until he was wounded by two bullets. The other two surrendered without resistance.

The other four, meanwhile, had left the Gates farm and made their way to State Highway 92, where they hjeld up yet another car occupied by four young men who had heard of the escape and were out looking for excitement. As they were being ordered out of the car, Warden White spang at Green, who was armed with the smuggled-in shotgun. As they struggled, Green pulled the trigger and White fell with several pellets in his chest. Leaving him for dead, the convicts took off in their latest escape vehicle, only to wreck it shortly afterwards when they ran into a horse which had strayed onto the road.

A few minutes later, they turned up at the home of an old farmer named Emerson Salisbury, about 200 yards from the highway. The old man, not having heard of the prison break, at first took them for hunters and welcomed them in. He quickly learned who they were. When he made them coffee, they drank it in the kitchen, their guns in their laps. According to Salisbury, they continuously took pills which he assumed were drugs of some kind, and seemed to be constantly thirsty, gulping their way quickly through three buckets of water. Salisbury was allowed to go freely about the house, but was ordered to stay away from the windows.

About an hour after they arrived, searchers were seen through the trees, approaching the house, at which Thayer scrambled out of a rear window and disappeared. The other three took Salisbury upstairs, and from a front window opened fire on the possemen as they drew near. The possemen responded by firing back, and before long the place was totally surrounded by an estimated two hundred assorted manhunters. For several hours, intermittent shooting went on, rifle fire interspersed with occasional bursts of machinegun fire.

The escapers loosed off only the occasional shot. At one point, as quoted by Salisbury, Green said:

"We might as well smile. We're going to get it and there's no use to sing the blues. This is the end."

Eventually, tear-gas bombs were fired into the house. Salisbury managed to sneak into an attic adjoining the front room. He waved a white hanky at the window, bringing a barrage of shots in response,but shortly afterwards a posseman climbed up to the attic window and helped him to safety. With him safely out of harm's way, the firing was intensified, and in due course it was noticed that the convicts had stopped firing.

Officers entered the house and found the tree dead, Durrell and Curtis shot behind the ear, Green shoth through the forehead. Although the inquest returned an open verdict, it was generally assumed that Green had killed the others then killed himself.

Salisbury, his house severely damaged by bullets, later commented:

"It's a wonder to me somebody outside wasn't killed by their own men. I never saw such reckless use of firearms in my life as some of these fellows showed. They just about ruined the house. It was built by my father before the Civil War. I was born in it and I hated to see it riddled the way it was."

Of the seven escapers, only Thayer remained free. On December 14, he turned up at the home of 65-year old bachelor John Masterson on the outskirts of Leavenworth. Obviously exhausted and hungary, he asked Masterson for food and coffee, and tried to sell him a rifle for $10, saying he had found it on the road. Aware at once who he was, Masterson declined the offer and suggested he try the next house. As the old convict plodded back towards the road, Masterson followed him, a revolver in his pocket. Roy Dougherty, a county road overseer, was working on the road. Masterson summoned him over and suggested to Thayer that he might be interested in buying the rifle. Thayer handed it over to Dougherty, at which Masterson pulled out his pistol and ordered him to raise his hands. He complied at once, evidently too played out to do anything else.

Within a couple of hours, Thayer was back in prison, where he boasted: "Well, I didn't do so bad for and old man of 65."

Regarding those involved in the prison break:

Harold Fontaine was arrested at Windsor, Canada, on January 19, 1932. He was extradited to the U.S., convicted of his part in the escape plot and sentenced to another 20 years.

Frank Nash was killed in the infamous Kansas City Massacre of June 17, 1933, about which so much has been written that nothing further needs to be said here.

The four actual escapers, who were recaptured, were all given an extra five years' imprisonment.

Earl Thayer never fully recovered from the hardship he had undergone during his escape -- in which, incidentally, he never managed to get more than ten miles from the prison -- and, when he died in the prison hospital on July 28, 1934, the prison authorities stated that his death was a direct result of his tribulations.

Henry Wells, the coolest hand among the badmen associated with Al Spencer, proved also, in the end, to be one of the most durable. Although reputedly still involved with bank robbers in the early 1930s, in his later years, he developed the aura of respectability which attached to all "survivors", regardless of which side of the law they had been on. Former lawmen, with whom he had exchanged shots in his outlaw days, became his friends. It was reported in the 1940s that he regularly received a card each Christmas from the President of the Dewey Bank, which he had been charged with robbing in 1922. As a long-time friend of oil tycoon Frank Phillips, he attended get-togethers in the latter's Osage Hills lodge from the late 1920s onward, rubbing shoulders with Wall Street brokers, bankers, oil moguls and celebrities such as Will Rogers and Pawnee Bill.

In his old age, he frequently talke to reporters, boasting about his outlaw exploits, although unfortunately, no one appears to have used his recollections as a basis for serious study. A good investigative journalist, correlating his memoirs with reference to contemporary press reports, could have helped clear up many of the uncertainties which still remain about that era of outlawry.

Wells was in his early 80s when he died in hospital at Bartlesville, Oklahoma, following a month-long illness, on October 31, 1963.

(The last installment of this article about Al Spencer and his gang, compiled by David Murray of Inverness, Scotland, will be a list of "citations" from 165 newspaper articles used as "Reference Sources" for this story.)

- - - - - - To Be Continued - - - - - - -
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The following newspaper citations represent much of the research material in which David Murray of Inverness, Scotland, relied upon to compile the above posted story:

TULSA DAILY WORLD [TDW] 12/22/1921 (p.12/ col.6) "Held as (Nelagony) Bank Robbery Suspect"; 12/24/1921 (2/4) "Try To Identify Bandit...(in Nelagony Bank Robbery of 12/20/1921)"; 2/14/1922 (1/3) "Pawhuska Bank Robbed..."; 2/15/1922 (10/1) "Lose Trail of Bank Robbers"; 2/22/1922 (1/7) "Bandit Pair Rob Bank (at Broken Bow)"; 2/27/1922 (3/1) - Bank Robber (Silas Meigs) killed by Posse at Bigheart, Charles Wells and J. Hilton arrested; 3/19/1922 (11/2) "Innocent Youth...Became Bandit (Silas Meigs story)"; 6/17/1922 (1/6) "Cashier & Wife Kidnaped by (Elgin State) Bank Robbers"; 7/27/1922 (1/6) "Bandits In Raid at Lenapah (Citizen National Bank)"; 9/9/1922 (1/6) "Four Bandits Loot (1st State Bank at) Centralia..."; 9/10/1922 (5/1) "Bank Robbers Surrounded in Osage", Poe-Hart robbed bank in 1917 for $6G; 10/11/1922 (10/7-8) "Three Suspects Not Identified (in Centralia Bank Robbery)" - C.C. Carter aka Ralph Carter was killed, Lloyd Cox & Dick Gregg arrested; 10/19/1922 (7/1) "Posse Formed to Chase Gang (for Security National Bank robbery at Dewey)"; 10/20/1922 (16/7-8) "...Bandit Not Identified (in Dewey Bank Robbery)" - Lloyd Cox released; 10/25/1922 (1/6) - Two young bandits head for Osage Hills (Talala Bank/or/Dewey Bank robbery?); 10/26/1922 (10/3) "(Talala State Bank) Robbers Trail Lost...(around Okesa); 11/4/1922 (1/6; 11/3-4) "...Taken By Posse (at Chelsea)" - gun battle, J.O. Dykes and J.C. Majors escaped Vinita jail on 10/22/1922; 12/24/1922 (J.C. Majors arrest - could not find article); 12/30/1922 (12/2) "Man Escapes Jail, Again" - Albert Conner & Al Foster; 1/6/1923 (13/1) J.C. Majors, arrested last week at Eldorado, Kansas, was wanted for the Towana Bank Robbery on 12/2/1922, and the jewelry store heist at Cedarvale, Ks; 1/11/1923 (9/1) "Continued Majors Case (to 1/19/1923)"; 1/12/1923 (8/1) "Bandits Seize $3,000 From (Virgil) Bank"; 1/13/1923 (11/2) "Numerous Crimes Laid at Doors of Two Daring Bandits"; 1/17/1923 (1/1; 3/4-6) "Death Ends Escaped Prisoners Flight (from Tulsa County Jail)" - Howard Musgrave aka Carpenter is killed, Volney Davis caught, nine others at large; 1/17/1923 (8/4) "(Cambridge Bank Robbery) Bandits Escape Into Oklahoma" with $20G in bonds & $500 cash; 1/18/1923 (3/1) "(Cambridge Bank Robbery) Bandits Abandon Wounded Buddy"; 1/23/1923 (3/1) "Major Fights Back" by hiring Joplin (Mo.) attorney; 2/20/1923 (1/2) "(Chatauqua Bank Robbery) Bandits (Spencer-Gregg) Escape Posse In Woods"; 2/21/1923 (10/1) "Ed Lockhardt (with Sam Lockhardt & Ky Carlisle)...Captured (by Perry Chuculate at Sallisaw)"; 2/21/1923 (10/2) "Airplane Driven By Indian Finds (Chatauqua Bank Robbery) Bandits Rendezvous" in Osage; 3/27/1923 (1/8; 2/6) "(Mannford) Bank Bandit (Bud Maxfield) Killed, One (Harry Roher aka R.N. Sturtz) Captured"; 3/28/1923 (1/1) "(Mannford) Bank Bandit Escape..."; 3/28/1923 (1/2; 15/4-7) - (Outlaw) Bud Maxfield's life story!; 3/28/1923 (1/3-4) " 'Al Not Leading Spencer's Gang' Pal in Pen Says" - Arthur Henderson, sentenced to die, Tells ALL! Copeland is Head of Gang; 3/29/1923 (1/1; 2/4-5) - Al Spencer and pals commandeer car at Bartlesville; 3/29/1923 (8/3) "Doubts Bandit (Clint Smith) Dead"; 3/30/1923 (12/4-5) "Hijacking Here Laid to Spencer"; 3/30/1923 (13/1) - Arthur Henderson questioned about death of Quay (Ok) man (John Thomas); 4/1/1923 (/8; 9/5) "Deputy (Ben Smith) Killed During Fight with Spencer's Gang"; 4/2/1923 (1/8) "Another (Gentry Bank Robbery) Bandit Wounded By Posse" and Deputy Smith NOT dead; 4/2/1923 (9/4) "Three Battle Way Out When Cornered" - Clark Pitts & Campbell Keyes arrested; 4/3/1923 (1/5) "Four of Spencer's Gang Believed Still At Large"; 4/4/1923 (13/1) - Albert Connor Dies of wounds in Coffeyville - some bandit history!; 4/5/1923 (11/1) "Trail of Gentry (Bank) Robbers Lost!"; 4/5/1923 (11/4) "(Ed) Lockhardt Pleads Guilty to Oklahoma Robbery"; 4/6/1923 (13/1) "Still After Spencer" - Goldie Bates & Goldie Homes released; 4/18/1923 (1/8; 8/4) "(Pawhuska P.O.) Bandit Suspect Shot, Two Captured"; 4/19/1923 (8/1) "Pawhuska (P.O.) Bandit Suspects (Clarence Ward, Cleo (Oph) Ward, and Ed Shull) In Jail"; 4/20/1923 (1/3) "50 Mile Detour Saves (Ed Shull) From Pawhuska Mob"; 4/22/1923 (1/8) "Al Spencer's Pal (Nick Lamar) Caught By Posse"; 4/23/1923 (unknown article); 4/24/1923 (11/2) "Earl Holman, Wanted For Caddo Bank Robbery, Arrested In Tulsa"; 4/25/1923 (unknown article); 5/14/1923 (1/3) "Take Pair (Nick Lamar & Big Boy Berry aka Jess D. Paul) to Arkansas"; 5/18/1923 (9/4) "...Spencer Gang Members (Lamar & Berry) Held For Trial"; 6/4/1923 (2/4) "Bank Robbers (Lamar & Berry) Plead Guilty"; 8/21/1923 (1/8) "(Okesa) Train Bandits Give Battle In Osage"; 8/22/1923 (1/2; 2/6-8) "Osage Swallows Up (Okesa) Train Bandits; 8/23/1923 (12/4) "Still Hunting (Okesa Train) Bandits"; 8/24/1923 (1/1) "13 Men, 1 Woman Jailed as Train Bandit Suspects"; 8/25/1923 (8/1) "More Than Score of Bandit Suspects"; 8/26/1923 (1/4; 6/1) "Alleged Bandit Chief (Charles Johnson) Arraigned"; 8/29/1923 (3/3) "One Admits Part in (Okesa) Train Holdup" - Ike Ogg pleads guilty!; 12/1/1927 (15-II/ 3) "Reward Offered" - Dick Gregg escaped (11/23/1927) from Pawhuska jail; 8/30/1929 (1/6-8; 11/1-6) "Two Tulsa Officers and Bandit (Dick Gregg) Killed in Deadly Gun Battle" - with pics of Gregg & Bob Dyer; 8/31/1929 (1/8; 6/1-3) "Manhunt On (for Bob Dyer) As Tribute Paid Slain Officers"; 12/12/1931 (1/7-8) "Triple Suicide Ends (Leavenworth) Prison Dash..." - Will Green, Grover Durrill and Geroge Curtis are dead; 12/13/1931 (1/5; 7/2-4) "Oklahoma Mail Robber (Earl Thayer) Escapes Federal Posse"; 12/14/1931 (1/5; 3/5) "Escaped Convict (Earl Thayer) Still At Large"; 12/15/1931 (1/3; 12/3) "Mutiny Brewing (in Leavenworth Penitentiary)...Train Robber (Earl Thayer) Taken (Captured)".

BARTLESVILLE DAILY ENTERPRISE [BDE] 2/13/1922 (1/8) "Unmasked Men Rob Pawhuska Bank"; 2/14/1922 (1/6) "(Pawhuska) Bank Robbers Still At Large Today"; 2/22/1922 (1/7) "Unmasked Men Get $5,000 in (Broken Bow) Bank Robbery"; 2/26/1922 (1/8) "Duel to Death (of Silas Meigs) In Osage Hills"; 3/1/1922 (1/3) "Bandit (Silas Meigs) Was A Monster"; 3/15/1922 (1/1) "Thieves Rob ramona Store Last Night"; 6/7/1922 (1/6) "State Bank At Grainola Held Up at 2 O'clock"; 6/7/1922 (1/8) "Ochelata Officer (William B. Lockett) Slain Last Night"; 6/17/1922 (1/3-4) "Local Posse In Hot Chase After (Elgin Bank Robbing) Bandits"; 7/26/1922 (1/7) "Four Men rob (Lenapah) Bank Near Nowata Today"; 9/10/1922 (1/7-8) "(Centralia) Bank Bandits Hiding in the Osage"; 9/17/1922 (1/7-8) "(Centralia) Bank Bandit (Ralph Carter) Is Killed Near Here (at Big Creek)"; 10/17/1922 (1/8) "Identified Local Man (J.C. Majors) As Bank Bandit; 10/18/1922 (1/7-8) "Woman Leads Dewey Bank Robbers"; 10/19/1922 (1/7) "(Dewey) Bank Bandits In Osage Hills..."; 10/21/1922 (1/7-8) "(J.C.) Majors Leads Vinita Jail Break"; 10/24/1922 (1/8) "Rob Talala Bank, Head For Osages"; 10/25/1922 (1/8) "Officers Scour Osage For Bandits"; 11/4/1922 (1/2) "Vinita Jail Breakers (J.C. Majors etal) Are Surrounded"; 11/5/1922 (1/2) "Posse Closes in on Majors, Capture Near"; 11/15/1922 (1/8) "Dewey Bank Bandit (Henry Wells) Arrested"; 11/16/1922 (1/2) "(Henry) Wells Denies Part in Dewey (Bank) Robbery"; 12/20/1922 (6/4) "Independence (Ks) Bandits Got $20G (in jewelry heist)"; 12/28/1922 (1/7-8) "J.C. Majors Recaptured Last Night"; 12/31/1922 (1/7) "Who Captured Majors" - found with jewelry loot; 1/1/1923 (1/5; 5/6) "Nabs Independence (Ks) Jewelry Thug (Walter Philpot)"; 1/12/1923 (1/6) "Search Near Coffeyville for (Virgil State Bank Robbery) Bandits"; 1/17/1923 (1/1) "Kansas Bank Robbers Stole Auto Here"; 1/17/1923 (5/6) "One Bandit (Ralph Clopton) Captured, Al Spencer Gang"; 1/18/1923 (1/6; 2/1-2) "Al Spencer Pays Bandits (J.C. Majors etal) for Securities"; 1/21/1923 (1/4-5; 7/3-6) "Bartlesville Man Tells Graphic Story of Al Spencers Last Raid"; 1/27/1923 (1/7) "Suspects (Henry Wells & Scott Vince) Released"; 2/19/1923 (4/6) "How Spencer Out Talked Officers"; 2/20/1923 (1/7) "Al And His Pal Make Escape In Osage Hills"; 2/27/1923 (1/4-5) "$500 Most One Can Get For Capturing 'Our Al' "; 3/27/1923 (1/8; 6/1) "Spencer Cornered By Posse, Belief"; 3/29/1923 (1/7) "Button, Button, Has Anyone Seen Our 'Al' "; 3/30/1923 (4/4-5) "Did Al Spencer Steal Smith's Studebaker"; 4/1/1923 (1/8) "Four Bandits Rob Gentry, Arkansas, Bank"; 4/2/1923 (1/1-2) - More Gentry Bank Robbery News; 4/15/1923 (1/4-6) "Al Spencers Only Photograph" with career story; 4/18/1923 (?/?) - could not find article about Pat Ward's capture; 4/22/1923 (1/8) "Spencer Eluded Posse, Nick Lamar Caught"; 4/23/1923 (1/8; 4/4) "Capture Second Spencer Gangster (Earl Holman)"; 5/6/1923 (1/7) "Three Members of Spencer Gang Held (at Amarillo...Nick Lamar, Big Boy Berry & Goldie Bates)"; 5/8/1923 (1/2) "Lieutenant in Spencer Gang Held"; 5/11/1923 (1/5) "Identified Two Gentry (Bank) Bandits (as Nick Lamar & Big Boy Berry)"; 6/13/1923 (2/4) "Al's Man (Berry) Confesses" - also mentions that Red Cloud Skruggs was recently killed at Howden, Oklahoma; 6/15/1923 (1/5) "Bandits Pranks Law" - James Majors escapes from Kansas dentist office with wife's help; 8/21/1923 (1/1) "Bandit Chief Calmly Directs (Okesa) Train Hold-Up"; 8/23/1923 (1/8) "Ten M.K.T. Bandits Nabbed"; 8/24/1923 (1/7) "Katy Bandits Got Bonds"; 8/29/1923 (1/7) "Ike Ogg Enters Plea of Guilty"; 8/30/1923 (1/1) "Emmett Daugherty Identified as Truby Jewelry Bandit"; 9/16/1923 (1/1; 4/1-4) "A Posse Of Officers Kill Al Spencer (photo)...'riddled with buckshot' "; 9/17/1923 (1/6; 3/4) "Many Identify Spencer's Body"; 9/19/1923 (1/4-5; 3/2-4) "Al Spencer...Met Death...(with death photo)".

BARTLESVILLE MORNING EXAMINER [BME] 10/19/1922 (1.4; 1/5; 4/1) "Excitement High In Dewey As (Security National) Bank Funds Are Taken" "One Arrest (Lloyd Cox) Made in Dewey Bank Robbery" - three unmasked men take $2500, escape in Hudson car; 1/17/1923 (1/1) "...(Cambridge Bank Robbing) Bandit Found Wounded Near Pawhuska"; 1/18/1923 (1/1) "Spencers Gang Stole Car Here..."; 1/28/1923 (1-B/5) "Wounded Man (Van Hamilton) Not (Cambridge) Bank Robber"; 2/20/1923 (1/7) "Airplanes Used In (Chatauqua Bank Robbery) Bandit Hunt"; 3/29/1923 (1/5-7); "Spencer and Pals State Hold-Up (of the Mannford Bank)..."; 4/4/1923 (10/2) "Hither & Yon"; 4/18/1923 (1/6-7) "Alleged Bandit (Pat Ward) Shot By Officers"; 4/20/1923 (1/6-7) "Pawhuska Mob Threatens Life of (Ed) Shull...(for killing Robert Wilkerson during P.O. robbery)"; 5/10/1924 (1/3) "Mrs. Snyders Bond Set at $10,000" for killing her husband, Stanley Snyder.

PAWHUSKA DAILY CAPITAL [PDC] 6/18/1922 (1/1) "Kidnapped (Elgin) Bank Cashier Freed on Okesa Road"; 10/4/1922 (1/1) "Sheriff Holds Men (Dick Gregg +2) Believed Wanted Badly"; 10//16/1922 (1/1) "Governor Allen Has Requisition Honored Here"; 1/17/1923 (1/1-2) "Thrilling Tale Told by Martin on Kidnapping (during Cambridge (Ks) Bank Robbery)"; 1/20/1923 (1/2) "Mystery Yet Exists in Cambridge (Bank) Robbery"; 3/1/1923 (1/5) "Jury Selected...(in Buck Collingsworth's trial for robbing the Farmers State Bank of Burbank, Okla.)"; 3/2/1923 (1/3) - Buck Collingsworth gets 10yrs in prison; 4/17/1923 (1/4-6) "Robert Wilkerson, Dies of Wounds" after Pawhuska P.O. robbery; 4/19/1923 (1/5) "Brother to Spencer Taken At Neosho"; 4/20/1923 (1/8; 8/8) "Net Tightens About Bandit Suspects...(Pat Ward caught)"; 4/21/1923 (1/5) "Al Spencer Makes Peace Overtures"; 4/23/1923 (1/7) "Three More In Jail In Outlaw Drive"; 8/21/1923 (1/7) "No Arrests Yet In (Okesa) Train Robbery"; 8/22/1923 (1/7) "Federal Men Pour Into Osage"; 8/23/1923 (1/1-7) "Officers Hold 13 Prisoners..."; 8/24/1923 (1/3-5) "Katy Loot Runs Into Thousands"; 8/25/1923 (1/5) "Arraign...Leader (Charles Johnson)"; 8/26/1923 (1/5) "Rumors of Spencer's Arrest"; 8/28/1923 (1/7) "Ike Ogg Pleads Guilty"; 8/30/1923 (1/2) "Curtis Kelly Arrested In Katy Robbery"; 9/17/1923 (1/3-5) "Al Spencer, Most Notorious of Oklahoma Outlaws, Dies As He Lived"; 9/18/1923 (1/2) "Bury Spencer Near Nowata"; 9/21/1923 (1/2-3) "Officers Take Another (Grover Durrill) in Katy Robbery".

PAWHUSKA DAILY JOURNAL [PDJ] 7/26/1923 (1/1) "No Trace of Fairfax (National) Bank Robbers"; 7/26/1923 (1/3) "Seek To Identify Osage (State) Bank (Robbery) Suspect"; 8/21/1923 (1/1-2) "Southbound Katy Held-Up Early This Morning"; 8/21/1923 (1/5-6) "Rob Grainola State Bank Monday (8/20/1923)"; 8/22/1923 (1/5-6 "Arrest Bartlesville Man (Ike Ogg) in Connection With (Okesa Train) Hold-Up"; 8/24/1923 (1/5-6; 8/2) "Arraign 13 Suspects on Saturday"; 8/25/1923 (1/1) "Attorney Maurier To Arrive Today"; 8/26/1923 (1/1) "Further Arrests in Katy Train Case"; 8/28/1923 (1/1) "No Truth in Report of Capture of Spencer"; 8/29/1923 (1/1) "Ike Ogg Pleads Guilty (to Okesa Train Robbery)"; 8/31/1923 (1/4) "Suspect (Curtis Kelly) Arrested in Katy Train Case"; 9/2/1923 (1/5) "Capture (Emmett Daugherty at Bartlesville) Nephew of Henry Starr"; 5/22/1924 (1/5-6; 8/4) "Capture Dick Gregg (and Alta Gregg & Wendell Powell) at Lyman"; 5/23/1924 (1/2) "May Connect Gregg with Burbank Deal"; 5/25/1924 (1/3) "Dick Gregg Case".

OSAGE COUNTY NEWS [OCN] 12/23/1921 (?/?) "Bandit Gets Good Haul at Nelagony (Bank)"; 2/17/1922 (1/1) "Pawhuska Has Bank Robbery"; 3/3/1922 (1/1) "Bandit (Silas Meigs) Pays Price (Death)"; 7/7/1922 (?/?) "Bring Supposed (Grainola) Bank Robbers Here"; 1/19/1923 (1/2) "Cambridge Bank Robbers Kidnap..."; 2/23/1923 (?/?) Cambridge Bank Robbery; 3/23/1923 (1/3) "Sheriffs Office Replies to Taunt of Okesa Bootleggers".

TULSA TRIBUNE [TTB] 12/11/1931 (1/2-3; 14/3-4) "Warden Abducted & Shot As Six Flee Leavenworth"; 12/12/1931 (1/5; 6/8) "Old Oklahoma Bandit (Earl Thayer) Evades Kansas Posse"; 12/13/1931 (3/4) "Probe Kasas Prison Break"; 12/13/1931 (6/2-4) Photos of house where convicts died; 12/14/1931 (1/5) Photos of escaping convicts Charles Berta & Tom Underwood; 12/14/1931 (3/1-2) Lost Earl Thayer's Trail; 12/15/1931 (9/7) Near Prison Riot when Earl Thayer finally captured and returned.
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Here is a question for the ages. Was the charismatic Al Spencer truly the Granddaddy of all Oklahoma bandits of the 1920s-30s as is often suggested by numerous books and news articles or was he simply the flavor of the month for newspaper editors circa 1922-23? I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between. Were such notables as Henry Starr, Tom Slaughter, Ed Lockhart, Albert Connor, the Jarretts, Ray Terrill, Jeff Duree and on and on all members of his gang? I have discovered that throughout the 1920s, reports deriving from area newspapers having to do with the Osage bandits were often times notoriously inaccurate, undependable, and contradictory. Granted, this once honest livery stable operator turned rustler, bootlegger then bandit was a member of a band of outlaws which included some semi-well known desperadoes, but exactly what crimes he committed and his true status in that gang, is subject to great interpretation. In Spencer's case, separating fact from fiction would prove to be a Herculean task. Was Spencer truly the second coming of Jesse James as is often claimed or has the legend overtaken the facts?
Posts: 126 | Registered: Wed December 10 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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While duly granting Al Spencer his place in the Hall of Infamy--he did after all participate in Oklahoma's last train robbery--I tend to suspect that myth has largely supplanted the actuality of his criminal career. Part of this is no doubt due to erroneous witness identifications and part of it simply the difficulties of detailed crime reporting when there was often a shortage of available details. Wilber Underhill is often mentioned as a member of the Spencer gang, which is nonsense, and also of the "Kimes-Terrill gang" {which itself seems to be a mythical newspaper blending of two different outlaw bands of the '20's). As Ron suggests, it is absurd to blindly accept the common misconception that all notorious Southwestern outlaws of the '20's were sometime members of Spencer's gang (if indeed he had a full-time gang and was the actual leader), though some of them probably did know one another. Much of Spencer's mythology, I think was developed in the 1935 book Ten Thousand Public Enemies by Courtney Ryley Cooper. Cooper was a journalistic crony of J. Edgar Hoover and a taxpayer-supported unofficial PR man for the FBI and was one of the very few early writers to enjoy access to FBI files. He was also a melodramatic journalist with a dime-novel approach who made full use of literary licence and whose lack of documentation leaves the reader in great difficulty of separating fact from fiction. Cooper's principal "hook" in linking Spencer to many later outlaws was Frank Nash, himself a much overrated figure who was later a member of the Karpis-Barker gang and a victim of the Kansas City Union Station massacre. Nash was definitely an accomplice of Spencer's, at least on the Okesa robbery, but I have yet to see proof of any real tie-in between Spencer and such others as Ray Terrill, Underhill, the Barkers and various others with whom different writers have associated him. Even his alleged association with Henry Starr is open to question, though Starr can be definitely linked to Ed Lockhart, a headline criminal contemporary of Spencer's but largely forgotten outside of Oklahoma.
Posts: 98 | Registered: Thu November 27 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Hi all,

Both Mr. Mattix and Mr. Morgan brought up some very good points as a lot of bandits have become romantic and mythical figures derived by newspaper reporters and dime novals of the times. Matt and George Kimes have no conection at all from my research to Al Spencer. They were in their mid-teens by 1920-21. Ray Terrill and Jeff Duree were more nighttime safe crackers of this time period. Many crimes reportedly pulled-off by Al Spencer and his gang have not be supported by any proof! Spencer, like many bandits, loved the publicity as he became somebody through the newspaper stories of the day, but that probably lead to his demise too. Anyway this is somewhat like proving the Daltons/James and Youngers have all links in not only familes but their crimes. Yes, the Younger and James were crime partners. Bell Starr is usually found in books to be related to someone of fame too. This is why we have researchers in OklahombreS to weed out the bull with proof if possible. Join up now if your not already a member.

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Dear Mr. Koch,

You state that in your "research on George and Matt Kimes", you find "no connection" between them and Al Spencer; and, I'm quite sure that you are correct. However, the question that I'm left with is "When are we going to see some of this research that you've collected on the Kimes brothers"? Are you going to POST IT on the Oklahombres Web Site, or are you waiting to get it published in a future Journal?

I thought that this Oklahombres organization encouraged the "sharing" of information about outlaws and lawmen.

In your final statement, you suggested that we should be "joining" Oklahombres; but, at present, I just don't see any advantages to being a member. In fact, I don't even know "how" to join. I contacted the President, Mr. Art Burton, and he told me that he wasn't the President any longer. So, I contacted the Secretary-Treasurer, Roger Bell, and he said that he had stepped-down, as well. If we wanted to join, who do we send our membership fees to?

I had a friend who joined up last summer . . . well, at least, he sent in his money. He told me that he hadn't received nuthin' in return. He didn't get a membership card or certificate or even a "Howdy, Welcome to the Club" letter. Since then, he hasn't received any Journals, and he says that there haven't been any meetings or gatherings . . . so, I just don't understand what it's all about.

If you have any advise or recommendations on how to proceed, I'd be more than happy to hear them.
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Mike Koch has shared information with researchers on numerous occasions in the past with his many enlightening articles published in the Oklahombres journal. As for Kimes, Koch currently has an excellent article on Perry Chuculate's murder posted on our website as do several other authors concerning Oklahoma lawmen and Outlaws. You will also find a gallery of rare photos as well as Ray Terrill's autobiography on the site. Check it out
Posts: 126 | Registered: Wed December 10 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Oklahombres as an organization is in the middle of a period of change. Vice-president Roy Young is currently taking several steps to address the problems you have noted. The board of directors met recently. We hope to have things in good order in the near future.

Originally posted by OK"BULL"DOG:
Dear Mr. Koch,

You state that in your "research on George and Matt Kimes", you find "no connection" between them and Al Spencer; and, I'm quite sure that you are correct. However, the question that I'm left with is "When are we going to see some of this research that you've collected on the Kimes brothers"? Are you going to POST IT on the Oklahombres Web Site, or are you waiting to get it published in a future Journal?

I thought that this Oklahombres organization encouraged the "sharing" of information about outlaws and lawmen.

In your final statement, you suggested that we should be "joining" Oklahombres; but, at present, I just don't see any advantages to being a member. In fact, I don't even know "how" to join. I contacted the President, Mr. Art Burton, and he told me that he wasn't the President any longer. So, I contacted the Secretary-Treasurer, Roger Bell, and he said that he had stepped-down, as well. If we wanted to join, who do we send our membership fees to?

I had a friend who joined up last summer . . . well, at least, he sent in his money. He told me that he hadn't received nuthin' in return. He didn't get a membership card or certificate or even a "Howdy, Welcome to the Club" letter. Since then, he hasn't received any Journals, and he says that there haven't been any meetings or gatherings . . . so, I just don't understand what it's all about.

If you have any advise or recommendations on how to proceed, I'd be more than happy to hear them.

Dee Cordry webmaster
Posts: 158 | Location: Piedmont, OK | Registered: Wed November 12 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Mr. Cordry and Mr. Morgan have given good replies to your questions. Now, I thought I would put in my two cents. I have researched a lot of lawmen and outlaws for the last 12 years or so and have exchange several items to various people. Many OklahombreS members have been gracious enough to do so with each other and other non-members. I have exchanged Kimes' material with several people who have helped me in the reseach of their story and had an article on the Murder of Deputy Sheriff Perry Chuculate published in the Summer 2002 issue of the OklahombreS Journal. A book will be out on the Kimes gang this year too. I would be glad to send a copy of this story with photo's if you like. Oklahombres acting chairman is Roy Young. If you would like to contact him at to see if you can send in a membership, I think he will take care of it for you until we have elections in April and choose new or re-elect existing officers. I am sorry for some of the issues you have brought up about our organizations, but we are trying to do better. We now have a web page and journals coming out on time. Two new journals are now being printed for mailing. We are having a rendezvous in April which will be announced with all the appropriate information soon. We always hope to do better, but it takes active members who are willing to help in various areas to make any organization work properly. We are and will be doing better to serve the general public and membership.

Mike Koch
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Dear Mr. Koch,

It was very nice of you and Mr. Cordry to take the time to explain "what is happening" with the Oklahombres organization. And, I was able to locate your excellent story about the murder of Perry Chuculate by the Kimes brothers on R.D. Morgan's website. I'd like to see something similar about the Kimes boys on the Oklahombres website - now that it's online again.

I wonder what the Chuculate family thought about the Governor of Oklahoma letting Matt Kimes, who was serving two life sentences for murder, out of prison on leave to go quail hunting!?!

I was hoping to find something POSTED on the Oklahombres website about the Kimes brothers; because, I'd like to know more about the killing of George Noland, by the Kimes brothers and their prison guards, Atwood Thompson and W.C. Turner, while they (the Kimes') were supposedly attending their sisters funeral in January 1933. Who actually did the killing; and, why was their other sister, Jackie, there?

This may not be the proper forum for such an inquiry; therefor, I'll just wait until something appears on "Oklahombres" website.

Thanks for your response and I'll be looking forward to joining Oklahombres, when they've been re-organized, or whatever is going to happen with them. I assume that notification of the next meeting of Oklahombres will be posted somewhere on this website. I'll be watching for it.

The Perry Chuculate article was very good!
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