How Oklahoma's Unique Bank Robbers' "Training School" has been suppressed: "Students" made fatal mistake of practicing on little town's strong box once too often.
Institution at Millerton (McCurtain Co., OK), a village with population of 150, was raided EIGHT TIMES in NINE YEARS (1911-1920), whereupon the officials got tired and made ready to handle the gang effectively--dramatic chase for one of the robbers across Canada with the aid of Royal Mounted Police.
Charley (sic) Samples was a graduate of Jim Baldwin's school for bank robbers, class of '16, but he was just a kid and after he escaped to Canada he proved it by scrawling his name on a barn door. Men of the law, pursuing him across the border, saw his name there and his capture followed. That was the beginning of the end of Jim Baldwin's school for bank robbers, for it resulted in the conviction of Baldwin, who is serving 55 years in (Oklahoma State) prison.
Baldwin was out for a while, recently, on "leave of absence," by grace of former Governor Walton, but he has gone back by order of Gov. Trapp, and Oklahoma bankers breathe more freely. They were worried while he was out. They are content wot have their bank robbing done by self-made men who boast no diplomas or degrees.
The feeling of relief is especially pronounced at Millerton, McCurtain County, in the southeastern corner of the State, and the region thereabouts, long the training ground for the robber students, and at the State Bank of Millerton, on which they practiced until they earned for it the undesired distinction of being, with the record of eight daylight stickups, the most-robbed bank in Oklahoma, or probably anywhere else.
ROBBED EIGHT TIMES IN NINE YEARS ! !
Baldwin's leave of absence might have continued indefinitely if Walton's gubernatorial incumbency had continued. And, Baldwin's celebrated training school for youths might have gone on turning out promising bank robbers; however, Oklahoma came to the conclusion that Walton could best serve it out of office and Baldwin could best serve it in prison. So, there they are - Walton "out" and Baldwing "in".
Millerton, down there where Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas meet, is not much of a metropolis, with a population of about 150, but it is the fashion for little places like that in Oklahoma to have banks, dating back probably to the time when centers of populations were few and far between and the development of the country called for banking facilities to establish branches proportionate to a per capita.
In nine years, from 1911 to 1920, the populace of Millerton was thrown into excitement eight times by the visits of bank robbers. It was hard on the people, all that excitement, and harder on the bank, but there was Jim Baldwin's "ranch school for bank robbers" up the country and Jim's graduates had to make a start somewhere and the Millerton bank was handiest, so they practiced on that.
Apart from its proximity to the Baldwin ranch, its location was advantageous for the instruction of Baldwin's boys in the "get-away", in which bank robbers must perfect themselves if they are to live long and prosper. North of the town are hills covered by oak, merging into the heavier timber of the Little River bottom, leading to the pine forest and mountains of north McCurtain and south LeFlore Counties. There is a hundred miles of this broken country, occupied only by scattering ranches.
One of the largest of the ranches was Jim Baldwin's. He might have become a rich and respectable rancher but he craved forms of excitement, which the law frowns upon. So, he robbed banks on the side. For that purpose, he needed a gang. He found it was easier to get a gang than to keep it. From time to time, members were shot or arrested. He was frequently in need of recruits. He concluded that the best plan was to take them early and bring them up in the business.
USED A WIDE TRAINING FIELD
His ranch was fine for that. He needed cowboys anyway and hard riding and straight shooting are part of the training for the cowboy career, and who was to know that back of it was a purpose to rob banks and ride away and shoot pursuing posses? Nobody did know, or even suspect, for a long time, but finally came suspicion and verification and the school was broken up and the Headmaster was sent to prison.
Nobody knows just how extensive were the operations of Jim Baldwin's gang. But, there have been a good many banks robbed in Oklahoma and Texas and Arkansas - - first to last, within the radius of the presumed activities of the Baldwin outfit. The conjecture in that region is that Baldwin and a few of his experienced men looked after the big jobs while the youngsters were receiving their instruction and practicing on the Millerton bank to qualify for bigger undertakings.
It was not until 1914 that suspicion was replaced by certainty. Baldwing was caught that year while robbing the bank a Gilliam, Ark., and convicted and sent to prison; but, he was in only a little while. Accustomed to the wide spaces and long rides at night and all that, the prison air irked him and he mentioned to the Governor of Arkansas that he would like to be on his way and the Governor of Arkansas said oh, very well, and turned him out.
The Millerton bank had been robbed the first time in 1911. Betis Austin and Ernest Gregory, from the Baldwin ranch, were in town that day. After the robbery, they rode rapidly away and have not been seen since. Baldwing said he couldn't understand why they gave up good jobs on the ranch and went away.
CITIZENS PREPARED FOR SECOND RAID
It was something like a year later when the bank was robbed the second time. In the interim, some of the leading citizens had been telling around town what they would have done the other time, if they had thought of it, and what they would do the next time. The first time they had been taken unawares. Now, they had a plan of action sketched out.
Having a plan of action, it did not take them long to get going after two young men had robbed the bank the second time and departed in the general direction of Little River. They overhauled the robbers and brought them back. They proved to be Earl Holman and Jim Noel. They were tried and convicted and Holman was given 10 years and Noel got 7 years in prison.
In the Fall of 1913, the town was again caught off its guard. The bank was again visited and the robbers got away. Somebody thought one of them was Curtis Noel, brother of Jim, and he was arrested; but, at his trial, he was acquitted.
In the Spring of 1915, robbers came again and again they got away and, remembering how a mistake had been made about Curtis Noel, nobody would undertake to say who they were. And, in the Fall (of 1915), the performance was repeated.
Success may have made somebody overconfident. At any rate, the two who were sent in May, 1916, to get the money that the bank and accumulated since the last robbery, were mere sophomores - - Owen Williamson, 19 years old, and Chaley Samples, 20. They had been taught that death was the snitch's proper portion and that the law of self-preservation required a bank robber to kill a wounded pal to save him from the temptation of snitching; however, as it turned out, they were not hard enough for that.
They were successful to the point of getting the money and getting out of town, carrying the cashier along on one of the horses. However, the telephone spread the alarm and leading citizens mobilized at the Texas, Oklahoma & Eastern railroad, six miles north, in anticipation that the robbers would pass that way. Sure enough, along they came, having dropped the cashier a mile and a half from town; and, in the shooting that ensued, Williamson's leg was punctured by a bullet which killed his horse.
FORGOT THEIR BANK ROBBING LESSONS
That was a clear case, according to the rules, for Samples to ride back and finish Williamson. But, Samples showed right there that he wasn't cut out for the Baldwin kind of bank robber. He rode back but it was to offer Williamson his own horse and part of the money if Williamson thought he could get away. But, Williamson said no, it was no use, as he was finished. Then, Samples asked him if he wished to be shot and Williamson said no, it wasn't necessary, as he was dying anyway. Samples had his doubt and so as to give Williamson a chance, he left his own horse and put off afoot and escaped.
Williamson did not die. When he had sufficiently recovered, he was tried and convicted and given seven years in the pen, through all of which he was true to the never-snitch ethics of the gang.
Newton W. Gore, now assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma, was then County Attorney of McCurtain County. He had been making a study of the Millerton bank robberies and, in view of the youth of the robbers and other circumstances, had come to the conclusion that they were schooled at the Baldwin ranch. But, he had no proof of it until a posseman's bullet bored Williamson's leg and killed the horse he was riding. The dead horse furnished the proof. It was identified as Baldwin's saddle horse.
Naturally, Baldwin was asked how it came that a bank robber was riding his horse. The explanation was simple enough. It has been stolen from him. Gore didn't believe him but he had to let it go at that for the time being. Confident, however, that Baldwin was the leader of the gang, he took a census of the Baldwin outfit and discovered that Samples was missing. So, Samples, no doubt, was the robber who had escaped, and the next thing was to catch Samples.
The boy had a sister in Bismark (now Wright City, Oklahoma). Her mail was watched a presently a letter came to her from Samples, which had been mailed at Loraine, Alberta, Canada.
DOG SLEDGE (sic) PURSUIT IN CANADA
Gore took Sheriff Ruel Taylor and they went to Canada. At Coronation, they obtained a requisition warrant and a mounted policeman and they went to Loraine. The first thing they saw at there was Kelly's Livery Barn and on the door of Kelly's Barn, in letters a foot high, was Chaley Samples' name. It began to look like they were on the right track. They hunted up Kelly and he said, yes, Chaley worked for him last harvest, but he had gone away. He thought his daughter had heard from him. The girl admitted that she had received postcards from him; but, at first, (she) refused to tell where they had been mailed. The "mounty" threatened to take her in and she produced the cards. They had been mailed from Lonaire, 152 miles northwest of Edmonton, on the Athabasca River.
There were two trains a week to the end of the line at San Quiden. They took the Wednesday train. Lonaire was 26 miles from the terminus. They outfitted with a dog sled and started. Seven miles out they met the mounted policeman for that district. Yes, he knew Samples. He had run him off for stealing furs, and he had gone to Glecian, 100 miles south of Edmonton.
They caught the same train back, saving them a wait of a half a week. They went to Calgary and the officer of the mounted police there telephoned his man at Glecian, who promptly brought Samples in, after taking him from the arms of the bride he had recently married.
On the way back to Oklahoma, he confessed, how that, when he was working for the Choctaw Lumber Co., Jim Baldwin and Owen Williamson had pestered him until he joined Baldwin's school. And, (he) was given lessons and he and Williamson were outfitted with horses and guns and bags for the money and "grub" which Mrs. Baldwin prepared for them. So, caparisoned they had galloped into town and stopped at the bank and asked the cashier if a cow man had been looking for them. He said, no, and they said that was strange but, while they were there, they would trouble him for the bank's money.
There was talk about killing him but he told them he had a wife and "little bitty baby," so they carried him along out of town and then turned him loose. Then, as has been told, Williamson was shot and Samples got away.
ONE-THIRD WAS BALDWIN'S "BIT"
One of his lessons at the Baldwin school had been that Baldwin was to get one-third of the money stolen from the bank. But, in the flurry of departure, Samples forgot that lesson and took all the money with him to Canada.
Armed with the confession, Gore went to see Williamson in prison. By that time, Williamson was sour on his alma mater, which had not shown any interest in him since he had been there. He corroborated Samples' confession.
Gore wanted more proof. Samples and Williamson told him Bob Sells knew about it. He had gone to Aberdeen, Miss. Gore found him there and he came back and added his testimony to that of Samples and Williamson agains Baldwin, who was found guilty and given 25 years in prison. Samples was released in recognition of his testimony and went back to his Canadian bride. Williamson was paroled.
Baldwin appealed and, while out on bond, needing money for lawyers and court costs and everything, he and a confederate robbed a bank at Petty, Kan., of about $35,000 in money and bonds and other securities, which has never been recovered.
Not satisfied with that, Baldwin and Charlie Loftin, three weeks later, robbed a bank at Lindsay, OK. They were caught and Baldwin pleaded guilty and was given 30 years in prison. The other sentence was affirmed by the Criminal Court of Appeals (193 P. 431), so the total was 55 years, which Baldwin began serving.
But, Jack Walton was Governor of Oklahoma in those days and Walton was famed far and near as the good friend of felons, ever ready to hand them pardons and paroles. The case of the unfortunate Jim Baldwin was brought to his attention. Jim was needed on the ranch and would the Governor be so kind as to grant him a leave of absence from the penitentiary.
The Governor said, why, certainly, and Baldwin went back to the ranch with more than 50 years of his double sentence unserved.
In the meantime, business had gone on as usual at the Millerton bank. Meaning that the periodical robberies had continued. The seventh (robbery) was done by John Smith and Len Woods, in 1919. They did nicely but bungled their getaway and four days later were arrested at Daugherty, OK. Smith was given 25 years and Woods, a mere boy, was let off with 10 years.
CASHIER WAS WAITING FOR HIM
Smith, having no stand-in with Gov. Walton, escaped the next year (from Big Mac) and headed for McCurtain County. His plan was to call at the Millerton bank and get any money that he had overlooked the other time or that had been brought in since. The Warden suspected as much and notified the Millerton folks to be on the lookout.
A man named Mosely was cashier then and, when he heard that Smith was coming back, he got ready. He was Smith coming and after the smoke cleared away, he called up Gore and told him to come and get his bank robber.
"Where is he?" asked Gore.
"Lying outside the bank here by a dead stump and he's as dead as the stump."
That was the end of Smith and the last of the Millerton bank robberies.
Smith was the only one who gave his life for the cause, but there were two other incedental killings. When the posse that captured Williamson was taking him to jail (at Valliant, Oklahoma), two of the possemen quarreled over the question of the division of the reward and one of them shot and killed the other. The slayer bolted after the shooting and the posse had another job hunting him down. He resisited arrest and was killed, as well.
(NOTE: See - "Oklahoma Heroes" by Ron Owens, concerning the deaths of Deputy Sheriff J. J. Flowers (p.233), and Bismark Constable William Williams (p.252)).
It was unlucky for Baldwin that Gov. Walton was put out of office. That brought Lieutenant Governor Trapp into the chair. Newt Gore, now Assistant Attorney General, called his attention to the "leave of absence" under which Baldwin was operating and Trapp promptly revoked the permit and ordered Baldwin back to prison. He is about 50 years old now and with most of his double sentence of 55 years to serve, the bank robbers' school at Baldwin's ranch is likely to be without a Headmaster for some time to come, so it has taken a vacation.
(SOURCE: Article by F.A. Behymer, Staff Correspondent, St. Louis Post-Dispatch June 1, 1924 with an Oklahoma City "dateline" of
Although Jim Baldwin may have been recognized as the "Headmaster" of the Baldwin Ranch-School for Bank Robbers in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, he did not work alone. His three brothers, Hood, Robert, and Bush, all made valuable contributions to the program.
The 1900 U.S. Census for the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, shows that James W. & Martha Baldwin were the parents of Hood W. Baldwin (21), James W. Baldwin (19), Robert K. Baldwin (18), Bush Baldwin (17), and a daughter Ophelia Baldwin (15), residing in Twp 8 South, Range 10 East, near Utica Town. (Note: Martha Baldwin may have been a step-mother. Census indicates, all offspring born in Texas.)
In 1914, James "Jim" Baldwin (Jr.) and his brother, Hood Baldwin, robbed the bank at Gillham, Arkansas, as reported in the Indian Journal newspaper dated 3/19/1915 (p.6 col. 1):
"Brothers Charged With Bank Robbery"
"(Dateline - DeQueen, Ark.) James Baldwin, aged 33 and Hood Baldwin, aged 27, brothers, both married and engaged in the cattle raising business on the Baldwin Ranch, located 20 miles north of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, were lodged in jail here charged with being the men who robbed the bank at Gillham, Ark., of a few dollars -- less than $1,000 -- on the morning of March 3, after compelling the bank president, cashier and a customer to precede them out of the city."
Jim Baldwin served a year of his five year sentence in the Arkansas Prison before the Governor of Arkansas pardoned him. However, to show their gratitude, two of the other Baldwin brothers tried to rob the same bank around two years later.
"Baldwin Brothers Bad After Arkansas Bank --
Two Charged With Robbing Same One (Bank) Two Others Robbed Four Years Ago"
"(Dateline - DeQueen, Ar., July 27) Indictments charging Bush and Morgan Baldwin, brothers, of Antlers, Okla., with robbing the Bank of Gillham, this county, in September, 1916, were returned by the grand jury today. They were recently arrested at Antlers. They are brothers of Hood and Jim Baldwin, cattlemen of Fort Thomas, Okla., who were convicted and sentenced to serve five years each for robbing the same bank in 1914. They were pardoned after serving one year." -- SOURCE: Muskogee Phoenix newspaper July 28, 1918 (p.10 col. 1)
In August of 1919, Jim Baldwin went on a bank robbing spree to raise money for his attorneys' fees. He had been convicted of the crime of "conjoint robbery" in the robbing of the Millerton Bank. He was "out" on appeal and needed some big bucks quick!
First, a correction to F. A. Behymer's article, as reported by Oldwestern earlier. The bank that Jim Baldwin and Charlie Lofton robbed on August 1, 1919, was in Petty, Lamar County, Texas, NOT Kansas. Conflicting reports state that they got away with between $16,000-$35,000 in cash, notes, securities, etc.; however, none of the booty was ever found or returned.
Shortly after robbing the bank at Petty, Texas, they robbed the First National Bank of Lindsay, Oklahoma, on August 25, 1919, as cited:
Lindsay News - August 29, 1919 - "Bank Robbed in Day Time"; also, September 12, 1919 (p1c5) - "Bank Robbers Captured"; also, September 19, 1919 (p.1) - "Bank Robbers Sentenced".
"Jim Baldwin, the bandit who went inside the First National Bank (of Lindsay, OK) and secured the money, and Charles Lofton, who stood guard at the bank door while the robbery was goin on, plead guilty in District Court at Pauls Valley, Monday, and drew sentences from Judge Swank as follows: Baldwin 30 years; Lofton, 20 years. They are now in the Pen."
Note: The third member of this bank robbing gang, who may have also been at the Petty (Tx) bank robbery, was later identified as B.J. Stone, a known alias of Tom Slaughter. As usual, Slaughter escaped, maybe with the money!
Jim Baldwin and Charles Lofton, along with fellow bank robbers John Smith and Len Wood, and others can be found on the 1920 U.S. Census for Oklahoma State Penitentiary, McAlester, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. Jim was a waiter in the dining room. Lofton and Wood were spinners in the twine plant, and John Smith was a car loader in the brickyard.
John Smith didn't like the brickyard so much; so, he escaped on March 3, 1920, and headed back to the Millerton (OK) Bank to settle a score. Bad idea. As reported in the McCurtain Gazette newspaper of March 31, 1920 (p.1 col.1):
"John Smith - Bank Robber Was Killed When He Attempted to Hold Up the Cashier of Millerton Bank Monday"
"Millerton was the scene of another attempted bank robbery Monday in which John Smith, an escaped convict, who went from McCurtain County last year for robbing the same bank, lost his life. The cashier, Burrow G. Powell, was the principal witness against Smith and his partner Lynn (Len) Wood, in their trial here last fall and Smith notified Mr. Powell at that time that he (Smith) would see him later. On last Monday, Mr. Powell got wind of Smith being in the neighborhood and accordingly prepared himself the the bank robber.
Smith, during the afternoon, entered the bank and when Powell saw that he was the same man who had robbed the bank before, fired on Smith, the ball taking effect in the muscle of Smith's right arm, which prevented him from using his gun. Smith made a run for his horse but did not stop to get on the horse, but kept running. A posse was quickly organized and started in pursuit in an automobile; and, when they came in sight of Smith, (they) opened fire. Some one of the crowd hit him in the back with a ball from a Winchester, the ball entering just under his shoulder blade and coming out at the side of his neck. Smith lived until Tuesday afternoon about 3 o'clock.
Smith was a young man of fine appearance and would have been taken as a cashier of a bank rather than a bank robber. Smith escaped from the penitentiary at McAlester on March 3.
We have heard Smith stole a horse and saddle in Idabel Sunday night and rode the horse to Millerton. This report, however, has not been confirmed."
MORE POSTINGS OF NEWSPAPER CITATIONS WILL BE FORTHCOMING "IF" THERE IS AN INTEREST IN THIS STORY AND SUBJECT MATTER. COMMENTS ENCOURAGED.
Does anyone have any info on Jim Baldwin or any of the Baldwins? Jim Baldwin was my great uncle & I can remember my grandmothers's conversations about him.
I have a fairly good file on Jim Baldwin, and his brothers, which includes many interesting newspaper articles, prison records, death certificates, obits, and several photographs. What is your e-mail address, and I will contact you?
Never mind - - I have your e-mail address from your "Profile" on this website. I will be contacting you, soon!
I would love to see any information you have. William Hood Baldwin was my great grandfather. We have some information, some of which is personal accounts passed down.
my mother was jessie baldwin the youngest child of Bush and Allie Baldwin married in Spencerville, oklahoma 1907 at allie's father's home Dr. Young. Their Children are; Bessie b.1909, warren b.about 1911, Elizabeth(Mary), Clyde, Verna, Jim, Jessie. Mary was a twin but one died at birth, there was another girl child that also died. My aunt Bessie would talk about her uncle Jim, he was always in trouble with the law. We have Jim's spurs. I have a large photo taken about 1910 of all the brothers and their sister. I would really like to meet or write to my second and third cousins.My name is Paula and I'm in California. Alllie came to California after Bush died. My mother Jessie was only about a year old when her father died. I have a lot of stories and a photo of Allie and Bush on thier wedding day.
My grandparents were Robert Kaufman (Bob) Baldwin & Rackie Shelton. They had one son, Elmer who went by Sol. I live in Texas & would also like to get in contact with you.
jim baldwin was my gr uncle he is buried right besid my gr gran father in ft towson alos my dad and harden baldwin marred sisters so im double kin to baldwins some of these stories get blowed out of realaity i dint think jim balbwin ever on anything the older gen. were the ranchers hood and his famley got prety big in the ranching buissnes they did not owen a lot of land this country free range i was born and raised in ringold ok and still live here today
Jim Baldwin is my grandfather, I know nothing about him and would like to hear from someone that has information about him. I'm new to this site, my name is Ken Reynolds and I live in Plano Texas.
This may not be the right way to reply, so if not, please let me know. I am interested in pictures of those who robbed the bank at Millerton or pictures of the town of Millerton. I am collecting info on the town. By the way, my family owned the bank there!
Hmm. Interesting read! I didn't think that there was such an event like this in the past.
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