Does anyone know what was the largest and most organized criminal endeavor in the Oklahoma/Indian Territories prior to statehood. And where was it headquartered?
You'll have to get some help on this from the real experts on this board because I can't remember the reference, but I recall an organized gang of horse rustlers in the Choctaw Nation finally broken up by the Marshals which involved more than 50 individuals.
But, one thing I've noticed is that the Marshals operating in the Territory did not really think in terms of organized crime, they reacted to individual warrants. The whiskey trade for instance. While much of the booze was smuggling in by individuals, it seems that a succession of Creek freedmen were involved, using similiar methods and adjusting to the Marshals efforts to stop them. That suggests organization and planning, leadership qualities that don't fit the character of the outlaws caught. It's entirely possible there was a "Dr. Morarity" lurking in the Creek Nation.
One Creek Freedman name that would come to mind was Babe Mahardy. This man was involved in crime in the Indian Territory for over forty years.
Several other Creek Freedmen were involved like Dick Glass; Ben Brown; the Carlina (Carolina) clan at Johnsonville. Ben Brown, a.k.a. Love, has a record involving larceny, liquor, and murder that goes from 1883 to 1895 uninterrupted.
Hey there Art,
The two largest criminal enterprises that I have run across are:
1) A gang of desperadoes who operated from southern Kansas in the vicinity of Dodge City and Fort Larned south to the Red River. They were actively engaged in stealing horses from Indian pony herds belonging to the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowas. This was in the mid-1870s from about 1873-1877 when the last of the ringleaders were arrested and incarcerated at Fort Sill and then transferred to Fort Smith for trial. Included in this gang, I have learned, was the notorious "Arkansas Dave" Rudebaugh[spelled several different ways] and "Dutch Henry" Borne, infamous associate of Bill Tilghman during their buffalo hunting days.
2) The largest criminal conspiracy that I have run across and am still digging up information on was credited to the leadership of James "Jim" Barker who headquartered out of the Cherokee Nation in the late 1870s from about 1877-1879 when he was killed. The gang which was reported at ungodly numbers of between fifty and two hundred! reportedly spanned from western New Mexico Territory through the Texas Panhandle and to the eastern Indian Territory and north as far as northern Kansas and south as far as northern Texas. An article that I wrote several years ago for the Oklahombres Journal entitled "Manhunt on the Cimarron" was written before I ever came across the name of James Barker but as it turns out the gang of ten who were arrested in that story in 1879 were connected with this gang. It appears that there were several smaller groups operating independently of each other but all seemed to report back to Barker and his brothers. They are credited with several murders including the killing of Capt. Secrest, a prominent resident of Caney, Kansas. Larceny and whiskey peddling were commonplace. They are also credited with the killing of Sergeant Samuel/Thomas Gatchell of the 4th Cavalry who was a part of a detail of troops sent in pursuit of a portion of the gang operating in the vicinity of Walker's Store in the Chickasaw Nation.
I need to rework my "Manhunt on the Cimarron" story for publication as there has been a ton of new information uncovered which sheds additional light on the subject.
On the Trail
Secretary/Editor Oklahombres Journal
On the Trail
Secretary, Oklahombres Inc.
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