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Excerpts on the following pages were taken from the book on the left,
"Black, Red, and Deadly", by Art Burton



Cherokee Bill: Toughest Of Them All

Crawford Goldsby,alias Cherokee Bill.
Courtesy Western History Collections,
University of Oklahoma Library

The most famous outlaw in Indian Territory history was a young black man named Crawford Goldsby, better known by his nickname, Cherokee Bill. Cherokee Bill was born at Fort Concho,Texas, on February 8,1876. His father was George Goldsby, a soldier of the Tenth Cavalry, one of the famous "Buffalo Soldiers." There has been some confusion about George Goldsby's lineage. George had served as a first sergeant in D Company of the all-black Tenth Cavalry; only the officers were white. On his enlistment papers, he put himself down as a Negro in 1867. Crawford's mother was Ellen Beck, a black woman who had some Cherokee Indian and white blood in her ancestry. Crawford had a brother named Clarence who was two years younger. After being abandoned at Fort Concho, the mother moved with the two young boys to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. Ellen was a Cherokee Freedman and had originally met George Goldsby at Fort Gibson.
Crawford's mother left him in the care of an older black woman known as "Aunty" Amanda Foster. He lived with Aunty Foster until he was seven years old. At that tme his mother sent him to the Indian school at Cherokee, Kansas, for three years, and he was then sent to the Catholic Indian School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. When Crawford reached the age of twelve, he came home to Fort Gibson. Upon returning home, he found his mother had married a local black barber, William Lynch, who had a shop in Fort Gibson for many years. As is often the case with steprelationships, Crawford and his stepfather did not get along, and he began laying out and associating with the worst of companions, developing a taste for liquour and rebelling against authority.

Cherokee Bill was involved in many lawless acts during his short life. From the time Cherokee Bill joined the Cook Brothers, he acted as though he was destined to die in two years and wanted to kill as many men as he could. Some of the other fugitives who allied themselves to the Cook Gang that summer of 1894 were killed in desperate fights with deputy marshals; others were captured and given penitientiary sentences. The robbery at Chandler of the Lincoln County Bank on July 31 was Bill's first bank job. In the course of the robbery, he shot to death a barber named J.M. Mitchell. It was also assumed that Cherokee Bill was the killer of posseman, Sequoyah Houston, at the Fourteen Mile Creek fight. Also in the course of robbing a train, Cherokee Bill murdered a Missouri Pacific conductor named Sam Collins, when he insisted Bill pay his fare or get off the train. Not seeing eye to eye with the Cook brothers, he pulled a few jobs on his own. Cherokee Bill, with three men, their identity unknown, held up the Missouri Pacific Iron Mountain depot at Nowata. During the holdup Cherokee Bill shot and killed the station agent, Dick Richards, for no cause or reason whatsover. All of his crimes are not notated. The number of his reported or purposed killings ranges from seven to thirteen, the lower figure probably being more accurate.
For women, Cherokee Bill seemed to have had irresistible charm. He was said to have a sweetheart in nearly every section of the territory. He was often protected from harm by loyal friends and a violent reputation. Lawmen who pursued him, hearing of his fast six-shooter action, kept a safe distance and many times avoided engaging in battle. Because he was on good terms with Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles, he moved easily through their villages and lands, something his pursurers coould not do. The crime which finally led to Cherokee's incarceration, and for which he died on the gallows, was committed November 8,1894.
Cherokee Bill with mother,Mrs. Ellen Lynch.
Courtesy Fort Smith National Historic Site,National Park Service
On that date, Lenapah, a little rown on the Kansas & Arkansas Valley Railroad, later to become the Missouri Pacific, was the scene of the criminal act which cost Cherokee Bill his life. At that time the principal store in Lenapah was operated by Schufeldt & Son. John Schufeldt, on the day noted, two men rode rapidly into Lenapah, from the south, but attracted little attention as their appearance differed little from the hundreds of cowboys who came there to trade. Cherokee Bill's first act, after entering the store, was to march John Schufeldt back to the safe, which he ordered him to open. Quickly securing all the cash contents, Bill started for the front when he saw the clothing on display in the rear room of the store, as well as a rack of guns and a shelf of ammunition. He decided that this was an excellent opportunity to replenish his wardrobe and pick up a supply of cartridges. Rifle in hand, he forced young Schufeldt into the rear room and made him lay out the articles he wanted. Schufeldt was no fool. He knew with whom he was dealing and he did as he was told. A man by the name of Ernest Melton was doing some work in a vacant lot between the Schufeldt store and the restaurant next door, the interior of which was being wallpapered. When Mr. Melton and the other workers heard the shots fired by the outlaws, all rushed to the windows to see what the noise was about. Cherokee Bill flicked a glance at the window and saw Melton staring at him. Enraged at the painter's audacity in spying on him, he threw his rifle to his shoulder and slapped a shot at Melton that pierced his brain and killed him instantly. After the crime, the outlaws rode rapidly out of town in the direction from which they had come. This crime marked the end of the Cooke brothers gang and the end of Cherokee Bill. He was captured and put on trial and when the verdict was read, Cherokee Bill simply smiled. But his mother and sister, who were with him in the courtroom throughout the trail, wept loudly. "What's the matter with you two?" he snapped. "I ain't dead yet." And that afternoon,at the federal jail, Cherokee Bill "was engaged in a game of poker with Bill Cook (who had been captured earlier in New Mexico) and several kindred spirits as if nothing had happened." An appeal to the Supreme Court by his attorney resulted in the finding of the lower court being affirmed, and he was resentenced. March 17,1896, was then named as the day which would end his earthly career. Cherokee Bill was marched to the gallows and with his mother and Aunty at his side he remarked,"This is about as good a day to die as any,"...."Goodbye all my chums down that way" ,he said with a smile. Just then he caught sight of a young man in the act of taking a snap shot with a Kodak and pulling it sharply back. There was a creaking sound as the trap was sprung and the body shot downward. The fall was scarcely six feet, but the rope had been adjusted carefully by Lawson and the neck was broken. The muscles twisted once or twice, but that was all... Twelve minutes from the time the trap was sprung, the ropes that bound his limbs were removed, also the handcuffs and shackles, and the body was lowered into a coffin and borne away and the crowd dispersed. At Birnie's, the coffin was placed in a box and then taken to the Missouri Pacific depot and put aboard the train. His mother and sister took it back with them to Fort Gibson.

Shortly after his capture, Cherokee Bill posed with his captors at Wagoner,I.T. Left to right:(5)Zeke Crittenden,(4)Dick Crittenden,Bill,(2)Clint Scales,(1)Ike Rogers,and (3)Bill Smith. - Courtesy Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library


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