Born in Fort Concho, Texas on February 8, 1876, the boy that would one day become known as "Cherokee Bill” was first blessed with the name of Crawford
Goldsby. Born to St. George and Ellen (Beck) Goldsby, Bill’s father was a mulatto from Alabama, a sergeant of the Tenth United States Cavalry, and a Buffalo Soldier. His mother was a Cherokee
Freedman, mixed with African, Indian and white ancestry.
By the time he was seven, his parents had separated and his mother
moved him to Fort Gibson
Territory. Before long, he was sent to an
where he attended for three years. Afterwards, he was sent to an
Industrial School for
Carlisle, Pennsylvania for two years. However, despite attempts
to provide him a good education, some sources indicate that he could
barely read and write.
He left school at the age of 12 and returned to Fort Gibson. It
was at this tender age that some say he killed his first man. Crawford,
large for his age confronted his brother-in-law who had told him to
feed some hogs. Grabbing a gun,
shot and killed him, but was not prosecuted because of his age.
A year later his mother remarried and young Crawford
did not get along with his new stepfather. It was around that
time that he began to associate with a bad crowd, drank liquor, and
generally rebelled against any authority. Two years later, at
the age of 15, he moved from his mother’s house to his sister
Georgia’s and her husband. By the time he was 17, he was working
a ranch, where he said to have been well-liked. However, that
would all change the very next year when he would begin his
career, becoming one of the most dangerous and
feared men in
In the spring of 1894, at the age of
crime spree began when he shot a man named Jake Lewis for beating up
his younger brother. Though Lewis would later recover from his wounds,
was sure he had killed the man and fled for the Creek and
Nations, where he joined up with
Jim and Bill Cook.
In June, 1894, the trio was confronted at Fourteen Mile Creek
a warrant for Jim Cook. In the inevitable shoot out that
shot and killed lawman Sequoyah Houston. Jim
Cook was also badly wounded and the other two took him to Fort Gibson. Forced to leave him, he was later captured by lawmen. In the
rode to the home of his sister, Maud Brown, hiding from the law. When her husband, George Brown, a vicious drunk, began to beat Maud
with a whip for not responding quickly enough to his orders,
walked up behind the man and shot him to death.
Cherokee Bill rounded
up a gang, mostly comprised of black men with
blood and began to terrorize
Oklahoma. Starting out small, they were first accused on whiskey charges and horse
theft, before advancing to robbing banks, stores and stagecoaches. The
ruthless, shooting anyone who got in their way.
July 16th, the gang allegedly robbed a man named William Drew and two days
later, held up the Frisco train at Red Fork. However, due to the
express messenger having had the foresight to hide the money behind some
boxes, the gang escaped with very little.
July 31, 1894, the gang stole $500 from the Lincoln County bank in
killing one person and wounding others. In the process, one member
of the gang, Elmer Luca, was shot and captured by authorities.
Hotly pursued, the Cook Gang was surrounded at the home of a friend some
fourteen miles west of Sapulpa,
on August 2, 1894. During the volley of gunshots, one of the lawmen
was shot and severely wounded. Two of the gang members, Lon Gordon
and Henry Munson were killed and Ad Berryhill was captured. The rest
of the gang fled.
"This is as good a day
to die as any."
- Cherokee Bill,
March 17, 1896, as he stepped into the courtyard at Fort Smith and saw the