Henry Starr -- The
Cherokee Bad Boy
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During his 32 years in
crime Henry Starr robbed more banks than both the James-Younger Gang and
the Doolin-Dalton Gang put together. He started robbing banks on horseback
in 1893 and ended up robbing his last in a car in 1921. The Cherokee
Badman netted over $60,000 from more than 21 bank robberies.
was born near Fort Gibson in
Territory on December 2, 1873 to George "Hop” Starr, a half-breed
and Mary Scot Starr, a woman of Irish decent and one-quarter
Mary came from an educated and respectable family, but the Starr side of
the family was rife with
outlaws. Henry’s grandfather was Tom Starr, an
in his own right. Henry would later say that his grandfather "was
known far and wide as the Devil’s own. In all matters where law and order
was on one side, Tom Starr was on the other.”
uncle was the notorious Sam Starr who was married to
Starr was widely known for her relationship with the notorious
Gang and her criminal escapades through
Henry though, reportedly was not fond of
finding her to be crude and reprehensible, quickly informing anyone who
commented on the relationship, that she was his aunt by marriage only.
During the time of Starr’s youth, the northeastern corner
Indian Territory was rugged and
untamed, often referred to as the "Land of the Six-Gun” and the "Robbers’
Roost.” The rough terrain of the area provided a number of natural
hideouts for thieves, murderers, and other
outlaws seeking refuge from the law.
In 1886, Henry’s father
died leaving Mary to care for three children and the family farm.
However, within just a few months she remarried a man by the name of C.N.
Walker, who Henry hated. Starr felt that Walker was inferior because
his veins contained no Indian blood. Walker was also abusive and he
and Henry had immediate problems. Within just a few short months of
his mother’s remarriage Henry left home.
By the age of
sixteen, while Henry was working on a ranch near Nowata, in
Indian Territory, he had his first run-in with
the law. As Henry was driving a wagon to town two deputy marshals caught
him with whiskey and arrested him for "introducing spirits into
territory." Though he plead guilty to the offense, he maintained
that he was innocent, having borrowed the wagon without knowing that the
whiskey was in it.
Starr returned to Nowata
and continued to work as a cowboy, but it wasn’t long before he had
another run-in with the law. In December 1891, he was arrested for
stealing a horse, again he denied the charge, but was locked up at
anyway. His cousin paid his bail and Starr hit the road, with a
warrant for his arrest hanging over his head. After jumping bail, Henry
had made a conscious choice to live on the wrong side of the law.
The warrant for Starr’s arrest was given to Deputy Marshals Henry C.
Dickey and Floyd Wilson who were quickly on Henry’s tail.
Joining up with Ed
Newcome and Jesse Jackson, the gang began to rob stores and railroad
depots. Hitting their first railroad depot right where he lived,
Starr and his gang relieved the Nowata Depot of $1,700 in July 1892.
In November 1892, they hit Shufeldts Store at Lenapah,
Indian Territory taking $300 and in the same
month robbed Carter’s Store in Sequoyah,
Indian Territory making off with $180.
December 1892, Deputy Marshals Dickey and Wilson were very close to
finding Henry. Following his trail, the two marshals arrived at
Arthur Dodge’s "XU Ranch,” eight miles from Nowata, where it was rumored
that the Starr Gang might be meeting. Upon arriving at the ranch,
the marshals questioned Arthur Dodge who denied knowing Starr personally,
but stated that he had seen the bandit ride by the ranch several times.
The lawmen searched the surrounding countryside until late into the night,
but found no trace of Starr or his gang. However, the next day, on
December 13, 1892, the two lawmen were having dinner at the Dodge Ranch
when Mr. Dodge informed them that he had seen Henry that day while working
on the ranch.
Wilson rushed to the barn, mounted an already saddled
horse, and sped off in pursuit of
Henry. Dickey’s mount was unsaddled so he was several minutes behind Wilson. Before long, Wilson found
Henry in an opening on Wolf
Creek. Spotting each other at almost the same moment,
dropped from his saddle while Wilson remained mounted about thirty yards
away. Wilson ordered
surrender, but Henry just "walked away." Wilson then stated that he had a
warrant for his arrest and rode closer to
stopping some 25 or 30 feet from him. Wilson then dismounted, raised his
rifle, and fired a warning shot over
With that first shot,
returned fire and a gunfight ensued. Wilson was hit and fell to the
ground, badly wounded. When Wilson tried to load a fresh cartridge
into his rifle, the weapon jammed and he threw it aside, reaching for his
pistol. Starr fired two more shots and Wilson sank to the ground, too
weak to defend himself.
Then, calmly walking
over to Wilson,
fired one more round into his heart. At the sounds of the shots, the
frightened horses rode away, but Henry was able to catch Wilson’s
horse and took off. By the time Marshal Dickey arrived, the
whole affair was over and
was long gone.
Henry was wanted for murder
and the law doubled their efforts to find him. On January 20,
Starr was nearly caught when
Indian Police picked up his trail near Bartlesville, I.T. A gun
battle broke out but
Starr was able to escape. Teaming up with a man by the name of Frank Cheney,
Starr and Cheney robbed the
MKT railroad depot of $180 and Haden’s Store of $390 in Choteau, I.T. In February, they hit the railroad depot and general store in Inola,
I.T. making off with $220.
not bothered by the law hot on their trail,
Starr and Cheney grew bolder
and robbed their first bank in Caney,
on March 28, 1893, relieving the Caney Valley Bank of $4,900. The two men entered the Caney National Bank with their revolvers
drawn. Cheney entered the vault carrying an old two-bushel sack
and emerged from the vault with the bag filled with currency.
Starr and his partner locked
the bank’s customers and employees in a back room and exited the bank. One Kansas
newspaper said of the robbery that it was "one of the boldest and most
daring robberies known to border history.”
Just a little more
than a month later, they robbed their first passenger train at Pryor
Creek, I.T., making off with $6,000.
Not to be stopped,
Starr chose the People’s Bank
for their next robbery. On June 5, 1893,
Starr and four partners rode
into the small, northwest
town. However, by 1893,
Starr was an infamous man and
people recognized him as soon as he entered the town.
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