Robert Christian – Outlaw member of the High Fives Gang

Western manhunt by John W. Newton, appeared in The Story of the Outlaw..

Western manhunt by John W. Newton, appeared in The Story of the Outlaw.

Robert “Bob” Christian, aka Tom Anderson, was an outlaw member of the High Fives Gang that operated in New Mexico and Arizona.

The older brother to Will “Black Jack” Christian, he was originally from Texas and was born in about 1868 to William Christian, Sr., and his wife Sallie.

The family moved from Texas to Oklahoma after the Shawnee-Pottawatomie opening in 1891. Pottawatomie County, in central Oklahoma, was a lawless area, primarily due to the liquor business. The county boasted two licensed distilleries and 62 saloons. At that time, the lands to the east and the south were still part of the Indian Territory, where possession of liquor was a federal offense.

Before long the brothers were leading a gang of petty thieves and whiskey peddlers. On April 27, 1895, Deputy Sheriff Will Turner was searching for Bob Christian, with a warrant for his arrest for grand larceny. Locating him near the town of Violet Springs, one of the most lawless border towns in Oklahoma Territory. Bob was with three other men, including his brother Will Christian, “Buttermilk” John Mackey, and Foster Holbrook. Confronting all four men, Bob Christian told Turner to keep his warrant and drew his gun. Turner was able to fire first and hit Christian in the chest, which only knocked him down because he was wearing a steel vest plate. All four men then opened fire on the deputy, killing him.

All four were later arrested and tried. The two Christian brothers both received 10-year sentences. However, while Bob and Will were in the Oklahoma County jail appealing their cases, they escaped on June 30, 1895, along with two other men. During the escape, they killed Oklahoma City Police Chief Milton Jones. The brothers then fled to Arizona and New Mexico where they formed the High Fives Gang, named for a popular card game.

The gang was soon rustling cattle and robbing stores, post offices, and banks. On April 28, 1897, a five-man posse tracked several of the fugitives to a gorge near Clifton, Arizona. When the lawmen set up an ambush, a gunfight ensued and Will Christian was mortally wounded and the other outlaws galloped away.

Black Jack Will Christian

Black Jack Will Christian

Bob operated the gang for a few months afterward, until November 25, when he was arrested after a brawl in Fronteras, Senora, Mexico. On December 9, before he could be extradited back to the United States, he escaped from jail and rode off into obscurity, never to be heard from again.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated December 2021.

Also See: 

High Fives Gang of the Southwest

Outlaws on the Frontier

Outlaw Gangs

Will “Black Jack” Christian – Leading the High Fives Gang


Alexander, Bob; Desert Desperados: Banditti of Southwestern New Mexico; Gila Books, 2006
Black Jack Christianson
David Farris, Edmond Life & Leisure
Nash, Robert; Encyclopedia of Western Lawmen & Outlaws; De Capo Press; New York, NY, 1994.