Crawford Goldsby

Crawford Goldsby
Crawford Goldsby
Born February 8, 1876(1876-02-08)
San Angelo, Texas, United States
Died March 17, 1896(1896-03-17) (aged 20)
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Alias(es) Cherokee Bill
Conviction(s) Murder
Penalty Death by hanging
Status Deceased
Parents George and Ellen Goldsby

Crawford Goldsby (February 8, 1876 – March 17, 1896) was a 19th-century American outlaw, known by the alias Cherokee Bill. Responsible for the murders of seven men (including his brother-in-law), he and his gang terrorized the Indian Territory for over two years.


Early life

Goldsby was born to Sgt. George and Ellen [Beck] Goldsby on February 8, 1876 at Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas. Goldsby's father, George Goldsby, was a mulatto from Perry County, Alabama, a sergeant of the Tenth United States Cavalry, and a Buffalo Soldier. Goldsby's mother was a Cherokee Freedman, mixed with African, Indian and white ancestry.[1] Goldsby had one sister, Georgia, and two brothers, Luther and Clarence.[2]

In a signed deposition on January 29, 1912, George Goldsby stated that he was born in Perry County, Alabama on February 22, 1843. His father was Thornton Goldsby of Selma, Alabama and his mother was Hester King, a mulatto, who resided on her own place west of Summerfield Road between Selma and Marion, Alabama. George also stated that he had four brothers and two sisters by the same father and mother, Crawford, Abner, Joseph, Blevens, Mary, and Susie.[3]

George served as a hired servant with a Confederate infantry regiment during the American Civil War. While serving at Gettysburg, he fled and went to Harrisburg worked as a teamster in a Union quartermaster unit and subsequently enlisted as a White man in the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment under the name of George Goosby. (The spelling sometimes varied between Goosbey and Goosley).[3]

After the Civil War ended, he returned to the Selma, Alabama area. During his last visit, the word was out that he would be captured and lynched for going over to and fighting with the Union Army, after which time he departed the area for the Indian Territory.[3]

In 1867 George enlisted in the 10th Cavalry Regiment (Buffalo Soldier) under his proper name, George Goldsby, and by 1872 he was promoted to sergeant major. After the expiration of his five-year term, he re-enlisted and became first sergeant of Company D, 10th Cavalry.[3]

During 1878 (when Crawford Goldsby was two years old) serious trouble began to occur in San Angela (San Angelo), Texas, between the black soldiers and cowboys and hunters. The incident that led to the largest confrontation took place in Morris' saloon. A group of cowboys and hunters ripped the chevrons from the sleeves of a Company D sergeant and the stripes from his pants. The soldier returned to the post and enlisted the aid of fellow soldiers who armed themselves with carbines and returned to the saloon. A blazing gunfight commenced resulting in one hunter being killed and two others wounded. One private was killed and another wounded.[3]

Texas Ranger Captain, G. W. Arrington, along with a party of rangers, went on-post (at Fort Concho), in an attempt to arrest Goldsby, charging that he was responsible for arming the soldiers. Colonel Benjamin Grierson, post commander, challenged the authority of the rangers in a federal fort.[3]

Goldsby apparently knew that the Army could not, or would not, protect him away from the post —so he went AWOL. He escaped from Texas into the Indian Territory.[3]

Sometime after being abandoned at Fort Concho, Ellen Beck Goldsby moved with her family to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. She left Crawford Goldsby in the care of an elderly black lady known as "Aunty", Amanda Foster. She cared for him until he was seven years old, and then he was sent to the Indian school at Cherokee, Kansas. Three years later he was sent to the Catholic Indian School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At the age of twelve, he returned home to Fort Gibson.[3]

Upon returning home, Goldsby learned that his mother had remarried. On June 27, 1889, Ellen married William Lynch in Kansas City, Missouri. She was the "authenticated" laundress of the 10th Cavalry, D Troop, and stayed with the unit which gave her rations, transportation, and quarters. She transferred to Fort Davis, Texas, and to Fort Grant, Arizona. She was also with the unit at Fort Apache, Texas.[3]

After departing Fort Apache, she traveled to Kansas City to marry William Lynch before proceeding to Fort Gibson. Lynch, born in Waynesville, Ohio, was a private in K Troop, 9th Cavalry. He had served during an earlier enlistment with H Troop, 10th Cavalry.[3]

Goldsby and William Lynch, his stepfather, did not get along. Goldsby began to associate with unsavory characters, drink liquor and rebel against authority.[3]

By the time he was fifteen, Goldsby had moved in with his sister and her husband, Mose Brown, near Nowata, Oklahoma. However, Mose and his brother-in-law did not get along well, and Goldsby did not stay for long. He went back to Fort Gibson, moved in with a man named Bud Buffington, and began working odd jobs.[3]

Life as an outlaw

Crawford "Cherokee Bill" Goldsby was said to be "one of the roughest, toughest, meanest outlaws of the Old West".

Goldsby’s life as an outlaw began when he was eighteen. At a dance in Fort Gibson, he and Jake Lewis had a confrontation over a dispute that Lewis had with one of Goldsby’s brothers. A couple days later, Goldsby took a six-shooter and shot Lewis. Thinking Lewis was dead, Goldsby went on the run, leaving Fort Gibson and heading for the Creek and Seminole Nations, where he met up with outlaws Jim and Bill Cook, who were mixed blood Cherokees.[3] An 1895 account reports that when he was ejected from a train at Ft Gibson for not paying the fair, he shot train-man Samuel Collins[4]

During the summer of 1894, the United States government purchased rights to a strip of Cherokee land and agreed to pay out $265.70 to each person who had a legal claim. Since Goldsby and the Cook brothers were part Cherokee, they headed out to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, capitol of the Cherokee Nation, to get their money.[3]

At this time, Goldsby was wanted for shooting Lewis, while Jim Cook was wanted on larceny charges. The men did not want to be seen by the authorities —so they stopped at a hotel and restaurant that was run by an acquaintance, Effie Crittenden. They coaxed her go to Tahlequah to get their money. On her way back, she was followed by Sheriff Ellis Rattling Gourd, who hoped to capture Goldsby and the Cooks.[3]

On July 18, 1894, Goldsby and his gang robbed a train at Red Fork;[5] Sheriff Rattling Gourd and his posse got into a gunfight with Goldsby and the Cook brothers. One of Gourd’s men, Deputy Sequoyah Houston [6] was killed, and Jim Cook was injured. The authorities fled, but later on, when Effie Crittenden was asked if Goldsby had been involved, she stated that it was not Goldsby, but it was Cherokee Bill. After her statement, Crawford Goldsby got the nickname "Cherokee Bill"[3] and became known as one of the most dangerous men of the Indian Territory.[1]

After this, the Cooks and Goldsby formed the Cook Gang and began to terrorize Oklahoma. These ruthless men quickly began robbing banks, stagecoaches and stores, and were willing to shoot anyone who got in their way. On July 18, 1894, they held up the Frisco train in Red Fork, Oklahoma. Thirteen days later, they robbed the Lincoln County Bank in Chandler, Oklahoma and made off with $500, killing J.B. Mitchell in the process.[7] [1]

Between August and October, Goldsby and the Cooks went on a crime spree, robbing and mercilessly killing those who stood in their way. It was during this time that Goldsby's hair started to fall out due to a hereditary disease inherited from his grandfather. The disease left him with so little hair on his head that he decided to shave the remainder off.

In September of that same year, Goldsby shot and killed his brother-in-law, Mose Brown, over an argument about some hogs. On November 8, 1894, when the men robbed the Shufeldt & Son General Store, Goldsby shot and killed Ernest Melton, who happened to enter the store during the robbery.[1]

Jail break

Because of this incident, the authorities stepped up their pursuit for Goldsby and the Cook Gang. With the pressure on, the gang split up. Most of the men were captured or killed, but Goldsby managed to escape. When the authorities offered a $1300 reward for the capture of Goldsby, some of his acquaintances came forward and agreed to help.[1]

On January 30, 1895, Goldsby was captured by Constables James McBride and Henry Connelly [8] and taken to Fort Smith, Arkansas to wait for his trial. On April 13, 1895, he was sentenced to death after being tried and convicted for the murder of Ernest Melton. However, his lawyer managed to postpone the execution date.

In the meantime Goldsby had made a friend, Sherman Vann, who was a trusty at the jail. Sherman managed to sneak a six-gun into Goldsby's cell. On July 27, 1895, Goldsby attempted a jail break with it. He jumped the night guards as they came to lock him into his cell. A guard, Lawrence Keating,[9] was shot in the stomach. As Keating staggered back down the corridor Goldsby shot him again in the back. Other guards arrived and prevented Goldsby from escaping, but were not able to enter the jail either. Then another prisoner, Henry Starr, convinced the guards to let him go in and get Goldsby out. Moments later he came back with Goldsby, who was unarmed.


The second trial lasted three days resulting in a guilty verdict and Judge Isaac Parker sentenced Goldsby to be hanged on September 10, 1895. A stay was granted pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. On December 2, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Fort Smith court and Judge Parker again set the execution date as March 17, 1896.[3]

On the morning of March 17, Goldsby awoke at six, singing and whistling. He ate a light breakfast sent from the hotel by his mother. At 9:20, his mother and "Aunty" Amanda Foster were admitted to his cell and shortly afterwards Father Pius arrived.[3]

The hanging was scheduled for 11:00 a.m., but was delayed until 2:00 p.m. in order for his sister Georgia to have the opportunity to see him before the hanging. She was scheduled to arrive at 1:00 p.m. on the eastbound train.[3]

Shortly after 2:00 p.m. while on the gallows, it was reported Goldsby was asked if he had any thing to say and he replied, "I came here to die, not make a speech." Approximately twelve minutes later Crawford "Cherokee Bill" Goldsby, the most notorious outlaw in the Territory, was dead.[3]

The body was placed in a coffin which was placed in a box and taken to the Missouri Pacific depot. Placed aboard the train, Ellen and Georgia escorted the body to Fort Gibson for burial.[3]

Goldsby is buried in the Cherokee National Cemetery, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.[3]


Further reading

  • Kilpatrick, Jack F. and Anna G. Kilpatrick. Friends of Thunder: Folktales of the Oklahoma Cherokees. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8061-2722-8
  • Burton, Arthur T. Black, Red, and deadly: Black and Indian gunfighters of the Indian territory. Eakin Press: Austin, TX, 1991. ISBN 0-89015-798-7

External links

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