LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
Crawford Goldsby, an Oklahoma outlaw better known as Cherokee Bill, was born at Fort Concho, Texas, on February 8, 1876, the son of St. George and Ellen (Beck) Goldsby.
The elder Goldsby (from Alabama) was in the Tenth United States Cavalry and claimed to be of black, Sioux, Mexican, and white ancestry. He had been in the Army in Texas. Because of a fracas in Texas, he went AWOL and escaped to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Bill's mother was reportedly half black, one-fourth white, and one-fourth Cherokee. She had been born in the Cherokee nation, Delaware District. Her parents had been owned as slaves at one time by a Cherokee, Jefferey Beck. After having been left by her husband in Texas, she went with her family to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, leaving Crawford behind in the care of a black woman, Amanda Foster. She took care of him until the age of seven when he moved with his mother to Fort Gibson and then was sent to Cherokee, Kansas to Indian school for three years. He then went to the Carlisle Industrial School for Indians in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
After leaving school at the age of twelve, he returned to Oklahoma. His mother had remarried when he was thirteen. He apparently didn't get along with his new stepfather well. He started hanging around with a bad crowd, drinking liquor and rebelling against authority. At fifteen, he went to live with his sister, Georgia, and her husband. At seventeen he worked on a ranch.
At eighteen, while attending a dance at Fort Gibson, Texas, he shot Jake Lewis twice for beating up Crawford's little brother. He then headed for the Creek and Seminole Nations (now Oklahoma) where he met Jim and Bill Cook, a couple of outlaws.
In the summer of 1894, the Cook's and Crawford got the owner of a restaurant to go and collect some money due each of them as a payment share for some Indian land called the Cherokee Strip. The government had bought the land. She did collect the money for all three, and on her return was followed by a sheriff's posse trying to catch up with the Cooks. There was a gunfight at one point, one killed and one wounded. The owner of the restaurant was questioned about the gunfight and was asked if Crawford was amongst the group. She replied no but that it was the Cherokee Kid. This, apparently, was where he gained his nickname. The famous Cook gang made itself known across the Cherokee and Seminole Nations (in now Oklahoma) in July, 1894 with robberies and murder. It was believed that he killed his first victim when he was only twelve. He murdered at least seven people and may have killed as many as thirteen. By the time he reached eighteen he had joined the Bill Cook gang in bank and train robberies. Bill later formed his own gang and also rode with such well-known outlaws as Henry Starr and Billy the Kid. With the assistance of acquaintances who hoped to receive part of a $1,500 reward, federal authorities captured Bill and transported him to the federal district court in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There he received a capital conviction for the murder of an unarmed painter who happened to witness Bill's participation in a robbery. However, Bill's lawyer appealed the conviction, maintaining that Bill had not received a fair trial in the court of Judge Isaac Parker. After an unsuccessful escape attempt in which he killed a jail guard at Fort Smith, Bill received a second murder conviction.
When the United States Supreme Court rejected his appeal of his first conviction, federal officials hanged him before hundreds of onlookers, on March 17, 1896. His last reported comment was, "I came here to die, not to make a speech."
Judge Parker characterized Bill as a "bloodthirsty mad dog who killed for the love of killing" and as "the most vicious" of all the outlaws in the Oklahoma Territory. After his death, his mother took his body to the Fort Gibson area, where he was probably buried.