Upton County, Texas


"this is as good a day to die as any."

Crawford Goldsby

(February 8, 1876-March 17, 1896)

Crawford Goldsby 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 was born to George and Ellen (Beck) Goldsby on February 8, 1876 at Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas. Bill’s father, George Goldsby, was a mulatto from Perry County, 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. Crawford had one sister, Georgia, and two brothers, Luther and Clarence.

Crawford’s life as an outlaw began when he was eighteen. At a dance in Fort Gibson, he and Jake Lewis had a fight over  Lewis beating up  one of his brothers. . A couple days later, Crawford took a six-shooter and shot Lewis. Thinking Lewis was dead, Crawford 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. Thus the forming of the notorious Cook Gang.

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 to get their money.

At this time, Crawford was wanted for shooting Jake Lewis, and 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 Effie Crittenden, and they made 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.

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

In the latter part of 1894, Cherokee Bill and the Cook Brothers robbed the Shufeldt & Son store in Lenapal, Indian Territory. During the course of the robbery  it is said Bill noticed a painter, Ernest Melton looking in to see what was occuring in the store. Cherokee Bill aimed his rifle and fired one shot hitting Melton in the neck, killing him instantly. Judge Isaac Parker, placed a 1,300 dollar reward on Cherokee Bill for the murder of Ernest Melton.

The downfall of Cherokee Bill was to be a woman, named Maggie Glass. She invited Bill to go on  a visit with her to her cousin's house, Ike Rogers. Ike being enticed  with money and a job position was more than will to try and capture Cherokee Bill.  While sending Maggie on an errand to a neighbors home on the morning of his capture, Rogers hit Bill over the head and with the help of a neighbor Clifton Scales, he  succeeded into getting him tied up. and carried off to Fort Smith.

This still would not be the end of Cherokee Bill's misdeeds. He tried Unsuccessfully to break out of jail while being held over  for trial. He was found guilty of shooting Melton and sentenced to hang on June 25, 1895.  After filing appeals he was granted a stay of execution and during this time with the help of a trusty Cherokee Bill attempted a jail break. It is said that Bill shot and killed a guard Lawrence Keating once in the stomach, and then again in his back. A stand off ensued and Bill was talked out of the cell by Henry Starr, another prisoner. Bill then was tried for the murder of Keating. Once again he was found guilty and sentenced to hang. His lawyer again filed several appeals but the verdict was upheld and Cherokee Bill would hang, and indeed he was.
At the young age of 20, Crawford “Cherokee Bill” Goldsby died at the end of a rope. His mother then took his remains back to the Fort Gibson area where he is buried at the Cherokee National Cemetery.

sources: Wikipedia, pictorial history of the wild west, Saga of Henry Starr, Will Rogers, his wife's story.



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