There are many Famous Cherokee people because they are one of the largest tribes.
Attakullakulla –See Little Carpenter
Austenaco – Principle ChiefBlack Fox
Elias Boudinot (Buck Oowatie), nephew of Major Ridge and early publisher of first Cherokee newspaperChief Bowl (Duwali, also known as
Captain William Dutch or just Dutch, a.k.a. Tahchee) –He was an early Old Settler and was famous for fighting the Osage. Bowl led his band from North Carolina to Missouri to Arkansas, finally ending up in East Texas about 1819.
In 1822, Bowl sent Richard Fields, a Cherokee diplomat, to Mexico to try to negotiate a land title for the tribe. Though Fields was unsuccessful, Bowl continued his efforts throughout the era of Mexican rule.
He later became a scout for the United States and was the spokesperson for the Indians during the councils for the 1835 Camp Holmes Peace Treaty.
He was active in Western Cherokee politics and served as third Chief in his later years in Texas.
In February 1836, Bowl negotiated a treaty with Sam Houston in which the newly formed Republic of Texas guaranteed the Cherokees possession of their lands in East Texas. The Texas Senate refused to ratify the treaty.
Desperate, Bowl entered into an alliance of Indians and Mexicans who were conspiring to overthrow the Republic. President Mirabeau B. Lamar discovered this and ordered the Cherokees out of Texas. When they resisted, Lamar ordered military action.
Bowl was killed in the Battle of the Neches on July 16, 1839.
Carrie Bushyhead – Trail of Tears survivor who became a prominent Indian Territory educator.Connetoo (also known as John Hill) – Led Cherokee families to the Arkansas Territory.
John Cornstalk – Half Chickamauga Cherokee through his mother. Brother of Peter Cornstalk.
Peter Cornstalk – Half Chickamauga Cherokee through his mother. Principal Chief of the Cherokees living at the mouth of Spring Creek.
Doublehead (Chuquilatague,) was one of the 350 Cherokee who signed the treaties forced onto the rest of the 17,000 Cherokees living at that time, was later assassinated by Major Ridge (Kahnungdatlageh -“the man who walks the mountain top”),James Vann and Alexander Saunders as a Cherokee traitor. He was called Doublehead because he had a split personality.
Chief Dragging Canoe (Cui Canacina, a.k.a. Tsi’yu-gunsini), the son of Attakullakulla and cousin of Nancy Ward and the primary leading force in the Cherokee’s resistance to white settlement on Cherokee lands. He strongly resisted the sale of Cherokee lands to whites and spoke at treaty negotiations vehemently objecting to the continued sale of Cherokee land.
Chief Duwali – Chief of Hiwasee Town in North Carolina. Arrived in Arkansas around 1795 and began living on the St. Francis River .
The Cherokee whom lived in this area were forced to leave in 1811 due to a massive Earthquake and flooding which made the Mississippi River and its tributaries run backwards.
Duwali then moved his people to the White River for a short time, then moved his people to the south banks of the Arkansas, then later removed to Texas sometime around 1819.
Dutch – See Chief Bowl
George Duvall – Led Cherokee families to resettlement in the Arkansas Territory.
Jeffrey A. Gibson (born March 31, 1972) is a Choctaw-Cherokee painter and sculptor.
Charles Hicks, Vice Chief on the Trail of Tears and briefly Principal Chief himself in 1827 following the death of Pathkiller with John Ross as Second Principal Chief, before his own death just a few shorts weeks later brought that to an end.
A protoge of the former warrior and Upper Towns chief James Vann, Hicks was one of the most influential leaders in the Nation during the period after the Chickamauga Wars to just past the first quarter of the 19th century.
Extremely well-read and acculturated, his personal library was one of the biggest on the continent, public or private.
A member of the Cherokee Triumvirate at the beginning of the 19th century, along with James Vann and Major Ridge.
Elected Second Principal Chief under Pathkiller in 1811, a political dispute two years later left Hicks as de facto top chief with Pathkiller serving as a mere figurehead.
John Jolly -Brother to Tolluntuskee. He emigrated to the Arkansas Territory in the year 1817 and later became Chief sometime around 1818.
Dick Justice (also known as Dek-keh the Just)
Kanagagota (Cunne Shote, a.k.a. Standing Turkey ),was major chief of the Cherokee who was known to the british as “Old Hope of Chote”. He visited England in 1762 with a delegation of Cherokee.
Kingfisher – Koatohee – See Old Tassel
Little Carpenter, (also known as Attakullakulla) – Supreme Chief of the Cherokee from 1760-1775
Little Turtle – Corn Tassel (See Old Tassel – alternate spellings: Tassell or Tassle)
George Tassel (alternate spellings: Tassell or Tassle)- Probably a son of Old Tassel. A Cherokee who was executed for murder. In 1830, George Tassel was tried and convicted in Hall, Georgia and sentenced to hang for the murder of a white man on Indian land. Since the Cherokee Nation was sovereign, Tassel deserved to be tried in a Cherokee court.
The Cherokee Nation won a stay of execution from the United States Supreme Court, but the State of Georgia ignored the stay and murdered him anyway. His legal case became the first Cherokee legal document to set precedence on behalf of Cherokee sovereignty.
This case is still considered an important precedent for Indian sovereignty today.
John Watts (a.k.a. Young Tassel)
Watts was the son of a sister of Corn Tassel. Quite likely his father was John Watts who served as interpreter at the Cherokee treaty with the British at Augusta, Georgia in 1763.
Watts had such a close attachment to Old Tassel that he was known as Young Tassel
In this era, it was Cherokee custom for a brother to raise his sister’s children. Thus, some historians mistakenly list him as Old Tassel’s son, when he was actually a nephew.
Old Tassel (A.k.a. Corn Tassel, George Watts, Kai-ya-tahee, Koatohee, or Corn Tassel of Toquo) [see signature on Hopewell Treaty of 1785]) (alternate spellings: Kahyanteechee, Kayanatehee) Born about 1720
Chief Corn Tassel was killed in Jun 1788 at Chilhowie, Little TN by Kirk of John Seviers militia unit
- Father: Chief Dutch Tau-chee, Broom Deer Clan
- Mother: Nancy Broom Moytoy, Full Blood, Paint Clan
- Sister was Wurtah, Mother of Sequoyah.
Gist was allowed to settle on the Great Island (across from Fort Henry), and was married, in Cherokee terms, to Tassel’s sister, Wurtuh.
Pumpkin Boy – Old Tassel’s brother
? Son was Little Tassle, Kunnesseei, or Green Corn Top
Corn Tassel was Doubleheads brother
John Watts (Young Tassel) was his nephew.
Daughter married Bob Benge.
Oconostota – the Warrior of Chota.
Pathkiller,(1749 to January 1827) Pathkiller was the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, fought in the Revolutionary War for Britain and in the wars against American frontiersmen from 1783 through 1794.
Pathkiller, a “fullblood,” unacculturated Cherokee, became principal chief in 1811 and was the last individual from a conservative background to hold that office. Although Pathkiller remained principal chief through 1827, authority in the Cherokee Nation, after 1813, shifted to Charles Hicks.
Pathkiller was the mentor to John Ross, identifying the young Cherokee of Scotch-Irish descent as the future leader of the Cherokee people. Pathkiller is buried in New Echota Cemetery in New Echota, Georgia.
Rayetayah (a.k.a. Hanging Maw)John Ridge (son of Major Ridge)Major Ridge – See John Ross
John Ross (Guwisguwi or Cooweescoowe, a.k.a. Major Ridge), 1/8th Cherokee, principle chief of the Cherokee at the time of Cherokee removal. Once there, Ross was instrumental in drafting a Cherokee constitution that united the eastern and western branches of the tribe.
That year he was also chosen chief of the united tribe, an office he held until his death. He settled near Park Hill in Oklahoma, where he erected a mansion and farmed, using his many slaves to cultivate his fields.
His first wife, a Cherokee, Quatie, died in 1839. In 1845 he married a white woman who died in 1865. His father was a Scotsman; his mother was one-quarter Cherokee and three-quarters Scot.
Ross was educated by private tutors and then at Kingston Academy in Tennessee.
Alexander Saunders – Sequoyah (also known as George Gist or Guest), inventor of the Cherokee syllabary.
Skawuaw (also known as the Swan) – Cherokee prophet.
Sequoyah (also known as George Gist), is credited with inventing the Cherokee writing system, although Cherokee oral history suggests he may have borrowed from an earlier writing system used only by Cherokee priests.
Nimrod Jarrett Smith, 1837–1893 – Principal Chief
Chief Spring Frog (Dustu) – Famous ball player. Scout and friend to James Audubon. Springfrog was born in a cabin in Hamilton County TN around the year of 1754, and his birth-place may still be visited today and is known as Springfrog’s Cabin.
Stand Waitie –The last major Confederate field commander to surrender to the Union, which took place at Doaksville, in the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory.
William Holland Thomas, 1805–1893 – Principal Chief
Toluntuskee (Tahloteeskee) -Uncle of George Guess. Around 1809, Talontuskee along with Chief Takatoka settled about 300 Cherokees on the White River in Arkansas.
Toluntuskee invited the Protestant missionaries who founded Dwight Mission in 1820 near what is now Russellville (Pope County) so that Cherokee children could learn Anglo-American ways.
Ironically, the mission was in a location firmly under the control of Takatoka, who opposed its goals. Talontuskee became the principal Chief of the villages south of the Arkansas sometime around 1813.
Tsali Unacata (also known as White Man Killer) – Led Cherokee families to Arkansas Territory.
- Nancy Ward, (Nanye-hi) Cherokee (ca. 1738-ca. 1824)
- Nancy Ward: Military and Genealogical Records of the Famous Indian Woman of Tennessee
John Watts – Served as interpreter at the Cherokee treaty with the British at Augusta Georgia in 1763.
Walter “Wat” Webber – Moved his people to Arkansas around 1809 and settled near Takatoka and Toluntuskee’s people. Walter Webber later became third Chief after 1824. Walter Webber’s wife was the sister of Stand Watie.
William “Red-Headed Will” Webber Led Cherokee families to resettlement in the Arkansas Territory.
Wohsi (Also known as Moses Price) -Led Cherokee families to resettlement in the Arkansas Territory.
Famous Cherokee from the Modern Era
ACTIVISTS / POLITICIANS
Sir Winston Churchill
President Bill Clinton (who claims to be one-sixteenth Cherokee, although no documentation has been found to support this).
John Nance Garner (nicknamed Cactus Jack), 32nd Vice President of the United States under President Roosevelt.
Wilma Mankiller was the first female Cherokee Principal Chief and a well known native american activist.
Rosa Parks, who wouldn’t give up her seat on a bus, the incident that started racial reform in the 60s for blacks.
John Leak Springston
John Tyler Hammons (b. 1988), mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma
Stacy Leeds, former justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, judge for three tribal courts, law professor
J. B. Milam (1884-1949), Principal Chief
Chad Smith, incumbent Principal Chief and attorney
Ross Swimmer, Principal Chief and Special Trustee for American Indians at the U.S. Department of the Interior
Joe Byrd, Principal Chief, known for the 1997 Constitutional Crisis
Brad Carson (b. 1967), Oklahoma congressman
Daniel Heath Justice, author
W. W. Keeler (1908-1987), Principal Chief
Monte Blue, appeared in 278 television and movie roles.
Cher – Her sister said she made her Cherokee ancestry up as a publicity stunt.
Victor Daniels (stage name Chief Thundercloud), played Tonto in the early Lone Ranger films.
Johnny Depp, famous for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Cherokee heritage is doubtful.
Iron Eyes Cody
Kevin Costner, became famous for Dances With Wolves, went on to become superstar
Clu Gulager was Deputy, later Sheriff, Ryker on the long-running television series The Virginian
.James Earl Jones
Arthur Junaluska, Eastern Cherokee, was an actor, playwright, and theatrical director.
Henry Kingi, actor and stuntman
Lou Diamond Philips
Will Rogers (1879–1935) was a performer in Wild West shows and on stage, later becoming a film actor, radio personality, and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist.
Will Rogers, Jr. (1911-1993), journalist and California congressman
Wes Studi is full-blood Cherokee, and has received critical acclaim for his portrayals of Magua in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and Geronimo (1994).
- Wes Studi Filmography
- Wes Studi inducted into Hall of Great Western Performers
- Wes Studi, back with host of colorful characters for Comanche Moon mini series
- TV Review: 1st segment of Comanche Moon mini-series
- Joe Leaphorn is not his old self but Tony Hillerman is happy with ‘Skinwalkers’
- Film crew documents drama of Cherokee tears
- Independent film explores history of Haskell Boarding School
- Wes Studi arrested on a charge of aggravated DWI
Dennis Weaver was known for his Emmy-winning role as Chester on the long-running television series Gunsmoke, and in the McCloud television series.
Victor Daniels (stage name Chief Thundercloud), played Tonto in the early Lone Ranger films.
Jack Dempsey, boxing champion
Bud Adams (b. 1923), businessman and owner of the Tennessee Titans and Houston Oilers
Sam Bradford (b. 1987), quarterback, winner of the Heisman Trophy.
Sixkiller (b. 1951), football player
Robert Rauschenberg, painter.
Amanda Crowe, 1928–2004 – Sculptor and educator.
Hastings Shade, former Deputy Chief, traditionalist, language expert, artist, and National Treasure
Martha Berry, bead artist, curator, and author
Roy Boney Jr. (b.1978), artist, animator, comic book illustrator
Robert Rauschenberg, painter.
Kay WalkingStick (b. 1935), painter and educator
Mike Dart (b. 1977), basket weaver and activistT
almadge Davis (1962-2005), painter
Mavis Doering (1929-2007), basket weaver
Joseph L. Erb (b.1974), artist, first 3-D animator in Cherokee language
Tori Amos also shares Cherokee ancestry.
Anita Bryant, singer, beauty queen, and celebrity spokesperson who became best known for her work in favor of bigotry against gays and lesbians.
Johnny Cash, country-western legend.
Cher, the actress and singer. Sister says Cherokee ancestry was made up for publicity.
Rita Coolidge, country western legend.
Billy Ray Cyrus, country western singer
Crystal Gayle, country western singer.
Jimi Hendrix, rock legend, was of Cherokee heritage through his maternal grandmother, Nora Rose Moore.
Barbara McAlister (b. 1941), mezzo soprano opera singer
Loretta Lynn, country western superstar.
Willie Nelson, country-western legend, folk hero.
John Phillips of the singing group,The Mamas and the Papas, famous in the 1970-80s.
Elvis Presley, singer, musician and actor, maybe the biggest musical legend of the 20th century.
Steven Tyler, singer in the rock band called Aerosmith.
Litefoot, rapper, actor and activist.
Tommy Wildcat, Cherokee-Muscogee-Natchez musician, actor, traditionalist.
Oral Roberts, Television Evangelist
Cherokee Directors, Producers and Writers
Gary Robinson, is a writer, producer and director.
Mitch Cullin, writer.
Marilou Awiakta, b. 1936 – Author
Phil Konstantin (b. 1952), author, TV reporter, historian, website creator.
Modern Day Soldiers:
Charles George, 1932–1952 – Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
Junaluska, ca. 1775–1868 – Military leader and diplomat
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (F)
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina (F)
Echota Cherokee Tribe of AlabamaAL (S)
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (F) (formerly the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma)
Also see: State and Un-Recognized Cherokee Tribes for a list of 348 state recognized or unrecognized Cherokee tribes and organizations who call themselves Cherokee tribes.
Chuck Norris (born March 10, 1940) was born Charles Norris in Ryan, Oklahoma on March 10, 1940, the son of Wilma (née Scarberry) and Ray Norris, who was a World War II Army soldier, mechanic, bus driver, and truck driver. Norris is Irish and Cherokee Indian. His paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather were full blooded Cherokees.
Chuck Norris started studying martial arts in Korea while in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1950s.
The oldest of three boys, Chuck Norris once described himself as “the shy kid who never excelled at anything in school.” His father was an alcoholic who all but disappeared from Norris’ life after his parents divorced. At the age of 10, Norris moved with his mother and brothers to California. He attended North Torrance High School.
Norris married his high school sweetheart, Dianne Holechek, in 1958 — the same year he joined the U.S. Air Force.
He left the service in 1962, and started working as a karate instructor. Eventually, this developed into a chain of more than 30 karate schools.
Norris was defeated in his first two tournaments, dropping decisions to Joe Lewis and Allen Steen and three matches at the International Karate Championships to Tony Tulleners. By 1967 Norris had improved enough that he scored victories over the likes of Lewis, Skipper Mullins, Arnold Urquidez, Victor Moore, Ron Marchini, and Steve Sanders. Norris would be a two time winner at S. Henry Cho’s All American Championship.
In early 1968, Norris suffered the tenth and last loss of his career, losing an upset decision to Louis Delgado. On November 24, 1968, he avenged his defeat to Delgado and by doing so won the Professional Middleweight Karate champion title, which he held for six consecutive years. In 1969, he won Karate’s triple crown for the most tournament wins of the year, and the Fighter of the Year award by Black Belt (magazine) magazine.
Norris made history in 1990 when he was the first Westerner in the documented history of Tae Kwon Do to be given the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master. In 1999, Norris was inducted into the Martial Arts History Museum’s Hall of Fame. On July 1, 2000, Norris was presented the Golden Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.
He taught several celebrities, including Priscilla Presley, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and actor Steve McQueen. McQueen encouraged his teacher to try acting. In addition to being an instructor, Norris also was a fierce competitor. He participated in numerous martial arts tournaments, and he won many of the events he competed in.
Norris created the martial art Chun Kuk Do, which is based primarily on Tang Soo Do and includes elements from every combat style he knows. Like many other martial arts, Chun Kuk Do includes a code of honor and rules to live by. These rules are from Norris’ personal code. They are:
- I will develop myself to the maximum of my potential in all ways.
- I will forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements.
- I will continually work at developing love, happiness and loyalty in my family.
- I will look for the good in all people and make them feel worthwhile.
- If I have nothing good to say about a person, I will say nothing.
- I will always be as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
- I will maintain an attitude of open-mindedness.
- I will maintain respect for those in authority and demonstrate this respect at all times.
- I will always remain loyal to my God, my country, family and my friends.
- I will remain highly goal-oriented throughout my life because that positive attitude helps my family, my country and myself.
Film and Television Star
While he had made one brief film appearance previously, Norris made more of an impact on movie-goers in 1973’s Return of the Dragon. One of the highlights of the film was a fight scene between Norris and martial arts action star Bruce Lee, staged in the famed Roman Colosseum. In 1977, Norris had his first starring role in the action film Breaker! Breaker!.
Critics may have considered Norris a stiff and wooden actor, but movie audiences loved to watch him mete out swift justice to bad guys in such films as Good Guys Wear Black and Forced Vengeance. In Missing in Action (1984), Norris played a former prisoner of war who returns to Vietnam to free other soldiers still being held. He did this film and its sequels as a tribute to his younger brother, Wieland, who died in combat in Vietnam.
Norris received warmer reviews for his cop movie, Code of Silence (1985), and teamed up with the legendary tough guy Lee Marvin for the military action film The Delta Force (1986). Norris’ box-office appeal, however, was beginning to fade by the early 1990s. No longer making hit movies, he made the switch to the small screen with Walker, Texas Ranger. Norris played Cordell Walker, an honorable crime fighter, for eight years. The show had a strong following, and was still faring well in the ratings when it went off the air in 2001.
Chuck Norris has been married twice. He has three children from his first marriage to Dianne Holechek. The couple divorced in 1988. In 1998, Norris married Gena O’Kelley and they had twins three years later.
Norris has written several books. He published his autobiography, The Secret of Inner Strength: My Story in 1988, which became a bestseller. A few years later, Norris penned a self-help tome, The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems.
In 2007, Norris was made an honorary U.S. Marine for his years of support of the military, in particular wounded servicemen.
Frank Blackhorse (Francis DeLuca, Frank Leonard Deluca, Cherokee) is one of several aliases used by a member of the American Indian Movement. He is perhaps best known for his participation in the Wounded Knee incident, particularly his role in the shootout that left two FBI and one American Indian dead and for becoming a fugitive on the run who fled to Canada shortly after.
Much of Blackhorse’s early and personal life is shrouded in mystery. According to one source, Frank Blackhorse was born Frank Leonard Deluca. However, another source identifies Frank Blackhorse as being born Francis Deluca.
Blackhorse has an incredibly long list of aliases which he uses. The list of these aliases, include Francis Blackhorse, Frank DeLuca, Bruce Johnson, Richard Leon High Eagle, Richard Tall Bull, Mike Houston, Michael Houston, Teddy Louis and Teddy Lewis.
Henry Starr, Cherokee, (1873–1921) was the last in a long line of Starr family criminals. Twice sentenced by Judge Isaac Parker to hang for murder, he managed to escape the noose due to technicalities and went on to form a notorious gang that terrorized and robbed throughout northwest Arkansas and Colorado around the start of the 20th century.
He started robbing banks on horseback in 1893 and ended up robbing his last bank in a car in 1921. He was the first to rob a bank using a car to get away. The Cherokee Badman netted over $60,000 from more than 21 bank robberies during his career as an outlaw. During his 32 years in crime Henry Starr robbed more banks than both the James-Younger Gang and the Doolin-Dalton Gang put together.
Henry Starr was born near Fort Gibson in Indian Territory on December 2, 1873 to George “Hop” Starr, a half-breed Cherokee, and Mary Scot Starr, a woman of Irish decent and one-quarter Cherokee. 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 outlaw 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.”
His uncle was the notorious Sam Starr who was married to Belle Starr, the “Outlaw Queen.”
Belle Starr was widely known for her relationship with the notorious Younger Gang and her criminal escapades through Oklahoma. Henry though, reportedly was not fond of Belle, 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 of 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, and the area was often featured in old western movies.
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 he wasn’t Indian. 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 the 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.
Henry Starr hits the outlaw trail after being arrested for horse thievery
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, which he again denied, but was locked up at Fort Smith, Arkansas 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 trail.
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.
By 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.
Starr commits his first murder
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, Starr dropped from his saddle while Wilson remained mounted about thirty yards away.
Wilson ordered Henry to surrender, but Henry just “walked away.” Wilson then stated that he had a warrant for his arrest and rode closer to Henry, stopping some 25 or 30 feet from him. Wilson then dismounted, raised his rifle, and fired a warning shot over Henry’s head.
With that first shot, Starr 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, Starr fired one more round into his heart. At the sounds of the shots, the frightened horses ran 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 Starr was long gone.
Now Henry was wanted for murder and the law doubled their efforts to find him. On January 20, 1893, Starr was nearly caught when Indian Police picked up his trail near Bartlesville, Indian Territory. A gun battle broke out but Starr was able to escape.
Next 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, Indian Territory. In February, they hit the railroad depot and general store in Inola, Indian Territory, making off with $220.
Starr and Cheney grew bolder and robbed their first bank in Caney, Kansas on March 28, 1893
They relieved 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, Indian Territory, making off with $6,000.
Not to be stopped, Starr chose the People’s Bank of Bentonville, Arkansas for their next robbery. On June 5, 1893, Starr and four partners rode into the small, northwest Arkansas town. However, by 1893, Starr was an infamous man and people recognized him as soon as he entered the town.
By the time Starr and Kid Wilson entered the bank, an alarm was quickly spreading that the bank was being robbed. Gunfire erupted outside the bank and Starr and Wilson left the bank while the robbery was still in progress.
Starr and Wilson raced for their horses, and the gang of bandits fled from Bentonville with the posse right behind them. When they reached safety, they counted their take and were disappointed to find only $11,000, which had to be split between five men.
Following the Bentonville robbery, Henry Starr and his gang were constantly pursued by the law.
With a $5,000 reward offered for Starr, the gang decided to split up for a time.
Henry, Kid Wilson and a lady friend boarded a train at Emporia, Kansas, heading to California. Enroute, they stopped at Colorado Springs to replenish the lady’s wardrobe and do some sight-seeing.
On July 3, 1893, they checked into the Spaulding House. Henry registered as Frank Johnson and the Kid registered as John Wilson, both from Joplin, Missouri. However, officers discovered they were there and Starr was arrested in the restaurant. Later they picked up Wilson in Colorado City. Returning to the Spaulding House, they woke up the woman, who was registered as Mrs. Jackson, but who admitted to being Starr’s wife of six months. In a search of the room, the lawmen found $1,460 in greenbacks and about $500 in gold.
Starr and Wilson were returned to Fort Smith, Arkansas on July 13, 1893 to stand trial. Starr was charged with thirteen counts of highway robbery, and one count of murder. The trial revolved around the murder charge and Starr was found guilty by Judge Isaac Parker and sentenced to hang.
Henry’s lawyers appealed the case and the U.S Supreme Court overturned Parker’s decision and granted Starr a new trial. He was found guilty at the second trial and again sentenced to hang, but again his lawyers were able to appeal and get Henry yet another trial.
It was during his stay in jail at Fort Smith, Arkansas awaiting trial, that fellow prisoner, Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill attempted a jailbreak with a gun smuggled to him by a trustee. There was a gun battle between Bill and the prison guards, in which one of the guards was killed.
However, the guards were unable to disarm Bill and it was standoff. Henry and Bill were old acquaintances and Henry offered to disarm Bill if the guards would in turn promise not to kill Cherokee Bill afterwards. The promise was made and Henry entered the cell telling his friend that he had no chance of escape. Cherokee Bill gave up his revolver and Starr turned it over to the guards. This incident helped Henry to later acquire his freedom.
In 1901, Henry, with help from his family and the Cherokee Tribal Government, applied for a pardon. President Roosevelt so admired the man for his courage in the Cherokee Bill incident that he reduced his sentence and Henry was released from prison on January 16, 1903.
After his release from prison, Henry returned to Tulsa, Indian Territory and worked in his mother’s restaurant. It was here that he met and married his second wife, Miss Ollie Griffin in September 1903.
In 1904 Theodore Roosevelt Starr was born.
After the birth of his son, Henry led an honest life for a while until officials in Arkansas learned of Starr’s release. They immediately began seeking his extradition for the 1893 Bentonville robbery. Henry took to the safety of the Osage Hills, quickly falling in with his old partners. Later, he would write, “I preferred a quiet and unostentatious interment in a respectable cemetery rather than a life on the Arkansas convict farm.”
On March 13, 1908, Henry and his gang crossed the Kansas border and robbed the bank at Tyro, Kansas. Though pursued by a posse of over twenty men, Starr and his gang were able to get away. Henry then headed west, along with Kid Wilson.
When the pair hit Amity, Colorado in May, they robbed the local bank of $1,100. Soon after the Amity robbery, Kid Wilson and Starr separated.
History fails to tell us what ever became of Kid Wilson but Starr spent the summer and fall of 1908 hiding in New Mexico and Arizona. When he wrote to a friend back in Tulsa, the supposed friend betrayed him, and on May 13, 1908, Starr was once again placed under arrest to be extradited to Colorado.
At the third trial, Henry plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to a total of 15 years — 3 for manslaughter, 7 years for 7 counts of robbery, and 5 years for 1 count of train robbery. On January 15, 1898, Henry Starr was transported to the federal prison at Columbus, Ohio.
On November 24, 1908, Henry plead guilty to the Amity robbing and was sentenced to 7 – 25 years in the Canon City, Colorado Prison. During his imprisonment, Henry worked as a trustee, studied law in the prison library and wrote his autobiography entitled Thrilling Events: Life of Henry Starr.
Starr returns to Oklahoma and is wanted Dead or Alive
On September 24, 1913, he was paroled by the governor and was free again, with the stipulation that he never leave the state of Colorado. Starr did not keep his promise, instead returning to Oklahoma, and his old ways.
Between September 8, 1914, and January 13, 1915, fourteen different bank robberies were attributed to Henry Starr. All were daylight robberies, carried off quickly and efficiently, at two-week intervals. This was the worst streak of robberies the people of Oklahoma had ever witnessed, and in response to the cries of the citizens, the state legislature passed the “Bank Robber Bill,” which appropriated $15,000 for the capture of bank robbers and placed a $1,000 bounty on Starr’s head. The reward was payable “Dead or Alive.”
Convinced that Starr was hiding in the Osage Hills, the law was relentlessly tracking all of his old hideouts. However, the clever Henry was living in the heart of Tulsa, at 1534 East Second Street, just two blocks from the Tulsa County Sheriff and four blocks from the mayor of Tulsa.
Then on March 27, 1915 Henry and six other men rode into the town of Stroud, Oklahoma. Starr’s plan was to rob two banks at the same time, much as the Dalton Gang had unsuccessfully tried to do in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1892.
The Stroud, Oklahoma robbery would prove disastrous for Henry Starr.
Proceeding to rob the Stroud National Bank and the First National Bank, word of the holdup spread quickly and the citizens took up arms against the bandits. Henry and another outlaw named Lewis Estes were wounded and captured in the gun battle. The rest of the gang escaped with $5815, successfully pulling off the double daylight bank robbery.
After Starr recovered from his wound, he stood trial and entered a plea of guilty to the Stroud Robbery on August 2, 1915. Sentenced to 25 years, he was transferred to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma.
While in prison at McAlester, Starr began speaking of the foolishness of a life of crime, urging young people to stay honest and earn their money in a legal manner.
“I’m 45 years old now,” Starr told a reporter from the Oklahoma World, “And 17 of my 45 years have been spent ‘inside.’ Isn’t that enough to tell any boy that there’s nothing to the kind of life I have led?” The good words had the proper effect. Starr was paroled in on March 15, 1919.
The silent movie “A Debtor to the Law” is a hit
For two years, the famous bandit stayed true to his word and lived an honest life. He even encouraged others to do so by starring in “A Debtor to the Law”, a film, which depicted the Stroud, Oklahoma, bank robbery and the senselessness of crime.
Henry produced and starred in the silent movie, which was an immediate and huge success. He went on to star in a couple of other movies, and received an offer from Hollywood to do a movie out there. He turned it down because he was afraid that if he went to Hollywood the authorities in Arkansas would try to extradite him for his part in the Bentonville robbery. It was during his time in the movies that Henry met and married his third wife, Hulda Starr from Salisaw, Oklahoma. They were married on February 22, 1920 and moved to Claremore, Oklahoma.
But it just wasn’t in Starr to live the life an honest man for very long. On Friday morning, February 18, 1921, Henry and three companions drove into Harrison, Arkansas. They entered the People’s State Bank and robbed it of $6000.
During the robbery, Henry was shot in the back by the former president of the bank, and his partners fled, leaving him to face the music alone. He was carried to the jail where doctors removed the bullet.
Obviously proud of his record, he boasted to the doctors on Monday, February 21, 1921 “I’ve robbed more banks than any man in America.” The next morning he died from his wound with his wife, Hulda, his mother and his 17-year-old son at his side.
Henry died as he had lived, in a violent manner, but true to the code of the outlaws, he never revealed a single partner in any crime. He never shot anyone in the commission of a crime. He had succeeded where others had failed by robbing two banks at once, and by robbing more banks than anyone else.
During his 32 years in crime, he claimed to have 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. Allegedly, he robbed 21 banks during his outlaw career, making off with nearly $60,000.00, a fortune in his time.
The loot from Starr’s earlier crimes was, by his own words, hidden “..near the border in a place nobody could find it in a million years.” Many researchers believe that this cache is hidden somewhere along the Cimarron River in Stevens County, Kansas.