(February 8, 1876 - March 17, 1896)
Cherokee Bill was born Crawford Goldsby in Fort Concho, Texas. His father was a sergeant in the all-black tenth cavalry (Buffalo Soldier) and his mother was part Cherokee and part black. Cherokee Bill was sent to an Indian School in Kansas then a Catholic Indian School in Pennsylvania. At the age of twelve he returned home - Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.
His father abandoned the family and the relationship with his new stepfather was tension filled, so Cherokee Bill went to live with his older sister. Her husband mistreated Cherokee Bill and he left to live with a Cherokee Indian.
Bill's troubles start in 1894 at a dance in Fort Gibson. During an argument, Cherokee Bill was severely beaten by a person named Lewis and some of his friends. A few days later, Cherokee Bill confronted Lewis again - this time with a six-shooter. After wounding Lewis once, Bill felled Lewis with another shot. Cherokee Bill mounted his horse and headed for Indian Territory. Lewis recovered from his wounds.
It was in the Indian Territory that Cherokee Bill met Jim and Bill Cook. At the home of the Cook's half-sister, a posse arrived with a warrant for Jim Cook. In the melee one lawman was killed and Jim Cook wounded. Soon the famous Cook Gang was formed. It was comprised of blacks and Cherokee Freedman. Cherokee Bill was a member of this gang.
Some of the crimes of the Cook Gang:
July, 14, 1894 - Held up a stage coach
July 31, 1894 - Robbed a bank in Chandler, OK killing one person
September 21, 1894 - Robbed a store in Okmulgee, OK
October 11, 1894 - Robbed a train station in Clarmore, OK
Robbed the Missouri Pacific Express train after diverting the train to a side track
Cherokee Bill without the Cooks brothers robbed the train depot in Nowata. He killed the teller.
Cherokee Bill then rode into Lenapah, OK with other gang members to rob a store. After Bill seized the money, a person painting the outside peaked through a window. Cherokee Bill raised his rifle and fired a bullet through that person's brain. This marked the beginning of the end for Cherokee Bill and the Cook Gang.
Cherokee Bill was much feared because he was nearly six feet tall, strong and burly. He could also shoot faster than two ordinary men. However, the $1,300 reward now placed on Cherokee Bill's head provided incentive.
In an elaborate plot, Cherokee Bill was captured by ordinary citizens. He was taken before Judge Parker and sentenced to hang for the killing of the painter in Lenapah. Somehow a gun was smuggled into the prison and attempting to escape Cherokee Bill shot a guard. Henry Starr, also one of the prisoners, disarmed Cherokee Bill after convincing him he could not escape.
On March 17, 1896 at Fort Smith, Arkansas, he climbed the scaffold, said his good-byes and his neck was broken when his body flew into space.
Crawford Goldsby is buried in the Cherokee National Cemetery in Fort Gibson, OK.
Information compiled by Steve Grimm
Drawing by Richard Florence
Books About Crawford Goldsby
Marauders Of The Indian Nations by Glenn Shirley
Glenn Shirley proves once again that he is the premier western history writer. This book about Cherokee Bill and the Bill Cook Gang displays a vicious group of badmen who terrorized the Oklahoma Indian Territory.
Black, Red and Deadly by Art Burton
A book about the Oklahoma Indian Territory, it has a couple of well-done chapters on Cherokee Bill.