Everyone's heard of the notorious Jessie James and his gang of marauders, but have you heard of these notorious Missouri women?
Everyone's heard of the notorious Jessie James and his gang of marauders, but have you heard of these notorious Missouri women? They weren’t necessarily active in Pulaski County, but they’re definitely a part of Missouri history.
Belle “Queen of the Bandits” Starr, Cora Hubbard, Ma Barker, Bonnie Parker, Bonnie Heady and Bertha Gifford. These women were bandits,outlaws,murderers, and horse thieves and were just as notorious as their male counterparts.
(February 5, 1848 – February 3, 1889)
Maybelle Shirley (aka Belle Starr), perhaps the most infamous female bandit in U.S. history, grew up in Carthage Missouri.
Belle Starr was known as “ Queen of the Bandits.” One of her known associates was Jesse James. She and her husband, a Cherokee Indian named Sam Starr, were known for housing outlaws on their ranch and for preying on travelers and cowboys passing through.
She and her husband were convicted of horse stealing in 1883 and served time in a federal penitentiary.
On February 3, 1889, two days before her 41st birthday, she was killed.
She was riding home from a neighbor's house when she was ambushed. After she fell off her horse, she was shot again to make sure she was dead. Her death resulted from shotgun wounds to the back and neck and in the shoulder and face.
Legend says she was shot with her own double barrel shotgun.
According to Wikipedia, Cora Hubbard was a 19th-century outlaw who participated in the August 17, 1897 robbing of the McDonald County Bank in Pineville, Missouri.
Hubbard, who was compared to the female outlaw Belle Starr, was one of only a handful of women who participated in bank robberies during that era.
Bonnie Parker met Clyde Barrow in 1930, when he was sent to jail on burglary charges. She smuggled in a gun to Clyde, enabling his escape.
In 1932, during the Great Depression, Bonnie partnered with Barrow beginning in what became a 21 month long crime spree.
The two stole cars and robbed gas stations, small-town banks, and restaurants throughout Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Missouri.
They evaded the FBI and the police until 1934 when they were eventually caught and killed when a friend revealed their whereabouts.
Bertha Alice Williams
(October 1871 – August 20, 1951)
Bertha Gifford was a farmwife in rural Catawissa, Missouri during the early 1900s who was accused of murdering 17 members of the local community.
Gifford, known in her community for her cooking skills and caring for sick neighbors and relatives could be seen in a nurse's uniform, hitching up her wagon in the dark night to” tend” to a sick neighbor. If she thought the person was very sick and on death’s doorstep, she would hurry the process by giving them large amounts of arsenic .
In 1928 she was arrested at Eureka, Missouri and charged with the murders of three people. An autopsy showed all three bodies contained large amounts of arsenic.
Gifford was put on trial in Union, Missouri. Following the three-day trial, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to the Missouri State Hospital #4 (a mental institution) where she remained until her death in 1951.
Although counts vary, most historians and family members agree that Gifford actually killed at least 17 people over a period of 21 years. Her killing span according to Wikipedia was between 1900-1928.
(July 15, 1912 -December 18,1953)
On September 28, 1953 in St. Joseph, Missouri, Carl Hall and Bonnie kidnapped 6 year old Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr., a wealthy business man's son from his private school.
Using the story that she was Robert's aunt and needed to pick up Robert because his mom had a heart attack, Heady was able to abduct the boy from his school.
Heady and her partner demanded a ransom of $600,000. from the family before they would return the boy safely.
Unknown to the family, soon after the abduction Heady and her partner had killed the boy and buried his body near Heady’s house in St. Joseph, Missouri.
The two murderers then took the ransom money and traveled approximately 380 miles to St. Louis, Missouri. They were arrested on October 6, 1953 and on December 18,1953 were executed in Missouri’s lethal gas chamber at the State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri.
Most of the ransom money, $600,000 has not been found.
(Source: www.fbi.gov/ history)
Kate (Ma) Barker
October 8, 1873 – January 16, 1935)
Kate Barker, better known as Ma Barker, and sometimes as Arizona Barker, was the mother of several criminals.
Barker led the Barker gang as they committed robberies, murders, and kidnappings throughout the American Midwest during the early 1930s.
Barker and her gang became known as the FBI’s Public Enemy Number One. On January 16, 1935, she and her son Fred met their deaths in what was the longest shootout in FBI history.
Female horse thieves
The southwest Missouri area has had more than its share of female horse thieves.
Della or Delia Oxley
In October of 1891, a Joplin newspaper reported that Della was in the county jail at Carthage for horse stealing. She tried to dig her way out but apparently failed.
May Calvin, or Colvin
In May of 1893, seventeen-year-old horse thief May Calvin stole a horse in Jasper County and ran off to Kansas to escape. She was captured in early June and brought back to Missouri.
Calvin, a notorious horse thief, was supposedly a member of a gang of outlaws.
She was imprisoned in the Jasper County jail in Carthage, but successfully escaped on the 22nd of June by digging her way out through the same hole in the wall that Della Oxley had left unfinished a year or so earlier.
In March of 1902, a young woman from Butler, Missouri stole a horse at Fort Scott, Kansas.
A few days later she turned herself in at Baxter Spring and was taken back to Fort Scott.
She's been called the first female horse thief since the days of May Colvin. Birdie was about 22 years old and gave her name as Ethel Smith, although the Fort Scott paper identified her as Birdie McCarty.