Next week I’ll be bringing you more about these two dead men but this week its all about outlaws in Oklahoma!
Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. This week I’ve been on the trail of two men who were placed in metal barrels and buried in an unmarked grave under suspicious circumstances. I’m working with professional grave finder Gerry Stover who has traveled coast to coast locating graves. From the graves of celebrities to those of long lost family members, Gerry has an impressive success rate and that’s where this week’s story begins.
According to her on-line biographies, Arizona Donnie Clark was born on October 8, 1873 in Ash Grove, Missouri. She married George and the two had four boys: Herman, Lloyd, Arthur, Fred. From 1910-1928 it appears that the family lived in Tulsa where George worked in a variety of jobs. By all accounts “Arrie” as she was known, was a devoted mother and did everything she could to protect her children as we all do. However these boys weren’t your normal kind of boy and their mother had a few problems herself. The real trouble started when Herman was arrested for highway robbery in Webb City, Missouri just 110 miles from Bartlesville. Herman and his brother Arthur moved on to bank robbery and were picked up for robbing several banks in Tulsa. Before long their brother Lloyd was also involved in what was becoming the “family business.”
On August 16, 1921 Arthur got involved in the killing of a night watchman named Thomas J. Sherrill at St. John’s hospital. This was the start of a killing spree that lasted four years and involved all the brothers. I don’t have room to list the circumstances surrounding their deaths but these officers died in confrontations with what was becoming a gang: Captain Homer R. Spalding of Okmulgee, OK, Sheriff’s Deputy Arthur Osborn of Cheyenne, WY, Policeman J.E. Marshall and Patrolman Joseph G. Marshall, both of Wichita, KS. Another gang which included brother Herman was responsible for killing five other officers including Chief of Police W.J. Meanally. From 1931-32. The killing continued with the deaths of more officers in Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri and Minnesota.
In addition to bank robbery, the boys were also involved in kidnapping and although there is no proof that their mother actively participated in their crimes, she certainly was aware of them and helped her sons avoid arrest. It is also believed that the family had dealings with Chicago mob boss Frank Nitti.
Years later in the 1950s TV depictions of the gang’s activities portray Nitti and the family in different episodes with The Untouchables’ Eliot Ness. In the FBI Story, Jimmy Stewart is also shown pursuing the gang. By this time the exploits of Arrie and her sons had become part of popular culture and a myth had developed around her role as the mastermind of the gang.
It all started falling apart when Herman killed himself in 1927 after a shoot-out with police in Wichita, KS. That same year Lloyd was captured and sent to prison in Kansas. Then in 1935 Arrie and her son Fred were killed in a confrontation with the newly created FBI at their hideout in Ocklawaha, FL. The FBI claimed that a Tommy gun was found in Arrie’s hands after her death. Arthur was arrested and imprisoned at Alcatraz in 1935. In 1939 he was killed during an escape attempt.
The last surviving brother, Lloyd, redeemed himself with honorable service during World War II and went on to have a “straight” job working as the manager of a market in Denver, Co. Ironically, he was killed by his wife who was judged to be insane and sent to a state asylum.
After their deaths the bodies of Fred and his mother were put on public display in Florida. Eventually the bodies were claimed by relatives and buried in the Williams Timberhill Cemetery in Welch, OK next to Herman’s grave. Arizona Donnie Clark or as you may know her, Kate “Ma” Barker had taken her last ride.
Gerry, who lives out of town, will be returning to the area this week to help me locate the graves of the other two dead men I mentioned earlier. I will be bringing more on that story as it develops.
Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..