Part 10 — A sensational holdup, continued

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

(Editor’s Note: The following is the 10th installment from the Pawhuska Journal-Capital’s popular 1996 history book, “Cowboys, Outlaws and Peace Officers.” Portions of the book have been serialized each week for the last several weeks in the pages of the J-C.)

By Joe D. Haines Jr.

Former U.S. Deputy Marshal Dave Ware and his wife drove by in their buggy in the mid afternoon as they were on their way to Pawhuska for the Osage annuities payment. When the outlaws ordered him to stop, Ware realized he had $50 in his pocket. He threw up his hands and let the money drop to the bottom of the buggy. His wife picked it up and hid it in her hair.

The money was never found by the outlaws, but they recognized Ware as a former peace officer and took his watch. With the exception of Ware’s watch, the only articles taken by the gang were three horses and saddles.

As the afternoon wore on, a farmer with a big load of hay drove down the road. The Martins stopped him but were unable to get the wagon off the road. They used the hay wagon as a roadblock, forcing subsequent passerby to stop.

Various reports set the number of persons detained by the Martin Gang at between 75-101. Since the bandits believed they would be unknown to their victims, they did not disguise themselves.

The three bandits finally decided they had enough horses to provide three mounts. A fine team of Hambletonian sorrels driven by Fred Keeler caught their fancy.

The horses belonged to Keeler’s father and had never been ridden. When the Martins climbed on, their captives were treated to a wild exhibition of bronco-busting. The animals refused to be ridden. After repeated attempts, Keeler mischievously advised the Martins to use spurs because the hoses were used to being ridden with spurs. The outlaws spurred the horses and were thrown so hard they threatened to shoot Keeler for his advice.

The outlaws, who had spent six to seven hours selecting horses, took three horses belonging to Frank Watson, Lou Johnstone, and Frank Bixler. The bandits told their captives that they were free to go.

The Bartlesville Weekly Examiner of June 20, 1903, gave the holdup front-page headlines.

“One of the most remarkable acts of lawlessness in the history of Indian Territory was committed in this locality last Sunday afternoon when three daring outlaws captured fully seventy-five citizens of Bartlesville – men, women, and children – and held them on a main traveled highway for six or seven hours.”

One victim reported that the outlaws “were courteous and well-mannered as a gentleman would be in his own home while entertaining company.”

The account went on to describe how the bandits displayed remarkable coolness and daring in their operation.

The paper also noted that, “The holdup partook more strongly of a whimsical caper of drunken cowboys than it did of a raid by frontier bandits.”

Continued next week.