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Wanted: Your Stories

I am working on a new project dealing with the saloon owners, gamblers, and 'working girls' of early Oklahoma City (1889-1910).  There are also some interesting crimes in that time frame. If you have one of these fascinating people - or one of the law officers who interacted with them - I would love to interview you or hear your stories.  Email me at

To Best Meet the Needs of Justice: Serial Rapist Wiliam Tyson Horton

Originally published sometime back; I have added the list of resources and sources. The original was linked from this article at Historical Crime Detective. They picked up the story and have some photos.

The Best Met Needs of Justice?

The following is a case that reminds us as a society to be consistent and equal as we interpret and apply laws. The information comes from public records, newspaper accounts, research by Erskine Kelly and interviews with some involved. The image of a blind justice emerged as a promise of fairness and impartial treatment. Sometimes the system has been beaten and justice compromised.  It is a story of how social position, connections, and misguided attitudes about how to help serial sex offenders were mixed with social biases about social class, women, ethnic groups and those outside the ranks of respectable society. 
During the 1980's and 1990's approximately 50 women - almost all prostitutes- were killed by Gary Ridgeway in the Pacific Northwest.  He went free for over twenty years primarily because his victims were 'disposable people'.
In Oklahoma City in 1980 the "Whispering Rapist", Vallee Kent Flemming, was caught and given 75 years which he began to serve right away ('Whispering Rapist Handed 707 (Really 75) Years.' Oklahoman (March 1, 1980)1.)  Do not overlook the story of the rapist-robber. The headline informed the public that the "Man Has 2,790-Year Term" for the conviction for of six rapes and one armed robbery in Oklahoma City  (Oklahoman (March 7,1986)10). He too received a speedy imprisonment. The case with Horton, by comparison, was a far different story....
In the 1960's in Oklahoma City, William “Bud “ Horton, long-time owner of a Ford dealership, was an upstanding and well connected member of the community.  His only son, William Tyson Horton, was considered by most to be the apple of the old man's. Subsequent evidence made this assumption correct and was probably a case of a man refusing to see the failings in his son.
As a teenager, William Tyson Horton, was a definite risk-taker, and racked up citations for serious traffic violations in the multiples by each year and from 1963-1970 there was at least one yearly accident.  Excessive speeding,  ignoring traffic lights, failure to yield and reckless driving were the cited causes for the stops according to police records.  Since his father during most of these years was also serving on the city's Safety Board promoting safe driving practices, there may be a Freudian message hidden in driving so recklessly and receiving those tickets.("Safety Parade Planned Friday". Oklahoman (Aug.24, 1964, 37).
He had a lackluster interest in education, according to evidence admitted into court records, since he enrolled in several and received probations and suspensions in all of them, often for failure to attend. Finally, in 1966, he entered the U.S.A.F. but a month later he is being discharged for health reasons.
In 1966, he is arrested for shoplifting from Records, Inc. at NW 23rd and Classmen. Although he escaped, and had to be re-captured, there is little evidence of any true consequences for this misdemeanor.  The judge began what would become a pattern of legal 'catch and release.'
His history of traffic flaunting continues until about 1969 when he marries for the first time. Yet by October of that year, he is once again ignoring the street laws and, perhaps not unconnected, his wife sues for divorce.  The next year sees more of the same but finally in the fall his license is suspended for 90 days.  Obviously, he grew bored without his 'wheels" because in that time he commits a first known episode of Breaking and Entering  in a neighbor’s apartment.  There, he steals master keys to other apartments and an expensive watch.  He next commits his first known felony by making an indecent and obscene phone call to a local woman and then enters another apartment where he chloroforms the occupant and rapes her.
Arrested for the obscene phone call he is quickly charged with 1st Degree rape due to the evidence found in his apartment.  He is ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation for 90 days and in 1971 the attending doctor makes recommendation of two years of treatment.
In May of 1971, Horton pleads guilty to the crimes outlined. He receives probation and then after his court appearance before Judge Clarence Mills he receives 10 years in McAlester's State Prison for the rape with the last five years suspended and 5 years on the obscene call charge to be served concurrently.  Before the end of the month, however, defense attorneys have gone to California to the rape victim (who was recently married and now living there with her  husband).  An alleged avadavat is signed by the woman indicating she is no longer certain of whether she had been raped by Horton in her chloroformed state. 
As a result, in September of 1971, Judge Mills, reversed ("vacated") the previous charges and sentences and proclaims Horton now 'innocent'.    The 'Motion to Dismiss' was filed Nov. 16, 1970 and the Indecent Telephone Conversation charge dismissed Dec. 29, 1971 (Doc. 1469:219; CRF-70-3362 ) signed by Curtis P. Harris, D.A. and judge C. Mills.  The reason given was "To Best Meet the Needs of Justice."
In February of 1973, Horton marries again in Texas but sues for divorce in March. He is working as informal (unpaid) statistician for the baseball team his father owns, the 89ers. Then, back in OKC, in April he picks up two underage girls (13 and 17) north of 50th and May Avenue. He threatens both girls, forcing the youngest to commit 'oral sodomy'.  Then he released them at Pennsylvania and Britton Road. The girls hurried to the Village Police Department and reported him and shortly after midnight he was captured. The next day he was charged with "Indecent Proposal to a Child Under 14 Years of Age" per 21 O.S.A. 1123 (CRF73-1052.
 Apparently, this did not impede his ability to travel as he is arrested for gambling in Des Moines, Iowa on May 11 and then released on a $50 bond.  That summer he is found guilty of "Lewd Molestation" in Judge Harold Theus' court. In August, he is sentenced to five years, the first 90 days to be served but the remainder suspended.  Before Christmas that year he is again divorced.
A  year later, he is one of several local men rounded up in a sting operation and is charged with the misdemeanor, "Soliciting for Immoral Purposes" (21 OSA 1029 (CRM-74-3079).
Over the next few years his parents die and he marries and divorces another wife.  He begins living with another woman, marries her and then in late 1978 he apparently attempts to drive a more permanent wedge between himself and his wife.  He is charged with Assault & Battery with a Deadly Weapon - A Car. The other car was being driven by his soon to be ex-wife. 
Two years later he is involved in - during November to December - three instances of Assault and Battery,  Battery with a Deadly weapon, two of Kidnapping and one of forcible oral sodomy.  He had picked up at least three prostitutes near SW 7 and Broadway and using a knife threatens them. He admits in one statement he always kept a hunting knife in his car. In  this case, he  cut one woman's throat (she survived). He is arrested Jan. 3, 1983 and charged on Jan. 6th. 
He bolts before the May 20, 1983 court date, and  Judge Cannon sentences him in absentia to a 60 year sentence.  Despite his non-appearance, various friends testified on his behalf that he just did not have any of the "traits" of the man who had assaulted the women (Kim Stott. "Friends Say Alleged Traits Don't Match Assault Suspect." Oklahoman May 20, 1983). Soon he is located in the region of Kansas City, Missouri. Police found a pair of boy's underwear in the motel room Horton had occupied and hotel employees said the man had requested the room not to be cleaned until after he left.   He also, according to local police, resembled a man wanted for a series of local rapes. (Ray Robinson, Kay Stott, "Horton Still Jailed as Detectives Attempt to Trace Fugitive's Movements." Oklahoman (May 29, 1983).  If there were follow-ups to these two threads of  investigations they have not yet been located and no record of any charges out of state found.
Finally, Horton does serious time (still with lawyers working on his behalf) in prison but in 2010 he is out.  He is living in what is recognized by local authorities as a safe haven residence center for sexual offenders. The location becomes notorious when an occupant kills a local woman.
Local prostitutes are soon reporting a 'violent John' cruising South Robinson in OKC.  He was "wearing a ball cap and was kidnapping, Duct Taping and raping women at knife point near the river." ("Man suspected of Attacking and Raping Several OKC Prostitutes Arrested." John-TV at  Due to the man behind John-TV police are alerted. He is soon arrested and he died in June of 2011 while in custody awaiting court room time for his latest actions.  No obituary has been found to date to verify this information but court records declare him deceased.
The lingering and long-term case of Horton highlights the need for constant guarding of the principle of equal treatment under the law. That should include equitable application of sentences, opportunities for appeal, and presumptions of innocence.  Lady Justice must be blind to those who might subvert her and who might seek to influence her through force, bribe, coercion, neglect, or any other means.  The case, like many others, also pinpoints the need to view victims equally as well.  Life style or occupation should not prejudice protection, investigation, or justice. In the end, there are no disposable people.  Equal application of the law is always, in the final judgment, the way to "best meet the needs of justice."

 Sources For William Tyson Horton
“Police Capture Fleeing Suspect”, Oklahoman (Nov. 28, 1966):9.  20 year old, William Tyson Horton, residing 7307 Waverly, booked on complaint of larceny of merchandise and escaping custody. Patrolman A.G. Smith arrested him originally at Records, Inc. 2410 N. Classen Blvd. and he was recaptured by Officer Glen Henry in the 400 Block of N. Shartel.
“Obscene Call Charges Filed.” Oklahoma Journal (Nov. 11, 1970)20. Cleo Estel Durham complained to SW Bell Telephone she had been receiving obscene calls. A trace alleged the calls came from an apartment at 6225 N. May occupied by Horton.
“City Man is Charged.” Oklahoma City Times (Nov. 18, 1970)2.  William Tyson Horton, 24, accused of raping a 37 year old woman  at a northwest area apartment about 1 am , Sat.   Police said the woman was chloroformed by an intruder in her bedroom and awoke during the attack and was threatened with an overdose unless she kept assault secret.
“Rape Charges Filed in Case”. Oklahoma Journal (Nov. 19, 1970)12. Victim was an employee of the OU Medical Center; Horton lived at 6017 N. May. Judge Barnett ordered him held without bond pending preliminary hearing.
“City Man Held on Rape Count.” Daily Oklahoman (Nov. 19, 1970)27. Preliminary hearing set for Dec. 15.

“Rape Suspect Pleads Guilt”, Oklahoma City Times (May 4, 1971)1.
“Suspect Pleads Guilty”. Oklahoma City Times (May 4, 1971)1.
“City Rape Charges Admitted”. Oklahoma Journal (May 5, 1971)5.
“Cityan Draws Prison Term”. Oklahoma Journal (July 2, 1971)2.  District Judge Clarence M. Mills sentenced Horton post his confession to making obscene phone calls and rape in the first. The Judge sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment on the rape charges, but suspended five years. He was also sentenced to 5 years on the obscene phone call and order it run concurrently with the rape charges.
“City Man Draws Rape Sentence”. Daily Oklahoman (July 2, 1971)18.
“City Rape Sentence Dropped”. Oklahoma Journal (Sept. 29, 1971)9.  Sentence was set aside after 38 yr old victim swore she had not been raped; Horton said he had pleaded guilty he feared  he might receive a life sentence; victim identified as Dr. Joan Wikman-Coffeld (elsewhere spelled Wickman). She had recently married in California.  Shw provided a statement, allegedly, “repudiating the rape charge.” (See note on Oklahoma story of 9/28/71)   As a result “the case was reversed and Horton found innocent.”
“State Drops Term in Rape”. Oklahoman (Sept. 29, 1971)2.  Not difference in terms of victims alleged statement “she could not positively state she was raped.”
“Girl, 13, Claims Molestation; City Man Arrested.” Oklahoma Journal (April 16, 1973)6.  A 26 year old Village resident booked, 2306-F Cavanagh Blvd.
“Teenager Molested; Man Jailed”. Oklahoman (April 16, 1973)20.
“Indecent Proposals Charged.” Oklahoma City Times (April 16, 1973)6.
“Molesting Suspect Due Trial”. Oklahoma Journal (May 26, 1973)5.
“City Man Facing June Trial Date.” Oklahoman (May 26, 1973)29.
“Indecent Liberties Trial Faced. Oklahoma City Times (May 31, 1973)10.
“Molestation Trial Delayed.” Oklahoma City Times (June 27, 1973)17.
“Molestation Suspect Foregoes Jury Trial.” Oklahoma Journal (June 28, 1975)25.
“Witness Identifies Sodomy Suspect.” Oklahoman (June 28, 1972)57.
“Suspect Guilty in Molestation.” Oklahoma Journal (June 29, 1973)21.
“Molester Lectured by Judge.” Oklahoma City Times (August 31, 1973) Friday.  Judge Harold Theus.
“Cityan Gets 5 Year Term.” Oklahoman (Sept. 1, 1973) 21.
“Father Files Damage Suit.” Oklahoman (Oct. 6. 1973)11. $400,000 damage suit filed by the lawyer of the father of the 13 year old victim; attorney Carroll E. Gregg.
“Police Decoy Tactics Bring Charges for 7.” Oklahoman (Oct. 24, 1974)22.
“Molestation Case Jury is Sought”. Oklahoma City Times (Dec.9, 1974)26.
 “Non Jury Suit Asked” Oklahoma City Times (Dec. 10, 1974)10.
“City Jury Discharged.” Oklahoma City Times (Dec. 10, 1974)10.  Anita Gay Roach, 16, was allegedly kidnapped on April 14, 1973 and forced to commit oral sodomy.
“Parties Ask to End Suit.” Oklahoman (Dec. 11, 1974)56.  Roach lawsuit, previous year Horton convicted of molesting the girl and given a five-year suspended sentence.
“Mrs. W.G.’Bus’ Horton Dies”. Oklahoman (Dec. 20, 1974)11.
No first name given. Guardian Memorial Funeral Home.
“Morals Cases Sentences Set.” Oklahoman (Jan.15, 1975)11.  W.T. Horton, 28 of 6405 NW 63rd “pled guilty and was given a one-year deferred sentence.” Of the seven men arrested all but two paid fines and/or court costs.
“Sex Crime Sentence Deferred.” Oklahoma City Times (Feb.11, 1975)17.  Noted Horton had been previously convicted on three other sex-related offenses in the last two years. The more recent was a fourth and it was also deferred.  Explains a deferred sentence is one in which the defendant does not go to jail if he keeps out of trouble for a specific period of time and then the conviction would be erased from the records.
“Bus ‘Horton, Civic Leader Dies at 69.” Oklahoman (March 25, 1977)23.
“Service Monday for Bus Horton”. Oklahoma and Times (March 22, 1977)10.
“Horton Ford Changes hands”. Oklahoman (August 2, 1977)5.
“Cityan Held in Attacks” Oklahoman (January 7, 1983)20.   Horton, 4718 Sunnyview, charged with three sexual attacks on women occurring on Nov.3 (victim sodomized at knifepoint near SW 7th and Broadway), Dec.6 (victim’s breasts cut with a 12-inch hunting knife in the 500 Blk of W. California), Dec.29 (slashed the throat of victim near SW 7th and Broadway) previous year.
“Cityan Free While Awaiting Latest Sex Attack Trials” Kim Stott.  Sunday Oklahoman (April 17, 1983)1. Notes DOC had no record he had ever served a day in prison.  This ‘despite a 1973 molestation conviction, two other guilty pleas to a rape and obscene calls’ and a judge who lectured him saying he would be shown no leniency. Notes victim whose breasts were cut subsequently could not find the victim. Hays Foster, Assist. D.A. quoted as saying: “Just because she’s a prostitute doesn’t mean she’s available for anyone to abuse.”
“leniency Often No Solution”. Oklahoma City Times. Editorials” (April 19, 1983)34.  “Horton’s record should point up for officials in the criminal justice system that leniency is not the answer to the crime problem.”
“Cases Filed”. Oklahoma City Times. (Jan. 18, 1978)24.     ; Oklahoma City Times (April 11, 1983)9N. Shows the tendency to defer many cases or suspend sentences.
“Women Identifies Alleged Assailant.” Oklahoma City Times (May 15, 1983)38.
“Defense Attacks Cuffs as Sodomy Trial exhibit.” Oklahoman. Kim Stott. (May 19, 1983)37.  Noted officers found handcuffs in bathroom after Horton asked to go and they then heard a ‘clink’. Horton was charged in handcuffing a woman and forcing her to commit oral sodomy. The room mate of the victim, Reneee Clemonts identified them as the hand cuffs as did Officer Nick Pittman. Police officers discovered a key they had found opened the handcuffs. Additionally, officers indicated Horton admitted to carrying a 12 inch hunting knife. He alleged he had begun using it after he had been reportedly stabbed by the “pimp” of one of his dates. [Query: Any police or hospital reports?]
“Friends Say Alleged Traits Don’t Match Assault Suspect.” Oklahoman (May 20, 1983)14.  Three friends – Suzee Bruton, Santa Rosa, Calif; Beth Westergard,OKC; Brad Cooper, OKC – testified on behalf of Horton and were surprised when they learned he regularly had ‘dates with prostitutes.’
“Convicted Felon Disappears Before Sentencing.” Oklahoma & Times (May 21, 1983)1.
“Police Continue Search for Convict.” Oklahoman (May 22, 1983)34.
“Fugitive Reportedly Backs Out on Plan to Surrender, Bondswoman Arrested.” Oklahoman (May 23, 1983)1.
“Escapee’s Girlfriend Still Held.” Oklahoma City Times (May 23, 1983).
“City Fugitive’s Pal Questioned.” Oklahoma City Times. Ray Robinson and Andy Morgan. (May 24, 1983)29.
“Horton’s Pursuers Seek Help.” Oklahoma City Times (May 24, 1983)11.
“A Case of Excessive Leniency.” Oklahoman (May 25, 1983)28.
“Prosecutors’ Request Interstate Flight Warrant to Involve FBI in Search for Sex Offender.” Oklahoman (May 25, 1983)27.
“Bulletin”. Oklahoma City Times (May 26, 1983)26.
“Fugitive Sex Offender Arrested in Kansas City Suburb.” Oklahoman (May 27, 1983)1.
“High Bail Confronts Sex Felon.” Oklahoma City Times (May 27, 1983)24.
“Horton Still Jailed as Detectives Attempt to Trace Fugitive’s Movements.” Oklahoma & Times (May 28, 1983)23.
“Cases Filed.” Oklahoma City Times (May 30, 1983)13s.
Charge of perjury.
“Horton’s Release Feared.” Oklahoma City Times (May 31, 1983)21.
“Jailed Fugitive’s Total Bond Raised to Nearly $4 Million.” Oklahoman (June 1, 1983)1.
“Judge Sentences Horton, Orders Immediate Return.” Oklahoma City Times (June 1, 1983)1.
“William Tyson Horton Sentenced to 60 Years.”  Oklahoman (June 2 1983)1, 5.
“City Fugitive Held in Kansas City Gets 60-Year Assault Sentence.” Oklahoman (June 2, 1983)18.
“Nigh Signs Extradition Papers to Return Fugitive Sex Offender From Kansas City Jail.” Oklahoma &Times (June 4, 1983)29.
“Horton’s Return to City Ordered.” Oklahoma City Times (June 6, 1983)1.
“Horton’s Attorneys Challenge Missouri Extradition Order.” Oklahoma City Times (June 7, 1983)1.
Attorney’s Bob Beaird and Philip Cardarella.
“Escapee Challenging Return to Oklahoma.” Oklahoma City Times (June 7, 1983)1.
‘Sex Felon’s Extradition Case Stalled.” Oklahoma City Times (June 9, 1983)1.
“Extradition Case Stalled.” Oklahoman (June 10, 1983).
“Bondswoman Horton to Wed?’ Oklahoma City Times (June 10, 1983)1.
“Sex Offender, Bondswoman Marry in Jail.” Oklahoman & Times (June 11 1983)1.
“Sons of Prominent Men Find Trouble with Law.” Oklahoman (June 12, 1983)9.
Profiled three: Kirksey Nix Jr. (son of a judge, murder, LA Prison); Bryce Baggett Jr. (son of senator and representative, drug charges, B&E); William Tyson Horton.
“Sex Offender’s Bond Forfeited.” Oklahoma City Times. Ray Robinson. (June 13, 1983)1.
“Horton Abandons Extradition Battle.” Oklahoman (Jun 14, 1983)1.
“Horton Bail Bid Fails: Trial Due.” Oklahoma City Times (June 14, 1983)1.
“Judge Orders Bond Denial for Horton.” Oklahoman (June 15, 1983)6.
“Guilty Plea Nets Sex Offender 12 More Years.” Oklahoman. (June 28, 1983)9.
“Felonies”. Oklahoma City Times. (July 7, 1983)3.
“Felonies.” Oklahoma City Times (July 18, 1983)2.
Charge of bail jumping dismissed.
“Felonies.” Oklahoma City Times”. (August 4, 1983),

Court Case Sources for William Tyson Horton
Index of Felony Charges Against William Tyson Horton in Oklahoma County:
CRF-70-3362 INDECENT TELEPHONE CONVERSATION (211 OSA 1021p4). Filed: Nov. 16, 1970.
CRF-70-3385 RAPE IN THE FIRST DEGREE (21 OSA 1111). Filed:
CRF-83-90   Filed: January 6, 1983
CRF-83-92   Filed: January 6, 1983
CRF-83-94   Filed: January 6, 1983
CRF-83-2701  Filed: May 20, 1983
CRF-83-3093 Filed: June 16, 1983
Index of Misdemeanors Against William Tyson Horton in Oklahoma County:
CRM-74-3074 SOLICITING FOR IMMORAL PURPOSES (21 OSA 1029). Filed: October 23, 1974.
Index of Civil Cases Against Wiliam Tyson Horton Oklahoma County District Court:
CJ-73-3121  Anita Gay Roach v William Tyson Horton. Filed: October 55, 1973.
CJ-74-3587  Wyonette Quillin v. William Tyson Horton. Filed: October 8, 1974.
CJ-80-765    Quail Creek Bank, NA v William Tyson Horton. Filed: February 14, 1980.
CJ-80-2440  City Corp Person-to-Person Financial Center, Inc. v William Tyson Horton. Filed: May 21, 1980.
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals:
Appeal Petition: 
F-83-696   724 P.2nd 773 (Okl.Cr. 1986) Aug. 28, 1986.  William Tyson Horton , Appellant v. STATE of Oklahoma, Appellee.
Petitions for Post-Conviction Relief:
A special thanks to local researcher E. Kelley.


Old West Deadly Gang Had Help From a Girl

The story begins with the discovery of town that had no churches.  Violet Springs sounds like it should have been a lovely and peaceful community. Instead it was a favored hideout and rest stop of outlaws on the run from the law or on the way to break a law. It was a wild and rowdy community with lots of saloons, probably some bawdy houses, a few farmers and shop keepers but no churches. That says a lot for the time when it was hopping (1880's- 1890's) in the land around modern Seminole, Oklahoma.  Mentioned briefly as a ghost of a ghost town where only a cemetery remains to tease the imagination.

Then a story in local papers about a 20 year old female desperado who had short hair and wore men's attire and help smuggle guns to the Christian Brothers (Bob and William), members of the notorious High Five Gang that frequently hid away in Violet Springs. In 1895 the brothers, with others, were in the Guthrie jail and escaped heading to New Mexico and then Arizona to seriously lead a life of crime as bank and train robbers.

She was one of some six people charged by Sheriff Deford with aiding the get away of the Christian and Carr. Early news writers said she "seems to be imbued with the reckless, foolhardy nerve common to the outlaw."  When leaving the area, others were hesitant about crossing the roiling and swollen South Canadian river but she charged across heedless of the danger.  Instrumental in supplies guns, she sat in the jail 'carefully guarded.' 

Only about 20 years old, she was known to wear male attire and, in fact, was changing back into her own clothes when captured. She wore her hair short to support her frequent disguise but newsmen noted, "if neatly attired would not be at all bad looking. Her wayward manner has been too short to show its effects upon her face to any extent."  Apparently, many had difficulty aligning this young, attractive woman with the claims of being a member of such a gang or associated with such wild men as the Christians.   "Jesse Finley endures her imprisonment with equanimity and is happy as a lark. Last night when an Oklahoma representative called at the jail she was playing the organ and singing like a bird. She is really a presupposing young lady and has a good voice."

Daily Times Journal (OKC), July 19, 1895
Weekly Oklahoma State Capitol (Guthrie), July 27, 1895, pg. 1, 3 and 7.


Autographs? So Last Year! We Want Autograph Ghosts

In 1909, the old fashioned Victorian trend of autograph albums had obviously grown a little bit dull.  The new vogue was to collect 'autograph ghosts' from all the notables you encountered. 

All the rage at society parties they were created by signing your name, in ink of course, and then folding the page. In pressing down to allow the ink to seep into the opposite facing page you created a 'ghost' of the signature.  Similar to art work children do with watercolors based on created a reflected image.

Some notables practiced until just the right looking 'ghost' was created. Then, apparently, they were filed away in looseleaf folders or binders. Has anyone ever seen a collection of "ghosts"? They would make a fascinating display with biographies and images. The image above was captured from a newspaper of August 20, 1909 (The Yukon Sun).  On this 1909.


An enduring tragedy that captures the attention of people each generation. It features a missing young mother, a child, strange events and the stalwart presence of one of the early heroes of Oklahoma Territory, Sam Bartell (U.S. Marshal, Police Constable and Private Detective).  Here, through special permission, is the story of the aftermath:

Although most of the excitement surrounding the murder of Katie James in 1905 involved the search for Katie and the woman suspected of killing her, there were other victims of which almost nothing is told; these victims were the children of Katie and Fannie Norton; Lulu Blanche James and Roy, Leta & Elsie Ham. Lulu Blanche was only 18 months old when her mother was murdered. A newspaper article from the Weatherford Democrat says the following:

"The Weatherford Democrat, Thursday, January 23, 1913
Blanche James Dead
Another chapter in one of the saddest tragedies in connection with Weatherford's early history ended recently with the death of Little Blanche James. A letter received by the Cheyenne Marble Works of this place Monday from Mr. DeWitt at Knowles states that he had just got a letter form his sister, Mrs. Shinsteffer who had been notified of the death of the little girl on Jan. 2nd. So little can be known of the fact except that the girl had been visiting her father and took sick with spinal meningitis from which she died. The letter from Mr. DeWitt closed with the cry of the old man's broken heart, "I think they might have might have let me know. I would like to have been with her.
Many of our readers will remember the gruesome story. Seven years ago Mrs. James, having had trouble with her husband on account of his cruelty, had come to Weatherford to her father, Mr. DeWitt. At Clinton she met with Mrs. Ham who offered to drive her through the country. Some place on that lonely drive she was murdered. The body was afterwards found hidden in the bushes near Deer Creek. A little boy related that a woman driving the wagon called hi and asked him to hold the baby as the horses were fractious, then drove furiously away leaving the little child in his arms. Two years ago a trace of the murderer was found in Colorado but she was wanted for stealing horses in New Mexico, so she could not be brought back here for trial until her sentence expires.

But many have asked, what became of the little babe deprived of its mothers care and left to strangers? The father came and took the child, never letting Mr. DeWitt have anything to do with her or to see her. Mr. James married again, but through the years the child was guarded from any knowledge of her grandfather. Mrs. Shinsteffer, the sister of Mr. DeWitt, lived in the same county, Dewey county, and through neighbors kept track of the child and informed Mr. DeWitt. The old gentleman in the course of time amassed considerable property. Mrs. James was his only child and he has no heir. It was the wish of his heart to have and to help little Blanche. Although he was not allowed to see her he could not resist sending her pretty clothes. These were sent through his sister and without letting them know where they came from. Mr. James always told his daughter that her mother still lived and that the clothes were sent by her. And so the story ends with the death of little Blanche."

The Ham children spent their last days together as a family traveling to Guthrie Oklahoma. On July 11, 1905 they were placed for adoption by their Mother Mary Francis Norton, who then left for Shawnee where she eventually committed suicide. Roy, the older brother was 13, his two sisters Elsie and Leta only eleven and seven.

The records that survive show the children placed with families in August 1905; sadly they were not kept together. The entries state:
* Roy Ham-With farmer, good people man and wife of Quaker faith.
* Elsie Ham-With intelligent family, who will give the child a good home. Methodist faith.
* Leta Ham-With Dr. B. and his wife, no children, fine people. The child will have good advantages. Presbyterian and Methodist Churches preferred.

Roy and his sisters had little contact with one another. All letters between the siblings were sent via the Children’s Home. While the records are incomplete they do show that at least in the beginning the children tried to maintain contact with one another. Transcripts of the few remaining letters show the children adapted well to their new lives. Only Roy seems to make any mention of their mother, and even that is only a short sentence to say he is sorry to hear she is dead.

I haven’t been able to track down anything about the family Roy Ham was placed with. He kind of disappears until October 1918 when dies of pneumonia. Roy’s obit in the Kansas City Star of October 20, 1918 reads:
"Ham-Roy L Ham, 26 years old, died Friday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Gilmer, 5948 Brooklyn Avenue, of pneumonia. He made his home at that address. His father, Taylor Ham, lives in Turlington, Tex. Two sisters also survive him."
Roy’s sisters never knew what happened to their brother.

Elsie Ham married in October 1913. She and her husband had three children, a boy and two girls. Her son died during World War II; I don’t know what ever became of her daughters or if she ever shared with them the sad story of their grandmother’s life and death.

Leta was perhaps the luckiest of the three Ham children. She was placed with a doctor who eventually adopted her. She wrote to her brother of her little pony and of the four dolls she had. Leta too went on to marry, raise children and live her life.

---Courtesy of William Slack


Dead Man's Crossing of the Canadian

For years there has been mention of a "Deadman's Crossing" near Oklahoma City.  There has been mention of one near Quapaw but the two closest to the Oklahoma City area include a location just south of Oklahoma City on the Canadian River. There is another one that is supposed to be at the bridge just south of the dam on tenth street. 

In a 1891 issue of a local paper was a short piece informing people that the body at the dead man's crossing of the Canadian had been removed for purposes of road work. Readers were assured the remains had been moved to more pleasant surroundings.

The cause of death for the individual who gave the area its name of 'Deadman's Crossing' was unknown.  It was noted that various and sensational theories had been advanced from complex robbery by highwaymen to revenge and similar ideas.  What was more rooted in unspecified facts were that it was believed he died from a 'disreputable quarrel' that drove his slayer from the area almost immediately. [Oklahoma City Times-Journal, Dec. 4,2 1891, pg.4]

It is unclear at present which suggested location is referred to in the 1891 news article.


Coming Soon! Lots of research going into these and the results are fascinating. Contact the author if you are a descendent of anyone who called OKC's "Hell's Half Acre" home or even a workplace!  I would love to include your story.

A non-fiction work providing facts, histories, and stories related to Oklahoma City's 'Hell's Half Acre" and it many locations in the community during the time.

A fictional account of the woman most reviled during the first 20 years of the city...

A reprint of locations, stories and fun facts just perfect for walking or guided tours of the areas where 'Hell's" fires flared the brightest.


Who Was Anne Wynn Bailey? Part 2

ca 1908
When the 1900 census came along she was ensconced in her establishment at 422 West 2nd, a step up from the street of “Hell” and a sign of how economically successful her business, and others like hers, were in those early days.  Apparently Anne acquired many types of coin as she grew her empire: money, real estate and possibly information.  When the census taker asked, she, and all of her girls, appear to have very proudly claimed the occupation of “Prostitute.”  In many other locations euphemisms were often employed but not so in Oklahoma City and "Hell's occupants.

The house was only one of the businesses she oversaw in the city, only part of the real estate she owned.  It has been suggested she served as a 'silent partner' in other, and more legitimate, businesses but evidence is lacking to date.  She was, despite the vindictive of local news reports and inconsistent police and community leaders,  a fashionable woman who could mingle unnoticed among the finer shoppers of any of the stores or shops targeting higher class women. It has been reported that her patronage was welcomed in shops and offices all up and down the bustling and growing urban center.
She was, unlike many of the women in similar business, particularly hated and reviled.  Indeed, seldom is another Madam named as often, and never with as many derogatory remarks, as is “Big Annie”.   That includes fairly recent writers of early day accounts. The myths that grew around her were apparently crafted to achieve specific goals and may have stemmed from professional jealousy and competition from other Madams, from real estate speculators she out maneuvered for valuable locations or buildings, and for local politicians (which often included local police and community leaders) seeking to use her as a scapegoat to climb to positions of power themselves.

In the 1902 Oklahoma City Directory she is listed as "Miss Annie Baily" and was residing at 422 West 2nd. Locals would understand this was in "Harlot's Lane" as both sides of West 2nd (now known as Kerr) from Hudson Street to Walker Street was primarily occupied by the major and miner houses of prostitution.  These included on the north side of the street: Etta Woods Creole Girls, The Red Star, Noah's Ark,. On the south side were: Nine Truelove's, The Arlington (co-owned by Annie and managed by Madam McDonald), and at the corner of W. 2nd and Walker was "Big Anne's Place 444" managed by Madam Effie Fisher.  It is believed she still owner property in Hell's Half Acre and across the railroad tracks east into "Old Zulu's" domain as well as other business property.

The tide of her life in Oklahoma City was not as smooth as many liked to claim. This was especially true in 1903.  In February a young Dutch girl, Lucy Platt or Patt (her name appears both ways but in legal records the Patt appears most often) who sued for $20,000 in damages against Annie Wynn for her being drugged and raped in the W. 2nd business.  Her uncle was mentioned as a key player in luring the girls into the bar and allowing the girls to be drugged and assaulted. A shiver of fear of "white slavery" was always under the surface in this era and so the story was followed in a most salacious and outraged manner.

Two men, George C. Garrison and John Harmon would be implicated, with Garrison being sent to Lansing for 10 years.  In June, Annie Wynn and Maud Davis were fined for contempt in relation to the case. This was just days after Annie had married a local land speculator named Asher Bailey. Subsequent legal records indicate that other witnesses noted that the girls did not refuse entry into the saloon, the drinks or the journey upstairs and neither one called out for help. Two noted the girls came down with the men later. The girls appear to have disappeared as suddenly as they appeared.

In November, local headlines informed the public "Sporting Woman Killed" and it was learned that local Madam, Effie Fisher was shot through the window of her house at 444 W. 2nd,  by a double-barreled shotgun. She was killed instantly and the employee, Sadie, with her at the time was sprayed by stray shot but not seriously hurt.  The initial theory was that Effie was rich, she had days earlier filed a will and let it be known that if anything happened to her look to her ex Ed Filson.  The truth was she had very little beyond the house she owned and the house she managed, some bits of furniture and not enough to give support to her aged father or anyone else.  Filson was acquitted. 

!903 seemed to be a very bad year for Annie Wynn.  The Patt girls incident had all the appearances of a set-up perhaps to get Annie closed down and sent away?  Annie marries; was this to protect her interests or because a  husband or wife could not be compelled in that time to testify against their spouse?  Then, most strangely, the busy year concludes with the killing,  unsolved, of the woman who had risen to the place of managing Annie's most popular business at 444 W. 2nd?  Had Effie been involved in a plot to take down her boss? Did she see herself filling Big Annie's shoes and assuming control of her empire?

Statehood was all the talk in 1907. The territories would become a state and everything would change.  In June a mysterious and shocking murder rocks Capital Hill and Oklahoma City. James Meadows disappears and then in a scene Hollywood would envy, the young German immigrant lover of the man's wife, leads police by lantern light to the grave site as lightening spears the stormy skies.

The next year and a half the newspapers were the equivalent of the television soaps of modern decades.  There were tales of mystery women, psychics, mysterious letters, false confessions and denials and accusations on a daily basis. The frail put upon widow, the eager tormented and easily led lover, and the poor sap of a husband done in of them? Both of them? Neither of them?  tales have emerged of the wife's affair with a local high profile police officer adding even more drama and conspiracy to events. As if it needed more. The wife, apparently was addicted to morphine and may have led a colorful life before marrying Meadows.  Meadows was the put upon husband but there are many unanswered questions about this man who worked for the telegraph and phone company. A suggestion is he was a gambler and still had some connections.  The young German, besotted and manipulated, had been married before and his wife tragically (Mysteriously?) died after an outing to the country.  Who to believe?  Finally, the courts believed the young man had killed Meadows, but many felt he had been tricked into it by others.  He was sent to prison in McAlister but later released and is believed to have moved to the area of Osage County.

All of this was heating up the already steaming days of June and July of 1907 when in August a fire of different sort heated things up.  A conflagration broke out at 312 E. Grand, one of Annie's other "resorts". One man and three women, unnamed, were killed as the building burned to the ground. Annie, and the black porter of the business, "Judge Peters" were arrested for arson and murder. Police believed a story of Fannie Richards, a one time employee of Annie's that she had killed a man and dumped his body in the North Canadian and then order Peters to burn the house down to conceal the crime. As a result Annie was forbidden to go back to West 2nd street and had to take up residence elsewhere on E. Grand. She was, after nearly 20 years, almost back where she started from.

Statehood celebrations and changes marched onward. Old Zulu, Martha Fleming, the night before statehood attended a revival in the old and very notorious Blue Front Saloon.  A holiness group was using the defunct and rundown building to conduct services. She was converted and the next day, in the November chill, she was baptized in the local river.  She had battled for many years the twin demons of drugs and drink.  Her notoriety was not for business sense or management skills or social activism as she drummed up voters for election days but was the fact this 6 foot woman was an Amazon when under the influence. On one occasion it took nine large police men to restrain her and get her into the cell. Unfortunately, her conversion was short lived and not much more is known other than she may have been returned to jail in Kansas after this date.

Statehood was not all celebration, however, as the entry into the union meant that the state became dry with the stroke of the President's pen.  An estimated 560 legal saloons closed across the region of the territories and 70 of them were in Oklahoma City.

The brewing discontent and revilement of the Madam Annie Wynn reared to new life in 1908 as the woman who had found so many fines and bails paid by patrons now faced jail time. On May 19 she went on trial and the chief witness was that ex-employee Fanny Richards. The holes in the story did not escape the jury (if you have dumped the body why burn down the building? )  The inquest jury did not buy her or her tale of the arson and murder. The jury dismissed the charges and Annie was free.

Possibly Annie had met the jailed widow James Meadows on one of her in and out visits to the jail cell while the arson and murder case was developing. Perhaps she read of her in the local paper and felt sorry for her as a fellow traveler on the bumpy road of public opinion. Whichever was the case, Annie offered Lila Meadows a place to stay on at least one occasion.

Spring of 1909 brought with it great changes. The March city elections forecast "stormy" as one major candidate for the mayoral position was a strong "anti-saloon league" member.  Annie, a part of Oklahoma City's landscape since April 22, 1889, sold out and moved west. The $75,000 she had amassed had apparently been  used to keep her out of jail and away from a death sentence.  She is believed to have moved to California and there within the next decade.

Various records of the early days of the city have painted her with a broad and sometimes vicious stroke while leaving many other women in similar employ alone. One has to wonder why this was the case. In a wild and roaring town like Oklahoma, step-child of a land that had long survived as a hideout and hold for bandits even the good guys played both sides of the fence.  Sometimes, the shrill declarations of woman Annie Wynn are like a glass of wine that carries the haunting taste of sour grapes.  Annie Wynn Bailey may have been an early example that sometimes the smartest man in the room is a woman.

(c) Marilyn A. Hudson, "Who was Annie Wynn?", Mystorical, 2015.

[As more is uncovered I will add it to this. Descendants of any of these people are invited to contact me to expand the information found her. ]
The drawing found  in a 1908 Newspaper in OKC was probably caricature;
her features were drawn with a course, male face, heavy jowls, and rough features. A sure sign of the distain and hatred she generated among the writers of that newspaper. She was reported to have been big but other features are speculation. IF the 1908 image was caricature and not merely a male face on a female figure than it is possible she had a prominent nose and might have looked like this when younger.  Marilyn A. Hudson, 2015.


The Real Culprits?

In August of 1907 a fire nearly razed an Oklahoma City bawdy house to the ground at 312 E. Grand. Several people died and two were injured. Victims were Lillian Raye, Vergie Wallace, Sadie Ward and Walter Ward. Two escaped by jumping out a 2nd floor window and sustaining serious injuries. These were C.R. Clark and Rose Jones. Several local men were initially jailed for investigation but the eyes of the local law soon looked elsewhere. The owner of the business was a woman who had been in operation, to a great success, since the original land run April 22, 1889. Oklahoma City had a love-hate relationship with its vice and seemed to reflect the words of Augustine who prayed "Give me chastity and continence, but not yet." Oklahoma City was in conflict with its better self and it was so easy to point the finger at the people providing certain services rather than the people keeping them in business! SO the saloons, the gambling dens and the sporting houses (houses of prostitution, ill repute, disorderly houses, etc.)stayed open with minor fines until, as one early citizen described it, the city suffered a periodic 'spasm of virtue.' This usually occurred whenever one political party was trying to oust the other! The general belief expressed by one Democrat was that the city could tolerate vices if they acted with some decorum and respected the law in serious matters. It was, simply a matter of business. It was good for business to have some places open and operating for the citizens and the visitors who brought business to town. So, despite serious problems in the theory, in January 1, 1908,Anne Bailey, the owner of the establishment was arrested, along with the African American porter there, Judge Peters. They were charged with murder, poison and arson in particular with specific charges in the murder of Lillian Raye. The mass murderer Belle Gunness was in the news and the local D.A. even dug in basements of Anne's earlier resorts to see if she too had buried victims. An unidentified body had been found with a bottle of carbolic acid half buried in a sand bank in September of the previous year and blood stains had been found at the burned out wreckage. Poison, murder, and arson...the local candidates and political parties had a field day. 'We have trouble, right her in...' In March of 1908 Harry McCuen and Fannie Richey were brought, in heavy shackles, to Oklahoma City from Denison, Texas where they had run away ... the very night of the fire. Apparently, McCuen had jilted Fannie and went to Texas. Fannie did not like this and so gave the whole affair away. The two erstwhile criminals claimed that Anne Bailey, aka 'Big Anne', had been at the bottom of the trouble. She had advised them to commit the crime of murdering the stranger who had come to collect money owed him and to have the porter set fire to the building to hide the crime. The logical inconsistencies aside, early on in the story, police suspected the couple of the crime, as well as locals in the African American community, until, the story was fashioned by the local political machine to become a crusade case to illustrate the need for a city government 'tough on crime' and the criminally immoral segments of the society. The jury that heard the case apparently saw through the attempt to deflect attention from the actions of McCuen and Ritchie (who was also known as Richards). The die was cast, however, and the attention stayed on Annie. They were determined to get her for something....anything. In the story aspects that were ignored included the fact that the blood stains apparently came from a wound acquired earlier by one of the victims (perhaps in a fight with a customer?). Anne Bailey had an injunction against her and had had to move her business off Harlot's Lane (400 block of W. 2nd, now Kerr). The construction was not totally finished and parts of the downstairs were still a little rough. Why would Anne had suggested poisoning her staff and customers? Why would she knock them out during prime business hours at the house of ill repute? Why would she suggest the porter set a fire to hide blood stains and possibly burn down the building she had just sunk funds into? She was far too smart and clever, how else had see survived nearly 20 years running several successful houses, acquiring real estate and leverage in Oklahoma City politics? If this Fannie Ritchey is the Fannie Richards who once worked for Anne she learned 'How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is. To have a thankless child.—Away, away! Let it be a wicked child who mocks the mother who cares for it.' Or maybe, what goes around...comes around. ---(c) Marilyn A. Hudson, 2015. Part of an ongoing project on the life of 'Big Anne' of Oklahoma City.



Most of the attention, deserved or not, in the early days of "Hell's Half Acre" went to Madam Annie Wynn Bailey aka "Big Anne" or "Big Annie."  There were lots of competitor's, however, and here is a working list of some of the Madams and Working Girls found to date:
In 1896, Daisy Clayton and 6 of her 'inmates' were arrested for disorderly conduct. Madam Daisy was at the "Red Onion" on Hop Blvd.
The main Madam who appears to have held sway over the girls and joints on Alabaster Row and just over the city line, east of the Santa Fe tracks on Grand was a woman named Martha Fleming, known to local police and public by the sobriquent, "Old Zulu".  Zulu warriors had been making the news in the 1890's and papers were filled with stories of these exotic, effective and somewhat romantic fighters from Africa engaged in a battle for their freedom.  At 6 feet, with a dynamic and deep voice, and packing a large pistol, Martha more than earned the nickname, especially when she had too much to drink or was using heroin or cocaine.  She and the police seemed to enjoy the notoriety and she often reminded them it took eight police 'bulls' to lock her up one time.  A colorful woman who also served as an early business woman, community organizer, and voting promoter.  She died in about 1914 in Oklahoma City but little beyond her birth in Virginia and her life seen through court records and newspaper accounts is available.
Are these there real names?  Sometimes. Like many women in similar lives, they changed names and histories like some changed shoes. A woman might become someone new on leaving one location. Maybe as a way to start fresh, to hide, or pretend.
In 1898, a Lillian Day was fined for running a house of prostitution but no location was given.
The Vendome, Bunco Alley (24 1/2 W. Grand now Sheridan)  in Hell's Half Acre, was the most elite establishment with Brussels carpets and fine furnishings was run by Ethel,sometimes called Eva, Clopton. They also had a woman there known as "Sportive Lizzie."
In about 1890, most of the houses were moving out of "Hell" and going 'uptown' taking over W. 2nd (now Kerr) between Harvey and Hudson Streets. That area was called "Harlot's Lane" and many large houses did enthusiastic business there on both sides of the street: Etta Woods Creole Girls, The Arlington (an elegant established owned by Big Ann but run by Madame McDonald), Nina Truelove's place, a circus atmosphere prevailed at the building shaped like a ship called 'Noah's Ark' run by Big Liz aka Mary Belle Everhardt and sometimes Evans and Big Anne's Place 444 managed for her by Effie Fisher until she died by a mysterious assassin in 1903.
In 1905, Jean (Julia) Lamonte, aka Madam Brentlinger was heading the "Red Star" at 431 W. 2nd (now Kerr).  She had come, with Big Anne, on the day of the run in 1889.
In 1906, Eva Ryon's house of prostitution was at 28 1/2 W. Grand when she was fined; Irene James was fined for operating a house but no address or name given in police court records. At the same time Naomi Harris, Emma Bryan, Bernice Daniel, and Mary Mangold were fined for working in a bawdy house. That same year, it was recognized that one Ethel Preston was an 'inmate' of the Corn Exchange at 326 W. Grand, when one man shot and killed another over her favors.
In 1907, a 'high tone house' was being run in April by a "Mrs. Summers" at Broadway and Washington. The City Directory lists a widow Sara L. (Mrs. John) Summers at 129 W. Washington who may or may not be the same woman.
In 1909, the inmates of a house at 31 W. Washington were fined...Mary Johnson, Nell Johnson, and Grace Davis.
There was also the Foss House at Washington and Robinson, south of Reno. Many of these streets were eradicated or renamed over time.

--(c) Marilyn A. Hudson, 2015

Suicide of a Wayward Girl

The haunting title, rising from the pages of a newspaper over one hundred years old, was enough to send chills down the back. The brief summary of a life of morphine addiction, hopeless love, and final lonely desperation were touching. Gertie Nye, approximately 27, had taken a room at The Red Onion in Oklahoma City. She had apparently had a rocky life and had spent some time in the Insane Asylum at Norman, Oklahoma to take a cure for the morphine habit. So on a fall day she took a small room above a questionable business and October of 1902, she wrote a note to her dear love, "Jessie" expressing her deep and lasting friendship and  sharing just how lonely she now was. 
Beside the letter was a photo of "Gertie and Jessie" and on the back was the notation "To Nellie" and the note that Gertie was born Jan. 23, 1881 in Louisville, KY.  She told Nellie, a friend or sister?,  to learn from her mistakes and not make the same.  Then she lay on the bed and took an overdose of morphine.  The news article indicated her father John Nye lived in Guthrie, Oklahoma and she might have to be buried in a potter's field due to earlier family situations. They reported that the message had come from Guthrie about the girl having been 'enough trouble'. 
A haunting story of someone's pain, loneliness and lack of connections with others that made their problems seem too great to bear. If you know someone, or have these feelings yourself, there are people who can help.  One such place is National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number at 1-800-273-8255.
(Source: Weekly-Times Journal OKC), Oct. 31,1902, pg. 6).

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