The young prisoner emerged from the courthouse at Fort Smith, Arkansas, under heavy guard for his walk to the gallows. He stopped for a second, looked up at the sky, and squinted into the sunlight. “It is a good day to die…” he whispered.


Crawford Goldsby, born at Fort Concho, Texas, February 8, 1876, began his criminal career early in life—age 13. In addition to committing petty theft, he developed a taste for demon rum.

Somewhere during his escapades, he picked up the nickname Cherokee Bill.

By the time he turned 18, he had joined the Bill Cook Gang, which waged a campaign of terror across Oklahoma Territory, stealing horses, robbing banks, trains, stagecoaches, and merchants.

Goldsby’s life of crime turned darker on a hot summer afternoon in 1894 when he and Cook brothers, Jim and Bill, made camp along Fourteen Mile Creek in Cherokee County, Oklahoma.

A posse discovered the campsite. One lawman recognized Jim Cook and declared him under arrest. But the three outlaws grabbed their gun and started shooting at the lawmen.

When the gunsmoke cleared, Sheriff Deputy Sequoyah Houston lay sprawled in the dirt, dead.

Cherokee Bill had killed his first man.

The eighteen-year-old killer escaped and sought refuge at the home of his sister, Maud Brown. A few days later, Cherokee Bill witnessed his sister’s drunken husband beat her with a whip.

Goldsby drew his gun and shot Joseph “Mose” Brown, killing him.

Historians say Cherokee Bill killed at least seven people, maybe thirteen, during his brief but violent career. 

The law began closing in on him after he killed an innocent passerby, Ernest Melton, during the robbery of a general store in Lenapah, Oklahoma.

Lawmen finally captured him on Dec. 31, 1894, after he robbed the train station at Nowata, Oklahoma. 

Judge Isaac Parker conducted the trial, and characterized Cherokee Bill as a “bloodthirsty mad dog who kills for the love of killing.”

He also dubbed him “the most vicious” of all the outlaws in the Oklahoma Territory.

Goldsby filed an appeal of his death sentence with the Supreme Court. Rather than await the verdict, he tried to escape.

The attempt failed. But, during the commotion, Cherokee Bill shot and killed guard Lawrence Keating.

His action led to another trial. And another conviction. He received yet another death sentence.

When he climbed the thirteen steps to the gallows platform at Fort Smith on March 17, 1896, the hangman slipped the noose around his neck. He asked Goldsby whether he had any last words.

The 20-year old killer glared at the executioner in defiance.

“I came here to die, not to make a speech.”


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