Friday, April 22, 2011

"Ma" Barker

I've become quite interested in the legend of the "Ma" Barker gang lately, I guess since I know that much of the story plays out on or near Route 66. There was a great article in the local Afton newspaper last week, but unfortunately it's too long for me to reproduce here. I'll summarize a bit of it. I became interested in Ma Barker when I located and visited the Barker Family graveyard (Williams Timberhill Cemetery, Welch, OK) which isn't far off Route 66 near Miami. I never found the specific graves, but that's only because it was a rainy day and the ground was too mushy for me to tramp around. I'll be going back soon.

Ma was born near Springfield, MO and married George Barker in 1892 and had four sons. They moved to Tulsa, OK in 1915 and it was then that the illegal activities of the family made them known as The Central Park Gang. Although it's indisputable that the sons were engaged in a great deal of criminal activity, it's not certain that their mother joined them on their forays or rather that she was more of an advocate for them and defended them both in court and out. In any case, she was always lumped in with the "gang" which was made up of the sons and a few other unrelated men. Eventually, all four sons wound up in prison, Alcatraz and Leavenworth. One son committed suicide and another was murdered by his own wife. It's unknown why and how the entire family ended up in the Welch cemetery, but Betty W. told me it was because Mr. Barker (the father) was from Welch originally. There's so much more to this story, but I'm telling you this just in case you'd like to take a little side trip on your way down Route 66 to visit the graves. If so, here are the instructions for getting there:

Located off Craig County Road N4485, North of Oklahoma Highway 10/US Highway 59, at Williams Timberhill Cemetery Road. Craig County Road S485 is a gravel road that heads north off of Oklahoma Highway 10/US Highway 59. Right after you turn on to S485, on your left hand side, there is a sign pointing the direction to William Timberhill Cemetery. You go up the gravel road about a half a mile then turn right, under the arch that says Williams Cemetery. You travel about 100 yards to the entrance of the cemetery on your left. Once you reach the entrance to the cemetery, go straight through the entrance gates and up the road to the north side of the cemetery.

There's a more detailed story about the Barker family here:
Biography - Ma Barker on Crime and Investigation Network

5 comments:

grump said...

Great post.... Don't you have someone you can send out to get the GPS coordinates of the grave??
With the price of gas we can't be wandering around looking for country roads...
Just thinking....(with the one brain cell that I have left)....

Grump

Laurel said...

Sorry, Grump. Those dierctions made it sound much harder than it actually is. Here it is in a nutshell. . . From Route 66 (also 69 in that area) turn east on Rt. 10/59 about 2.5 miles south of Miami. The cemetery is about 6 miles down, on right. No country roads involved, just regular paved well-traveled roads. I will see if any of my friends with GPS will send the coordinates to me.

grump said...

Laurel... If we get there this year that GPS) could help... Lookin at Ma in the pix you posted I have to wonder what is she wearing??? Looks like a back pack... Or do you think a shoulder holster.... And what's with the sambrero on the chap next to her?? Do OKies wear them???? Just wondering....

Grump... (again)

Anonymous said...

My grandma's family is from the Welch area and when my mom and aunt were growing up, my aunt used to leave flowers on the Barker's graves. My family was the only one that knew it was her. The newspaper always made a comment wondering who it was. They were buried there because Mr. Barker was from Welch. They were buried in the middle of the night.

Laurel said...

Wow! I felt very spooked when I read your comment just now! I wrote that blog post two years ago and hadn't thought much about Ma Barker since then. Until yesterday! My friend Betty and I were talking about going out to visit her grave and taking some flowers, since Betty goes to visit her husband's grave there on Memorial Day and realized that there were no flowers or recognition for either Ma or her sons. I got goose bumps when I read your comment!