Friday, August 17, 2018


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*** Excerpts from Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI are in this font.

CRC Blog Analysis On David Grann’s
Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
“A Timeline:  Slaughter of Flowers”
Vintage Books ( published David Grann’s ( crime nonfiction book in paperback The Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (
on April 03, 2018, with book design by Maria Carella.
Grann has published two other nonfiction books both by Vintage Books:  The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession In the Amazon (
and The Devil And Sherlock Holmes: 
Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession. 
      David Grann symbolizes the flowers that grow across Oklahoma’s Osage Territory as the Osage Indians and the spiderworts and black-eyed Susan that trample and kill the flowers as greedy white men.  The spiderworts and black-eyed Susans oppress the flowers, stomping on them, suffocating them of their own light and water until they are murdered.   The killing of these flowers by these spiderworts and black-eyed Susans normally takes place in May when the moon is the most full.  (Left:  Painting and copyright granted by Christal Ann Rice Cooper)
       The Osages were kicked from one reservation to another, given promises only to have those promises broken – as has been the history of Native American Indians for years.  In the 1870s they were driven into the lands of Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma, in Osage County, Oklahoma where decades later it was discovered the land contained an abundance of oil wells. (Right:  Oklahoma and Indian Territory Map in the 1890s created by using the Census Bureau Data.  Public Domain.)

To obtain that oil, prospectors had to pay the Osage for leases and royalties.  In the early twentieth century, each person on the tribal roll began receiving a quarterly check.  The amount was initially for only a few dollars, but over time, as more oil was tapped, the dividends grew into the hundreds, then the thousands.  And virtually every year the payments increased, like the prairie creeks that joined to form the wide, muddy Cimarron, until the tribe members had collectively accumulated millions of dollars.  (In 1923 alone, the tribe took in more than $30 million, the equivalent today of more than 400 million.)  Page 06 (Above Left:  The Cimarron River in Oklahoma.  Public Domain)

The United States government created a system of laws mandating that guardians be assigned to Osage Tribe Members whom the Department of the Interior deemed incompetent of handling his or her own finances.  Many of these guardians restricted how much the Osage Tribe Member could yearly spend even if it meant for emergency purposes such as medical bills or facing starvation and poverty.  The Osage tribal members were also forced to pay inflated prices, robbed of their own bank accounts, and exploited by lawyers and other officials.  (Bottom Right:  President Jams R Polk's Secretary of State Robert J Walker helped create the Department  of the Interior.  Public Domain)
Soon, being guardian over the Osage Member’s money was not enough – and the murdering began in the form of stabbings, bludgeoning, shootings, beatings, contrived automobile crashes, bombings, arson, and poisons. (Left:  Shonka Saba (Black Dog) Chief of the Hunkah Divison of the Osage Tribe.  Painting in 1834 by George Catlin.  Public Domain)
       The one Osage Family that was perhaps most affected and the focus of David Grann’s The Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders And the Birth of the FBI were Osage mother Lizzie and her four daughters Anna Brown, Mollie Burkhart, Rita Smith, and Minnie. (Right:  Mollie Burkhart. Attribution CORBIS.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law)

Like many others in the tribe, Mollie’s parents tried to hold on to their customs.  Bestowing a name was one of the most important Osage rituals; only then was someone considered a person by the tribe.  Mollie, who was born on December 1, 1886 was given the Osage name Wah-kon-tah-he-um-pah.  Her sisters were also known by Osage names:  Anna was Wah-hrah-lum-pah; Minnie, Wah-sha-she; and Rita, Me-se-moie.
Page 47 

1894     Mollie at the age of seven is forced by the government to leave her parents home to attend St. Louis School, a Catholic boarding institution for girls in Pawhuska.  If Mollie’s parents did not comply the government would withhold the family’s annuity payments, which would throw the family into starving poverty.   While at the St. Louis School she was forced to give up her Osage traditions and rituals for the white man’s ways.  (Right:  Navajo Indian Child in 1904.  Attributed to Edward S. Curtis.  Library of Congress.  Public Domain)

Late 1890s     The United States government divided the Osage reservation into 160 acre parcels which each tribal member receiving one parcel or one allotment.  The rest of the territory would be opened to white settlers.  The goal of this was to convert the Osage Indian from the Osage tradition and ritual to white man’s ways – which would make it much easier for the white man to gain their oil land rights. (CC By S.A 3.0)

1906     The terms of the Osage Allotment Act were agreed upon which meant that on the Osage Tribal Role each member would receive a headright – a share’s in the Osage’s mineral trust. All five of the Osage women – Lizzie and her four daughters Anna Brown, Mollie Burkhart, Rita Smith, and Minnie each had headrights.  The members of the Osage are able to sell their surface land in Osage County; but no one could buy or sell headrights.  Headrights could only be inherited. 

However the United States government felt that some Osage members were unable to handle their own finances and required the Office of Indian Affairs to determine which members of the tribe it considered capable of managing their trust funds.  (Left: Bottom Left Secretary of War John C. Calhoun formed the Bureau of Indian Affairs on March 11, 1824.  Public Domain.)

Over the tribe’s vehement objections, many Osage, including Lizzie and Anna, were deemed “incompetent” and were forced to have a local white guardian overseeing and authorizing all of their spending, down to the toothpaste they purchased at the corner store.  Page 63  

July 26, 1908     President Theodore Roosevelt creates the Bureau of Investigation. (Left First in 1908.  Public Domain)

The director of the Bureau of Investigation Stanley Wellington Finch.  (Left Second Public Domain  

1918     Minnie, age 27, dies under suspicious circumstances. 

May 28, 1921     An oil worker discovers Osage Tribe Member Charles Whitehorn’s body in the hills of downtown Pawhuska with two bullet holes through the eyes, shot execution style. (Left Third:  Courtesy of the Osage Nation Museum)

May 28, 1921     A Teenage boy and his father drinking and hunting for squirrels in Three Mile Creek, Fairfax, Oklahoma discover the body of Anna Brown.  It was discovered she had been shot in the head.  (Right:  Ravine where Anna Brown's body was discovered.  FBI.  Public Domain) 

July of 1921     Lizzie suddenly stops breathing and dies.  

February of 1922     William Stepson, twenty-nine-year old Sage champion steer roper, left home, only to return home visibly ill to die hours later.   Authorities suspect it was poison, possibly strychnine. 

July 28, 1922     Osage man Joe Bates, in his thirties, dies of poisoning.

August of 1922     Wealthy oilman and Osage Indian advocate Barney McBride heads to Washington DC via train with the purpose of asking the federal
government for help in investigating the Osage murders.  He is found murdered in a culvert in the state of Maryland.   He had been stabbed twenty times, his skull beaten and had been stripped naked.  (Left:  Workers strike oil in Osage Territory.  Courtesy of the Barrtlesville Area History Museum)
February of 1923     Two hunters hunting in northwest Fairfax discover an abandoned car at the bottom of a rocky swale.  They inform the authorities and the authorities discover the body of  40-year-old Henry Roan, Mollie Burkhart’s first husband, with a bullet hole in his head. (Right:  Attributed to Corbis.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law)

March 10, 1923
Bill and Rita Smith’s home is destroyed by an explosion while they are sleeping in their bed.  Rita dies immediately and their maid Nettie Brookshire was determined to have been blown to bits, her flesh found plastered on a house over 300 feet away. Four Days later on March 14, 1923 Bill succumbs to his injuries and died. (Left:  The Smith Home before and after the bombing.  Credited to CORBIS.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law)

Spring of 1923     The Osage Tribal Council passes a resolution seeking the Justice Department’s help in solving the Osage Murders. (Right:  in 1923  Public Domain)

April of 1923    Oklahoma Governor Jack C. Walton sends his top state investigator Herman Fox Davis to Osage County. 

June of 1923     Herman Fox Davis pleads guilty to bribery and sentenced to two years in prison, only to be pardoned by the Oklahoma Governor Jack C. Walton  a few months later. (Right:  Oklahoma Department of Libraries.  Public Domain)   

June of 1923     Attorney and Indian advocate W.W. Vaughan received an urgent call from a friend of George Bigheart, who had just been sent to the hospital suspected of poisoning.  He said his friend George had information about the Osage murders and wanted to talk to him.  Vaughan Rushes to the hospital to talk with George Bigheart.   Vaughan stayed with Bigheart until he died several hours later.  Vaughan than boards a train only to have his body discovered 36 hours later by the railroad tracks with a broken neck and stripped naked.  (Left:  W.W. Vaughan with his wife Rose and their children: Tom in W.W.'s lap; Bob in Rosa's lap; Mary Jo, Bob's twin sister in the middle; Bill bottom left; and Maude bottom right.  At the time the photo was taken in 1910 W.W. Vaughan was the County Attorney for Caddo County.  Copyright permission granted by W.W.'s grandson and Bob Vaughn's son Dr. Melville Vaughan for this CRC Blog Post Only)

June of 1923     Wealthy Rancher, Osage Indian Advocate and close friend of the Osage Sisters William Hale also known as “The King Of the Osage Hills” is targeted next when thousands of acres of his ranch land and cattle are destroyed by arson. (Right:  William Hale's daughter, William Hale, and William Hale's wife.  Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical)

June 2, 1924     The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 is signed by President Calvin Coolidge (In the middle), which grants all Indians across the United States full citizenship for the first time.  (Left:  Four Sage members with President Calvin Coolidge at the White House Ceremony.  Public Domain)

1925     Mollie decides to give her infant daughter Anna to a relative to raise to guarantee her safety.  She then goes through terrible sickness due to her diabetes and lives in seclusion. (Vintage photo of an Osage mother with her baby in the 1900s.  Public Domain)

Late 1925     Mollie sends her local priest a secret message that she is in danger.  Then an agent from the Office of Indian Affairs believes Mollie is not dying from diabetes but from poison. (Left:  Copyright credit to CORBIS.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law)

July of 1925     Special Agent of the Bureau of Investigation in Houston, Texas Tom White is summoned by new boss J. Edgar Hoover to speak to him personally in Washington D.C.  Hoover assigns him to the Bureau of Investigation Field Office in Oklahoma City.  Hoover demands only success, no failure whatsoever, and guarantees White all the manpower he needs. (Right:  Hoover in June of 1924.  Library of Congress. Public Domain)

The End of the Summer of 1925     Tom White suspects there are moles, double agents, and ripple agents corrupting his investigation. (Left:  Courtesy of the Western History Collections University of Oklahoma Libraries. Norman, Oklahoma.  Rose Collection Number 1525.) 

October of 1925     Tom White learns prisoner Burt Lawson is willing to talk about these culprits.  Tom White and Agent Frank Smith go to the prison to interview Burt Lawson and Lawson talks.

Fall of 1925     Tom White (Right Photo on left) tells J Edgar Hoover (Right Photo with arms crossed)   that he has enough evidence to put the culprits in prison.  Public Domain

January 4, 1926     Tom White obtains arrest warrants for two culprits in the bombing deaths of Bill Smith, Rita Smith, and their servant Nettie Brookshire. (Left:  FBI.  Public Domain)

January 20, 1926     One of the culprits tells Tom White that he is convinced he will be killed by the head culprit, especially if he testifies for White against the head culprit.  White arranges to have this culprit moved out of state and placed under guard until the trial which begins on March 12, 1926. 

June 3, 1926     Mollie’s four –year-old daughter Anna dies of what is suspected to be poisoning. (Right:  Vintage Photo of Osage little girl in Pawhuska, Oklahoma in the 1900s.  Public Domain)

June 21, 1926     One of the culprits pleads guilty to the bombing murders of Bill and Rita Smith and servant Nettie Brookshire and is sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor.
Last week of July of 1926     The trial of two culprits for the murder of Henry Roan begins. (Left:  Henry M Roan Resting Place.  Public Domain)

August 21, 1926     After deliberating for five days, the jury is deadlocked.  The Judge asked the prosecution if they had anything to say.  Prosecutor Roy St. Lewis stood.
His face was red, his voice trembling.  “There are some good men on the jury and some that are not good,” he said.  He added that he had been informed that at least one, if not more, members of the panel had been bribed.
       The judge considered this, then ordered that the jury be dismissed and the defendants held for further trial.
Page 235 (Right:  Prosecutor Roy St. Lewis.  Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

October 20, 1926     The trial of the two culprits for the murder of Henry Roan begins.

October 29, 1926     Both culprits are declared guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. (Left:  The New York Times January 17, 1926 newspaper clipping. Public Domain.  Photoshopped by Christal Ann Rice Cooper)

Early November 1926     Tom White quits the Bureau to become the warden of 366,000-foot Leavenworth prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.   He is a fair warden. (Right:  Public Domain)

November 17, 1926     Two of the culprits in shackles are driven to Leavenworth Prison where they face Tom White.  White shakes their hands and treats them with respect, like he treats all of his prisoners.   

April 21, 1931     The court rules that Mollie Burkhart (Left) is no longer a ward of the state and is a competent American citizen, which enables her to have complete control over her finances. (Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

December 11, 1931     White and eight members of his staff are taken hostage by seven prisoners (right) during a prison take over.

1932     Tom White recovers and leaves his position at Leavenworth to become warden at La Tuna prison near El Paso, Texas. (Left)

October 25, 1933     J. Edgar
Hoover makes sure that he gets all of the credit for the investigation and none to Tom White, who actually did the work.  He masterminds the propaganda radio program The Lucky Strike Hour to dramatize and fictionalize the Bureau’s cases, with J Edgar Hoover usually deemed the hero.

The Osage Tribal Council was the only governing body to publicly single out and praise White and his team, including the undercover operatives.  In a resolution, which cited each of them by name, the council said, “We express our sincere gratitude for the splendid work done in the matter of investigating and bringing to justice the parties charged.”
Page 241

1935     The Bureau of Investigation an obscure branch of the Justice Department is renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Time Magazine August 1935)

1951     Tom White, age 70, steps down as warden of La Tuna and enters retirement.

Late 1950s     Tom White sends J. Edgar Hoover a letter requesting information about the Osage Murders and offering his voice in the FBI movie “ The FBI Story” starring Jimmy Stewart about the Osage Murders.  Hoover does not respond. (Left:  Public Domain)

1958     Tom White teams up with western novelist Fred Grove to help him write about his part in the Osage Murders.  (Right:  Public Domain)  

September 29, 1967     Tom White and J Edgar Hoover meet for the last time. (Left:  Public Domain)

October of 1971     Tom White collapses from a stroke.

December 21, 1971     Tom White dies in the early morning hours.

Summer in 2012    New York reporter and journalist David Grann visits Pawhuska, Oklahoma for the first time with the purpose to research and write about the Osage Murders, in what would become his second non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.  In the process he makes a staggering discovery – hundreds and hundreds of Osage Tribal members were murdered for their head rights and the conspirators of those who committed these crimes is far more complex than even Grann thought possible.

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