The Bandit Kings of the Cookson Hills

Key Information

The Bandit Kings of the Cookson Hills, By R. D. Morgan

2003 [ISBN: 1-58107-082-9; 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 inch] $15.95


BKCHcovThis book chronicles the true adventures of a loose-knit confederation of daring bank bandits originating from the infamous Cookson Hills of Eastern Oklahoma who terrorized the Arkansas-Oklahoma borderlands for more than a half decade following the close of the First World War. The original leader of the group was Henry Starr, the Cherokee bandit, who claimed to have robbed more banks than any man. Upon his death, a middle-age storekeeper along with an audacious young war hero named Ed Lockhart took over the helm.

In a time when most Americans were captivated by the “Teapot Dome” scandal, the death of President Harding, and the gridiron adventures of Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen,” folks living in the Ozark Mountains watched with fear and fascination as the outlaw band committed their bold depravations. Although the gang’s take rarely amounted to over $2,000, it must be remembered the average yearly income for a family of five in 1922 amounted to $2,100. A gallon of gas cost eleven-cents and a loaf of bread fetched only nine pennies.

The outlaw horde eventually met their match when they collided with such notable lawmen as Mont Grady, the Choctaw Indian manhunter with nerves of steel, and Cherokee County Deputies Jay Fellows and Jerry Powell, who rode horseback forty-eight hours in blizzard conditions without the benefit of food or rest in a dogged pursuit of the lawbreakers. Although members of the bandit gang received a great deal of notoriety from their illicit adventures, it was these officers and the ordinary citizens of towns such as Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Stroud, Oklahoma who took up arms and fought the outlaws to a standstill, who proved to be the real heroes of the story.

This account, which takes place in the “Roaring ’20s,” is meant to serve as a prelude to the author’s first book, The Bad Boys of the Cookson Hills, which chronicled the activities of another band of outlaws who launched a prolific series of attacks on nearly two-dozen banks in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Arkansas during the 1930s depression era. This second “Cookson Hills” Gang was headquartered in the same geographic area as the earlier version noted in this narrative and some of the characters involved with the original outfit were active members of the latter group.


“[R. D. Morgan] is a guy who just wants to set the record straight. And this is one helluva book and an important contribution to lawmen and outlaw history.”

Rick Mattix, Author of Public Enemies: America’s Criminal Past, 1919-1940

The Contents

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1 – Armed Robbery
  • Chapter 2 – A Good Man Gone Bad
  • Chapter 3 – A Cast of Dubious Characters
  • Chapter 4 – Bold Lads In Search of Easy Money
  • Chapter 5 – Hulbert, Park Hill, and Pursuit in the Mountains
  • Chapter 6 – Trial and Punishment, and Armed Men Mounted on Blooded Horses
  • Chapter 7 – Massacre in Eureka Springs
  • Chapter 8 – Caught in the Act, Lockhart Takes a Powder, and a Killing in Ramona
  • Chapter 9 – The Death of a Bandit king
  • Chapter 10 – Kaiser Bill, The Prairie Grove Caper and Charley Misses a Cab
  • Chapter 11 – Firestorm Over the Cooksons
  • Epilogue
  • Chronology of Robberies
  • Sources

The Author

R. D. Morgan is the author of four nonfiction books dealing with early day Oklahoma lawmen and outlaws. He has also written numerous articles for Oklahoma newspapers and historical magazines on the subject. Morgan spent his childhood in the East Texas oil patch country and his teen years living in a small Iowa farming community. Upon graduation from high school, he knocked around a year or so working construction before entering the U.S. Army where he served as a law enforcement officer. After his military career, he attended the College of the Ozarks before being employed as an electrician and maintenance supervisor for many years in Missouri and Arkansas. On retirement, he moved to Oklahoma to fulfill his lifelong desire to commit his energies full-time into writing and researching depression era American history. Morgan developed a passion for the subject as a teenager listening to his Grandfather’s tales of life and culture in Middle America during the 1920-30s. Morgan and his wife Naomi presently reside in Eastern Oklahoma. He is currently working on several projects with author, researcher Rick “Maddog” Mattix, including the story of the infamous “Ma” Barker Gang, as well as the saga of the notorious Wilber Underhill.


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