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Slippery Christians

August 22, 2001

Historian's Notes

Sometimes I feel like I've written too many stories on outlaws for the Almanac. I can almost hear people yawning over their bowl of Honeycombs® saying, “Oh, boy. Another Oklahoma Audio Outlaw.” The truth is, Oklahoma was home to an abnormally large number of outlaws who made headlines and history on an almost daily basis. Some of these hombres were just your run-of-the-mill robbers and some were a little bit more exciting. I chose to do a segment on the Christian Brothers Gang because of their ability to squeeze out of even the tightest of traps and because of their impact upon local culture as indicated in the store advertisements. Well, they make for interesting news and they certainly are plentiful, so watch out for more outlaws on future Almanacs.

Resources

Burton, A. T. (1991). Black, Red, and deadly: Black and Indian gunfighters of the Indian territory, 1870-1907. Austin, TX: Eakin Press.

Other materials came from Oklahoma City newspapers of the period found at the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Almanac Transcript

Slippery Christians this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello I’m Steven Kite.

Outlaws have made their way onto the Almanac many times in the past and they are doing it again this week. The very nature of Oklahoma’s development, the long-term status as a territory and the vast acreage of open land, lent itself well to illegal activity and use by outlaws. The Christian Gang operated in Oklahoma during 1895 and 1896 making themselves known to law enforcement officials, first, during the time of the Kickapoo Land Run in May of 1895.

The Christian Gang led by brothers Bill and Bob Christian initially were little more than small time crooks robbing stores, post offices and the like. The brothers Bill and Bob were well known in the area that is today Pottawatomie County, and though they held reputations as thieves and whiskey dealers, the duo and their gang counted on the support of many sympathizers in the area. It was with the help of these friends that the gang was able to escape the Oklahoma County jail in 1895 killing Oklahoma City Police Chief, Milt Jones, in the process.

With the escape, the murder of the police chief and continued robberies under their belt, the Christian Gang was now at the top of the territories most wanted list. Their names became known around the state as word of their pursuit and inevitable escapes made the daily papers. So well known was the gang that at one time stores in Oklahoma City were using the gang as an advertising gimmick, “The Two Christian Boys Are Caught,” the ad read, “It was our show windows which are always filled with beautiful attractive goods that caught them.”The Christians became something of minor legends for their ability to elude pursuing officers and while various members of the gang were eventually caught or killed, the brothers Bill and Bob always managed to escape.

It was in this week, August 23rd, of 1895 that officers tracked the gang to an old cabin eight miles east of Purcell. Surrounded, the gang had no way out, or so it seemed. The officers charged the cabin just as the Christians bolted out of the door jumped on horses and, once again, made good their escape. News of the “slippery Christians” made the headlines the next morning across the territory, but the gang was nowhere to be found. Never caught by Oklahoma officers, in April of 1897 Bill Christian was shot by Arizona lawmen, and in Dec. of 1897 Bob escaped from a Mexican jail never to be seen again.

Frustrated officials and slippery Christians this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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