William Freeman said, " Belle Starr, Bob and Cole Younger, Frank and Jesse James were all connected in some manner. The James and Younger gang robbed Banks in Kansas, Belle robbed mail trains near Whitefield and Eufaula, Oklahoma."
Belle's gang in Oklahoma and Jessie James, Cole and Bob Younger's gang in Kansas were the same men." Paps said, "He didn't know how they communicated, but they did. If Belle wanted to rob a mail train, she would get a couple of men from the James gang and bring them to Oklahoma to rob trains. And Jessie would get some of Belle's gang to help him in Kansas to rob banks."
Vernon's father, Frank said, "I can remember the old house had a barn next to it that had a long hallway with four saddles hanging on the wall. There were always four plain, corn fed horses in the barn. Whenever Paps got a new horse that was plain, (That is; no spots, white legs or other easy identification marks) the first thing he would do is take it to the Canadian river and teach the horse to swim back and forth, back and forth. He would prefer the river to be up and running strong and wide. Sometimes his son Frank would go with him, we would make the horse swim the river four or five times every day for weeks, to make the horse long winded.
Paps always would keep the horses exercised and fresh. When Belle Starr was ready to rob a train in Whitefield or somewhere south of the river, she would signal him by hanging something on a tree, Paps would know and have the horses ready. After the robbery, Belle's gang would lead the posse to the river and swim across it several times until the horse were winded and badly needed a rest. The posse would stop to rest thinking Belle's gang would do the same. Belle's gang would ride to Pap's get four new horses and ride away. They would be in Fort Smith Arkansas in about three hours. The posse would still be resting thinking Belle's gang was doing the same, therefore never could catch them. Same thing the other way for the James, Cole and Younger gangs."
My father, Frank said, "When he was a small boy he could remember hearing horses early in the morning About 3 or 4-O'Clock, look out the window and see four men ridding off. He would get up early and go to the barn and see four strange horses."
Ollie asked, "What year was that?"
Vernon, " Dad was born in 1910."
Ollie," so this was going on in the 1900's?"
Vernon," Yes about 1914 or something like that. Dad said he would never ask any questions about it. He knew better than that."
Ollie, "Did you see the movie made about Belle Starr with Gene Tierney?"
Vernon said, "In the 60's when I first got a VCR, I saw reruns of the movie 'Belle Starr" made in the 1940s. There is one scene that I would give $10 to have a copy of. I remember it had a scene of Belle Starr in a frilly blouse talking with her men about a Train robbery at Webbers fall. I laughed at that because, Hell, there is no train there.
There was a track there once, "The and Great Western" from Webbers Fall to Warner, then stopped because they went broke in1900."
(Note: A 1875 Rand McNally map of Indian Territory shows a surveyed track of the Atlantic and Pacific RR running through Webbers Fall. Many of the railroads in the west did not get completed until the late 1870s and 1880s, some never.)
Vernon, "I remember Paps telling me a story about Granny; When Paps got home from working in the field one day, Granny said, "We just had company a minute ago, they just left."
"Who were they?"
Granny said, "I don't know, just two fellows, they had big hats, big ears and big mustaches and she described their horses." They rode up and said, "Mam would it be possible for a couple of lonely highway men to work for a bite to eat."
She said sure, "Turn your horses into the horse barn and feed them some corn, there is a wash tub over there." Then she turned, and said, "I have some fresh buttermilk and some supper already cooked I am just waiting for the husband and kids to come in from the field."
They tied their horses so they could get some feed, washed up and came in, she feed them beans and corn bread, just like she was going to feed her family.
She said, "They apologized two or three times and said they wished they could do her a favor or work for the food and all that good stuff. Then they went out got their horses and rode off. She started cleaning up and when she lifted the plates there was a $10 gold piece under one of the plates."
Paps laughed and said, "That was Frank Starr ( Belle's Half brother?) and so and so,they were really mean outlaws."
Vernon's father also told a story about an outlaw that used to stay with them in Pap's house. The man had a big long Chrysler. It was in the late 20s. He parked the Chrysler in the long hallway in the barn and covered it with a tarp.
Every three or four weeks, he would get out the car and leave for three or four days, then he would come back. When he would get back Paps would get out the mules and hook up the wagon and go into town and buy enough groceries to last a year. He put two and two together. He figured a farmer would not have that much money at that time of year. He assumed the man would leave, pull a few jobs, then come back and give Paps some money because he stayed there so long.
Vernon said, "I can show you Belle's grave, her ranch and her house. In 1941, We rented a house that belonged to Wiley Page. After she was killed, he had purchased Belle's property. He had cut logs and put them under the old house and pulled it with mules on to his property next door, and made a barn out of it. Belle's house was our barn. Wiley Page had put home made shingles on the sides, I remember how they made the shingles. I used to watch. (The book I read had a picture of her house. I could see it was the same as our barn except for the shingles.)
Belle's house and gravestone at Younger's Bend
The enscription reads
"Shed not for the bitter tear,
nor give the heart to vain regret
Tis but a casket that lies here,
the gem that filled it sparkeles yet"
In 1940, Wiley Page had a brand new house put on the land, but shortly after, he pulled up stakes and moved to Oklahoma City. He bought a lot of property in Oklahoma City. He put some of the property in his name and other property in the names of various other family members."
"When we moved in 1941, I was teenager and I explored every inch of that property. I found a hole had been dug about 100 yards from Belles grave. The hole had no business in that area. Something had been dug up there. To this day, I believe Wiley Page found Belle Starr's stash, and used it to purchase the property in Oklahoma City." The grave had a fancy carved rock with a verse as a head stone on the grave, but it had been chipped off for souvenirs. The stone and verse had been put up by Belle's daughter, Pearl. The grave has a fence around it now, and the stone is an imitation copy .
As noted in a forthcoming chapter, Alma Arnett said her mother's maiden name was Matt McClure. If this is true, it brings up a number of speculations. Both Joel M. Keith and James McClure were from Georgia and fought during the Civil War in the Confederate Army. Lee or John Arnett may have been ten or fifteen years older and left Georgia before the Civil War and still fought with the Confederate Army and known one them or met one of them in the service. Joel Keith married a McClure after the war. and Lee or John Arnett may have known and married a McClure before the war and before he left Georgia. If so this might account for the Arnetts settling in the Cherokee Nation in the 1890s.