Monday, January 4, 2010

Death Certificate of George E. Barker - 1941

Marriage of George E. Barker and Arrie Clark 1892

Ma Barker's Biography - "The Real Ma Barker"

I am aware of only one "biography" of Ma Barker. "The Real Ma Barker," by Miriam Allen deFord, Ace Publishing, 1970, NYC. It is a short paperback of 139 small pages. There are 18 pages of pictures of which 8 pertain to the Barkers and 8 to other criminals of the period. There are about 68 pages on the Barkers and Barker-Karpis gang. The last 40 pages are about other criminals, Pretty Boy Floyd, Al Capone, etc.

Very little research was actually done on Ma Barker's background. There are no footnotes or endnotes. The book was mainly an attempt to capitalize on Ma Barker's notoriety. As far as research on Ma Barker's early years, the book is essentially a flight of fancy. We learn from Ms. deFord that Arizona Clark (Ma Barker's name at birth,) had a "strain of American Indian." There is no proof of this. Ms. deFord muses that perhaps Arizona was named after the warlike Apache! In actuality, at that period, many people were named after states and a look at a few census records will confirm that. And - on the very same census page where Arizona Clark appears in 1880 - there is an older girl named Arizona Chilcutt. Arizona Clark may well have been named after her neighbors' child.

Then, to show how backward the Ozarks were in 1870-80, we learn that registration of births and deaths in the area was unknown! Well, it was also unknown in most of the country at the time. Registration of births and deaths for most of the country didn't began until the early 1900s.

Then we learn that "The given names of Ma Barker's parents are lost; so are the exact date and place of her birth." Anyone with the least exposure to genealogical records is aware that the 1870 and 1880 censuses would provide just that information - as indeed they do. And there is also Arizona's Florida Death Cert.

We learn that about the time Arizona Clark married George Barker she was no longer known as "Arizona" or "Arrie", but as "Kate." But she was married as "Arrie" and when she appears in the City Directory of Tulsa during the period 1914-1928 she always uses the name "Arrie" or "Orrie."

Ms. deFord takes George Barker to task for being a poor father - "He seldom saw any of them alive after he left," but the truth is that he didn't leave the family until in or after 1928, at which time one son had already committed suicide and the other three were in prison. In 1928 Freddie, the youngest, was about 26, so George hardly deserted the family.

Ms. deFord's primary research was into the criminal history of the Barker Gang and the Barker-Karpis Gang. This research was mostly done from newspaper accounts. As I have no interest in the gang's criminal activity, I can only hope that this portion of her history is more accurate than the details on Arizona (Clark) Barker's family background.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ma Barker Lived In Tulsa for Fifteen Years

Before 1931 Ma Barker was not a nationally known crime figure on the run. Although her four sons, Herman (1893-1927), Lloyd (Abt. 1897-1949), Arthur "Doc" (1899-1939), and Fred (1901-1935) had gotten into increasingly deeper trouble during the years 1910-1927, she herself had never been arrested and her later notoriety as the "mastermind" of the Barker and later the Barker-Karpis Gang was largely created by a self-serving FBI publicity campaign. A former member of the gang, Harvey Bailey, once gave his opinion of Ma Barker's organizational skills. According to him, "The old woman couldn't plan breakfast."

Prior to moving to Tulsa about 1914, the Barker family had lived in Webb City, MO. It was there that Herman first got into difficulty with the police in 1910. The family's strained relations with the police in Webb City may have led to their move to Tulsa, but it is also possible that they moved to Tulsa because Ma Barker's mother and step-father, Reuben Ross McDowell Reynolds and Emaline E. (Parker) Clark Reynolds, had also moved to Tulsa about 1914. Reuben Reynolds may have worked on the Tulsa police force in 1906 and later decided to return to Tulsa.

Ma Barker had been born as Arizona Clark near Ash Grove, Boone Twp., Greene Co., MO, about 20 miles northwest of Springfield. She was born 8 Oct. 1873 to John Clark, a farmer, and Emaline E. Parker. Her father, John Clark, died about 1878 and her mother married as her second husband Reuben R. McD. Reynolds on 8 July 1879 in Greene Co., MO. Ma Barker appears on the 1880 Census of Greene Co., MO, as age 6, with her mother, step-father, brother Jesse, sisters Lecty and Eva, and step-sister Beretta. Arizona Clark may have been named for an older neighbor girl, Arizona Chilcutt, who appears on the same census page. Some researchers say that Arizona's middle name was "Donnie," but there seems to be no evidence of this. There is more evidence that she liked and used the name "Kate" and her preliminary death certificate uses the name "Kate," however that information was probably supplied by the FBI. Her supplementary death certificate was based on information supplied by George E. Barker, her husband, and it gives her name as "Arizona" Barker and her date of birth as 8 Oct. 1877. It is clear from the 1880 census, however, that her year of birth must have been 1873 if she had been born on Oct. 8. The name she used most frequently and for her whole life is "Arrie," a shortened form of Arizona. At age 18 Arrie Clark married George Elias Barker on 14 Sept. 1892 in Lawrence Co., MO.

The Tulsa City Directories show that George E. Barker & "Orrie" (the directory used Orrie, Orie, and Arrie, but most frequently uses "Arrie") were living at 704 Park Ave. in 1914. About 1918, Park Ave. was renamed Trenton Ave., and this plarticular address was on S. Trenton Ave. In 1916 George & Orie were still on Park Ave. ( now Trenton) and George was working for the Crystal Spring Water Co., and he continued to work for them until 1919. In 1919 George & Arrie Barker were living at 702 S. Trenton. In 1923 George & Arrie had moved to 403 N. Cincinnati and he was listed as a night watchman. In 1925 they moved to 401 N. Cincinnati and continued to be listed at that address through the 1928 directory. The 400 block of North Cincinnati is now covered by the I-244 Expressway. All told, George and Arrie Barkier lived in Tulsa for fifteen years.

Some of the Barker boys also appear in the Tulsa City Directory a few times, but they were frequently not listed due to serving time or being on the move. In 1914 Herman Barker was a cook and boarded with his parents at 704 Park (now S. Trenton) Ave. In 1916 he was also a cook, but boarded at 104 Park (now S. Trenton.) Lloyd was a driver in 1916 and boarded at 110 E. Cameron. In 1918 he was a driver for the National Crystal Spring Water Co., - the same company his father worked for - and boarded with his parents at 702 S. Trenton. In 1919 Arthur Barker was listed as a student boarding at 502 S. Trenton. By 1919 Arthur was about twenty and a bit old for a student and the Barker boys were not known to be scholarly. (One wonders if "104" Park could have been an error for "704" Park and "502" S. Trenton and error for "702" S. Trenton, in which case the boys would have been boarding with their parents, but they were probably just boarding in the neighborhood.)

About 1922 Lloyd Barker was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Herman Barker committed suicide in Sep. 1927 after having murdered a policeman in Newton, KS. About 1928 Ma Barker took up with a local man named in various accounts as Arthur Dunlop, S.W. Dunlop, and Arthur W. Dunlop. He was a "bill poster" or "billboard painter." There is no doubt that the A.W. Dunlap who appears in the 1927 Tulsa City Directory as a sign painter, and in the 1928 Directory as Arthur W. Dunlap, carpenter for Sommers Sign Systems, is the man in question. He was later killed by the gang in Wisc. as a security risk. About 1928 George E. Barker left his wife and returned to MO, having no doubt decided that he had no ability to regulate the behavior of his wife and sons. By 1927 Herman was dead and the other sons all in various prisons. Whether he left on his own accord or was asked to leave by Arrie, he certainly didn't "desert his family."

Miriam Allen deFord in her book "The Real Ma Barker," (1970, Ace Paperback) has Ma Barker living in Tulsa during parts of 1932 and 1933. "This was the period when she settled with some kind of semi-permancy in Tulsa, even buying a house there." I can find no support from the Tulsa City Directories that Arrie Barker was living in Tulsa during the years 1930-1935. That she may have bought a house seems surprising since she had no evident means of support and her living in Tulsa would have been tenuous during those years. It may be that she and George Barker purchased a home in Tulsa during the mid-1920's, it which case it may have been 401 N. Cincinnati. This subject needs further research.

Ma Barker had Relatives on the Tulsa Police Force

Even the famous and notorious have numerous relatives, and those relatives are often put in an awkward light by the antics of their better-known relations. That Ma Barker's step-father and step-brother were both policemen in Tulsa is surprising, if not amusing.

George and Arrie Barker first appeared in theTulsa City Directory in 1914. At about the same time, Arrie's step-father, Reuben R. McD. Reynolds, and her mother, Emaline E. (Parker) Reynolds, also appeared in the 1914 directory. They resided at 809 E. 4th St. and Reuben was listed as a policeman. In 1916 they were living at 238 Kenosha Ave. and Reuben R. Reynolds was listed as a Deputy Sheriff. By 1919 Reuben and Emma were living at 502 S. Xanthus. In 1920 they moved to 419 S. Wheeling, where they apparently stayed until sometime in 1938 or 1939. 1919 was the last year that Reuben was listed as a "deputy sheriff" and in later years his occupation was given as "painter" and "station engineer."

Ma Barker also had a half-brother, Chesley W. Reynolds, who was the son of Reuben R. Reynolds and and Emaline E. (Parker) Clark Reynolds. Chesley W. Reynolds was enumerated twice on the 1920 census of Tulsa and his occupations were given as "carpenter & builder" and "engineer/rock crusher." The 1919 city directory lists his occupation as "patrol driver." A "History of the Tulsa Police Department 1882-1990," by Ronald L. Trekell, lists a C.W. Reynolds as a member of the police department for the years 1930-1932. It also lists R.R. Reynolds (Chesley's father) as being a member of the department in 1906, 1914, 1916, 1919 and 1920. An unidentified Reynolds was also on the force in 1908 and 1911.

It is ironic that Ma Barker had relatives in law enforcement. One can only sympathize with the Reynolds family, who were no doubt on the side of the angels, but at the same time were encumbered and embarrassed by their Barker relations.