Confession of John Ramsey (County Jail at Oklahoma City; November 9, 1926)
At that time, John Ramsey stated that he would be glad to make a statement if he thought it would be of help to W. H. Hale. Both Mr. Freeling and Mr. Howard state to him that no possible statement he could make would be of any benefit to Mr. Hale if it were not the truth, but that if he made a truthful statement with reference to the killing of Henry Roan was killed at the place where his body was found, on Monday evening, January 29th, 1923, about 8:30 at night. That Curley Johnson shot and killed him, and that Ernest Burkhart and himself were nearby, and that arrangements had been made by Roy Bunch, but who was in the town of Fairfax at the time. In support of this, he made the following detailed statement:
William Hale and John Ramsey
That some time in the summer of 1922, the exact date I cannot remember, Curley Johnson, myself and Hank Kidder drove from the town of Ripley to Whizbang, in Osage County, and went to the hotel of Seth Lewis, where I went to bed soon after reaching there. Curley Johnson did not come to bed until early the next morning. We let Kidder out of the car just before reaching Whizbbang. The next morning I got up about 8:00 o’clock, and went to a café for breakfast, and while there I heard of someone being hi-jacked the night before, about $30.00 being taken in the holdup, I then went back to the room at the Lewis Hotel about __ o'clock, and I found Curley Johnson in bed, but awake, and I picked up the trousers of Johnson, and was fumbling around in the pockets and I asked Johnson about the hi-jacking the night before and told him I thought I ought to have $15 or so of the $30 that he got in the holdup, but I got no reply to this, but in a few minutes he gave me some money, and I went and got a half pint of whiskey and he and I drank this whiskey. Curley Jonson then stated, while still in the bed room at the Lewis Hotel, that he had a chance to get some long money for knocking off an Indian, but that he had to have some help to get this Indian, out of the country. That this Indian lived at Fairfax, and that he (Curley Johnson) was not welcome in Fairfax. Johnson further said that Burkhart and Roy Bunch wanted this Indian (Henry Roan) knocked off, and stated that there was $5000.00 in it for whoever would do the job, and Johnson wanted to know if I knew Henry Roan, and I said yes, that I had known him a good many years. Johnson then said that I take him out of town and that he could then knock him off, and they could make this money. Johnson went into considerable detail as to why Burkhart and Bunch wanted the Indian killed. I suggested that either Bunch or Burkhart could get him out, and that I was not going to tole an Indian or anyone else off to have him killed. Johnson said, no, Roy Bunch was playing Henry Roan’s wife, and that he and Roan were on shooting terms, and were not on speaking terms, and that Bunch could not approach him, and that Ernest Burkhart didn’t have the nerve to do it. I said that I didn’t have the nerve to take a man out in the country, thinking he was going to get a drink and have some one kill him. That substantially ended the talk with him at that time and I remained there a day or so, and either went to Ponca City or Henry Grammer's.
Some time later I saw Ernest Burkhart at McInroy’s pool hall at Fairfax, saw him either in the pool hall or just in front of it, and Burkhart asked me how I would like to have a little drink. I said fine if it is not too little. Burkhart then pointed to his car sitting right in front of the drug store next to the pool hall, and said for me to get in the car, and I went and took a seat on the front seat of his car. Burkhart went back in the pool hall, and in a few minutes came back out with Roy Bunch, Burkhart taking the driver’s seat, and Roy Bunch getting in the back seat, and the three of us drove out to Bill Trent’s hay meadow and went about three quarters of a mile north of the road and into a little____. There was a gallon jug of whiskey hidden in the tall grass, and we all took a drink from this jug, and then Bunch walked away a short distance, and Burkhart asked me if Curly Johnson had mentioned the deal to me, and I said yes he had mentioned something about it. Burkhart asked me what I thought about it, and I said I had not thought much about it, that that was not in my line of work. Burkhart said well it’s a cinch. It is just like falling off a log; that that Indian would follow a man to hell for a drink of whiskey, and that Curly Johnson was rearing to turn the trick if he could get someone that knowed him to get the Indian out of the country. Burkhart said that there would never be a rumble over the killing, that Bill Hale had a life insurance policy on Roan, and that Roy Bunch was in love with Roan’s wife, and that one or the other of them would be charged with the killing, but that both could prove an alibi. I told Burkhart I would give the Indian a drink whenever I saw him and he wanted one, but that I would not tole him into a drain trap. Burkhart said if I would tole him out to where Curly Johnson could kill him, he would pay me $2000.00 as soon as it was done. Burkhart and me talked 15 or 20 minutes, and wound up by me telling him a story about some cowboys figuring on holding up a Santa Fe train, and about talking with Charlie McCarty about it, and Charlie McCarty said he didn’t want in on any train robbery, but if they wanted to do it, to go ahead and he would never say a word. Burkhart also told me that Bunch would pay $5000 to Curly Johnson as soon as he could get it out of the squaw. Bunch came back and joined the two of us, and said that he could pay as soon as he married the squaw and could get his hands on some of her money. This trip was made about good dark or a little after, and it was still warm weather, probably late in the summer of 1922. Bunch, Burkhart and myself then took some more drinks out of the jug, and left the jug at the same place and drove back to Fairfax and got out at the pool hall. I think I saw Curly Johnson again before I saw Burkhart. I again talked the deal over with Burkhart a number of times, in fact almost every time I saw Burkhart the deal was mentioned, and the same was true as to Roy Bunch.
Some time later Burkhart bought a gallon of whiskey and said he was going to take it and place it where I could have some whiskey to furnish Henry Roan, and also have some to drink myself when I came there. Burkhart took this gallon of whiskey and tied a baling wire to the jug and let it down in an old oil well on a dim road something like a mile southeast from Three Mile Canyon, east of Fairfax, and told me where it was, and Burkhart and I went out there and filled a pint bottle and put it under a rock in a dry branch nearby, and shortly after that I took Henry Roan out there and gave him some drinks out of the bottle, and when Roan left going towards Grayhorse, I went back to the oil well and refilled the pint bottle and put it back in the same place.
After Burkhart and I had gone out in the pasture and had taken some drinks out of this jug, and after I had filled a pint bottle and put it under the rock in the little draw which was dry, I saw Ernest Burkhart at Fairfax and he asked me if I had seen Henry Roan, and I told him no, and he said Henry Roan was roaring for a drink, and that he had told Roan I would get him a drink if he could see me, and said Roan was very anxious to see me so he could get a drink, and I did see Roan in Fairfax shortly after that, and took him out there and gave him a drink out of this pint bottle. The next time I saw Roan at Fairfax, he again asked me for a drink, and I told him he would have to go to the same place in this pasture, and that he would find this pint bottle in the same place where we had taken a drink a day or two before. They next time I saw Roan he told me he had gone out there and got the pint bottle of whiskey.
The next time I went with Roan was out in Round Mound pasture south of John Dilliner’s, where the whiskey was under a flat rock, and I couldn’t tell him just where it was. It was my whiskey, but was given to Henry Roan as part of the deal by which I was to furnish Roan whiskey whenever he wanted it, and following this up, every time I was in Fairfax and would see Burkhart, I would talk with him about the killing of Roan.
The third time I furnished Roan whiskey in person, was about the same place where he was killed. Curly Johnson had six or seven gallons hidden in this ravine, and had told me about it. Roan and I went out there, and Roan left his car on top of the hill, and we drove down under the hill in the car I was driving, which was a Ford coupe, as it was before I bought my car. This was about two months before the killing of Roan. I let Roan drink whiskey out of a beer bottle filled with whiskey and placed there by Curly Johnson. The whiskey was in a little draw, and when we drank the whiskey, I threw the bottle down in the draw.
A day or two after the gallon of whiskey was placed in the oil well, Burkhart, Bunch and I went out and pulled up the jug and took several drinks therefrom. I do not recall the exact conversation, but the general run of it was the killing of this Indian. This trip was suggested by Burkhart. An hour or two after supper that evening, he said let’s go out and get a drink, and the three of us drove out there and he pulled up the jug by the baling wire. This trip was before I had given Roan any of the whiskey out of this jug. Bunch said that he wanted this squaw and had make up his mind to have her, and that he and Roan were on killing terms, and that unless Roan was killed, it would mean a divorce between Roan and his wife, and that if there was a divorce, that Roan would take Mollie Burkhart, as he was in love with her, and Burkhart also stated that if there was a divorce, Roan would take his wife.
In the first talk I had with Bunch, I told him that if he was afraid Roan would kill him that he could kill Roan much better by doing it some other way, that he could get two or three friends that he knew he could trust, and could meet Roan right in the town of Fairfax at a time when he knew Roan had a gun, and then he could blast him and plead self-defense. I told Bunch to be sure that Roan had a gun before he pulled this kind of a stunt, and that would best Bunch’s way 400 different ways. Bunch said he didn’t want to do it that way. Burkhart again said that Roan would take Mollie away from him if he ever lost Mary. I again told him I was not favorable to toleing this Indian off and making him think he was going to get a drink and then having him killed. At the time we were at the oil well taking a drink, Bunch and Burkhart talked about getting me a car if I knew where I could buy a good second-hand car, that it would be lots of help to me in going out and meeting Henry Roan. I told them if I ever got a car I was damn sure going to get it myself and not have anybody also mixed up in it. The testimony as to how I got this car and how it was paid for, which I testified to in the trial, was absolutely true, and the testimony of Fred Rindell and his wife and Mrs. Henderson was true. My testimony about my financial transactions with Bill Hale was absolutely true, and Hale had nothing in the world to do with buying the car, and knew absolutely nothing about the deal or with my giving Roan whiskey. I would get whiskey from Burkhart on different occasions to give to Roan, one time a half pint in his barn, another time a pint in Trent’s madow, and another time a pint under a culvert on the Ponoa City road west of Fairfax. I took this whiskey on each occasion and gave it to Roan as directed by Burkhart, as a part of the deal that I would place whiskey at certain designated points and tell Roan where it was so he could get it, sometimes in Sol Smith’s pasture, sometimes up the railroad track, and other places. I suppose I furnished him whiskey in this way at least twenty times.
While these negotiations were going on, some time before the death of Roan, I saw Burkhart at McInroy’s pool hall in Fairfax, and he asked me if I would give Curly Johnson a gun. I said I would, and Burkhart got a 45 Colts automatic and brought it and gave it to me in the telephone booth in the pool hall. I put the gun in my pocket and started for my car at Spurgeon’s Garage, and in the street just south of the First National Bank, I saw Harry Corbett. I think he came from behind and overtook me, and told me that if that was a bottle causing the bulge in my clothes, I had better get rid of it or would cause me trouble. I told him it was a gun and that I was going to the garage to put it in my car, and I did put the gun in my car and kept it there until I gave it back to Burkhart the night Roan was killed. After this I went to Ripley and did not see Curly Johnson until Burkhart and Johnson came to Tipley a week or two later. When they came to Ripley, they were in a red Buick automobile of Bill Hale’s. They came from the south, ________. As they drove in, Burkhart honked his horn and I paid no attention to it, he then drove up by me and asked me if the gun was handy, and I told him not right handy, that it was in the car down at the barn and the barn was locked. Burkhart said all right, he would get it later. Burkhart spoke about a farm, and I told him I would be up in a few days and look at it. This talk about the farm was a stall, and was so understood by Burkhart and me.
The following Sunday I went to Fairfax, taking my wife with me, which was two or three days later, and we stopped at Irons'. I did not leave the house during the day, and about supper time, while the folks were at supper, I called Burkhart over the phone and told him I was there and ready to look at that farm. Burkhart said all right, that he would see me the next day. The next day Burkhart drove by Irons’ house a time or two, and I went out in the yard and talked to him. Burkhart said that the Indian had been missing several days, and that Roy Bunch was then out looking for him. Later on I went to the post office with Evely Irons, and Burkhart came out of the post office and came to my car and wanted to know if I would be down town that night. I told him I would be or else would be at Irons’. Burkhart called the Irons residence after supper, and as I recall, Hazel Irons answered the telephone and called me to the phone. Burkhart asked me if I could come down right away. I said yes, and asked him where he was and he said at the pool hall, but for me to meet him in the alley between the Ross Cafe and the lumber yard. I drove down right away, and when I reached the alley, Burkhart stopped out and asked me if I had that gun. I said I did, and Burkhart got in the car and told me to drive to Main street and turn south, which I did, driving to the south end of Main street where the Tepee filling station is now located and turned west.. Just after turning west, Burkhart said for me to let him drive, that he could drive faster, and he skinned over my lap and drove. As we were leaving town, Burkhart said that Bunch had just come in from Henry Cornett’s and that Curly Johnson had Roan out in Sol Smith’s pasture, and wanted Burkhart to get him a gun as soon as possible, as Johnson didn’t have a gun with him. Burkhart drove quickly to the top of the big hill in Sol Smith’s pasture, and we saw the ford car of Curly Johnson about 100 yards east. Burkhart stopped the car right in the road opposite the place where Roan was killed, and left the car, taking the gun with him when he got out. We walked to the car of Curly Johnson. Then we got to his car, Burkhart whistled, and Johnson whistled from down the hill. Burkhart and I went down the hill, and found Henry Roan and Curly Johnson on the left side of the car. Both had been sitting on the running board, and one or both got up. They had a gallon of whisky there, and when we walked up, one of them said “Where are the girls?” This was the first I had heard of any girls in connection with the deal, and Burkhart answered and said they were coming out in his car. This was a Monday night, a week and one day before the body was found. We all then took a drink, and Burkhart, Curly Johnson and myself passed around to the rear of the car, leaving Henry Roan on the left side, and Burkhart quickly passed the gun to Curly Johnson, and we came back around the car and took another drink, and Burkhart said we had better be getting out of there, as the girls would be coming, and Burkhart and I started walking up the hill. As we left the car, Roan was on the left side of the car, and Curly Johnson near him. The jug of whiskey was the same kind of jug which Curly Johnson had hidden there some time prior.
I do not recall the starting of the car, but Burkhart and I were some 15 or 20 steps up the hill when we heard the gun fire, and Burkhart ran rapidly up the hill, and I walked as rapidly as I could to my car, and Burkhart and I got in, and Burkhart started driving north. I asked him where he was going, and he said he was going up there where he wouldn’t make any more tracks than possible. He drove 200 or 300 yards up the road, and just as he was turning around, we met Curly Johnson, and Burkhart said for Curly to beat it back to Cornett’s, and that he and I must be getting away from there as soon as possible, and Burkhart drove back to Fairfax as fast as possible, and got out of the car just a half block from where I had picked him up, and I turned west and drove into the back yard of Quince Irons’ place, and went on in the house.
There was no discussion between me and Burkhart as to the payment of money, either going out or coming back. Curly Johnson afterwards told me that his gun was either in the house or that he was out of shells that night, was the reason that he had to have another gun to do this killing. Ernest Burkhart and Curly Johnson both told me afterwards that Curly Johnson refused to let Henry Roan have whiskey at Cornett’s that day because he was drinking, and also that while Henry Roan was there, they saw a car down south, which they thought was Roy Bunch, and that Johnson told Roan to go back down in this canyon in Sol Smith’s pasture, where he had gotten whiskey from me and Johnson before, and that he would let him have a gallon of whiskey there, and also that they would have some girls out there from Fairfax that night. That as soon as Henry Roan left, Bunch came on down and talked with Curly Johnson, and Johnson told Bunch to beat it back to Fairfax and get him a gun, that he had an appointment with Henry Roan down in Sol Smith’s pasture to give him some whiskey and to meet some girls, and that if he had the gun he would kill him.
Ernest Burkhart gave me some money, $50 at one time, and at different times small sums. I had a whiskey case at Tulsa in 1924, and had letter from J. W. Springer, telling me that if I did not raise $50.00 that I would be stuck and my bond forfeited. This was just two days before the case was called, and I went to Fairfax and ran on to Burkhart and told him I had to raise $50.00. Burkhart put up every excuse in the world and wanted me to wait until the next day. I told him I would have to have it, and he went and got it, and said Arch Carroll, who ran the filling station there, had cashed a check for him for that amount.
In April, 1924, a Fort Worth man shipped in a carload of Jersey cows to Fairfax, and I wanted to buy one. I only had $21.00 or $22.00, and Charlie Ashbrock agreed to loan me the balance if I had enough to pay the purchase price of the cow. I bought one cow for $41.00 or $42.00. I saw Burkhart there at the auction, and told him what I had done. He said he had some money in his pocket, and if I could buy another cow that way he would let me have the money. We went into the barn, and he let me have $35.00. Either Clark Farmer or a man by the name of Paul was nearby and probably saw the money transaction.
Burkhart would give me money along at different times, in $2.00, $3.00, $5.00 or $10.00 amounts. When I rented the farm where my family are now living, I was trying to find a team, and I saw Burkhart and told him what I was trying to do, and he told me that the Clay boy at Grayhorse had a damn good team to sell, and that I could probably trade him my Ford car for it. I went out that night and looked at the team and went back the next morning and proposed to trade, and Clay did not much want my car, but tried it out and then offered to trade if I would pay him $75.00 to boot. I offered him $25.00 and he refused. I came to town and told Ernest Burkhart about the deal, and Burkhart said the shape my car was in I had better trade for this team and harness, that if I kept my car six months it would not be worth as much as the lines on this harness. I asked him to go with me the next morning and look at the team, and as we started to Grayhorse, we met Clay near Silt Creek bridge. We sparred around a while and finally agreed to trade if I would pay him $50.00 to boot. I told him I would give him that if I could get the money. Burkhart said for me to go to the bank and see if I could borrow the money and that he would give me the money to repay it at the bank. He was to wait at Ross’ Café, and if I borrowed the money I was to highball him and he would go on, otherwise he would get the money and give me. I borrowed the money at the bank, and did give Burkhart the highball, and later he gave me the $40.00 to pay off this note. During the spring and summer of 1924, he gave me $10.00 a week to make a crop on. He paid me this money for at least three months and possibly longer. I made the notation on a board by the granary door of my barn, of the amounts, and kind of feed that I bought, and later on Burkhart gave me a good roping and riding saddle that would cost anywhere from $100 to $125. Burkhart said he was going to help me, that he could give me $200 or $300 at one time but that it wouldn’t look well. And that I was out on a farm and that he would furnish me money from time to time to buy feed, or cows or things of that kind, and would help me get on my feet, and that I would then be in good shape to do for myself. He further stated that he had bought the Brush farm just north and west of Fairfax, and that as soon as Pitts Beatty’s lease ran out on this farm that I could move on it and live on it as long as I lived on it and it wouldn’t cost me a cent except for upkeep. He bought a carload of hedge posts, and I was to put these in and build an expensive fence around this fence, and I was to do other work around the farm at a long price which would just about equal the rent.
Burkhart talked to me repeatedly about the killing of all of these Indians who were the heirs of Lizzie Q. so he would have their headrights.He stated that when all of them were killed off but Mollie that she would be the heir, and that he could then kill her. In many of his conversations he would figure about the amount of his income when he was able to draw all the headrights of these Indians. On one occasion, a month or two before Henry Roan was killed, Roy Bunch and Amos Tucker drove out to Bill Trent’s pasture northeast of Fairfax, together with Bill Revard and myself, to drink some whiskey that Amos Tucker was furnishing or selling. After we got out there Bunch started a conversation which I knew was leading up to the killing of Henry Roan, before Tucker and Revard. I cannot now recall his exact language, but I stepped away as I did not want to hear such talk in the presence of these men.
On January 4th, the day Ernest Burkhart was arrested, I went to town that morning, and saw Burkhart, I think at McInroy’s pool hall, and he said this grand jury was meeting at Guthrie and it looked like it was a damn cinch they were going to arrest Bill Hale and maybe himself, for this Roan murder. In the conversation Burkhart said it was damn funny that my name had never been mentioned in connection with the killing. I said no, it had not, and it won’t be unless you mention it. Burkhart said he was not going to say anything to implicate me or any one, that he was going to stand put, and that if he didn’t tell it that it would not be told. He said that if it got to where it looked like he was in a track that he would damn sure squeeze out of it, and that he and I would then lay all the blame on Bill Hale. Burkhart said he didn’t want me to ever mention his name in connection with this killing. We did a part of this talking in Burkhart’s car, and then went over to the Buick garage and went back and sat in a storage car and talked the matter over. Burkhart said repeatedly that he wouldn’t mention my name in connection with the Roan killing.
About noon, Bryon Burkhart and I drove out in Bill Trent’s pasture and got a drink of whiskey, and late that evening I suggested to Ernest Burkhart that we go out and take another drink. We went out there, and the whiskey was gone, and I asked Bryon about it and he said Tom Boone had gotten it. Burkhart told me at Guthrie after the Federal men had talked to him about Grammer, Kirby and Johnson in connection with this killing, that Tom White said to him, “Ernest, this looks awful funny, the story you are telling. These men that you mention are all dead,” and Burkhart said the Federal men would agree to help him out if he would give them the names of some live person who could corroborate his statement, and that that was the first time he had mentioned my name in connection with it, as he had made up his mind that that was the only way out for him and me was for us to put the blame on Bill Hale.
After the killing of Henry Roan, Roy Bunch talked to me many times and each time said he would fix me up as soon as he could get his hands on something. I told him just to forget it.
Burkhart and Curly Johnson were both figuring on the killing of Smith. They were figuring with Blackie Thompson on this deal, but when Blackie came back from the penitentiary for stealing Burkhart’s car, he went to see Burkhart about getting some expense money, and Burkhart gave him $1.50, saying that he didn’t consider that he owed Thompson anything, that they were both taking chances, and that Thompson got stung.
After Henry Roan was killed, Burkhart talked to me about the death of Anna Brown. Burkhart said he had been having illicit relations with her and that Anna Brown had been telling Mollie Burkhart about his relations with white women, and that this was causing trouble between him and Mollie, and that he had made up his mind that Anna Brown was going to separate him and Mollie, and that he was going to get rid of her to end this trouble with Mollie, and that if she was killed that it would also add to his estate. He said the day that Anna Brown was killed they had been drinking at his house all day, and that they came into Fairfax late that evening, drove up in front of Anna Brown’s house and honked the horn and she came out and got in the car and they drove to Turee Mile Canyon and drove around on the south side of the canyon and stopped the car, and went down into the canyon to get a drink; that she sat down on a rock and he gave her a drink and while she was drinking he stepped around to the side and shot her in the top of her head.
Burkhart also talked to me several times about furnishing poison whiskey to Mollie Burkhart. He wanted me to furnish this whiskey to Mollie. I told him I wouldn’t do that, that I wasn’t in that kind of business, and that he could furnish it as well as anyone else. Burkhart said that he had started it and that he was going to kill the whole outfit, but was going to kill Mollie last. He proposed to me to come to his house and ask for him and of course he wouldn’t be there, and I could give the whiskey to Mollie with the poison in it and tell her it was for Ernest, and if there wasn’t more than a pint that Mollie would drink it all before he came home. He said he would be suspicioned if he gave her the whiskey, and that he would have to be away so he could prove his innocence. When I rejected this proposition Burkhart then proposed that he could go out on the road either towards Pawhuska or out in Sol Smith’s pasture, and have me and Curly Johnson hold them up and shoot Mollie, and to be sure she was killed, and also shoot up the car and shoot him in the leg so it would appear that she was killed in a hijacking deal. I flatly rejected this proposition, and told Burkhart I would have nothing to do with it or with killing his wife.
I delivered whiskey to Burkhart at Fairfax many times, by the gallon. The last time I delivered him whiskey he gave me a check payable to Henry Grammer for $15.00, and marked on it for the purchase of a hog. I think this check shows up in his annual report as guardian.
Burkhart at one time told me that Bill Smith was making so much talk about the killing of Anna Brown, and was making the statement around Fairfax that he knew who killed her, that Burkhart figured he would have to get rid of Smith; that Smith was telling that he had uncovered who killed Anna Brown, and that was the reason Burkhart had to get him out of the way