STATEMENT MADE BY MATT N. WILLIAMS:
Reference is had to report of Agent Smith dated Feb. 20, 1926, captioned as above, with special attention directed to Page 5, covering statement made by Matt N. Williams.
On March 29, 1926, at Pawhuska, Mr. T. J. Leahy, specially employed to assist the State of Oklahoma in the prosecution of W. K. Hale, et al, questioned Matt N. Williams and obtained from him the following statement in question and answer form:
Statement of Matt N. Williams made to Mr. T. J. Leahy on March 29, 1926, at the Oklahoma Hotel, Pawhuska, Okla.
PRESENT: Mr. T. J. Leahy
Mr. Matt N. Williams
Examination by Mr. Leahy:
Q: Your name is Matt Williams?
A: Matt N. Williams
Q: And your residence at the present time is where?
A: Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Q: You have lived in and around Osage County for how many years?
A: 35 years.
Q: You formerly lived at Ralston, Oklahoma?
Q: You know W. K. Hale?
Q: How long have you known him?
A: About 35 years.
Q: I didn’t think he had been in this county 35 years – I thought about 25 years.
A: Well, I am 48 years old. Yes I have know him 35 years.
Q: Since you have known Hale where has he been living?
A: Fairfax, Oklahoma
Q: What has been his occupation?
A: Cattle man, Stock man, farming.
Q: Did you know W. E. Smith?
Q: And his wife, Rita Smith?
Q: Were you well acquainted with them?
Q: How long had you known them before their death?
A: I have known Bill Smith for 30 years, and Rita I have known ever since she was born. She was Lizzie Q’s girl.
Q: Did you know anything about the controversy between W. K. Gale and Bill Smith over money?
A: Yes. Hale informed me that said William Smith had loaned him $6000, and gave him a draft on the Nat Cook Bank.
Q: That is in Ralston?
A: No, Fairfax. He said he took that draft from that bank and deposited it in the First National Bank of Fairfax. Bill Smith gave him a check for it.
Q: Bill Smith?
A: Yes. Nat Cook’s records show that.
Q: When was it he told you that?
A: Let me see – that was – well, I remember the time. I met him and Louis in the road. Hale at that time was going to Pawnee and he gave me $200 and we went down to the Jay & Jay Drug Store.
Q: Where is that?
A: Pawnee, and he cashed a check for W. K. Hale, and Cecil gave me the $200.
Q: Who is Cecil?
A: Cecil Jay.
Q: What was that $200 for?
A: Just borrowed.
Q: Now go on and tell anything further you know about the controversy between Hale and Smith over this $6,000?
A: Then Bill Smith’s wife, Rita – Bill Smith had met W. K. Hale at the Spurrier Garage, Fairfax, Oklahoma.
Q: That is Spurgeon, isn’t it?
A: Yes, Bill Spurgeon. And Smith demanded this $6,000. In consideration of the same, W. K. Hale had purported to sell a bunch of cattle in the Creek Country to W. E. Smith.
Q: Was that false or true?
A: That is right.
Q: But did he sell the cattle to Smith?
A: No, he went down and showed Rita the cattle. That was just a frame up between Smith and Hale.
Q: A frame-up to keep Mrs. Smith from knowing he had loaned Hale the $6,000?
A: No, she knew it, but that was supposed to be in payment.
Q: What time of the day or night was that?
A: Three o’clock in the norming.
Q: Over the First National Bank in what town?
A: Ralston. He called me out. Sleeping with me that night was Everett Goodson. He called me out and says to me, “Matt, I think you made the best witness I ever seen in that Jess Smith case.”
Q: That is Hale said that to you?
A: Yes. He said, “I want you, accompanied by John Morris and Louis Oller, to go to Pawhuska tomorrow morning and swear the following: That Bill Smith had told you that I paid him this money in full in cash at different times and places; that he, W. E. Smith, had spent this money for whiskey and on women; that is the only reason he couldn’t acknowledge the debt paid in full, because it would bust him up with his wife, Rita.” And he solicited my testimony to swear to that, that he received the money in full from W. K. Hale, but the only reason he couldn’t acknowledge some was because it would be at the expense of losing his squaw.
Q: Was anyone present when he told you that?
A: No, we was out. Everett was sleeping in the room.
Q: All right, go on.
A: I said, “Bill, this Smith is an uncle of my former wife, and I am just about to get back again with Rose. While I would like to accommodate you, but I don’t care to have anything to do with it for the reason stated.
Q: Rose was your former wife?
Q: Now, was the case tried at that time?
A: A continuance was granted. Hale had the case put off.
Q: Did he talk to you about it afterwards again?
Q: Tell where and what he said and when;
A: Well, he said afterwards, said they practically settled the case, because Rita was the only one who was crowding him and she was blowed up now and couldn’t testify.
Q: Was that before or after the Smith home was blown up?
A: After, about ten days after. Another time, Bill Smith come to my home at Ralston, previous to this time, and said, “If Hale don’t settle up with me I am going to inform on him for the murder of Anna Brown. I told Smith at the time, “Bill, you are taking a long shot, because Hale has already asked me about this thing, and you better move off that Creek over there, because he will get you there sure. He at that time told me he was going to move to Fairfax.
Q: Smith did?
Q: How after that, did you tell Hale what Smith said about informing on him with reference to the Anna Brown killing?
Q: Just state what he said.
A: I said, “Bill was over here and told me he was going to tell you, Hale, in connection with the killing of Anna Brown.” After this murder that morning they come to his house on the Grayhorse Creek and informed him of the act being committed.
Q: Who had done that?
A: Kelsie Morrison and Bryon Burkhart. They went to Bill Smith’s house that morning.
Q: Go on and tell what you told Bill Hale.
A: I told Bill Hale, I said, “Bill Smith’s been over here and made the assertion, “and I said, “Bill, he is going to inform on you.” He said, “I will put him away, because it ought to have been done years ago,.” He asked me at that time of some man that would put Bill Smith away, and I told him Blackie Thompson may due that for him. He said he didn’t know whether Blackie would do that or not, and wanted me to get in conversation and ask how he could get in touch with Al Spencer. I told him Al Spencer came to see my friend, Ed Snyder could arrange a meeting between him, W. K. Hale and Al Spencer, but if Al wouldn’t pull that deal I thought John Ramsey would. I think that was about three months before the Smiths was killed.
Q: Now you say you suggested to him at that time that maybe John Ramsey would do it?
Q: What did he say with reference to that?
A: He said Ramsey was kind of a shuckle-headed boy and he didn’t know whether he could trust him or not.
Q: Did you see Ed Snyder?
A: Down at his home on Main Street.
Q: Did you tell him what Bill Hale wanted?
A: He refused to have anything in the world to do with it.
Q: Now between that time and the time the Smith home was blown up did you have any further talk with Hale about it?
A: Before the blowing up?
Q: Did he talk with you about Ramsey any more?
A: No, I don’t believe he did.
Q: After the house was blown up did he talk to you about Ramsey?
Q: State what he said.
A: That was when he told me, “As far as we are concerned, she will never be able to testify any more. She was really the only one I was afraid of.”
Q: What did he say about Ramsey blowing the house up?
A: He said the deal was pulled off according to schedule.
Q: Did he say through Ramsey?
A: No, I don’t believe he did. That was the time I phoned him and he gave me $38.00.
Q: Did you have any further talk about it at any other time – about the blowing up of the Smith home or about Ramsey?
A: No, I believe that was the last conversation I had with him.
Q: Where was it you had that?
A: Over at Ralston in the middle of the street between the First National Bank and that little restaurant, about five o’clock one afternoon. I phoned his wife and told her to tell Bill to come to me and he came down to see what I wanted. But he at numerous and other times for the last two years had mentioned about killing Bill Smith, with the equity that he may have his estate. In the first place Bill arranged for me to Marry Mollie, Ernie Burkhart’s wife. He said, “You can marry Mollie and change from one to the other and finally wind up with the estate. I had been going with Mollie and they moved a house down there on the creek for Mollie and I to get married in. That is the first proposition Bill and I started out with in this deal.
Q: Matt, have you any motive of any kind in telling this story other than to just let the court know what you know?
A: None whatever.
Q: Is there any enmity or ill-feeling on your part toward Bill Hale and John Ramsey and Ernest Burkhart?
A: Not at all. I never had a cross work with them in my life.
Q: Is there any promise of reward held out to you?
A: None whatever. I have got no indictments or bonds or trouble of any kind in the world.
Q: You have no occasion for seeking immunity from prosecution of any kind?
A: No, there is nothing against me. There ain’t no warrant no place in the world for me, and further, W> K. Hale solicited my aid. He told my brother-in-law, Thomas Matthews, to come to jail to see him, and he made the statement to my brother-in-law, Thomas S. Matthews, he says, “My God, is Matt going to testify against me? See him and see what you can do with him.” He said, “My God, I never in the world had nothing to do with this all.” He says “See Matt as soon as convenient and send him to me.” That is what Tom told me down in the street.
Q: Tom Matthews is a brother of Rose?
A: A full brother.
Q: And he is also a member of the Tribe?
Q: Well, now, suppose we go to the Anna Brown murder. What is the information you have on that matter?
A: Well, that is awful strong.
Q: Tell the whole think just as you know it. Who was in it and all about where you first got your information.
A: I think it was on the 21st day of May, my birthday.
Q: What year?
A: That was in –
A: I believe Anna was killed in 1921, and Smith in 1923 – May 21, 1922. At Ralston, Oklahoma, about 9 O’clock in the evening, Bryon Burkhart and Anna Brown, driving a Buick car, come to Ralston, Oklahoma, come up to my room and purchased two quarts of whiskey, Byron Burkhart paying for same, $15.00. He told me at that time he was going to meet Kelsie Morrison at the end of the bridge. I said “What you going to do Bryon?” He said, “I’m going to do some work for Uncle Billie tonight.”
Q: Who was Uncle Billie?
A: Hale. He said he had made arrangements with Shorty Wheeler, Fred Wheeler, to bring them some more whiskey at the Salt Creek bridge about nine or ten o’clock. I let Wheeler have my car, a Maxwell roadster. He got there just as they was killing Anna Brown. He heard her scream. Byron Burkhart was holding her in his arms, Kelsie Morrison heating her over the head with a six-shooter from behind. They carried her to the bank of the creek. She still showed life and they shot her in the back of the head. After that Kelsie Morrison come over to my place – my sister lived out here, and he was living with Bill Stutson’s widow – and told me “Matt, that was the most brutal deal ever I pulled off.” After that Shorty Wheeler was released or escaped from jail somehow and purported to go to Ernest Burkhart’s house to receive expense money to get out of the country and has never been seen or heard of since.
Q: Who told you about how they killed Anna Brown?
A: Shorty Wheeler and Kelsie Morrison both.
Q: You didn’t know anything about it until after the killing was over?
Q: What you stated here is what they told you?
Q: Where is Kelsie Morrison now?
A: In the State Penitentiary doing nine years.
Q: Where is Bryon Burkhart?
A: Fairfax. He married Rose LaSarge – not LaSarge, but Lasey – married his widow.
Q: Did you ever talk to W. K. Hale about the Anna Brown murder?
A: All he ever said to me was “One by one they are going.”
Q: Now, to be sure your statement is clear, Matt, Bryon Burkhart and Anna Brown came to your place in Ralston about eight o-clock in the evening.
A: Yes, on May 21st, my birthday.
Q: And they told you they were going to meet Kelsie Morrison at the end of the bridge?
A: Yes, and they did because they went to Katherine Cole’s house and left Katherine Cole there and took Anna and went to the creek.
Q: All you know is what they told you?
Q: Was Anna Brown killed at the place where they told you she was killed?
A: Yes, she was found two days afterwards there. I think they found her on the 23rd no 24th. I remember it plain, because it was on my birthday, the 21st.
Q: Now have you any reason in this Brown murder case or any motive or purpose in telling this story, except to advise the officials of the truth of the matter?
A: Nothing in the world – the same as I would have done a few years ago, but I was afraid of the consequences to a man if he volunteered this information.
Q: You would have been afraid if you told all you knew you would have been bumped off like the others?
A: Yes, and I would too. Bracken’s been after me for two or three years, but I never did tell him. I was afraid of this court house on the hill.
Q: You were afraid the State authorities would not give you the proper protection?
A: Absolutely. It looks bad for me, for a man who knows these things, but there is just a lot of people like me who knows these things, and is afraid to tell them.
Q: With reference to the Henry Roan murder. Had anyone talked to you about that prior to the time Henry Roan was killed?
Q: What did he tell you?
A: Well, he come up about the insurance on that Indian for $25,000 to Hale, and he asked me at that time and suggest bumping him off on the creek. I said, “Bill, how you going to get off with stuff like that?” He said, “Because I sold him some cattle, and the insurance was for the equity for what he owed me for the cattle, because, “he said, “If Henry lives he would pay me, but if he dies the insurance will make it.”
Q: Where was it he told you that?
A: At Ralston.
Q: How long before Henry was killed?
A: About 30 days.
Q: What was it he said about bumping him off?
A: He said in the first place he would not need no more cattle. He said the insurance would cover that up. I said, “How you going to bump him, Bill?” and he said, “Down on the creek sometime.” I said, “Bill, if you do that, you better bump him off in town someplace, because if you bump him off on an Indian allotment, the United State will assume jurisdiction.”
Q: What did he say to that?
A: He said, “No, Matt, you are wrong. I talked to John W. Tillman, and Tillman tells me the United States has no jurisdiction whatever in Osage County any longer.
Q: Did he tell you anything about any plans he had further than bumping him off on the creek sometime?
A: Yes, he told me he had Ramsey to do that.
Q: How did he tell you what, if anything, he was paying Ramsey?
A: He said he was giving him $5000.00.
Q: How was he going to pay him?
A: He was going to pay him $500 in money, a Ford car, and the rest when he collected the insurance.
Q: After Henry Roan was killed did you talk to Hale any about it?
A: I talked to him over there. Where was it I talked to him about that – I forget whether it was in Fairfax or Ralston, but I remember the conversation.
Q: What was it?
A: John Ramsey told me that he would only five him $200.00
Q: John Ramsey told you?
A: Yes. He owed him $300 and asked me to see Hale and tell Hale he better settle up. I went and told Bill and said “Ramsey is liable to help, and you better give him the other $300.” He told me he would.
Q: He told you he would?
A: Yes. I afterwards seen Ramsey and he told me that he had.
Q: Did you ever talk to Ernest Burkhart about any of these matters?
A: No, only just in a general way. I talked to Ernest once about his connection with Hale.
Q: With Hale?
Q: What did he say?
A: He said it would be his wife next and then he would be the next one. He said he was afraid of Hale and afraid to antagonize him in any way in the world.
Q: Matt, is there anything about any of these Osage murder cases that you have any further information on?
A: No, I don’t think so.
Q: Anything you recall now that you omitted in going over this?
A: No. I think that Vaughn case will finally terminate and –
Q: Do you have any information on that that would be of any value?
A: Yes, I think Herb Burt pulled that.
Q: That is just a supposition on your part?
A: Yes, I met Herb in the Grand Jury room and he and Sol Smith was in there, and he said “My God, Matt, I am your friend.” I said, “Yes, you are Herb.” I owe him $7000 yet.
Q: You owe him $7000?
A: Yes. Of course, if he can wiggle out of it, let him wiggle.
Q: How do you feel now, Matt, about the proposition of getting protection from now until this case is disposed of in court?
A: I don’t believe anybody – of course, here is the proposition, don’t anybody know until I take the stand about my statements. Hale is pretty wise.
Q: Of course, Hale knows what you know.
A: Yes, he knows that very well – he knows that.
Q: You understand that the Government is willing to afford you protection, if you want it, until such time as these cases are disposed of?
A: Yes, I know that. It is just this way, if it hadn’t been for you being connected with it. I wouldn’t have done what I am doing, because you know a man has got to know a man well to volunteer what I am doing.
Q: You understand, Matt, that I wouldn’t for anything have you tell this kind of a story, if it wasn’t true.
A: Yes, I know that, and you know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t tell it, it if wasn’t true. It is bad enough to tell the truth. Being connected like I am, I feel it is a matter of justice. I believe the day is passed when a man will just get shot down by doing right.
Q: Do you also feel that it is a matter of your putting yourself right before the people by telling the truth?
A: That is the only motive I have. I feel I owe that to the nation and tribe and people like you who is interested. I am skeptical, you know, I haven’t got confidence in every man, and all these statements – take the records of all those other people, and pretty nearly every bit of that testimony is corroborated to the dot.
Q: That is true, your statement fits in.
A: I didn’t know that until I volunteered.
Q: As a matter of fact, it fits in with the confessions of Ernest Burkhart and John Ramsey.
A: Yes, you know I had really washed my hands of it in Denver, and that is why I stayed there. I told John I washed my hands of it, and if you had not been associated in the case, I wouldn’t have done this, and you know I wouldn’t do nothing only what is right. Here is the only proposition: it looks bad to a court or jury when a man like me knows this and didn’t come out, but you know conditions here and the power Hale had. I wouldn’t have been here to tell this story if Hale had known that.
On March 29, 1926, Matt N. Williams made request in writing as follows asking Special Agents of this Bureau for protection prior to testifying against Hale, et al:
“ Pawhuska, Okla.
March 29, 1926.
- R. Burger. J. A. Street.
In view of the fact that I do not feel that it would be safe for me to remain in Osage County, and also feeling that any man who willingly testifies in this case is in danger of losing his life if it is known, I would feel grateful to you men if both or either of you could accompany me until after the trial of the case of State versus Hale & Ramsey.
Matt N. Williams.”
Matt N. Williams is now and will be kept under surveillance by Agents.