In the early 1930’s the infamous Barker/Karpis Gang hid among the rolling hills of Thayer Missouri and frequently traveled our area.
The Barker’s included “Ma”, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred Barker. Later the Barkers teamed up with Alvin Karpis whom Fred met while in a Kansas Prison. They were paroled on September 10th 1931.
On Sunday November 8th, 1931 the gang shot and killed Pocahontas Chief of Police Manley Jackson. By December the gang was robbing banks in Missouri and on Saturday December 19th the gang killed the Howell County Sheriff, C. Roy Kelly in West Plains after the Sheriff began investigating a suspicious car. The gang fled the scene in West Plains and hunters found the abandoned car outside Thayer with bullet holes in the rear of the vehicle from the earlier shootout with Sheriff Kelly. It is unclear which of the Barker Gang killed Police Chief Jackson it is stated that of the two suspects involved in both Jackson and Sheriff Kelly’s deaths, one was killed by FBI agents and the other committed suicide in 1979 according to reports.
The Barkers were also involved in the 1934 kidnaping of Edward G. Bremer, a wealthy Minnesota businessman. The kidnaping lead to the gang’s capture and the death’s of Kate (Ma) and Fred Barker.
The Barker’s lives of crime was short and not very successful. Herman died in Wichita on August 29th 1927 after being cornered by police for killing an officer during a robbery. Lloyd Barker was sentenced to 25 years in Leavenworth Prison, he was paroled and was later shot and killed by his wife on March 18th 1949. His wife was placed in an insane asylum. Aurthor “Doc” Barker was arrested in Chicago in 1935 and was found to have a map to the Barker hideout in Ocala Florida. Aurthor “Doc” Barker was shot and killed while trying to escape from Alcatraz in 1939. Ma and Fred Barker were both killed on January 16, 1935 when FBI agents stormed the hideout in Florida, the Barkers decided to shoot it out instead of surrender. According to the FBI, a Tommy gun was found lying in the hands of Ma Barker.
In a strange twist of fate, the bodies were abandoned and not claimed until October of 1935, buried in Welch Oklahoma by some relatives next to the grave of Herman Barker.