Thurman W. Balding, a.k.a. Tull Balding and Skeeter Balding, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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A History of the Brief Outlaw Career of

Thurman W. Balding

Also known as Tull Balding, Skeeter Balding and Skeeter Baldwin

by Carl N. Oerke, Jr.

With personal recollections of Tull Balding by

David Massey, Nate Massey and Lee (Massey) Ives.

Descendants of Generation No. 1, Lewis Balding:

1. THURMAN W. "SKEETER" "TULL"3 BALDING (WILLIAM2, LEWIS1) was born 01 January 1867 to William Balding and Elizabeth (Hummel) Balding in Morgan County, Ohio, and died 02 March 1936 in Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.

Thurman W. Balding of Sun City, Kansas, also known as Tull Balding, Skeeter Balding and Skeeter Baldwin. 

Photo from the collection of Kim Fowles.

CLICK HERE to view a larger image of this photo in a new browser window. Thurman W. Balding, also known by the nicknames "Skeeter" and "Tull", was a member of the Cook Gang of outlaws in the Indian Territories. The gang was led by Bill Cook who was born in 1873 and his brother James, born in 1877. The most famous member of the gang was Crawford Goldsby, also known as Cherokee Bill. Bill Cook worked for a time as a posseman for The Hanging Judge Isaac C. Parker's deputies. Bill's brother Jim got into trouble in the Cherokee Nation and was charged with unlawful entry of a store. Jim fled to the Creek country and Bill joined him.

They gathered around them a choice gang of outlaws and desperadoes and on July 14, 1894 held up the Fort Gibson to Muskogee stagecoach. Two days later on July 16th they robbed a train at Red Forks. Two weeks later on July 31st they held up the Lincoln County Bank in Chandler, Oklahoma. J. M. Mitchell, the proprietor of the barber shop next door to the bank, noticed a commotion, sounded an alarm and ran out to warn the town. Cherokee Bill shot him dead. After Mitchell was killed a group of deputy marshals and Indian police descended on Chandler. A posse was sworn in to hunt down the Cook Gang.

Nothing more was heard from the gang until September 21st when they robbed the Parkinson general store in Okmulgee. They struck again two weeks later on October 5th when they waylaid a wealthy Choctaw farmer. The following day October 6th they robbed another Indian and then headed north. The outlaw gang laid low until October 10th when they robbed the safe and the passengers on the Missouri Pacific train at Claremore. The outlaws then rode cross country twenty miles to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad at Chouteau and robbed the agent, making off with the contents of the safe. The Katy and Missouri Pacific posted rewards on the Cook Gang outlaws dead or alive.

More than 5000 reward posters were tacked to buildings, tree trunks and fence posts. Instead of tearing them down the outlaws scrawled insulting messages for the deputies and posse to read.

On October 20th the outlaws piled ties on the tracks and derailed the locomotive of a Missouri Pacific train between Wagoner and Fort Gibson and then robbed it. On October 23rd the gang raided Gibson Station and robbed all of the shops and then raided the cotton fields in the vicinity robbing all of the cotton pickers (The New York Times, October 25, 1894, page 4).

On October 25th the gang waylaid three travelers. It was reported that within a short time a force of 100 persons will be organized to go in pursuit of the Cook Gang of outlaws. This force will be made up of men from the Government's band of twenty-eight police of the Union Agency at Muskogee, recruits from the five civilized tribes of Indians and Deputy United States Marshals (The New York Times, October 26, 1894, page 1).

It was reported that on November 16th that "Bill Cooks Gang Not Afraid" (The New York Times, November 17, 1894, page 1). The newspaper reported that "at about 10 o'clock last night twelve members of the gang rode into town. They paraded the main street, laid in a fresh supply of cigars and then rode leisurely out of town."

On November 17th it was reported that Cherokee Bill was wounded and two other members of the Cook Gang and their horses captured (The New York Times, November 18, 1894, page 1).

On November 22 five members of the Cook Gang were captured by Texas Rangers at Wichita Falls and placed under arrest (The New York Times, November 23, 1894 page 1).

On November 26th it was reported that the "Skeeter" Baldwin (Balding) quintet of the Cook Gang were transported from Wichita Falls last evening and taken to Fort Smith Arkansas where they will be tried. They were handcuffed, chained and well guarded by Deputy United States Marshals (The New York Times, November 27, 1894, page 1).

The Hanging Judge Isaac C. Parker tried Thurman "Skeeter" Balding and sentenced him to thirty years at the Federal Penitentiary in Albany, New York. On June 23, 1903 Theodore Roosevelt the President of the United States commuted to ten years the sentence of thirty years imprisonment imposed on Thurman Balding, who pleaded guilty, in the Western District of Arkansas, to indictments charging him with robbery and larceny (The New York Times, June 24, 1903).

His sentence expired on November 30, 1904.

Gravestone of Thurman W. Balding, known as Tull Balding or Skeeter Balding in his hometown, and as 'Skeeter Baldwin' in connection with his outlaw days.

Sunnyside Cemetery, Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.

Photo by Nathan Lee.
Gravestone of Thurman W. Balding, Sunnyside Cemetery, Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.
Inscription: T.W. Balding, Jan. 1, 1867 - Mar. 2, 1936.
He was known as Tull Balding or Skeeter Balding around Sun City
and as 'Skeeter Baldwin' in connection with his outlaw days with the Bill Cook Gang.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Lee.

Bissantz House, Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.  Photo from the Kim Fowles Collection.
Bissantz House, Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.

"The Bissantz family were early settlers and well known in the Sun City area. Louis Bissantz was an immigrant from Germany who married Julia Balding. Their children were Bessie, Roy & Adolph. The man on the far right is Tull Balding, Julia's brother. I have heard stories that Tull was an outlaw and had been in prison. This house is still standing in Sun City - barely though." -- Kim Fowles.   Photo from the Kim Fowles Collection.

Thurman 'Tull' Balding at the Bissantz House, Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.  

Photo from the Kim Fowles Collection.

CLICK HERE to view a larger image of this photo in a new browser window.
Thurman 'Tull' Balding at the Bissantz house, Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.
Photo from the Kim Fowles Collection.
View a larger image of this photo in a new browser window.

Lee (Massey) Ives' Memories of Skeeter Balding

Thank you for the update on Skeeter. I had no idea that he was in the Cherokee Bill group. Didnít Larry McMurtry write of Cherokee Bill in Lonesome Dove or the sequel? If you ever see Louis Bissantz, you might ask him if he remembers the day Skeeter came home (to Sun City) on the train. Louis had the entire class at the window, in awe, watching the great outlaw walk up the street. I thought he had just gotten out of prison. This would have been the early Ď30ís. Joe and Hope remember him living at the Earl Shutts home and raising pet raccoons.

It would be interesting to know why Rafe Walker was in prison. He came home about the same time. I told you the story of him walking across the field to our house and he scared me so badly that I hide under the bed the entire time he was at out house. Rafe and Aunt Lottie, Grandmother Sears sister, were in love at one time. No one ever talked of the reason for Rafe being in prison and I am certain I was afraid to ask. Can you imagine the difference in time? Rafe also came home on the train and walked the complete distance from town to the Walker place at Kling. No one met either Rafe or Skeeter at the train. If Rafe was in an outlaw gang, then almost assuredly that would be the gang George Meaders was in.

-- E-mail from Lee (Massey) Ives to Kim Fowles, 29 Dec 07.

In reading this it made me think of Kent's grandfather Meadors who was very secretive about his past and had a pact with I believe one of the Freeman's that they would never reveal where they came from prior to Sun City. Seeing as murder was no big thing, it seems, in those days, Kent had the feeling that he might have been tied up with robbing trains (Federal Offense) or possibly with the Quantrill Gang in the Civil War. Whatever it was, they had a real fear of the repercussions should their history be revealed.

Why would this Balding end up in Sun City? It might be a possibility that he just wanted to retire around some of his old compatriots? I wonder what Kent might think of this?

Robert A. Massey

-- E-mail from Robert A. "Bobby" Massey to Kim Fowles, 09 Jan 08.

Kim: I have no problem (with my remarks about George Meadors being published), however, I was just a fascinated "Gatling gun" of questions at the kitchen table listening to Kent, Lee and Hope share their remembrances of Sun City. I'm certain that none of them would have any problem with sharing all they know and quite probably filling Jerry in on many other details, family-related or not, of early Sun City. Mim, down in Enid, might also be able to shed some light on the subject. I've never spent much one-on-one time with Mim going over "Sun" history.

I think the best step would be for Jerry to contact either Karlan or Michelle first and then have them steer him in the right direction. Another thought is that if Jerry is trying to put together information on Sun City's early history he may be well served to come to Enid for the reunion in June 2008 and speak with a number of people. Red Hunter is also a very good source of historical nature, particularly as it may relate to McLain's Roundup. I spoke with him the other evening. His son Michael gave them tickets to the National Finals Rodeo along with hotel accommodations in Las Vegas. Red was in all of his glory!

If you need any telephone numbers or addresses or whatever, let me know. By the way, how does your son like college?

Robert A. "Bobby" Massey

-- E-mail from Robert A. Massey to Kim Fowles, 10 Jan 08.

Nate Massey's Memories of Tull Balding

Tull did some work for Grandma Massey on the old Massey ranch and built two or three what we called the hen house, the brooder house and the main chicken house in the side of the hill east of the main house.

I was 9 years old when Tull died but spent some very interesting days visiting him as he was living in Gene and Lyle Bullock's house about 3/4 of mile up the rail road tracks from Sun towards our place.

I would take our little single shot .22 and shoot rabbits and take to Lyle's dogs and visit with the Bullocks and Tull.

They all had an interest in guns and Tull had a very interesting lever action - I believe it was a 44-40 with some brass embelishment on it or some engraving - that he was very proud of at that time though he was nearly blind and was taking care of Bullock's chickens and what few head of livestock they had.

I think at that time Gene was mayor of Sun City and also constable or deputy sheriff and was a rather imposing old gentleman himself, tall slender and some times wore a 44 Colt hanging on his right side while enforcing some of his duties.

Tull never related any of his history at any time I was around, but I do remember one time a photo was shown at one of our family gatherings that had a picture of a gang and Skeeter's picture was in it and Mom was so startled and exclaimed "that guy Skeeter looks just like our Tull" which it should have.

I don't remember Tull coming into Sun but very vividly remember Rafe Walker when he arrived, Rafe was about 6'3" tall and slender and was dressed completely in black with his trousers legs tucked in black shiny boots, had on a black split-tailed jacket and a black flat-topped, wide-brimmed Stetson, I remember him striding the full length of main street, all 3 blocks up one side and down the other and don't think he spoke to anyone, I know he walked to Uncle Ray's and then came over to our place north of the river and visited with Dad before walking on west to the Walker home place. I never saw him or heard of him again.

It's a shame that some of us didn't record more of the earlier history, isn't it?

-- E-mail from Nate Massey to Jerry Ferrin, 6 Jan 2008.

David Massey's Memories of Tull Balding

Hello, Jerry,

I didn't know much about Tull, nor did I hear people talk much about his early life. I knew his nickname was Skeeter but I never heard anyone call him anything but Tull. He died when I was in the 1st grade and I do remember going to his funeral. My first memory of him was when he was living in the bunk-house at Irl Shutts'. I sat on the steps while he was braiding a nose band for a latigo and he explained to me what he was doing, so I know he was nice to little boys. I visited with Irl (his nephew) a lot and I don't recall of Irl ever telling any stories about him. I always suspected that he may not have shared a lot about his life in prison and before. I sure enjoy all of your hard work and pull up both the Barber and Comanche county pages regularly.

Thanks again,
David Massey.

-- E-mail from David Massey to Jerry Ferrin, 6 Jan 2008.

Thanks, Kim, that was interesting (about Tull Balding). I had heard a different but sketchy version of this. Seems like he was supposed to have been at the robbery and was told if he didn't go with them he would be dead. But you know how family history is - ha.

-- E-mail from Dee Dee Freeman to Kim Fowles, 7 Jan 2008.

Jerry, Here is an email from my aunt, Dee Dee Freeman. As an aside, my great grandmother (Cora Wells Morehead Balding Pardun) was married to Ray Balding (2nd husband). Rayís father, Lewis Balding, was a brother to Julia (Balding) Bissantz and Tull Balding.

-- E-mail from Kim Fowles to Jerry Ferrin, 7 Jan 2008.

The following is a list of children of William Balding & Elizabeth (Hummell) Balding. I would love to find a photo of Tull in his later years. I plan to contact George Bissantz (lives in Wichita) to see if he has any photos of Tull or any recollections and will try to track down descendants of Irl Shutts to see if they know anything. I will keep you posted. My great uncle, Harold Balding ("Doug") - (actually 1/2 great uncle) - who is probably in his 80's, may have heard some family stories about Tull - I will ask him. Doug lives in Lake City and is quite a character.

-- E-mail from Kim Fowles to Jerry Ferrin, 7 Jan 2008.

William Balding remarried after his first wife died. So Tull's mother died before he was 2 years old.

William's second wife was Mary White, who gave birth in 1871. My great grandmother, Bernice (Lott) Hoagland, was friends with Addie (Balding) Shutts. Addie Shutts is the mother of Irl Shutts who David Massey references in his e-mail. So, Tull Balding was an uncle to Irl Shutts.

-- E-mail from Kim Fowles to Jerry Ferrin, 7 Jan 2008.

Husband: William BALDING
Born: 15 MAR 1834
Married: 23 DEC 1859 in Ohio
Died: 16 DEC 1903 at Lake City, KS
Buried: Lake City Cemetery
Father: Lewis BALDING
Mother: Sarah STEWART
Wife: Elizabeth HUMMELL (B. 5 MAR 1834. D: 7 JUL 1869 at Morgan Co., OH.)
Other Spouses: Mary A. WHITE (Buried: Lake City Cemetery)

CHILDREN (with Elizaeth Hummell):

Name: John Marion BALDING
Born: 19 DEC 1853 at Morgan, Co., OH
Married: 5 AUG 1876 at Holton, KS
Died: 9 SEP 1928 at Oklahoma City, OK
Spouses: Kate L. HAHN

Name: Lewis J. BALDING
Born: 15 SEP 1855 at Morgan Co., OH
Married: 19 SEP 1880 at Holton, KS
Died: 11 MAR 1923
Spouses: Ella Belle LIGON

Name: Thomas BALDING
Born: 30 JUL 1857 at Morgan Co. , OH
Married: 28 SEP 1879 at Holton, KS
Died: 5 JUL 1931 at Sun City, KS
Buried: Sunnyside Cemetery, Sun City, KS
Spouses: Dora MINER (Buried: Sunnyside Cemetery)

Name: Lucy BALDING
Born: 14 MAR 1859 at Morgan Co., OH
Married: 25 MAY 1882
Spouses: Val BERGMAN

Name: Julia A. BALDING
Born: 1 OCT 1861 at Morgan Co., OH
Married: 1 JAN 1887 at Sun City, KS
Died: 4 MAY 1936 at Sun City, KS
Buried: Sunnyside Cemetery, Sun City, KS
Spouses: Louis BISSANTZ (Buried: Sunnyside Cemetery)

Name: Eli Clement BALDING
Born: 23 MAR 1863 at Morgan Co., OH
Married: 28 JUN 1887 at Holton, KS
Died: 11 OCT 1949 at Hobart, OK
Spouses: Caroline BEIER

Name: Franklin William Henry BALDING
Born: 16 MAR 1865 at Morgan Co., OH
Married: 13 OCT 1894 at Indian Territory, OK
Died: 21 APR 1948 at Stockton, CA
Spouses: Mattie Gordon JONES

Name: Thurman W. BALDING
Born: 1 JAN 1867 at Morgan Co. OH
Died: 2 MAR 1936 at Sun City, KS
Buried: Sunnyside Cemetery, Sun City, KS
Gravestone inscription: T.W. BALDING
Nicknames: Tull Balding, Skeeter Balding.
Aliases: Thurman Baldwin, Skeeter Baldwin.

Name: Seneca BALDING
Born: 30 JUN 1869 at Morgan Co., OH
Died: 25 AUG 1869 at Morgan Co., OH

CHILD (with Mary White):

Name: Addie BALDING
Born: 24 JUNE 1871
Died: 14 DEC 1931
Buried: Sunnyside Cemetery, Sun City, KS
Married: William H. Shutts
Mother of Irl Shutts.

MEMBERS OF THE COOK GANG SENTENCED; Given Long Terms in Prison -- Night Passenger Trains Discontinued. - The New York Times, December 1, 1894, Wednesday. "Thurman Balding, alias "Skeeter", Jesse Snyder, and Will Ferris, all members of the Cook gang, were this morning sentenced in the United States Court. "Skeeter" was sentenced to thirty years in prison, and Snyder and Ferris to twenty years each at the House of Correction at Detroit, Mich."

CLEMENCY BY THE PRESIDENT. Pardon Granted an Alleged Murderer and Sentence of a Robber Commuted. - The New York Times, June 24, 1903, Wednesday. "The President commuted to ten years the sentence of thirty years' imprisonment imposed on Thurman Balding, who pleaded guilty, in the Western District of Arkansas, to indictments charging him with robbery and larceny. Sentence will expire Nov. 30, 1904."

Bill Cook - Leading the Cook Gang in Oklahoma - "By June, 1894, he had gathered up his brother, Jim; Crawford "Cherokee Bill" Goldsby; Thurman "Skeeter" Baldwin (sic); Jess Snyder; William Farris; Curtis Dayson; ..."

Also see:

Two photographs of Thurman Baldwin, alias Skeeter - from Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Noah H. Rose Photograph Collection, Outlaws and Lawmen. (Also includes photos of Bill Cook and William Goldsby alias "Cherokee Bill")

Balding Search results for Balding on this web site.

Bissantz Search results for Bissantz on this web site.

The following off-site pages will open in a new browser window:

Balding surname message board at RootsWeb

Balding Family Genealogy Forum

Baldwin surname message board at RootsWeb

Google search results for "Thurman Balding".

Google search results for "Skeeter Baldwin".

Google search results for "Cook Gang" +Oklahoma. (358 web pages)

Research Notes:

"I contacted the Library of Congress via e-mail inquiry to see if I could learn more about the commutation of Tull Balding's sentence and whether the Balding or Bissantz families had lobbied for it. I referenced the New York Times article from 1903. I received a reply from the manuscript division and was informed that the Library of Congress houses the papers of President Theodore Roosevelt from 1878-1919. The collection comprises 485 rolls of microfilm as well as an accompanying three volume index. The index was searched for references to the Balding and Bissantz families as well as sentence commutations but no connection was made to Balding." - E-mail from Carl N. Oerke, Jr. to Jerry Ferrin, 5 Jan 2008.

An obituary was probably published for Thurman W. Balding in one or more of the Barber county newspapers shortly after his death on 02 March 1936 in Sun City, Kansas. See this list of the Barber County newspapers available on microfilm via interlibrary loan from the Kansas State History Society.

An obituary would most probably be found in The Barber County Index (microfilm reel# M 831), but one might also have been published in The Hardtner Press (reel# H 1364), The Hazelton Hearld (reel# H 1335), Kiowa News-Review and Kiowa Record (reel# K 704) or the Sharon Valley Times (reel# S 938).

Trial Records for "Thurman Baldwin" - 1894

ARC Identifier: 203258
Title: Criminal Defendant Case File for Thurman Baldwin, 1894

Creator: U.S. District Court for the Fort Smith Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

(02/20/1897 - ) (Most Recent)

Type of Archival Materials: Textual Records
Level of Description: File Unit from Record Group 21: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685 - 1991
Location: NARA's Southwest Region (Fort Worth) (NRFFA), 501 West Felix Street, Building 1, Fort Worth, TX 76115-3405
PHONE: 817-831-5620
FAX: 817-334-5621
EMAIL: [email protected]
Coverage Dates: 1894

Part of: Series: Defendant Jacket Files for U.S. District Court Western Division of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division, 1866 - 1900

Scope & Content Note: Crime: Assault Jacket Number: 349

Access Restrictions: Unrestricted

Use Restrictions: Unrestricted

General Note: See also criminal defendant case file for Cook, Bill.

Variant Control Number(s): NAIL Control Number: NRFF-21-3W51-1726

(This information was found with the following google search:
"Thurman Baldwin" +Arkansas +ARC)

"Thurman Balding ("Skeeter") captured by Texas Rangers - pled guilty and sentenced 1894 to 30 years in pen at Detroit, Mich." - handwritten entry in a Wells, Fargo & Co's Express "Train Robbery" Ledger.

Also: "#48 "Near Red Fork, I.T. on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, about 7:30 PM., July 19, 1894...A gang consisting of Bill Cook, Cherokee Bill, Henry Munson, Thurman Balding (alias 'Skeeter'), Elmer Lucas and Texas Jack, and one other man (Dr. Bowman) after robbing office, held up train. Messenger slipped two packages of currency ($1008.59 & $331.31) in his waybill register and they were overlooked by robbers. After beating messenger over head with a Winchester, they became convinced he had nothing and left..."

-- Wells, Fargo & Co's Express "Train Robbery" Ledger: Heritage Auctions, Inc, JUNE 2008 Signature Western Photography & Early Artifacts Auction #689

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Thanks to Carl N. Oerke, Jr. for contributing the above article to this web site and to Kim Fowles for the photograph!

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