HOME | FAMILY TREES | RECOLLECTIONS | SPOTLIGHT ON SOLVAY | ETC. | READ ABOUT IT | NAME DROPPING

This kidnapping is best remembered for one of the men who staged it — George Kelly Barnes, the small-time hood with the big-time nickname, "Machine Gun" Kelly. His partner in crime, Albert Bates, did not have a colorful nickname, and today is pretty much forgotten.

Also convicted in connection with the kidnapping was Harvey Bailey, a then-notorious outlaw who escaped with ten other convicts from the Kansas State Penitentiary two months before Charles Urschel was abducted from his Oklahoma City home.

Bailey likely had nothing to do with the kidnapping, but he knew Kelly, whose in-laws ran a safe house for outlaws at their ranch in Paradise, Texas. Bailey paid a visit. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Somehow, when he was arrested at the ranch, Bailey had on him some of the ransom money paid for Urschel's release. This earned him a long prison sentence and the reputation for being the real brains behind the kidnapping plot.

Who actually planned the abduction nobody knows for sure, though it could have been the work of Kelly's wife, Kathryn, the driving force behind her husband's sudden rise from second-rate bank robber to hunted kidnapper.

The crime was inspired by the capers of Verne "Public Enemy Number One" Sankey, who earlier in the year had collected a $60,000 ransom for the return of Charles Boettcher II, a Denver broker.

Charles F. Urschel, a wealthy Oklahoma oilman, seemed like a good target for Kelly, and he was, so far as the $200,000 ransom was concerned, but the hoodlums had no way of knowing about Urschel's amazing memory and his incredible powers of observation, even while blindfolded.

On July 22, Urschel was abducted on his sun porch where he and his wife and another couple, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jarrett, were playing bridge. Mrs. Urschel later told the FBI that two men, one with a machine gun, the other with a pistol, stepped onto the porch and asked, "Which one of you is Mr. Urschel?"

Neither man replied, and the kidnapper said, "Well, we'll take both of them."

It took about ten minutes during the getaway for the identities to be established, and Jarrett was let out of the car about 12 miles northeast of the city, after he emptied his pockets of $50.

Syracuse Journal, July 24, 1933
OKLAHOMA CITY (INS) — A letter mailed in a “small Missouri town,” and directing the family of kidnapped Charles F. Urschel to make contacts in St. Louis, was reported to have been received here today. Urschel, millionaire oil man, was abducted Saturday night from his palatial home here.

Federal officers, who have taken charge of the search for Urschel and his abductors, declined to comment on whether they believe the note, if such was received, was genuine or the work of a crank.

E. E. Kirkpatrick, junior partner of Urschel, today was named by Urschel’s family as a go-between to deal with the kidnappers.

At the same time, the family requested officers to withdraw from the case, temporarily, and give kidnappers an opportunity to contact members of the family. Federal officers declined to cease their search.

Hope for an early contact from the kidnappers was strengthened by the newspaper pleas of Mrs. Bernice Urschel, wife of the victim, that “we will pay anything within reason and within our means for his return.”

Fearful for his life after disobeying the kidnappers’ warning to remain quiet, Walter Jarrett, also a wealthy oil man who was kidnapped with Urschel, but later released, remained in hiding under heavy guard after he identified a picture from the rogue’s gallery as that of one of the kidnappers The name of that man has been withheld by police, who did say he had a reputation as a Pacific Coast extortionist.

A second man reported to be a Detroit gunman and a member of the notorious Purple Gang, also is being sought, but officers refused to name him.

Although only two men participated in the abduction, a third man, believed to be a St. Louis gangster, reportedly is being sought,

It seems obvious, say police, the abductors had not planned to seize Garrett. He and his wife were playing bridge with Mr. and Mrs. Urschel on the sun porch at the Urschel home when the two gunmen entered.

 

Syracuse Journal, August 11. 1933
OKLAHOMA CITY (INS) — Relatives of Charles F. Urschel paid a staggering ransom of $199,620 for the release of the multimillionaire oil operator. The figure was calculated from the 9,981 serial numbers sent to banks throughout the country. All serial numbers were for $20 bills.

Eight days later, after the $200,000 ransom was paid, Urschel was released. He was tired, but unharmed, and with an interesting story for federal authorities.

He recalled spending a night in a garage or barn, and the next day blindfolded and transferred to a larger car than the one that whisked him away from his home. He said the car stopped for gasoline three hours later, and the woman who filled the tank chatted about the lack of rain and how the corn crops in the area were burning up.

Urschel estimated the time it took to get from the service station to the place where he was kept for the next few days. He said he heard chickens, cows and pigs. He also heard water being drawn from a well, saying the well was northwest of the house. He said he drank from a tin cup without a handle, and said the water had a mineral taste.

Though handcuffed, Urschel managed to work his blindfold loose enough to glance at his watch. He noted the time each morning and afternoon when he heard a plane pass over the house where he was kept, and also noted than on Sunday, July 30, when rain finally soaked the area, there was no morning plane.

On Monday, July 31, he was released near Norman, Oklahoma. After he told his story, FBI agents checked with American Airways (now American Airlines) and with the United States Weather Bureau, and by using Urschel's certainty that he heard a plane in the mornings at 9:45, investigators had a pretty good idea where they would find the farm. This was made easier by the discovery "Machine Gun" Kelly's in-laws owned a farm in the area.

By then Kelly and his wife were on the run. They were finally traced to Memphis, and when they were caught, Kelly pleaded, "Don't shoot, G-Men! Don't shoot, G-Men!"

At least, that's the FBI's story, and the reason Kelly was credited with coining the name "G-Men" as a shortcut for Government Men, which was how the law enforcers were known before their organization officially became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (It is widely believed today the "G-man" tale was created by J. Edgar Hoover, though Kelly's quirky personality and sense of humor made him a likely source of such a line. Those who refute the story point out Kelly was actually arrested by a local policeman, but, of course, the outlaw had no way of knowing that.)

AFTERWARD, Urschel and his wife moved to San Antonio, Texas, to minimize publicity and unwanted attention, and remained in Texas until they died, she in the spring of 1970, he in the fall.

The oilman's domestic situation was interesting. He first married Flored Slick, sister of Thomas Baker Slick, another oil millionaire. Slick died in 1930, and Mrs. Urschel died a year later. Urschel then married Slick's widow, Berniece, in what was both a wedding and a merger of two fortunes.

Syracuse Journal, August 15, 1933
DALLAS (INS) — Swift prosecution was promised today for Harvey J. Bailey, notorious desperado, and 10 other persons seized by federal operatives for the kidnappings of Charles F. Urschel, millionaire Oklahoma oil man, and the massacre of five men at Kansas City.

Department of Justice agents announced Urschel’s kidnappers probably will be taken to Oklahoma City for federal trial for the interstate abduction.

Raids in three cities — St. Paul, Denver and Paradise, Texas — brought capture of the 11 suspects in the two major crimes as the federal government fired its opening gun in President Roosevelt’s campaign against the underworld.

Bailey, a bank robber and killer, was one of the eleven convicts who broke out of the Kansas State penitentiary on Memorial Day. He was trapped as he slept in a farmhouse near Paradise. Urschel’s fingerprints were found in the house.

The above story says 11 suspects were arrested. Which one was released, I do not know, but ten persons would soon been tried in connection with the kidnapping.

Still free in August, however, were the two people most responsible for the Urschel kidnapping — "Machine Gun" Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, who, in their own way, were every bit as colorful as a duo who would soon be more famous, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

 
HOME CONTACT