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Charlie Pierce
2000-Present  Joyce Davantzis


Charlie Pierce was born to William Pierce and Carolyn McBride-Pierce, we believe the year to be 1866 or 1867. William Pierce was an attorney in Sullivan Indiana, Carolyn McBride came from County Cork, Ireland. They had two other sons, James William, (my great-grandfather) the oldest, and Joe who was the "baby". James William was co-owner of a coal mine in Granby, MO., and Joe worked for him in the mine. Joe was killed very young in a tragic accident at the mine. As my great grandfather was lowering him into the mine shaft, a large chunk of rock dislodged and crushed Joe's head. This may explain why my great-grandfather went to such lengths to protect Charlie in later years, despite his disapproval of Charlie's lifestyle. He felt responsible for Joe's death, even though it was clearly accidental.
Charlie Pierce came to Oklahoma from Sullivan, Indiana as a professional racehorseman. He soon turned to peddling moonshine, then got a job punching cattle with Emmett Dalton and George "Bittercreek" Newcomb at the Tulsa Stockyard Railhead, which appears to be the beginning of his "life of crime". He rode with the Daltons, but according to Charlie's sister, Mag, the Daltons "got mad at Charlie and George, because they were constantly trying to steal the Dalton women". In Harold Preece's book "The Daltons", Charlie is referred to as a "Prairie Lothario", so this may have in fact been the case. Other sources state that Charlie and George were left out of the Coffeyville robberies due to their reckless behavior in the past. Whatever the reason, it was obviously to their advantage to be left out, because as you know, the Coffeyville incident ended quite badly for the Daltons. It was after the Coffeyville incident that Charlie and Bittercreek hooked up with Bill Doolin and formed a new gang known as the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Charlie's exploits with both gangs are fairly well documented by historians. Here are the family stories handed down to my grandmother Marie (born in 1910, 15 years after Charlie's death in 1895) by her father, her Aunt Mag, and her much older siblings.
My great-grandfather did not like to discuss Charlie much (for obvious reasons), but did tell the following stories to my grandmother in his older years. I have no historical verification of these stories, although it may be "out there" somewhere.
Charlie had been arrested and was in jail somewhere in Oklahoma. My great-grandfather went to visit him, and pleaded with the Officer in charge of the jail to let his brother out so he could "embrace him one last time". The Officer took pity on him, and opened the cell. Charlie took the opportunity to run for it. The Officer had his gun drawn, and my great-grandfather threw himself at the Officer, holding onto him and pleading "please mister, don't shoot my brother". Charlie went "over the wall", and dove under some hay in the back of my great-grandfather's wagon.
Sitting on the hay was Charlie's sister Mag, with her skirts spread out over it. Apparently nobody thought to look under the hay, and assumed Charlie had run off. The Officer at first was going to arrest my great-grandfather, but after a long conversation and a stern warning, he allowed him to leave. Apparently my great-grandfather tearfully explained that Charlie was the only brother he had left, and admitted he had done wrong and the Officer showed him mercy. They drove off with Charlie in the back of the wagon and turned him loose miles away from the jail. This incident apparently happened before Charlie became notorious-he was at that time locked up on whiskey-peddling charges, and considered more of a nuisance criminal than a real threat. As time went by, he became increasingly violent. According to Mag (Charlie's sister), Charlie was visiting with his half-brother, Ed Shepherd. Ed's wife made a comment that Charlie did not like, and Charlie slapped her. Ed jumped to her defense, and Charlie took out a knife, stabbing Ed multiple times. Ed survived the attack (barely) and my grandmother still has very fond memories of her Uncle Ed from when she was a child. At this point, Charlie was becoming a real inconvenience to the family and they were mortified by his connection to them. My great-grandmother, Canzada, told my great-grandfather he was not to help Charlie ever again. She finally relented, and agreed that although they would never hide Charlie in the house (they lived in Granby, MO.), she would go out to the woods and leave food and supplies for him on a designated tree stump with the understanding he was not to show himself until she was long gone. She apparently did this on several occasions. She also sent her oldest son from time to time to leave the supplies. According to my grandmother's older sister, (now deceased) Charlie did appear in the front yard one day, and Canzada grabbed a broom and beat him out of the yard with it, telling him never to come back again. My great-grandfather said one night Officers came to his home and banged on the door. When he walked out on the porch, there was a pistol being held to each side of his head, and a lantern was shoved in his face. One Officer said, "leave him be-that's not Charlie it's his brother". They then entered the home and searched each bedroom, shining their lanterns in the faces of the sleeping children (there were 14 Pierce children-my grandma was the youngest of the 14 and not born until 1910, so all this information is based on what was told to her by her family). When they could not find Charlie, they informed my great-grandfather that they would be back from time to time, so hiding Charlie would be a bad idea and would land him in jail. This happened after Charlie had become a much more wanted man than he was when my grandfather helped him escape from jail. After Charlie started riding with Bill Doolin and his Wild Bunch, a large reward was placed on the heads of the gang, dead or alive. My great- grandfather had a small cabin on his property, which he supposedly allowed Charlie to have access to from time to time (unbeknownst to my great-grandmother). My great-grandfather had gone to the cabin to "sit and think and smoke his pipe", when suddenly the door was broken down by bounty hunters. My great grandfather said these men were not lawmen, but a "motley crew" of men out for the reward money. Charlie was not in the cabin at the time, but these men said they had been told that Charlie, Bittercreek and others were using the cabin as a hideout, and they intended to bring them out dead or alive, so where were they? There was an attic in the cabin. My great-grandfather mustered up the most fearful look on his face he could, and while the men stood there threatening him, he kept looking up at the ceiling, and back at the men as if pleading for their help. As he loudly said "Charlie's not here" he pointed to the ceiling with his pipe and gave them another very fearful look. Suddenly the mood in the room changed, and one of the men shouted "hell let's get out of here now!" and they nearly killed themselves getting out the door. My great-grandfather laughed when he told this story, saying that was the most cowardly group of bounty hunters imagineable. Charlie was killed in May of 1895, along with Bittercreek Newcomb at the Dunn Ranch near Ingalls, OK. He and Bittercreek and the rest of the gang had used the Dunn ranch as a hideout from time to time. While the two outlaws slept, the Dunn brothers crept up the staircase and shot them in their beds, which is why it was reported that Charlie Pierce had gunshot wounds to the bottoms of his feet. Although some newspapers at the time said Charlie and Bittercreek were killed by Officers, it seems to be generally accepted by historians now that they were in fact killed by the Dunns while they slept, and that the Dunns were almost denied the reward money due to that fact.
Long after Charlie died, a boy about aged 15 showed up at my great-grandfathers house. He said he was Charlie Pierce's son, and that Charlie told him when he was a little boy that if he ever needed anything he should come to his brother. He was turned away, and my great-grandfather would not ever discuss this with anyone as to why he turned the boy away, wouldn't even really admit that there ever was a boy at all. This story was told to my grandmother by her oldest brother who remembered that day very clearly. She is still troubled by it, and wonders to this day what became of Charlie's son and why her father refused him help. I have been trying to find out for her if Charlie had a son, and what became of him but have had no luck so far in my research. We have also run across numerous references to Tulsa Jack being Charlie's half-brother, but have been unable to verify that either. Charlie did have a lot of half brothers (remember poor Ed Shepherd) on his mother's side, and we recently found out his father was married several times as well, so I suppose it is possible. I have also seen Charlie misidentified by some sources as "Dynamite Dick" (who was actually Dynamite Dick Clifton, another member of the gang) and as "Black faced Charlie Pierce" (who was actually Black faced Charlie Bryant, also a member of the gang). He is referred to as the "Dyanamite Kid" in an old newspaper article written around the time of his death, which is possibly correct since my great-grandfather was an expert with dynamite (since he was a miner) and was said at one time to have tried to convince Charlie to work for him at the mine, but there is no other reference we know of that refers to him as such. Charlie is buried alongside Bill Doolin, in the boothill section of the Summit Cemetery in Guthrie, OK. An odd thing I was told is that according to a local "oldtimer" historian, one of the Dunn brothers who killed Charlie is also buried in the same cemetery. According to this person, on the anniversary of Charlie's death, someone began placing flowers on Charlie's grave, and dumping "hog guts" on the grave of the man who killed Charlie. This information came to me through Bittercreek's great-great nephew, who lives nearby and also places flowers on Charlie's grave from time to time. I just cannot help but wonder who left the hog guts, because it made me wonder if it was Charlie's son?

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20 Feb 2005

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Mel Owings

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