OUTLAW WILBUR UNDERHILL JR. (1901-1934) KILLED FBI HANDWRITTEN LETTER SCARCE For Sale
OUTLAW WILBUR UNDERHILL JR. (1901-1934) KILLED FBI HANDWRITTEN LETTER SCARCE:
AN EXTREMELY RARE LENGHTY AND DETAILED LETTER HANDWRITTEN BY WILBUR UNDERHILL, JR. LETTER INCLUDES MAILING ENVELOPE ADDRESSED TO RELATIVE (SISTER). WRITTEN WHEN HE WAS IN JAIL. WILBUR WAS KILLED AT THE AGE OF 32 BY WOUNDS SUFFERED BY BEING SHOT MULTIPLE TIMES BY FEDERAL AGENTS, STATE TROOPERS AND LOCAL POLICE.
Wilbur Underhill Jr. (March 16, 1901 – January 6, 1934), often called "Mad Dog" or the "Tri-State Terror", was an American criminal, burglar, bank robber and Depression-era outlaw. He was one of the most wanted bandits in Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s and co-led a gang with Harvey Bailey that included many fellow Cookson Hills outlaws including Jim Clark, Ed Davis and Robert "Big Bob" Brady.
"buy I'm not in a very good humor ive been mad all this week. dont know what about. just mad.""she said she liked me most because im a bad man I know i aint that pitiful""But really Deane when I come in the cell after work I walk the floor to pass the time away""I guess she figured I would never be out"Letter and envelope are in protective mylar
Those who have written about Wilbur Underhill, a Missouri-born outlaw who surfaced in the 1920s and attracted nationwide attention in 1933, speculate on why he didn't become more famous, since he was considered one of the most brazen and dangerous criminals of his era.
The photo above makes him look jaunty, and inspired one writer to say Underhill had Hollywood good looks. Newspapers at the time more often used a photo (right) that made Underhill uglier and more menacing. I think it was taken in 1927 after he had been wounded during a shootout that led to his capture.
One reason suggested not only for Underhill's failure to catch public fancy, but a few other outlaws, is the lack of a catchy name, though I suggest anyone nicknamed "The Tri-State Terror" stands out from the crowd. And there certainly was a crowd of outlaws in the early 1930s, only some of whom I've spotlighted.
Many of these outlaws are linked ... because the rosters of their gangs were ever-changing. In sports terms, the Midwest and Southwest outlaws were the free agents of their day. And the more time an outlaw spent in prison, the more known associates he was apt to have.
This often led police to assume guilt by association. In 1933, for example, Underhill and ten other inmates escaped the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, using pistols supposedly smuggled into the prison by Frank "Jelly" Nash, who was captured shortly thereafter.
Nash was killed when at least three gunmen tried to rescue him from police at Kansas City's Union Station. Four lawmen also were killed in what became known as "The Kansas City Massacre" (or "The Union Station Massacre"). The assumption was that Underhill and another Kansas escapee, Harvey Bailey, had been two of the shooters outside of Union Station, attempting to free Nash in payment helping them earlier.
But that wasn't true. Underhill and Bailey were busy elsewhere, though they were indicted for the Kansas City shootings. (Federal authorities, soon to be called the FBI, eventually settled on Verne Miller, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd and Adam Richetti as the shooters, though there's much doubt about Floyd and Richetti.)
BUT I'M GETTING ahead of myself. Back to "The Tri-State Terror." (Those three states, incidentally, were Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.)
Henry Wilber Underhill was born March 16, 1901, near Joplin, Missouri, a town that pops up often in tales about 1930s outlaws. For example, Clyde and Buck Barrow briefly went into hiding there, and had to shoot their way out of town; Bailey settled there after serving time, marrying ex-con Esther Farmer, who years earlier had retired there.
Jailed for the first time in 1918, Wilbur Underhill resumed his life of crime upon his release in 1922 when he became known as Joplin's "Lover's Lane Bandit," for preying on couples parked in secluded places. He was back in prison by the end of the year. In 1926 Wilbur and his three brothers had a family reunion at the Missouri State Prison in Jefferson City.
Hornell (NY) Tribune-Times, May 3, 1926JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — Four brothers, serving terms in the penitentiary here, furnish criminologists with an interesting study. The brothers, member of the Underhill family of Neosho, Newton County, Missouri, are serving terms ranging from attempted robbery to murder. A stepson of their sister is also an inmate of the same prison.
The fourth brother, George Underhill, 22 years old, was dressed in recently at the prison to serve five years for burglary and larceny from Newton County after his brother, Earl, had testified against him.
Charles E. Underhill, now 32, has been in prison since November, 1913, serving a life sentence for murder.
Wilbur Underhill, 25, is serving his second term. His first term was two years from Newton County for attempted robbery. He was released in December, 1921, but was returned February 2, 1923, to serve five years for first degree robbery.
The oldest brother, Earl, 36, was received here last December to serve two years for burglary and larceny from Newton County. He was given credit for his jail time in Neosho..
Earl incurred the enmity of his family and brothers because he testified against George.
Earl said he left home when he was 15 years old and spent most of his time in the west as a carpenter. He returned to Missouri at intervals on visits to his family and his wife’s family.
He said he arrived in Joplin on May 22, 1925,, for a visit with his mother. The following day his youngest brother, George, asked him to use his automobile in hauling some stolen tires from a garage in Neosho. Earl, who said he had never been in trouble before, realized that he did wrong in using his car to haul the stolen property.
In the party stealing the tires was Morris Baine, 22, stepson of a sister of the Underhill brothers.
After remaining in jail five months, Earl told the officers the complete story of the robbery and pleaded guilty to the burglary and larceny charge. His testimony later resulted in George getting a five-year sentence and Baine seven years.
The father of the boys was a farmer and carpenter in Newton County. There were four boys and three girls in the family. The father died several years ago.George Underhill, the youngest of the seven children, died first, in 1931, after breaking out of jail, robbing two pharmacies, and taking an overdose of sodium amytal. Charles Ernest died of cirrhosis in 1937. Earl, who apparently was law-aoffering, except for the 1926 arrest, died in 1974, at the age of 85.
Grace Underhill Baine also died in 1974. She was 86. I don't know what happened to her stepson, whose name may have been Maurice, not Morris, but she and her husband, James or John (the U. S. census had it listed one way in 1930, another ten years later), had five children of their own.
Another of the Underhill daughters, Anna, married a man named Lewis, and in 1973 was living in Joplin. The seventh child of Henry and Almira Underhill was Dorothy, who never married. She moved to Kansas City, cared for her widowed mother, and worked for the Jackson County liquor control board. Her mother died in 1951, Dorothy died 20 years later.
The above information came from an article in the Kansas City Times on December 29, 1973.
WILBUR UNDERHILL was paroled a few months after the 1926 article appeared, and committed his first murder in December during a drug store robbery in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, when he shot the teenager who walked into a drug store he was robbing with his partner, Ike "Skeet" Akins.
Caught, Underhill then escaped jail, was recaptured, tried and sentenced to life in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, but he escaped on July 14, 1927, committed more robberies, was confronted by a policeman — and committed his second murder, taking a bullet in the neck in the process. This time he wound up in the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing.
He escaped in 1931, was caught, and and less than a month after he was returned to prison was in the news again when the warden, Kirk Prather, announced on September 16 that a convict serving a life sentence had come forward with information about a breakout plot involving nine inmates. And though this plan had been in the works for months, the new ringleader, according to the warden, was Wilbur Underhill.
This plot had all the makings of a movie. The inmates had manufactured three shotguns, a revolver and ammunition in a prison machine shop, and also had a rifle that had been smuggled to them from outside. Warden Prather led the raid that uncovered the cache of weapons, hidden in a machine shop wall. The nine convicts had come up with a list of six guards and inmate trusties to kill on their way out of the prison.
At the time, Prather withheld the name of the inmate who talked, but two months later a convict named Stanton Zack, serving a life sentence under the Kansas Habitual Criminal Act, was paroled as a reward for the information he provided.
A year later another breakout was nipped in the bud, though this time Underhill's name wasn't mentioned. Instead, the leader of the plot was a convict known as "Two Gun" Henderson.
However, Wilbur Underhill still had escape on his mind. He put his next plan in motion on Memorial Day, 1933, while a baseball game was being played inside the walls of the Kansas State Prison. Underhill was about to become nationally famous.
Syracuse Journal, May 31, 1933LANSING, Kansas (INS) — With three women hostages safe and unharmed, the entire Southwest today joined in one of the greatest manhunts in history as heavily armed posses, sheriffs and police in numerous cities sought the rendezvous of 11 convicts who escaped yesterday from the Kansas penitentiary here.
Authorities today concentrated the search in Oklahoma, near Picher*, where five of the convicts held up a filling station at 6 a.m. today, kidnapped station attendant Jeff Weatherby, after robbing the station of a tank full of gasoline and $10. Weatherby was released 15 miles southwest of Picher a short time later.
Meanwhile, Governor William H. Murray of Oklahoma and Governor Alfred "Alf" Landon of Kansas offered every co-operation in an effort to track down the felons. Police in 100 cities and authorities as far south as the Mexican border were notified to be on the lookout.
Governor Landon today ordered a complete investigation of conditions at the prison that may have brought about and made possible the break that freed 11 desperate men and resulted in the wounding of another. A. S. Foulks, pardon and parole attorney at the state capitol, was sent to the penitentiary to conduct the investigation.
Authorities said the induction of a new administration at the prison may have had something to do with the unrest that precipitated the plot to escape.
Miss Louise Wood, 17, who, together with two other women was held prisoner for several hours by the felons, characterized her abductors to International New Service,
“They were most courteous and polite. They didn’t curse or act like criminals are supposed to act at all,” she said.
“We came directly south from near Lansing, where we were kidnapped, in our automobile. the convicts drove fast and tried to avoid towns as much as possible.
“We were warned not to make any outcry, but we weren’t threatened. The men told us they hated to take us with them, but that it was necessary. We were not mistreated in any way.
“None of us had eaten since morning and the men appeared anxious that w get food. I don’t know what time it was when we arrived at the farm of Bill New, but the men ordered Mrs. New to cook some food. they left us there and we remained overnight and returned to Pleasanton, Kansas, this morning.”
The convicts were under the command of Wilbur Underhill, three times a murderer, and regarded as one of the most desperate characters in the southwest since the reign of Jesse James. Underhill led the plot to escape from prison.
Warden Kirk Prather of the penitentiary told a graphic story of the escape.
“I was watching the baseball game in the prison yard when Underhill slipped up behind me and threw a slipknot noose of wire around my neck. at the same time, another convict, I think it was Harvey Bailey, pressed a revolver against my neck.
“Other guards were taken around me. Several guards, covered by six convicts joined us together and we were told that we would all be killed unless we did what we were told. I told the guard on the wall not to fire under any circumstances.
“We were then marched to gate Number 3, and there the convicts obtained the keys, and once outside they took possession of a car. Someone fired a shot and it hit Bailey as the car sped away.”
Warden Prather and two guards who were kidnapped from the prison by the escaping felons, and threatened with death, were released unharmed late last night near Welch, Oklahoma, by six of the convicts riding in a commandeered automobiles.
“I knew Kirk would come out of this all right; I had the utmost faith in his ability to deal with his abductors.”
Mrs. Prather, wife of the kidnapped warden, thus expressed her relief in the warden’s office.
She was at the prison when the sensational break occurred. She did not witness the rebellion, but when the prison siren alarm sounded, she took her place in her husband’s office, where she assisted in directing the manhunt.
After ejecting Prather and the guards, L. A. Lawes and J. H. Sherman, the convicts sped on toward the Osage Hills badlands, where authorities believe they will be joined at a rendezvous by the remaining five fugitives, who abducted three women whose car they commandeered six miles south of here in their mad dash for freedom.
* Today Picher, Oklahoma, which once was home to nearly 20,000 people, is little more than a ghost town, with only a handful of residents who refuse to leave.
Lead and zinc mining constituted the local industries. The result was Picher became one of the most polluted cities in the country, a hazardous place to live. As if Mother Nature wanted to add her own warning, Picher was hit by a tornado in 2009, the year the city ceased to exist.
As with several large-scale prison escapes. this one included a few tag-alongs. It is assumed Underhill and Bailey planned the breakout, intending to take three or four others with them. Bob "Big Boy" Brady, Jim Clark and Ed Davis went off with Underhill and Bailey. It's possible, I suppose, they did a favor for Frank Sawyer, a career criminal who just happened to be convicted for a robbery he didn't do. In any event, Sawyer was one of the escapees who walked out of the prison with a gun in his hand.
The "courteous and polite" convicts who abducted the three women probably were the tag-along convicts.
Sawyer went off — or was sent off — on his own soon after he fled the prison. His recapture (story below) showed what can happen when you piss off the wrong female.
Another escapee, definitely not in on the plan, was Lewis Bechtel, who was quickly recaptured when he rested at a nearby farm. The other four — Billy Woods and Clifford Dopson, and Kenneth Conn and Alvis Payton — paired off and split.
The convicts who remained with Underhill immediately became a bank-robbing gang..
Now about Frank Sawyer ...
New York Sun, June 5, 1933CHICKASHA, Oklahoma (AP) — The courage of an Oklahoma A&M College [now Oklahoma State University] coed was credited today with a large share in stopping the frenzied cross-state dash of Frank Sawyer, fleeing Kansas convict.
Sawyer, one of eleven convicts who escaped the Kansas State Penitentiary on Memorial Day, left a trail of kidnappings and stolen automobiles in his attempt to avoid the cordon of officers thrown about northeastern Oklahoma.
Lewis Bechtel, recaptured near Dripping Springs, Oklahoma, is the only other one of the Kansas fugitives who has been retaken.
Sawyer was captured in a gun battle and free-for-all fight after he had kidnapped Bob Goodfellow, Caddo County clerk, and his 20-year-old sister, Lois.
Goodfellow, wounded in the groin by a posse man’s bullet when Sawer used him as a shield, was taken to an Adadarko hospital, where his condition was described as serious, but not critical.
After abducting the Goodfellows, Sawyer ordered the girl, who was driving, to go to Oklahoma City. Instead the coed drove the car into a ditch while her brother attempted to seize Sawyer’s pistol, but the move failed.
While Sawyer was trying to get the car out of the ditch, with pretended assistance from the Goodfellows, Sheriff Horace Crisp and Deputy Al Marlow of Grady County drove up.
Sawyer seized Goodfellow and opened fire. When her brother was wounded, Miss Goodfellow, ignoring the blazing pistols, started pulling Sawyer’s hair, which, being cut short in convict style, proved unsatisfactory.
Then, according to the sheriff, the young lady began choking the convict, giving the officers an opportunity to close in.
“I was not afraid of him,” she said afterward, “I was just afraid Bob had been killed and I wanted to choke him awful bad.”
Previous to kidnapping the Goodfellows, reports to the sheriff’s office here indicated Sawyer had abducted and released nearly a score of persons Sunday. In all cases he wanted motor cars in which to further his escape. Some of his victims were stopped on the highways; others were taken from their homes.
Billy Woods and Clifford Dopson, were arrested on June 10, near San Angelo, Texas. Kenneth Conn and Alvis Payton attempted to rob a bank in Altamont, Kansas, on July 14. Bank robberies were so commonplace at the time, that some of then didn't make the news. However, this one was decidedly newsworthy.
Syracuse Journal, July 14, 1933ALTAMONT, Kansas (INS) — A banker with true aim today fired past his wife, who was being held as a shield, and instantly killed Kenneth Conn, escaped convict, who, with a companion, had attempted to hold up his bank.
The second bandit, Alvis Payton, also an escaped convict, was critically wounded by the banker, Isaac McCarty, cashier of the Labette County Bank here.
Both bandits escaped from the Kansas state prison in Lansing on Memorial Day.
McCarty saw the bandits drive up to the bank.
“Something about them aroused my suspicions when I first saw them,” McCarty said.
Leaving his father, A. H. McCarty, vice president; his wife, who is assistant cashier, and W. H. Grumheller, also an official in the bank, to wait on the two men, McCarty walked to the rear of the building where he obtained two guns. He then concealed himself on a stairway.
The bandits instructed the officials of the bank to stick up their hands. as the bandits reached for the money in the till, McCarty fired at them.
Whether Isaac McCarty was known ever after as "Deadeye," I don't know. But he did receive a $500 reward.
Meanwhile, what immediately became known as "The Bailey-Underhill gang" robbed Oklahoma banks in Chelsea and Clinton. Bailey departed for Paradise, Texas, to visit George "Machine Gun" Kelly at the ranch of Mr. and Mrs. R. G.. “Boss” Shannon, the ranch where the kidnapped Charles Urschel had been held prisoner.
It was a dumb move by Bailey, who was sleeping at the ranch on August 15 when lawmen arrived and arrested him in connection with the kidnapping.
Underhill went on stealing.
Syracuse American, September 24, 1933STUTTGART, Arkansas (INS) — A machine gun bandit who bragged he was Machine Gun Kelly, but who was identified from photographs as Wilbur Underhill, a cop killer, was sought today after robbing the People’s National Bank of $1,000.
The bandit stepped into the bank with two companions and waving a machine gun and shouted, “I’m Machine Gun Kelly! You’ve read about me!”
He ordered Mrs. Joan Morgan, an employee, to open the safe, but she protested she did not know the combination. He then scooped up about $1,000 from the teller’s cage and forced Mrs. Morgan and other employees and a customer to his car. The three bandits used the women as shields, making them stand on the running board to protect the bandits from bullets from any pursuing officers.
Underhill and the three remaining gang members who had escaped from the Kansas State Prison on Memorial Day parted company in the fall. Ed Davis and his wife moved to California. Bob "Big Boy" Brady and Jim Clark attempted their own crime spree, in Oklahoma and Texas, but soon had to flee into New Mexico.
Syracuse Journal, October 7, 1933TUCUMCARI, New Mexico (INS) — Bob “Big Boy” Brady, an escaped Kansas convict, was near death in a Tucumcari hospital today after being shot down by Sheriff Ira Allen while fleeing arrest.
Brady was arrested while driving into Tucumcari from Amarillo, Texas, with a man tentatively identified as Jim Clark, another escaped convict, who was arrested.
Clark and Brady offered no resistance when Sheriff Allen ordered them to halt their car. Instead, Brady leaped from the car and fled down the road. Sheriff Allen and a deputy fired simultaneously. Brady dropped, hit three times.
Both men took part in the Kansas state prison riot last Memorial Day and escaped.
Clark at first was believed to be Wilbur Underhill.
Brady, who took a shot in the head, managed to survive. He and Clark were sent back to the Kansas prison in Lansing, but — surprise! — they escaped again on January 19, 1934.
This time they split. Brady, perhaps suffering the effects of his October gunshot wounds, which had impaired his vision, was killed in a shootout five days later near Paola, Kansas.
Clark and another escaped convict, Frank Delmar, soon robbed a bank in Goodland, Kansas, but Clark was shot in both feet by a policeman. He escaped but as sidelined for three months, before the next bank robbery, in Wetumka, Oklahoma.
However, Clark's luck ran out in August when he was arrested and found himself facing federal bank robbery charges. Found guilty, he spent the next 35 years bouncing between Leavenworth and Alcatraz, before being sent to Seagoville, Texas, where he was released a few weeks later, in 1969.
At 67, Clark married his late brother's widow, lived in Oklahoma, worked as a ranch hand and then managed a parking lot until he died June 9, 1974.
However, even Brady, killed 40 years earlier, managed to outlive Wilbur Underhill, who himself somehow managed to live about week longer than any normal person would have after federal agents caught up with him.
Buffalo Courier-Express, December 31, 1933SHAWNEE, Oklahoma, December 30 (AP) — The “Tri-State Terror,” Wilbur Underhill — killer, bank robber, machine gunner and prison breaker — lay in a dying condition tonight, his body almost riddled by police bullets, and law enforcement agencies checked off another name on the dwindling list of southwestern bad men still at large.
“I don’t think I can live,” he told his bride, a pretty brunette whom he married at Coalgate, Oklahoma, several weeks ago.
Hospital physicians expressed the belief the outlaw would jot live, and officers voiced amazement that Underhill had been able to escape from a house where he was trapped and wounded in a gunfight early today.
Bleeding from more than half a dozen wounds, and scantily clad, Underhill ran from the house under a hail of lead and found refuge in a furniture store.
Four hours later he was found hiding in a bed in the rear of the store. He surrendered without a fight, although still armed with a pistol.
Underhill was a leader of the break of eleven convicts from the Kansas penitentiary last Memorial Day, and is under indictment for the machine gun killing of four officers and Frank Nash, federal convict, at Kansas City last June.
R. H. Colvin, department of justice agent from Oklahoma City, and a group of other officers trailed Underhill to the house.
Captured in the raid were a man tentatively identified as Raymond Roe, alias Ralph Rowe; a Seminola beauty parlor operator, Eva Mae Nichols, and Underhill’s wife, the former Hazel Hudson.
Roe was wounded in the right shoulder by the officers’ fusillade, fired when Underhill grabbed two pistols as Colvin peered through a rear window and shouted, “Stick ‘em up, Wilbur!”
The Nicholas woman was shot through the stomach and probably fatally wounded.
Sobbing at her husband’s bedside, Mrs. Underhill said, “Wilbur’s a good man and he’s been trying to go straight, but they just won’t let him.”
The bandit’s wife wore several large diamonds when taken to the hospital to see her husband. She was attractively dressed.
Assuring his wife the officers “have nothing against you,” Underhill told her where she could find his automobiles and valuable papers.
But the only “valuable papers” officers had located were $5,300 in bonds of the Franklin Title and Trust Company of Kentucky, found in the outlaw’s clothing after he staggered from the raided house.
A light was burning in a bedroom. Colvin and Clarence Hurt, Oklahoma city policeman, cautiously approached an open window after other officers had surrounded the house.
“Colvin and I walked up to the window of a northeast bedroom in the house,” Hurt said. “There was Underhill standing near the bed in his underwear, and his wife was sitting on the bed.”
Colvin was armed with a machine gun, Hurt with a machine gun and a tear gas gun.
When the officers shouted at him to surrender, Underhill whirled, grabbed two automatic pistols off a small table and fired.
His first shot brought a rain of lead from the posse men’s machine guns, shotguns, rifles and revolvers. The officers shot not only into the Underhill room, but into the adjoining room, which was dark. That’s where Roe and the Nichols woman were.
“We saw Underhill stagger when the volley opened,” said Hurt. “Then he jumped into another room. His wife fainted.”
The firing lulled, then Underhill darted from the front door and ran across muddy ground into the darkness. He disappeared behind another house.
Hurt estimated 200 shots were fired. He said he believed Underhill fired at least 60 of them. None of the officers was wounded.
With Underhill’s capture, all except one of the eleven persons indicted for the Kansas City killings have been arrested or slain. The man still sought is Richard T. Galatas, Hot Springs, Arkansas, gangster.
Only one of the eleven convicts who escaped from the Kansas prison on Memorial Day is at large. He is Ed Davis. All of the other fugitives have been recaptured or killed.
Underhill’s capture had been expected for weeks. Some time ago, he escaped an early night raid on the farm home of George Nash, near Konawa, 30 miles southeast of Shawnee. At that time he left the farmhouse scantily clad and ill.
While officers were reticent as to the clues leading to the desperado’s apprehension, it was disclosed that one clue came indirectly through the Nichols woman after Underhill went to her shop in Seminole to be treated by a doctor following the Konawa escape.
Underhill gained his nickname, “The Tri-State Terror,” through his viciousness as a killer and his widespread criminal operations through Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
He was serving a life sentence for the murder of Merle Colver, Wichita, Kansas, policeman, when he escaped from the Kansas penitentiary last May 30 by kidnapping the warden. He led the break with Harvey Bailey, now serving a life sentence in Leavenworth federal penitentiary for the $200,000 ransom kidnapping of Charles F. Urschel, Oklahoma City oil millionaire.
Underhill had escaped from the Oklahoma penitentiary in July, 1931. He then was serving a life sentence for murder in Okmulgee County. The murder of a boy in Picher, Oklahoma, also is charged against him,, as well as numerous bank robberies.There's an interesting story about Wilbur Underhill's last days; you'll find it on a website called Baby Face Nelson Journal.com. For a look, see "Shawnee Ambush." Or check out "The Spell of the West."
For the short version, keep reading. Underhill was taken to a hospital and manged to hang in there until January 6, when he was returned to the Oklahoma State Prison in McAlester. He died en route. His bride — who was, at least the fifth Mrs. Underhill, probably was soon released from police custody. Nichols, who was married, but hoping for a divorce, died of her gunshot wounds. Roe recovered and was returned to prison.
Ford Bradshaw, a young outlaw and a partner of Wilbur Underhill during the "Terror's" last few bank robberies, shot up the tiny town of Vian, Oklahoma, on New Year's Eve to vent his anger over Underhill's capture, but Bradshaw would be dead before April, killed by a deputy sheriff in Ardmore, Oklahoma, while resisting arrest.
Underhill remained linked to two outlaws who'd make news before long.
Raymond (aka Ralph) Roe wound up in Alcatraz where he teamed with another former Oklahoma convict, Theodore Cole, to attempt an escape from the escape-proof island prison. The sneaked out on December 16. 1937, and disappeared into a heavy fog on some flotation devices they had fashioned.
Experts on tidal current said there was no chance Roe and Cole could have survived, that they would have been swept into the Pacific Ocean with no chance of reaching shore beforehand. It was no surprise their bodies were never found ... but because their bodies were never found, some people believed they lived to talk about their escape.
Exactly one year later, in California's San Quentin Prison, Ed Davis, 38, who had escaped with Wilbur Underhill from the Kansas State Prison in 1933, was executed in the gas chamber.
Davis had been arrested soon after fleeing to California, but in September, 1937, he and four other inmates tried to escape from Folsom Prison. During the failed attempt, warden Clarence Larkin was killed.
The five convicts were sentenced to death a few weeks later, but appeals delayed the executions. Davis was the last of the five to die. The first two, Albert Kessell and Robert Cannon, died a week earlier, the first convicts to be executed in California's gas chamberA mugshot of criminal Wilbur Underhill - headstuff.orgThe 1930s were a violent time for crime in the United States. While some might claim the Wild West period ended decades earlier, bank robbers like John Dillinger and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd made a mockery of the rule of law, frustrating attempts to civilise the rural frontier even in these more overtly lawful times. It was this turmoil that led to the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and it was quick to claim the scalps of Dillinger, Floyd and dozens of others. Absent from the list of victories it touted was the first man to die at the guns of the Feds – Wilbur “Mad Dog” Underhill. The reason for that is simple – they shouldn’t have had those guns at all.
The man who would become known as the “Tri-State Terror” and the “Southwest Executioner” was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1901. His birth name was Henry Wilber Underhill, named for his father who died when he was only 10 years old. The spelling of Wilbur was one he insisted on later, as he felt it was somehow a more manly name. The poverty that his father’s death left the family in drove Wilbur and all three of his brothers into crime, and when Wilbur was twelve his older brother Ernest was convicted of murder and sent to prison. Some say that Wilbur’s own wild streak began at this time, while others point to a childhood accident when a carelessly thrown crate of bottles caught the young boy on the head while he was scavenging in bins for food. Whatever the cause, Wilbur soon decided that being a criminal with a full belly was preferable to starving to death honestly.
A mugshot of criminal Wilbur Underhill - headstuff.orgOne of Wilbur’s many mugshotsHis first recorded crime was burglary, breaking into a home in his neighbourhood and stealing the silverware. Though he was found with some of the stolen property, he claimed to have been given it and for lack of any direct evidence he was let go. When he tried his hand at burglary again though, he was caught. This time the charges stuck, and in 1918 he went to prison for the first time. He was released in 1922, and immediately graduated to armed robbery. He specialised in attacking parked cars in isolated areas, and so became known as the “Lover’s Lane Bandit”. His pattern was too predictable, however, and a police sting soon resulted in his capture. He was sent to prison again, for a sentence of five years. There are stories that he tried to tunnel out of the prison, but if so he wasn’t detected. In 1926 he was released on parole, though as would soon be demonstrated he was far from a reformed character.
On Christmas day 1926, Wilbur and Ike Akins, known as “Skeet”, walked into a drugstore in the small Oklahoma town of Okmulgee. They robbed the store at gunpoint, and in the course of the robbery Wilbur murdered a teenager named George Fee. It was his first recorded killing, but it wouldn’t be his last. The two criminals were swiftly tracked down, and two weeks later on the 7th January they were arrested. They were held in Okmulgee jail, along with two other bandits, “Red” Gann and Duff Kennedy. The other two also had blood on their hands, having killed a man who tried to run away when they robbed him. Facing a stiff sentence, the four men decided to escape. Somehow they got hold of hacksaw blades and on the 30th of January they sawed their way out of their cells, then through the bars of the jail window. After lowering themselves down on ropes made of blankets, the four men robbed a nearby garage of both cash and a getaway vehicle. Wilbur was spotted a week and half later robbing a movie theatre in Picher , but he shot and killed a deputy before escaping. He was eventually recaptured on the 20th of February. On the 3rd of June he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and sent to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to serve his sentence.
Merle Colver, a policeman murdered by Wilbur Underhill - headstuff.orgMerle Colver, one of Wilbur’s victims. Source.With no prospect of parole, Wilbur was far from a model prisoner. He tried several times to escape, and eventually succeeded four years into his sentence. Once loose, he robbed a theater and bought a car, then recruited his nephew Frank as an accomplice. The two robbed a gas station, but got less than twenty dollars. To add insult to injury, while they were making their escape Wilbur crashed his new car into another vehicle, and the damage was extensive enough to render it undrivable. They were forced to return to the hotel nearby that they’d been staying in. They were still there the next morning when Detective Merle Colver knocked on their door. Colver was a respected local lawman, who had twice ran for sheriff, and he was checking up on suspicious hotel guests after the reported robbery. He may have recognised Wilbur, as a picture of the escaped criminal was later found in his pocket. Colver asked the men several questions, and then began poking around their hotel room. When he nearly discovered Wilbur’s gun beneath a pillow, Wilbur rushed at him and grabbed the weapon. Colver tried to fend him off with his billy club, but Wilbur shot him three times, killing him. The two men fled. Once Colver’s body was discovered, a manhunt was kicked off that located the men ten hours later. Frank surrendered, but Wilbur tried to fight it out. One deputy shot him in the arm, and when he tried to flee another shot him in the neck. Wilbur survived, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment – this time in Kansas State Penitentiary. Frank was controversially found not guilty, as the court decided he had been caught in his uncle’s spell and had not committed any of the crimes. Scared straight, he would thereafter lead an honest life.
Wilbur Underhill, notorious outlaw, with a bandaged neck wound - headstuff.orgWilbur being treated for his neck wound.On May 30th, 1933, Wilbur managed his biggest escape yet. This was no mere over the wall job – Frank Nash, a friend on the outside, managed to smuggle in four pistols. With them Wilbur and at least seven other inmates (possibly up to ten, reports vary) managed to take the Warden and two guards hostage while the rest of the prison was distracted by a baseball game. With these hostages they persuaded the guards in one watchtower to surrender, then used a rope ladder they had made in the prison workshop to get to the ground and freedom. Once they had made it a safe distance away Wilbur wanted to kill the hostages, but instead Harvey Bailey, famous for stealing a million dollars from the Lincoln National Bank, decided to let them go with just enough money for bus fare back to the prison. Despite this difference of opinion the two men hit it off, and decided to form what became known as the Bailey-Underhill gang together, along with several of the other escapees.
Cars with gunfire damage in the aftermath of the "Kansas City Massacre" - headstuff.orgThe aftermath of the “Kansas City Massacre”.The debt that Bailey and Underhill owed to Nash for his aid in their escape was well known, and so when a violent attempt was staged two weeks later to rescue Nash from FBI captivity they were considered most likely to have attempted it. In fact neither man was involved in what became known as the Kansas City Massacre.  The massacre left Nash, three policemen, and one FBI Agent dead. As a result the FBI began arming itself, even though it would not officially be allowed to do so until the following year. Unofficially the FBI got hold of a shipment of Thompson submachine guns, better known as Tommy guns, that had been sent to the army for evaluation as wartime weapons. With this dubiously sourced arsenal they went hunting the Bailey-Underhill gang.
Harvey Bailey, famous bank robber - headstuff.orgHarvey Bailey.Bailey was actually caught up in a net for a different crime. While visiting another criminal, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bailey was arrested in a raid. Kelly had kidnapped a wealthy businessman, and in the wake of the Lindbergh Baby case kidnapping had been made a federal crime with a mandatory life sentence. Unfortunately for Bailey he had been given $500 by Kelly to settle a debt, and those bills were from the ransom money. As a result Bailey was imprisoned and sent to Alcatraz. With him gone the brakes were off Underhill, and he and the gang went on a murderous spree of bank robberies. The authorities seemed powerless to stop him. And then he got married.
It was not the first time Underhill had got married. In fact it was the fifth, though he had never gone through the formality of ending the others. He had a reputation for not believing in sex before marriage, an odd code of ethics when combined with his bigamy. On this occasion the girl he married was Hazel Hudson, and in marrying her he made two mistakes. The first was putting his real name on the wedding certificate, and the second was in putting his wife’s real address. When word reached the FBI of his marriage they staked out her house, and though the couple inadvertently gave them the slip the G-men were on the trail. They had an ace in the hole, too – a member of the Underhill gang was actually an FBI informant. He let them know Underhill was sick, and so they canvassed doctors in the area they thought he had headed to. One of them pointed them to Eva Nichols, girlfriend of a gangster named Ralph Roe.
FBI agents posing after capturing the notorious Wilbur Underhill - headstiff.orgFBI agents posing in the aftermath of the shooting. Source.When the FBI realised that Underhill and his new wife were staying at Nichol’s cottage in Shawnee, they surrounded it. Underhill heard their dogs barking and went to a window to investigate, and at the sight of him one FBI agent fired a tear gas cannister. Underhill responded with bullets, and the FBI were more than ready to return fire. Some had shotguns, but most were armed with the Thompson submachine guns they had commandeered. All told they fired about a thousand rounds into the small cottage. Roe was injured too badly to escape, while Nichols was killed. Her death, due to the unsanctioned use of weapons, may well be part of the reason why this story is not often repeated by the FBI. Wilbur was also injured, taking around 13 hits. He broke out through the lines and into a cornfield. There they lost track of him, but the full-scale manhunt soon tracked him down to a secondhand furniture shop. He had crept into one of the beds in the store, and was discovered to be mortally wounded. They transported him to prison and tried to save him to stand trial, but it was too late. On the sixth of January the “Mad Dog” died of his wounds. His last words were:
Boys, I’m coming home.
Images via Babyface Nelson Journal except where noted.
 Picher was a lead mining town – up until 1996, when the terrifying amounts of lead the citizens were exposed to caused the government to buy up the town and abandon it. Now it sits empty.
 The truth behind who perpetrated the massacre was never definitively established. While the most likely suspects were either arrested or killed by the FBI, one theory maintained that the attack was actually a hit on Nash sanctioned by mob bosses who feared he would reveal too much to the Feds. However FBI files revealed that Nash himself was actually killed accidentally by one of the FBI agents returning fire on the attackers.
Wilbur UnderhillThe "Tri-State Terror" is the Boogeyman of Depression-era outlaws in more ways than one. For nearly a decade in the turbulent period of the 1920s and 30s, he was one of the most infamous and feared criminals in the Southwest. Convicted of one of his murders in Oklahoma he was sentenced to life and escaped, killing a cop and receiving another life term in Kansas, and then escaped again, leading ten others in a mass breakout. In the last months of his life, he rose to national notoriety as a prolific bank robber and suspect in the infamous Kansas City Massacre and became the first criminal ever shot down by agents of that fledgling agency which would soon become the FBI.
True criminal immortality seemed to elude Wilbur after his death, his name eclipsed in the national headlines by the likes of John Dillinger, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and "Baby Face" Nelson. But scratch the surface and he's still there. From his native Joplin where Underhill began his career modestly as a "lovers lane" bandit, to the Tri-State mining district where he is best remembered as a lone wolf scurrying about the night terrorizing the populace and committing a half-dozen robberies at gunpoint, to Wichita, Kansas where he was known as a vicious cop-killer, to Jeff City, Lansing, and McAlester where he became a legendary figure among the inmate populations and seemingly possessed a talent to break out at will, to the Central Oklahoma oilfields and his hideouts in the wild and wooly Cookson Hills, to the many towns he struck in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arkansas his impact is still felt. The lives he took, touched or made a total travesty of has impacted generations of folks in the Southwest. His name hasn't been totally obliterated from the history books of course.
Most crime buffs are familiar with Wilbur Underhill if not necessarily with the details of his long and deadly career. He's received cursory mention, though usually not long on accuracy in such books as Ten Thousand Public Enemies by Courtney Riley Cooper and The Bad Ones by Lew Louderback. Cooper, J. Edger Hoover's crony and favorite journalist in the thirties set the tone with a fictional account of how Underhill was kicked out of the Kimes-Terrill Gang (itself a media created fiction) for having a murder complex. Around 1970 Loren D. Estelman based his novel The Oklahoma Punk (later reissued in paperback as Red Highway) on Underhill. But Estelman's Virgil Ballard really owed more to Cooper's fiction than to any real life events. The 1973 movie Dillinger with Warren Oats thoughtfully included Wilbur as a character giving the popular but erroneous version of him being tracked down through his wedding then compounding the fiction by having Underhill personally killed by Melvin Purvis-who wasn't even there. Louderback's paperback was still being sold at the time and probably introduced many crime buffs to the "Tri-State Terror" but his inclusion in the movie might possibly owe something also to the late Clarence Hurt who served as a technical advisor. Hurt, a life long lawman and one of the two G-Men who shot Dillinger, was an Oklahoma City police officer in 1933 and helped bring down Underhill at Shawnee. The Underhill capture may well have gotten him his appointment to the FBI.
Strangely, even the FBI has seemingly forgotten Wilbur. Decades after J.Edger Hoover's death the bureau still promotes it's glorious gangbusting escapades of the thirties, capitalizing on such gangland legends as Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and cases in which the bureau's involvement was minimal such as Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde. But even they seem to be totally unaware today that Wilbur Underhill was the first criminal ever shot by FBI agents, who had no police powers before 1933 and weren't really legally authorized to carry guns until six months after Underhill's demise.
Ralph H. Colvin, regional director of the U S Department of Justice's investigative wing, (The forerunner of the FBI) taking note of Underhill's activities decided to put on a full court press in an all out effort to capture the badman. Shortly after becoming aware of Wilbur's marriage at Coalgate, Colvin, who had been the lead investigator in the recent Urschel kidnapping case, and Agent Frank Smith, a survivor of the Kansas City massacre, began assembling a task force which included twenty-nine federal agents along with a contingent of officers from the Oklahoma County Sheriff's office and a party of Oklahoma City policemen which included Detectives Mickey Ryan, D. A. "Jelly" Bryce, and Clarence Hurt.
The thirty-six-year-old Clarence Hurt, who had led the raid on Hazel Hudson's Oklahoma City residence, was a formidable force in his own right. Joining the Oklahoma City Police Department as a patrolman in 1919, he rapidly worked his way up the ranks to the position of Assistant Chief of Police by the age of thirty-two, becoming the youngest chief in the department's history. In 1926, he was loaned out to the Department of Justice seeing service as an investigator during the infamous Osage Indian murder case. In 1931, he joined the detective bureau as a supervisor. Jelly Bryce joined the force after impressing Hurt with his marksman ability at a shooting match. Bryce had a reputation as a "Triggerman," gunning down several fleeing felons during his first year with the department.
On receipt of the information concerning Underhill's ill health, agents took a shot in the dark fanning out questioning area doctors and druggists showing them photos of Underhill. The day before Christmas investigators finally got a break in the case. A Seminole physician identified a photo of Underhill as a man he had treated at a beauty shop in town. It appears that the operator of the shop, a thirty-three-year-old three-time divorcee named Eva Mae Nichols, had contacted a pharmacy in search of a doctor to treat a "friend." The physician continued, saying the man had given his name as George Hickson. The authorities immediately began a loose but apparently ineffective surveillance of the beauty shop, which was located in a two-story downtown brick building. Miss Nichols lived in a second story apartment above the shop with her sister.
A short investigation of Miss Nichols, who was described as plump but attractive, turned up the fact she was apparently a well-respected business women known for her wit, intelligence, and drive. She and her sister, Lena, who worked and lived together, were both obvious "thrill seekers" having a penchant for dating unsavory types. Eva, who had left home at the tender age of seventeen traveling alone to New York City to attend beauty school, was apparently a headstrong and free-spirited lass. She was a bit of an enigma, although she obviously enjoyed living on the wild side she in turn willingly took on the responsibility of supporting her younger siblings after the death of their parents. Not your typical gangster's moll.
According to FBI reports the investigators were not operating totally in the dark, they had an ace in the hole in the form of a mole operating inside the Underhill mob. An informant, whose identity is still unknown to this day, (Name is blacked out on FBI reports) approached the feds in mid-November offering his services for a fee. FBI agent Frank Smith, who was appointed the snitch's handler, evidently offered him a $500 cash reward as well as his assistance in gaining the $350 reward offered by the state of Kansas for the badman's capture if he could put the outlaw on the spot. The informant, who was dubbed "Jack Hughes" for contact purposes, was provided some spending money and presented with a car for his use compliments of Uncle Sam.
On the evening of December 29, Agent Smith was phoned by "Hughes" who stated he and Lon Johnson had just visited Wilbur Underhill at a residence located at 606 West Dewey Street in Shawnee. "Hughes" requested Smith instruct the Shawnee police to immediately arrest him and Johnson in order to avoid any suspicion that he was involved in any raid made on the place. This was done. When Smith arrived at the city lockup in order to confer with his stool pigeon, "Hughes" advised him he and Johnson had stopped by the Dewey street address at approximately 7:30 pm but found no one at home. At roughly 8:30 pm, the pair again visited the residence, this time Underhill's automobile was parked in the driveway. According to the informant, he and his companion entered the residence and spoke with Wilbur who was in the company of his wife and Ford Bradshaw.
Agents conferred with Shawnee Night Chief Frank Bryant who instructed his investigators to search the utility deposits on file at city hall. The deposits for the residence in question were found to be under the name of J. H. Reynolds. When the owner of the home, Hatler Smith, a prominent insurance agent, was rolled out of bed and questioned he informed officers the cottage was rented to a man of the same name. He further instructed lawmen he had not set eyes on the individual. Instead, a politician turned real-estate agent and part-time bond merchant named Joe Smalley had made the actual lease arrangements. When Smalley was contacted, he stated he had let the property in early November to a pair of individuals who signed the agreement as J.H. Reynolds and Joe Sullivan. After some arm-twisting, he admitted the character using the name of Sullivan was in reality Elmer Inman. That name rang a bell. Smalley explained his actions by stating although he had known Inman for many years he was unaware the slick gangster was wanted at this time for any crime. It later came to light; the house had been under observation for nearly two weeks by Shawnee Police detectives who suspected the residents were engaged in bootlegging activities. At half past midnight a squad car carrying Agent Frank Smith and Detective Clarence Hurt accompanied by the informant drove past the residence in order to ascertain if there was any activity-taking place. The officers spotted a light in the back bedroom with sounds of a drinking party emitting from the place. Upon receiving information of this new development, Agent Colvin contacted the members of his task force instructing them to "Saddle Up!"
At roughly 2 A.M. on a cold, wet, foggy morning, a large party of heavily armed federal, county, and city officers rendezvoused at the central police station located in downtown Shawnee. Colvin informed the group "I think we have our man, now lets set the trap!" To ensure the lawmen would not be shooting at one another or into surrounding homes, Colvin gave explicit instructions as to where each officer would be stationed during the ambush. Afterwards, the group set out in several automobiles parking a block and a half from the house in question. Setting up in front of the residence directly across the street was federal agents T. N. Birch, G H. Franklin, and J. M. Edger all equipped with shotguns, positioned nearby was Oklahoma County Deputy Sheriffs George Kerr and Don Stone. Next to them was Shawnee Night Chief Frank Bryant, armed with a machinegun. Standing on the porch of a dwelling located directly east of the targeted residence were Oklahoma County Deputies Bill Eads and John Adams. Federal Agents Colvin, Frank Smith, K. D. Deadrick, and Paul Hanson, along with Oklahoma City Detectives Clarence Hurt, A. D. Bryce, and Mickey Ryan were assigned to cover the rear of the residence. Colvin and Bryce were armed with machine guns, while Smith, Ryan, Hanson, and Deadrick had shotguns. Hurt was equipped with a tear gas gun as well as his trusty "chopper."
Hurt, accompanied by Colvin, crept to the window of a bedroom located on the northeast corner of the rear of the dwelling while the others took up positions to their rear. Although the darkness and heavy fog limited their vision, officers could make out a faint light glowing in the room. The pair peered into the window. Colvin pressed the barrel of his machinegun against the screen while Hurt readied his gas gun. They both observed Underhill standing at the foot of the bed clothed only in his long underwear while his scantily dressed wife sat on the edge of the mattress.
When a dog started barking in the distance, Underhill looked up and began walking toward the window. A couple of feet from the window, he suddenly stopped locking eye balls with Officer Hurt. Hurt yelled, "This is the law Wilbur, stick `em up!" The outlaw replied, "Okay," then whirled about grabbing a wicked looking automatic Lugar pistol which was attached to an ammo drum with a capacity of thirty-one rounds, off a nearby nightstand. Hurt reacted by firing a single round from his gas gun, the missile crashing through the screen and glass before bouncing off Underhill's stomach. Colvin squeezed the trigger of his machine gun loosening a full clip of .45 rounds that smashed into the bedroom's walls and shattered a glass mirror. Hazel fainted, dropping like a stone to the floor, a maneuver that probably saved her life. The officers standing behind Hurt and Colvin opened up with machine guns and shotguns pumping a ferocious volley of lead into the room. Hurt stated he quickly ducked and weaved to get out of the line of his comrade's fire. Meanwhile, the second male suspect, currently lying in bed with a female companion in an adjacent bedroom was struck in the left arm and shoulder by rounds piercing the wall between the rooms. The female, later identified as Eva Mae Nichols, jumped up running toward the front door screaming hysterically when suddenly she crumpled to the floor in a bloody heap hit squarely in the stomach by a pair of steel jacketed .45 caliber rounds. Amazingly, she found the strength to gain her footing and rush out the front door and on to the front yard where she abruptly pitched forward to the ground when a machinegun round struck her in the foot.
Hurt maintained he saw Wilbur fall to the floor then jump up and rush into the bathroom where he stopped momentarily to return fire before darting into the living room and on to the front porch. On hearing the sudden explosion of deafening gunfire emitting from the rear of the residence and observing the blinding detonation of a myriad of muzzle flashes lighting up the inky-black night like a fourth of July fireworks display, the posse stationed in front of the house took their safeties off and stood at the ready searching for a target. The moment they caught sight of Wilbur sprinting out the front door, Bryant, Eads, Adams, and Stone began hosing down the outlaw with shotgun and machine gun rounds. Sideswiped by the fierce volley of lead, Wilbur fell to the muddy earth with a thud where he lay still. Temporarily holding their fire, lawmen began to warily approach the badman when suddenly like Lazarus from the grave he leaped to his feet and dashed madly into the shadows between two neighboring houses.
Meanwhile, Colvin, hearing the firing coming from the front of the home was just rounding the corner when he nearly bumped into the fleeing Underhill. The G-Man responded by, in his words, "Tattooing" the fugitive's back with a machine gun burst. At about the same time, a pursuing Frank Bryant, dropped to one knee and unleashed a full drum of submachine gun rounds into the fleeing man's direction. To both his and Colvin's astonishment, the horribly wounded bandit just kept running till he again disappeared into the foggy night. Colvin later explained, "I don't know how he did it. The bastard just wouldn't stay down."
Back at police headquarters the switchboard suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree, citizens living near the scene of the shootout reported someone was setting off illegal firecrackers, others described their windows being broken by rock throwing juvenile delinquents while yet another citizen reported a prowler running through his yard clothed only in his underwear.
Moments after Underhill had pulled his Rasputin act, Deputy Kerr, standing staring in the darkness, heard the voice of the second male subject emitting from inside the tear gas filled house begging to be allowed to come out and surrender. Kerr ordered him to crawl out the bedroom window while instructing the posse to hold their fire. The suspect, who had taken slugs to the shoulder and elbow, responded, "I can't but I'll crawl out the front door." Kerr replied, "Go ahead," then covered the outlaw with his weapon as he wiggled on his belly on to the porch where he was handcuffed and transported to the Shawnee Municipal Hospital. Although he refused to answer questions from officers, he did identify himself not as Ford Bradshaw as previously thought but Ralph "Raymond" Roe. He expressed great anxiety over Miss Nichols condition, saying, "She is innocent of all our doings ...I got her into this and now she's gonna die... She's a good kid who strung along with us asking no questions even when she saw all those guns."
After waiting a few minutes for the tear gas to dissipate, Colvin and a group of officers entered the residence where they discovered an unconscious but unhurt Hazel Underhill sprawled on the floor next to the bed. Lawmen were amazed to find her unscathed while the walls of the bedroom were literally shredded. Officers picked her up and carried her into the front yard where suddenly she jerked away from them and began clawing at her burning eyes and gasping for fresh air. When questioned, Hazel was reportedly incoherent. Colvin suggested she was inebriated. Mrs. Underhill was then transported to the city jail and locked in a cell where she immediately flopped on a cot and fell into a sound sleep. Eva Nichols, floating in and out of consciousness was transported to the emergency room located at the Municipal Hospital where she occupied a room adjacent to her wounded lover. On her arrival at the medical center, she asked for her ex-husband who lived in nearby Seminole. Both wounded suspects were placed under heavy guard.
Back at the scene of the raid, the posse fanned out splitting up into several small groups and began a houseto-house search while two-dozen other officers from surrounding counties soon joined the manhunt. Operating on the misguided notion that suggested the desperado had somehow gotten possession of a set of wheels and was seeking a friendly face, a contingent of Oklahoma County sheriff's deputies raided Lon Johnson's SE 23rd Street address at approximately 4 am. Although Underhill was not found, lawmen arrested Lonzo Johnson's little brother, Seedell, on charges of harboring a fugitive from justice. Although the youth vigorously denied ever meeting Underhill, tire tracks matching those of plaster casts taken from Wilbur's Ford were discovered in the Johnson's dirt driveway.
Meanwhile, ten miles east of the Johnson residence the bleeding and dazed fugitive, in a superhuman effort, ran several blocks before stumbling face first onto the rain soaked ground. He laid there for several minutes in order to gain strength and get his bearings before racing east across the Jefferson School yard finally coming to the Shawnee Creek drainage ditch where he collapsed and laid low for an hour or more, unable to move due to numerous patrol cars criss-crossing the area. Around 5 A.M., he attempted to start an old feed truck he had spotted nearby but failed. Cursing his luck he stumbled in a southerly direction until he hit an alley located between Main and Seventh. His journey on foot while suffering from numerous painful wounds which would have killed a normal man came to an end when he reached the back door of the McAlester Furniture Store located sixteen blocks from where he had began his dash for freedom. He could go no further.
At roughly 6 A.M., officers came across a large pool of blood on the banks of the Shawnee Creek drainage ditch. The officers decided to stay put and wait for the arrival of bloodhounds from the state penitentiary in McAlester. An hour later Bill McKenzie, a motorcycle cop who was temporarily acting as a dispatcher at police headquarters, was contacted by R. A. Owens, the manger of a second-hand furniture store located at 509 East Main, with startling news. Owens reported a large man clothed only in his underwear had broken into the back door of his establishment. McKenzie, suspecting the intruder was Underhill rushed out to the station's parking lot where he encountered Oklahoma County Sheriff Stanley Rogers who had just arrived on the scene. Rogers, accompanied by his son who happened to be home on Christmas vacation from medical school, quickly gathered a posse, which included radio dispatchers Jack Roberts and John Whalen along with Oklahoma City Detective John Cassidy and Oklahoma County Deputy W E. Agee. The small group hurried to the scene in a two-car caravan, lights flashing. The younger Rogers, McKenzie, and Agee took the front door of the establishment while the sheriff accompanied by Cassidy, Roberts, and Whalen took the rear. The officers, seeing several shadowy figures moving about, kicked in the locked front door while the officers located in the rear entered the already open back door. They quickly discovered an individual lying in a blood-soaked bed with a Lugar pistol lying on the floor next to him. The store's manager and his wife were standing frozen in position in the far corner of the room.
Sheriff Rogers reported he approached the individual who he recognized as Wilbur Underhill and after checking out his wounds, leaned down telling him, "You're in a bad way, boy." Underhill haltingly replied "Ya, I'm shot to hell, they got me five times. I counted the slugs as they hit me. When I set sail they really poured it to me." Rogers stated "His back was peppered with shotgun wounds and he had been struck by .45 slugs in the head, right arm, back, and right leg," adding, " How he got through that hail of lead and ran sixteen blocks suffering from those terrible wounds is beyond understanding."
Officer Bill McKenzie, describing the badman's capture in a story for the Shawnee Morning News stated "We found Underhill lying motionless on a blood-soaked bed. His blond hair was dyed red from blood, (actually the outlaw had recently had his hair dyed a reddish-brown tint at Miss Nichols beauty shop) he could hardly breath, choking and gasping. His face was wracked with pain. I noticed the top half of his left ear had been shot off. He was also suffering from exposure to the cold due to his long run clad only in his underwear and socks. We expected to have to kill him. It was a relief to discover him lying helpless and offering no resistance." The dying fugitive was transported to the Municipal Hospital to join his partner and Miss Nichols. According to McKenzie, the wounded outlaw repeatedly howled in pain and begged the ambulance driver to slow down due to his fear of falling off the stretcher as the rig made several sharp turns on the ride to the hospital.
When the proprietor of the furniture store, who maintained his living quarters in the rear of the building, was asked why the fugitive had picked his establishment to collapse in, he responded, "I don't know. We were awakened when he forced his way through the back door into our bedroom just moments before the cops arrived. I never seen him before in my life." Owens later changed his tune, claiming Underhill had awakened him by pounding on the back door asking for a drink of water. After admitting the fugitive into his apartment, he claimed he put him to bed and offered first aid out of the compassion of his heart. It also appears the storekeeper, rather than immediately contacting the cops, waited nearly an hour before seeking their assistance. A story soon began circulating inferring the store had been used in the past as a warehouse for stolen goods. (A fencing operation.) There appears to have been some credence to this claim. According to FBI reports, Owens was an ex-con who had done time with Wilbur in McAlester. The report went on to read, "Evidently Underhill knew exactly where he was headed when he fled." Due to Owens cooperating with the authorities, the feds decided not to further pursue the matter.
Back at the scene of the raid, officers began searching the Dewey Street house for evidence. The residence was described as looking like a war-zone, all the home's furniture was turned over except the dining room table, which sat upright, on it sat a half-empty quart bottle of whiskey. Broken glass and debris covered the floors; the walls and ceilings were shredded by gunfire and splattered with blood. The cottage's woodwork and doors were reportedly splintered. Officers estimated over two hundred rounds had been fired in the shootout. A packet containing $5300 in negotiable bonds issued by the Franklin Title and Trust Company of Frankfort, Kentucky that was identified as part of the loot from the November 23, 1933 robbery of the State National Bank of Frankfort was discovered in one of the bedrooms. The bonds were in $1000-$500-and $100 denominations. A large quantity of ammunition and four pistols, a Lugar automatic with a folding stock, two Colt .45 automatics, and a .38 caliber revolver were also found in the search. When officers searched Wilbur's Ford which was parked in the garage, they discovered a .30-.30 rifle, a sawed-off .12 gauge Winchester pump shotgun, a short double barreled shotgun with a pistol handle, and a tin pail full of roofing nails for use as a deterrent for pursuing squad cars (Not exactly James Bond-like, but effective).
On January 6, 1934 the wounded fugitive returned to Oklahoma State Prison, Warden Brown told a crowd of reporters Wilbur had stood the trip well and had been moved to "Big Mac" in order to finish his life term. He also stated the prison offered a more secure environment than the Shawnee Hospital which was a bizarre statement considering 163 inmates had escaped from the Oklahoma prison system in 1933 alone. Examining the prisoner shortly after his arrival, prison physician, Dr. J.A. Munn, expressed little hope for his survival. At approximately nine that evening Underhill lapsed into unconsciousness and at 11:42 died.
Criminal. Infamous as the "Tri-State Terror." He was born in Joplin, Missouri, and turned to crime in his youth, becoming a burglar, car thief, and "lover's lane" robber. He served two terms in the state prison at Jefferson City and emerged as a small-time holdup man but endowed with a homicidal streak and an expert jailbreaker to boot. Convicted of an Oklahoma murder in 1927 and charged with another, Underhill was sentenced to life in the state prison at McAlester but escaped on July 14, 1931. One month later he murdered policeman Merle Colver at the Iris Hotel in Wichita, Kansas. Wounded and captured the same day, Underhill received another life term but escaped with master bank robber Harvey Bailey and nine others from the state prison at Lansing, Kansas on Memorial Day, 1933, using smuggled guns and taking the warden and two guards hostage. Underhill robbed several banks over the next few months, first with Bailey and fellow escapees Bob Brady, Jim Clark and Ed Davis and later with the Ford Bradshaw gang and former Barker gang member Elmer Inman. He was also sought by the Division of Investigation (future FBI) as a suspect in the Kansas City Union Station massacre. He gained the moniker "the Tri-State Terror" for operating principally in the states of Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, though his crimes actually extended as far as Arkansas and Kentucky. On December 30, 1933, Underhill was tracked by federal agents and police to a house at 606 Dewey Street in Shawnee, Oklahoma and shot several times in a terrific gun battle. Fleeing the house in his underwear, Underhill ran down the street, broke into a furniture store at 509 East Main, and collapsed on a bed where he was found a few hours later by Sheriff Stanley Rogers. After a brief hospital stay Underhill was transferred to the state prison for safekeeping and died in the prison hospital.Search the EncyclopediaView A–Z IndexBrowse By TopicGovernment and PoliticsExplorePeopleOutlawsUNDERHILL, HENRY WILBUR (1901–1934).Born Henry Wilber Underhill on March 16, 1901, in Newton County, Missouri, to Henry and Dora Underhill, as a teenager the son changed the spelling of his name to Wilbur. He believed that the new signature appeared more masculine. Raised in Joplin, Missouri, during the boom of the Tri-State Mining District, Underhill began committing increasingly more violent crimes and by 1920 had served time in the Missouri State Penitentiary. Released in 1921, he traveled to Picher, Oklahoma, and briefly worked in the lead and zinc mines before returning to malfeasance. In 1923 he was again in the Missouri Penitentiary, and by 1926 his three brothers, Ernest, Earl, and George, joined him.
Freed in 1926, he moved back to Picher and worked as a mining company clerk. He soon teamed with Ike "Skeet" Akins, and the pair committed armed robbery throughout the district. Underhill shot a sixteen-year-old in Picher, and Akins killed eighteen-year-old George Fee during an Okmulgee drugstore robbery. The police arrested the duo in Tulsa, but in January 1927 they escaped from the Okmulgee County Jail. In early February authorities captured Akins, but Underhill remained free, committing robbery and murder, until a police officer captured him at Panama, Oklahoma, on April 20, wounding the felon in the process. It was during this period that newspapers began dubbing Underhill "the Tri-state Terror."
In 1927 he began his incarceration at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, serving a life term. In 1931 he escaped and again entered the criminal underworld. Less than one month later he killed a police officer in Wichita, Kansas. This led to a life sentence in the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing. In 1933 he teamed with hardened criminal Harvey Bailey and four other prisoners, breaking out of the prison. During the escape five more inmates joined the fugitives. Underhill and several of his cohorts traveled to Oklahoma and began a statewide bank-robbing spree. He later united with Oklahoma outlaw Ford Bradshaw and along with several others continued to assault banks, traveling as far as Kentucky.
In December 1933 federal and state authorities, including Oklahoma City police officers Clarence Hurt and Jelly Bryce, ambushed Underhill at a house in Shawnee. His current wife, Hazel (he had several wives during his lifetime), acquaintance Ralph Roe, and Eva Nichols were also in the home. Roe and Nichols received bullet wounds, with Nichols dying a few days later. Officers shot Underhill multiple times, but he eluded the forces, only to be found the next morning at a used furniture store in downtown Shawnee. Wilbur Underhill died of his injuries on January 6, 1934, at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was buried in Joplin, Missouri.
If ever there was a Boogeyman of Depression-era outlaws, it was Wilbur Underhill.
Born Wilber Underhill Jr. on March 16, 1901, this burglar, bank robber and prison escapee was one of the most wanted — and feared — bandits in Oklahoma during the 1920s and ’30s. Known as the "Tri-State Terror" and "Mad Dog," Underhill terrorized the Southwest for nearly a decade — and captured the public’s attention with his deeds.
Arrested and convicted of murder in Oklahoma, he was sentenced to life, but escaped. He then killed a police officer in Kansas, was recaptured, and received another life term. He again escaped, this time leading 10 others in a mass breakout. In the final months of his life, he rose to national notoriety as a suspect in the infamous Kansas City Massacre, and had the dubious distinction of being the first criminal ever shot and killed by agents of a fledgling federal police agency which would soon evolve into the FBI.
True criminal immortality eluded Underhill, however, as his name was eclipsed in the national headlines by such outlaws as John Dillinger, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and George "Baby Face" Nelson. But scratch the surface of Oklahoma history even today, and he’s still there, remembered in legend and song.
Early life and criminal careerUnderhill was born in Joplin, Mo., one of seven children. His three older brothers, Earl, George and Ernest, all became career criminals — though none gained the notoriety of Wilbur. His three sisters, however, married and led law-aoffering lives. When Underhill was 12, his brother George killed a street vendor and was sentenced to life imprisonment. It was shortly after this incident that Underhill began to show his own criminal streak, although his mother claimed that streak was the result of a childhood accident that "Didn’t leave him quite right." He also changed the spelling of his name from Wilber to Wilbur, believing it sounded more manly.Underhill committed his first known offense by stealing silverware from a neighbor’s home. When questioned by police, he tried to convince them a stranger had given it to him. They didn’t believe him, but lacking evidence, he was released. In 1918, however, he was convicted of burglary and spent four years in prison. A year after his release, a series of armed robberies occurred in remote areas, and the robber was dubbed the "Lovers Lane Bandit." A police decoy eventually caught the bandit, identified as Underhill. This time he was sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary for five years.
Crime spree with Ike "Skeet" Akins and the murder of George FeeSoon after his parole in late 1926, Underhill, along with Ike "Skeet" Akins, robbed a drug store in Okmulgee, Okla., on Christmas day. In the course of the robbery, a customer, George Fee, 19, was killed.
Akins and Underhill got away, but were arrested on Jan. 7, 1927, and charged with murder and armed robbery. While awaiting trial, the pair escaped from the Okmulgee jailhouse on Jan. 30 with fellow inmates Red Gann and Duff Kennedy using smuggled hacksaws. Akins was recaptured in Lamar, Mo., on Feb. 9. Three days later, while being returned to Okmulgee, Akins attempted another escape and was killed by Sheriff John Russell.A day after Akins’ death, Underhill robbed a movie theater for $52 in Picher, Okla. Confronted by Constable George Fuller, he grabbed Fuller’s pistol and killed a deputized civilian, Earl O’Neal, before escaping. Underhill was finally captured on March 20 and returned to Okmulgee where he was convicted on June 3, 1927, of the Fee murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Escape and Frank Underhill
Underhill made several attempts to escape from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary before finally succeeding on July 14, 1931. Twelve days later, using the name Ralph Carraway, Underhill purchased a car in Cherryvale, Kan., and later the same day robbed a theater of $300. The following month he recruited his nephew, Frank Underhill, to join him on a crime spree. On Aug. 12, they robbed a Wichita, Kan., gas station for a meager $14.68. A short distance from the robbery, Underhill crashed his car and had to have it towed to a nearby garage. The pair checked into a hotel to await repairs.
The next morning, Patrolman Merle Colver, assigned to check Wichita hotels for suspicious guests, went to their room to question them. When he knocked on the door, Wilbur Underhill shot him three times in the head killing him instantly. Fleeing on foot, Underhill became involved in a running gunfight with police. A 2-year-old boy was killed in the crossfire when police fired at Underhill. He was eventually stopped by a lucky shot to the neck. Underhill was convicted for the murder of Colver, and given another life sentence, and sent to the state prison in Lansing on Sept. 4, 1931. Frank Underhill was not charged and, apparently "scared straight" from his experience, never committed another criminal offense for the rest of his life.
On May 30, 1933, Underhill participated in a mass escape with 10 others using pistols smuggled in by Frank "Jelly" Nash. Among the escapees were Harvey Bailey, Jim Clark, Frank Sawyer, Ed Davis and Robert "Big Bob" Brady. Several of the escapees joined a gang headed by Underhill and Bailey and went on a six-month crime spree.
On June 17, they robbed a bank in Black Rock, Ark., and the next day Underhill and Bailey were among several fugitives wrongly named as participants in the Kansas City Massacre, a failed attempt to free Frank Nash from police custody, resulting in the deaths of Nash and four lawmen guarding him.
The gang continued its activities and robbed $11,000 from a bank in Clinton, Okla. Two days later, Underhill, apparently acting alone, robbed a bank in Canton, Kan., but rejoined the others to rob a bank in Kingfisher, Okla., on Aug. 9, 1933.
Gang is broken up
Three days after the Kingfisher robbery, Bailey was hiding out on the Texas ranch of Robert "Boss" Shannon, father-in-law of George "Machine Gun" Kelly, when police and federal agents raided the property. Bailey, who had been passed ransom money from Kelly’s kidnapping of oil tycoon Charles Urschel and was in the possession of one of Kelly’s machine guns when arrested, was wrongly convicted in the kidnapping plot two months later. He was given a life sentence.
With Bailey back behind bars, Underhill took charge of the gang. On Oct. 6, he and several others robbed a bank in Baxter Springs, Kan., of $3,000. That robbery was quickly followed by bank raids in Galena, Kan., and Stuttgart, Ark. On Nov. 9, Underhill, Ford Bradshaw and several others raided an Okmulgee bank and escaped with $13,000.
Underhill was now attracting national media attention. He had been called "Mad Dog" or the "Tri-State Terror" by several newspapers. One even dubbed him "The Southwest Executioner."
A special task force was formed, and an extensive search was made of Oklahoma’s Cookson Hills, where he was known to be hiding.
On Nov. 18, with the task force in the area, Underhill quietly walked into the courthouse in nearby Coalgate and applied for a marriage license under his own name. His fiancee was Hazel Jarrett Hudson, a sister of the outlaw Jarrett brothers. The following day, Underhill and several others robbed a bank in Frankfort, Ky.Wilbur Underhill Jr. (March 16, 1901 – January 6, 1934), often called "Mad Dog" or the "Tri-State Terror", was an American criminal, burglar, bank robber and Depression-era outlaw. He was one of the most wanted bandits in Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s and co-led a gang with Harvey Bailey that included many fellow Cookson Hills outlaws including Jim Clark, Ed Davis and Robert "Big Bob" Brady.Contents1 Biography1.1 Early life and criminal career1.2 Crime spree with Ike "Skeet" Akins and the murder of George Fee1.3 Escape and Frank Underhill1.4 Bailey-Underhill Gang1.5 Return to the Cookson Hills1.6 Pursuit by the FBI1.7 Shawnee ambush and death2 References3 Further reading4 External linksBiographyEarly life and criminal careerWilbur Underhill Jr. was born Joplin, Missouri on March 16, 1901, one of seven children. His three older brothers Earl, George and Ernest all became career criminals, though none gained the notoriety of Wilbur, while his three sisters led law-aoffering lives. When Underhill was 12 years old, his brother George killed a local peanut vendor and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Underhill began to show a wild streak soon afterwards though his mother claimed it was the result of a childhood accident that "[didn't leave] him quite right". He also changed the spelling of his given name from Wilber to Wilbur believing it sounded more manly.
Underhill committed his first criminal offense by stealing silverware from a neighbor's home. When questioned by police, he attempted to convince them that a stranger had given it to him. In 1918, he was convicted of burglary and spent four years in prison. A year after his release, Underhill became locally known as the "Lovers Lane Bandit". When his identity became known, after being caught by a police decoy, he was sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary for five years.
Crime spree with Ike "Skeet" Akins and the murder of George FeeUnderhill was released on parole in late 1926, and on Christmas Day he and Ike "Skeet" Akins robbed a drug store on Okmulgee, Oklahoma. In the course of the robbery, 19-year-old customer George Fee was killed. They were eventually arrested on January 7, 1927, and charged with murder and armed robbery. Underhill and Akins were still awaiting trial when they decided to escape from the Okmulgee jailhouse on January 30 with fellow inmates Red Gann and Duff Kennedy using smuggled hacksaws. While Underhill successfully eluded authorities, his partner was captured at Lamar, Missouri on February 9. Three days later, while being brought back to Okmulgee, Akins attempted another escape and was killed by Sheriff John Russell.
A day after Akins' death, Underhill robbed a movie theater for $52 in Picher, Oklahoma. Confronted by Constable George Fuller, he grabbed Fuller's pistol and killed a deputized civilian, Earl O'Neal, before escaping. Underhill was finally caught in Panama on March 20 and taken to Okmulgee where he was convicted of the Fee murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on June 3, 1927.
Escape and Frank UnderhillUnderhill made several attempts to escape from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary and finally succeeded on July 14, 1931. Twelve days later, Underhill purchased a car in Cherryvale, Kansas under the name Ralph Carraway and robbed a local theater of $300 that same day. The following month he recruited his young nephew, Frank Underhill, to join him on a new crime spree. On August 12, they robbed a Wichita gas station but got only $14.68. While leaving the scene of the robbery, Underhill crashed into another car and had to have it towed to a nearby garage and checked into a hotel.
The next day, Patrolman Merle Colver arrived at the hotel. He had been assigned to check Wichita hotels for suspicious guests and went to their room to question them. When he knocked on the door, Wilbur Underhill shot him 3 times in the head killing him instantly Fleeing on foot, Underhill became involved in a running gunfight with police. A 2-year-old boy was killed in the crossfire when police fired at Underhill. He was eventually stopped by a lucky shot to the neck. Wilbur Underhill was convicted with murder, earning him another life sentence, and was imprisoned in Lansing state prison on September 4, 1931. Frank Underhill was not charged and, apparently "scared straight" from his experience, never committed another criminal offense for the rest of his life.
Bailey-Underhill GangBy the early 1930s, Underhill had become one of the most notorious bandits in Oklahoma. While an inmate in Lansing, he participated in a mass escape with 10 other inmates using pistols smuggled in by Frank "Jelly" Nash and headed for Cookson Hills. Among those included in the jailbreak included fellow outlaws Harvey Bailey, Jim Clark, Frank Sawyer, Ed Davis and Robert "Big Bob" Brady on May 30, 1933. Many of these men later became members of the gang headed by himself and Bailey as they set off on a crime spree lasting a little over six months.
Almost two weeks after their escape, on June 16, he and Bailey led a robbery with several other men robbed a bank in Black Rock, Arkansas. The next day, Underhill and Bailey were among several fugitives wrongly named as participants in the Kansas City Massacre, a failed attempt to free Frank Nash from police custody, resulting in the deaths of Nash and the four lawmen guarding him. The gang continued its activities and robbed $11,000 from a bank in Clinton, Oklahoma. Two days later, Underhill apparently acted alone in a bank robbery in Canton, Kansas but rejoined the gang by the time the Bailey-Underhill Gang struck a bank in Kingfisher, Oklahoma on August 9, 1933.
Return to the Cookson HillsThree days after the Kingfisher robbery, Bailey was visiting Robert Shannon, father-in-law of Machine Gun Kelly, at his Texas ranch and safehouse when police and federal agents raided the property. Bailey had been passed ransom money from Kelly's kidnapping of oil tycoon Charles Urschel and wrongly convicted in the plot two months later.
With Bailey serving a life sentence, Underhill took charge of the gang. On October 6, he and several unidentified men robbed $3,000 from a bank in Baxter Springs, Kansas. These were followed by bank raids in Galena, Kansas and Stuttgart, Arkansas. On November 9, he and Ford Bradshaw raided an Okmulgee bank with a few other men and escaped with $13,000.
Underhill was now attracting national media attention. He had been called "Mad Dog" or the "Tri-State Terror" by several newspapers, one even dubbing him The Southwest Executioner, while authorities made efforts to go after them almost immediately following the Okmulgee heist. A special task force was formed, and included armored cars, and searching through Cookson Hills looking for him. On November 18, while the task force was still in Cookson Hills, Underhill presented himself at the courthouse in nearby Coalgate and applied for a marriage license under his own name. His fiancée, Hazel Jarrett Hudson, was a sister of the outlaw Jarrett brothers. As part of a wedding present for Hazel, Underhill and several others robbed a bank in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Pursuit by the FBIFBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, reportedly frustrated with the lack of progress from Oklahoma authorities, assigned agent R.H. Colvin to the Underhill case. Colvin soon discovered that Underhill had given his wife's address in Oklahoma City to the minister who married them in order to receive their marriage certificate. Federal agents staked out the home and spotted the Underhills a week later. Agents at the scene called for reinforcements but, by the time they arrived, the newlyweds had left to celebrate their honeymoon. A few days later, police raided a farm near Konawa where they knew Underhill was staying. However, Underhill had passed them earlier on the highway and was able to escape before police realized their mistake.
Underhill and his gang continued to remain active in the area. Underhill, Jack Lloyd and Ralph Roe attempted to burglarize a bank in Harrah, Oklahoma on December 11, 1933, and robbed another bank in Coalgate two days later.
Shawnee ambush and deathOn December 26, 1933, Wilbur and Hazel Underhill were celebrating their honeymoon with Ralph Roe and his girlfriend Eva May Nichols at a rented cottage in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Four days later, a 24-man strike force including federal agents, state troopers and local police surrounded the house. The group was led by R.H. Colvin and Frank Smith, the latter a survivor of the Kansas City Massacre. When called on to surrender, Underhill began firing resulting in the task force returning fire.
Eva Nichols, an innocent woman, was killed in the gunfight and Underhill, barefoot and still in his underwear, ran from the house attempting to escape. He was hit five times before leaving the yard but ran for another 16 blocks before breaking into a furniture store and collapsing on one of the beds. Ralph Roe, also wounded, was taken into custody with Hazel Underhill. Underhill was taken to McAlester where he remained, handcuffed in his bed, at the prison hospital until his death on January 6, 1934. His last words were "Tell the boys I'm coming home".
Underhill's gang, led by Ford Bradshaw, led a raid into the small town of Vian and shot up the town in revenge for Underhill's capture. This accomplished little, especially with Underhill's death a week later, and the incident was used by newspapers to turn public opinion against the gang and within months Bradshaw and the others had been killed or apprehended.