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Benny Binion and the Osage Murders

Benny Binion and the Osage Murders
April 20, 2022 05:26PM
Did Binion have anything to do with the Osage Reign of Terror in the 1920s-1930s, when at least 80 members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma were murdered by persons out to get control of their fortunes? The Osage were considered at the time to be the richest people on earth, per capita, due to the immense oil fortune the tribe controlled, and each member of the tribe owned a share. The murders were carried out to benefit non-Indians who had married the victims and were potential heirs, or in other cases guardians of the victims. The guardians were non-Indians appointed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to manage the finances of Osage who were considered too unsophisticated to handle their own affairs. A number of them were simply crooks who managed their ward's finances to their own advantage.

I ask the question about Binion because he was in a place and time where he could have been involved, he was a criminal known to be capable of murder, and the person known to have been the mastermind and a major benefactor of some of the murders (and convicted of one of them), one William K. Hale, a wealthy Oklahoma rancher and retailer, after being released from prison, lived out his life working on Binion's Montana ranch. Binion was from the same area of N Texas (Hunt and Collin County) as Hale, and both of them worked in the livestock business before Hale migrated to Oklahoma and Binion to Dallas.


Dave McNeely

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/20/2022 07:03PM by old man from dallas.
Re: Benny Binion and the Osage Murders
April 21, 2022 05:50PM
Hmmm... . The link is claiming that the Wickipedia page on Hale does not exist, but I copied the url from the page, and it worked initially. I even googled for Hale again, and got the same page, with Hale's information. If interested in either Hale or the Osage murders, google, as the link goes to a Wickipedia page that claims there is not page for Hale. But there is, and the url is for that page. Strange.

Dave McNeely
Re: Benny Binion and the Osage Murders
April 23, 2022 08:54AM
Dave -

I read "Killers of the Flower Moon" several years ago but do not remember any direct involvement from outsiders. As best I recall a local who was related to one of the tribal members was behind most of the violence. When I visit Tulsa I sometimes drive through the Osage country. It is a bit bleak and dismal in spite of all the wealth that passed through the hands of the benefactors and those who profited from them.

Re: Benny Binion and the Osage Murders
April 23, 2022 03:19PM
I lived in Tulsa for several years in the 1970s - early 1980s, and attended graduate school at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. Osage County is NE of Stillwater and NW of Tulsa. A friend did a lot of field work for his Ph.D. dissertation on Salt Creek in Osage County. Salt Creek runs through Fairfax, where a number of the murders took place and where Hale lived and had his retail establishments, including a "trading post" and ironically a mortuary which handled some of the murder victims.

Hale and his nephews Bryan and Earnest Burkhart definitely carried out some of the murders which Hale masterminded. Earnest Burkhart was married to an Osage who was the daughter and sister of several of the victims, and probably was being slowly poisoned by her husband and physicians, the poison being administered to her supposedly as insulin for diabetes. She experienced a miraculous "cure" when she escaped from Burkhart and the physicians supposedly treating her. She was the holder of 7 "headrights" to the Osage tribal trust, inherited because Hale and the Burkharts had killed her relatives. Had their scheme played out to its intended end, her husband would have inherited all 7 upon her death. A single headright was worth an income of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in the 1920s.

But there were at least 80 victims, while Hale was probably only responsible for those involving his nephew's wife's family. Several persons from outside Osage County were involved in some of them, especially Tulsa, the nearest city, but also Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Wichita. At least one victim was murdered in Washington, DC, while attempting to deliver evidence to a congressional representative. _Killers of the Flower Moon_, though gripping and revealing to most readers, only barely touches on the depth of the tragedy.

Back to my friend and research on Salt Creek: I helped him with his field work, and would drive to Osage County to meet him in Fairfax. Yes, the towns seem pretty bleak, even Pawhuska, which was a thriving community with dozens of banks, stock brokers offices, more than 200 law offices during the early 20th century. But the countryside, with its rugged terrain, Cross Timbers forests, nearly pristine tall grass prairies, is beautiful. The Nature Conservancy has established a preserve of several tens of thousands of acres (ironically, it includes some acreage once controlled by William Hale) with a large herd of bison. When I lived in Edmond, OK for some 15 years, a drive up to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve for a day of hiking and nature immersion was a really good day.

Another friend from graduate school, who went on to a doctorate from a different university and is now a university administrator, is Osage, had relatives who were victims of the Osage Reign of Terror.

Dave McNeely

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/25/2022 09:53AM by old man from dallas.
Re: Benny Binion and the Osage Murders
April 25, 2022 07:01PM
there is no evidence that I know of that Binion was involved with these murders. At that time he was just getting started in the gambling game . Benny moved to Dallas c,1923 where he was involved in bootlegging, eventually he connected up with Warren Diamond who controlled the illegal gambling operations in Dallas, When Diamond died in 1932 Binion took over the operations
Re: Benny Binion and the Osage Murders
April 27, 2022 08:35PM
Peter, I have seen no evidence of his involvement, either. I was just wondering, given his nature, his history, and his having ended up employing one of the only three persons convicted in the murders. There almost certainly were many more than those three involved, and some of those were actually well known to the Osage as having participated in schemes that included murders, as well as, as Woody Guthrie (from the same general area of the country) said, "Some will rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen."

Binion was just getting involved in the gambling business in 1923, but he had already killed, personally. That happens to be the same year that the "Osage reign of terror" began with the murder of Anna, Mollie Burkhart's sister.

Did Binion serve time at Leavenworth for his conviction? Hale did, and perhaps they met there, which would be long after the murders had taken place. I was just wondering about the possibility of Binion's involvement, not saying I think he was involved. And if he served time at Leavenworth, it would have been near the end of the time that Hale was there, so they definitely could have met there. And Hale's prison duties included working with cattle, so Binion would have learned of his skill in that line of work, said to be considerable.

Dave McNeely
Re: Benny Binion and the Osage Murders
April 28, 2022 08:41PM
Binion and Hale did both serve time at Leavenworth, but did not overlap. Hale was paroled in 1947. Binion did not enter Leavenworth until 1953. So, my speculation that they may have met in prison was, it seems, ill founded. But in some way Hale, who lived in Oklahoma, found his way to Binion's employment in Montana once he was released from prison. How does one shady character, seemingly unknown to the second, become acquainted with the second? Just seems there had to be some connection that led Hale to Binion.

Dave McNeely

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2022 10:53AM by old man from dallas.
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