Dead Women Crossing, Oklahoma
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Origin of the name
Susan Woolf Brenner, a university student from Weatherford, investigated the origin of the name Dead Women Crossing. Her report, Dead Woman's Crossing: The Legacy of a Territorial Murder, was published in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 60 in 1982. Michael Norman and Beth Scott describe Brenner's findings in their book Haunted Heritage.
On July 6, 1905, a schoolteacher named Katie De Witt James filed for divorce. The next day, she carried her 14-month-old daughter Lulu Belle to a train station in Custer City. Katie was going to visit with her cousin who lived in Ripley. Her father Henry DeWitt came to bid farewell; her husband Martin James did not come to the station.
A few weeks later, Henry became concerned that he had not heard from his daughter. He contacted a sheriff, who suggested hiring a detective named Sam Bartell. Bartell started his investigation from Clinton, but nobody remembered seeing a woman and a baby there. Then on July 28, 1905 in Weatherford Bartell learned that Katie and the baby spent a night in the house of William Moore. They were brought to this house by Moore's sister-in-law Fannie Norton, a resident of Clinton who also was known as Mrs. Ham, and reputed to be a prostitute. In the morning Norton, Katie and the baby left in a buggy; Norton returned alone two hours later. Then Norton went back to Clinton.
Later Bartell found out that two women and the baby were seen around Deer Creek. The detective also was able to find the baby. The witness testified that Norton left the baby with a boy, and asked him to take the baby home. The baby was unharmed, but her clothing was covered with blood.
While locals searched for Katie, Bartell tracked down Norton, who denied she murdered Katie. Later that day Norton committed suicide by poison.
Many questions about the murder went unanswered.
- Did Katie and Norton meet on the train by chance, or had Norton sought out Katie? Was Norton somehow involved with Katie's estranged husband, and if so what was his role in the murder? Katie's husband had a strong alibi for the time of her disappearance, but he did not take a part in her search, and showed no interest in finding her.
- Why were Katie's remains not found for two months? The area was extensively searched. Did somebody move Katie's body later, and if so, who did it? The only suspect in the case, Fannie Norton, was long dead by that time.
- Why did Katie leave the train at Clinton, rather than continuing to Ripley as planned? What did a schoolteacher find in common with a prostitute?
- "Dead Women Crossing, Oklahoma". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
- Dead Women Crossing. oklahoma.hometownlocator.com.
- Quentin Parker (August 18, 2010). Welcome to Horneytown, North Carolina, Population: 15: An insider's guide to 201 of the world's weirdest and wildest places. Adams Media. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-4405-0454-9.
- Susan Woolf Brenner (1982). Chronicles of Oklahoma,Volume 60. Oklahoma Historical Society. p. 258.
- Michael Norman and Beth Scott (Sep 18, 2007). Haunted Heritage. Tor Books. pp. 239–243. ISBN 978-0-7653-1968-5.
- 1905 Deaths in The Oklahoman Pt 2 – Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. Oklahoma County Archives. 4 Jun 2006.